Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:06 pm

Mailbag: Penn St still a national power?

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

  From @NittanyState06  from an outsiders POV, Is Penn State still looked on as a national power? Will we begin hearing cries for JoePa to step down?

The Nittany Lions are no longer at that level and they don't look like they'll be headed back to that level any time soon. PSU did have two strong years in 2008 and 2009, going 22-4 before last season's 7-6 mark. But even in the '09 season when they went 11-2, they didn't seem like a powerhouse. They only faced one team in the regular season that was ranked (#15 Ohio State) and the Nittany Lions lost 24-7 at home. 

This year, Penn State is 4-1, but it's about as shaky a 4-1 as this program's probably had in decades. They got run over at home by Alabama and barely survived against Temple. Last weekend, they had their hands full with 1-4 Indiana. 

Obviously, Penn State still has a marquee component. The Nittany Lions have a genuine legend in Paterno and a huge fan base, but something is now missing: The on-field product. Penn State is 1-6 in its last seven games against ranked opponents (averaging about 11 ppg in those games) and five of those six Ls have come by 16 points or more. The Nittany Lions not being competitive against top teams is the biggest reason why I feel like the perception is this program no longer is a national power.

This is a team with major quarterback issues and you wonder if they'll be able to sort that out. As for the cries for JoePa to step down we've been hearing those on and off for years.

From @PaulPabst  Can Luck lose a game and still win Heisman? Any way Kellen Moore can win the Heisman?

Andrew Luck can. His team doesn't need to be perfect to win the Heisman. He will get a lot of benefit of the doubt from Heisman voters, who quite frankly probably couldn't name a second Stanford player. Even if they go 10-2, I suspect Luck still wins because most voters will say they probably wouldn't even have made a bowl game without him.

Moore needs a lot of help. While he's a strong candidate, the level of competition he faces each week holds him back. No one questions whether he is a great college QB. He is. But he needs others, such as Luck to fall. 

One of the guys with a legit shot of giving Luck a run is Alabama's Trent Richardson. He's coming off a huge game in the Swamp and he will have the whole country riveted in the Game of the Year Nov. 5 when LSU visits. If Richardson has a big day running all over that Tiger D, and Bama wins, he will give voters a lot to think about--especially if the Cardinal fall out of the top 10.

From @Lexvegaskid better defensive player: Tyrann Mathieu of LSU or (Melvin) Ingram for S. Carolina?

Both are true impact players, guys every offensive coordinator spends hours worrying about. Right now, I'll take Mathieu over every other defensive player in the country. He makes big plays at a staggering rate. For him to have already set the LSU career forced fumbles record less than halfway through his second season there is remarkable. He is that defense's wildcard since they can do so much with him. He's listed at cornerback but he's as much as SAM linebacker as anything. Mathieu leads the team in tackles by quite a bit and he really does set the tempo for his team with that frenetic style. Thus far it's been the Year of the Honey Badger.

From @mpodo Why isn't Jim Delany interested in expanding Big Ten right now?

The dilemma for Delany and the Big Ten is who is really worth them added? Notre Dame would be, but the Irish do NOT want any part of joining a conference unless they absolutetly have to. Mizzou makes some sense academically and geographically (linked to two strong TV markets, St. Louis and KC and wouldn't be a far trip for teams to get to) but the league didn't want to go that route last year. Pursuing teams from the Big East (Rutgers) or ACC (Maryland) who have the academics that the Big Ten says it must have don't bring much in terms of football equity. Rutgers right now is closer to Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue than it is to Nebraska or Wisconsin and Maryland just got destroyed at home by Temple.

From @J_Sweatt  how hot is mike Sherman's seat?

If the Aggies lose again this weekend, to Texas Tech, it's going to get hot. Two weeks ago Sherman seemed to be in a good spot. The Aggies were heading to the best football conference in the country and playing Top 10 football. Then they had a second-half collapse vs. Oklahoma State and they did the same thing wilting against Arkansas last week. Tech is unranked and a loss here would give a lot of folks close to the Aggies program the feeling that Sherman isn't the right guy to turn things around or lead them into the SEC. This is year four for him and even though he led A&M to the Cotton Bowl last year, he's only 21-21 there with an 11-14 conference mark. This is a loaded offense. It shouldn't be 2-3, but that'll be the record if the Aggies don't get some things figured out fast.

