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Tag:Nebraska
Posted on: September 23, 2009 5:30 pm
 

More reasons why the SEC is real, real good

The last time a major conference had three of the top four teams in the AP poll mutton chops and bell buttons were huge. And I mean that in the sense of size, not cool. I couldn't grow mutton chops back then but, anyway ...

That was in 1971 and the conference was the Big Eight. Nebraska was No. 1, followed by Oklahoma and Colorado. I had an old bumper stick that I kept for years from back then that read, "1 + 2 + 3=Big Eight" Get it?

Anyway, the SEC this week has No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Mississippi.

The SEC also leads the country in points per game (35) and rushing yards per game (204.5).
Posted on: September 20, 2009 6:55 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2009 7:10 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

The B.S. meter was off the charts this week. Let’s sweep away the pretenders …

 Please, no more “Is Nebraska back?” talk it actually beats someone.  Saturday’s 16-15 loss at Virginia Tech makes it 16 losses in a row on the road to top 20 teams. I don’t care if it was one point. I’m sure Bo Pelini isn’t reveling in the closeness of the final score.

You don’t let scatter-armed Tyrod Taylor loose long enough to complete an 80-yard pass that Dan Marino shouldn’t have been able to complete. It’s called situational defense, ‘Skers. You secondary lines up so it can’t be beaten over the top.

Check with us later Huskers, if you happen to win the Big 12 North. As for me, I’m checking out for now.

 B.S. also on BYU. How in the name of LaVell Edwards do the Cougars not show up in one of their biggest home games in years? It was the home opener, for gosh sakes, against a Florida State team that looked outmanned.

BYU just played itself out of the BCS championship and into the Las Vegas Bowl. Even if the Cougars run the table from here on in, voters would have to think long and hard about making this a BCS bowl team.

I mean, 54-28? Five turnovers. C’mon!

 B.S. on West Virginia which blew a 27-20 lead to Auburn, losing 41-30. Jarrett Brown threw four of the Mountaineer’s five interceptions. West Virginia committed four of their six turnovers in the fourth quarter.

 I’m also calling B.S. on Texas Tech which lost another road game to a ranked opponent.  The 34-24 loss to Texas came on the heels of last year’s blowout in Norman and the embarrassment in the Cotton Bowl.

Is it me or does The Pirate’s offense just not travel well?

 B.S., finally, on Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins. I know he’s an amateur and he’s just a kid and doesn’t deserve the abuse but …

Dude, that throw against Notre Dame? Only the 7-11 is open more than teammate Larry Caper was in the end zone. Cousins air-mailed a potential game-winning touchdown pass over Caper’s head. On the next play, Cousins tossed an interception at the Notre Dame 4 when all his team needed was a field goal.

The Spartans had won six in a row in South Bend. Now they’ve lost consecutive games by a combined five points.


Observation deck

Why do I get the feeling that Jimmy Clausen is going to make a heck of a run at the Heisman? He’s a gunslinger to begin with. With Notre Dame’s defense sure to give up points, Clausen and the offense are going to have to outscore just about every team they play.

The Michigan Miracle overshadowed a good game by Clausen. Against the Spartans he completed his first 10 in a row and threw for 300 yards. Clausen is second in the nation in pass efficiency having thrown nine touchdowns against no interceptions. That’s the best ratio in the country.

 Speaking of ratios, North Carolina State’s Russell Wilson now has thrown 329 consecutive passes without an interception, an ongoing record. In his career, the sophomore had thrown 25 touchdown passes and one interception.

 Georgia could join the WAC. It has given up a combined 78 points the last two weeks and won both games. Joe Cox made his own statement throwing for five touchdowns in a 52-41 win at Arkansas.

The result overshadowed school records from Arkie’s Ryan Mallett in yards (408) and touchdowns (five). Mallett leads the country in pass efficiency.

 Texas’ Colt McCoy threw only eight interceptions all last season. He has four through three games in '09. In the first six games of last season McCoy threw only 34 incompletions. He has 35 already (75 of 110) through three games.

 This is what the ACC wanted: Miami and Florida State both at the top of the conference. It hasn’t happened quite yet but it looks like it’s coming This is about the branding of a conference. The ACC needs the Hurricanes and Noles in the polls battling for a championship and BCS bowl.

 Florida now has the nation’s longest winning streak at 13. Ole Miss and Southern Miss are tied for second, each with an eight-game streak.
 
