Posted on: November 19, 2008 12:28 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2008 1:16 pm

National notes

The golden era of Buffalo football was 50 years ago. That's what makes this week so special.

Beat Bowling Green on Friday and the Bulls clinch the MAC East and play for the MAC title, which would guarantee them their first bowl game. They are led by an African-American coach (Turner Gill) and an African-American athletic director (Warde Manuel).

 Fifty years ago, the Bulls had an invite to play in their first bowl game, the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla. One stipulation: The game was being in a stadium controlled by a local school district that didn't allow integrated games.

There wasn't even a vote. The Bulls refused the invitation standing solidly behind their black teammates -- Willie Evans and Mike Wilson.

"They insulted two of our teammates," former quarterback Joe Oliverio told the Associated Press, "and we were going to hit them back between the ears by refusing to go without our teammates."

Fifty years later, Syracuse has a wonderful opportunity to carry on that legacy. Not necessarily because Gill is an African-American but, yes, that is part of it. Much higher on the list is the chance to turn around a moribund program. Gill has done what few thought was impossible, transforming a fledgling I-A program into being competitive.

That's all Buffalo was asking when it hired him three years ago. But this is above and beyond. The Bulls (6-4) already are bowl eligible. A victory Friday puts them in that first MAC title game.

A year ago Gill was mentioned in the Nebraska coaching search if for no other reason than to appease the Big Red masses. The former Nebraska option quarterback ran one of the highest scoring offenses in the game's history. In becoming a 1983 Heisman Trophy finalist, Gill guided Nebraska to within a missed two-point conversion of the national championship.

That was a quarter-century ago. Fast forward to 2007 and a change of career paths. Gill wasn't ready for Nebraska and not with a 7-17 career record.

But Gill is perfect, now -- right now! -- for Syracuse. The program that desperately needs to hit a home run with its next hire has one sitting right down the interstate. Gill is young, enough (46) and energetic enough to undertake the massive rebuilding job it's going to take to resurrect the program.

Think about this: Syracuse probably is in no position to be grabbing big-name coaches. It desperately needs one who is hungry. What Gill has done at Buffalo in only three seasons is one of the most underrated stories this season.

Of course, it didn't become a big story until the Bulls beat Akron in overtime on Saturday. That meant bowl eligibility and a chance at the conference title.
I just amazed myself typing those words.

Getting Buffalo to win anything is like transforming elephant into an Olympic sprinter. It has been in I-A only nine years. 
Gill's career record is a modest 13-21 but consider where Buffalo had been before this point. The program has consecutive five-win seasons for the first time since 1981. The program was 10-69 in seven previous seasons before moving to Division I-A in 1999.

"How come it can't happen?" Gill said. "That's what I told this football team when I first came in here. I said to them, 'We will be successful here and I will not be ashamed of being the head football coach at the University at Buffalo.'"

Far from it. Oh, and Gill can recruit.

 Senior quarterback Drew Willy drew interest from Pittsburgh, Syracuse and UConn but those schools weren't exactly knocking down his door. Syracuse got rid of Paul Pasqualoni which soured Willy on the Orange. Gill them proved himself as a quarterback maker. Willy has thrown 45 career touchdowns and is currently third in MAC passing.


 Kicker A.J. Principe was a player no one wanted out of Columbus, Ohio. Gill gave him a chance to walk on. The sophomore has 25 career field goals making 73 percent of his kicks. And a scholarship.


 Receiver Naaman Roosevelt was the New York state co-player. His only offer was from I-AA New Hampshire. Now he leads the MAC in receiving yards.


A couple of years ago, Buffalo played Bowling Green in a game that lasted more than five hours because of lightning delays. When the teams meet Friday, it could mark the fastest three hours in Buffalo football history. Win, and the Bulls are in.


 mgoblog.com is reporting that Michigan tailback Sam McGuffie is transferring.



 More from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe on Obama's playoff talk:


"Look at our league, you talk about turning up the pressure. In our league those that have annual expectations -- Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas.  Let's say one of them isn't in (a playoff) for three or four years, their coaches aren't going to make it, the season ticket sales may go down, the bowls aren't going to be satisfied if they're not in it. An eight-team playoff is not going to accommodate more than two teams from a conference. You're going to put the pressure on."


