Tag:Texas Tech
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 
magic.

"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 27, 2008 4:20 pm
 

The next coach at Washington...

No one knows yet but I can tell you that Texas Tech's Mike Leach's name has come up and the coach is interested.

To no one's surprise, Washington's Tyrone Willingham announced Monday he would step down after the season. That was predictable after U-Dub officially dropped out of bowl consideration at 0-7. Please, stop laughing. This is the way things are done. It was certainly a lot classier than what went down at Auburn and Clemson.

Whether Washington is interested in Leach is another deal. Here's what one former coach thinks of Leach and Washington:

"He's kind of made it clear he wants to go someplace in the long run ... (His personality) is not bad, it's just different. I don't think it sells well in an interview. I've always said I'd love to see him in Oklahoma with that talent. Mike Leach, I don't know where you can say he's a perfect fit for because he's an unusual character, but he's a brilliant unusual character.

"That's a place where you can compete in that conference, probably better than 75 percent of the teams in the Pac-10. Neuheisel was smart enough to win there, he wasn't smart enough to mesh with the personality of the people he had to deal with ...

"They have an old-boy group there that is hard to please ... Those boys, they want things like it used to be ... When (former coach Jim) Lambright got hired, he was part of that old school. They loved him because he represented the old. He couldn't quite get the offense cranked up.

"Neuheisel had no chance if he had not screwed up. He won but he doesn'thave the kind of personality that could endear itself. He's so new age ...

"Whoever gets that job is going to have a chance to compete for the conference championship within two or three years. It's a great town, got a great image. You ought to be able to walk into Southern California and compete (in recruiting) with everybody but Southern Cal. If Oregon can't get the players they get and Seattle (meaning Washington) can't, you got to be kidding me."

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: October 25, 2008 7:29 pm
 

A battle for No. 1 in West Texas

The eyes of the college football world next descend upon ... Lubbock?

That's the case next Saturday after No. 1 Texas set up the latest Big 12 (and national) showdown with a 28-24 
victory over Oklahoma State. The Horns end their four-ranked-teams-in-four-weeks run with a trip to Texas Tech. 
Depending on how things shake out, it could be for the No. 1 ranking.

Texas Tech, of course, has never been ranked that high but finds itself in the thick of the national championship 
race after a 63-21 victory at Kansas earlier in the day. Mike Leach's band of pirates are just starting their own 
streak of four ranked teams in a row. Texas comes to Lubbock next week. If it wins Texas Tech could emerge No. 1 for 
the first time in its history.

Texas leads the all-time series 43-14 but Tech has won three of the last 11 meetings, two by former coach Spike 
Dykes. The Raiders haven't beaten the Horns since 2002.

Texas Tech's Graham Harrell was his usual self (386 yards, five touchdowns) but it was the defense that gave the Red 
Raiders hope. Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing had his worst game since high school throwing for only 154 yards.

We found out Harrell's weakness: boredom. After being sacked only once in the first seven games, he was sacked on 
successive plays late in the game. Not that it mattered. Texas Tech scored eight touchdowns in the first three 
quarters then sat back and enjoyed its best start in 32 years (8-0).

In Austin, we finally found out that Colt McCoy has a weakness too. The nation's current Heisman leader nearly 
handed Oklahoma State the game with an interception that set up a field goal and later a fumble at the Cowboys' 10. 
The fumble with 5 1/2 minutes left allowed Oklahoma State a chance to drive for the winning score but Texas tackle 
Lamarr Houston snuffed out a middle screen to stop the Cowboys on fourth down in their own territory.

Good luck getting a ticket. Game tickets are going to be tough enough, but we're talking plane ticket. A quick check 
of Travelocity.com shows the cheapest flight at $424. Then it shoots up to $894. One way. From Dallas.

 The Jets and Sharks, er, Georgia and Florida set up the cocktail party by both winning their games.

 

Who was more impressive? Georgia scored its most points ever in Baton Rouge, routing LSU 52-38. It was the third 
time in 10 games the Tigers have allowed at least 50 points.

Florida went up 35-0 on Kentucky on its way to a 63-5 win. The Gators' scoring drives on their first five touchdowns 
totaled 13 days plays and covered 216 yards. The longest drive lasted 1:43.


 Is there any doubt where the power lies in the Big 12? The South Division went into the Saturday with three of the 
nation's nine undefeated teams and four of the top eight in the BCS. Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma 
averaged 42.5 points in winning their games.

Texas Tech had eight touchdowns in the first three quarters of its 63-21 victory at Kansas. Not to be outdone, 
Oklahoma had eight touchdowns in the first half 80 miles down the road at Kansas State. In the half of the 
Oklahoma-Kansas State game, the teams scored 12 touchdowns. Not counting Oklahoma's punt return for a score, the 
teams averaged 4 plays, 56 yards and 1:26 of possession time on the 11 other touchdown drives.

 In the first half of three early games on the Big 12 schedule - Texas Tech at Kansas, Oklahoma at Kansas State and 
Baylor at Nebraska - the six teams combined for 159 points, 1,723 yards in total offense 63 first downs.

 

Oklahoma's 55 points in the first half at Kansas State is a school record. The previous high for a first half for 
the Sooners was 52 against Rice in 1978. It tied the school record for most points in a half. Oklahoma scored 55 in 
the second half against Texas Tech in 1942. Oklahoma had seven touchdown drives in the first half. That required 29 
plays and covered 343 yards. All of the scoring drives were under two minutes; the longest drive required 1:45.
In case you're wondering, the 73 points scored by both teams on the Oklahoma-Kansas State game doesn't come close to 
the NCAA record for most points in a half. North Texas 49, Navy 45 set the record last year (94).


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 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 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.

 

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