Tag:Oklahoma
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 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 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 12, 2011 2:53 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 2:57 pm
 

Miami's Miller jumping to the NFL

Miami RB Lamar Miller is leaving early for the NFL draft, a source told CBS.


Miller had a breakout season for the Canes this fall, rushing for 1272 yards (the third-most in UM history in a single season) and nine touchdowns. He leaves UM with two seasons of eligibility remaining. The 5-11, 216-pound back with sprinter speed blossomed this year after learning to become a more patient runner. Miller explained before the season that because he was in such a rush to trying and make something happen that he struggled to let plays develop. The difference in his performance was dramatic. He went over 100 yards seven times this season as UM's feature back. In 2010, he ran for 646 yards and six TDs as a redshirt freshman, while also shining as a kick returner.

Miller is expected by many draft analysts to be a first-round pick. He figures to test very well in the pre-draft workout settings. He is considered one of the fastest players in the Miami program and is expected to clock in the 4.3 range in the 40.


Miller is the third underclassmen to declare early for the NFL draft, joining WR Tommy Streeter and DT Marcus Forston.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:09 am
Edited on: December 6, 2011 11:26 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest duds of 2011

Coming into the season there was so much optimism at different programs, but fast forward three months and there's been a lot of disappointment. This week's Top 10 list: biggest duds of the 2011 season. (I'm leaving off the BCS, which you could make a strong case for deserving to be on this list every year.)

1. Maryland: Randy Edsall's first season in College Park was a disaster of the highest order. The Terps got off to a nice start, edging a seriously depleted Miami team that was gutted by NCAA suspensions, but then things completely fell apart. They didn't beat another FBS program the rest of the way. They got blown out at home by Temple 38-7. They lost to a bad BC team by 11. They blew a huge second-half lead against NC State. The stunning part in all of this was it's not like Edsall inherited the FAU squad. They were 9-4 last year and had the best young QB in the conference in Danny O'Brien. However, the sophomore quarterback regressed in a big way under Edsall. The team was 111th in passing efficiency. In the final eight games of the season, the Terps managed to scored more than 21 points twice. Somewhere, Ralph Friedgen is probably still laughing at his bosses who ran him out of his alma mater after winning ACC Coach of the Year honors.

2. The State of Florida: The Noles were preseason No. 6 and slogged their way to an 8-4 record where they didn't even make it to the ACC title game. At one point they had a three-game losing streak. In mid-November, they lost at home against unranked UVA. ... The Gators, No. 22 in preseason, fizzled on offense and went 6-6 by dropping six of their last eight games. . . . Miami's hopes were torpedoed on the eve of the season by the Nevin Shapiro mess that would sideline a bunch of key players early. The Canes never recovered, losing six games by eight points or less before opting out of what figured to be a mediocre bowl game in hopes of appeasing the NCAA down the road. Their final game: a home loss to a 3-8 BC team. ... USF got off to a fast start, beating a ranked Notre Dame team on the road, but then Skip Holtz team flopped, losing seven of their final eight. ... UCF, which despite having the No. 11 D in the country, failed to even get bowl eligible, going 5-7. Last year UCF was 11-3. Now there is much uncertainty and who knows if sophomore QB Jeff Godfrey, who had seemed to be the centerpiece of the upstart program, will be back in Orlando in 2012?

3. Texas A&M: The Aggies, preseason No. 8, had way too much firepower to go 6-6. Even 8-4 would've felt like a big let down. Statistically, they were a very hard team to figure out. They were seventh in the country in total offense, first in fewest sacks allowed, first in sacks, 13th in rushing defense but they also were 100th in turnover margin. They blew a ridiculous amount of games in the second half. They ended up losing four of their last five and Mike Sherman lost his job because of it.

4. Ole Miss: A lot of people pegged the Rebels for the bottom of the SEC West, but no one would've expected they'd have the worst season in school history. Houston Nutt's lackluster recruiting at Ole Miss really caught up with him. His team got thumped by Vandy in a way that the Commodores never beat another SEC program. The Rebels also lost by 17 to lowly Kentucky and then get crunched by La. Tech 27-7 at the their homecoming game. The 2-10 season cost Nutt his job and was punctuated with another blowout loss to arch-rival Miss. State, 31-3.