 Part of the Mountain West's success includes complete domination of the Pac-10 and the best record of any conference against BCS conference teams (9-5). The conference is so good, though, that it me shopping for a bowl.


It is contracted to four bowls but the nine-team league could have six bowl eligible teams if Colorado State and UNLV (both 5-6) win this week.

Utah could relieve some of the pressure by beating BYU. That would push the Utes up to a BCS bowl. However, if BYU wins that could mean four bowl spots for six teams.


 By the way look for Utah's Kyle Whittingham to get a contract extension after the season He is in the fourth year of a six-year deal.



 It's interesting to look back at the first Power Poll on August 31. Here's the top 10 from back then. Five of the 
10 are still in the mix.


1. Ohio State -- Beat Michigan and it shares the Big Ten title.
2. Oklahoma -- The Texas loss probably keeps OU from being No. 1 at this point.
3. USC -- Ever hear of Jacquizz Rodgers?
4. Missouri -- Another victim of the Big 12 South.
5. Georgia -- Wasn't Knowshon Moreno supposed to be a Heisman candidate?
6. Florida -- Forget Tebow, Brandon Spikes for Heisman.
7. LSU -- Jarrett Lee has legally changed his name to "Pick Six".
8. West Virginia -- You're kidding, right?
9. Texas -- One loss, on the road, on the last offensive play of the game to No. 2 Texas Tech.
10. Auburn -- Wheeze, cough, cough. Don't wait for me to catch up. Go on ahead. The wolves will end my misery.

 Question: The day Will Muschamp becomes Texas head coach, will he be one of the few head coaches who calls his own defensive plays? I can only think of two at the moment, TCU's Gary Patterson and Western Kentucky's Dave Elson.


Posted on: November 12, 2008 11:49 am

National notes

The BCS bowls right now ...

BCS title game: Alabama/Florida vs. Texas/Texas Tech/Oklahoma
Orange: ACC vs. Utah/Boise
Fiesta: Texas/Texas Tech/Oklahoma vs. Ohio State
Sugar: Alabama/Florida loser vs. Big East
Rose: Penn State vs. USC
Notes: The SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten get two teams ... The Fiesta Bowl gets the first and third picks in this scenario ... That leaves the Sugar with the Big East chumps, er, champs ... Orange definitely gets the non-BCS team because it picks last. No one is going to take Utah or Boise ahead of it because those schools just aren't new stories.
 Your official ACC tiebreaker scenarios direct from the ACC office.

First, 10 of 12 teams are still alive for the ACC title including Duke, in last place in the Coastal Division at 4-5 and 1-4. Other than that, take a couple of Advil and read on.

Atlantic Division

Florida State (7-2, 4-2) -- beat Boston College and Maryland to finish the season and hope someone beats Wake Forest. FSU currently loses a tiebreaker to the Deacons.

Wake Forest (6-3, 4-2) -- needs to beat N.C. State and Boston College and hope someone defeats Maryland.

Maryland (6-3, 3-2) -- controls its own destiny. Beat North Carolina, Florida State and Boston College and it is in.

Boston College (6-3, 2-3) -- controls its own destiny. Needs to win at Florida State, at Wake Forest and at home against Maryland to win the division.

Clemson (4-5, 2-4) -- Can't win the division.

N.C. State (3-6, 1-4) -- Can't win the division.

Coastal Division

North Carolina (7-2, 3-2) -- win out against Maryland, N.C. State and Duke and hope someone beats Virginia Tech.

Miami (6-3, 3-2) -- win out against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and N.C. State and hope North Carolina loses one more game.

Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) -- Controls its own destiny by beating Miami, Duke and Virginia.

Georgia Tech (7-3, 4-3) -- needs to beat Miami and have North Carolina lose twice, Virginia lose to Clemson and Virginia Tech lost two of its remaining three games (one to Virginia).

Virginia (5-5, 3-3) -- needs to beat Clemson and Virginia Tech and have someone beat both Miami and North Carolina

Duke (4-5, 1-4) -- beat Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina to finish 4-4 in the division. Then, have Virginia lose to Clemson and beat Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech beat Miami and lose to Duke and Virginia. Georgia Tech lose to Miami and have Miami lose to Virginia Tech, beat Georgia Tech and lose to N.C. State. In addition, have North Carolina beat Maryland, but lose to N.C. State and Duke.