--After taking in the national scene Saturday in one big bite I get the feeling that the team lurking in the grass is Alabama. Texas gave up 420 yards passing. Florida struggled with Tennessee. USC lost.

Bama keeps getting steadily better. It opens the SEC schedule this week against Arkansas. The Tide know how to beat Florida. Monte Kiffin did them a favor offering somewhat of a blueprint on Saturday.  Bama hasn’t played its best football yet.

 The other team that has to feel good about itself? Penn State just played three dogs to start the season, is ranked fourth in the coaches’ poll and has its toughest remaining game at home (against Ohio State on Nov. 7).

Can you imagine Joe Paterno in the BCS title game? Moses might do the coin toss as a special favor to an old friend.

 The right-now, no-hype, no-b.s., not-what-they-did last year Heisman rankings for this week.

1. Tim Tebow, Florida: The Gators don’t beat Tennessee unless Superman churns for 76 well-earned yards on 24 grinding carries.

Key stat of the game: Florida converted on nine of 14 third- and fourth downs. Guess who was responsible most of the time?
“I probably said it three times on the headset, ‘Is the guy ever going to wear out?’ Lane Kiffin said. “He’s not human.”

2. Jacory Harris, Miami.  We are witnessing the evolution of the next great 'Canes quarterback.

3. Eric Berry, Tennessee. If Tebow is the best offensive player in America, Berry is the best defensive player.

Eleven tackles, an interception and one head-to-head mash up with Tebow made Berry the second-most dominant player on the field.

I wrote a story in July suggesting Tennessee use him 50 snaps a game at quarterback. If Kiffin would have tried it on Saturday, the Vols would have won.

4. Jahvid Best, Cal: A school-record five touchdowns against Minnesota. The Bears needed every one of them. Best could earn a trip to New York in a couple of weeks with a big game against USC.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: See above.

Honorable mention: Landry Jones, Oklahoma: I don’t care if it’s against air, six touchdown passes is pretty impressive. Jones set the school record against Tulsa making me think that the Sooners might be OK until Sam Bradford returns.

Check back, though, in two weeks when the OU plays at Miami.

 Finally, for those needing motivation to beat Florida. Check out Breakaway Vacations. There were a stack of flyers from Breakaway at the front desk of the Gainesville Courtyard advertising travel packages for Florida fans to both the SEC championship game and national championship game.

BCS Packages Available Now!

There is a refund if “your team” doesn’t make it.

Good Lord, it’s only September.

Posted on: September 17, 2009 10:59 pm
 

That looked a lot like Miami ...

... the old Miami. The program that had Luke Campbell as a mascot, the team that slapped around opponents then made them like it.

While watching the Canes cane Georgia Tech Thursday night I had a funny, tingly feeling deep down inside. [I've been through puberty so no wise-ass remarks.] Miami is really, really close to being back.

That was a smackdown job on Tech. Jacory Harris established himself as one of the nation's best young quarterbacks. The Florida State game was no fluke. I know the defense is rounding into form -- 1987 form -- when a late Miami interception was negated by a roughing the passer penalty.

Somewhere Jerome Brown was smiling.

I'll wait until watching Virgina Tech-Nebraska, but right now Miami looks like the best team in the ACC. Georgia Tech was revealed as one-dimensional. I mean, you have to be able throw a little bit. Josh Nesbitt doesn't scare the broad side of many barns.

South Florida will spend the next 10 days going a little bit nuts, and it should. It's been a while since Miami looked this good, this confident.

Suddenly, that death march of a schedule doesn't look so daunting. The U already proved it could win on the road. Who knows what will happen next week in Blacksburg? After that comes Oklahoma with a Heisman Trophy quarterback who may or may not play.

It's cool to be around the Canes when they're rolling, when it's all about the U.
Posted on: August 28, 2009 12:17 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2009 8:17 am
 

Seven more "things" to consider this season

You've read "25 Things". Here are seven more also getting votes ...


Terry Bowden

Eleven years out of the game and unable to find a suitable job in I-A, Bobby’s boy settled in at Division II North Alabama.

It seems that the celebrated former Auburn coach (.675 winning percentage) isn’t planning on retiring in Florence. He has brought in 24 I-A transfers, seven from his dad’s program alone. Not that the Lions were about to fall off the edge of the earth. They reached the I-AA semifinals last season and have won at least 10 in the last four years.

The idea is to win fast, win a lot and maybe grab a I-A job. Among the notable transfers are former North Carolina State and Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck and FSU receiver Preston Parker.