5. Oklahoma: [Note: The Sooners were a bad omit on my part when I initially published this list.] They were preseason No. 1 and sputtered badly in the season half of the season, losing three of their last six. The first loss was home to a four-TD underdog (Texas Tech) that would end up having its worst season in almost 20 years. The Sooners finished off the season getting drilled by rival Oklahoma State, 44-10.


6-UCLA defense:
Few teams look better on the hoof, but the Bruins just never could get it done under Rick Neuheisel. Despite a defensive unit were more than its share of former blue-chippers, the Bruins were 112th in sacks and 96th in scoring defense. They surrendered 38 or more six times this season.

7. Mississippi State: They were a long shot to win the incredibly stacked SEC West, but the Bulldogs were still a preseason top 20 team but they never got much of anything going. They went 6-6. The only team with a winning record they beat was 8-4 La. Tech. Their other four wins over FBS opponents went 12-36 combined.

8. Notre Dame offense: The Irish were ranked a respectable 43rd in scoring, but given the weapons Brian Kelly had (led by WR Michael Floyd) ND should've been a lot more dynamic. They were held to 20 points or less five times this season. They also were brutal when it came to taking care of the football, tying for third-worst in the country in turnover margin.

9. Kansas: Turner Gill was fired after just two seasons because the Jayhawks were so overwhelmed this season. They beat an FCS program and then knocked off the eventual MAC champs (NIU) in Week 2 and it was all downhill from them on as it was one epic blowout loss after another. They ranked 106th in total offense and 120 in total defense. Of their final 10 losses to finish the season, only two were decided by less than double-digits. They lost six games by 30 points or more.

10. Illinois offense: Things set up so well for Ron Zook this season. They had a dynamic young QB (Nate Scheelhaase) and some talented backs and receivers. The Illini jumped out to a 6-0 start and then the bottom drops out. They lose the next six, failing to score more than two TDs in any other game. They managed just seven points against a Minnesota D that was 102nd in scoring defense. They scored 14 on a Michigan, which is 51 points fewer than they scored on the Wolverines on a year ago. The Illini finished 91st in scoring, dropping 59 spots from where they were at mid-season. They also ended up 106th in sacks allowed.

 
Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Inside the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry

    This is rivalry time in college football. Earlier this month Travis Haney and Larry Williams’ book about the nasty Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, A State of Disunion was published. I caught up with the two authors to get their take on that game and what's unique about it. I also asked Haney, who has since left the South Carolina beat to cover Oklahoma, about the comparisons between covering Steve Spurrier and his former assistant Bob Stoops and spoke to Williams about the Tigers' intriguing 2011 season.

Question: You guys have covered other programs who all have had some arch-rival. What makes this rivalry unique?

Williams: This rivalry is different from others because it's such a small state and there are no major geographic strongholds for fans of either school. Seems like all the bigger cities have a good mix of representation. That leads to a lot of fans sharing the same neighborhoods, boardrooms, barrooms, churches, even families in a ton of cases. I suspect it's a good bit different in, say, Florida with Gators and Seminoles fans. Not saying that rivalry isn't bitter, but it seems there are more geographic enclaves that favor one school or another. That state is just so much bigger and more far-flung.

One other interesting thing: This rivalry hasn't been bitter since the start; it's been bitter since before the start. Clemson owes its very existence as an institution to strife and bad blood with the school in Columbia. In the late 1800s, the farmers in this state thought the state school provided a sham of an agriculture program that misused federal land-grant funding during Reconstruction. Clemson opened its doors in 1889, and seven years later they started playing football. So it was the perfect battleground for a lot of the hostilities and strife. I suspect a lot of rivalries are cultivated through time; this one didn't take much time at all to get really nasty and bitter. 