Got all that?


 All is not lost for Penn State.


There is a convoluted way that Joe Paterno can get to the national championship game.

1. Penn State wins out to go 11-1
2. Alabama loses to at least two of the three: Mississippi State, Auburn and Florida.
3. Texas Tech loses to Oklahoma and Baylor.
4. Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma.
5. Missouri defeats Texas in the Big 12 title game.
6. USC loses once more to either Stanford, Notre Dame or UCLA.
7. Utah loses to San Diego State or BYU.

That would leave Florida No. 1 at 12-1. Bama, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Texas and USC would each have at least two losses. An undefeated Utah might not be a threat anyway but a loss to BYU ends the Utes' hope for making a miraculous run to the national championship game.
The only possible No. 2 would be Penn State. Hey, I told you it was convoluted.

 That got me thinking. How DOES Utah get to the national championship game?


1. Penn State loses to either Indiana or Michigan State.
2. through 4. above.
5. USC loses once more.
6. At that point, it probably wouldn't matter which team won the Big 12, Texas or Missouri. It would be close with Texas having one loss and Utah being undefeated.
7. All Utah would have to do is beat San Diego State and BYU to advance to the title game.

 No matter what the standings say, it's still all about Texas in the Big 12.


The university is in talks to launch its own TV network. Horns TV sounds a bit inappropriate in a cable universe populated with the likes of Playboy TV, but I'm sure the school will come up with something.

Texas has the nation's largest athletic budget, somewhere north of $120 million. It made non-qualifiers a deal breaker when the conference was formed 12 years ago. Nebraska and Kansas State complained loudly but went along. Look where those programs went shortly thereafter without the benefit of non-qualifiers.

Now Texas is bidding to take over the cable universe. Makes me wonder how Michael Crabtree ever got into the end zone a couple of weeks ago.

 Tim Tebow got away with it. John Parker Wilson didn't.


Wilson, Alabama's quarterback, said he regretted pantomiming a cell phone call to the LSU fans following a first-quarter touchdown at Death Valley. Unlike Tebow last year at LSU, Wilson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Tebow wasn't. Guess it depends on how innovativeness of your taunt.

"Whether it should have been a penalty or not, it doesn’t really matter," Wilson said. "It was just a bad decision, something I really shouldn’t have done."

The quarterback turned his cellie off on Thursday and didn't turn it on again until after the game on Saturday.

 They're talking contract extension for Randy Shannon at Miami. That's good news for a guy who started 2-3 after a 5-7 first season. The Canes are in contention for the ACC title (who isn't?) and should start 2009 in the top 25.


 Bo Pelini has waited until the week of the 11th game to break out the coveted "Blackshirts" for 11 of his best defenders.


Makes sense to reward the Huskers for their defense. They're 81st in total defense giving up 380 yards per game and 89th in scoring defense giving up 29.1 points.

 ESPN is in negotiations with the BCS to move all five BCS games to the cable side. I don't have a problem with all the games being on one network.  But this does allow the Worldwide Leader to increase its fees to cable companies which will be passed on to us, the consumer.


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

Random thoughts on a football Saturday

Is Tommy Tuberville coaching for his job?

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


The breakdown:

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

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

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

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

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

 Halfway through the season how about these surprise conference leaders?


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


 Wyoming used four quarterbacks in that loss to Utah.


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

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

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



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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


At least I got to check out.

Posted on: October 3, 2008 1:19 am

Weekend Watch List preview

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Until last week, Nebraska was in a familiar place -- undefeated with Tom Osborne leading the program.

One loss to Virginia Tech hasn't diminished what Osborne is trying to build. The Huskers go into a milestone game against Missouri with their 71-year-old athletic director trying to reclaim glory. The hiring of Bo Pelini was a good first step. So was the calming of a department that had become fractured and paranoid looking over its shoulder for former AD Steve Pederson.

That wasn't Pederson's only fault. He was fired last fall as the football program declined into disarray. Amazingly, Osborne had never seen the athletic director's office until he took the job on an interim basis last year. Now he has a permanent gig through 2010 -- at least.

