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Posted on: August 29, 2008 9:31 am

Opening night thoughts

A lot of mediocre-to-bad football Thursday night. Some observations:

 It's going to be a long season for North Carolina State, 34-0 losers to South Carolina. Even with quarterback Russell Wilson, who was carted off the field with a concussion, the Wolfpack struggled to score points. You can see why 2007 incumbent Daniel Evans couldn't keep the job. When he replaced Wilson, the offense went from unproductive to putrid.


 The most impressive NC State player to me was Nate Irving, a redshirt sophomore linebacker who seemed to be in on every tackle. The Wolfpack did intercept four Tommy Beecher passes which might say more about South Carolina's offense than NC State's defense.

 Kirby Freeman went from Miami to Baylor to bench. After the quarterback's celebrated transfer from Coral Gables, 
he couldn't even make it through the first half against Wake Forest. Coach Art Briles kept his starter a secret up 
until kickoff. Why? Baylor just might have itself a quarterback of the future in true freshman Robert Griffin. The 
big-time recruit replaced the stiff, laconic Freeman and led the Bears to their only two scores. Not bad for a 
native of Japan. (His dad was military)

Briles is evaluating his options for next week against Northwestern State. Again, why? Let Griffin take this sunken ship over and try to raise it.

 Alphonso Smith is the truth. Wake Forest's preseason All-American corner is all that. He had an interception and 
tipped away a pass in the end zone in the first half. The Human Turnover Machine (12 by himself last season) has 15 
career interceptions.


 Wow, what was the deal with the Stanford crowd? I know it was a Thursday night in Palo Alto -- usually Pinochle night in P.A. -- but this was the season opener (against Oregon State). The announced crowd was 30,223 in 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium. That seemed very charitable.


 This is a sign of inexperience: Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao "threw" a safety. That's hard to do. Moevao 
dropped back from deep in his own territory to throw a swing pass. It was actually a backward pass that passed through the end zone and went out of bounds. The Beavers turned it over three times (five fumbles, one lost) in a 36-28 loss to the Cardinal.


 By the way what is Oregon State doing opening the season on the road against two BCS conference opponents? It goes 
to Penn State next week.


 My opening-night hero is Stanford's Toby Gerhart. Returning from a torn PCL he ran for 147 yards against the Beavs (No. 1 against the rush D in 2007). Not a huge deal, I just can't remember the last time a tailback of any substance was named Toby.


 Good luck to Ryan Perrilloux. His numbers were nice -- 203 yards in total offense -- but Georgia Tech was never 
threatened in a 41-14 victory over Jacksonville State. The opponent was only I-AA but Paul Johnson's triple option 
produced 349 rushing yards.

Posted on: August 24, 2008 12:14 pm

Remember Miami's quarterback tradition?

It used to mean something. Now we get news a week before the opener Hurricanes' starter Robert Marve has been suspended for a game.

The Miami quarterback position might not have been this unsure in the last 20 years. Coming off a disappointing 5-7 season, it needs all the momentum it can get. In a way, it's kind of refreshing that coach Randy Shannon came down this hard after a forgettable incident last October. Freshman Jacory Harris will start in the opener against Charleston Southern. That means Marve will get his first start at Florida on Sept. 6. Good luck with that.

Check the bottom of the story. There may be some more suspensions coming. I don't know about you but I'm staying with Shannon for as long as I can if this thing starts to turn bag. Although it's easy to suspend a quarterback for a punching bag like Charleston Southern, Miami football is in a frail spot right now. It needs to get Marve as many snaps as possible. It will hurt the Canes that their No. 1 quarterback will make his debut in The Swamp.

How many coaches would have ignored last fall's incident or made the offender run stadium steps? A lot. Randy Shannon stands for something besides winning.






Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 12, 2008 7:28 pm

Five things you should know about the ACC


1. It's now a 900-pound gorilla: The polite thing to say would be the ACC has an image problem. Yes, the ACC is 1-9 
in BCS bowls. It's lone win was almost nine years ago (Florida State over Virginia Tech in 2000 Sugar Bowl). In 
2006, conference teams were 4-9 against BCS conference schools. After last season, the ACC was 2-6 in bowl games.

There were 35 ACC players taken in the draft, but that's almost an indictment. Why hasn't that talent translated to 
the field?

