Tag:Florida International
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:05 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:08 am
 

A sad goodbye to Karl Benson & perhaps WAC

The enduring image of Karl Benson will be his practically skipping through the University of Phoenix Stadium press box on Jan. 1, 2007.

Boise State had just shocked Oklahoma, college football and the world. The commissioner of the Broncos’ league was along for the ride. Karl Benson, a former Boise State shortstop, had just seen the gosh-darndest thing in his life. Along with the rest of us.

He was proud that his lowly-but-proud Western Athletic Conference had taken advantage of the BCS rules to – put in terms of the conference’s marketing slogan – Play Up. Yes, the loosening of BCS bowl access rules in 2006 contributed to Boise’s rise. But it took the team’s performance on the field to convince the world that college football wasn’t the exclusive domain of the Big Six conferences.

WAC member Hawaii went to the Sugar Bowl a year later but the new wave punk band that was the WAC slowly broke up over the years. Boise State skipped from the Mountain West to the Big East. Others followed.

The plucky little conference that couldn’t be killed was on its death bed Thursday with the news that Benson had become the new Sun Belt commissioner. On the surface, Benson is trading a job at the 10th-rated conference in FBS to one rated 11th(and last in the division).

In reality, it is the latest shift of conference realignment tectonic plates. The 50-year old WAC that Benson leaves behind be damaged beyond recognition.  It was formed in 1962 in order to grab an NCAA tournament automatic bid – there were only 24 at the time. The Original Six included Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.  The current seven-team league (in football) could be absorbed like rain into the soil by some combination of Benson’s new conference and the emerging Big Country (Conference USA/Mountain West conglomeration).

It really depends on the intentions of the Big Country. 

Benson, 60, fought the good fight out West with dignity. Now it’s time to keep the Sun Belt alive and kicking. Time after time on the conference call announcing his hiring, Benson was not shy about saying he wanted the 10-member Sun Belt (in football) to grow to 12. At least. It doesn’t take too much to figure out where those two (or more) teams are going to come from.

As mentioned, in 2012 the WAC is down to seven teams, one above the NCAA minimum. The teams that emerged from that conference to gain BCS bowls under Benson’s watch – Boise State and Hawaii – are long gone. Just a guess but look for the Sun Belt to go after WAC member Louisiana Tech – if the Big Country doesn’t get to Ruston first. The New Orleans-based Sun Belt already has members at Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

“There are schools in the [Louisiana] footprint that would make sense,” Benson said.   

Other possibilities: Any combination of Appalachian State, Georgia State, Jacksonville State and Liberty. All four are moving up or in the process of moving up to FBS.  

Benson has literally held the WAC together by force of personality. First, reorganizing after half the then-16 team league left in 1999 to form the Mountain West. (He got the news lying down on the couch at home after eye surgery.) Then with the departure of Boise State (Mountain West, then Big East) as well as Fresno, Hawaii, Nevada (Mountain West) Benson hustled within the last year to add Texas State and Texas-San Antonio. The next FBS game those two schools play will be their first.

The pity is if in the end Benson was somehow forced out of the WAC. The conference owes its current existence to him. With the Sun Belt’s Wright Waters stepping down, the lowest-ranked FBS league is about to experience a rebirth. The so-called Group of Five non-BCS conferences (WAC, MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt) could to shrink to three.

In a way it consolidates Big Six conferences’ power. The apparent end of BCS automatic qualifying conferences in 2014 means that access to the game’s biggest bowls becomes more important for the “non-AQs” that Benson helped make famous.

“I often asked who is the next Boise State?” he said. “With my Sun Belt hat on, why not someone from the Sun Belt?”

 

WAC football membership in 2012

Idaho 
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Texas State
Utah State


Sun Belt football membership in 2012

Arkansas State
Florida Atlantic
Florida International
Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Monroe
Middle Tennessee
North Texas
South Alabama
Troy
Western Kentucky


Posted on: February 25, 2010 9:21 am
 

Big East schedule breakdown

Remember the Big East. Remember it well, because it may not be long for this earth.

OK, maybe that's an exaggeration but with expansion winds blowing throughout college football, maybe it isn't. Once again, the conference is on notice with the Big Ten looking to improve its television profile. If the Large Eleven picks off Connecticut, Syracuse, Rutgers or Pittsburgh, then the Big East has to stay viable.

That's getting ahead of the carnage, er, story. For now, the Big East will continue with new coaches (Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida) and the same old story in places like Syracuse. The conference will continue to promote itself with 14 weeknight games (six on Thursday).

Cincinnati and Pittsburgh once again look like the class of the league. UConn is one of the quietest success stories in football. Charlie Strong finally gets his chance at Louisville. The Skip Holtz era begins at South Florida. West Virginia hasn't gone away under Bill Stewart.

