Posted on: January 24, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: January 24, 2012 12:18 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Best recruiting battles

We're just a little more than a week away from National Signing Day (Shameless Plug Alert: Check out our NSD show next Wednesday, beginning at 9 AM ET here on CBSSports.Com) and there are still a lot of blue-chippers uncommitted. This week's Top 10: Best recruiting battles:

1. WR Dorial Green-Beckham --
 Arkansas vs. Alabama vs. Mizzou  vs. Texas vs. Oklahoma: Many of the national recruiting services have pegged this 6-foot-6, 220-pound Missouri product as the top overall prospect in the Class of 2012. He certainly looks the part and has the film to back it up. Just like last year's consensus No. 1 guy, Jadeveon Clowney, DGB is such a freak, it's expected no matter where he signs, into no matter how stacked a depth chart, he'll still force his way into significant reps. He's taken official visits to Texas (back in November) and to Arkansas last weekend. Unlike many recruits, DGB has been fairly quiet throughout the recruiting process, so it's even harder to get a read on how things are shaping up. Landing him would be a huge coup for any of these schools, especially home state Mizzou, where he'd team with a good young quarterback in James Franklin as the Tigers make the jump into the SEC. At OU and Arkansas, DGB would slide into the most advanced situations in terms of getting to play with a top QB as both OU's Landry Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson are more established guys running prolific passing games, whereas at UT, the QB situation is still quite murky. Arkansas and OU also both have sizeable holes at wideout given the fact that the Hogs lost three very gifted senior receivers and OU just lost the great Ryan Broyles.

The Guess: Arkansas

2. OT Andrus Peat -- FSU vs. Nebraska vs. Stanford vs. USC: The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Arizona native, who also is a pretty good basketball player, sparked quite a turnout in the crowd for one of his hoops games last week. In the stands: Lane Kiffin and a few USC coaches, the entire Nebraska offensive staff and a few Stanford staffers. His older brother Todd Peat signed with the Huskers last year, and given NU's tradition with O-linemen, it's no stretch to think that the No. 8 overall prospect in MaxPreps Top 100 could be headed to Lincoln.  

The Guess: Nebraska

3. WR Nelson Agholor -- FSU vs. UF. Notre Dame vs. OU vs. USC:
A smooth 6-1 receiver from Tampa, Fla., Agholor has an interesting backstory as detailed in this Tampa Bay Times story. The No. 13-ranked prospect overall has already taken official visits to Notre Dame, Florida, Oklahoma and just returned from a trip to Florida State that apparently went quite well. His final trip is to USC, which many insiders think is the leader for his services. Getting the last chance to make a big impression, especially with potential new teammates, is always preferred and the lure to catch passes from Matt Barkley may prove too tempting.

The Guess: USC

4. WR Stefon Diggs -- Auburn vs. Cal vs. Florida vs. Ohio State: The speedy wideout from Maryland, No. 14 nationally, just returned from a visit to Florida, which he described to reporters as "awesome" thanks in large part to his time around new Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease. The former Boise State assistant was able to detail how his offense will run in Gainesville. Diggs still has an official visit coming up this weekend to Ohio State, which has a ton of recruiting momentum since Urban Meyer took over. Never underestimate Urban Meyer. Then again, don't underestimate Trooper Taylor and Auburn either.

The Guess: Florida

5. OT Arik Armstead -- Auburn vs. Cal vs. Notre Dame vs. Oregon vs. USC vs. Washington: A talented two-way lineman who also could play college hoops as an imposing power forward, the No. 16-ranked prospect had been committed to USC for a long time but his recruitment got very cloudy once his big brother Armond's medical situation at USC took a curious turn. The elder Armstead, a former starter on the defensive line for the Trojans, has not been cleared by USC doctors and is looking at transferring to play his senior year someplace else, and there is a shot his brother could join him. There's also been added intrigue to the other colleges, with Chip Kelly almost bolting for the NFL and Cal's ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi leaving for Washington while Auburn also has had a big staff shake-upm too. Then again, so has Notre Dame. According to the Sacramento Bee, the family has been told Armond could play right away at Auburn as a graduate transfer, despite SEC rules and contrary to some reports. I am assuming that is based on his medical circumstances. He also could play in 2012 at Notre Dame.

The Guess: Notre Dame

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6.  DT Eddie Goldman -- Alabama vs. Auburn vs. FSU vs. Miami: An athletic 300-pound DT from the DC area, there has been some speculation that the Maryland Terps had a shot here once they hired Mike Locksley as an assistant, similar to some buzz that swirled around Diggs a while back, but we're not hearing that much at this point. Goldman had a good relationship with former Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri, but he has since moved on to take a job to Tennessee. Will that really hurt the Tide's chances with the No. 17 overall recruit in the Class of 2012?

