Posted on: November 2, 2008 2:28 pm

Random thoughts on a football Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Florida has the Ol' Ball Coach back.

Younger, certainly, and less chatty. Plus, Urban Meyer doesn't have quite the swashbuckling nature of Steve Spurrier.

But he isn't far off.

Meyer no doubt hacked off Georgia -- and maybe some football purists -- with his little stage production at the end of Saturday's 49-10 victory over Georgia.

The coach called two inexplicable -- and indefensible -- timeouts in the final minute. Florida's second-team offense had the ball to run out the clock, or so we thought. At no time did backup quarterback Jeff Brantley take a knee.

Instead, Meyer called his team over to the sideline with both 44 and 31 seconds remaining.

"I wasn't paying attention to the first timeout," Florida safety Will Hill told the <em>New York Daily News</em>. "The second timeout, I'm thinking, 'That Urb is a funny guy.'"

Meyer had promised in his book "Urban's Way" that there would be retribution for Georgia's bum rushing of the field last season in the Cocktail Party. Up until that point, the teams had played it mostly straight.

The timeouts, though, were clearly calculated meant to drag out the agony for Georgia.

"(Tailback Emmanuel) Moody was running the ball real hard and I wanted to get him a couple of carries," Meyer said innocently. "Just trying to win a game."

Yeah, right. And Napoleon was trying to get his point across during this skirmishes in Europe.

Meyer gave himself away Saturday with a brief smile in the interview room. Other that, it was poker face all the way. That's the difference between him and Spurrier. The OBC always had a smirk or a wink.

Meyer has a can full of revengeful whup --- and he isn't afraid to use it.

The coach didn't endear himself to Miami fans earlier this season when he called for a late field goal in a 26-3 victory over the Hurricanes.

Miami coach Randy Shannon officially has a grudge leftover from that one. He was quoted last week as saying, "Something is going to happen," in the Florida-Georgia game. That almost put pressure on Meyer to do <em>something</em>.

"Watch that game. Don't watch ours," Shannon said. "I'm serious."

Florida got a winner when it hired Meyer four years ago. It didn't know it was getting a reasonable facsimile of Spurrier.

Meyer, though, is a bit more stealthy and charmless than the legend. This season he has put his foot on the throat of a couple rivals and pressed down. Are things even with Georgia now or do the Bulldogs retaliate at some future date? Miami won't have a chance for a few more years. The series doesn't continue until the next decade.

"You always respect the game of football," Meyer said.

Did Meyer respect it Saturday night? There is plenty of time to find out. They say what goes around comes around.  Meyer is still a young man in his 40s.

 Michigan's 33-year bowl streak is over after losing to Purdue 48-42.


Boilermakers' coach Joe Tiller what-the-helled-it calling for a hook-and-ladder in final minute. Purdue scored the winner with 26 seconds left.

Things are much more bleak than the last time Michigan didn't go to a bowl. That was 1974 and the Wolverines finished 10-1. Those were the days when only the Big Ten winner was allowed to go bowling, in the Rose Bowl.

 What's Tim Brewster doing throwing from deep in his own territory?


The Minnesota coach's decision to do just that might have cost his team a Jan. 1 bowl. Adam Weber's pass was intercepted near midfield and run in for a touchdown in Northwestern's 24-17 victory.

 Some things never change. West Virginia gave the Big East some hope with a 35-13 victory over UConn. The Mountaineers are the only team undefeated in conference play (6-2, 3-0) and have won five in a row.


 Just when you thought there was some sense to be made out of the ACC ... Division-leading Virginia lost to Miami in overtime. Florida State fumbled into the end zone allowing Georgia Tech to escape. Even Clemson won, beating Boston College at home.


The team with the ACC's best conference record, Maryland, didn't play. The Terps (6-2, 3-1) lead the Atlantic Division and are at Virginia Tech on Thursday. Georgia Tech (7-2, 4-2) has a half-game lead in the Coastal.

 It didn't just seem that every big game was close, it was the truth. Nine teams in the AP top 25 were involved in games decided by 10 points or less.


 Oklahoma State is 8-1 for only the third time in its history over beating Iowa State 59-17. Does anyone else think the Cowboys just might be the best in the Big 12? They will get a chance to prove it going to Texas Tech this week.


 For the record, it was warmer in Overland Park, Kan. this weekend than it was in Jacksonville, Fla. for the Cocktail Party. First Coast, my backside. Driving through downtown to get to the stadium, I had to negotiate a bum rush of a different kind. The city can get a Super Bowl but apparently it can't take care of its indigent.

It still boggles the mind that this city has an NFL franchise and has hosted at least one NCAA Tournament first-rounder. It is not major league.

Posted on: October 29, 2008 10:44 am
Edited on: October 29, 2008 2:11 pm

National notes

Breaking news out of Happy Valley: You don't have to be a linguist to figure out Joe Paterno said a mouthful this week after getting his ailing hip checked.

"I want to find out from (doctors) what needs to be done," Joe said, "and get it done as soon as I can after the season is over so I can get on the road to recruit."

Recruiting? For, like, 2009? There you have it, in case you're wondering if JoePa is going to hang up the white socks. The Penn State president's office had no comment. (OK, kidding on that last one).

 Minnesota was a national embarrassment in 2007: 1-11, last in total defense. It couldn't get worse.


There was whispers that rookie head coach Tim Brewster was a colossal mistake. But the coach had yet to work his 

"He's the best recruiter I've been around. Period," said Texas' Mack Brown.