From @Nashville_MMA what are your thoughts on Tyler Brays progression as a sophomore? Jim Chaney has developed some outstanding QBs in his coaching career and Bray looks to be right on track. When I spoke to Chaney, the Vols offensive coordinator, he told me the light had really come on for Bray about a month before the season began where the lanky QB started to grasp what it meant to be a quarterback, not just play the position. That level of focus and preparation is often what separates the good college QBs from the decent ones.

From the tools standpoint, there is a lot to like about Bray. He's got great height, has excellent football savvy and has a gunslingers demeanor, which is a huge plus especially when you have talented targets who can go make plays for you. On paper, those strides he's made are obvious. His completion percentage has jumped from 56 percent to 69 percent and his TD-INT mark is up to 14-2 from 18-10 last year. But in truth, he really has faced only one good defense this season (Florida) and he wasn't that sharp, going 26-48 with three TDs and two picks in a loss. He did lose his most dangerous weapon Justin Hunter in that game though. He needs to show he can deliver against elite competition. This weekend's Georgia game will be a good test. The unranked Dawgs aren't great, but this is still a step up from the teams UT has handled thus far.
  From @JayJersey14  I know I'm not the only one to ask, but what's going to happen with the Big East? No one has much of a clue on this one. The people I've spoken to in the conference are in the dark. They're speculating, optimistically, off the speculation they are hearing. Losing TCU was a big blow after losing Pitt and Syracuse. I was told by someone who saw John Marinatto when the Big East commish learned that Pitt and Cuse were bailing for the ACC and they said it looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The league is in chaos. The best programs in the conference (WVU and Louisville) are trying to bail out to the Big 12, but they might not get the invite. If they don't and they're stuck in the Big East, there's still a real shot that UCONN also could head to the ACC.

From a football standpoint UCONN doesn't have that much cache. If you replaced UCONN with UCF I don't think you lose anything given the potential of UCF. Navy, which I'm told was ready to join the Big East in football, has cold feet after seeing the league start to erode. I imagine ECU would still love to get into the Big East and a possible hope would be to become some improved version of C-USA by taking the best of that league. It is, after all, eat-or-be-eaten in college sports right now.

From @mdg27x Considering Virginia Tech's best victory was close and only over East Carolina, are they really the favorites over Miami?

  Miami hasn't exactly been impressive either. The closest thing the Canes have had to a good win was against an undermanned Ohio State team that looks very shaky right now. UM's defense was run over last week by Bethune-Cookman. Lamar Miller has been terrific, but there are still huge questions about how solid Jacory Harris is and can he play close-to mistake-free football. Tech has given Miami fits in the past and it seems like Harris' career at Miami started its downturn two years ago in a monsoon at Lane Stadium.

From @hogeandrew Andrew Hoge Why isn't Matt Barkley in the Heisman talk when he beats out Luck and James for PAC 12 player of the week?

It's simple. Barkley has really only faced one decent team all year and he struggled. Throwing one TD pass and two INTs in a blowout loss at ASU. The combined record of the other four teams he's played is 7-12. Until he and USC can beat some better teams, he really won't be in the discussion.

From @Dbullsfan  is there any hope on the horizon for NC State fans?

I'll be very surprised if NC State doesn't have a new coach three months from now. And with a coaching change, you always get some aspect of hope.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 1:28 pm

Daily Surf Report: FSU's disappointing start

The Oklahoma loss was painful, but FSU's loss at Clemson is potentially and excruciatingly devastating, writes Mike Bianchi.

This heart-wrenching, nail-biting 35-30 defeat to Clemson hurts so badly because it puts a Florida State season of such promise and potential on life support. The national title is gone. The conference title is in jeopardy. "We were our own worst enemy," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said after his team committed 11 game-changing penalties for 124 momentum-sapping yards.

It's now official: Florida State is not back. Not even close. Can we agree upon that now?

I got loads of hate mail from FSU fans last week when I had the audacity to chastise the ridiculous concept that the Seminoles should be satisfied by keeping it close and "only" losing by 10 points to No. 1-ranked Oklahoma. I said it then and I'll say it again: Moral victories are for directional schools, not big-time college football programs.

