Posted on: September 11, 2009 12:59 pm

Son of Weekend Watch List

The last time USC visited Ohio State, John Cooper gave up.

No, really. He gave up.

I was there and saw it at The Horseshoe. It was 1990 and the teams were ranked 18 and 12 or something like that. It wasn’t a huge game but it turned out being one of the weirdest in Ohio State history. It certainly didn’t help Coops standing with Bucknuts.

USC ran for 331 yards and would have had more – if the game was completed. The second-half was played in a dangerous lightning storm. After USC recovered an onside kick with 2:36 left the game was stopped. Too risky, the officials deemed.

USC won 35-26. Sure, the game was out of reach but you never know, right? One report stated that Cooper told officials that if the onside kick didn’t work, that was it.

The way I remember it after a lengthy delay, the skies cleared somewhat and officials came to Cooper and asked if he wanted to continue. Nah, we’re good, Coop said. Game over.

"We had some momentum," Ohio State quarterback Greg Frey told the Associated Press last year. "I had been down this road before. I'm thinking, 'We've got a ton of time.' "

I distinctly remember Ohio State president Gordon Gee (during his first term at the school) muttering some sort of disparaging remark as I passed him on the stairs to the interview room.

The situation certainly didn’t help Cooper with Ohio State fans. He would go on to bang his head against the wall against Michigan.

  You missed a lot Thursday if you weren’t on a CBS conference call previewing the network’s SEC package.

The participants were Philip Fulmer, Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Spencer Tillman and Tim Brando. Some of these comments are bombastic – and great.

Danielson on Tim Tebow: “He does have a ways to go to be a professional quarterback. I’m one of those people who believe that’s his only position in the NFL.

"I don’t think he’s a tight end. I don’t think he’s a fullback. I don’t think he’s fast enough … He does need to learn to be more of a pro-style quarterback."

Fulmer on Lane Kiffin: “If you’re going to be brash you better be able to back it up.”

Brando on Kiffin: “What Lane Kiffin has done is energize the base. It’s what Sarah Palin did to the Republican Party. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be successful but he energized the base.”

Danielson on Florida’s invincibility: “There were two unbeatable teams in the modern BCS. The Miami team of 2002. It had 14 first-round draft choices on it, eventually. It lost to an Ohio State team that kicked field goals all year.

“That USC team (in 2005), out of their 12 games they scored more than 50 points seven times and they lost the championship game. Florida can easily lose a game (and still be champions).”

Danielson on LSU: "I felt that Les Miles lost his team last year by sticking too long with his quarterback (Jarrett Lee) … He benched everybody else but he failed to bench his quarterback. I thought he lost his team the second half of the season.”

Brando on prize LSU freshman Russell Shepard: “According to people I’ve talked to, his (off-field) abilities are Tebow-esque … On the field what he can do is similar to Percy Harvin.”

Danielson on Shepard: “If Russell Shepard is the leader of this team, they are not going to be a good football. If Florida would have hung it on Tebow, Florida would not have been good the first year either.”

Tillman on Shepard: “His talent is literally off the charts. This kid is more gifted than Vince Young was at this point in time.”

Fulmer on LSU defensive coordinator John “Chief” Chavis:
“I hired him when nobody knew him at all … On a very poor football team offensively; I think we had the third or fourth-ranked defense in the country." (Tennessee was No. 3 last season.)

Danielson on Chavis: “He will not approach is stats last year at Tennessee. People who played Tennessee knew they didn’t have to score many points. People who play LSU know they are going to have to score points.”

Fulmer on Tim Tebow: “There’s nobody who is all of that. Well, Tim Tebow is all of that He put that team on his shoulders after the loss and won the championship … I’m sitting in the box (at the SEC championship game) and he puts the team on his shoulders again in the fourth quarter and goes on to win the national championship."

