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Tag:TCU
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:31 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:38 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Big Ten ready to flex muscle?


Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send your questions via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @Mark Johnson  w SEC the best conf who do you think is the 2nd best after realignment?

There is a big drop-off between the SEC and the next-best conference. Having won six BCS titles in a row is quite an accomplishment and with four or five SEC teams expected to open the season in the top 12, it doesn't seem like anyone is close to make a move to overtake Mike Slive's league. 

  Going forward, I'd lean to the Big Ten in who I'd list as the next toughest conference. A big reason for that is Urban Meyer's arrival giving Ohio State and really the rest of the Big Ten such a jolt. On top of that you have Michigan now surging back on track, coming off a BCS Bowl win; Wisconsin coming off back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances; Michigan State coming off its best season in over a decade and Nebraska joining the league in 2011. The downside of it is the uncertainty of the direction Penn State is headed.

  The other conferences I had right there with the Big Ten are the Big 12 and the Pac-12. From an off-the-field component the Big 12 still seems fairly unstable given all of the uncertainty around it and its recent history. On the field, you've had Oklahoma State rise up with consecutive top 10 finishes. We'll see if Mike Gundy's program can sustain it. Same for Bill Snyder at K-State. Baylor had a fantastic season but figures to backslide some with RG3 gone. OU had a "disappointing" season yet still finished in the top 15 and now gets Mike Stoops back to run the defense. Texas appears to be on the way back up after two woeful seasons. 
 
The Big 12 also added two programs in WVU and TCU that are poised for big debut seasons because they both return a lot of young talent although the Horned Frogs, given this week's events and key player dismissals, definitely don't look as strong as they did a few days ago.

  Larry Scott's league is on much more solid footing than the Big 12 big picture, but it's still coming off a season where one of the teams that played in its title game, UCLA, finished with a 6-8 record. That doesn't speak well of the league when something like that happens. Chip Kelly just led Oregon to perhaps its best season ever, but the Ducks still have the Will Lyles recruiting mess hanging over the program. Stanford lost Andrew Luck and a couple of other top 15 draft picks and the Cardinal are likely to drop out of the top 20, although with the way David Shaw has recruited, it doesn't seem like this program will plummet off the national radar. USC is poised for a great 2012, but after Matt Barkley's senior year, the Trojans will have to deal with the meat of the NCAA's scholarship sanctions. After these three teams, the rest of the conference is in scuffling to get to be Top 25 caliber.

  From @Drew Conrad  what do you think about University of Utah promoting a 25-year-old to OC? 

  No question it's risky to flip the keys to a guy this young, but Brian Johnson has spent a lot of time around some very bright offensive minds, starting with Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen, going through Andy Ludwig and Norm Chow. That's a pretty interesting mix of coaches and styles. From the guys in the coaching world I've asked about Johnson, I've heard a lot of good things. Almost all of those guys keep talking about how focused and smart the former QB is.

His experience working with head coach Kyle Whittingham and knowing what he wants is also key for a new hire. Johnson's level of coaching experience isn't much less than what Kliff Kingsbury had when he took over play-calling duties at Houston, and that worked out great for the Cougars. The biggest difference there though is that Kingsbury's head coach Kevin Sumlin had been an OC before while Whittingham is a defensive guy.

  The short-term concerns here are that the team lost two very good offensive tackles and on top of that a terrific O-line coach, Tim Davis just left the program for Florida. And obviously, they need to get better at QB if they're going to be serious contenders in the Pac-12 South.

From @GoonerAggieFan Thoughts on the Staff that Kevin Sumlin has put together at A&M, including his most recent addition Terry Price?

  It is excellent. He brought one of the sharpest young offensive guys in coaching with him from UH in Kingsbury. That guy is going to be a star in this business very soon. He also brought one of his betters recruiters in the Southwest in Clarence McKinney, and landed USF D-coordinator Mark Snyder, who is one of the top defensive guys in the country. I'll have a lot more on the Aggies in a week or so. I'm heading to College Station in a few days.

  From @marty roberts  If FSU shores up OL, how far u think they can go this year? And where u think they start in rankings?

Given all of the youth and newcomers from the JC ranks they're adding into the mix, that is a pretty big if. I'd expect improvement, but can this group make such dramatic strides to go from being as shaky as they were last year to the caliber of being part of a BCS title contender? I have my doubts, especially when you consider after last season's hype, it's basically anything short of a top-five season will be seen as a major disappointment/underachieving yet again. 

  The line was a mess last year. FSU was 110th in sacks allowed and 104th in rushing. You can't be an elite team no matter how tough your defense is being so bad in both those stats. 

The other big key is E.J. Manuel also needs to take a significant step forward and become much more consistent. Part of his struggles, no doubt, were due to the inexperienced O-line and to his injuries, but you look at just how much he and the Noles struggled in their regular season finale at UF and it's clear this is still a team with a lot of work ahead.

As far as where the Noles will open the season, I'd expect them to begin around No. 11 or 12. On paper, there is a lot of reasons for enthusiasm: returning QB coming off a pretty good first season as a starter with a gifted young group of receivers, an outstanding defense returning and the influx of (another) touted signing class. The problem: it seems like we've heard much of these same reasons why FSU is finally poised to compete for a BCS title again before, almost annually in fact, and for a variety of reasons, it hasn't came true and things fizzled out. And, why I used the word "problem" is that I suspect that notion isn't something only the media now believes, it's something players on the team hear about so much that it's a challenge to not let that mindset seep into the locker room: 'O.K., what's going to creep up and muck things up for us this time?'