I was on the Noles bandwagon coming into this season. I didn't think they'd win the BCS title, but I thought they'd be a top-five team. They still might be able to get there this year, but it does not look good right now. They're just 113th in rushing, 105th in sacks allowed and 87th in turnover margin despite opening against two woeful opponents. The biggest issues for them emerged in Death Valley on defense, where they really lost focus and committed back-breaking penalties and some assignment busts. They just couldn't get off the field on third downs as Tajh Boyd, a guy who had only a handful of starts, playing in a new system, carved them up.  On top of that, Greg Reid, their top CB, has had the kind of off-field problems you wouldn't expect from a junior trying to show he's a leader.

I know the Noles are killing it recruiting. Of course, they always seem to be killing it in recruiting. It's the focus on the field, which Jimbo Fisher said all off-season he was confident was getting there, that has been lacking. Up next for them is five straight games against teams they should pound before they host a Miami team that looks pretty shaky too. I'm not sure they can prove to anyone outside of FSU diehards that they are even close to back until the final week of the regular season when they visit the Swamp.

*One of Miami's top commits, Miami Norland High School LB Keith Brown visited Clemson over the weekend and "loved" it and told CaneSport that while he would still consider himself a very soft Hurricane commitment, he also says "most likely I won't be going to Miami."

Because Brown wants to know what NCAA sanctions UM faces before he graduates in December. He doesn't want to wind up on campus in January and find out about any punishment afterward. What would it take from the NCAA to keep him on board with Miami? "Probably no bowl games and no TV time and taking scholarships away," Brown said. "One year is no problem. Probably two or three (would cause him to go elsewhere)."

Thing is, Miami almost certainly will NOT know its fate with the NCAA by Signing Day, much less in December when mid-year signees would need to know.
*Mike Locksley was fired over the weekend. The move comes as no surprise. His time at New Mexico was a complete debacle. In fact, it was a tour de force for coaching ineptitude. He was 2-26 and, it wasn't like they were close. The Lobos were getting drilled by teams, not close to turning the corner. Worse still, he himself had all sorts of embarrassing issues off the field on top of that. I was stunned he got a third season. 

*The Randy Edsall Era at Maryland has begun with a thud and John Feinstein isn't buying that the former UCONN coach was brought in to rebuild a wreck of a program.

“This is a process we are in,” Edsall said after the Terrapins’ humiliating 38-7 loss to Temple on Saturday. “It was not going to get changed overnight no matter how much I want it to.”

Saturday was not a good day for Edsall on any level and, while he was candid in admitting that his team wasn’t ready to play (no kidding) it was a cop-out for him to fall back on the “this is a process” cliche. Al Golden, who took over at Temple in 2006 when the Owls had been kicked out of the Big East and had gone 38-151 under three coaches in 17 seasons, had a real process to go through.

Edsall needs to spend less time making announcements about uniforms and more time getting them ready to play in those uniforms.

Finestein makes a good point. Edsall inherited a team with the best QB in the ACC. Danny O'Brien is the kind of building block few others have. The Terps also have some pretty good talent on defense. There are some holes, but going into this season, this looked like an eight-win team. Now, after a dismal 1-2 start with a hefty ACC stretch coming in early October, you wonder if this team will even make it to a bowl game.
*After getting blown out in the fourth quarter at ASU, the USC offense merits a D+ grade, writes Michael Lev.
QB Matt Barkley missed Woods for a touchdown, threw two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and lost a fumble on a sack. … The offense converted only 1 of 9 third-down attempts and scored touchdowns on just 2 of 6 trips into the red zone.
Heading into the weekend, I'd received some Tweets from some Trojan fans grousing about why Barkley wasn't being included in more Heisman talk. My feeling was that despite some impressive stats, the jury was still out on whether Barkley should be in the discussion with other Heisman contenders. He has struggled late in games and in crunch time. He and this USC team also haven't shined in many big spots against tough competition. Those are the kinds of things you must do to be seriously in the Heisman mix in the end.

The way they fell apart Saturday night has become shockingly common with this USC program in the past few years now. They also seemingly have too much talent at their skill positions to be only 79th in offense. We'll see if they can get it sorted out. The Trojans have a very interesting October coming up with games at Cal, at Notre Dame and then against Stanford. Those are games that people will keep an eye on. Not against Syracuse and Minnesota.


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 16, 2011 11:48 am
Edited on: September 16, 2011 3:35 pm

Daily Surf Report: Young Vols ready for Swamp?