The Guess: FSU

7. OT  Zach Banner -- OU vs. Washington vs. USC: The tallest, at 6-9, 310, of an impressive group of offensive tackle prospects in this year's class, the Seattle area talent would be a huge pick-up for U-Dub and Steve Sarkisian, especially since the Huskies appear to be missing out on the other elite O-line recruit in the area, Josh Garnett. The Trojans had the last official visit and made a very good impression with the No. 21 overall prospect. It also doesn't hurt their cause that Lane Kiffin is pitching an opportunity to the nimble big man that he can compete for Matt Kalil's vacated slot at LT and be the missing piece for a loaded offense ripe for a BCS title run in 2012.

The Guess: USC

8. OL Josh Garnett -- Michigan vs. Notre Dame vs. Stanford: Speaking of that other blue-chip Washington O-linemen, the 6-5, 295-pound Garnett could probably play either guard or tackle and give some team a big boost. Reportedly, earlier this week Garnett trimmed his list to two, cutting Notre Dame. We'll see. Both David Shaw and Brady Hoke have plenty of momentum on the recruiting trail.

The Guess: Stanford

9. CB Ronald Darby -- Auburn vs. Clemson vs. FSU vs. Notre Dame: A Notre Dame commit since last spring, the speedy 5-11 180-pounder from Maryland de-committed in January, which looks like a tough blow for Brian Kelly's program. Every team covets speed, but the Irish has an even bigger need for guys with this kind of athleticism than everyone else he's considering. The 'Noles' top track program also is a big plus for Jimbo Fisher's school.

The Guess: FSU

10. DE Darius Hamilton -- Florida vs. Rutgers: Greg Schiano's program has done a much better job of keeping high-profile, in-state recruits at home the past few years, and the battle for the No. 29 overall prospect in the country would be a huge coup. Rutgers, coming off a bounce-back season, seems to be in the midst of pulling together a very impressive group. Hamilton might visit Miami still, but has told reporters his two big leaders are the Gators and the Scarlet Knights.

The Guess: Rutgers

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: January 13, 2012 1:37 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 7:55 pm

Friday Mailbag: Mettenberger's Maserati

Time for the Friday mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @PatrickSmith45  I keep hearing how good Zach Mettenberger of LSU is. If he was that good wouldn't he have pushed for playing time this past year?

The vibe around LSU right now is really, really intriguing. The Tigers were so close to punctuating one of the great seasons by a team, but then get dominated by Alabama in their own backyard. LSU's offense was atrocious. Before the game, whenever someone asked me where LSU would rank with the all-time great teams, I tempered my answer because for as outstanding as they were on defense and special teams, their QB play was nowhere near that level, and on Monday night, it really showed.
That said, almost everyone I talked to last week sounded convinced the Tigers were in the midst of a great run considering that they have so many key guys in the program who are freshmen and sophomores. They had 16 players on the two-deep, including seven starters who were sophs or younger. People knew they'd likely lose Mo Claiborne, their superb CB, early to the NFL. Both QBs were playing their last game Monday as well, but you have to wonder if that's such a bad thing given how the showing in the BCS title game. Jordan Jefferson looked completely lost and his back-up Jarrett Lee didn't even inspire enough confidence in his coaches to bail them out when things looked so bleak.

No one has ever questioned one-time Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger's arm, and after a season at Butler County CC in Kansas, where he had a 32-4 TD-INT ratio, the expectations around the 6-6, 230-pounder only grew. Many of the people inside the program are sold. 

I spoke to Mettenberger and his teammates a lot a few days ago about how LSU goes forward after the BCS game.  Mettenberger said he'd hoped he could've getting a shot at the starting QB job in 2011, but "Coach Miles didn't see it that way," he said. "It was tough at first but I couldn't get upset as long you're winning."

Mettenberger said he could hardly wait for Tuesday (the day after the BCS title game) because "that's when it's my team.

It's gonna be like getting a Maserati when you turn 16. I really think our offense can be special."

Obviously, the Tigers offense looked anything but special against Alabama the other night. Give a lot of credit to the Tide for that, but also there has been plenty of finger-pointing going on in the state of Louisiana. And, if you follow (former?) LSU WR Russell Shepard on Twitter, you see it's not just fans and media (and parents of Tiger players) doing it. Maybe Mettenberger will instill enough faith in his coaches to change that.

Listening to WR Odell Beckham Jr., one of those gifted young players in the program, that is the hope. "Me and Zach always talk about next year," Beckham said last Friday. "Zach wants to break a lot of records. 

"One of the things I really about him is he's not afraid to take a risk. He also really does have a cannon for an arm."