From @Omer Subhani how good/bad was recruiting job by All Golden considering circumstances? TheU

  The recruiting job Golden's staff at Miami did this year, considering the circumstances of the avalanche of publicity the Nevin Shapiro story got, and the fact that there is an on-going NCAA investigation still hanging over the program, was remarkable.

As I said on our Signing Day Central show, I think there were three big keys to this class: the first was having a local star hold firm on being very public about his desire to be a Cane as Duke Johnson, perhaps the most dynamic running back prospect in the country, did. The second was stocking up on depleted positions (WR, D-line and DBs) with scholarship restrictions looming. The third was finishing with a flourish to build up that momentum going forward, and by reeling in Tracy Howard, the nation's top CB recruit, Golden did that in a big way. Remember, Howard was a kid who just a few weeks earlier was said to be a long-shot for Miami. Highly touted DE Tyriq McCord was another big late pick-up who many top programs chased hard.

If Golden can land a class this deep and talented in the face of all of the Shapiro stuff/NCAA player suspensions, it'll be interesting to see what he can do at Miami once the NCAA's ruling finally is known.

From @djr98 wat do u think of arkansas for 2012? 

  I like the Hogs chances to be a top 10 team, but I don't like their chances to win the SEC West and compete for a BCS title. Reasons for a top 10 run: Tyler Wilson is back, along with Knile Davis and they do get LSU and Bama at home this year. Reasons why I don't think they can win the SEC: I'm not sold on the defense. It wasn't good enough in 2011 and they're losing most of the best players they had on that D to the NFL.

From @joe king Who's gonna be next years Sammy Watkins,An can Hugh Freeze recruit well enough after Mullin has dominated the State this yr.

  I'll go with Dorial Green-Beckham being the biggest impact freshman wideout. He has freakish athleticism at 6-6, 225 and will play in a wide-open offense at Mizzou with a promising young QB (James Franklin) where they run the ball well enough to stress defenses. That should enable DGB to have a lot of big-play opportunities.

  Freeze is an ultra-aggressive recruiter and a good salesman. He also knows the area around Ole Miss as well as any coach they could've hired. I suspect he'll probably end up offering more scholarships before the summer than any coach in the country. I have no doubts he will get some talented players to Oxford. He was able to nab a couple already.

The on-field product is going to be mediocre for a few years, though. Freeze inherited a complete mess from Houston Nutt. Recruiting there had really tailed off save for Nitt's final class there. The program was in disarray and that won't be mended overnight. Dan Mullen just put together a very strong class, especially on the D-line and at linebacker. There is a pretty sizeable gap for Freeze to try and close.
Posted on: January 27, 2012 2:08 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 9:50 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The fallout from Schiano's exit

Here's this week's mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @MRPRFCT why is Greg Schiano getting a pass from media for leaving his team just before signing day? This will wreck Rutgers for years.  
 
I think it's because he coached at Rutgers over a decade and he leaves that program dramatically better than when he accepted the job. Rutgers football was a punch line wen Schiano was hired there. He didn't turn the program into a powerhouse but he made it respectable, viable. They won five bowl games and had a top 12 season, when RU went 11-2 in 2006. They just went 9-4. They also had among the top graduation rates and APRs at the FBS level. Granted, he never did win a Big East title, and his 28-48 lifetime record in the middling Big East isn't one that will be touted in his Bucs bio, but let's not forget just how abysmal this program was a decade ago. 
 
Previously Schiano turned down chances to coach at Miami and Michigan, two much bigger programs to stay at home in New Jersey. I had heard from a Rutgers source a few years back how hard Schiano tried to get back in on the Michigan job after initially dismissing it once he heard the Wolverines were about to hire Rich Rodriguez. Those close to Schiano, and there aren't that many of them, say he wondered how much bigger Rutgers football could actually get. Was it tapped out? It didn't sit well with the coach that even when the program had significant Big East games, fan interest didn't mirror what the head guy expected he should see from a big-time football school.

Make no mistake, Schiano ran the place. There were a t-shirts made about the three bosses in New Jersey: Tony (Soprano), Bruce (Springsteen) and Greg. The school really upgraded facilities and made a big commitment to him, but ultimately a new challenge intrigued him.

One other note about this, and it relates to the Bucs' courtship of Oregon coach Chip Kelly: Schiano leaving his school feels different than if the Ducks coach left for the NFL. The biggest reason for that I think is because of the cloud of the NCAA investigation surrounding Will Lyles and Oregon. It would be no stretch for people (recruits especially) to infer that part of the reason Kelly was leaving was because there must be some hefty sanctions coming Oregon's way. Schiano and Rutgers wasn't connected to anything like that.

From @PaulPabst Off Rutgers...would you rather have a coach leave a week before or after signing day? 

  Before. No doubt, it puts the school in a worst spot, but at least the recruits know the head coach won't be there before they sign anything binding. Many of these kids still may be able to consider other options without having to sit out a season if they don't feel comfortable with the program they're committed to. 

I realize lots of people like to say that recruits should be signing with a school, not for a coach, but that isn't that realistic given how much time and how big a part of their college careers the coaching staff and the system they run is tied into how most of these kids will do in their playing career.

Obviously, such a shake-up is not going to be good for Rutgers recruiting. It will be interesting to see what AD Tim Pernetti does going forward. One of Schiano's buddies, Butch Davis bolted Miami close to signing day too, although not quite this close. The school, based in part on the lobbying of the upperclassmen, stayed in house and hired Larry Coker. The Canes recruiting classes lost one prospect (a wideout who never made an impact in college) and ended up getting a few other guys who proved to be stars. But that Miami team was in a much different situation than where Rutgers is.