Parker was kicked off Florida State in February after his third arrest since 2006. But he can play. Parker caught 104 passes in three seasons with the Noles. 



Mike Gundy is a man, he’s 42 but he’s no less paranoid

It hasn’t made much national news, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is up to his old media-baiting self.

Gundy recently cut off the team from media (practice, interviews, everything) saying the team needs to focus for its Sept. 5 opener against Georgia. That’s bad enough, but he hasn’t restricted all media. A couple of Cowboy-friendly types have been allowed in. Not surprisingly they are a guy who works on the Cowboys recruiting site and the radio color man.

So maybe “media” is too definitive a word in that case.

What grinds the legit media is that Gundy is a 27-23 coach bankrolled by a billionaire booster at a state institution. Where's the accountability? We don’t know if Gundy is beating players, denying them water breaks, hell, holding illegal tryouts.

Not saying it’s happening but with the doors closed, can’t say it’s not happening. It’s not just me talking. Read this excellent piece by the Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten. Pay particular attention to the lead.

I remember catching up to Gundy 3 ½ years ago the day it was announced that Pickens had donated $165 million to Oklahoma State.  Coaches were kidding him at the American Football Coaches Association annual convention about getting a loan. Gundy was almost oblivious. Pressure? What pressure?

Pickens is now 81 and is perhaps wondering what happened to all that money. Where has Gundy’s three-year old rant and this stunt gotten him? Nothing tangible. He is a YouTube celebrity. Recruiting hasn’t been hurt. It’s like an old hat in the closet. You pull it out years later and remark, “Man, did that look silly.”

Now the Cowboys are no longer a curiosity. Oklahoma State has a top 10 ranking. It’s about time Gundy started winning big. Unfortunately, that ranking and a quarter will get you a bag of chips.

The problem for Okie State, as it always has been, is Oklahoma and Texas. Those powers form a cement ceiling above Stillwater every season. That hasn’t changed. Neither has Coach Clandestine. Maybe he is feeling the pressure of having to deliver on Boone Pickens’ investment.
 


Chill pill

In the middle of one of the hottest Southwest summers in recent history, Oklahoma and Texas can agree on one thing:

Taking a pill to monitor players’ core temperature is a good idea. The CorTemp capsule is about the size of a vitamin and ingested about five hours before practice. Players thought to be at high risk of heat-related maladies are selected each day.

Trainers pass a monitoring device over a player’s stomach (the pill  is somewhere in the intestines) to check body temperature. Texas trainer Kenny Boyd calls it an “ingestible thermometer.”

The $35 pill is too pricey for some programs but with heat-related illnesses killing players at a record pace this decade, no price is too high. Sickle cell trait (usually brought on my physical exertion) became the leading killer of Division I players this decade.

The Eagles, Vikings and Jags in the NFL use the pill as well as Nebraska and North Carolina on the college level.

If you’ve read this far you’re still wondering how the players get rid of a pill filled with electronics. It is, um, passed. No word on how, or why the pills are recycled.



… Or they could just forget the whole thing and let those state troopers fight it out

A proposal from the American Football Coaches Association calls for both coaches and ADs to accompany their teams on the field for a pregame handshake before each game. The initiative starts with next week’s opening games.

A thoughtful gesture, but college football isn’t exactly the Stanley Cup playoffs where teams form a handshake line at the end of playoff series. These guys are minutes away from tearing each other’s heads off. It’s hard to imagine Alabama and Auburn exchanging handshakes. More like haymakers.

Forced to confront Lane Kiffin on Sept. 19 in Gainesville, will Urban Meyer shake hands or whip out a taser?

AFCA executive director Grant Teaff says the association’s code of conduct calls for coaches to shake hands before the game. Is that the same code of conduct that Rick Neuheisel adhered to when he committed 50-plus secondary violations?

 

Possible bowl rematches

The bowls are loathe to stage regular-season matches in their games, but with the rash of TV-arranged non-conference games, rematches could become more frequent. The reason these games are being arranged in the first place is because the teams are TV draws.

And what are bowls looking for? These big regular-season games could be the first of a doubleheader to be completed in the postseason.