Their schedules are finalized except for Syracuse which is still looking for a non-conference game. Might we suggest a Big Ten opponent? Could count in both leagues' standings.

Just kidding.


Game of the year:  (non-conference)  Miami at Pittsburgh, Sept. 23. These old Big East rivals are both standing at the altar of BCS bowl contention.  Neither current coach has broken through. Dave Wannstedt still hasn't won that conference title after a heart-breaking end to last season. Randy Shannon is still in rebuilding mode. It doesn't help that Jacory Harris (hand) and Graig Cooper (knee) will miss spring practice. That doesn't tell us much about seven months from now.

This game will go a long way toward proving if Wanny and the Panthers are worthy of that BCS bowl.  Same for Shannon who is 7-9 on the road.

There is a bit of history for those of us who can remember all the way back to 2003. In the regular-season finale at Heinz, Miami won an Orange-Bowl-or-bust game 28-14. That was the Canes' last Big East game.

Game of the year: (conference) Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, Dec. 4. Three in a row for the Bearcats? Brian Kelly has left enough talent for Butch Jones to get to a third consecutive BCS bowl. Last year's snowy matchup in Pittsburgh was a classic decided by a botched extra point.

This season's game will be impacted by a couple of high-profile replacements. Pat Bostick and Tino Sunseri will battle it out in the spring to replace Bill Stull as Pittsburgh quarterback. The mouthy Mardy Gilyard will be missed at Cincinnati but only until one-time USC five-star recruit Vidal Hazelton takes over as Zach Collaros top target.

Team on the spot: Rutgers. Whatever happened to Greg Schiano's magic? The Scarlet Knights have finished above third only once since the 11-win season in 2006. That was a three-way tie for second in 2008. Are we expecting too much? This is, after all, Rutgers but the '06 ride was such a tease.

The offensive line underachieved last season even though tackle Anthony Davis could be a high draft choice. Quarterback Tom Savage showed flashes as a freshman but needs to make that leap to difference maker as a sophomore. The most exciting player in the conference might be Mohamed Sanu who was effective out of the Wildcat and at receiver.

Toughest non-conference schedule: Hard one because the schedules are so balanced in the Big East and Syracuse is still looking for a  game, but Pittsburgh seems to be in the most peril. It opens at Utah, then gets I-AA power New Hampshire nine days later. The Miami game comes to Pittsburgh after an open date. The Miami and Notre Dame games are sandwiched around a home game against Florida International.

Wanny and AD Steve Pederson are putting the program out there playing two BCS teams and a team that is in a de facto BCS league (Utah). That could be a season killer. It also could lift the Panthers into that BCS bowl.

Easiest non-conference schedule: Rutgers. As much as the Knights need to get back on national scene, they've got the schedule to do it. Norfolk State, Florida International, Tulane and Army don't exactly strike fear into hearts. The only sweat-breaker is North Carolina which comes to New Jersey on Sept. 25. Win that and Rutgers should start 6-0 before going to Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.
Check back in November, though. Beginning Nov. 3, Rutgers plays at South Florida, Cincinnati and West Virginia in its final five games.

 

Posted on: May 18, 2009 10:49 am
Edited on: May 18, 2009 1:05 pm
 

Picking the Sun Belt

(Over the next few weeks I'll pick the order of finish in each I-A conference. Why? Because it's the offseason and I can't get cfb out of my mind....Starting with the Sun Belt.)

The Sun Belt has graduated from pushover to pesky. Last season four of the eight teams were bowl eligible. Two went bowling and one (Florida Atlantic) became the first Sun Belt team to win consecutive bowl games.

The likes of Maryland and Texas A&M got stung by Sun Belt teams. Typically on the lowest rung of Division I-A conferences, some of the programs have more stability than some power conferences. Howard Schnellenberger nurtured Florida Atlantic from zygote to a share of the conference title in 2007.  Larry Blakeney (2008 Sun Belt coach of the year) is beginning his 19th season at Troy. Steve Roberts is in his eighth season at Arkansas State.

This how an improved Sun Belt stacks up for 2009:

1. Troy -- Blakeney has won eight games each of the last three seasons. That's almost impossible to do in the Sun Belt. Look for at least eight wins this season. Troy might have the league's most loaded team.

You've got to like a linebacking crew named Boris and Bear. That's seniors Boris Lee (126 tackles) and Bear Woods (nine TFLs), who might be among the best pair of linebackers in the country.

Quarterback Levi Brown and receiver Jerrell Jernigan will hook up frequently. Brown threw only three interceptions in 326 attempts. Jernigan caught a school-record 77 passes.

The schedule does Blakeney no favors. The Trojans end the season against Arkansas, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Lafayette. If Troy is intact after the Arkansas game, the conference title might be on the line in the final two weeks against the Owls and the Cajuns.

Wait a minute: Bear Woods?