Mettenberger said he's learned to become more of a passer than just a thrower. "I used to 'juice' everything." He also said he's realized he has to be quicker with his decisions thanks to his time on the Tigers practice field this year. "If you're a split-second too late on a timing route, (Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu) are gonna jump it."
As for the off-field issues Mettenberger had at Georgia, he said he's "changed my ways of life. You gotta learn to grow up."

We'll see if he is the answer for LSU in 2012. If not, there's dual-threat redshirt freshman Jerrard Randall, who Beckham says has an even stronger arm than Mettenberger, and blue-chip recruit Gunnar Kiel, arguably the No. 1 QB prospect in the country.

From @BruCam87 What can we expect out of Mora and UCLA next year? The talent level seems to be higher than any PAC 12 South team except SC. 

That's been the problem with the Bruins over the past two, three, 10 years or so. The talent "seems" pretty high. They have loaded up on guys who look the part, but they've gotten bogged down by landing too many guys who simply don't love football and aren't as competitive as you need to have an elite program. 

When I visited with Jim Mora a few weeks back he told me he was determined to make this a tougher team. If that's Mission No. 1, that will help right away, but a lot of that also will come back to recruiting and bringing in tougher, hungrier kids. 

What you had in 2011 was a team that was really mediocre on both sides of the ball. I suspect new OC Noel Mazzone will improve the offense because his scheme will be a better fit to the talent than the pistol has been. It'll also help getting back stud LT Xavier Su'a-Filo from the LDS mission after two years away. This program has been so thin on quality O-linemen and Big X is the best that has been on that campus in a decade. And I do agree with you that, given all of the transition in the Pac-12 South, you won't have to be a top 25 team to finish second in that division.

From @hanleyf6 Sal Sunseri has accepted DC job at TN. Why leave Bama? Lots of uncertainty with Dooley's status and major rebuilding job. 

Sunseri's already won BCS titles as an assistant at Bama, and while he's well-regarded as a recruiter, if he can help spark the Vols' resurgence after a dreadful 2011 at a time when that program seems in disarray, his stock will sky-rocket. Even though, there is increasing speculation that if Derek Dooley has another season like he did in 2011 or even close to as bad, he won't be the coach at UT in 2013, keep in mind that Sunseri is getting a reported three-year deal that'll be worth almost $2.5 million. There is stability in that.

On the back side of Sunseri's decision is this: if he stays at Bama, Nick Saban gets most of the credit and Tide DC Kirby Smart gets basically what's left over. By leaving, Sunseri is positioning himself for a much larger spotlight.

From Irishsox05 Is college football ever going to move in the hash marks to match the NFL?  

Interesting question. Never really thought about it. The differing hash marks affect so much of the game in terms of scheming and the kinds of plays people run (wide-side versus boundary). It's also a big consideration for defensive "landmarks" for things such as plotting out coverage areas with the Cover-2, etc. 
  My hunch is the NCAA sticks with what they have because they'd like to keep things as unique for college and traditional as they can, rather than make another stop just to be more like the pros.

From @PaulPabst If we moved to a plus-one or playoff, best case scenario ... which season would it start?

It would start in the 2014 season with the Plus-One (playoff) games taking place in January of 2015.

From @RedKirby What's your prediction for Tx Tech next year? 

My guess is the Red Raiders will make a bowl game in 2012 after missing out this past season. Seth Doege is back at QB. He had an inconsistent year as a first-time starter, but he figures to be better with another year of seasoning. Getting RB Eric Stephens back after missing half the season with a knee injury also will help a bunch. It'll also be interesting to see what they can get from a crew of WRs who didn't play in 2011: Derek Edwards, Tyson Williams and UF transfer Javares McRoy. The O-line did lose some solid players and will see how new coach Sam Pitman can bring them together.

The biggest question is on defense, where the Red Raiders have been among the nation's worst on D for the past two years. They don't lose much to graduation and Tommy Tuberville reshuffled his staff with some more experienced coaches. I expect things to be better on that side of the ball. 

Big picture, this team should get at least seven wins since they have one of the better QBs in the conference and more experience in their top 44.

From @rbode17 Which of Florida's big 3 will have the best 2012 season? 

I'll go with FSU. They finished 2011 with the most momentum, have the QB who is furthest along (E.J. Manuel) and have the best defense. They also have the most stability of the staffs among the Big Three.

From @Kentuckyclem how come the national media does not cover or do an exposé on over signing in the SEC? Seems to be the common denominator...

The national media has covered that topic. A lot. You can Google it and all the times we've talked about it in print. Not to mention all of the times many of us have been asked about it on the radio or on national TV shows.