Sept. 5: Georgia at Oklahoma State, also in the Cotton Bowl.
Sept. 5: BYU vs. Oklahoma in Irving, Texas, also in the Fiesta Bowl
Sept. 19: Kansas at UCLA, also in the Insight Bowl
Oct. 17: Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas, also in the BCS title game (don’t laugh, it could happen)
Oct. 24: Boston College at Notre Dame, also in the Gator Bowl



Technology meet the economy

It's possible now to go an entire season in the Sun Belt, Ohio Valley and Big Sky conferences without ever meeting another human coach.

Those conferences cancelled their in-person preseason media days as a way to save money. In the case of the Sun Belt, it went to video streaming its media days. You already know that several schools no longer print media guys, the assumption being that everyone has a large hard drive, a speedy processor and time to stop in the middle of a story, slip in a CD and look up something.

Now that human contact has been removed from the equation, can alien probes of various orifices be far behind?

Point being, the cost-saving excuse in some ways is a sham. Michigan is saving one-half of one percent on its budget. There are ways to save money, but once the boulder gets rolling down the hill there are a lot of copy cats.

These schools wouldn't be in this economic crunch if they weren't all operating under the same model. Remember, teams have been staying overnight in a hotel for years the night before home games.


Smelly, cussing guy in overalls? Text CNHSKRHELP

By allowing fans to text for help, isn't Nebraska admitting it has a problem?

Campus police say they will accept "citizen crime reports" in the form of texts from fans at games. Nice move. But when are they going to do something about that freakish mascot?

 

Posted on: August 25, 2009 11:55 am
Edited on: August 25, 2009 1:40 pm
 

Didn't you used to be Michigan and Nebraska?

What kind of world are we living in when Michigan is playing three quarterbacks and Nebraska is running out of tailbacks?

Rich Rodriguez revealed over the weekend that he is going to play Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson and Nick Sheridan in the opener against Western Michigan. That's not a depth chart, it's checking line for Red Berenson. It's also a slap to the Broncos who come into the Big House with more than an even chance of winning. I know this: right now, Western Michigan has a better offense than Michigan.

Please don't argue that point because you will be wrong.  

They say if you have two quarterbacks, you really have no quarterbacks. So what happens when you have three, gene-splicing?

Meanwhile at Nebraska, backup tailback Quentin Castille has been kicked off the team for a violation of team rules. That news came on the same day that former tailback Thunder Collins was convicted of murder.

Some quick research showed that there was a small window there in the late 90s when Nebraska actually didn't have a future inmate at tailback. Lawrence Phillips last played in 1995. Collins arrived in 2000. Things are getting better. It took until 2009 for Castille to smoke/drink/flunk (pick one or all) his way off the team.

(I'm going to be nice and not mention that Collins and Phillips were both convicted this month, roughly within two weeks of each other. What serendipity.)

This solidifies my pick of Kansas as the Big 12 North winner. Nebraska has now lost its backup tailback and quarterback. Florida or USC can deal with those type of situations. Nebraska? One outright Big 12 North title since 1999.

Please note that Michigan and Nebraska are not only hurting, they are hurting at their signature glamor positions. They've chosen to express that lack of depth in different ways.  
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 28, 2009 4:47 pm
 

Five things I believe about the Big 12 ...

Word to your mother from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas.

One quarterback’s virginity is another man’s autograph book. Heisman-winner Sam Bradford admitted to hearing about the Tim Tebow virginity question last week at the SEC media days.

“To me that’s crossing the line,” Bradford said on Tuesday. “There’s a line that should be drawn.”

In an ironic twist, though, Bradford endured his own “gotcha” moment. This one involving the opposite of virginity. A couple recently asked Bradford to sign their baby.

“I never pictured that happening before,” he said. “We were having dinner one night in Norman. A couple came over with their baby and sat him down on the table, a couple of months old.”

Where, it was asked, does one sign a baby? Will Ferrell scrawled his name on an infant’s forehead in Talladega Nights.

“I signed (its outfit),” Bradford said.

Bill Snyder’s biggest opponent is himself. The 69-year-old Kansas State coach is back for his second term. Snyder obviously had been getting antsy about getting back into coaching about the moment he “retired” three years ago.

This time he is taking on his own legacy as well as the rest of the league. From 1989-2005, he created the Miracle in Manhattan leading the once moribund Wildcats to a Big 12 title and several bowl games. This season he is trying to keep K-State out of last place in the Big 12 North.

Nothing compares to how bad things were when Snyder arrived in 1989. Bob Stoops was there with Snyder during his first six seasons.