Haney: I was talking about this today with a friend. I believe it could be the most contentious rivalry between in-state, out-of-conference teams. (Florida-FSU in same ballpark?) But, well, that's probably just semantics, although it does make it unique. Larry made a nice point that the difference in Clemson-South Carolina and UF-FSU is that, well, those teams have historically been successful. Folks in South Carolina get amped up for a bigger game, like the 2011 game -- of course they do -- but they still care, a bunch, even if the teams flat-out stink. Could you say that in a lot of places? Geography is something I keep coming back to, also.

It's such a condensed state that everyone, alums from both sides, wind up living on top of one another. The kicker quote to the book is from Gamecocks defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, a native who has also coached at Clemson. He said he creates an emotional wake wherever he goes. Depending on their persuasion, fans are either thrilled with his employer -- or they loathe it. They even remind him of this ... at funerals. It's a 365-day rivalry. Unlike Florida-Georgia or Alabama-Auburn or Oklahoma-Texas, there is no other rival on the schedule. This is it.

Question: How did this rivalry change when Steve Spurrier took over at South Carolina?

Haney: That's been sort of weird. I know I expected the Gamecocks to improve, and improve rapidly. I really thought he would signal a move toward success the school hadn't previously seen. I guess that's sort of happened the past couple of years, but I thought it would happen sooner and be more profound. He's done a nice job, relative to the program's historical mediocrity, but it hasn't gone to plan. He admits that, too. As far as the rivalry, it didn't initially change. For whatever reasons, Tommy Bowden had a stranglehold on South Carolina -- even if he couldn't win the ACC, when it was there for the taking. Whenever Bowden left, it's as if everything switched. Clemson sold its soul for the ACC (division) title, and now it's lost to South Carolina for the first time since the late 1960s. (Did you know it had been that long?) He does bring, even now, some national attention that it might not have if, say, Skip Holtz were coaching the Gamecocks. Spurrier will always provide that, as long as he's coaching.

Williams: I'm not sure it changed a great deal because the Tigers owned Lou Holtz when he was here, and Spurrier lost three of his first four against Clemson. People say Holtz placed far more importance on the rivalry game, and the conclusion is that it generated too much pressure on the players and they faltered in the game. I'm not sure I buy that. I believe the reason the Gamecocks have won the past two years -- they hadn't won back-to-back games in 40 years -- is because Spurrier upgraded the talent. They just became a better, more physically imposing team with horses they aren't accustomed to having traditionally. 

One interesting thing about Spurrier is you haven't seen him take many shots at Clemson during his tenure. Maybe a few subtle jabs here and there, but nothing like the stuff he'd say about FSU and Tennessee when he was in Gainesville. I think he respects Clemson's program and some of its coaches. Or maybe he hasn't felt confident enough in his own team to brag. Or maybe he's just older and more mellow. All of the above, perhaps.

Question for Haney: Having now covered Spurrier and Bob Stoops, what is one thing diehard fans probably would be surprised to know about each?

Haney: Man, that's a great question. I presume I'll learn more about Stoops as I go, but I am thinking right now about a story my colleague Berry Tramel wrote this fall about Stoops visiting an area hospital on a regular basis, to see sick children. He develops friendships with them. That's pretty inspiring, for a guy who's incredibly busy. Fans see this coach who looks grumpy and comes off gruff in the media ... but there's a heart in there.

As for Spurrier, I think there's a prevailing perception that all he does is play golf and he doesn't work hard. I don't think that's the case. He really cares about winning at South Carolina, even if some (a lot?) of that is based on his own pride. A lot of people think he will retire once he becomes the school's all-time winning coach. So, he's still driven. He might be the youngest 66-year-old I've ever been around. He was the butt of jokes after that shirtless pic surfaced last year, after I did the workout story with him for his 65th birthday. But, heck, he's probably in better shape than I am now. I'm not going to judge the guy. He's just as competitive as you'd think, too. I remember, during my first year, I got paired with him in his media golf outing. He was supposed to switch groups at the turn, to play with some other media members. But we were in contention, so he blew them off to stick with us. We actually played through the group ahead of us, too -- in a scramble. First and only time that's happened in my life. I just sort of waved as we sped past then-defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix's group.