This weekend will separate some of the pretenders from the contenders. One of those teams I'm most curious about are the young Tennessee Vols, who have piled up points in their first two games, albeit against suspect competition. On Saturday, they face another intriguing team that has polished off some inferior opponents, Florida and the Vols will enter very hostile territory in The Swamp.

I spoke to Vols OC Jim Chaney on Wednesday to get a better sense of UT. Chaney, who has helped groom several NFL QBs from his days at Purdue, said about a month ago sophomore QB Tyler Bray seemed to get locked in. Something clicked with Bray, where he understood "I need to get totally invested." "Up till then, he was playing quarterback and now he gets that there's more to it than just saying 'set - hike'," Chaney explained. "He understands the position."

While Bray may not quite have the same arm strength, Chaney compares the young QB's laid-back demeanor to former Purdue standout Kyle Orton. Bray also has really good football instincts, Chaney said. On top of that the 6-6 Californian has the luxury of playing with two outstanding young WRs, Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers.

Chaney admitted he is concerned about the Vols ground game ("We can't run the ball") and how his still-green O-line will do against a pretty fierce group of Gator defensive linemen on the road. "Whenever something changes in front of them (the Vols sophomore-dominated OL), it's like the whole world changes," he said. Obviously, expect UF to do a lot of that shifting and disguise to try and confuse an inexperienced bunch. Also, keep in mind Bray's two road starts were at Memphis and Vandy. This is a whole different deal

Asked what he's most curious to find out Saturday Chaney said: "I want to see how they handle things when the lights come on--are they gonna be able to slow down and think?" Then again, the Gators have a lot of inexperience too. Will Muschamp's got a young secondary trying to cope with the UT passing attack, but he has a pretty good answer, writes Rachel George.

"We need to get pressure with four guys rushing," the Gators' coach said this week. "That's the best pass defense in America."

*I was impressed by LSU Thursday night handling Miss State on the road. I don't know how you couldn't be wowed by this LSU D. They completely short-circuited a dangerous Oregon offense in the opener, keeping the Ducks from having a single 20-yard play the whole night. Against, MSU, they completely bottled up a very talented back in Vick Ballard and suffocated a good running team. 

The Tigers may not have Patrick Peterson or Drake Nevis, but they come at you in waves. They just don't have 11 guys. They have about 20 that come after you, and it almost looks like all 20 are out there on the field at the same time.  They had a whopping 15 TFLs. Bennie Logan had 3.5. Michael Brockers had three. Freshman stud Anthony Johnson had two. Kiki Mingo had one. Tyrann Mathieu had one And so on.

Jarrett Lee was solid on the road and did a lot more good than bad. Aside from one late pick, he was very sharp and efficient. They can compete for a BCS title with that kind of performance, especially since Spencer Ware and Michael Ford run so hard. *With six straight games now scoring under 30 points (counting Arizona, Oregon State, Notre Dame and UCLA to finish last season), USC is approaching the record of eight games in a row under 30 points last chalked up in the 1984-85 seasons under Ted Tollner for teams that finished 9-3 and 6-6, writes Dan Weber of USCFootball.com.

*UCF and FIU have more at stake than undefeated records when the two up-and-coming teams clash Saturday night in Miami, writes Brendan Sonnone. Namely recruiting pull.

"FIU is in the same place UCF was a couple years ago," Miami Central coach Telly Lockette said. "They're starting to get the marquee guys now in Dade and Broward counties. It won't be long until they're a household name."

With both rising programs eager to keep signing South Florida athletes, Saturday's matchup could have a significant impact on the schools' reputations on the recruiting trail.

"There's definitely a little bit of status [for UCF] to lose," Florida-based recruiting analyst Corey Long said. "They have a nice space down in Miami now. Kids know about them down there. If they go down there to FIU and lose, [players] start wondering, FIU might be where I need to go. It's definitely one that under-the-radar prospects will be looking at real closely."

*One program has a coach on the hot seat. The other program, the one the blue-chipper is committed to, has a coach dealing with a huge NCAA investigation. Will UGA be able to flip the commitment of Miami LB recruit Raphael Kirby, Michael Carvell asks.

The 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker from Stephenson High School will make an unofficial visit to UGA for Saturday’s game against Coastal Carolina.

Kirby made the decision to take the last-minute recruiting trip after talking with UGA recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner on Thursday night.

“We had a long conversation and Coach Garner said he wanted me to come up for a visit soon; I told him that I’m not really doing anything this weekend, so I’m going on Saturday,” Kirby told the AJC.