“We go into that first spring I bet we had 45 guys in the room. We had four total d-linemen, two non-scholarship. We would be practicing and we’d have to take a five-minute break to hose them off, give them some water. The rest of the team would just stand around. Seriously. That’s how bad it was.”

Meet the new triplets, same as the old triplets. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy was part of the best offense in school history. Gundy was the quarterback, handing off to Barry Sanders and throwing to Hart Lee Dykes in 1988.

The best set of “triplets” since those days will lead the Cowboys this season. Zac Robinson is a sneaky-good dual threat quarterback. Kendall Hunter is a 1,000-yard back. Receiver Dez Bryant might be the nation’s best receiver.

“It’s hard to compare anybody to Barry Sanders to be honest with you,” Gundy said. “Kendall Hunter is very good but a future hall of famer is difficult to compare to. Hart Lee Dykes … don’t know if I’ve seen anyone like him.

“The quarterback spot, I’m not sure there’s much of a comparison. If I could go back and recruit, I’d recruit Zack Robinson and I wouldn’t Mike Gundy to be honest with you.”

This just might be the biggest Texas-Oklahoma game ever. Texas won the game last season but wants “revenge” for obvious reasons. The game used to be a window on the Big 12 and national championships. Last year’s screwy tiebreaker messed with everyone’s head.

With Oklahoma State in the mix this year, there is the possibility of another three-way tie. Meanwhile, we will wait until Oct. 17 in Dallas. Stoops was asked if Texas-OU can get any bigger?

 “I don’t know how it could,” he said. “The last eight, nine years it’s been as heated as it could be.”

The North must rise again … or risk further embarrassment. The Big 12 North Division won only three of 19 games against South Division opponents in 2008. That’s the second time that’s happened in the last five years.

Only once in that span has the North had an above .500 record – 2007 when it was 10-9 against the South. That’s the year both Missouri and Kansas won 12 games.

When the league was formed in 1996, most of the strength was in the North with Nebraska and Kansas State in power. The North was a combined 24-14 against the South in 1996-97. How far have things slipped? Last year, all three North victories were against Baylor.
 

Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:05 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2009 12:34 pm
 

Picking the SEC

You're tired. We're all tired.

Of the SEC.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't believe the hype. Since it expanded in 1992, the SEC has won seven national championships in 17 years, four of the last six and three in a row. It generally sends the most players to the NFL, approximately 36 a year since 1990. How many leagues can narrow the national championship race to one game? Since 2006, the winner of the LSU-Florida game has been the national champion.

Nowhere else does one agent (Jimmy Sexton) represent half the league's coaches. The SEC produces the most draft picks, the most talent, the best stories. Open a browser. You'll find something about Lane Kiffin somewhere.

This season, Florida opens the season as the consensus No. 1 chasing a third national championship in four years. Only two other schools have accomplished that feat in the wire service era: Notre Dame (1946-47, 49), Nebraska (1994-95, 1997).

Let's not forget those lucrative new TV contracts from CBS and ESPN. In the SEC, money flows downhill -- into league coffers.

Tired of the SEC? Too bad. You'll have to pay attention. Once again, the winner of the league will probably be in contention for the BCS title game.

Picking the SEC ...


West Division

1. Alabama -- They've dismissed the Sugar Bowl as a fluke in Tuscaloosa long ago. They'd rather remember how Bama went undefeated in the regular season and was No. 1 for several weeks. Nine returning starters on defense is a good place to start. New quarterback Greg McElroy better find Julio Jones often. A rebuilt offensive line will try to spring Mark Ingram (12 touchdowns as a freshman). The magic of St. Nick gets the nod in this packed division.

2. LSU -- Don't agonize over Jordan Jefferson at quarterback. LSU has won two national championships with, shall we say, less than dynamic quarterbacks. Crazy Les has the SEC's best running back (Charles Scott) and at least one NFL draft pick (Ciron Black) on the offensive line. After the co-coordinator thing failed on defense, Miles went out and got the best player on the board -- John Chavis, formerly of Tennessee.
 
3. Ole Miss
-- Until Ole Miss actually does it, they can't be the pick in the West. I know Jevan Snead might be the league's best pro prospect at quarterback. I know Greg Hardy can beat anyone off the edge. I know that Alabama and LSU come to Oxford. I know that Houston Nutt is underrated as a coach.  I just can't get over the fact that after beating Florida, Ole Miss lost at home to South Carolina. There's a clunker out there somewhere that will keep the Rebels from winning the West.
 