The two had worked together for 13 years. There was a reason Brown kept him close. Brewster could charm Warren 
Buffet out of his wallet.

"I'm just surprised he did it so early," Brown said. 

It is more than a surprise that Minnesota 7-1 and ranked 20th. From the dregs of '07, Brewster now has the Gophers 
in contention for the biggest I-A turnaround ever. The current record is an 8 1/2-game improvement. Hawaii improved 
by that margin in 1999 (from 0-12 to 9-4). Minnesota is currently eight games better than last season. If it 
finishes 10-3 it would tie the record; 11-2 and it break it.

The turnaround started, of course, with recruiting. Brewster says he brought in 45 players for official visits. Thirty-one signed, including a couple of jucos who provided immediate help. Defensive backs Traye Simmons, Tramaine Brock and Simoni Lawrence have combined for 7 1/2 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 17 passes broken up and three forced fumbles.

Quarterback Adam Weber matured. Receiver Eric Decker is tied for third nationally with 66 
receptions. Defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg is back healthy from a broken wrist.

There are those who will tell you that for all credit Brewster gets for this season, he must bear some blame for 
last season. The cupboard wasn't exactly bare when Brewster took over Glen Mason's 6-7 team in 2006 before the 
bottom fell out. Six of the 11 losses were by a touchdown or less, two in overtime.

"It was gut-wrenching," Brewster said. "We had a lot of sad Saturday evenings, a lot of hard Sundays. There's been 
nothing given to this team."

Minny has benefitted from a friendly schedule -- it misses Penn State and Michigan State -- but, hey, things were so bad last season that it isn't fair to put qualifiers on this turnaround. The defense is No. 1 in takeaways with 24.

"It's really different, especially from last year," defensive back Kyle Theret said. "We weren't even close to 
shutting down people to six points, no touchdowns."

That was the result last week in a 17-6 over slumping Purdue. Northwestern is up this week and once again the 
schedule is friendly. Wildcats quarterback C.J. Bacher is questionable with a hammy. Tailback Tyrell Sutton is out  for the season.
With games left against Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa (combined record 11-13), the Gophers could pull a complete 
turnaround and finish 11-1. A Jan. 1 bowl is not out of the question for a program that hasn't been to one since the 1962 Rose Bowl.

Brewster is one of those worker bees who finally got his shot. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when the Denver 
Broncos tight ends coach got a Big Ten job. But Brewster came well recommended. He lists his biggest influences as 
Brown, Mike Shanahan and Marty Schottenheimer. His son Nolan plays at Texas.

Armed with momentum, Brewster can't let it slip. TCF Bank Stadium, the result of a long-time Mason crusade, opens 
next season. It will be a palace, the first new Big Ten stadium built in 49 years. Open-air football in Minnesota 
sure beats the Metrodome no matter what the temperature.

"It's just not a collegiate environment. It's a pro environment," Brewster said. "The average game day temperature 
at the University of Minnesota through November 15 is 64 degrees. It's way overplayed. Winter's winter. Cold is cold. You know what? That's a good thing."

 Handicapping the Washington job.

1. Jim Mora, Jr., Seattle Seahawks secondary coach. His head says hang on to replace Mike Holmgren. His heart says 
go to the alma mater. Please, Jim, take the U-Dub job. You are the most passionate candidate available. Mora also 
comes armed with head coaching experience, something this opening desperately needs.

2. Chris Petersen, Boise State. Has to be the No. 1 choice if Mora says no, doesn't he? Petersen can recruit 
California and can't accomplish much more in Boise. It's time for him to take a step up.

3. Gary Patterson, TCU. Defensive master-mind who, with the right offensive coordinator could be perfect for the job. Part of the Mountain West overthrow of the Pac-10. Completely happy at TCU but someday he will listen. Will he take Washington's call? 

4. Pat Hill, Fresno State. Pat would improve the defense and the get the media back but he has never won so much as 
a WAC title. Petersen's younger.

5. Troy Calhoun, Air Force. NFL experience, Pacific Northwest roots. Run-based offense that some Washington loyalists want to see return to Husky Stadium.

6. Lane Kiffin, unemployed. Still having problems identifying what Lane has actually done. The list of failed 
Raiders coaches goes out the door. Supposedly, he can coordinate an offense but this job needs soooo much more.

7. Dave Christensen, Missouri offensive coordinator. Somewhat of a flavor-of-the-month. DC has been there for eight 
years. Missouri's offense has been on the national scene for two. Christensen looks cool riding his motorcycle and 
has U-Dub ties but doesn't this opening deserve a guy with head coaching experience?

8. Mike Leach, Texas Tech.  Leach wants it. Does Washington want him?

9. Gary Pinkel, Missouri. He ain't going so forget it.


 The finalists for the Draddy Award, also known as the academic Heisman


Andrew Berry, CB, Harvard -- You would expect nothing less from this former Goldman Sachs interim who participated in 
Harvard's first night game last season.

Ryan Berry, QB, South Dakota State -- Pre-med and American Dairy Association basketball clinic participant.

Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri -- Heisman candidate and business administration major who counts Warren Buffet among his close friends.

Brian Freeman, OT, Carnegie Mellon -- three-time student employee of the year finalist. Rock on, Brian.

Casey Gerald, CB, Yale -- Accepted to Harvard Business School and applying for Rhodes scholarship. Thank goodness 
the football thing hasn't gotten in the way.

Graham Harrrell, QB, Texas Tech -- You can't touch him (4.0 in first semester of graduate work) and you can't touch 
him (sacked only three times this season).

