Tag:Bowling Green
Posted on: January 19, 2012 12:27 pm
 

A plus-one playoff through the years: 2003-2007

In the second installment of our plus-one lookback (2003-2007), USC takes over from Miami to forge a dynasty before the SEC begins to go reticulated python on college football.  Oh, and sorry Texas. That 2005 title never happened.

(All plus-one games played on neutral fields. Here’s how things looked from 1998-2002.)

 

2003

BCS champion: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14

The setup:  By now, epic BCS fails were becoming commonplace. This time Oklahoma blew through the first 12 games of the season winning by an average of more than 32 points. That was before a four-touchdown loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game.

So much for the dangers of losing late.  Not only didn’t No. 1 OU fall out of the top two, it didn’t fall from the top spot! (It dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 in the human polls.) That was the first problem.  The second, more significant issue, is that USC was a consensus No. 1 in the human polls but No. 3 in the BCS.

Complicating matters, if that was possible, was three major-college, one-loss teams occupying the top three spots in the final BCS (OU, LSU, USC). One of them didn’t win its conference. The BCS commissioners swallowed hard, averted their eyes and tried to explain an LSU-Oklahoma championship game. The final absurdity: That meant the coaches poll would not even be considering its No. 1 team (USC) for the national championship.

Thank goodness for the AP poll.  After USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl, AP gave its final No. 1 ranking to the Trojans. For the first time in the BCS era, there was a split national championship. While that was OK with most folks, certain LSU fans couldn’t stomach sharing anything with anyone. Two things wrong with that: Like five other teams prior to the bowls that year, LSU was a one-loss team. By now it was becoming clear that if you lose a game in the BCS system, you lose the right to argue.

Isn’t it enough that national championships are forever? I still get emails from angry Tiger fans who claim they are the true national champs. Who cares?

How a four-team playoff would have changed things:  No. 1 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Michigan, No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 USC. OU would have easily mauled Michigan. The Rose Bowl that season proved it. USC outclassed the slower Wolverines by two touchdowns in Pasadena. Oklahoma 35, Michigan 17.

Many would have considered LSU-USC the real championship game. This was the year LSU freshman sensation Justin Vincent ran for 1,000 yards. Defensive tackle Chad Lavalais was the SEC defensive player of the year. USC had Reggie Bush as a freshman, Matt Leinart as a sophomore throwing to the  fantastic Mike Williams. This was the beginning of a Troy dynasty with the Trojans at least playing for three consecutive national championships in the real world. In this alternative universe it would have been a thriller, USC 27, LSU 20.

Championship game: Heisman winner Jason White was beat up for the Sooners at this point in the season. He hung in gamely against LSU but the Tigers defense and the Superdome crowd were too much. USC would have brought a similar kind of hurt. USC 23, Oklahoma 14.

Fantasy quote: “Sure we deserve a championship berth. It wasn’t like we lost to K-State by five touchdowns.” –Bob Stoops.

Who got screwed: Obviously USC, but AP was there to bail it out. That would change after the 2004 season, though, as the news organization rethought its influence on the national championship race and the money that went with it.

 

2004

BCS champion: USC 55, Oklahoma 19

The setup: For the first time in the BCS era, three undefeated teams stood atop the polls at the end. The BCS quickly realized that three don’t fit into two championship berths. Auburn eventually “lost”. There is still the lasting image of Tommy Tuberville working the press box for AP votes at the Orange Bowl after the BCS had kept the undefeated SEC champions out of the BCS title game. While the Trojans and Sooners played, Auburn’s coach was literally glad-handing media, hoping against hope.

It didn’t happen for Auburn which finished third in the BCS and second in the final human polls. SEC types were outraged that their undefeated champion wasn’t worthy of playing for it all. As you might have noticed, things would change quickly for the SEC.

The difference was Auburn’s non-conference schedule and perhaps an Oklahoma-friendly Bowling Green AD.  Elsewhere, both the Trojans and Sooners were in the middle of historic runs. OU played in its third championship game since 2000. USC was in the middle of its own 34-game winning streak. Only Stanford, Cal and UCLA came within a touchdown of the Trojans that season.