2. Yes, Clemson there is a lot of pressure: If Tommy Bowden doesn't do it this year then he never will ... No, we 
won't go there. Anything is possible in the fluid ACC but you get the feeling that a window is closing at Clemson. 
Miami and Florida State aren't going to be down forever. Virginia Tech is tough every year. The Tigers are loaded on offense and the schedule sets up right considering the Tigers don't play their first true road game until Oct. 9. If Clemson doesn't beat Wake Forest that night in a key Atlantic Division game, the dream could be over.

3. No Miami, No FSU: Another year, another season without the league's two power teams being a factor. Both programs are rebuilding. If you had to pick between them, take FSU. The offense has to get better in Jimbo Fisher's second  season (doesn't it?). When was the last time Miami went into a season with this much uncertainty at quarterback?

4. Duke will be better: The Blue Devils are 1-31 in the league since expansion but you get the impression that David Cutcliffe is about to accomplish something special. The administration is finally getting the hint that football 
doesn't have to be an embarrassment. They're paying Cutcliffe and paying for better facilities. Cutcliffeville, 

5. When in doubt, pick Virginia Tech: Beamerball is one of the most consistent things in college football. The Hokies are always in the hunt and always play tough. They're 27-5 in conference play over the last four years.


Posted on: August 1, 2008 10:03 pm

Georgia, you're on the clock

So now it's on for Georgia, a program that has never been a preseason No. 1.

The Bulldogs debuted at on top of the coaches' poll Friday, which is nice for about 13 seconds in the SEC. Now the pressure builds. The Bulldogs will face something eight coaches this season who have won national championships. The schedule is tougher than breakfast steak. And how weird is this: Florida is ranked No. 5 but was picked over Georgia in the preseason media poll to win the SEC.

Only two teams in the last 10 years have gone wire to wire, USC in 2004 and Florida State in 1999.

 The good news: Five of the last six preseason No. 1s in the coaches' poll have at least played in the BCS championship game. USC broke a streak of five in a row last season.

The breakdown of the last six preseason No. 1s:

2002: Miami lost the BCS championship game to Ohio State

2003: Oklahoma lost the BCS championship game to LSU

2004:  USC beat Oklahoma (preseason No. 2) in the BCS championship game

2005: USC lost the BCS championship game to Texas

2006: Ohio State lost the BCS championship game to Florida

2007: No. 2 LSU beat Ohio State (preseason No. 10) in the BCS championship game. Preseason No. 1 USC finished No. 2 in the coaches poll.


Posted on: July 14, 2008 11:47 pm

Eight schools, 12 great dynasties

These are other great college football dynasties to go along with the Pete Carroll story...

Alabama, 1961-66, 1971-79: The two-time defending champions went 11-0 in 1966 and finished <em>No. 3</em> in the final polls. Bear's second run included national championships in 1973, 1978 and 1979. Bama is spending $4 million a year on Nick Saban in hopes of getting back to those days.

Army 1944-50: Doc Blanchard, Glenn Davis, Red Blaik and consecutive national championships in 1944-45. There were three in a row if you count the Helms Athletic Foundation giving Army its No. 1 ranking in 1946, which we don't.

Florida State 1987-2000: Fourteen consecutive years with a top four finish in the AP poll. From upset kings to ACC kings, FSU ruled the country in that span, at least as far as the Florida panhandle. Bowden is hoping for national title No. 3 before Jimbo Fisher takes over.

Miami , 1983-2002: The Canes changed everything from fashion to end-zone celebrations to the game itself.  It's hard to argue with five national championships under four different coaches. This dynasty lasted so long that a member of the 1987 title team, Randy Shannon, is now the coach.

Nebraska, 1970-1999: Nebraska started dominating college football with Bob Devaney's back-to-back championships in 1970-71. Tom Osborne went on to win 84 percent of his games from 1973-97. That included three national championships and 13 conference titles.

Notre Dame, 1919-30, 1943-49: Knute Rockne won 105 games in 13 years establishing the Fighting Irish -- and college football -- as a national passion. Frank Leahy won 86 percent of his games including four national championships in two different coaching terms.

Oklahoma, 1948-58, 1971-85: Bud Wilkinson was the mastermind behind what might be the most unbreakable record in the game, 47-consecutive victories. The second run includes Barry Switzer's three national championships in 1974, 1975 and 1985. Bob Stoops has a nice little run going himself with a championship and five Big 12 titles this decade.

USC, 1967-1979, 2002-present:  John McKay and John Robinson combined to win seven Rose Bowls and four national championships in the first dominant 13-year run. Pete Carroll came within 19 seconds of becoming the first coach to win three consecutive national championships in 2005.