From @DavidAnderson89 how come u didn't choose the CBS hat off the table when u made "the decision"?

That hat stuff is so 2008. Tweeting it made more sense. ... Better question, how come a man of your stature, didn't do something creative with your decision, like picking a Colorado State ski hat over a Boise State ski hat and a Stanford beret? 
Posted on: December 27, 2011 12:36 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 7:52 pm

Tuesday Top 10: Year's best/worst predictions

Time to revisit some of our best and worst predictions over the past year, which will serve as a double-barrel Tuesday Top 10 list.

The Worst

1. Oklahoma to win it all: The Sooners did sustain some big blows to injury, losing standout LB Travis Lewis before the season and then top receiver (Ryan Broyles) and top rusher (Dom Whaley) later. Still, the Sooners lost at home to a four-TD underdog (Texas Tech) that didn't even get to a bowl game and then finished the season losing by 34 to rival Oklahoma State. OU ended up the season tied with Baylor for third in the Big 12.

2. FSU is back and ready to play in a BCS bowl: The AP poll went all in on FSU putting the Noles sixth in the preseason poll. I was even more optimistic last April, placing them third in a poll I turned in. Instead, FSU, went 8-4 and just 5-3 in the ACC.

3. Maryland could go 8-4: I saw the ACC's top young QB (Danny O'Brien), a quality RB (Davin Meggett) and four returning starters on the O-line and said that 8-4 "seems viable." Um, not exactly. The Terps were a disaster, going 2-10 with one win over an FBS opponent, and that team Miami was a shell of itself due to NCAA player suspensions.

4. Texas A&M is a top 15 team: I bought into the hype around the Aggies with Ryan Tannehill, some gifted receivers and backs and a more mature O-line. Things fizzled in College Station so bad that Mike Sherman lost his job as A&M fell apart in the second half of games and finished 6-6.

5. Gus Malzahn - the hottest assistant in college football: It wasn't a surprise that the Auburn OC saw the Tigers struggle mightily without Cam Newton and most of the AU O-line from 2010, but you had to figure he could've gotten in on UNC or even the Kansas coaching vacancies, no? No? A video of an interview his wife gave certainly didn't help his cause. Regardless, from here it looks like Arkansas State was very fortunate to scoop him up.

6. Nebraska is going to win the Big Ten: The Huskers beat two top top 15 teams - No. 11 and No. 12 Penn State (those were the rankings when they met), but still only finished third in the Legends Division and were also blown out twice, once by Wisconsin, 48-17 and once at Michigan, 45-17.

7. Notre Dame will win 10 games and make the BCS: Once Brian Kelly signed off on embattled star WR Michael Floyd not missing any games, I figured the Irish had more than enough firepower to roll through their schedule. Trouble was, the team was far too mistake prone, committing 26 turnovers and had an underwhelming 8-4, going 2-3 against teams that finished with winning records this season.

8. At worst, Tennessee will go 7-5: Of course, it didn't help that the Vols lost QB Tyler Bray for half of the season and their best weapon, WR Justin Hunter for most of the season, but losing to that bad Kentucky team playing with a WR at QB to miss even becoming bowl eligible was indicative of a miserable season in Knoxville for the 5-7 Vols.

9. Clemson will struggle again and Dabo Swinney may be forced out: I figured new OC Chad Morris would help a lot but ultimately the Tigers would stumble too many times. Oh, they did have some problems in the second half of the season, losing three of their last five games but still thumped Va. Tech to win the ACC.

10. UCF would be a borderline Top 25 team: After watching the Knights win 11 games last season and beat Georgia in a bowl, I thought they'd have another strong season. So strong in fact that I had them as my No. 4 BCS bowl buster candidate behind Boise State, Houston and TCU. The Knights didn't even finish .500 in C-USA play, going 3-5 and 5-7 overall. They played six road games and lost all six.

The Best

1. Michigan will be a top 25 team this year: Brady Hoke inherited a team with 20 starters back and one of the top playmakers in the sport in Denard Robinson. Hoke was also smart enough to bring in Greg Mattison to shore up the defense.

2. Florida will not be ranked: I was surprised to see the Gators ranked in the top 25 given the fact that they had a dramatic transition in schemes and so much uncertainty on both sides of the ball. They also had to deal with back-to-back games against the best two defenses in college football, against Alabama and LSU. End result: 6-6, winning just one game in their final seven against FBS opponents.

3. Arkansas State will make a lot of noise in the Sun Belt: Well, I didn't buy that the Red Wolves were going to win the Sun Belt as ASU D-line coach Chris Kiffin told me they would before the season, but I bought in that first-year coach Hugh Freeze would lead the program to its first winning season since 1995. They ended up doing a lot more than that, winning the league and going 10-2.