How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 USC vs. No. 4 Texas, No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Auburn.  Texas wasn’t quite there yet despite 1,000-yard rushing seasons from both Cedric Benson and Vince Young. Meanwhile, USC sported a Heisman winner (Leinart) as well as three other consensus All-Americans. This was arguably the best Trojan team of the Pete Carroll era. USC 37, Texas 24.

Would have loved to see the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense (Auburn) against No. 8 in total offense (Oklahoma). Using LSU’s D in 2003 as evidence, OU doesn’t show up offensively in a plus-one against a quality SEC defense. Auburn 25, Oklahoma 21.

Championship game: Auburn gets its title shot but just can’t overcome perhaps the team of the decade. USC 26, Auburn 13.

Fantasy quote: “How many voters does a commissioner have to bribe for the SEC to get to the championship game?” – Mike Slive

Real quote: “Where’s Your God Now?” – sign taunting BYU fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium in the final seconds of Utah’s 52-21 win over the Cougars that clinched the Utes’ first BCS berth.

Who got screwed: Cal. With one BCS bowl berth left, the No. 5 Bears lost a propaganda war with No. 4 Texas. Both were 10-1 on pick ‘em day. Knowing that finishing at No. 4 guaranteed his team a BCS bowl, Mack Brown had no problem campaigning for his Longhorns while Cal’s Jeff Tedford pretty much refused to engage.

Cal would have been the obvious Pac-10 replacement in the Rose Bowl with USC playing for the national championship. But Texas’ bum rush created feelings that what Bevo wants, Bevo gets long before the Longhorn Network.

“"I guess we didn't run up the score at the end, or beg for votes after the game," Cal’s Aaron Rodgers said. "I thought it was [wrong] for coach Brown to beg for votes.”

AP withdrew its poll from the BCS after the controversy.



2005

BCS champion: Texas 41, USC 38

The setup: On paper USC never won a game this season. On the field, it ravaged the field. We would find out years later that Bush competed the entire 2005 season while ineligible having taken cash and benefits from two would-be agents.

Dismiss that from your mind considering how these Trojans were completing that 34-game winning streak. They failed to score less than 34 in any game. They scored at least 50 in seven games. They scored 60 twice and 70 once. This was the team that couldn’t be outscored -- until it was, by Vince Young.

On the night of Jan. 5, 2006 Texas’ quarterback proved himself to be the best player in the school’s glorious history. Completing a game in which he had almost 500 yards in total offense, Young pulled it down and scored the winning touchdown with 19 seconds left.

USC was denied a third straight national championship. Texas won its first in 35 years because of a singular talent.

"Without question that was the best [performance] by one guy [I've seen]," Pete Carroll said.

How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 USC vs. No. 4 Ohio State, No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Penn State. Anyone else have a letdown here? Ohio State was a year away in 2005 having lost to Texas and Penn State in the regular season. JoePa rebounded from downturn to begin the century to grab a share of the Big Ten. It is interesting that two Big Ten teams would have been in a plus-one. Does it matter, though, given the greatness at the top?

USC 42, Ohio State 20. Texas 44, Penn State 17.

Championship game: With his defense gassed and resting on the sidelines, this time Carroll decides to use Bush on fourth down. In the real game he didn’t. That allowed Texas to stop LenDale White on fourth down which led to the Horns’ winning drive. USC 38, Texas 35.

Fantasy quote: “I’m predicting two Super Bowls for Vince Young.” – Beano Cook

Who got screwed:  USC players who gave their heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears for the program only to have the season ripped away in disgrace because of Bush’s selfishness. In case you forgot, the NCAA vacated USC’s 2005 season as part of the Bush penalties.

 

2006

BCS champion: Florida 41, Ohio State 14

In the latest BCS game ever played (Jan. 9), the system began to take different turns. Double-hosting debuted. A few days before the Gators swamped the Buckeyes, Boise beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in one of the sport’s greatest upsets. A player proposed to a cheerleader. The Broncos proved they could play with the big boys, a cry that still is ringing in our ears today.

Oh yeah, and the SEC started a streak for the ages. The first of six consecutive titles by the Strength Everywhere Conference began with Florida thrashing Ohio State.

That year the immortal Chris Leak was backed up at Florida by some kid named Tebow. During the season we were treated to the jump pass, winning a game by a fingernail and first of two national championships by Urban Meyer.