  No question there is panic here among those around Rutgers given it is so close to signing day and Schiano was in the midst of landing his highest-rated class. An interesting subplot to this is that one of the blue-chippers RU had a good shot was QB/Athlete Devin Fuller, who by virtue of Schiano finally leaving Rutgers, may now end up being the top guy in Rich Rodriguez' first signing class at Arizona.

From @kacie_phillips  How do you perceive Big12 football in the upcoming season?

The conference has a good chance at a big year because the two traditional super-powers (Oklahoma and Texas) figure to be improved. The Sooners get Landry Jones back to help run the offense and Mike Stoops to amp up the defense. The Longhorns were really young in 2011. They now have had more time to grasp what that overhauled staff is looking for. The other big boost the conference gets is the two new programs: TCU and WVU are primed to hit the ground running. Both have experienced QBs and stacked offenses.

  On the flipside, it's hard to think Baylor, losing Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright, can be as good as the Bears were in 2011. Oklahoma State also lost a lot of key guys and will struggle to match last season's huge success. K-State, though, should still be a headache for the rest of the league.


From @timmcdsmc what do the gators need and what will they get for this years recruiting class?

  I think it's big for them to keep replenishing their O-line as well as upgrade the WR and RB positions. They seem to have done a really good job of the former with D.J. Humphries, Jessamen Dunker and Dante Phillips, and they still have a good shot at OT Avery Young and Jake Meador.


As for as the latter, Matt Jones is a really physical big running back and should be a great addition for Will Muschamp. But they still need to finish strong and land at least one of the elite wideouts they're really in the mix for: Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs. One other big thing for Muschamp is just like every other school is trying to get as many elite players into their program, he appears to be reeling in a whole bunch on defense and if he can upgrade the toughness and also bring in more good character guys who just love football, it will pay off sooner than later.

From @KaneSearch  where does shaq thompson end up?

My guess is he still ends up at Cal but I wouldn't rule out Washington.


From @George_Reta  how strong do you see Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, and co. finishing the class this year for the Trojans?
 
 
Despite not having many slots to fill, the Trojans' recruiting class is as up in the air, waiting for blue-chip talent to decide as perhaps any other program in the country, meaning a bigger percentage of how they do really does hang in the balance. The biggest area to keep an eye on is O-linemen: they are in the mix for three elite tackles: Zach Banner, Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat. My hunch is they reel in at least Banner. I'd say it's 70-30 they get one of the other two, with Murphy seeming a more realistic get. USC also is thin on numbers at receiver and is battling for Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor. I hear they have a better shot at Agholor.

Defensively, the biggest name guys they're in the mix for are DL Aziz Shittu, DE Tyriq McCord and DE Leonard Williams. Considering how many D-linemen they signed a year ago, getting any of these guys would be a bonus, assuming the Trojans are able to hang on to Pio Vatuvei to go along with DE Morgan Breslin, a JC player already signed.

From @AndoRez Where are the big QB battles at this spring? I know Auburn will have a new starter for the 6th year in a row.

As is usually the case, there are going to be a bunch of them. The Tigers definitely have one, which is spiced up by the arrival of Scot Loeffler, the new OC and the continued development of Kiehl Frazier. Oregon has an intriguing one with Darron Thomas jumping to the NFL. Bryan Bennett has some game experience and is talented, but people around the Ducks program are very high on redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota. Wisconsin and Michigan State both have good running backs to rely on, but could be top 15 teams again if they can find a QB almost as efficient as the guys they just had.



The battles to replace Andrew Luck at Stanford, Kellen Moore at Boise and RGIII at Baylor will also have a lot of eye balls on them. On the opposite side of things, the Texas QB situation is still cloudy although David Ash appears to have the inside track at taking over in Austin.
Another one I'll be interested to see play out is at Texas A&M. The Aggies have a new coach (Kevin Sumlin), a new, tougher conference (SEC) and a new more wide-open offensive system (under Kliff Kingsbury). Keep an eye on early enrollee Matt Davis, one of the most dynamic athletes to ever get a crack at running this scheme.



From @LeeHutson  Is there any indication as to when the NCAA will announce its findings and punishment regarding the UNC investigation?



Best guess any of us can offer is it should come out by the spring. I realize that is a big ballpark, but whenever people try to work off previous NCAA timelines, as was the case with the USC situation, it took much longer. The UNC case is very multi-layered because cases involving agents tend to be even messier than others that the NCAA has to sort though.
Posted on: January 27, 2012 2:04 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The fallout from Schiano's exit

Here's this week's mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @MRPRFCT why is Greg Schiano getting a pass from media for leaving his team just before signing day? This will wreck Rutgers for years.  
 
I think it's because he coached at Rutgers over a decade and he leaves that program dramatically better than when he accepted the job. Rutgers football was a punch line wen Schiano was hired there. He didn't turn the program into a powerhouse but he made it respectable, viable. They won five bowl games and had a top 12 season, when RU went 11-2 in 2006. They just went 9-4. They also had among the top graduation rates and APRs at the FBS level. Granted, he never did win a Big East title, and his 28-48 lifetime record in the middling Big East isn't one that will be touted in his Bucs bio, but let's not forget just how abysmal this program was a decade ago. 
 
Previously Schiano turned down chances to coach at Miami and Michigan, two much bigger programs to stay at home in New Jersey. I had heard from a Rutgers source a few years back how hard Schiano tried to get back in on the Michigan job after initially dismissing it once he heard the Wolverines were about to hire Rich Rodriguez. Those close to Schiano, and there aren't that many of them, say he wondered how much bigger Rutgers football could actually get. Was it tapped out? It didn't sit well with the coach that even when the program had significant Big East games, fan interest didn't mirror what the head guy expected he should see from a big-time football school.