*Kirk Cousins is one the real class acts in college sports. He really is as impressive as they come whenever he speaks, to either a group of people, his peers or the media, as you get a sense of in this take, via Joe Rexrode when he talks about embattled Notre Dame CB Gary Gray, who Michigan State faces Saturday.
“I view them as the first three quarters," Kirk Cousins said. "I don’t pay a lot of attention to the fourth quarter. I think a couple of those balls, if No. 4 turns his back around it’s an interception. So it’s great for Michigan to win the game but I don’t view it a whole lot as their defense is terrible and Michigan’s offense is amazing. I view it as, if that guy turns around, the game’s over long ago. So I expect them to be a very, very tough defense.”

No. 4, by the way, is senior cornerback Gary Gray. He's getting the Jaren Hayes treatment, circa 2004, in South Bend. Reporters are coming up just short of asking Brian Kelly if he plans to sit Gray in the corner for a two-week timeout. Here's what Kelly said Tuesday about Gray:

"It's unfortunate that people look at that one position because it's not just Gary Gray that we put this loss on," Kelly said. "There's a lot of situations. If we don't turn the ball over, Gary Gray's name is not even brought up. Gary is going to be fine. He's a senior. He'll bounce back. He had a great game last year against Michigan State, and he's been really solid for us. So we need Gary Gray to come up and play good football this weekend against Michigan State."

Cousins obviously saw the Gray mistakes and is aware of the criticism, but he's not looking at Gray like a weak link. Really, he isn't. “It’s unfortunate for him, I think he’s a very, very good corner," Cousins said of Gray. "He’s played a lot of football for them. So when you’ve played that long, I feel like he’s gonna be ready. And obviously he had an off night last week, but he’s right in position. It’s not like he’s getting beat deep. I mean he’s right there to make the play, so that shows he’s in position and has the athleticism to cover people, and I think it’s probably a little undeserved criticism on his end. And I expect him to come back this week and play at a much higher level. So I don’t think it’s something where we’re saying, ‘Let’s pick on him, we think he’s weak.’ I think that across the board they’re a much better defense than maybe that last quarter showed against Michigan.”
Posted on: September 14, 2011 1:05 am

Tuesday Top 10: Most exciting players in college

For those of you who had read my old blog, you probably remember some of the staples. One of them was the weekly Top 10 list. This week's version: The 10 most exciting players in college football.

1-Denard Robinson, Michigan, QB: He was spectacular last year, shouldering a staggering amount of the Wolverines offense in 2010. The offense has been revamped with the coaching change in Ann Arbor, but Robinson he proved, once again, how spectacular he is when he sparked Michigan's dramatic comeback against Notre Dame last week. In that frenetic rally, Robinson accounted for a mind-boggling 226 of his team's 229 yards in the fourth quarter. As amazing as that was, we have come to expect the spectacular from him. And this is why he is 'Must-See' TV no matter who the Wolverines play.

2-T.Y. Hilton, FIU, WR-KR: No longer the best-kept secret in college football, Hilton, who almost signed with WVU, promised that he'd 'take one to the house' the first time he touched a ball in a college game (he did) and he's been making big plays for the Panthers ever since. Just ask Louisville or anyone watching their Friday night game about this guy's burst. Hilton made a team from a much bigger conference look like they were high schoolers as he blew past them.

3-De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon, RB: Chip Kelly's big get out of Southern California has been a big name in L.A. football for years on the prep scene. Thomas had a rocky debut against LSU, but bounced back in remarkable fashion, burning Nevada for two plays of 60-plus yards in Week 2. I know that LaMichael James and Cliff Harris have done more, but it's Thomas and his blazing speed and dizzying moves who is generating some buzz as we just begin to get a sense of what he is capable of and how he'll be used there. He is going to be a scary weapon in Kelly's offense for the next few seasons.

4-David Wilson, Va. Tech, RB-KR: An NCAA All-American in track as a triple jumper, Wilson isn't just a little speed back. He's a 205-pound headache for rival defenses, having broken, by VT coaches account, 29 tackles in two games while rolling up 300 rushing yards. (I'll have much more on Wilson and Tech in the blog on Wednesday.)

5-Vontaze Burfict, ASU, LB: Arguably the hardest-hitter in college football, Burfict's battle to straddle the edge has been fascinating the past few years. He and his teammates have been prone to being self-destructive, but there have been some signs of maturation. Thus far this season, he already has four sacks in two games.