How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 LSU, No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Michigan. The Buckeyes blitzed through the regular season setting up Jim Tressel for his second national championship in five years. Les Miles was just getting going, posting his second straight 11-2 season. We were going to see LSU-Ohio State in 2007 anyway. In a playoff, the Buckeyes arrived a year early with Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr. and company winning a close one. Ohio State 31, LSU 27.

Denied a rematch with Ohio State by the pollsters and computers, Michigan would have welcomed a playoff. Coming off one of the most emotional games in Michigan history (losing to Ohio State the day after Bo Schembechler’s passing), there was a chance to sneak in the back door for a national championship. Florida’s D would have denied it. Florida 37, Michigan 21.

Championship: We’re assuming that Ginn Jr. doesn’t injure his foot celebrating a kickoff return. We still can’t assume Ohio State would have an answer for Florida’s team speed. Florida 31, Ohio State 21.

Fantasy quote: “We got tattooed.” – Tressel.

Who gagged: USC. Needing only to win over sliding UCLA to play for another title, the Trojans coughed up one of the program’s largest hairballs. The 13-9 loss to the Bruins on the last day of the regular season remains inexplicable to this day except to then-UCLA defensive  coordinator DeWayne Walker. He helped hold the Trojans to less than 20 points for the first time in 64 games

 


2007

BCS champion: LSU 38, Ohio State 24

Let’s see … LSU in New Orleans? Again? Call it another unintended consequence of the BCS. The commissioners probably never imagined the Tigers being good at the exact same time the Superdome was hosting the big game. Call it purple and gold serendipity.

And luck. In the fastest and more furious finish of the BCS era, both No. 1 (Missouri) and No. 2 (West Virginia) lost on the last day of the season allowing  the Buckeyes and Tigers to move up. A week earlier, LSU had lost at home, giving up 50 to Arkansas. After beating Tennessee in the SEC championship game, the Tigers moved from No. 7 to No. 2.

How a four-team playoff would have changed things: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Oklahoma. No. 2 LSU vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech. This was an unspectacular Oklahoma team that lost to Colorado and Texas Tech before being smoked by West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State 31, Oklahoma 23.

In a plus-one, the ACC champion would have played for a national championship in a rematch we didn’t need to see. In the second week of the season, the Tigers smoked the Hokies 48-7 in Baton Rouge. Play it again, Les? LSU 33, Virginia Tech 14.

Championship game: What hurt Buckeye pride is that LSU was the last comic standing in 2007 in a wild finish to the season. The Tigers were the first two-loss team to win a national championship in 47 years. And still, LSU was able to score 31 unanswered to bury the Bucks. By now, the jokes and labels associated with Ohio State were beginning to leave a mark.

“Yeah, and that hurts," said Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis, "just because the media really builds it up like we are slow and all that stuff."

The Bucks football reputation was in tatters after two straight championship losses. In a few years, that rep was about to get a whole lost worse. LSU 42, Ohio State 17.

 Fantasy quote: “Next?” – SEC

Who got screwed: The fans. Hawaii was non-competitive against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. The Rose Bowl got three-loss Illinois to match against USC. West Virginia lost Rich Rod, then promoted Bill Stewart before a rout of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The average margin of victory in the five BCS bowls (20 points) was second only to 2002 (22.5 points).

Plus-one champions, 2003-2007: USC, USC, USC, Florida, LSU.

Tomorrow: A plus-one from 2008 to 2011.   

Posted on: November 28, 2010 8:20 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2010 8:23 pm
 

UF's Dan McCarney reportedly going to North Texas

North Texas is close to hiring Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney according to this report.

McCarney is "99 percent sure" he is headed to North Texas according a source who spoke with the coach told CBSSports.com.

The 57-year old McCarney was head coach at Iowa State for 12 years from 1995-2006. He took the Cyclones to five bowl games, winning at least seven games in five of those seasons. In 2000 Iowa State finished 9-3, nearly upsetting Florida State that season.

After leaving Iowa State, McCarney spent one year as an assistant at South Florida before going to Florida as a d-line coach in 2008. His overall head coaching record is 56-85.

McCarney replaces Todd Dodge who was fired on Oct. 20. That leaves five openings in Division I-A -- Colorado, Minnesota, Miami, Indiana and Kent State.