Make no mistake, Schiano ran the place. There were a t-shirts made about the three bosses in New Jersey: Tony (Soprano), Bruce (Springsteen) and Greg. The school really upgraded facilities and made a big commitment to him, but ultimately a new challenge intrigued him.

One other note about this, and it relates to the Bucs' courtship of Oregon coach Chip Kelly: Schiano leaving his school feels different than if the Ducks coach left for the NFL. The biggest reason for that I think is because of the cloud of the NCAA investigation surrounding Will Lyles and Oregon. It would be no stretch for people (recruits especially) to infer that part of the reason Kelly was leaving was because there must be some hefty sanctions coming Oregon's way. Schiano and Rutgers wasn't connected to anything like that.

From @PaulPabst Off Rutgers...would you rather have a coach leave a week before or after signing day? 

  Before. No doubt, it puts the school in a worst spot, but at least the recruits know the head coach won't be there before they sign anything binding. Many of these kids still may be able to consider other options without having to sit out a season if they don't feel comfortable with the program they're committed to. 

I realize lots of people like to say that recruits should be signing with a school, not for a coach, but that isn't that realistic given how much time and how big a part of their college careers the coaching staff and the system they run is tied into how most of these kids will do in their playing career.

Obviously, such a shake-up is not going to be good for Rutgers recruiting. It will be interesting to see what AD Tim Pernetti does going forward. One of Schiano's buddies, Butch Davis bolted Miami close to signing day too, although not quite this close. The school, based in part on the lobbying of the upperclassmen, stayed in house and hired Larry Coker. The Canes recruiting classes lost one prospect (a wideout who never made an impact in college) and ended up getting a few other guys who proved to be stars. But that Miami team was in a much different situation than where Rutgers is.

  No question there is panic here among those around Rutgers given it is so close to signing day and Schiano was in the midst of landing his highest-rated class. An interesting subplot to this is that one of the blue-chippers RU had a good shot was QB/Athlete Devin Fuller, who by virtue of Schiano finally leaving Rutgers, may now end up being the top guy in Rich Rodriguez' first signing class at Arizona.

From @kacie_phillips  How do you perceive Big12 football in the upcoming season?

The conference has a good chance at a big year because the two traditional super-powers (Oklahoma and Texas) figure to be improved. The Sooners get Landry Jones back to help run the offense and Mike Stoops to amp up the defense. The Longhorns were really young in 2011. They now have had more time to grasp what that overhauled staff is looking for. The other big boost the conference gets is the two new programs: TCU and WVU are primed to hit the ground running. Both have experienced QBs and stacked offenses.

  On the flipside, it's hard to think Baylor, losing Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright, can be as good as the Bears were in 2011. Oklahoma State also lost a lot of key guys and will struggle to match last season's huge success. K-State, though, should still be a headache for the rest of the league.


From @timmcdsmc what do the gators need and what will they get for this years recruiting class?

  I think it's big for them to keep replenishing their O-line as well as upgrade the WR and RB positions. They seem to have done a really good job of the former with D.J. Humphries, Jessamen Dunker and Dante Phillips, and they still have a good shot at OT Avery Young and Jake Meador.


As for as the latter, Matt Jones is a really physical big running back and should be a great addition for Will Muschamp. But they still need to finish strong and land at least one of the elite wideouts they're really in the mix for: Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs. One other big thing for Muschamp is just like every other school is trying to get as many elite players into their program, he appears to be reeling in a whole bunch on defense and if he can upgrade the toughness and also bring in more good chancracter, guys who just love football, it will pay off sooner than later.

From @KaneSearch  where does shaq thompson end up?

My guess is he still ends up at Cal but I wouldn't rule out Washington.


From @George_Reta  how strong do you see Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, and co. finishing the class this year for the Trojans?
 
 
Despite not having many slots to fill, the Trojans' recruiting class is as up in the air, waiting for blue-chip talent to decide as perhaps any other program in the country, meaning a bigger percentage of how they do really does hang in the balance. The biggest area to keep an eye on is O-linemen: they are in the mix for three elite tackles: Zach Banner, Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat. My hunch is they reel in at least Banner. I'd say it's 70-30 they get one of the other two, with Murphy seeming a more realistic get. USC also is thin on numbers at receiver and is battling for Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor. I hear they have a better shot at Agholor.

Defensively, the biggest name guys they're in the mix for are DL Aziz Shittu, DE Tyriq McCord and DE Leonard Williams. Considering how many D-linemen they signed a year ago, getting any of these guys would be a bonus, assuming the Trojans are able to hang on to Pio Vatuvei to go along with DE Morgan Breslin, a JC player already signed.

From @AndoRez Where are the big QB battles at this spring? I know Auburn will have a new starter for the 6th year in a row.

As is usually the case, there are going to be a bunch of them. The Tigers definitely have one, which is spiced up by the arrival of Scot Loeffler, the new OC and the continued development of Kiehl Frazier. Oregon has an intriguing one with Darron Thomas jumping to the NFL. Bryan Bennett has some game experience and is talented, but people around the Ducks program are very high on redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota. Wisconsin and Michigan State both have good running backs to rely on, but could be top 15 teams again if they can find a QB almost as efficient as the guys they just had.



The battles to replace Andrew Luck at Stanford, Kellen Moore at Boise and RGIII at Baylor will also have a lot of eye balls on them. On the opposite side of things, the Texas QB situation is still cloudy although David Ash appears to have the inside track at taking over in Austin.
Another one I'll be interested to see play out is at Texas A&M. The Aggies have a new coach (Kevin Sumlin), a new, tougher conference (SEC) and a new more wide-open offensive system (under Kliff Kingsbury). Keep an eye on early enrollee Matt Davis, one of the most dynamic athletes to ever get a crack at running this scheme.