6-Justin Blackmon, OK State, WR: Not the fastest receiver, the 6-1, 215-pound Blackmon plays even bigger than his frame would indicate. A former high school basketball star, he is in the mold of Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant and just makes plays and big catches and looks unstoppable, toying with smaller DBs. His numbers in 2010 were fantastic: 111 catches, 1,782 yards and 20 TDs.

7-Lamar Miller, Miami, RB-KR: A decorated prep sprinter, Miller doesn't look like he's slowed down since muscling up to 216 pounds this offseason. He was a blur when he bolted through the Maryland defense for a 41-yard touchdown run in UM's opener. In the past year, Miller has learned to be more than just a speed back, becoming more patient as a runner since he now knows he'll get plenty of carries and doesn't feel like he has to hit a home run every time he touches the ball. He's also a dangerous kick returner and is #3 in the nation in all-purpose yards per game at 222.

8-Greg Reid, FSU, CB: A little guy who packs a wallop, as South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore learned in the bowl game last year when the 5-8, 186-pound DB blasted the 235-pound back. Reid picked off three passes last season and was one of the ACC's best return guys too.

9-Kendall Wright, Baylor, WR: Robert Griffin is Baylor's Heisman contender, but Wright is his go-to guy and quite a spark. The 5-10, 190-pounder who has the frame of a tailback and sports a 42-inch vertical, ate up Gary Patterson's TCU D in the opener for 12 catches and 189 yards and two TDs. The former Bears basketball player, a high school QB, also connected on 2-2 for 55 yards as a passer with one TD throw.

10-Chris Rainey, Florida, RB: I was tempted to go with Tennessee's freakish young 6-5 wideout Justin Hunter here, but I'll go with Charlie Weis' new toy. Rainey and his buddy Jeff Demps give the new Gator OC more speed than he's ever had to work with. In two weeks against a pair of overmatched opponents, Rainey is averaging over 7.3 ypc and 99 rush yards per game.
Posted on: September 6, 2011 11:08 am

Morning Surf Report: Questions for Miami remain

Maryland and UnderArmour did do Miami a big favor Monday night. Thanks to their hideous unis, it had the Twitterworld riveted and talking about something other than the Nevin Shapiro scandal that has rocked the Canes program. Well, at least for an hour or two.

    The Miami-Maryland game was one of the more entertaining games of WK 1. I was impressed by Terps QB Danny O'Brien who showed why he's one of the better young quarterbacks in college football. He did make a big mistake in the Red Zone early when he threw a pass, where it seemed he could've trotted into the end zone and ended up getting picked by safety Vaughn Telamaque. However, O'Brien responded by making many more sound decisions and several excellent throws albeit against a severely depleted Canes D. Former MD coach Ralph Friedgen did a really nice job with O'Brien, who goes through his progressions very well and unloads the ball quickly. He plays like a senior, not a sophomore.

  As for Miami, there were many encouraging signs for a program dealing with some key suspensions and huge distractions. QB Stephen Morris played, for at least about 55 minutes of action, pretty well, showing newfound savvy. A few weeks back I visited with Canes new OC Jedd Fisch who talked about how much he liked Morris' "gunslinger" mindset. There is good and bad to that for the young, strong-armed soph. The bad in that showed up later in the game, but there is still  a lot to build on there. 

Lamar Miller was the best player on the field, and he will be a star at UM. He's not only ridiculously fast, but he's worked hard to develop as a runner. He told me in mid-August that he's become a more patient runner since he now realizes he doesn't feel like he has to turn every carry into a long TD run since he knows he's going to get plenty of carries. That added discipline, along with more attention to detail, courtesy of new RB coach Terry Richardson is another big plus. Two other offensive weapons for UM, who people inside the program have been raving about for two years, wideouts Allen Hurns and Tommy Streeter, finally stepped up in actual games.

Going forward, there are two big questions about Miami: How much of a boost does this team get now that many of their best defenders get back on the field, along with speedy WR Travis Benjamin and QB Jacory Harris? Do they have the stuff--not just the "talent"--to compete for an ACC title? We'll find that out in their next time out when Ohio State visits. They obviously need help, but when you consider they almost beat a solid Terps team despite missing four of their top five defenders, they are intriguing.