Quin Harris, LB, Louisiana Tech -- Graduated magna cum laude in clinical kinesiology.

Jeff Horinek, LB, Colorado State -- Seems to have mastered in football his areas of post graduate interest: 
nutrition and biomechanics.

Ryan Kees, DE, St. Cloud State -- Pride of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

Alex Mack, C, Cal -- Pancakes, knockdowns and magna cum laude in legal studies.

Ryan McDonald, OL, Illinois -- Aerospace engineer major. Career should lift off. Thanks, I'll be here all week.

Greg Micheli, QB, Mount Union -- Quite the mathlete. Division II All-American and physics major.

Darryl Richard, DT, Georgia Tech -- If this guy can play for Paul Johnson, he deserves for to be on this list.

Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State -- Not everything about Ohio State is overrated.

Louie Sakoda, P/K, Utah -- Laser Foot who can drop punts inside the 20 with the best of them.

Posted on: October 22, 2008 12:19 pm

National notes

Kansas just gave up the most yards to Oklahoma since the wishbone era. It has lost twice. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is undefeated and  in the top 10. Guess who is favored Saturday in Lawrence?

Kansas, by 2 1/2. The game opened as a pick 'em. That line raised a few eyebrows around the country so I lobbed a call to Las Vegas Sports Consultants this week.  LVSC is responsible for setting the line at a lot of the major sports books in Vegas.

"This is actually pretty common," one of their spokesmen said. Kansas Texas Tech. "Throw out rankings as far as point spreads."

The fact that Texas Tech has struggled in its last two games (Nebraska, at Texas A&M) probably has something to do with it. So does Kansas being at home where it has won its last 13.

 For an SEC official, Wilbur Hackett Jr. is still a heck of a Kentucky linebacker


It was umpire's forearm shiver than took down South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia during LSU's 24-17 victory.

If it wasn't for the fact that South Carolina eventually scored on the drive and that both coaches diffused the situation there were some serious questions to be asked.

The biggest: What was Hackett, at Kentucky from 1968-70, doing moving into Garcia? Aren't officials taught to stand still if it looks like they're going to be involved in the play?

Several accounts of the game said that Hackett "collided" with Garcia. Yeah, and Oprah likes to "nibble" on chocolate chip cookies.

Really, my first reaction was that this klutz just tried to tackle a player. No one is that stupid to do it out in the open like that. Other reports said that other angles of the play showed that ol' Wilbur was defending himself. The last time I "defended" myself with a forearm and shoulder I was in a street fight.

That was a long time ago and before the court-ordered counseling so you don't need to know about it.

"We told  him ... 'You've got to use your forearm,' " LSU's Les Miles joked with reporters. "But then you have to wrap up. I want you to know that we were disappointed in his effort to be honest with you."

Couldn't Tennessee use Hackett?

 The ACC is rehabbing its image.  There are interesting races in both divisions. Florida State seems to be back, kind of, and Georgia Tech has the best record in the league.


Boston College's victory over defending champ Virginia Tech threw both ACC division races into a tizzy. The Atlantic Division is a four-team race with BC, Florida State, Maryland and Wake Forest all tied at 2-1 in the conference.

BC and Florida State are the biggest surprises. The Eagles (5-1) were expected to take a drop but have lost only to Georgia Tech. They control their own destiny, such as it is, with Florida State, Wake and Maryland to finish the season.

Coach Jeff Jagodzinski isn't going to win many more games committing five turnovers, including three interceptions by his quarterback Chris Crane (two returned for touchdowns). 

Maryland has beaten five ranked teams in a row (three this season). Its shut out of Wake Forest was its first over a ranked team since 1955.

Florida State seems to have a personality, finally. The defense is settling in and quarterback Christian Ponder is getting better. Graham Gano became the first FSU kicker to boot 50-yard field goals in three consecutive games.

The Noles lead the ACC in total defense and total offense.

Virginia (4-3) lost to Duke and shut out Maryland in successive weeks. The Cavaliers have won three in a row heading to Georgia Tech.  Not bad for a team that lost its quarterback (Peter Lalich, kicked off the team) and only recently got back inured tailback Cedric Peerman.

Georgia Tech (6-1) might be the league's biggest surprise. It is the ACC's highest ranked team (No. 18 in the BCS) and continues to body slam opponents with the triple option.

 The possibility exists that two non-BCS schools could get into the BCS. Only one such school has ever made it in the given year (Utah 2004, Boise 2006, Hawaii 2007). Jerry Palm explains why the non-BCS schools in the BCS better hope that the ACC and Big East champions finish as high as possible.


" Two non-majors get in (BCS bowls) if you're at-large pool is SEC, Big 12, Utah and Boise State," he said.

The rules state that only one non-BCS school can automatically qualify for a BCS bowl (top 12 or top 16 if it is ranked higher than a BCS conference champion).  But any non-champion is considered at-large if it finishes among the top 14. If all six BCS conference champions are among the top 14, that makes it more likely that two non-BCS school could get in.

Utah debuted at No. 11. Boise is 12th. Both of those are ahead of the highest-ranked teams from the Big East (No. 16 South Florida) and ACC (No. 18 Georgia Tech).

Here's how two non-BCS schools could get in ...