 Osborne remains an icon in and out of Nebraska. When he took the job his secretary finally figured out that unscrupulous collectors were mailing asking for his autograph. Soon, memorabilia was showing up on eBay and the like with his signature. Now Osborne signs only for charities. Such is the vagaries of the famous life.

Sitting in a sparsely decorated office in a building that bears his name, the former coaching great, Congressman and gubernatorial candidate talked about his new job.

What did you think when Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman contacted you last year?

Osborne: "The first thing was surprise. It was something I felt was behind me and out of the picture. I had no idea he was going to make a change. I was also a little bit concerned because I'd kind of gotten my life rearranged where I was teaching Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I wanted to take off with (wife) Nancy, I could do that.

"She's always been tremendously supportive. I felt that the athletic dept was important to the state. It was probably somewhat beyond who won the game or not. There was a lot to tie us together.

"I think Dr. Pearlman would have liked to have had an answer on that Sunday when he called. Once he made the move (to fire Pederson), he did so without knowing what I was going to do."

What had happened here?

Osborne: "I think there was a certain amount of unrest. They brought in a consultant, requiring a lot of performance reviews. People felt somewhat threatened. It was a corporate style. There was a certain amount of distrust. Some people had quit. Some people were about to quit. They were uncomfortable with management style.

"The consultant was the person to go directly to the AD. That was one of the main issues."

Did you ever have the itch to coach again after retiring in 1997?

"The first couple of years were hard. I had a chance to go to Michigan State, Houston was interested. The biggest obstacle was the concern was family. My children and grandchildren were all here. My grandson was five or six at the time. He called me in tears wanting me to stay. That kind of sealed the deal."

What was your routine as a Congressman?

Osborne: "As the third district Congressman, I was back and forth every week. I would spend almost two days a week traveling the district. That's all the way to the Wyoming, Colorado border, flying from Lincoln and Omaha. A lot of miles and really long weeks.
"I'd usually go out Tuesday and come back Thursday or Friday. You're fortunate if you had one day at home."

How respected were you in Washington as a coach coming into the political arena?

"There was some advantage to having been in coaching. Where it probably helped was  Dennis Hastert<> was speaker of the house. He was  a former wrestling coach. At 64 years old, I was  a freshman.

"I wouldn't say I was given a whole lot of slack. I was able to get a few things done because Denny helped me. The image of Congress was very negative. There's a certain percentage that don't represent the public very well."

You ran for governor and lost the primary in 2006. How did you feel after that?

Osborne:  "When you spend the better part of a year running for office, the thing that really bothered me, I really tried to work hard for the district. Then I couldn't even carry the district. That was probably the most difficult. The day after the election I decided you can't dwell in the past.
"I did have the feeling after that defeat happened that somewhere, somehow there was going to be something interesting. I didn't know what it was going to be."

What about the perception that you were the guy who was hired to fire the football coach (Bill Callahan)?

Osborne: "I went down and talked to the coaches, I was hoping everyone would be successful. I tried to lay out the landscape. I told them, '(if they won) eight games, seven you're probably OK. Six would be dicey. If you have another losing season that would be three losing seasons in four years, it would really be hard.' (Nebraska finished 5-7)

"It was difficult. People here are accustomed to better. It's not just the won-loss."

Can Nebraska get  back where it was winning championships?

Osborne: "I think we can win championships. I don't think anybody is going to win a Big 12 championship every year. There is enough competition. It would be hard. I certainly think that Nebraska is capable of being a top 10 team fairly regularly. Nebraska is certainly one of 15 or 20 schools that can win a national championship."

You were noted for saying that computers should be used in the process of determining a national champion. Ironically, the season after you left those computers arrived in the form of the BCS. Any thoughts?

Osborne: "There was a lot of controversy. There was a series of three or four years where it seemed like 1-2 almost always got together. Then there was  a lot of controversy. The computer analysis does inject a lot of impartiality as long as you plug in the right data."

"The reason I was for some kind of computer analysis was that I did vote on the coaches' poll. All day Saturday I was busy with the team. After the game about 1 in the morning I would turn in my coaches' ballot. I did it myself but I knew I was scrambling at 1 o'clock in the morning.