McCarney is the eighth former Urban Meyer assistant to become a head coach. This would be the third straight season a Meyer assistant has left to become a head coach.

Charlie Strong, Florida  - Louisville
Dan Mullen, Florida  - Mississippi State
Doc Holliday, Florida  - Marshall
Kyle Whittingham, Utah  - Utah
Greg Brandon, Bowling Green  - Bowling Green
Mike Sanford, Utah  - UNLV
Tim Beckman, Bowling Green - Toledo

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: October 12, 2009 12:21 am
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

Now that that’s over get ready for the biggest weekend of the season featuring five games involving ranked teams.  By the end of the weekend, the Big 12 could be out of the national championship race (if Texas loses), either South Florida or Cincinnati could be a fraud and Charlie Weis could have his signature win at Notre Dame only five years into the job …

 Get to YouTube or somewhere and catch UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers’ pick and score against Oregon.  It is guaranteed to be the play of the year and we still have half a season left.

Ayers chased Oregon quarterback Nate Costa to the back of the end zone. Costa threw off his back foot, Ayers jumped, intercepted the ball right in his face, secured and got a foot down for the score. Amazing.

 Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes caught 22 passes for 278 yards in a one-point win over Kent State a week after dropping the potential game-winning touchdown pass. Barnes has 28 more catches than the next living human in I-A football.

Take it from a guy who witnessed the best receiving game in history – Louisiana Tech’s Troy Edwards vs. Nebraska in 1998 – Barnes is a freak. The 22 catches  were one off the single-game record. Edwards? All he did was catch 21 balls for 405 yards – in one game.

 

 Oh he didn’t: Just when you thought Lane Kiffin had put a kill switch on his mouth, Tennessee’s coach yapped before the Georgia game.

 

That’s a cheap way of getting into Eric Berry’s freaky Heisman rap. Berry had 5 1/2 tackles, two passes broken up and a fumble (unofficially) recovery against Georgia. Put that up against Suh who on Thursday had six tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two pass break ups and an interception at Missouri.

 Nah, it’s not the system at all at Texas Tech. Mike Leach has had two quarterbacks each throw for seven touchdowns in a game, Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield.

The right-now, no-hype, no-b.s., not-what-they-did last year Heisman rankings for this week:

1. Todd Reesing, Kansas: If he played anywhere -- and I anywhere -- but Lawrence he’d booked for New York right now. He’s hidden in a program that would be ranked higher if tooted its own horn more.  All Reesing did was throw for 442 yards and four touchdowns. Kansas needed every bit of it in a 41-36 victory over Iowa State.  We’re looking at the best quarterback ever for a program that counts John Hadl among its greats. Along with Kerry Meier (16 catches, 142 yards) and Dezmon Briscoe (12 catches, 186 yards), this is the best set of “triplets” in the country. Sure, the defense stinks but who cares? This is Texas Tech without all the Leach preening.


2. Case Keenum, Houston: Sick.  Keenum had 434 yards and four touchdowns against Mississippi State. His 2,130 passing yards and 17 touchdowns lead the country. Only three other quarterbacks are more accurate. By the way, TCU and Boise State are posers. What non-BCS team has accomplished more than Houston which has victories over three BCS schools (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State)?

3.  Ndamakong Suh, Nebraska: The best performance, maybe ever, by a defensive tackle against Missouri on Thursday night.

4. Tony Pike, Cincinnati: Steadily percolating until Thursday night against South Florida.

5.  Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: Go figure, Clausen’s team has a bye week and moves into both major polls. Clausen has a bye week gets dropped down from No. 1 to No. 5. A big game against USC might clinch a trip to New York for the nation’s most efficient passer.

6. Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green: See above.

 

Posted on: June 26, 2009 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2009 11:00 am
 

Picking the ACC

It has been easy to take shots at the ACC since expansion.

The whole Florida State/Miami axis-of-excellence thing hasn't panned out. But there have been some stories worth reading. Wake Forest competes favorably representing one of the smallest schools in I-A. Everybody is waiting for North Carolina to break out under Butch Davis. Georgia Tech's option game has baffled opponents, at least in Paul Johnson's first season.

Virginia Tech has remained the only constant. The Hokies have won consecutive ACC titles and never seems to drop far off the grid. Frank Beamer could be anywhere. He has chosen to remain in Blacksburg and built an unlikely powerhouse.