Question for Haney: How has covering Spurrier helped prepare you for covering Stoops?

Haney: I was curious to see the differences and similarities between the two, with the understanding that Stoops was likely a hybrid of Spurrier and Bill Snyder. He's a lot more like Snyder, I think, in terms of how he deals with us. But you see little similarities in nuances and organizational things he picked up from Spurrier. (Minute things like what day he does his presser. Or bigger things like how he manages the clock.) Ha, well, Spurrier probably has the biggest ego of any coach/manager I had ever covered previously (Bobby Cox, Pat Summitt, Phillip Fulmer, et al.), so perhaps he prepared me for other coaches who don't really give us media boys a second thought. Spurrier and Stoops both do their media responsibilities -- after all, it's part of their contracts -- but neither really seem to enjoy it on any level. They're no Mike Leach, right? They're itching to go the minute they get going with us, because they'd rather be focusing on their team. Can't blame them for that, can you? I'm sure it's a big reason why they've been so successful over the years.

Question for Williams: Did the Clemson fan base completely buy in this year, thinking 2011 would be different before the NC State game? And how has the reaction been since that blowout to such a mediocre team?

Williams: The Clemson fans were really optimistic during the offseason, and the optimism was weird to some distant observers because they were coming off a 6-7 season. But the acquisition of Chad Morris, plus the infusion of some elite talent (most notably Sammy Watkins) gave fans a lot of hope that things could be turned around quickly. I don't think anyone expected them to go 3-0 against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech, so when they swept those games and later went to 8-0 the people were really giddy.

The loss at Georgia Tech was jolting, and then people were really surprised that Wake Forest came within a whisker of snatching the Atlantic Division title from the Tigers' grasp at Death Valley. But last week's debacle in Raleigh really has people concerned about this team. It's starting to look like the epic collapse in 2006 (lost four of last five after 7-1 start), and that's a numbing possibility given that this team was the national media darling just last month.

If they win in Columbia and then win the ACC championship game for their first conference title in 20 years, I think all will be forgiven and the ugliness against N.C. State will be viewed as a mere blip. But if they lose to the Gamecocks for a third consecutive season, there's going to be a lot of heartburn and heartache in these parts. Remember: Dabo Swinney's predecessor (Tommy Bowden) went 7-2 against the rivals down the road.

Question for Williams: If Clemson loses this game against So Carolina, is Dabo back on the hot seat again?

Williams: I don't think he's on the hot seat, because the Tigers would still be a win away from a 10-win season and that hasn't been done here since 1990. Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips was the one who promoted Dabo and gave him the gig for good in December of 2008, and Phillips himself has acknowledged that his own fate as AD hinges on the fortunes of the football program. So Phillips definitely won't have a quick trigger.

Question for Williams: Who has more to lose this weekend?

Williams: It's a great question, and I've been asking myself the same thing. I think we could call this the "Forgiveness Bowl" because the winner atones for a lot. The Gamecocks haven't really done much this season, taking advantage of an uncommonly weak SEC schedule. Fans were really griping after the home loss to Auburn and the shellacking at Arkansas. But a win over Clemson gives the Gamecocks their second 10-win season ever, and they'd absolutely love rubbing three straight wins over Clemson into the faces of Tigers fans. 

Clemson has a lot to lose, but I'll give SC the edge in the answer to your question because the Tigers can still win the ACC even if they lose Saturday. That said, it's hard to imagine them going to Charlotte and winning the ACC coming off back-to-back spankings at the hands of the Wolfpack and Gamecocks.