4. Tony Levine -- fast-rising assistant coach: The former Minnesota wideout may never have been an offensive or defensive coordinator, but he's long been regarded as one of the top special teams coordinators in college football. He also had been a huge help for Kevin Sumlin in a variety of roles, so when A&M hired Sumlin, it shouldn't have been that big of a surprise that UH would turn to Levine, who has always been well-respected by those inside the Cougars athletic offices.

5. Mississippi State isn't a top 20 team: The Bulldogs lost a bunch of key pieces to their defense, in addition to DC Manny Diaz and that would be too much to overcome in the loaded SEC West. End result: 2-6 in SEC play.

6. Mike Locksley will be the first head coach fired this season: A brutal mix of on and off-field issues led to New Mexico canning Locksley before the end of September.

7. Georgia will win the SEC East: I wasn't sold that South Carolina, preseason No. 12, should've been the favorite in the lesser division of the SEC. I was sold that the Dawgs had the best QB, a good mix of young and old and the most manageable schedule (no LSU, Alabama or Arkansas) to emerge from the East. Of course, things got even harder for Carolina after standout RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury.

8. WVU to a BCS bowl: Despite all of the drama for this program in the off-season, I was pretty convinced Dana Holgorsen would spark a dramatic improvement for this team offensively. And, he did. They went from 78th in scoring last season to No. 19 this year en route to making it to the Orange Bowl.

9. Texas will be better, but not that much better: After going 5-7, Mack Brown made significant changes to the Texas coaching staff. I expected the moves to help but still was skeptical UT would be better than the fourth best team in the Big 12. They weren't. They went 7-5 and finished sixth in the conference but at least they were able to beat arch-rival Texas A&M. Then again, UT finished off the regular season with a loss to Baylor.

10. Urban Meyer to get the Ohio State job: Truth is, this one was pretty obvious. I floated that Meyer could be the next OSU head man at the end of 2010 before Jim Tressel was really in hot water. Then, once Tressel was forced out, Meyer became just about everyone's frontrunner for the Buckeye vacancy.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 11:58 am

Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing bowl matchups

We're just a few days away from the official start of bowl season and I'm pretty fired up about that. This week's Tuesday Top 10: the match-ups I'm most intrigued by:

1- BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9: LSU vs. Bama: I realize many of you don't want to see a rematch of a game that didn't have a single TD the first time out. To me, Les Miles is always Must-See TV and I'm very curious to see how Trent Richardson does against the LSU D the second-time around. Also, curious what the Honey Badger does on a stage this big. Pregame

2-Rose Bowl, Jan. 2: Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Chip Kelly's team will try and end its little two-game BCS bowl skip against a physical Badger team. The Ducks have had a hard time against top teams who have had plenty of time to prepare for their scheme. Wisconsin comes into the the game with the nation's No. 6 scoring defense. Pregame

3- Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: So, you're looking for a BCS bowl where you'll see plenty of offense? This is your game. OSU is No. 2 in scoring nationally. Stanford is No. 5. I'm very curious to see how Andrew Luck handles the country's most opportunistic defense (42 turnovers forced this season.) Pregame

4-Outback Bowl, Jan 2. Michigan State vs. Georgia: The Spartans got embarrassed by Alabama last year in the bowl after a strong regular-season and come into this riding a four-game bowl losing streak under Mark Dantonio. Are they good enough to make a statement for the Big Ten this time around? Pregame

5-Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: Baylor vs Washington: If RG3 is playing, I'm watching. . . . Oh, and if you're looking for defense, this really ain't it. Washington ranks 99th in scoring defense. Baylor is 109th. Pregame

6-Orange Bowl, Jan. 4: Clemson vs. WVU: A pair of cutting-edge offensive minds in Clemson's Chad Morris and WVU's Dana Holgorsen. Both have QBs primed to get a jump on some 2012 Heisman hype, especially since each is working with gifted receiving crews. Pregame

7-Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3: Va. Tech vs. Michigan: I know both of these programs looked brutal in January bowl games a year ago, but I'm curious because of the match-ups: Bud Foster's D against Denard Robinson sounds like fun. Same for Greg Mattison's improved Wolverines defense against David Wilson. Pregame

8-TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2: Houston vs. Penn State: Kevin Sumlin is already at A&M leaving his righthand man Tony Levine to get the Cougars ready for a very tough Penn State D, by far the best defense Case Keenum has seen all year. The Nittany Lions are No. 5 in the country in scoring defense and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency D. Pregame

9-Gator Bowl: Jan. 2: Florida vs. Ohio State: Hard to get excited about two 6-6 teams that have had such down years? Normally, that'd be the case, but given the Urban Meyer factor hanging over this game, you'd think there's a lot more pressure on Will Muschamp than on the OSU sidelines. Then again, how about the Buckeyes looking to impress their new boss? I'm in. Pregame

10-Champs Sports, Dec. 29: Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Two programs with rich histories who had duds of seasons amid a lot of lofty speculation. Winner can make the claim that they finished strong and were really "just a year away." Pregame

Posted on: December 9, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:10 pm

Friday Mailbag: The coach Penn St should pursue

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, if you have questions send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @Newberry75 Is PSU interviewing anybody? Seems pretty quiet for such a high profile search.