The Hokies are prohibitive favorites to make it three in a row.

Atlantic

1. North Carolina State -- Invest in Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack's coach is as solid commodity as there is on Wall Street these days. Actually better, considering the state of Wall Street. For 10 years, he overachieved at Boston College. Now with more resources he is ready to deliver in Raleigh. When in doubt, I always go with a solid returning quarterback. Russell Wilson might have the most upside of any in the league. He enters the season with 249 passes without an interception, 22 short of Drew Weatherford's ACC record. During an injury-filled season Wilson still threw 17 touchdowns and only one interception. O'Brien will hit it big in his third season coming in with a four-game winning streak to end '08.

UPDATE: Linebacker Nate Irving was injured in a car accident on Sunday (6/28). Irving, when healthy, was one of the best linebackers I saw last season. If he isn't able to go this season, the certainly impacts the Pack's chances.

2. Florida State -- The bandwagon is not full. I'm intrigued why the Seminoles are most people's choice in this division. Bobby Bowden is back to having an established quarterback (Christian Ponder) for the first time in eight seasons. The offensive line is reflecting line coach Rick Trickett's toughness (left tackle Andrew Datko was a freshman All-American). But there aren't the dynamic athletes we're used to seeing. And there always seems to be some drama around the program. People have talked more about the loss of 14 victories in the offseason more than Ponder having some reliable receivers. Try to envision a nine-win season with road trips to BYU, North Carolina, Clemson, Wake and Florida. I can't. FSU could win the division and probably eight games but it will take a step back from '08 when it won nine. 

3. Wake Forest -- The Deacons have won 11, 9 and 8 games the last three seasons. It would be logical to assume the decline is going to continue. Most of the returning players are back on offense, which struggled. The defense loses eight starters. Four players were taken in the first four rounds of the draft. That's amazing but also troubling for this season. Wake will have to get those new defensive starters ready to contribute right away for it to be a factor in the division.
 
4. Clemson
-- The Dabo Swinney era goes into its first full season. A 4-2 finish by the former receivers coach was enough to raise hopes after the end of Tommy Bowden's 9 1/2-year reign. There is always the fear that Clemson is still Clemson. Since 1999, it has never won less than six or more than nine. The Tigers have had the talent to win the ACC each of the last three seasons but they always seem to disappoint. Kevin Steele was a huge get as defensive coordinator coming from Alabama. Tailback C.J. spillers is less than 1,000 yards away from becoming the ACC's career leader in all-purpose yards. Swinney will be reminded at every turn that the last ACC title was in 1991. 

5. Maryland -- We can see the end of the Ralph Friedgen era in College Park. Offensive coordinator James Franklin is the coach in waiting. The Terps should take a major dip after going 8-5. Twelve starters have departed including receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Friedgen loves Torrey Smith and redshirt freshman Kevin Dorsey as emerging talents at receiver. Franklin has done a good job shaping senior quarterback Chris Turner. 

6. Boston College -- Gene DeFilippo is my hero. Look, I liked Jeff Jagodzinski but I admire BC's AD for calling the former coach's bluff when Jags interviewed with the Jets. I admire DeFilippo more for replacing Jags with the guy who most deserved it. Frank Spaziani was d-coordinator for 10 years and had earned his shot. There is enough left over from the nation's No. 5 five defense to compete (linebacker Mark Herzlich was ACC defensive player of the year). You wonder, though, if the Eagles will be able to throw when they need to. Junior Codi Boek arrived as a quarterback, then was converted to fullback. He is now is back at quarterback. He is competing with freshman Justin Tuggle.


Coastal

1. Virginia Tech -- Beamer doesn't get enough credit. The Hokies have become the dominant program in a league that was formed showcase Miami and Florida State. In the last five seasons he has won 52 games and three ACC titles, including the last two in a row. Virginia Tech should go to a third consecutive BCS bowl. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor gets the job to himself after injuries and Sean Glennon blocked his way the past two seasons. Taylor's game resembles a certain legend whose name rhymes with "quick." Sophomore tailback Darren Evans rushed for most of his 1,265 yards in the second half of the season.  Coordinator Bud Foster might have his best defense ever. It is quick and mean. If the Hokies get past Alabama in the opener, they could be in the national championship hunt.