From @LeeHutson  Is there any indication as to when the NCAA will announce its findings and punishment regarding the UNC investigation?



Best guess any of us can offer is it should come out by the spring. I realize that is a big ballpark, but whenever people try to work off previous NCAA timelines, as was the case with the USC situation, it took much longer. The UNC case is very multi-layered because cases involving agents tend to be even messier than others that the NCAA has to sort though.
Posted on: January 20, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Gators ready to make a jump?

Time for the Friday Mailbag. As always, if you have a question, send it to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @cjdyal Is it possible for UF to make a Bama 08 type of jump, where both teams went 7-6 year one? UF returns 10/11 starters on D.


That Bama team had a lot more experience on offense with a very talented and seasoned O-line to lean on and a veteran QB in senior John Parker Wilson. They had 18 starters returning. The other big thing that had going for them was a really experienced coaching staff led by Nick Saban. And keep in mind, even though that Bama team had gone 7-6, all six of those losses were by a TD or less. Of UF's six losses, only two were by a touchdown or less. They were not as competitive and they're younger, both on the field and on the sidelines.

  The Gators should have a very tough defense, as you alluded to, but it's the offense that is the big unknown. It was awful last season and there are major question marks for new OC Brent Pease heading into 2012: Both young QBs are unproven and looked very shaky when they got the chance to play. There is no established tailback to lean on for those young QBs. There is no go-to guy at receiver to count on in the clutch. There is some experience on the O-line and they do have some speed, but this was still a group that was just 105th in the country in total offense. That's why Pease is one of the more intriguing hires of the off-season. There is a talent there but it seems pretty raw. Last season was a rough transition period, where things got worse before they got better. I feel like Pease is a much better fit here than Charlie Weis was.

I expect UF to be improved in 2012, but I wouldn't expect a jump that big from unranked to top six.

From @
DMcCallCU11  Top 5 sleeper teams not on the radar that may make noise in the BCS??

At this point, it's hard to get a great sense of who is "not on the radar" for 2012 and would be deemed a sleeper. I guess you could say anyone not in the SEC, USC, Oregon or Oklahoma might qualify as "a sleeper" these days. My two best sleeper candidates are both newcomers to the Big 12, TCU and WVU (assuming the Mountaineers can shed the Big East this offseason). Both teams were pretty young last season. The Horned Frogs especially so. Both should be explosive on offense. WVU, which just scored 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl, figures to be one of the top two or three scoring teams in the country. TCU should pile up points too and will be even better on D.


Three other sleepers who could make noise in the BCS (although I'm just saying could make a BCS bowl, not be a national title contender): BYU - 15 starters back, plus both specialists; FIU - 17 starters back, including 10 on D, lots of speed on offense and winnable non-conference games against Big East and ACC teams; and La. Tech, 14 starters back from a good team; they play in a weakened league and their toughest non-conference games are against a rebuilding Houston team and Virginia.
 
From @SilverCrushBlog What is Notre Dame missing besides stability at QB? It seems like 1988 was 100 years ago. 


Well, that is a very big missing ingredient. If you don't have an elite defense, and I'm talking about an Alabama or LSU-caliber defense or you don't have a very good QB, you can't be a top-five college team. You'd be fortunate to even be a top 15 team. Look at FSU, the Noles had a pretty tough defense, but they had issues at QB and finished No. 23.


When people say "the only difference between us and (so-and-so) is they have a good quarterback and we don't." Well, that's like saying the only difference between that Ferrari and my car is the engine. It is a very big deal. You're not talking about a tight end or a SAM linebacker.



The Irish, despite having a great WR and TE tandem, were shockingly inept in the Red Zone and had way too many meltdowns. That lack of efficiency, much of it goes back to shaky QB play, really holds a team back because it mangles any effort you have to sustain momentum and crush an opponent's will. Now maybe that's change since Tommy Rees/Andrew Hendrix have more experience or Everett Golson is ready to step out or maybe we'll find out that Gunner Kiel is mature enough and talented enough to overtake the others and be The Guy. Until that happens, there is skepticism for a program that hasn't lived up to the hype for a very long time.


Back to the other side of the ball: Notre Dame's defense was improved in 2011, but it's still nowhere near elite. ND's secondary really struggled to make plays on the ball and was still lacking when it came to facing capable offenses (Michigan, USC and Stanford). Beyond that, the Irish have some really athletic players, but not enough of them.


From @
Brentboyles  why is everybody on the band wagon with USC for next year?


I can give you seven very good reasons:


1. They are led by arguably the best QB in college football who has a ton of experience, Matt Barkley.

2. They have the best 1-2 WR tandem in the country, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.

3. They return their entire back-seven on D that includes their top tacklers who were freshmen in 2011 (Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard) and perhaps the top two DBs in the Pac-12 in safety T.J. McDonald and CB Nickell Robey.

4. They bring back four starting O-linemen and now actually have some quality depth behind those guys.

5. They return a 1000-yard rusher, Curtis McNeal.

6. They get the two most talented teams on their schedule, Oregon and Notre Dame, in the Coliseum.

7. No team will be hungrier.



From @chrisasims Hey Bruce, here's a question for you: How do you expect Oregon to fare next season without Darron Thomas and LaMichael James?

  As long as Chip Kelly's running the show there, the Ducks should be fine. Despite those players moving on, Oregon is in really good shape. I had them in my Top 5 that I posted the other day
 

Kelly has some very talented people ready to step up. Bryan Bennett is faster and a more accurate passer than Thomas, but lacks his experience while Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and a more physical young back, Tra Carson, should ease the loss of James. Another name to remember with the Ducks in 2012 is redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota, who has coaches very excited in Eugene. The O-line also should be better.