It's been kept very quiet if they have. Given all of the uncertainty with the leadership there and the cloud that will hang over that community for a very long time, it's a delicate situation. I can report that a hot rumor which was swirling in the past 36 hours is untrue that was linking former Penn State player Al Golden to the job. Golden, the rumor went, was picked up Wednesday in New York in a private plane and flown to PA to meet with Penn State officials. However, a source explained to me that the private plane that Golden was flying in is actually owned by a Miami donor and the coach was going around the northeast recruiting for Miami.

The guy who I think Penn State should target for this job is actually a different guy with Miami ties, Mario Cristobal, the head coach at FIU. As I wrote here a few months ago, Cristobal has done wonders taking over what was the bleakest, messiest, most screwed-up FBS program in all of college football. He is a high-energy, no-BS guy who knowns the northeast well from his time as Greg Schiano's top recruiter when they were trying to breathe some life into the Rutgers program. Cristobal knows what it takes to win both as a player and as a coach. He has shown he has great focus, which I think will be paramount for the next head coach there given everything that you will inherit.

If you're skeptical about Cristobal's tenacity and savvy to land such a big job with such unique problems,  click the link and look at the bottom of the column:

I said no coach in FBS took over a worse program. The reason: FIU was like no other program at that level. There was no infrastructure. They had no film library. They had no academic support system in place for the players. They had to build everything from scratch when Cristobal's staff arrived. "Our first month of official visits, we didn't show them the locker room or the weight room," said a former staffer. "We were running smoke and mirrors. Everything focused on the campus and the city of Miami. We'd just show them plans of what we were building."

The facilities were laughable. The program also had administrative issues where players had a hard time even getting their Pell Grant money. On top of that, Cristobal also inherited a dreadful APR rating and the program was going on academic probation, so they couldn't even go after full recruiting classes.

From @astubert Do you think Devon Still wasn't selected as an AFCA All-American because of the PSU scandal?

I'd hope that wasn't the reason behind it since Still had nothing to do with it. I was surprised to see him NOT on the team. If you were to ask which DT had the most impact on his defense and doesn't take a lot of plays off, Still would be the first guy I'd think of. He played on a top 5 defense, and he was the biggest reason why they were so tough. He had 17 TFLs, which is really impressive since most of the other top guys in tackles for loss are edge rushers, not guys who consistently see double teams and lots of traffic.

From @tperk54 why on earth did you not vote for Trent Richardson for the Heisman?

Richardson is an outstanding back. He was on top or near the top of my ballot for much of this season. He had some spectacular moments. Best example was that amazing run he had against that dreadful Ole Miss team. In a few games against some of the tougher defenses he played, he was good, although he only averaged a little over four yards per carry against Penn State and under four yards against LSU and his team didn't even score a touchdown. I feel like he's a better back that Montee Ball, but the Wisconsin back put up even more impressive numbers and he did so against some good defenses too. Both backs had very good years. I believe there are six or seven guys you could make a strong case for. I watched a lot of games on each of those guys. To me, it just comes down who had the best year in terms of making the most impact on his program and, as I detailed in the Big Picture column, that was Robert Griffin III.
From @SouthernJetNC Is Fedora a great, good or average hire for UNC?

I'd categorize him as a good hire. He's aggressive, has a sharp offensive mind and a really keen eye for talent. That last part is big. He helped land some very unheralded prospects at Oklahoma State who blossomed into stars. Obviously, a lot will depend on the caliber of assistants he can surround himself with, but I was impressed by the staff he assembled right away when he took over at Southern Miss. Those guys could really recruit.

From @T_Dwyer Is "Charlie Weis? Huh?" enough of a question or should I be more specific?

That one caught me off guard too. I can see why KU would consider Weis, although I wouldn't think they'd hire him over, say, a Gus Malzahn or even a Chad Morris, if they could've landed either. Weis isn't a first-time college head coach, but it's not like he was a big success at ND with a lot more resources there. His name will carry weight with some recruits, but so would those other guys.