Lundquist on Tebow: “I’ve never seen anybody quite like him. There’s this danger we all have of going overboard. He walks the walk as the old phrase goes. He is remarkable.”

Danielson on Sam Bradford: “I personally wish … that Bob Stoops would have said to Sam Bradford, ‘I’m sorry I can’t let you play for my team this year. I can’t risk $70 million knowing some guard could turn a linebacker loose and blow your arm and your knee.’ I thought Sam should have been in the NFL.”

Brando on the Heisman race: “There is a backlash that Tim (Tebow) faces this year because he can’t be all that. There was a clear media backlash against Peyton Manning in his last year at Tennessee.”

Fulmer: "Don’t get me going on that subject."

Brando on BYU: It's really going to incense the SEC fan base more than any. It could come to an unbeaten BYU against a one-loss SEC team. Who do you take (for the BCS title game)? If BYU runs the table from this point forward. They have the schedule to give them the credibility that no other non-BCS team has had.

"You talk about shaking the rafters. If BYU is there and are denied, Sen. Orrin Hatch is going to have some fun ..."

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: September 8, 2009 4:22 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2009 4:32 pm

Analyzing the polls

Thoughts on the first regular-season polls of the season:

If the BCS bowls started today (based on compilation of the polls and Jerry Palm’s collegebcs.com)

BCS title game: Alabama vs. USC
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Cal
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. BYU
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma State
Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

Top 10 in the BCS (Only a few of the computers are available so this is very preliminary but still interesting. These are Palm's standings from collegebcs.com.)

1. USC
2. Alabama
3. Florida
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Ohio State
7. BYU
8. Boise State
9. Penn State
10.  LSU


Florida lost two first-place votes in the AP poll (from 58 to 56) and gained three votes in the coaches poll (53 to 56).

Biggest gainers, most slippage

Brigham Young, up 12 spots in coaches (from No. 24 to No. 12)
Oklahoma down 11 spots in coaches (from No. 3 to No. 14)

Game of the week

No. 3 USC and No. 8/7 Ohio State remains a top 10 game. Ohio State has lost its last five against top five teams. That’s the second-longest streak in school history.

The penalty for playing Charleston Southern

Florida’s first-place margin shrank in both polls  -- from 74 points to 69 in AP and from 80 to 65 points in coaches.

Barely Out

Oregon State No. 26 in AP. Michigan State No. 26 in coaches

New to the AP: Missouri, Cincinnati, Miami. New to coaches: Kansas, Cincinnati, Miami.

Another take

SI's Andy Staples weighs in

Posted on: August 27, 2009 8:45 pm

The best story in sports right now: Matt Barkley

I’m rooting for Matt Barkley.

I’m rooting for Matt Barkley because someone needs to be rooted for these days.

I’m rooting for Matt Barkley because he’s not Billy Gillispie, going for the DUI hat trick at 2:45 in the morning, telling the cops he’s coming back from golf outing.

I’m rooting for Matt Barkley because he isn’t Rick Pitino -- a Roman Catholic coach who wears his faith on his Italian-tailored sleeve. Matt’s not having sex with a bar skank – calling it an “affair” is too antiseptic -- allegedly paying for an abortion and then blaming the media.

I’m rooting for Matt Barkley because he’s not Milton Bradley being paid $10 million a year to play baseball and then complaining because he’s booed.

I’m rooting for Matt Barkley because he’s not Brett Favre. That’s all that needs to be said about that subject because our brains have been turned to yogurt at the mere mention of Fahv-ruh’s name.

It hasn’t been a good week for class, temperance or perspective. Matt Barkley changed that for a precious few moments Thursday when he was named USC’s starter at quarterback.

I’m rooting for Matt not only because he’s a great kid with a great family  -- that should be enough this week – but he made good old-fashioned sports news. The 18-year-old stud enrolled in January, wowed ‘em in the spring, battled this month and became USC’s first true freshman to start a season.