2. Georgia Tech -- You've got to love Paul Johnson's, um, confidence. When folks questioned whether his triple option could work in the big time he went out and won nine while beating Georgia in his first season with the Jackets. Things should be better this season Heisman candidate Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC's leading rusher, is complemented nicely by Roddy Jones in the same backfield. The defense finished in the top 25 nationally and held five teams to 20 points or less. The secondary is loaded with the addition of corner Jerrard Tarrant who was suspended for all of '08 fighting a rape accusation. The charges were dropped. The toughest stretch will be three weeks in October when the Jackets play at Mississippi State, at Florida State and Virginia Tech at home.

3. North Carolina -- Davis continues to recruit. The Tar Heels should continue to win. In Davis' second year the Heels jumped from four to eight wins. Often-injured quarterback T.J. Yates lost his two most reliable targets (Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate) to the NFL. Fortunately, the defense is loaded. If the Heels can win at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26 don't be surprised if they start 6-0.
 
4. Miami -- I don't care who is responsible. In fact, I don't want to know. The schedule, though, is a joke. Poor Randy Shannon is looking at 0-4 with the toughest first four games in the country -- at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. Shannon lost a quarterback (Robert Mavre) and had to change both coordinators. Mark Whipple came from the NFL to take over the offense. First-year d-coordinator John Lovett came from North Carolina. The defense is stout, but let's be honest. This is Miami and if they don't win big with flair, it will be a disappointment.  The progress of quarterback Jacory Harris will be on one of the major stories in the conference.

5. Virginia -- It has been a weird circle of life in Charlottesville. Al Groh's son Mike became offensive coordinator in 2006 after Ron Prince left to become Kansas State's head coach. Prince is back (as special teams coach) after being fired at K-State. Mike Groh was, um, let go after producing the sixth-worst offense in Division I-A last season. Gregg Brandon has installed a spread offense for quarterback Jameel Sewell. They should be thankful to work together. Brandon landed at Virginia after being fired at Bowling Green. Sewell missed '08 because he was academically ineligible.

6. Duke -- There won't be a more upbeat last-place team in the country. David Cutcliffe squeezed out four victories in his first season as coach. That ties for the most in Krzyzewskiville since 1994. Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis gets one last season to work under the guy who tutored Peyton and Eli. Last season's defense held three opponents to less than 10 points for the first time since 1976. Only four starters return including potential All-ACC defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase.

 

Posted on: May 21, 2009 10:54 am
 

Picking the MAC

Four wins over Big Ten teams. A 12-win team ranked in the top 12. Five bowl teams.

It will be hard to replicate the MAC's 2008 season. Even with all that success, five schools had to replace their coaches. Included in that group is 2008 (almost) BCS buster Ball State. Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Toledo also changed coaches.

The storylines are overflowing again in 2009. It's almost guaranteed to be another record-breaking year. Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour and Western Michigan's Tim Hiller are both chasing MAC career yardage and touchdown records.  The baby Bulls of Buffalo enter their 11th year in I-A as defending MAC champs.
Temple is, gulp, a factor. Ball State has won 14 regular-season teams in a row. And you've got to believe there is at least one more Big Ten victim ready to be knocked off.

How the mighty MAC stacks up in '09 ...

East Division

1. Temple -- What? Temple? Call me crazy but this is the Owls' time. They lost three games on the last play and were within a Hail Mary against Buffalo from winning the division last season.

Coming off a second-place finish and its most wins (five) in 18 years, Temple returns 21 players who started a game. Coach Al Golden has to find a new quarterback but redshirt junior Vaughn Charlton and redshirt sophomore Chester Stewart have experience.

If Golden, a former Penn State assistant, is going to replace Joe Paterno (someday), he'll have to win a conference title and go to a bowl. He might do both this season.

2. Akron -- J.D. Brookhart won a MAC title in 2005, his first season after leaving Pittsburgh. He hasn't had winning season since.

Either the Zips contend for the East this season or big changes might be coming. Akron has a new stadium, a new offensive coordinator (former Miami coach Shane Montgomery) and a powerful offense.

The defense was horrid (90th or worse in total defense, scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss), but defensive tackle Almondo Sewell is one of the league's best players. Third-year starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain will play behind four returning starters in the offensive line.