As for the other side of it: Kansas is a really, really tough place to win at. Remember before Mark Mangino arrived, KU hadn't had a winning season in a half-dozen years before and hadn't been to a bowl since 1995. In 2007, when Mangino got KU into a BCS bowl, which they won, was arguably the best coaching job we've seen in the last 20 years. KU was 12-1 and finished No. 7. Amazing. KU isn't in a fertile recruiting state and it can't take many of the local JC players that other programs in that league can. Then they got rid of him and the program has bottomed out in two seasons with Turner Gill. They weren't even competitive. 

Weis, should attract some talent on offense. According to the New York Times, Dayne Crist, a former Weis QB at ND, will visit there this weekend. Landing Crist would be a good first step for the coach. Weis will inherit a talented young RB in Darrian Miller, but also the nation's worst defense. Crist would be a quick fix to try and help them get respectable in a hurry, maybe go 4-8, 5-7 to win over some skeptical recruits. But it is going to be a very uphill battle. Top recruits won't perk up for KU as they will listen if you're the head coach at Notre Dame. Now maybe some QBs and tight ends may given Weis' pedigree, but there are other coaches with strong NFL track records too and they're at bigger programs. When Weis was at ND, he was at the glamour school. Now, he'll be below OU, Texas, Oklahoma State and just about everyone else in the Big 12. 

From @MatthewLevi If Bama wins BCS, what are the odds that LSU still gets AP title since LSU beat Bama at Bama's house and had a stronger SOS?

My hunch is those are slim chances LSU would still get the AP title. Keep in mind if Bama won, they'd be beating LSU in the Tigers backyard. Also, people, by nature, are creatures of the moment. They tend to go with what they just witnessed and put heavy emphasis on it. By overlooking the BCS title game like that would make a farce of something (the BCS) that is already pretty dubious.

From @AnalogSports Is Mike Leach going to run his same offense up in Pullman? In the snow? Will he get the right kids for it?

They ran the Air-Raid system in Iowa, where the weather was brutal and had a lot of success with it under those conditions. It can get pretty windy in Lubbock and some parts of the Big 12 too. 
Sounds like he already has a few of those kids in the program right now with those two QBs (Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday) and Marquess Wilson, a great sophomore WR. The challenge will be for them to grasp the nuances of the system and rep it so much where they can get the timing down.

From @cdunk87 Who do you think would be better fit at Nebraska for DC Ron Zook or Mike Stoops?

Zook is a fantastic recruiter, but as a DC, I'll go with Mike Stoops. Ask OU fans about what they feel like the program has lacked since Mike Stoops left for Arizona. He is a very good coach. People I've spoken to who have worked with him saying he was an excellent tempo setter at practice and very good in the day-to-day. That said it would be interesting to see him on the same sideline with another up-to-the-edge intensity guy like Pelini, but since both go back I suspect they'd could play off each other pretty well if Stoops does end up in Lincoln.
Posted on: November 22, 2011 10:11 am
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:45 am

Tuesday Top 10: Fastest-rising assistant coaches

As we reported Monday afternoon with the report about Rich Rodriguez getting the Arizona job, tis the season for coaching changes. Expect a lot more vacancies to spring up in the next few weeks. A few of them will get filled by first-time head coaches. This week's Top 10 list examines some of the best up-and-comers to keep an eye on:

1. Gus Malzahn, Auburn, OC: The former Arkansas high school coach's rep sky-rocketed last season as Auburn rode Cam Newton to the BCS title. Things have been much, much tougher this year without Newton or most of last year's offensive line. The offense that was fifth nationally in scoring and sixth in total offense has plummeted to 78th and 93rd, respectively. But things should get a lot better next year as almost all of their key guys figure to be back. But will Malzahn? He is paid very, very well at Auburn, getting a reported $1.3 mil per year, and won't leave for just any coaching job, but word is that UNC's vacancy could be tempting.

2. Kirby Smart, Alabama, DC: Nick Saban's program has spawned a handful of future head coaches (FSU's Jimbo Fisher, UF's Will Muschamp and Tennessee's Derek Dooley among them), and Smart figures to be the next one up. Then again, Bama OC Jim McElwain, who could've also been on this list, will likely get some looks this winter too. Bama's defensive prowess will be quite a selling point for Smart. The Tide leads the nation in: rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. That's quite a mouthful. The one downside for the former Georgia DB is that Saban is so hands-on with Alabama's defense it's perceived that the head coach is more responsible for the unit's success than most head coaches.

3. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin, OC: One of the more anonymous "top" assistants in college football, the 46-year-old Chryst, a former Mike Riley assistant, has done a terrific job for the Badgers for years. This season, he's put together an offense that has produced two Heisman candidates in QB Russell Wilson and RB Montee Ball. The Badgers are fifth in the country in scoring and 10th in rushing under the former Wisconsin QB.