Projected final standings
1. Big 12 champion
2. SEC champion
3. Big Ten champion
4. Big 12 at-large
5. Pac-10 champion
6. Third Big 12 team (not eligible for BCS since two spots have been filled)
7. SEC at-large
8. Fourth Big 12 team (not eligible)
9. Big Ten at-large
10. Third SEC team (not eligible)
11. Utah (or other non-BCS school)
12. Boise (or other non-BCS school)
13. ACC champion
14. Big East champion

Projected BCS bowls in that scenario:
BCS title game: No. 1* above vs. No. 2* (possibly Texas vs. Alabama)
Rose: No. 3 (Big Ten)* vs. No. 5 (Pac-10)* (Ohio State vs. USC)
Sugar: No. 7 (SEC at-large) vs. No. 12 (Florida vs. South Florida)
Orange: No. 13 (ACC)* vs. No. 14* (Georgia Tech vs. Boise State^)
Fiesta: No. 4 (Big 12) vs. No. 11  (Oklahoma vs. Utah^)

^-non-BCS schools

The point being that the non-BCS schools need to root for both the Big East and ACC champions to finish in the top 14.

 The yin and yang of San Diego: San Diego State is quickly descending into unchartered depths. After losing to New Mexico 70-7 it is 1-6 and clearly one of the worst programs in America. An emotional Chuck Long said, "we have a very fragile football team."


Meanwhile across town, the University of San Diego is the only unbeaten team in I-AA. (6-0)

 Dad's week: Iowa's Kirk Ferentz suspended his son James last week after the kid was caught for underage alcohol possession.


Colorado's Dan Hawkins benched his son, starting quarterback Cody, in favor of redshirt freshman Tyler Hansen against Kansas State. CU won 14-13.

 A sign of how far things have fallen at Michigan: Defensive end Brandon Graham has guaranteed a victory over Michigan State. Michigan shouldn't have guarantee anything over Little Brother but these are trying times. The Spartans are 6-2. Michigan is 2-5.


Posted on: October 15, 2008 10:56 am

National notes at the halfway point

One of the best measures for an improved program is the games ahead/behind method. Look at baseball standings for an example. The NCAA includes a section in its statistics book each year that tracks the most improved teams from one year to the next. In 2007, it was Illinois which went from 2-10 in 2006 to 9-4 last season. That's an improvement of 6 1/2 games.

Hawaii holds the record improving by 8 1/2 games in 1999. Ironically, the Warriors might be on the opposite side of that stat this season.

At the halfway point, I thought it would be a good idea to figure the biggest improvements and biggest declines of the 2008 season. Remember, some of the numbers might be skewed because we've played only half a season. But this might be a good measuring stick for coach of the year candidates and provide a short list of coaches about to be fired.

Most improved

1. Minnesota +7 1/2 games (from 1-11 to 6-1)
2. Duke +5 1/2
3. North Carolina +4
4. Pittsburgh +3 1/2
5. several tied at +3

Biggest decline

1. Hawaii -5 1/2 games (from 12-1 to 3-3)
2. Central Florida, Tennessee -4
4. LSU, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic, Michigan, West Virginia, Rutgers, Kansas - 3 1/2

Most improved by conference: Baylor, +3; ACC, Duke +5 1/2; Big East, Pittsburgh, +3 1/2; Conference USA, Rice/Marshall, +3; Mountain West, Colorado  State/UNLV, +3; MAC, Ball State/Northern Illinois, +3; SEC, Vanderbilt/Ole Miss, +3; WAC, New Mexico State, +3: Independents, Notre Dame, +3; Big Ten,  Minnesota, +7 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida International/Louisiana-Lafayette, +3; Pac-10, Stanford, +2 1/2.

Biggest decline by conference: ACC, Boston College/Clemson/Virginia, -2 1/2; Big 12, Kansas, -3 1/2; Big East, West Virginia/Rutgers, -3 1/2; Big Ten, Michigan, -3 1/2;  Independents, Western Kentucky, -2 1/2; Conference USA, Central Florida -4; MAC, Bowling Green/Ohio/Miami (Ohio), -1 1/2; Mountain West, New Mexico, -3; SEC, Tennessee, -4; Pac-10, Arizona State -3 1/2; WAC, Hawaii -5 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, -3 1/2.

Storylines for the second half

Will anyone go unbeaten?: It looks like the SEC and Big 12 will cannibalize each other. That leaves a bunch of one-loss powers that also could include Ohio State, Penn State, USC and Utah or Brigham Young.

Heisman race: Tim Tebow won't repeat and the Big 12 looks like it has a lock on the 2008 winner. But which player?

JoePa In the Sky With A Headset: Can Penn State's venerable coach win a Big Ten title and national championship without setting foot on the field the rest of  the way? Physical problems continue to keep JoePa in the press box. When asked Tuesday if he needed a hip replacement, Paterno answered cryptically, "I don't  know." It isn't exactly Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds but anything Joe does the rest of the season is going to be followed closely.

The non-BCS challengers: TCU, BYU and Utah are all in the mix. If Tulsa can win at Arkansas on Nov. 1 the Golden Hurricane will be a factor. The MAC is  simply too tough for Ball State (7-0) to go undefeated but you have to root for the Cardinals. Their best receiver's career is over (Dante Love) and their quarterback (Nate Davis) wears gloves.

Biggest looming controversy: If a one-loss team from the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12 is edged out of the BCS title game by an undefeated non-BCS school.

Next coach to be fired: Given the swiftly declining situation at Auburn it might be Tommy Tuberville. Other than that, Washington's Tyrone Willingham and  Syracuse's Greg Robinson are locks. Keep an eye also on San Diego State's Chuck Long and Central Florida's George O'Leary.