3. Bowling Green -- Dave Clawson at Tennessee was a bad fit, sort of like Rosie O'Donnell in the Miss America pageant. It wasn't going to work from the start.

Fortunately, being part of the train wreck of Phillip Fulmer's final season didn't sully Clawson's rep. Bowling Green was lucky to get this offensive mind on the rebound. Clawson inherits the league's most accurate passer Tyler Sheehan (66.8 percent, 20 touchdowns). That's a good place to start for the Falcons who won six and finished second in the East last season.

4. Buffalo -- That crash you heard was the Bulls falling back to earth. Lost in the gushing about coach Turner Gill was that his defense gave up the second-most points in the league. Gill had to almost totally rely on an offense winning four games by six or less.

Quarterback Drew Willy (3,304 passing yards) is being replaced by sophomore Zach Maynard (three attempts in '08). Three starters must be replaced on the offensive line.

In a good year, Buffalo is a tough project. It might never get as good for Gill as it was in 2008. Don't forget the Bulls did lose six last season.

5. Ohio --  It's been a hard slog for Frank Solich since winning the East in 2006. The Bobcats are 10-14 since then. At least Solich has a choice at quarterback. Seniors Boo Jackson (school-record 19 touchdowns) and Theo Scott (one before being injured) will continue to battle in the fall.

The Bobcats were terrible in turnover ratio while giving up almost four touchdowns per game.  If Ohio is going to a bowl, it's going to be on Jackson and/or Scott. Both are dual threats.

6. Kent State -- Golden Flashes everywhere are hoping that early enrollee Tyshon Goode can become a go-to receiver. Actually, just becoming an average receiver would acceptable. The eight receivers in the spring two-deep caught all of 29 passes last season.

7. Miami (Ohio) -- A first-time head coach (Mike Haywood) trying to improve the league's worst offense in a program that is coming off a 10-loss season. Not a good combination.


West Division

1. Central Michigan --  Flip a coin between Central and Western but I'll go with the Chips. Central has posted four consecutive winning seasons, the longest streak in the league. Butch Jones has 18 starters back from an eight-win team that tied for second in the West last season.

LeFevour is poised to become the MAC career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Best reasons to like the Chips? Jones already has won a MAC title (2007) and the program is shooting for its third in four years. Oh, and Central has won three in a row over Western.

2. Western Michigan -- Be in Kalamazoo on Oct. 17 for the Central game that might decide the West.

The two top players are Hiller and linebacker Austin Pritchard (17 tackles against Central). The receivers and the secondary are a bit lacking but after a nine-win season, the Broncos should challenge for the division title again.

3. Ball State -- Stan Parrish, the former offensive coordinator and mentor to Nate Davis, got the gig after Brady Hoke bolted for San Diego State. The Cardinals will score but can they win 12 again?

Doubtful. This is Parrish's first head coaching job since leaving Kansas State in 1988. In the interim, he has helped win a national championship (Michigan) and Super Bowl (Tampa Bay). Without Davis at quarterback, Parrish will rely heavily on a veteran defensive front and tailback MiQuale Lewis.

4. Northern Illinois --  Jerry Kill won six games and went a bowl with all-everything defensive end Larry English. What can the second-year coach do without him?

Sophomore tailback Me'co Brown hopes to take the pressure off quarterback Chandler Harnish who led the Huskies in rushing.

5. Toledo -- You're probably familiar with the words "scandal-ridden" coming before the Toledo name lately. The Rockets have played some football too in the middle of a point-shaving scandal.

Hopefully new coach Tim Beckman doesn't bring all of his mojo from Oklahoma State.  Beckman oversaw a Cowboys' defense that allowed the second-most points in the Big 12 South. Hybrid "Star" linebacker Barry Church will be all over the field.

6. Eastern Michigan -- If Ron English was just looking for a job, any job, he found it. The trick for him in Ypsilanti will be keeping it for any length of time. The Eagles have lost 77 games this decade and have become the MAC doormat.

English, Lloyd Carr's former defensive coordinator,  is right down the road from Ann Arbor. That won't help him to avoid the basement in his first year as a head coach.

Posted on: February 9, 2009 2:56 pm
 

Miami has a new defensive coordinator

Randy Shannon has settled on John Lovett, North Carolina's special teams coordinator/defensive assistant. Except an announcement sometime this week.