In a couple of weeks, he’ll walk into The Shoe and try to keep the Big Ten and Ohio State from regaining a shred of their dignity. At USC, they call that winning.

Pete Carroll’s selection will send shockwaves. They’ll say his run of Pac-10 titles, BCS bowls and national championships are over. There’s no way a freshman quarterback can have the moxie to run the offense of the dominant program of the decade.

They'll say Barkley will pass, but won’t pass the test. For now, I don’t care. I’ll settle for a blond-haired, guitar-playing regular kid from Newport Beach who loves the Trojans. And football.

Remember the sport we’re about to kick off in a week? I’ve spent the better part of the month trying to preview the college football season and found myself writing more about rogues, reprobates and NCAA investigations. Today, though, I don’t need a shower. OK, bad imagery there, but for now Barkley’s story is all the Irish Spring I’ll need.

I’m rooting for Matt because I root for the best story. Always. Matt’s is the best out there right now.




Category: NCAAF
Tags: USC
Posted on: August 25, 2009 11:28 am

Quarterback U.

The Altoona (Penn.) Mirror did some exhaustive research in trying to determine which was the best quarterback school.

You'll see the usual suspects (Notre Dame, Alabama, Stanford, USC, Washington), but there are some surprises too (Purdue?). The thing about this project is that it leaves it open at the end for you to make up your own mind.
Posted on: August 13, 2009 3:07 pm
Edited on: August 13, 2009 3:09 pm

Freshman qbs at USC

How historic would it be for a true freshman to start the season at quarterback for USC?

For one, it's never happened. Just like a lot of places, USC isn't in the business of putting rosy-cheeked quarterbacks in charge of a college football offense. So, yeah, it's kind of a big deal if Aaron Corp doesn't heal up in time and freshman Matt Barkley has to take over.

There have been only two true freshmen to ever start at quarterback for the Trojans -- Rob Johnson (one game in 1991) and Carson Palmer (five games in 1998). Four redshirt freshmen have started games -- Mike Van Raaphorst, Rodney Peete, Kevin McLean and ol' Toddy M himself, Todd Marinovich.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: USC
Posted on: August 13, 2009 11:53 am

Ohio State 55, USC 23

Just for grins, I decided to insert Matt Barkley as the starter for USC against Ohio State in NCAA Football 10.

Ohio State won by 32. Barkley, the freshman quarterback, was game in the game but his team was lame. He was yanked quickly after his fumble led to a touchdown. Barkley completed only one of two for 23 yards.

Settle down, Troy, it's not going to be that bad when USC travels to Columbus in the second week of the season. But it could be a loss, whether it's one point or four touchdowns. That's what is going through Pete Carroll's mind right now as he ponders Aaron Corp's cracked fibula. Barkley has been tearing it up in practice, but does USC really want to go into the belly of the beast with a freshman quarterback.

The Pete Carroll in me says no. The game backed me up. The problem is, PC might not have a choice.

A healthy Corp brings the factor that gives USC a better chance in Columbus, the ability to run. No matter how good he has looked, Barkley is going to remain a stationary target for his entire career, really. 

Corp is expected to be out one to three weeks. Remember last season, Mark Sanchez was injured in the preseason but returned in time to start the season. The difference this time is that Barkley isn't as certain as a safety net. The kid enrolled in January, in part, because he wanted to compete for the job. But does it bother anyone else that USC might have to start the season with a quarterback who has never taken a snap in battle?

Corp will probably be back in time for the Ohio State game in Week 2. The reason he won the job in the spring is because he didn't turn the ball over. We haven't really seen what Barkley will do with the bullets flying. 

Troy should be nervous. Carroll hasn't had to start a season with a true freshman at quarterback. That's not the main issue, though. It's having to go to The Shoe with a true freshman in Week 2. The opener is against San Jose State.