  From @danielmcfadin How do you think Gus Malzahn's first season at Arkansas State will compare to HughFreeze's?

I don't expect Malzahn to match Freeze's 10-win total this year. ASU lost almost its entire defense and that was a surprisingly solid group that was top 25 in most categories and No. 13 against the run. Malzahn does inherit a good triggerman in Ryan Aplin, who should put up big numbers, but there are probably too many quality guys to replace to expect more than eight wins in Year One, especially when you consider the Red Wolves have to visit Oregon and Nebraska in the first three weeks of the season.
 

From @galdog33  reading Swing Your Sword now...great read so far...do you think Coach Leach can start as fast at WSU as his other stops?

  Thanks! I don't see the Cougars overtaking Oregon in the Pac-12 North this year after finishing in the basement of the division. They were 4-8 in 2011 but were competitive. Paul Wulff certainly did not leave the cupboard bare. Leach walks into a decent situation. They have some good pieces on offense with two talented QBs (Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday) and one stud WR (Marquess Wilson). The down side: The O-line is very shaky. They were 116th in sacks allowed. They also really struggled on D, ranking 95th in scoring defense.
 
 

Leach, though, never has had a losing season at Tech, and I doubt he has one in his first year at WSU. I'm not sure he can double last year's win total, but I'll be surprised if the Cougars aren't a bowl team. It will be an interesting first month in Pullman. They have a challenging opener against his alma mater, at BYU. After that, they have EWU, at UNLV and Colorado. My hunch is they should be 3-1 when they face Oregon in Seattle.  


From @365ROLLTIDE even though Bama loses a lot, do you think the SEC west will come down to the Bama/LSU game next season? Thanks

I do. While I think Arkansas is a dangerous team and the Hogs get both LSU and Bama at home in 2012, I still feel like they don't have enough big-time guys on defense to win that division. Bama may only return a handful of starters but the Tide gets back the nucleus to perhaps the best O-line in the country and has a proven winner at QB to go with Eddie Lacy, who would've started probably for 100 other teams were it not for Trent Richardson.

  From @mckdaddy1 what kind of gig would Houston Nutt get if/when he gets back into coaching?

Nutt has had a lot of success in his coaching career and is still only in his mid-50s. He won SEC Coach of the Year three times, which is impressive. But it is intriguing where does a guy like this go after his stint at Ole Miss? The broadcast booth? As an assitant to the NFL?

After a great start in Oxford, things fell apart in a huge way with the worst season in school history last year. From what I've been told by sources in Oxford he left a real mess behind. I wouldn't expect Nutt to go from that to land another SEC head coaching job. Maybe next season a Conference USA job opens up or perhaps somewhere in the Sun Belt. I'd be surprised if Nutt took a job as an assistant at a bigger school since he's been a head coach for so long.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 2:20 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: The Early Preseason Top 10

Since this is the first Tuesday Top 10 list of 2012, I figured I'd start with the topic that'll get broached the most between now and September: my preseason top 10. My colleague Brett McMurphy wrote about his too-early rankings last week, but some things have cleared up with more top underclassmen announcing their NFL draft intentions since then. Anyhow, here goes:

1. USC: The Trojans finished 2011 with a bang, ending Oregon's long home-winning streak and thumping rival UCLA. Better still, they were the biggest winner in the NFL underclassmen derby with star QB Matt Barkley opting to remain for his senior season. Yes, they lost stud LT Matt Kalil, but the rest of the O-line, which was pretty young last year, is back and now it's a pretty deep group. Barkley also has the best 1-2 receiving tandem in college football: rising junior Robert Woods is an All-American, and there are some inside the Trojan program who think rising sophomore Marqise Lee is already surpassing him. Curtis McNeal, a 1000-yard rusher, returns, so does the entire back seven, including standout DBs T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey and their top two tacklers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, both freshmen in 2011. The D-line has some guys to replace, but does return three players with starting experience and a bunch of blue-chippers who redshirted. The schedule also breaks well: Oregon and Notre Dame, the two most talented teams they'll face, both have to visit the Coliseum. I realize that it probably seems foolish to list anyone other than an SEC team in the No. 1 spot, but if there's any college QB up for such an undertaking, it's Barkley, and he's got the weapons to pull it off.
 
2. LSU:
I was tempted to have Alabama in this slot after the way the Tide dominated the BCS title game and especially after seeing how sharp A.J. McCarron was last week, but the Tigers were younger and have more key guys back. They also get 'Bama in Baton Rouge in 2012. As I wrote the other day, there is a lot of enthusiasm about Zach Mettenberger taking over the team, spurring the staff to open things up more. They're going to be loaded at RB, and despite the loss of DT Michael Brockers and CB Mo Claiborne, the Tigers are still stacked at both positions. The youngsters to keep an eye on: DT Anthony Johnson and redshirt freshman CB Jalen Collins.

3. Alabama:
Nick Saban will have a legit shot to win his third BCS title in four seasons because he'll still have a stellar O-line and a proven QB (McCarron). Eddie Lacy is also ready to be a feature back. They will have to replace most of the defense, but there is plenty of talent ready to break out in the front seven, led by powerhouse DE Jesse Williams, who is still raw but an offseason of polish should make him a nightmare for SEC offenses. LB Xzavier Dickson is also a guy that has Tide coaches buzzing after a nice freshman year. They'll have a nice test in the opener in Texas against a good Michigan team. The bad news is they do have to go on the road to face the other two heavyweights in the conference: LSU and at Arkansas.

4. Oklahoma: Landry Jones is back after what had to be a disappointing season given expectations going into 2011. It certainly didn't help that OU lost its leading rusher (Dom Whaley) and star WR (Ryan Broyles) to injury near midseason. Jones has a good group of WRs led by Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds. They do have some sizable holes in the front seven to fill, but defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is back and that is a very good thing for the defense. The younger Stoops also has a lot of talent to work with in the secondary.