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 12, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Morning Surf Report: Pressure on FSU D

The biggest game of the week in at FSU where the Noles look for revenge after getting drilled last year at Oklahoma. Coley Harvey lists five reasons why the Seminoles could pull the upset. The biggest in my eyes was his No. 2:

Improved defense. After two games against comparable cupcakes, it is tough to tell just how much better the Seminoles appear to be defensively. But if their 10-point effort in two games is any indication – the lone touchdown the defense gave up came on a drive started at its own 3 – it looks like they have improved and put last year's 47-point effort at Oklahoma behind them. With added depth after back-to-back strong recruiting classes, the Seminoles have been able to build rotations all across the unit. By the fourth quarter of what should be a close game, the unit should be relatively fresh. 

When I visited FSU in the spring, Nole CB Greg Reid admitted to me he and his teammates thought they knew what they were getting themselves into, but they really didn't know what they didn't know. "That no-huddle offense killed us," Reid said. "I've never went through anything like that before in my life. It was a real learning experience. Coach [Mark] Stoops [FSU's defensive coordinator] kept saying, 'Y'all better tighten up. Y'all don't know what you're getting yourselves into.' And we were like, 'Aw, man, we got this. It's just a football game.' I had no idea. I'm looking over to the sidelines for a play and they're already hiking the ball. I can't imagine how hard it was for the D-line. That was real tough."
  As much as the final score looked like a rout, the game wasn't even that close. Through three quarters, the Sooners led 44-7. Landry Jones, the Sooner QB, torched the Noles' defense, going 30-for-40 for 380 yards and four TDs.

"I believe we really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into, but this year, they have to come to the big brick place, they gotta come to Tallahassee," Reid said. "Everybody's excited. This place will be jam-packed. We got something on our shoulders where we have to prove a point, especially if they're preseason No. 1. From a defensive standpoint, we just have to stay focused, have fun and communicate. Not let the quick hurry-up offense get to us."

* Even though Stanford thumped Duke 44-14 in Durham, Jon Wilner notes there were some areas of concern for the Cardinal.

The Blue Devils aren’t any good, and yet they gave Stanford problems for a half, especially with their use of delayed blitzes to pressure Luck. I haven’t seen him get hit that much … ever. If he weren’t bigger than many of the players hitting him, he might have gotten banged up. Watch for upcoming Cardinal opponents to use the same defensive tactics — and with better players.


I spoke to a Duke staffer Monday who noted that the Blue Devils did have some success with delayed blitzes and they'd hit Luck when they brought six and seven defenders. They also had some success using line twists. But as Wilner says, this is a mediocre Duke defense. It is really young right now. Luck and the Cardinal O-line will face much tougher very soon.


* More bad news for Mark Richt and Georgia: The team's top tackler, LB Christian Robinson will miss at least a couple of games with a foot injury sustained in Saturday's loss to South Carolina, the AJC reports


The injury, coming one week after Alec Ogletree suffered a broken foot in the season opener, leaves Georgia (0-2, 0-1 SEC) without both of its starting inside linebackers. Compounding the problem, inside linebacker was probably the thinnest position area on Georgia's defense and the one in which the team was least equipped to withstand injuries.
 

"We've definitely got a challenge at the linebacker position right now," Richt said.


Ogletree, who underwent surgery last week, is expected to be sidelined up to six weeks. Richt did not have medical details on Robinson's injury -- he suggested it might involve a hairline fracture -- but said it was not as severe as Ogletree's.

Over the weekend, Va. Tech's budding star David Wilson ran for 138 yards on 26 carries against ECU. In two games, he's now run for 300 yards. He's also broken 29 tackles, per the VT staff with him breaking 14 tackles on Saturday.

* Rob Lohr was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. The junior DT, who came to Vandy as a tight end/DE, became the first Commodore defender in more than a decade to post four tackles for loss. Lohr's four tackles for loss were the most by a 'Dore defender since linebacker Jamie Winborn contributed five such tackles against No. 6 Florida on Nov. 4, 2000.

  * Tweet of the Day: From Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis, who has has been sidelined with a broken foot. @TravisLewis28 For everyone that's that's asking. . . Ill let y'all know by the end of the day if ill going to play this week  
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 12, 2011 11:26 am
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