Hey, there was some good news from the PS2. Mitch Mustain -- remember him? -- threw for 267 yards and a touchdown in the game so there's always that.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 30, 2009 10:01 pm

Five things I believe about the Pac-10

Reflections on the one-day Pac-10 up do in L.A. ...

Turn it up to (Pac-)10! Nine in the morning, nursing coffee. God, do I have a hangover? No, it’s rock music blaring out of speakers at the podium 30 minutes before the media day is about to begin.

The whole thing is being streamed on the Internet. Fans are allowed to Tweet questions (and have them read to the coaches and players).

Welcome to the brave new world of new Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. The man is bald, in his 40s and has two children but he definitely wants to change the image to the staid league. Next year, Will Ferrell as moderator.

“It’s a new feel, it’s exciting,” Pete Carroll said. “There’s something different going on in the Pac-10.”

Chip Kelly is going to do just fine. Oregon’s new leader went from coach-in-waiting in December to replacing the dean of Pac-10 coaches a couple of months later. The program has transitioned seamlessly.

Not bad for being in Eugene only two seasons. Kelly is what Rich Rodriguez used to be – a spread option guru who runs a power running game.  With Kelly as offensive coordinator Oregon has finished in the top six in rushing each of the last two seasons.

“You can’t paint a spread option with a broad brush,” Kelly said. “You do everything from pass it 60 times a game to run it 60 times a game.”

Plus, Kelly had the line of the day. Sitting next to cornerback Walter Thurmond in front of hundreds of media he said: “First, I’d like you to know that myself and Walter voted for Tim Tebow for first-team All-SEC.”

Pete Carroll really used the M word. When asked about new quarterback Aaron Corp, USC’s coach actually used a vague comparison to Joe Montana.

Corp ascension to No. 1 marks the first time in six years USC has had to have a spring competition to replace a quarterback. The last time it happened was 2003 when some guy named Matt Leinart won the job.

“The guy that I hope Aaron would be like would be what Joe Montana was like,” Carroll said. “Go back to what Joe was like and hear him talk about it in his younger years. He was so resourceful and had great accuracy but always run and kill you with his legs.

“Way back when we first started recruiting Aaron that’s what I wondered. I wondered what Joe Montana would look like in high school.”

Corp is a redshirt sophomore from Villa Park, Calif.  Who has thrown three career passes. He won the job in the spring after not committing a turnover in any of the spring practices or scrimmages.

Something happened to all those arms. The Pac-10 returns five 1,000-yard rushers this season including Heisman candidate Jahvid Best from Cal.

Where have all the quarterbacks gone? It’s one of those cyclical things. Only five starting quarterbacks return (not counting Cal’s Kevin Riley who split time last season).

“I don’t know if you’d call it a smash mouth league but it’s very physical,” Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson said.

Jim Harbaugh is still the funniest coach this side of Mike Leach. In the middle of a serious discussion Thursday, the Stanford coach relayed a story about his dual-sport star Toby Gerhart.

Gerhart could be a possible draft choice in both football and baseball. One day while playing left field at Sunken Diamond, Gerhart heard a voice behind him.

“Toby, Toby it’s me, Coach Harbaugh,” said the coach who was behind the outfield fence. “We had a conversation for about an inning and a half.”

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: June 25, 2009 2:05 am

The Tom Hansen interview

This is the full transcript of an interview with outgoing Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen. An accompanying column appears on the site.

Q: Have you spoken to (former NCAA executive director) Walter Byers lately?

Hansen: "When I was first here I wrote him once about something and he didn't respond. I saw him at the 1988 Final Four in Kansas City. He was very friendly but I haven't been in contact with him since then."

Q: What kind of guy was Walter to work for?

Hansen: "Walter was marvelous to work for. Walter was a great teacher. Walter was a patient person. He worked with each and every staff member to make us better.

"It was a challenge to me to try to write a story that he wouldn't just blot out with red ink. As I went on, I got better. He was a magnificent editor because that was his background. He made every one of us better. He was fiercely loyal to the staff. If we made a mistake, he would defend us externally with anyone or anybody.