Lovett, 58, becomes Miami's third defensive coordinator in three seasons. He has been a d-coordinator at Auburn, Clemson, Maine and Bowling Green.  

 Don't expect any major rules changes to come from the annual NCAA rules committee meeting this week in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. I spoke to secretary-rules editor Rogers Redding who specifically mentioned that the timing rules will stay in play. The length of games (and plays per game) were reduced slightly in 2008 with the new timing rules.

"I think there's a sense of, let's let these soak in for a while," Redding told me. "Let's take a deep breath."

He said there was some discussion of adding a two-minute warning but that there wasn't enough support.

 

Posted on: January 30, 2009 1:47 pm
 

Pittsburgh's other team

The name Marino comes to mind. Mike Ditka, Hugh Green, Mark May, Bill Fralic and Russ Grimm too.

They are all chiseled somewhere into the walls of the University of Pittsburgh football complex. All-time Panther greats having played for, well, an overall good college football program. If you want to go that far.

It's not being cruel this weekend to mention that one of the few things the Steelers and Panthers have in common is their stadium and training facility in Pittsburgh. But one organization going for its sixth Super Bowl title. The other having just finished above third in the Big East Conference for the second time ever.

Why the comparison? The Steelers are in another Super Bowl. The Panthers just came out of the Sun Bowl. The Steelers have been so great while the Panthers have been just ... okay. Part of it is living elbow-to-elbow an NFL signature franchise. The Steelers are the heart and soul of the city. The Panthers? Maybe the gall bladder of the city. Part of the town, certainly, but not as essential as the Steelers.

That's not a slight, just a dose of reality. You'd think after all these years, some of that excellence would rub off.

In many ways it has. Two-hundred eight-nine Panthers have played in the NFL. Since 1937, an average of almost  four players per year have been drafted. Twenty-three have gone in the first round.  Since '04 Pittsburgh has had as many first-rounders as Florida (three).

 Pittsburgh has gone to major bowls and won two national championships (1937, 1976). Dorsetts (father and son) have graced its roster. But no one would call Pittsburgh a top 10 program today; maybe not even a top 25 program. Since that '76 championship it can be argued that Pittsburgh has been the Gallagher of college football . One tries to be funny and isn't. The other struggles mightily to be taken seriously.

Just when you think the Panthers are good, they aren't. Since 1977, the Panthers have only two more winning seasons (17) than losing or .500 seasons (15).

This is western Pennsylvania. Shouldn't things be better?  

That's an obvious question considering the amount of high school talent in the area, even after Penn State gets done. There's another obvious question hanging in the air this week in Tampa as a certain dreadlocked receiver has captured the hearts and minds of fans and media.

Who is the only person to stop Larry Fitzgerald?

Answer: Walt Harris.

Except that it isn't exactly true. Pittsburgh went to two bowls and was 17-9 during Fitzgerald's two seasons on the field under Harris. Fitzgerald was doing the things you see now back then, just on a smaller scale. One handers. Jump balls. One of the best games I ever saw by a receiver was Fitzgerald's three-touchdown game against Texas A&M in 2003.

Typically, the Panthers had lost the week before to Toledo. Harris, like those before and after him, couldn't assemble a complete team.

Speaking for sportswriters everywhere, we love current coach Dave Wannstedt. Wanny will break bread, chat you up and call you if he feels he has a player worthy of All-American consideration. That's all you can ask of a coach. He's a Pittsburgh guy. Genuine. He knows the city, has recruited well. He's also lost to Ohio and Bowling Green.


The inconsistency boggles the mind. The argument can be made that the Arizona Cardinals wouldn't be in the Super Bowl without Panther representation. There is Fitzgerald. Middle linebacker Gerald Hayes was a three-time All-Big East player at Pittsburgh.  Grimm is the Cardinals offensive line coach. Teryl Austin (1984-87) coaches defensive backs. Ken Whisenhunt came from the Pittsburgh staff to do the unthinkable in the desert -- lead the Cardinals to the brink of a championship for the first time since 1947.

Those were the days of  Marshall Goldberg. The former halfback had his number retired by both the Cardinals and his college team. Yep, it was Pittsburgh.

It just seems like neither team has won a thing since.

 

  

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.

 

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