Biggest upset looming out there: Not in terms of David and Goliath but watch the Texas at Texas Tech game on Nov. 1. If both teams keep winning you're looking at No. 1 Texas vs. a Red Raiders team that should be in the BCS top five. If Texas Tech wins try to wrap your mind around Mike Leach and his Pirate  Love jumping up to No. 1.

Get out your swords and Johnny Depp movies.

BCS bowl predictions at the halfway point

BCS title game: Penn State* vs. Oklahoma*
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Alabama
Sugar Bowl: Florida* vs. South Florida*
Orange Bowl: BYU^ vs. Virginia Tech*
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC*

*-conference champ
^-non-BCS automatic qualifier

  Remember last week when Washington State held open tryouts to find a scout team quarterback? The winner of that competition, Peter Roberts, suddenly finds himself a viable backup option with the Cougars headed into the USC game.

 Speaking of injuries, it's a shame that two stars at Kentucky and North Carolina recently saw their careers end. Carolina's Brandon Tate, the I-A career  leader in kick return yards, is finished because of a knee injury. Exciting Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons is done because of a knee ligament tear.


 Don't say I didn't warn you. I know what I said about Texas and Texas Tech above but indulge me: The way things are shaking out, a Kansas-Oklahoma State Big 12 title game isn't out of the question. If Texas beats Missouri on Saturday then it becomes more likely. Kansas is playing better and has Texas at home later in the season. KU and Missouri meet in Kansas City on Nov. 29.


Oklahoma State is playing better than anyone in the conference (that includes Texas). That head-to-head game is Oct. 25.

 Remember this when you watch BYU and TCU on Thursday night. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall allows each special teams unit to name a captain. The captain then  names starters and backups for each unit. Wonder if that ever happens in the SEC?



Posted on: October 12, 2008 3:39 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2008 5:05 pm

Random thoughts on a football Saturday

Is Tommy Tuberville coaching for his job?

 A week away from the release of the first BCS standings there are 10 undefeated I-A teams, half of them from non-BCS conferences. The most undefeated teams we can have at the end of the season now is seven because of head-to-head matchups among the 10. Only three of the six BCS leagues are represented -- Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC.


The breakdown:

Three of the teams are from the Big 12 -- Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech.

Penn State is 7-0 for the first time since 1999.

Utah and BYU are still headed for a Nov. 22 showdown in Salt Lake City. The Mountain West rivals gave up a combined one touchdown on Saturday. Utah beat Wyoming 40-7 and BYU dominated New Mexico 21-3.

Ball State is hanging around at 7-0, although end-of-the-season battles against Central Michigan and Western Michigan are looming.

The next big SEC games are coming up with Florida-Georgia on Nov. 1 and undefeated Alabama, 6-0, going to LSU on Nov. 8.

 Halfway through the season how about these surprise conference leaders?


Pac-10: Cal, at 2-0 still has the bulk of its schedule left but still an impressive bounce back from last season at 4-1.

Big Ten: Michigan State is tied with Penn State and Ohio State at 3-0. The Buckeyes come to East Lansing this week. Michigan State ends the season with a trip to Penn State.

WAC: San Jose State is 2-0 (4-2) overall after beating Utah State.

Sun Belt: Florida International is one of four teams tied at the top at 2-0.

Mountain West: It's showdown Thursday when the BYU visits TCU. The teams are undefeated in conference play.


 Who would have known that halfway through the season that two teams from Oklahoma would be undefeated (Tulsa, Oklahoma State) and one of them wouldn't be Oklahoma?


 The last time Nebraska opened conference play with two losses was 1968. It fell at Texas Tech 37-31 in overtime. That was the Huskers' eighth consecutive loss to a ranked opponent.
 Georgia Tech tipped the game-tying field goal attempt with three seconds left to survive against Gardner-Webb 10-7. Coach Paul Johnson was down to his third-string quarterback Calvin Booker who was largely ineffective.


The defensive line combo of Michael Johnson combined for five sacks, 17 solo tackles and 51 yards in lost yardage.

 How bad is Washington State? The Cougars intercepted Oregon State's Lyle Moevao four times but lost 66-13. Wazzoo had more penalty yards (170) than offensive yards (132).


 Georgia's Matthew Stafford surpassed 300 yards passing for the first time in his career (310) against Tennessee. The Vols are 0-3 in the SEC for the first time in 20 years.


 North Carolina (5-1) is off to its best start in since Mack Brown's last season in 1997.


 USC's Fili Moala tied an NCAA record by blocking two field goals in one quarter against Arizona State.


 Wyoming used four quarterbacks in that loss to Utah.


 Is it ironic or just karma? Rich Rodriguez negotiated his Michigan contract in Toledo during the offseason. He lost to the school that represents that city on Saturday. Some called Toledo's 13-10 "stunning". After Appalachian State there is nothing that compares to stunning. The Rockets had been 1-4. Michigan had been 24-0 against MAC teams.


“I feel that we’re at a crossroads where we could either go downhill or we can hang tough and weather this storm,” said linebacker Obi Ezeh. “Hopefully, this will pass and things will start going our way. We’ve just got to be tough.”

 Texas is one game into playing four ranked opponents in a row. It's No. 11 Missouri this week after the big win over Oklahoma. Mack Brown is 10-0 in the game immediately following Oklahoma, four of those opponents have been ranked.


 Florida's Tim Tebow is two rushing touchdowns shy of Emmitt Smith's school record of 34.


 Texas and Oklahoma combined to score each of the 11 times they were in the red zone on Saturday. For the season, OU has cashed in all 28 red-zone visits. Texas is 32 of 33.