"You knew you had his support in whatever you did. When I started there were seven administrators. He sent us out to do some pretty major things. In addition to TV, I had Congressional relations. I had the first NCAA committee on women's athletics. I was out there on some pretty fierce firefights at times."

Q: No casual Fridays I understand?

Hansen: "When I got there we all worked Saturdays as well. The joke was we spent all lives and all our careers in college athletics but we couldn't go to any football games."

Q: Do you think we'll ever see a playoff in our lifetime?

Hansen: "I hope you live a long, long, long time. I don't expect one in the near future, just because of the many, many difficulties it would include. I don't think so because of the negatives a playoff would entail."

Q: Does the man on the street even understand what the BCS is?

Hansen: "I don't think the man on the street has the full picture to evaluate ... a playoff. I don't think they begin to envision the negatives of a playoff, which would have to be 16 teams for political reasons.

"Most people want to have one more game with four teams playing. That can never be. They vastly underestimate the complexity of a playoff, the fact that you have to play on the college campuses. You'd probably kill the bowl system.

"Then they completely fail to appreciate or recognize the many things the BCS has done to help college football. With the BCS, but not with a playoff system, that we can have 12 (regular-season) games. The 12th game has been a financial bonanza for the bowl subdivision.

"It was done with the tacit understand that the postseason would not be expanded. It has also made the regular season so absolutely outstanding. It's the best regular season of any American sport -- pro or college. We certainly didn't have the foresight to plan it that way but it evolved. Part of it is because every game all season long at least has an indirect effect on what teams play in the BCS."
Q: So you think it would have to be 16 teams to accommodate everyone?

Hansen: "Absolutely. We would have to have automatic qualification for the 11 (Division I-A) conferences. If Notre Dame qualified under the conditions that it does, now you've only four at-large berths left and you'd have a horrible argument over those."

Q: I was reading about the 1984 Supreme Court ruling that broke up the NCAA's monopoly on televised college football.  Do you think the NCAA eventually would have opened up anyway and allowed more teams more appearances?

Hansen: "We already had. I was the architect. About '82 we went to two networks. We went to cable as well. Admittedly, that was trying to stave off the College Football Association. It was clear that television was growing to the point that we had to expand.

"We had two networks and ESPN. They (schools) were sincere in wanting more opportunity. Once the market was fractured, it was many years before the per-game value was achieved again. What was behind that was the desire by certain institutions to do their own programs. It was more than an expansion of the existing NCAA programs."

Q: A lot of people said that was the first step toward the BCS...

Hansen: "I think it was a weigh station on the road toward the BCS ... It was a major step in changing the way Division I football was structured and operated."

Q: When you came to the Pac-10 was, back then, also the only conference that investigated itself in the case of NCAA wrongdoing?

Hansen: "Yes. That had been done because of some problems in the late 70s, early 80s."

Q: How uncomfortable is that for the membership with brother investigating  brother?

Hansen: "Because it's been supported well by the presidents and been thoughtful and positive, it's gone well. It's been very measured and careful.

"Our people support it because we can get an investigator to campus almost immediately. The NCAA, with all of its responsibilities, can't do that. When our investigator arrives on campus our people know him. Whereas the NCAA investigator is almost always a total stranger.

"The other (conference) members also have confidence that once our person gets in there things are going to get cleaned up. Whereas, again, the NCAA doesn't get there for a period of time. That's some of the reasons why it has been supported."

Q: That leads to the next question. When do you think the USC thing will be wrapped up?

Hansen: "Very difficult to predict because of the legal entanglements. I'm speaking more about (Reggie) Bush than I am about (O.J.) Mayo. With Bush you have a case that I think is becoming more prevalent.

"Fifteen years ago before the NCAA took the boosters out of recruiting, the boosters established relationships. They took care of the financial needs of the high, high profile athletes in college. Now you've got the agents doing that.