4. Manny Diaz, Texas, DC: A first-year UT assistant, Diaz has proven to be the most effective of all of Mack Brown's new on-field coaches, turning a defense that had to replace most of the secondary into one that is 11th in pass efficiency D and 26th in scoring D. Last year, the Horns were 46th and 49th in both of those categories. Texas also has jumped from 31st against the run all the way up to No. 8. Diaz provided a similar boost at his previous stop, Mississippi State in 2010. The Miami native would be even higher on this list if his team was doing better than a 6-4 mark. But don't blame the defense. It's only a matter of time before Diaz is running his own program.

5. Chad Morris, Clemson, OC: Like Malzahn, Morris is a former high school coach who is cashing in on an up-tempo offense that has pumped life into a big, previously underachieving college program. As I detailed in a Stats That Matter a few weeks back, Morris learned a lot from Malzahn and has done wonders for young QB Tajh Boyd. Morris also has done wonders for Dabo Swinney's job security. The Tigers are 12th in the nation in passing, 18th in total offense and 21st in scoring. A year ago, before Morris arrived, they were 78th, 88th and 86th in those carries. With a handful of openings likely to come this winter in his native state of Texas, expect Morris' phone to be ringing.

6. Garrick McGee, Ark. OC: The Hogs are hot, having scored at least 44 points in their past three SEC games. McGee, a former OU QB, has learned well under Bobby Petrino, one of the game's sharpest offensive minds. Arkansas is No. 3 in the nation led by its potent offense, which had to deal with the loss of record-setting QB Ryan Mallett, a great tight end D.J. Williams and then, on the eve of the season, RB Knile Davis yet the Hogs still pile up the points. If McGee and the Hogs can light up the vaunted LSU defense on Friday, the young coach's stock will really rise.

7. Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State, DC: Yet another Youngstown guy making it big in college coaching. Narduzzi and his boss Mark Dantonio have done another great job producing a ferocious defense. MSU is No. 3 in the country in total defense; No. 5 in scoring; No. 5 in pass efficiency defense and No. 10 against the run. Impressive? No doubt. But what really is amazing is that coming into this season, the Spartans lost four of their top five tackles from last year, including star LB Greg Jones.

8. Bud Foster, Va. Tech, DC: The Hokies again have a top-10 defense. Yawn. Foster seems to do this on an annual basis. This season, Tech has had to overcome a bunch of injuries to key guys in its front seven, but regardless of that, the Hokies are 10-1 and leaning on Foster's stifling defense. Trouble is, for all of Foster's success and the respect he has, the 52-year-old has been passed over many times for head coaching jobs and you have to wonder if he'll ever get his shot to run his own program.

9. Tony Levine, Houston, Special Teams Coordinator: Even though most head coaches get hired after being offensive or defensive coordinators, keep an eye on the 39-year-old Levine, a former wideout at Minnesota, who has proven to be one of the country's best special teams coaches and has learned under Kevin Sumlin, John Fox, Bobby Petrino and Tommy Tuberville in his time in college and the NFL. Since he got to UH in 2008, his teams have returned eight kickoffs for TDs and blocked 18 kicks. That's fourth-most in the country in that time. He's also been Sumlin's assistant head coach for what has become a very hot program these days. Having also been UH's inside receivers coach for the Cougars' record-breaking offense the past four seasons or exhibiting the organizational experience of being a director of football operation (Louisville) also won't hurt his cause either.

10. (tie) Frank Wilson, LSU, RB coach/recruiting coordinator: A New Orleans native, Wilson has emerged as arguably the nation's top recruiter. He has found and reeled in studs at Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and now at LSU, but the guy has proven to be a lot more than just a recruiter. No assistant may be more respected by his players. And he has proven he knows how to run a program and be a leader. Back when he was 27, he took over a downtrodden high school program in New Orleans and turned the place upside down. In one year, the team GPA jumped from 1.5 to 2.5 and his team knocked off Louisiana powerhouse John Curtis HS with its first district loss in 25 years. By Wilson's third season at the school, they were playing in the state title game.

10. (tie) Tom Herman, Iowa State, OC:  The Mensa guy I wrote about last week had a big Friday night helping lead the Cyclones to the biggest win in school history, upsetting No. 2 Oklahoma State in double-overtime, 37-31 boosting ISU to 6-4. Iowa State's numbers on offense this season are far from head-turning: 44th in total offense and 75th in scoring, but remember this is a guy who produced top 10 offenses at Rice just a few years back and helped that program get to its first bowl game in over a half-century. Like Morris and Levine, if he gets a long look when a few of these jobs in the Southwest open up.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com