Posted on: December 3, 2008 10:31 am

National notes

Expect a lot of Big 12-SEC sniping going forward because we're assured of a national championship game between the two best conferences. Here is a heck of a place to start ...

I understand who Gary Danielson works for and where his loyalties are but he dropped quite a bomb this week when the CBS analyst ripped the Big 12:

"This year there is a distortion about how good the Big 12 is," said CBS' color analyst on SEC games. "It's illogical that there are three teams in the Big 12 that are 1, 2 and 4 (actually 3, 4 and 8). To me it means a weakness in the rest of the league."

Three in the top 10 is a weakness? What kind of logic are we supposed to apply, then, to the SEC which has Nos. 1 and 2? The league must be really weak to have two teams ... in the top two.

"The (offensive) stats in the Big 12 are like pesos to me," Danielson continued, suggesting those numbers are devalued.


The criticism, obviously, is of the Big 12 defenses. That's a valid point but let's make these things clear. 1) These are major-college athletes, several of which will play in the NFL. We're not talking the WAC here. 2) This is the best the Big 12 has been in its 13-year existence. 3) We should all agree that the SEC and Big 12 are far and away the best leagues this season.

I've already make a case for the Big 12 being slightly ahead using the third-team tiebreaker. The third-best team in the Big 12 is 11-1 Texas Tech. The third-best team in the SEC might be 8-4 Ole Miss.

If Big 12 numbers are pesos, what's the exchange rate on all those Alabama sacks against inept SEC offenses?

My point all season has been that the excellence of the Big 12 and SEC should be embraced. Defense isn't necessarily better than offense. It's just the way the conferences have developed this season.

Me: Why are all those stats piled up in the Big 12 considered "pesos" and the fact they're playing 3-2 games in the SEC different? Why is one better than the other?

Danielson: "The SEC has better defensive players. It has better defensive linemen, more NFL linebackers. Go check out the draft the last 10-15 years and find out where the NFL players (are).

The NFL doesn't draft guys because they've got nice uniforms or come from a conference that's highly rated in the BCS. There are more NFL-ready bodies in this league than any other league in this frame of time. But right now there's a deficiency of quarterbacks in this league.

You might be a pretty good quarterback. You might be able to survive in another league. If you aren't really good in this league they'll chew you up."

More Danielson on the Big 12 tiebreaker controversy: "I know it can't happen, I'm just throwing it out there: They should just ask Missouri to step aside (to be replaced by Texas). This is a once in a lifetime thing ... I wish, the commissioner of the Big 12 would have said, for the good of the conference let's let them replay this thing in the Big 12 championship."

A glimpse into how CBS is going to promote Saturday's SEC title game: "This essentially is what amounts to a BCS semifinal," said Mike Aresco, CBS vice president, programming. "I racked my brain to see whether I could remember a previous situation like this. I can't remember when the winner would almost be assured a spot."

Good call. There have been seven 1 vs. 2 games (ranked in AP) since January 2005. This is the first 1-2 game in a conference championship contest. The last three consecutive 1 vs. 2 games have involved SEC teams. However, this is the first 1 vs. 2 game in AP poll history featuring two SEC teams.

Hmm, must signify a weakness in the rest of the league.


 Say goodbye to the Big 12 championship game in Kansas City this week.


One of the unintended consequences of Kansas' defeat of Missouri on Saturday was that it probably sealed Jerry Jones argument that the Big 12 championship game should be moved permanently to Dallas.

The footing was so bad for the annual Border War game at Arrowhead Stadium that the quality of play likely will be used as ammunition against Kansas City. The game was played in a combination of snow, sleet and rain. It looked like the field had never been covered prior to the precipitation.

Missouri plays at Arrowhead for the second consecutive week Saturday, this time against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. Looking at game tape this week, OU coach Bob Stoops called the conditions "horrible."

The Cowboys owner, building a state-of-the-art stadium in the Dallas suburbs, is on record as saying he wants to host the Big 12 game on a permanent basis. The Big 12 game will be played in the new indoor stadium in 2009 and 2010.