4. Arkansas -- Bobby Petrino has himself a quarterback. That's a good start. Ryan Mallett has the best pure arm in the SEC. The problem is defense and special teams. Petrino has never been known for his defensive prowess. The D surrendered more than 31 per game last season. Until that gets corrected, the Hogs won't compete in the West. Petrino wisely hired old buddy John L. Smith to run the special teams. Mallett punted in the spring. Hopefully, that won't have to be the case in the fall.
 
5. Auburn -- Let's see, Tony Franklin was fired because players had a hard time picking up his offense. His replacement at offensive coordinator is Gus Malzahn, basically runs the same offense. Let's hope Malzahn is a better communicator because his offenses might play faster than anyone in the country. Gene "5-19" Chizik has a lot to prove after coming over from Iowa State. It won't be this year.

6. Mississippi State -- All the buzz is coming from Oxford. For good reason. Dan Mullen tried to install his version of the spread in the spring with fewer than five receivers on the roster. That will change in a hurry as Mullen says he wants at least a dozen receivers to get playing time. But as his old boss found out, the passing game comes second. Mullen better be able to run the ball first and find some defensive linemen who can come off the edge.


East Division

1. Florida -- How's the view from the top? It is Florida's division, conference and national championship to lose. Every starter is back on defense. A guy named Tebow seems to have won the quarterback job. Now the question is, who replaces Percy Harvin? Meyer says he won't do it by committee. Watch for Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and incoming recruit Andre Debose to take their shots. After two titles in three years, the further motivation is Florida's first undefeated season.

2. Georgia -- Strange, but the Bulldogs seem like they're going to be OK. Joe Cox doesn't have to light it up in replacing Matt Stafford, just manage the game. Receiver A.J. Green is a year older and bigger. There are two stars on defense -- defensive tackle Geno Atkins and linebacker Rennie Curran. The last time the expectations were this low, 2005, Georgia won the SEC East. It's going to take a win over Florida to do it, so a division title isn't likely. But 10 wins out of this group isn't out of the question.

3. South Carolina -- Steve Spurrier's greatest trait is his honesty. When asked at the SEC spring meetings if quarterback Stephen Garcia was ready to take over he didn't hesitate. Still needs some work, Spur Dog said. If Spurrier can't get the quarterback thing right, what hope is there for the rest of the Gamecocks? They have faded late in each of the last two seasons. Spurrier has averaged seven wins in his four seasons and has produced just one bowl win. At 64, Spurrier is committed. Is his quarterback, who has had legal problems?

4. Kentucky -- UK's run of three consecutive bowl wins might be in danger. Mike Hartline must show he can become a solid SEC quarterback. Randall Cobb remains a wild card, in a good way, as a quarterback, punt returner and receiver. Rich Brooks has his best defensive line since coming to Kentucky. He wants to get the Cats into the top 25 on a regular basis before turning things over to coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips.

5. Tennessee -- Behind the bluster, is this: Tennessee isn't particularly good. The offense is going to be painful to watch -- again. Lane Kiffin has yet to sign the quarterback who will define his success in Knoxville. His best hope at the position might be All-American safety Eric Berry who should get some snaps behind center. If the offensive line holds up, maybe super freshman Bryce Brown can keep the Vols in the hunt. Guru Monte Kiffin gets a head start with athletes on his side of the ball. Defense wasn't the problem last season.

6. Vanderbilt -- After going 26 years between bowls, Vandy just might be getting started. Coach Bobby Johnson gets all five offensive line starters back. The defense that allowed less than 20 points per game is stout as well. It will be typical Commodores in that they will struggle to score but hang in with defense. The Nov. 21 regular-season finale at Tennessee could have a lot on the line.

 

 

Posted on: June 29, 2009 3:01 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2009 12:09 pm
 

Picking the Big 12


The Big 12 South Division race, the Big 12 title game, the Heisman race and the national championship hinged on the conference's three-way tiebreaker. We found out about the 11-year-old rule when Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech each tied at 7-1 in the South Division.

Oklahoma "won" the tiebreaker because it finished the regular season as the highest-ranked team in the division  -- by .0128 of a point in the BCS standings. Instead of reliving the Austin angst, let's just say that one Longhorn suggested that if the tiebreaker rule wasn't changed in the offseason his school ought to pull out of the Big 12.

What's changed? Not much. The rule wasn't changed and Texas is still in the league. At the spring meetings, the Big 12 ADs accepted the coaches' vote that the tiebreaker remain the same. Why?