2. Arkansas State -- If a rebuilt offensive line comes around the Red Wolves could upset the Trojans and win the league. Quarterback Corey Leonard broke his own record for total offense in 2008. Tailback Reggie Arnold (1,074 yards) was the league's No. 2 rusher. Eight starters return on defense including Sun Belt defensive player of the year Alex Carrington (10.5 sacks, 19 TFLs) at defensive end.

Texas A&M is still trying to figure out how it lost to Arkansas State. It's pretty simple: The Red Wolves were that good and A&M was that bad.

3. Florida Atlantic -- After a 6-1 finishing kick, the Owls became the first Sun Belt team to win back-to-back bowl games. Will there be a hat trick? It's up to the defense, which returns a bunch of starters but must get better. It finished 110th in sacks.

Any team with Rusty Smith will have a chance. The senior quarterback has thrown for 62 touchdowns and for more than 8,000 yards. 

Returning tight end Jason Harmon went from jock to picking up jocks. An all-conference pick in 2007, Harmon tore his knee up in 2008 spring practice and decided to become a student equipment manager while he rehabbed.

4. Middle Tennessee -- Rick Stockstill might be the next big thing for some I-A power. In three seasons with the Blue Raiders he has won the league, led them to a bowl game and beaten Maryland.

Watch the offense which has 10 starters back and is being led by Tony Franklin, Auburn's deposed offensive coordinator. With no one looking over his shoulder and better pieces to fit his scheme, Franklin should thrive. Get ready Dwight Dasher (38.6 percent passer as a backup), your life is about to change. Dasher is one of the more athletic players in the league. Franklin, though, will emphasize the quick passing attack.

5. Louisiana-Lafayette -- It would seem the Ragin' Cajuns have to slide. They lost Sun Belt player of the year (tailback Tyrell Fenroy) and offensive player of the year (quarterback Michael Desormeaux).  The offensive line, however, is the best in the league with center Chris Fisher (Rimington Trophy watch list) and coach Rickey Bustle's son Brad (Lombardi Award watch list ) at left guard.
 
If Rickey Bustle is relying on the defense to get the Louisiana-Lafayette to a bowl he might be disappointed. The Cajuns defense gave up more than 200 yards per game rushing and was 100th in sacks last season.

6. Florida International -- The provost can't get the all-star basketball coach's name right. Where does that leave Mario Cristobal? After somehow scratching out five victories in '08, the third-year football coach has a bigger task ahead: Getting bowl eligible with a schedule that includes road trips to Alabama, Rutgers and Florida.

Nine starters return on offense but the unit was last in Sun Belt rushing and total offense. That's the good news. A whole new defensive line must be installed. The D gave up at least 31 six times last season.

It is South Florida and Christobal has recruited well. Freshman All-American T.Y. Hilton averaged 180 yards in all-purpose yards.

7. Louisiana-Monroe -- Entering his seventh season, coach Charlie Weatherbie has yet to finish above .500. After losing quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster, the Warhawks could lose eight again (4-8 in '08). A lot will be put on Trey Revell who was impressive in nine games as a backup.

Louisiana-Monroe falls into that Sun Belt trap of having to play too many guarantee games. How do the Warhawks get better when they have to travel to Texas, Arizona State and Kentucky?

8. North Texas -- Things have not gone well for Todd Dodge in his first two seasons since coming from Southlake Carroll High School. Three victories in 24 games have Dodge on the hot seat.

Offense hasn't been a problem. North Texas scored at least 26 points five times last season. Todd's son Riley takes over at quarterback. The pair were deadly in high school. Riley originally committed to Texas but signed with the Mean Green. Now both have to produce.

The defense has to get better. Try to figure out this dichotomy: The D was the worst in I-A last season but is one of the more experienced groups in the Sun Belt this season.

9. Western Kentucky -- The Hilltoppers officially enter Division I-A as its 120th member and are eligible for the Sun Belt title. Welcome to the big time, boys, now accept your whipping. Playing only six conference teams last year, Western Kentucky went 2-10. Against I-A competition outside the Sun Belt, the Hilltoppers went 0-5 and didn't score more than 13 points in any game.

Posted on: October 15, 2008 10:56 am
 

National notes at the halfway point

One of the best measures for an improved program is the games ahead/behind method. Look at baseball standings for an example. The NCAA includes a section in its statistics book each year that tracks the most improved teams from one year to the next. In 2007, it was Illinois which went from 2-10 in 2006 to 9-4 last season. That's an improvement of 6 1/2 games.

Hawaii holds the record improving by 8 1/2 games in 1999. Ironically, the Warriors might be on the opposite side of that stat this season.

At the halfway point, I thought it would be a good idea to figure the biggest improvements and biggest declines of the 2008 season. Remember, some of the numbers might be skewed because we've played only half a season. But this might be a good measuring stick for coach of the year candidates and provide a short list of coaches about to be fired.