Moving the game permanently would be a shame. The tradition of the old Big Eight has been moved out of its Kansas City brick-by-brick over the years. First, the office was relocated to Dallas, then the Big 12 basketball tournament was taken away and shared around the region.

A fair trade-off would be Kansas City getting the basketball tournament in a permanent basis and Dallas getting football. We all know that what Jerry wants, Jerry gets.

 Here's what is wrong with the conference championship games: Missouri.


It is perhaps the most undeserving team in a league title game this weekend. The darlings of 2007 have limped to the finish line in 2008, eventually ended tied with Nebraska for the Big 12 North.

The Tigers played like a team that had clinched a division title Saturday in losing to rival Kansas 40-37. One of the best games in the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi also pointed up how far the Tigers had fallen emotionally.

They mailed in an effort early on falling behind Kansas 26-10. By the time they woke up, the Jayhawks had confidence and a porous Missouri defense of which to take advantage.

The shame is that if Missouri somehow rallies and beats No. 4 Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, a BCS bowl would be a false reward.

The Tigers, 9-3, have no signature wins, have beaten one, long-ago ranked team (Illinois) and are coming off perhaps their worst effort of the season . Kansas coach Mark Mangino stated afterward he had 10 players who couldn't walk at the beginning of the week.  The Jayhawks willed themselves onto the field.

The Tigers mailed it in. But, they are in the Big 12 game and if by some miracle they are able to defeat the Sooners, they will be playing in the Fiesta Bowl.

Danielson might be right on that one. Missouri should step aside. Texas is waiting.

Posted on: November 27, 2008 11:45 pm

Texas makes its final statement

So is that enough?

Is the second-largest victory in the series enough?

Texas sure thinks so but there are a couple of more precincts be heard from on Saturday.

One thing is for sure after Texas' 49-9 victory over hapless Texas A&M on Thursday. Mack Brown continues to leave points on the field. Much like he did two weeks ago against Kansas, Brown called off the dogs in the fourth quarter. The Horns could have scored a couple of more touchdowns but Brown figured that 49 was enough. There is a fine line between beating an opponent and piling on. Brown seems to have found it.

Now, how does a 40-point win over a doormat at home translate to the burden on Oklahoma on Saturday. The Sooners will be on the road against a much tougher opponent. It might be that any kind of victory vaults Oklahoma over Texas in the BCS standings. In case you've forgotten, Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma are headed for a three-way tie in the Big 12 South.

Saturday's action will close the loop on the four common opponents for the three teams -- Texas A&M, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas.

Oklahoma has beaten three of the four (with Okie State still to go) by an average of 27.3 points.

Texas has beaten all four by an average of 26.5

Tech has been three of the four (with Baylor still to go) by an average of 32.

While Bob Stoops says he is through campaigning, Texas is not. Signs were passed out before the game reading "45-35" reminding voters of the score of the Oklahoma game on Oct. 11. There is even a rumor that a plane will be flying over Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday trailed by a banner with the score.

Hey, no one said it was going to be classy. 


Posted on: November 23, 2008 10:09 am
Edited on: November 23, 2008 4:02 pm

The BCS and Big 12 South breakdown

The BCS doesn't come out until after 7 p.m. ET on Sunday but here's a best guess of how the top five will look.

1. Alabama

2. Texas

3. Oklahoma

4. Florida

5. Utah

6. USC

7. Texas Tech

Both human polls (Harris and coaches) have put Oklahoma ahead of Texas which should cause some consternation in certain quarters. The Longhorns beat the Sooners but OU obviously is playing better than anyone in the country with the possible exception of Florida.

"Hopefully they (voters) forget about that," Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box when reminded that his team lost to Texas.

For now, they have.

--Now the skinny on the three-way tie in the Big 12 South ... Who would you pick right now?


Why they're in this position:  Blake Gideon, Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree.

Texas had Tech beat in Lubbock until it gave the ball back with 1:29 left in the Nov. 1 game. Harrell was able to drive the team down for the game-winning touchdown with one second left. But that was only after Gideon, a Texas defensive back, dropped a tipped pass that would have ended Tech's drive.