 One theory is that Texas probably doesn't get much sympathy from the other coaches because ... it's Texas. The school is perceived to have the best of everything so it didn't get much sympathy from schools that don't. Yeah, jealousy sucks.

 There is nothing to be gained for schools like Missouri, Iowa State, Colorado, Baylor, etc., so why change? Hey, the league got two teams in the BCS. To the other schools it doesn't matter who plays in those games as long as the money keeps rolling in.

 The tiebreaker makes sense. Why wouldn't you want your highest rated BCS team to win the tiebreaker? There was some feeling that the SEC tiebreaker is fairer.

In a three-way tie, the SEC drops the lowest-ranked team and decides things head-to-head. But since you're chasing a BCS title, the SEC tiebreaker potentially keeps the highest-ranked team out of a title shot.

The tiebreaker would have been a footnote on the national scene had not Texas and Oklahoma been involved. The rivalry was bitter enough without having to explain why the Horns lost out when they beat the Sooners on the field. Yeah, Oklahoma's fortune might cause a bit of consternation in Austin.

"They got a huge break," Texas' Colt McCoy said.

Like I said, nothing has changed. Texas and OU still hate each other. There is a good chance we could have another tiebreaker train wreck at the end of this season. Only the teams will change.


Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could all start the season in the top 10. The Red River Shootout on Oct. 17 shapes up as one of the most intense in the history of the rivalry. Just for controversy's sake let's assume the Horns win in Dallas, they still have to play in Stillwater on Halloween. If the Cowboys win they could win out until a Nov. 28 date in Norman. If the Sooners win that one, we're looking at another three-way 7-1 finish.

Who wins it in the BCS tiebreaker? In that scenario, you'd have to like Oklahoma again. The Texas loss would be six weeks old by then and beating Oklahoma State impressively would be the emphatic final statement for the computers the pollsters. That same thing happened last year when OU blew out Texas Tech.

Closer to the field, for the second consecutive year the Large Dozen remains the conference of quarterbacks. It sports a Heisman winner (Sam Bradford), a runner-up (Colt McCoy) and well as 2009 Heisman candidate Todd Reesing of Kansas. You can add Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, Baylor's Robert Griffin and Texas Tech quarterback du jour Taylor Potts as difference makers.

Just giving you a fair warning, Texas fans. Grow your hair out now. You might be pulling it out in December.

Picking the Big 12 ...


North Division

1. Kansas -- If this were Miami, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Reesing would be on the cover of every preseason mag in the country. Meier is the leading returning receiver in catches per game (10.8). Briscoe is second in receiving yards per game (108.2). Reesing already has led the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl and is in line to become the school's best quarterback ever. Mark Mangino already has proven he can coach. If a new set of starting linebackers can tackle and if KU can beat either Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech (he is a combined 0-9 against the three) this could be a special season. The Jayhawks get the slight edge in the North because the Nebraska game is at home.

2. Nebraska -- Bo Pelini is slowly building Huskerville back to its usual standards. Slowly is the key word because defense is Pelini's thing and the D showed astounding lapses last year. Slowly, because Nebraska has not had a first-team All-American on the defensive line in 12 years. Tackle Ndamukong Suh could break the streak. Some draft boards already have him in the top five. There is little room for error where Pelini is a turned ankle away from having real problems at quarterback. Zac Lee is the guy after Patrick Witt, who was being counted on, left before the spring. A lot of folks think Nebraska has the advantage in the North because of its schedule. I see road trips to Missouri, Baylor, Kansas and Colorado, plus a home game against Oklahoma. Please tell me how that is favorable?

3. Missouri -- The Tigers will take a dip after back-to-back Big 12 North titles. Missouri knows it. The fans know it. The league knows it. The key is trying to make an 8-4 season seem like a success. Six-foot-five Blaine Gabbert takes over for Chase Daniel, only the greatest qb in Missouri history. He would be wise to spread the ball out to 1,000-yard rusher Derrick Washington and receivers Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The Tigers will score, just not as often. If the defense is shored up at all this team could be on the fringes of contending in the North. At times, the secondary looked like a fire drill. Linebacker All-American linebacker candidate Sean Weatherspoon passed up the draft and will chase the school's career tackles record as a senior.