"Once the student-athlete decides to become a professional you have no leverage to use to get that person to talk to you. All these outside forces, even the university, can't leverage that."

Q: How frustrating is that in getting a fair conclusion to this?

Hansen: "It's enormously frustrating for us, for the university, for the NCAA. Justice delayed is justice denied." 

Q: If it ever comes to vacating or forfeiting USC victories, the BCS commissioners might be in the awkward position of having to take away a championship. How uncomfortable would that be?

Hansen: "I think it would be very uncomfortable. Yet, over the years in the NCAA that same responsibility has fallen to faculty representatives, athletic directors and others. It has been done by peers, although not as quite as directly as competitive peers as commissioners would be."

Q: Would commissioners have the guts to take that step?

"It's also a fact that the BCS commissioners or I-A commissioners wouldn't have been involved in any investigation or finding of facts. It's a very different, and I think quite awkward, situation."

Q: You're the longest tenured commissioner in I-A, what's your biggest memory or accomplishment in the Pac-10?

Hansen: "I think a couple of things. Establishing the television contracts we have and establishing our women's athletic programs is another of which I'm very proud." 

Q: It seems to be a topic on the West Coast, getting games on at better times in the East. At the same time you've had tremendous exposure through USC.

Hansen: "Right now our programs are in very good shape. We had 11 national championships and five bowl wins alone (this season). I'm very proud I'm going out at a time we're quite obviously highly, highly competitive. This year is the seventh time we've won 10 or more NCAA championships. No other conference has done that."

Q: Does the Pac-10 need to expand?

Hansen: "Probably not. If Division I-A stays basically in the same structure, I don't think so. The reason a conference expands is to get more football TV homes for television purposes. Short of going to Texas which we tried to do in the early 90s, there is no other institution that brings more TV homes than our average.

"Our TV area is about 18 million (viewers). We need someone with more than 1.8 million TV homes. The state of Texas has about seven percent (of the total viewers). That works but nothing else really works."

"The other thing is, our ADs have looked at the conference playoff. It's not nearly as lucrative as more television income. (Proponents) want to go to 12 and then have to go into divisions in football. We worked very hard to get a complete (round-robin) conference schedule. Our ADs would not want to retreat from that." 

Q: What are you going to do in retirement?

Hansen: "I'm not going to run around and consult like some of my friends who are retired. I'm going to be content, I think, to play golf and work in the yard and travel.

"One of things that is amusing. We have never spent much time exploring the Bay Area or Northern California. Because we've spent so many weekends at game and at meetings we haven't done that. That's one thing that is high on our priority list."

Q: Given all we've talked about, is this almost the best college football has ever been? For example, the two highest growing sports are NASCAR and college football.

Hansen: "That's true. College football television-wise and attendance-wise has never been better. The TV ratings, if not historically high right now, are so solid. The postseason have been very strong the last several years. It can be said that it is (better than ever)."

Q: Is the Rose Bowl still the same as it was because of the BCS? Has it retained its magic?

Hansen: "I think it has., particularly when we come back to a Pac-10-Big Ten game which is really the basis of it. We were surprised by the number of times that didn't happen (because of the BCS). That's come back now somewhat. The addition of the fifth game was critical to that. When you hosted the national championship game, you didn't lose the Rose Bowl.

"I think the most exciting time you could ever experience was two o'clock on January 1 when the teams are lining up for the kickoff. It's almost like the stadium starts to levitate a little bit. It's a glorious, glorious thing to be a part of."

Q: Can your BCS brethren, weather this latest storm from Capitol Hill?

Hansen: "I think so. I don't take that as more than politics instigated by the senators or congressmen from certain areas ... We understand that. The federal government has no business trying to regulate the postseason. I don't think there are many in the Congress that seriously consider doing so."


Category: NCAAF
Tags: Pac-10, USC
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com