Crabtree made an amazing catch against double coverage and tight-roped the sidelines into the end zone for a 39-33 victory.

Ranked teams beaten (ranking at time of kickoff): No. 1 Oklahoma 45-35; No. 11 Missouri 56-31; No. 7 Oklahoma State 28-24.

Common opponent with other two teams: Defeated Kansas 35-7.

Schedule strength (Sagarin): No. 5 (up from No. 7 last week)

BCS ranking going into Sunday: No. 3

Argument for:  Defeated three teams ranked in the top 11, including No. 1 Oklahoma. Colt McCoy is this year's version of Tim Tebow leading the Horns in rushing and passing. Will Muschamp's defense might not be impressive statistically but it is a big play group and is coming off its best performance of the season against Kansas.

Argument against: Not much of one except that it didn't play on Saturday while Oklahoma got all the national love. If Texas doesn't get to the Big 12 title game it will be because of a six-point loss on the road with one second left against Texas Tech.

Regular-season game remaining: Thursday vs. Texas A&M


Texas Tech

Why they're in this position: Worst game of the season came at the worst possible time.

Ranked teams beaten (ranking at time of kickoff): No. 19 Kansas 63-21; No. 1 Texas 39-33; No. 8 Oklahoma State 56-20.

Common opponent with other two teams:  Defeated Kansas 63-21.

Schedule strength (Sagarin): No. 19 (up from No. 50 last week)

BCS ranking going into Sunday: No. 2

Argument for: Defeated No. 1 (Texas), last week's Heisman frontrunner (Harrell) and the nation's best receiver (Crabtree). But there's more than this high-flying offense. Texas Tech has been well -rounded most of the season with a serviceable running game and effective defense. Until Saturday.

Suddenly Tech has the best schedule strength of the three jumping from No. 50 to No. 19. Until Saturday, Utah State has played a tougher overall schedule than Texas Tech.

Argument against: You can't lose by 44 on national television on Nov. 22 and expect to play for a national championship, much less a Big 12 title.

But both are still a possibility.

Regular-season game remaining: Saturday vs. Baylor


Why they're in this position:  Colt McCoy. Texas' quarterback had a career day on Oct. 11. The Sooners led by five with 12 minutes but were outscored 15-0 down the stretch the day in beating Oklahoma.

Other than that, Kansas (14) has been the only team to get within 22 points of OU.

Ranked teams beaten (ranked at the time of kickoff): No. 24 TCU, 35-10; No. 2 Texas Tech, 65-21.

Common opponent with other two teams: Defeated Kansas 45-31.

Schedule strength (Sagarin): No. 26 (up from No. 42 last week)

BCS ranking going into Sunday: No. 5

Argument for: Playing the best right now. OU has laid waste to its opponents since losing to Texas. It has won successive games by 14, 23, 34, 38 and 44 points.

Sam Bradford leads the country in touchdown passes and seems to be the new Heisman leader.

Argument against: Beat Tech which beat Texas which beat Oklahoma. Oh no, here we go again.

Regular-season game remaining: Saturday at Oklahoma State

Posted on: November 5, 2008 5:54 pm

Don't rule out Bill Snyder returning at K-State

The old Kansas State is close to returning.

The old Kansas State led the country in losses.  The old K-State was barely a Division I-A program before it made a lucky, once-in-a-millennium hire that just happened to pan out.

The old K-State became the new K-State when Bill Snyder arrived in 1989.

What's old could be new again.

When coach Ron Prince was dumped on Wednesday, Snyder's name immediately came to mind as a short-term savior. After Prince's purple reign, K-State is fragile, wounded, about to fall back into that deep, dark hole from whence it crawled out of 20 years ago.

The next hire better be the right hire or the program's death spiral is waiting around the corner. In the best of times, Kansas State football was a porcelain mouse.  It took Snyder five years to get the Wildcats to a minor bowl.  They won one Big 12 title in his 17 seasons.  After that, they should have waived the mandatory waiting period and elected Snyder immediately to the College Football Hall of Fame.