4. Colorado -- Has Hawk Love turned into Hawk Doubt? Entering his fourth season in Boulder, Dan Hawkins has won only 13 games. The pressure is on to produce (hint: Big 12 North contention and a bowl game). Hawkins isn't backing down, saying this at the senior banquet: "Ten wins, no excuses." The quarterback situation is unsettled with son Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen maybe sharing the job again. Freshman tailback sensation Darrell Scott was upstaged by fellow freshman Rodney Stewart who led the team in rushing. Here's the scary thing: In a league with unrelenting offenses, CU has lost six of its top 10 tacklers.

5. Kansas State -- This isn't the old Big Eight for Bill Snyder. Back in 1989, he was taking over Kansas State from a zero position. This time he is chasing his own legacy. Not to diminish what Snyder accomplished, but back in the early 1990s, Missouri and Kansas were jokes and Oklahoma was sliding. There was no Texas to play two out of every four years. The Big 12 has more depth and strength than the Big Eight as Snyder tries for Miracle In Manhattan II. Snyder got K-State from dregs to the brink of a national championship game in nine years. Will the 69-year-old have that much time this time around?

6. Iowa State -- Iowa State swapped coaches with Auburn. Gene Chizik went. Paul Rhoads came. Rhoads, from nearby Ankeny, seems like he wants to stay awhile. He'll be looking up at the rest of the Big 12 North for a while. Ripping Wally Burham from South Florida to be his defensive coordinator was a huge get for Rhoads. The offense will have a chance with dual-threat Austen Arnaud at quarterback


South Division

1. Texas -- Mack Brown smiled when I told I had his pregame speech ready for the OU game. "We beat the Sooners last year, boys. Now let's go out and get some revenge!" Yeah, it's about that and a lot of things for Brown and the Horns. Except for perhaps some suspect running backs, Texas is loaded. Brown has his best team since the 2005 national championship crew. Hybrid defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle should be this season's Brian Orakpo. McCoy is driven not only by the tiebreaker but also his second-place finish in the Heisman. Still, it all boils down to Oct. 17 in Dallas.

2. Oklahoma -- Sam Bradford won the Heisman, became the first quarterback to win back-to-back Big 12 titles and got the Sooners to the national championship game. What is there left to accomplish? Plenty for Bradford who listened to family and advisors and put off the NFL. His body can fill out a bit and it doesn't look like there will be a Matthew Stafford to compete with in the draft this year. Oklahoma's questions are at offensive line and receiver. If this were anywhere else but the Big 12 South, the Sooners would be prohibitive favorites to repeat. With a break here or there, they still might end back up in the national championship game.

3. Oklahoma State -- With apologies to Texas and Oklahoma, this could be the best offense in the Big 12, if not the country. Returning are a 1,500-yard rusher (Kendall Hunter), an All-American receiver (Dez Bryant), and a 65 percent passer with 25 touchdowns (Robinson). The problem remains defense. New defensive coordinator Bill Young is the Cadillac of his profession. Okie State will be better just because of his presence. Perrish Cox is developing into an NFL talent at corner and is one of the nation's best returners.

4. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders slip back to the 8-4 level this season. You know the drill: Potts will throw for eight million yards. There will be a 1,000-yard receiver or two. Mike Leach will be his usual quote-machine self. However, last season was a once-in-10-year event. There is payback waiting at Texas, at Oklahoma State and at Nebraska.

5. Baylor -- Does any Big 12 school have more upside? Joe Pawelek is an All-Big 12 linebacker. Center J.D. Walton anchors the offensive line now that Jason Smith is gone. But let's be honest, the moment quarterback Robert Griffin followed coach Art Briles to Baylor (from his commitment to Houston), things took off. A sprinter with Olympic aspirations, Griffin gave up the Big 12 track season to concentrate on what should be his breakout season in Waco. If there is a one-man team in the league, this is it. Griffin also was the team's No. 2 rusher. With more weight and more knowledge, Griffin should become the most elusive dual-threat in the Big 12 since Vince Young. At stake is a 14-year bowl drought. That ties for the longest active streak among BCS schools.

6. Texas A&M -- One former Big Eight coach said it during the offseason: This is A&M. It should be able to go over to the Houston high schools and scrounge up a couple of defensive linemen. In Mike Sherman's second season, d-line is a good place to start. The one-time Wrecking Crew was Charmin soft as one of the worst defensive units in the country. After the non-conference games, the Aggies gave up less than 35 once. Once! Nineteen players had surgery in the offseason. The Aggies better get fat early. The season ends with Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas.
 

 
 
 
 
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