5. Oregon:
Even though it was a stunner that QB Darron Thomas bolted for the NFL, his understudy Bryan Bennett is even a bit faster and a more accurate passer, and he showed some of those skills in midseason when he was forced into action. Bennett still doesn't have the seasoning in this system, but that should come, although don't rule out redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, a raw 6-foot-4 QB who may have even better tools for this scheme. LaMichael James also is gone, but with De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, Chip Kelly still has so much speed at his disposal, you still feel sorry for rival defenses. The interior of the O-line returns intact, which is key, and safety John Boyett is back, along with LB Kiko Alonso, one of the stars of the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, to anchor the D. Interesting opener against Gus Malzahn's Ark State squad, but the real game to circle is when the Ducks visit USC Nov. 3.

6. West Virginia:
After a tumultuous year, the Mountaineers kicked off 2012 in grand fashion, obliterating Clemson in the Orange Bowl by hanging 70 on the Tigers. The scarier thought is that QB Geno Smith and the bulk of those skill guys are not only back, but now they'll have added reps to get even better at the timing of Dana Holgorsen's scheme. Most of the O-line returns, and that includes standout Josh Jenkins, a three-year starter on the line who had to redshirt the 2011 season. Look out Big 12 (assuming WVU is cleared for take off in time). If not, brace yourself Big East because an ornery bunch of Mountaineers probably will be trying to hang 100 on everybody in that league on the way out the door. The thing keeping this group from being top-five caliber: WVU's D has some very good players to replace and respected DC Jeff Casteel also is gone, off to re-join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Still, the offense is so explosive they should be able to outscore almost everyone they face. Almost.

7. Georgia:
The Dawgs won the SEC East thanks to an improved defense but still really didn't beat anyone of the caliber that you have to beat to show they're ready to overtake the powers of the SEC West. Losing to Michigan State in the bowl game didn't help either. However, there is still a lot of reason for optimism here. The defense returns almost everyone; QB Aaron Murray is very good; young WR Malcolm Mitchell is a budding star. Isaiah Crowell looks like he could be too if he can mature. The kicking game does have to be overhauled though. Maybe the best news of all is that Mark Richt's team has about as manageable a schedule as an SEC team can have, avoiding the top three teams of the SEC West and opening with four of its first five at home.

8. Arkansas:
Bobby Petrino gets back star RB Knile Davis to go with Tyler Wilson, his gifted QB coming off a terrific first season. The defense, which has been shaky for awhile, has some very good players it must replace. And there is a new DC running the show. I do like that the Hogs get both Bama and LSU at home this year, but it's the D that still has me skeptical.

9.  TCU:
The Horned Frogs make another conference move. This one is their biggest yet, over to the Big 12 to rejoin some old friends. No doubt it is a step up in competition. Do they have enough quality depth to handle the attrition that figures to come with that? Well see, but I think Gary Patterson's program is ready for the move. In 2011, the Horned Frogs had as many key freshmen and sophomores contributing as just about anyone. QB Casey Pachall had a very good first season replacing Andy Dalton. Now, the question is, can Pachall take the next step as a leader to elevate this team even higher and do all of the detail stuff in preparation that Dalton was so good at? The physical tools are certainly there. He also has a good supporting cast led by standout WR Josh Boyce and a deep group of RBs. LB Tanner Brock is back from injury to anchor the defense along with big-play DE Stansly Maponga and a more mature secondary.

10. FSU:
After the underwhelming season the Noles had following all of the hype they had entering 2011, I swore I wouldn't give in and allow myself to rank them in the top 10, so I had them at 11. Yet, here they are. This is something we in the media need to realize: The Noles are your preseason dirty addiction. They are that ex-girlfriend who still can put it together and show up at the other side of the bar and catch your eye. And then you give in, and not long after you feel foolish for it. Anyhow. Jimbo Fisher should have a nasty defense, led by a ferocious D-line. The O-line will be better with much-needed experience. Same for QB E.J. Manuel and a young group of receivers. They do have to go to Va. Tech this year and get WVU at home.  Just Missed the Cut: Michigan, South Carolina, Ohio State, K-State, Michigan State.




Posted on: September 9, 2011 11:31 am
Edited on: September 9, 2011 1:02 pm
 

Morning Surf Report: ASU still an enigma?

One of the most intriguing teams in 2011 steps into the national spotlight tonight when Arizona State hosts #21 Missouri. Yeah, it's a chance for the country to see the Sun Devils new unis with the new pitchfork logo, but the real curious part will be seeing just how much things with this bunch have changed on the field, if at all.

No question that coach Dennis Erickson is on the hot seat. ASU has not had a winning season since way back in 2007, Erickson's first year there. They're 0-10 in their last 10 games against ranked teams.

To say the Sun Devils have had a propensity for melting down in crucial situations would be an understatement. Still, they come into the season as the team most experts feel will come out of the Pac-12 South division thanks to a nasty defense, led by a talented D-line and ferocious MLB Vontaze Burfict.

As I said last night on "Inside College Football" on CBS Sports Network, the big questions with this team are these: can Brock Osweiler play like a big-time QB, and can the Sun Devils finally knock off all the knucklehead penalties?

Osweiler, the surprisingly nimble 6-8 one-time Gonzaga hoops commit, is talented and is very confident, but it's nights like tonight: national TV against a ranked opponent that will define him. I spoke to ASU OC Noel Mazzone Wednesday night about his young QB. "Let's see how he handles adversity," the coach said. "Now everybody expects something."