Posted on: July 1, 2008 4:25 pm

Getting it Richt

(Note: We sat down with Georgia coach Mark Richt last week at the College World Series. It has been an eventful offseason for the Bulldogs coach. He has been to Honduras with approximately 25 players on a Christian goodwill mission. He also joined Yale coach Jack Siedlecki, Miami's Randy Shannon, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville on a tour of Iraq and the Middle East.

At the end he was most moved by a letter handed to him by a soldier. Richt quoted the soldier as writing, "Tell your team and anybody in American that will listen that we believe in our cause and we are not doing this in vain.") 

Dodds and Ends: Is it possible for the momentum from winning the Sugar Bowl to carry over to this season?

Richt: "Like I've been saying, all the momentum that was built, people build it, players, leaders. I like to describe last year that we somehow found the heartbeat of our team. We somehow rode it out the rest of the year. The culture is very healthy when it comes to work ethic, attitude.

We have a bunch of guys who want to be great. This year's guys will have a job of maintenance. It's not like they have to start this train from a stop. Keep it rolling. The juniors and seniors we got are just super hard workers.

We don't even have a senior lineman in the program, just a bunch of guys who love the grind. We know the SEC East is difficult every year. Our West opponents are Auburn, Alabama, LSU and we always play Georgia Tech. Decided to go to Tempe, Ariz. and play a preseason top 10 (Arizona State). Those coaches we're facing are responsible for nine national championships. No matter how good we might be, everybody is else is just as good."

D&E: What's harder to win a national championship in football or baseball? (Georgia, the SEC champion, lost the best-of-three championship series in baseball to Fresno State)

Richt: "I think it would be pretty comparable. Baseball seems like you've got to get hot at the right time. You look at Fresno State what were they the regular season (33-27)? If you have that regular season in football it's over. In football, the margin of error all season long is much smaller.

"My comments were a year ago were: as the season goes on we're going to be a very good team. I just hope we win enough in the beginning to be in the race at the end. As it was happening we were fighting for our lives until everybody else started losing and we kept winning. All we needed was Tennessee to lose one more time."

D&E: You've been on two fairly significant trips this offseason.

Richt: "This was my second trip to Honduras. Both of them were no brainers. You go. When they asked me to go the Middle East, I said, 'I'll go. I'll make it work.'

"They (soldiers) knew who we were. They just loved the fact we came. They were fired up. I didn't know how we'd be received to be honest with you. I thought we'd cheer them up. They cheered me up.  It was like going to a Touchdown Club. We'd get into an auditorium, there'd be a section of Bulldog fans.

"Coach Tuberville coached a flag team against Coach Shannon and Coach Siedlecki. Charlie, he wanted to have the whistle. He was officiating. That was the thrill of a lifetime. One girlfriend of one the players on my team said it was like Christmas when we showed up. He said it was the very best day since they'd been there. They just loved it.

She wrote me a long letter to say thank you."



Category: NCAAF
Posted on: March 29, 2008 1:24 pm

Celebrity sightings in Phoenix

(notes from the West Region where today it's going to be a chilly 87)

--Russell Jacobson, third-round choice of the Phillies in 1999 (96th overall) is a good guy. Trust me on this because Russell is working these days at Zen, a trendy bistro in downtown Phoenix. After serving up my lettuce wraps the other night, he told me how proud he was of his new son.

He had given the baseball thing a try for six or seven years then moved on. We clicked when he told me he went to the College World Series three times with Miami. The CWS is the best. So is Russell.

--Thanks to Ken Kendrick, the Arizona Diamondbacks managing general partner. I wanted to meet Ken because I'd used him as a source on a couple of West Virginia columns. Friday night was perfect. The D-backs were playing an exhibition game against Colorado and -- what do you know -- I was there. We chatted for about 15 minutes in his seats down near the field. What a down-to-earth guy. He's a rabid Mountaineer booster and alum who still thinks Bill Stewart might have a few problems in replacing Rich Rodriguez.

--To the East German security guard who was in the breakout room with Kevin Love on Friday: Relax, dude. The media can police itself.

Here's the deal: On the off day at the regionals, there's a press conference then the players each go to their own room to do one-on-ones. The NCAA apparently has deemed that "moderators" accompany the helpless athletes. As I mentioned, Friday's moderator was way to full of himself telling us at one point to sit down so the cameras could get a shot.

Point is, we had Kevin Love going. What a great kid. What a great personality. He was really in the mood to talk and Mr. Moderator really ruined the momentum.



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