The other question, and this one is going to take much longer to get an answer for, is beyond these player suspensions, what exactly will the Shapiro Scandal translate to in the NCAA's eyes?

I agree with my colleague Brett McMurphy who says the "best thing for Miami is for the NCAA to finish its investigation as quickly as possible. Then, and only then, will the Hurricanes finally know what penalties await them and they can deal with them and move forward. Until then, there's no way they can combat the endless speculation: Death penalty? Postseason ban? Massive scholarship hits? TV ban? Vacate all their wins for an entire decade? They might get all of those sanctions or a combination, but the truth is no one really knows -- and that's the worst thing for Miami right now: dealing with the unknown and the perception." 

The Shapiro Scandal looks horrible, and it looks even worse considering the arrogance of a guy like former UM AD Paul Dee after he wagged his beefy finger when he was the Chairman of the NCAA's COI. Beyond just the litany of allegations, you scratch your head wondering why the school didn't even distance itself from Shapiro after he attacked the school's compliance guy during a game in front of so many people.

  Miami's been a unique football program for years, and while UM is certainly not alone in having a shady, overzealous booster, they might be in having a shady, overzealous VINDICTIVE booster. My hunch is it'll be months after signing day before the NCAA comes down with its' sanctions against the program. For as good as Golden is as a recruiter, good luck closing on prospects with that hanging over you. The games in 2011 will actually be the easiest part of this job.

*Miller is one of two RBs poised for a breakout season in 2011. The other is Va. Tech's David Wilson. The Hokie showed in Week One he's more than just a speed guy. According to Darryl Slater, Hokies coach Frank Beamer said Monday that Wilson was credited with 15 broken tackles during the staff's grading of the film.

"Coach Hite feels like that's a record around here," Beamer said, referring to Billy Hite, who was Tech's running backs coach from 1980 through 2010, before moving into an administrative role. In his debut as Tech's top tailback, Wilson had 16 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns.

*Some interesting fodder on the realignment discussion from Jon Wilner, who reports that the Pac-12 does not want to expand, but realizes it probably has to given the climate around college sports.

 If Texas A&M becomes the SEC’s 13th team, that sets the superconferences in motion.

“The SEC won’t stop at 13, or even 14. And if the SEC is at 14 or 16, the Big Ten will do it,” a source said. ”At that point, (the Pac-12) would be crazy not to entertain the idea of expansion.”

(Multiple sources said the SEC’s 14th team would most likely be Missouri. Combine untapped TV dollars with geography, and the schools that make the most sense for the SEC are Texas A&M, Missouri and Virginia Tech.) Only if the SEC goes to 13 would the Pac-12 evaluate its options.It won’t take Oklahoma unless A&M leaves first, despite the accelerated timeline laid out last week by Oklahoma President David Boren. And yes, in all likelihood the Pac-12 would take Oklahoma and Oklahoma State even if Texas were off the table, multiple sources said.

*As Notre Dame gets ready for a trip to Michigan, Brian Kelly has a big decision on his hands about whether to keep Dayne Crist as his QB or go with Tommy Rees. It's clear Irish fans believe Rees, who has been connected with more wins, is their choice. Keith Arnold points out there is one big difference in the two QBs: 

If you want an easy way for Crist to be more productive, simply throw the ball to Floyd more. He’s by far the Irish’s best offensive player, yet in breaking down the tape, there were multiple times when Crist simply didn’t look to Floyd, a baffling thought process that I put more on Crist than the coaching staff, especially after watching the first half almost a dozen times. If you’re looking for a reason to give the starting job to Tommy Rees, look at this damning stat line:

Michael Floyd with Crist: 2 catches, 37 yards
Michael Floyd with Tommy Rees: 10 catches, 117 yards, 2 touchdowns

*UGA LB Christian Robinson, who normally enjoys engaging on the social media platform, vowed to stay off Twitter this week after being barraged with unwelcomed messages from fans reacting to the loss to Boise, reports Tim Tucker:

"I got some pretty nasty stuff," Robinson said Monday night. "Right after the game, my phone was lighting up with just some nasty things. I've gotten some bad things before, but it was just a different level where I said I'm not going to deal with this right now."

He said some of the messages were from Boise State fans, but others were from UGA fans.

"Some of them, they got the ‘G' on their picture," he said. "I've seen some [of the same people] tweet me before, positive things. And the moment you don't do well, they can turn on you. You're never as good or as bad as you think you are."

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