Last year, Osweiler had two starts late in the season and played well, and ASU won both. But Mazzone pointed out that Osweiler really struggled early against Arizona. Osweiler was 2-10 in the first quarter and just 8-23 in the first half. Osweiler went 9-13 though in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes in the 30-29 win.

"He was kinda rattled to start," said Mazzone. "He has to play a whole game."

I expect Osweiler to respond well. The other question about ASU is more complicated. In Week One, ASU's ringleader Vontaze Burfict put up an eye-catching stat line: three sacks, zero penalties. But as the competition level rises, can he and his teammates keep their focus? Earlier in the week, I wrote about Burfict's conversation with his idol Ray Lewis, who prodded him to make better decisions as the young linebacker tries to straddle the line between playing with an edge and being out of control. For some, that line is much more narrow than others. And, as I wrote, that level of focus is actually a talent not that much different than speed or strength. We'll soon find out if ASU has that in them.

*I was really impressed by Oklahoma State last night. The Cowboys jumped on Arizona right away. Brandon Weeden was smokin' hot, hitting on 14 of his first 15 passes. He was in total control, playing like a talented QB in his late 20s against inexperienced college kids. RB Joseph Randle, who packed on 10 pounds of muscle this off-season, showed he's become a more physical runner to go with being a superb receiver and is an emerging star. Better still, the OSU D didn't allow Zona to have any semblance of a running game. This is a very dangerous OSU team.
  Meanwhile, Arizona, plagued with inexperience on both lines, now faces games against Oregon, Stanford and at USC up next and is staring at the  possibility of a 1-4 start.
*In all my years of covering sports, I’ve never seen  a prepared statement like the one new Gators coach Will Muschamp released Thursday night after the NCAA suspended UF defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd for two games for accepting impermissible benefits, writes Mike Bianchi.
 

According Will Muschamp’s statements, these impermissible benefits weren’t impermissable at all; they were righteous and good. They were not from agents or boosters who were affiliated with any university; they were from charitable people who were simply helping a kid with no parents who was essentially living on the streets of Philadelphia when he was in high school.

Usually prepared statements are carefully worded and crafted by the school’s PR department, but not this one. This one obviously came straight from Will Muschamp’s mouth — and his heart. Muschamp has been nicknamed “Coach Boom” and now we know why. In his prepared statement, he absolutely erupted on the NCAA’s ruling. . . . 

Let’s be honest, if Muschamp felt Floyd was a blatant cheater he wouldn’t have attacked the NCAA like he did. He would have quietly taken the two-game suspension against Florida’s first two humpty-dumpty opponents — FAU last week and UAB this week — and been thankful Floyd didn’t miss the Tennessee and Alabama games, too. If I’m reading Muschamp’s statement right, he is saying Floyd, a kid from a dirt-poor background who grew up without parents, was suspended by the NCAA for receiving handouts from charitable people and organizations while he was in high school.  I do not know if this is the case or not, but if it is then the NCAA has seemingly overstepped its bounds. How do you suspend a kid in college for accepting food, money and living expenses in high school while he was living with 10 other kids in his great grandmother’s basement apartment?

*TCU could be without two key starters for the Air Force game due to injury: LB Tanner Brock (foot) and RB Ed Wesley (shoulder), reports Stefan Stevenson

*Recruiting is a cold business, as this Teddy Greenstein story about Northwestern QB (and one-time Stanford commit) Kain Colter illustrates.
 

During his first game that fall, Colter heard a "pop" after throwing a post route. An MRI revealed a torn labrum and biceps, but he kept playing as a running back and receiver while rehabbing a shoulder that eventually needed surgery. Stanford originally stuck by him, but then their correspondences dwindled. They wanted his MRI results and claimed he would have to wait for clearance from the admissions office. Interesting for a kid who carried a 4.2 grade-point average.


Finally, Spencer said, "They just stopped calling. It was a bad situation. I wanted them to man up and talk to Kain."


"We're going to honor our commitment," NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "The coaches who punt on guys when they get hurt, it's pathetic. It's these kids' futures."

*The prospect of Texas going independent is a daunting one and one that could alienate UT from the rest of the college sports world,
writes Kirk Bohls.

At this point, independence is looking like the end result. Why?

Ego and power.

Texas does not want to concede either. It doesn't want to give up its precious Longhorn Network, nor does it want its clout diminished by joining another established conference where it won't have as big a say. By clinging to their new toy — a valuable one, at that — and flaunting it, and insisting on uneven revenue sharing, the Longhorns have alienated the rest of the conference, created unrest and acrimony, and thrown their weight around so much that schools in their own league see them as a bully.

Yes, they are the Joneses.
*Nebraska OC Tim Beck said true freshman right tackle Tyler Moore was "probably our most consistent linemen throughout the course of the day. We probably played Tyler too much in the first game because it's a long season and we're going to need all those guys," Beck said, according to the Journal Star.

*James Gayle, a redshirt sophomore got Va. Tech's lone sack in the season-opening win over Appalachian State, continuing his emergence as VT’s most dangerous, and consistent, playmaker along the defensive line, writes Mark Giannotto.


During spring practice, Gayle had six sacks, including at least one in four of the team’s scrimmages. Then, last month, he exploded for four sacks in one preseason scrimmage. Gayle said Tuesday the light bulb went on during the spring, when the defensive scheme finally became second nature. He also won the team’s Excalibur award for his work in the offseason strength and conditioning program, where he bench-pressed 420 pounds and ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash.  It’s important to note that Gayle, who’s now listed at 6 feet 4 and 257 pounds, has added close to 40 pounds onto his frame since arriving at Virginia Tech. Then again, the Hampton native has some good bloodlines, too.

 
 
 
 
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