 Forget about Gary Pinkel going to Washington. The Missouri coach's next job is the hot gossip in the industry considering the Tigers are a national title contender and the Washington job will be open. Pinkel coached for 12 years at U-Dub under mentor Don James.


"I don't know why he'd even want to consider coming out here, with the facilities he's got and the way he's got it going," James told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I wouldn't know why anybody would want to leave Missouri now. It would be a tough, long haul."

 Tis the season. First Tony Franklin at Auburn, now Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper. Harper was demoted last week after a 12-7 loss to Wake Forest on Thursday. Hot-shot recruit Willy Korn will take over for the preseason ACC player of the year.


 The weird things you see at the Texas State Fair...


Spam quesadillas ... Wine coolers. Who the hell drinks wine coolers anymore? ... Sign outside the Cotton Bowl: Pass Out Only At Halftime ... Fried ice cream ... Fried Avocado Chunks ... Gregg Doyel's cousin.


Posted on: October 5, 2008 6:20 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2008 9:24 pm

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

There is some doubt as to whether Joe Paterno can finish the season.

 Brace yourselves. I know this will be hard to believe but there is more trouble with Pac-10 officials. Stanford's Jim Harbaugh went a little nuts after Notre Dame's 28-21 victory.



 Just so we're all clear on this: Those cuddly, loveable, loseable Cubs played exactly three more games than the Washington Nationals. It feels soooo good for those of us ready to stick a finger down our throats at the mention of everything Cub.


Good tee times available, Cubbies. Have a nice offseason ...

 On to the oblong ... Jake Harry's scholarship is in danger. OK, not really. But the Missouri punter does feel a bit, shall we say, underutilized?


The junior from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif. did not punt Saturday night against Nebraska. Not even close, really. The first-team offense scored on all of its possessions Saturday excpet one -- a 59-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half. He has punted nine times all season (Missouri has punted 10 times as a team). Harry has punted only twice in the last three games.

Reminded of this fact, super serious coach Gary Pinkel said, "We're going to have to work on that in practice. That's not reality."

Neither is this: Missouri's offense has not gone three-and-out with Chase Daniel at quarterback this season.

You're welcome in advance for this week's Heisman candidate trivia.

 Anyone want a piece of Ron Zook now? He was the first coach in nine years to win at Ohio State and at Michigan within a 12-month span in nine years. The last coach to do it? Illinois' Ron Turner in 1999. Illinois trounced Michigan 45-20 at The Big House on Saturday.

 Yes, that was Joe Paterno up in the press box again due to what was reportedly pain in his right hip.


"I'm not letting anybody get near me with a knife," JoePa said.

 Florida's fantastic freshmen, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, each ran for 103 yards in a win over Arkansas. The last  time Florida had two players each rush for 100 and have no receivers over 100 yards was 1997. Wait a minute, wasn't that under Spurrier? Strange.


 USC avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2001 with a 44-10 win over Oregon. The Trojans actually trailed 10-3 and faced a fourth-and-2 at Oregon's 34. Pete Carroll's, as he frequently does, went for it. Mark Sanchez threw a touchdown pass to Damien Williams.


 Is Charlie Weis working his quarterback magic again? In his first seven games Jimmy Clausen threw one touchdown and five interceptions while winning once. In his last eight games including a win over Stanford on Saturday, Clausen has thrown 18 touchdowns (only seven interceptions) and is 6-2.


 Bad times at Kansas State. Fans were booing and a less-than-capacity crowd left early during a 58-28 loss to Texas Tech. Ron Prince's embattled defense has been thrashed repeatedly dating back to last season. In its last season I-A losses, teams are averaging 49 points and 538 yards. Quarterbacks are completing 70 percent while having throwing 20 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Texas Tech's Graham Harrell threw for more yards against Kansas State (454) than Air Force, Navy and Army did combined (265) on Saturday. Those three schools haven't thrown for as many yards on the season as Harrell did on Saturday: Army, 279; Air Force, 412; Navy, 439.

The service academies played the whole game too. Harrell was yanked in the second half.

 At least Nebraska gets a break next week after losing by five touchdowns to Missouri. It goes to Lubbock. Thank you sir, may I have another.


 Some Wisconsin seniors got a windfall in their e-mail. Because the band was suspended indefinitely for acts that would make Penn State players blush, there suddenly were 300 empty seats to be filled in Camp Randall Stadium. The school contacted seniors who had lost out on the ticket lottery. They were told to show up at the stadium shortly before the game to claim their free ticket.


 You knew this was coming: Arkansas continues to face a Burma Road of a schedule thanks in part to the rescheduling of the Texas game last month due to Hurricane Ike. In consecutive games against then-No. 9 Alabama, then-No. 7 Texas and No. 12 Florida, the Hogs have been outscored 139-31. Next up: at Auburn and at Kentucky.

 Since winning its first eight games under Dennis Erickson last season, Arizona State is 4-6 including a 24-14 loss to Cal on Saturday.


 Michigan has 14 touchdowns and 16 turnovers this season.
 The lowest scoring winning team in the Big 12 was Kansas with 35 points.


 Kentucky has yet to allow a touchdown in the red zone this season.


 SEC teams are allowing an average of 17.4 points and 288.4 yards per game. If that holds up, it would be a post-expansion record (since 1992) for the conference.


 Missouri beat Nebraska in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1973-74.


 A big shout out to the (lack of) Quality Inn in Lincoln. Why even try? I got bitten in the lobby by flies the moment I walked in. Lighting in the room was optional. It gave me a greater appreciation for what O.J. Simpson is going to face in the next 20 years.