Most improved

1. Minnesota +7 1/2 games (from 1-11 to 6-1)
2. Duke +5 1/2
3. North Carolina +4
4. Pittsburgh +3 1/2
5. several tied at +3

Biggest decline

1. Hawaii -5 1/2 games (from 12-1 to 3-3)
2. Central Florida, Tennessee -4
4. LSU, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic, Michigan, West Virginia, Rutgers, Kansas - 3 1/2

Most improved by conference: Baylor, +3; ACC, Duke +5 1/2; Big East, Pittsburgh, +3 1/2; Conference USA, Rice/Marshall, +3; Mountain West, Colorado  State/UNLV, +3; MAC, Ball State/Northern Illinois, +3; SEC, Vanderbilt/Ole Miss, +3; WAC, New Mexico State, +3: Independents, Notre Dame, +3; Big Ten,  Minnesota, +7 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida International/Louisiana-Lafayette, +3; Pac-10, Stanford, +2 1/2.

Biggest decline by conference: ACC, Boston College/Clemson/Virginia, -2 1/2; Big 12, Kansas, -3 1/2; Big East, West Virginia/Rutgers, -3 1/2; Big Ten, Michigan, -3 1/2;  Independents, Western Kentucky, -2 1/2; Conference USA, Central Florida -4; MAC, Bowling Green/Ohio/Miami (Ohio), -1 1/2; Mountain West, New Mexico, -3; SEC, Tennessee, -4; Pac-10, Arizona State -3 1/2; WAC, Hawaii -5 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, -3 1/2.

Storylines for the second half

Will anyone go unbeaten?: It looks like the SEC and Big 12 will cannibalize each other. That leaves a bunch of one-loss powers that also could include Ohio State, Penn State, USC and Utah or Brigham Young.

Heisman race: Tim Tebow won't repeat and the Big 12 looks like it has a lock on the 2008 winner. But which player?

JoePa In the Sky With A Headset: Can Penn State's venerable coach win a Big Ten title and national championship without setting foot on the field the rest of  the way? Physical problems continue to keep JoePa in the press box. When asked Tuesday if he needed a hip replacement, Paterno answered cryptically, "I don't  know." It isn't exactly Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds but anything Joe does the rest of the season is going to be followed closely.

The non-BCS challengers: TCU, BYU and Utah are all in the mix. If Tulsa can win at Arkansas on Nov. 1 the Golden Hurricane will be a factor. The MAC is  simply too tough for Ball State (7-0) to go undefeated but you have to root for the Cardinals. Their best receiver's career is over (Dante Love) and their quarterback (Nate Davis) wears gloves.

Biggest looming controversy: If a one-loss team from the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12 is edged out of the BCS title game by an undefeated non-BCS school.

Next coach to be fired: Given the swiftly declining situation at Auburn it might be Tommy Tuberville. Other than that, Washington's Tyrone Willingham and  Syracuse's Greg Robinson are locks. Keep an eye also on San Diego State's Chuck Long and Central Florida's George O'Leary.

Biggest upset looming out there: Not in terms of David and Goliath but watch the Texas at Texas Tech game on Nov. 1. If both teams keep winning you're looking at No. 1 Texas vs. a Red Raiders team that should be in the BCS top five. If Texas Tech wins try to wrap your mind around Mike Leach and his Pirate  Love jumping up to No. 1.

Get out your swords and Johnny Depp movies.

BCS bowl predictions at the halfway point

BCS title game: Penn State* vs. Oklahoma*
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Alabama
Sugar Bowl: Florida* vs. South Florida*
Orange Bowl: BYU^ vs. Virginia Tech*
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC*

*-conference champ
^-non-BCS automatic qualifier

  Remember last week when Washington State held open tryouts to find a scout team quarterback? The winner of that competition, Peter Roberts, suddenly finds himself a viable backup option with the Cougars headed into the USC game.

 Speaking of injuries, it's a shame that two stars at Kentucky and North Carolina recently saw their careers end. Carolina's Brandon Tate, the I-A career  leader in kick return yards, is finished because of a knee injury. Exciting Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons is done because of a knee ligament tear.

 

 Don't say I didn't warn you. I know what I said about Texas and Texas Tech above but indulge me: The way things are shaking out, a Kansas-Oklahoma State Big 12 title game isn't out of the question. If Texas beats Missouri on Saturday then it becomes more likely. Kansas is playing better and has Texas at home later in the season. KU and Missouri meet in Kansas City on Nov. 29.

 

Oklahoma State is playing better than anyone in the conference (that includes Texas). That head-to-head game is Oct. 25.

 Remember this when you watch BYU and TCU on Thursday night. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall allows each special teams unit to name a captain. The captain then  names starters and backups for each unit. Wonder if that ever happens in the SEC?

 

 


Posted on: 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.

 

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