"I was seeing quite a few teams in the film exchange so I had a little bit of the feel. There were teams ranked in the top 10 that I didn't see. Sportswriters probably saw less than I did.

"There was always the temptation for a coach if you were in a competitive situation to move a team into the top two spots or rank somebody down pretty low that you knew in your mind deserved to be up there. I haven't done that but it would be very easy to do that.

"It seems like the public is a lot more into the idea of professional sports where you win maybe 55 percent of your games and you're in a playoff. The way it is right now the season is essentially a playoff."

You had never seen this office before you took over?

Osborne: "I had never been it. Steve Pederson had taken me on a tour but we never came in the office. The first time I was here after I'd been hired."
What about the statue of you outside the building that greets visitors?

 "Sometimes it leads to a little discomfort when I walk by. Usually they do that when you're dead."

What makes Bo Pelini a good hire?

Osborne: "The thing about Bo is that since he had spent a year here, I was able to get a pretty good read on him. He had about a month as an interim head coach (in 2003). I really didn't get one single negative evaluation from about seven, eight, nine people that I trusted. T he general feedback that I got was that he was  a first rate person, good motivator, good communicator.

"His record as a coordinator was real good. It seemed obvious to me that's where we need the most help -- defense. There are really three kids of coaches -- primarily offensive coaches, then there's guys like (Bob) Stoops who are defensive guys, then there is the CEO type (like) Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno who can do some recruiting handle the press and make some decisions.

"I just felt that the style that Bo had was valuable. With things falling apart on Saturday afternoon, he would know how to fix it. What was really disconcerting was the lack of intensity. Confidence had to be resorted. Physical play had to be restored."

It's been a long time but any regrets about Lawrence Phillips? (The former running back's series of off-field problems started when he dragged an ex-girlfriend by her hair in 1995)

Osborne: "In view of the fact that Lawrence didn't take advantage of the opportunities given, you feel bad about that. You don't know how it's going to work out. The story line nationally was we did just to win.

"We were in great shape at tailback. I really thought that Lawrence needed the team more than we needed Lawrence because he had come from a group home. Unfortunately, when he left here a lot of those same guys came back into his life ... The thing that was surprising. I never had a problem with Lawrence in practice and he really played hard, played hurt.

"He had been out on the streets when he was an eighth grader. He missed a whole year of school. For him to do what he did to get here was pretty significant. I thought he had a pretty good work ethic.

"It seemed like when he got to the NFL, I heard about him being late for practice. I'd never seen that side of him. I know (St. Louis Rams coach Dick) Vermeil did everything to bring him around. Somehow he could never quite shake his past. He had been let down a lot early in his life. I don't think he got to where he could ever trust people. "

What is your legacy?

Osborne:  "When you ask someone about their legacy, it's almost a posthumous question. It's almost in the eyes of the beholder ... It's easy to outlast your efficiency."



Category: NCAAF
Tags: Nebraska
Posted on: September 29, 2008 11:50 am

Nebraska and Georgia futures

The difference between coordinating a national champion and coaching a faded power are obvious for Bo Pelini.

As LSU's defensive coordinator, Pelini oversaw a unit that held Virginia Tech to 149 yards last season in a 49-7 victory. Last week, Pelini, as head coach at Nebraska, lost at home to Virginia Tech 35-30. The Hokies put up a season high in points and yards (377). That does not bode well with the scoring explosion that No. 3 Missouri will bring with it this week.

This is one of the more curious games of Saturday. Pelini has been planning for this game since he got the job. It has both a revenge factor -- Missouri has won three of the last five -- and redemption -- Missouri hasn't won in Lincoln since 1978.

If points-starved Virginia Tech was able to put up 35, what is Missouri going to do?

--Upon further review, Georgia might have the toughest time rebounding from the rash of upsets. The Dawgs slipped only to No. 11 (AP), but tailback Knowshon Moreno has an elbow contusion and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has a knee sprain. The best thing Georgia has going for it is a bye week before hosting Tennessee on Oct. 11.

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

National notes

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Georgia won 45-20.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

 More BYU:

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

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

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

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

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

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