At least I got to check out.

Posted on: September 24, 2008 1:49 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2008 5:40 pm

National notes

Time to put Ohio State back in the national championship race. I'm not saying the Bucks will get to South Florida but can we all agree they might be as strong as they've ever been this season?

Terrelle Pryor has been installed as the quarterback starter. Beanie Wells is back at tailback for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota. The Big Ten race, and Big Ten, just got a whole lot more interesting. It's a four-team race, at least, between Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Penn State.

When some dope asked if Pryor was now the starter after throwing four touchdown passes against Troy, Jim Tressel said: "Weren't you at the game?"

 OK, so there's a blackout at Georgia for the Alabama game. Why did Mark Richt tell everyone? There's a great story from last year when Richt the players kept the blackout secret until busting them out for the Auburn game.


"I had the seniors at my house before the season starts," Richt said. "They're saying, 'Coach, when are we going to get black jerseys?' I closed every door in my house and said, 'Can ya'll keep a secret? The Auburn game, we're going to wear them. But look, man, if everybody finds out it won't be that big a deal,' ...

"We get to Monday of the Auburn game. They're like, 'Coach, coach we need to get the fans to (know about) the blackout.' I said, 'No, you're giving it away.'

"Rumors kept flaring. Then one (reporter) point blanks me, 'Are you or are you not wearing black jerseys for the Auburn game? ...

"So I'm telling the equipment guy, 'When the lights go out get the jerseys laid out at their seats ... I'm in the coaches lockerroom changing and the place erupted. It was so unbelievable how excited they got. I heard guys screaming. I saw guys with tears in their eyes. It was like a sauna in there, just the body heat.

"There was so much electricity in the stadium that day. I told the guys at the end, it did look cool ... It's hard to let go of that."

Georgia won 45-20.

 Urban Meyer showed prescience when he said before the 2006 season that the new clock rules were a joke. College football went on to lose 13 plays per game and the game suffered.


Meyer railed again this week against the 40/25-second clock that has been largely responsible for the loss of seven total plays per game so far this season.

"I'm not a fan of the clock rule," Meyer said this week. "I think it's wrong. I think they're cheating the fans - more importantly, the players."

Florida ran a season low 54 plays Saturday against Tennessee. That will be comforting to the Vols. At least the Gators were efficient in blowing them out.

Meyer said only 46 of his team's plays were "competitive", meaning he didn't count punts, field goals, etc.

The 40/25 clock can be massaged, though. Since Oklahoma has gone to the no-huddle, it has gained nine plays per game (from 70 to 79).

Strangely enough, the state of Oregon knows how to use the clock. Oregon is No. 1 (83.75 plays per game) followed by Nevada (83.3) and Oregon State (80.3).

 Two years ago USC went on its little "streak" losing to three times to inferior opponents in two seasons. It started with a 33-31 loss at Oregon State when John David Booty got a pass blocked while throwing to Dwayne Jarrett for a two-point conversion.


I'm still wondering how Booty had a pass blocked at the line of scrimmage throwing a stop fade in the end zone to Dwayne Jarrett, one of the tallest receivers in ball at the time.

Anyway, those days are over, right? The points is, USC should be on alert opening the Pac-10 season Thursday back at Oregon State.

 Not much more to be said about Tennessee except that a 2-4 start looks likely. The Vols play at Auburn this week followed by games against Northern Illinois and at Georgia.


Arizona State (2-2) is Tennessee West. With games coming up at Cal, at USC and at home against Oregon, the Devils could start 2-5.

 Fourteen teams are currently 4-0, only six of them have ever won a national championship (TCU, Alabama, Georgia, BYU, Penn State, Minnesota). Maybe more surprising, five of the 14 are from West of the Mississippi (Missouri, Texas Tech, Utah, BYU, TCU).


 San Diego State coach Chuck Long on the difference between I-AA Cal Poly and Notre Dame.


"The way we played both there wasn't much difference," he said.

The Aztecs (0-3) lost to both the Mustangs and Irish in back-to-back weeks.

 Make sure you view this video on an empty stomach. This is how Texas lost tight end Blaine Irby for the season with a dislocated kneecap.


 Maybe it's just me but it seems that certain schools should never, ever be in need of a quality quarterback. Why can't these three programs find a consistent signal caller?


Florida State:  Tied for sixth-worst nationally with five interceptions. No. 55 in pass efficiency.
Cal:  Tied for 68th nationally and fifth in Pac-10 in sacks allowed.
Auburn:  Second-worst in the SEC and 95th nationally in pass efficiency.

--Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has a myspace page which shouldn't surprise any of us.

On it you can learn the 47-year-old Leach enjoys "football, throwing stuff and pirate history". Listed among his friends are Urban Meyer and Bobby Bowden. He lists his income as "$250,000 and higher."

Away from the keyboard, Leach sounds like he is seriously considering Tech student Matt Williams as a walk-on kicker. Williams won a year's free rent at an apartment complex after booting a 30-yard field goal between the third and fourth quarters of Saturday's win over Massachusetts.

 “Very impressive kick, and maybe I’ll get to see him again because we’re always looking for depth at kicker,” Leach said after the game. “We have a tradition of walk-on kickers rising to the top."

 More BYU:

Bronco Mendenhall on being a defensive coach in this offensive age: "Most of the time defenses aren't as glamorous. Schools hire offensive coaches possibly to make themselves look better in the hiring process and please fans.  Sometimes offensive names are more attractive."