I'm not saying Snyder should go on for 10 more years. His legacy is gold. No coach, ever, will accomplish what Snyder did. I'm saying he should make some deal with administration to get the program back on its feet. Whether that means hand-picking the next coach or becoming the next coach.

There are worse things K-State can do than let Snyder take over for a couple of years. Look what two-plus seasons got them with Prince.

AD Bob Krause said he would like to hire a new coach before the end of the current season. That seemed odd. Krause would not rule out Snyder as candidate saying first Snyder would be used in a "consulting" role. When I asked, "Consulting or consideration (as a new coach)?" Krause said, "Consulting basis, then move on from there."

It is known that Snyder was homesick for coaching after he "retired" after the 2005 season.  It probably didn't help Snyder's jones that president Jon Wefald didn't listen to the coach when the school's CEO hired Prince.

And make no mistake, this is on Wefald. He hired a guy who was tough on his players and tougher on his assistant coaches.  I ran into Prince's former representative a few weeks ago. The man was flying to Kansas to give depositions in a lawsuit against the coach. The figure in question was reportedly $64,000.

What Division I-A, major-college coach goes to court over $64,000?

After a 38-29 loss to Louisville on Sept. 17, the defense reportedly was made to run 50-yard dashes for every point given up upon the team's arrival back in Manhattan.  In the middle of the night.

That Prince lasted less than three years, admits a colossal mistake on Wefald's part.

After going to a bowl in his first season with Snyder's players, Prince was exposed. He beat Texas twice but was winless against the school's three biggest rivals -- Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.

But something else was at work here. Prince is 16-18 in his third season. Within the Big 12, though, two other successful coaches were in a similar situation and given time to turn things around. Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy was 18-19 in his first three seasons before getting the Cowboys into the top 10 in 2008. Kansas' Mark Mangino, the 2007 national coach of the year, as 12-24 in his first three seasons.

Prince wasn't the first choice of many of the administrators and power brokers when Snyder retired. Snyder might be the only choice now.

Some candidates

Terry Bowden, former Auburn coach -- If Wefald wants the alums energized with a name coach, this is his guy.

Gary Patterson, TCU -- Played at Kansas State. Native Kansan. Has coached TCU to the brink of a BCS bowl.

Brent Venables, Oklahoma defensive coordinator -- Former Snyder assistant at K-State. Didn't get a sniff before Prince was hired.


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: September 13, 2008 10:12 am

Ohio State "doubtful" for USC game

I'm looking out of my hotel window and I don't see any scarlet and gray bodies throwing themselves off the roof here in L.A.

That's the good news for Ohio State. Other than that, it's hard to find a way the Buckeyes are going to win The Slap Fight in South Central. No running game with Beanie out (we'll see). An immobile quarterback, Todd Boeckman, facing Pete Carroll's best defense.

I'm here to get the Bucknuts off suicide watch:

About the only place Ohio State has an advantage is in the defensive secondary.  Cornerback Donald Washington and safety Jamario O'Neal both come back from suspensions today. The USC receivers still aren't an overly assertive bunch. If the Bucks can beat up the receivers and somehow -- somehow -- make USC one dimensional then they have a chance.

That said, USC has a huge advantage on defense. The three-headed tailback monster that is Maurice Wells, Brandon Saine and Dan Herron isn't going to be good enough. That brings me back to my Tuesday assessment: It's got to be Terrelle Pryor's game. He is the best hope Ohio State has of winning this game.


 Just when the Big East was looking for a go-to team, South Florida might be it. Jim Leavitt found a kicker (freshman Maikon Bonani) just in time to beat Kansas 37-34. What a strange game. Kansas blew a 20-3 lead. South Florida blew a 34-20 lead. Then Todd Reesing, the heart and soul of the Jayhawks, threw a crippling interception with 30 seconds left to set up the game-winning kick.


The Bulls (3-0) should jump into the top 15 this week. Kansas (2-1) still looks like a 9-3 team to me.


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