Draft guru Gil Brandt on the BYU "system":  "I think they had a system that was advanced from whatever anybody else had. When the wishbone came in, people were trying to stop the wishbone and didn't have the right people for it. Then all of the sudden they found out how to stop the wishbone.

"That never caught up with them at BYU. They attracted quarterbacks who were made out to be better than they were because they were in this really good system.  I think this team has better players (than the previous BYU great teams)."

FYI: BYU is No. 11 this week.  It was No. 8 four weeks into the season when it won its national championship. It debuted at No. 13 in the first regular-season AP poll and got to No. 1 in the Nov. 19 poll after beating Utah 24-14.

It finished No. 1 in AP after beating Michigan in the Holiday Bowl and No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 South Carolina lost their bowl games.

Posted on: August 31, 2008 5:39 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2008 8:53 pm

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

As long as I'm piling on the ACC couldn't resist this one ...

Well, it's not an ACC error per se but why not kick a mediocre league while it's down. It seems that Duke officials 
were shocked when parachutists descended into Wallace Wade Stadium with the game ball about an hour before Saturday's 
James Madison game. One problem. Duke hadn't ordered a game ball. However, North Carolina, eight miles away, did.

 Will we look back on this as the football equivalent of The Beatles playing the Cavern Club? In other words, the 
modest beginning for a monster talent? Terrelle Pryor looked more than capable in his career debut against 
Youngstown State, 35 yards passing, 52 yards rushing and a touchdown.


For up-to-the-minute updates go to Pryor's 24-hour webcam. You've got to see the archived stuff of him having the 
Caesar salad for lunch on Friday. Classic.

 Appalachian State won! The third quarter, 7-3 over LSU.


 Nothing like patience. This from a Detroit columnist: "(Michigan quarterback) Steven Threet needs to start based on his performance 
(against Utah)." After watching that mess in The Big House does it matter?


 Hawaii AD Jim Donovan is a smart, smart man. There are no more SEC teams on the Warriors schedule for the 
foreseeable future. The last two outings against the SEC have resulted in combined losses of 97-20 to Georgia and 


 If you want to put a new name atop the hot seat list, feel free to add San Diego State's Chuck Long. We did get 
our designated I-AA upset late Saturday although it wasn't the earth shaker you might think. Cal Poly beat the Aztecs 
for the second time in three seasons. This time it was 29-27. A San Diego columnist the program "reached the bottom of its existence."


 Big 12 starting quarterbacks threw a combined 20 touchdown passes on Saturday. That's an average of 2.2 per man without two of the  nine starters throwing for a score. The breakdown:  Kansas' Todd Reesing (three), Missouri's Chase Daniel (three), Nebraska's Joe Ganz (four), Kansas State's Josh Freeman  (three), Texas' Colt McCoy (three), Texas' A&M Stephen McGee (none), Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (two), Oklahoma State's Zac  Robinson (none) and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (two).


 Five years ago to the day Dennis Franchione started his Texas A&M career with a 26-11 victory over Arkansas State. 
Franchione's replacement, Mike Sherman,wasn't so fortunate losing to the Red Wolves 18-14 in his first game as 
Aggies' coach. The usually staid Associated Press called it "one of the most embarrassing losses in A&M history."  

 Nebraska recovered a fumble against Western Michigan. That brings the Huskers to one-third of their total for all 
of 2007.

 Pittsburgh is now 5-13 since starting 6-1 in 2006. 

 How important are those Virginia Tech special teams? Huge. The Hokies had won 17 consecutive games when blocking a 
kick. Ironically, East Carolina's T.J. Lee blocked a punt and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 27-22 Pirates' 
victory. East Carolina became the only team below the BCS level that beat a top 20 team. The other teams 
with a win over top 20 wins on Saturday were Missouri and Alabama.


The Pirates became the first Conference USA team to beat back-to-back ranked teams. They had defeated Boise State in 
last year's Hawaii Bowl. That says more about Conference USA than it does East Carolina. Conference USA is 13 years 

 Injury watch: Georgia's monster defensive tackle Jeff Owens is out for the season with a knee. How many more injuries can UGA stand?...There are varying reports about the severity of Jeremy Maclin's injury late Saturday. Missouri's all-purpose 
king apparently twisted an ankle (X-rays were negative).


 Novenas are being said in Columbus for tailback Beanie Wells. Ohio State's tailback has some sort of right foot 
problem. Again, X-rays were negative. Even if he is 100 percent look for Jim Tressel to seriously limiting Wells' 
playing time this week against Ohio. The Bucks need him healthy for USC in two weeks. We should know something on Monday.


 Most impressive on opening weekend? It had to be USC which slapped around Virginia. Pete Carroll looked like he 
was sandbagging us during the preseason. Three weeks after dislocating his knee, quarterback Mark Sanchez looks 
ready and able to become the new Leinart after throwing for a career-high 338 yards.


"Everything happened just right," Carroll said. "Too bad we let them score."

 If you're looking ahead to Tennessee-UCLA on Monday night consider UCLA's Kevin Craft. The juco transfer 
quarterback faces some uphill odds. The last juco transfer qb to lead a team to a Pac-10 title was USC's Tim Green in 

 Hurricane Gustav's impact is being felt all the way to Alabama. Tulane has already gone threat ahead of the storm 
in preparations for this week's game at Alabama. Troy goes over to LSU in a game that could be a prime candidate for 
cancellation. The Category 3 storm is expected to hit Louisiana on Monday.


 OK, so there is no Terrelle Pryor 24-hour webcam but if you got down this far believing it, gotcha!


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com