Tag:Ohio
Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:07 pm
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Recent coaching drunk-driving scandals

In terms of severity, Gary Pinkel’s DWI falls somewhere between Lance Guidry and Bob Huggins on a scale of recent drunk-driving scandals.

Lance Guidry: The Western Kentucky defensive coordinator was cited Saturday in Baton Rouge, the morning of the WKU-LSU game. Not only wasn’t Guidry suspended, he coached in the game.

Coach Willie Taggart said discipline would be handled internally.

Frank Solich: In late 2005 the former Nebraska coach, then at Ohio, was found asleep in his car and charged with drunk driving. Solich contended that he couldn’t have been that hammered compared to the moderate amount of alcohol he consumed.

The Bobcats coach later claimed he was slipped the “date rape” drug GHB. A hair sample tested positive for the substance. Solich later attempted to remove his no contest plea but a wise-ass judge declined saying, “"Fourth-and-goal decisions are difficult and sometimes regretted but usually final nonetheless."

The coach was fined $250, lost his license for six months and was required to participate in an alcohol-education program.

The biggest victim of Solich’s conviction seemed to be assistant wrestling coach Kyle Hansen. In October 2006, Hansen was charged with OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired) and wreckless driving. He was fined $1,000 and had his license revoked. Hansen was also suspended by the school. He later appealed the suspension.

Then-AD Kirby Hocutt said at the time that Hansen was not singled out. Hocutt was the AD at Miami when booster Nevin Shapiro was running wild. He left in March, about the same time the NCAA began its investigation, to take the Texas Tech job.

Bob Huggins: On June 12, 2004, the legendary Cincinnati basketball coach was suspended with pay after a spectacular drunk-driving bust. (Check out the video if you can find it).

Huggins was reinstated in August of that year but in May 2005, he was told his contract would not be extended. Later that year he parted ways with the school for a reported $3 million in a going-away compensation package.

Billy Gillispie: Billy Clyde has three priors to his name. He was cited for the third time in August 2009 a few months after being let go at Kentucky. Gillispie is now at Texas Tech.

Posted on: January 2, 2011 6:46 pm
 

TCU's legacy both BCS and non-BCS

On the same day TCU received its first Rose Bowl bid, its stadium was demolished.

The two occurrences on Dec. 5 are actually related. In a strange way, the Frogs were in Saturday's Rose Bowl because Amon G. Carter Stadium was being demolished. The win over Wisconsin was a culmination of events that might have elevated TCU to being the best non-automatic qualifier in existence.

Part of the stadium was torn down as part of a $100 million facilities upgrade. Call it an overall upgrade, the biggest in school history. With the Rose Bowl win and a 13-0 season, TCU is on the edge of breaking into college football's elite. It certainly has passed Utah and Boise as the best non-BCS programs of the BCS era (since 1998). World's tallest midget status is a bit meaningless now, though, with TCU joining the Big East in 2012.

It will leave behind quite a legacy before starting a new one as one of the game's haves. Gary Patterson is a defensive savant but his teams have been tremendously balanced. Departing senior Jeremy Kerley was a dual threat as a receiver and returner. Quarterback Andy Dalton leaves as the winningest active quarterback in the game. His placement will be either Casey Pachall, a redshirt freshman, or Matt Brown, an Allen, Texas star who changed his commitment from Arizona in February.

Only 10 starters return with the loss of 26 seniors in 2011. But Patterson has been good at replenishing and rebuilding. Most of the 2010 recruiting class redshirted. Only three true freshmen played any significant time. This season marked the program's fifth in the last six with at least 11 wins. The residual gift from those victories will benefit both the Mountain West and Big East. BCS executive director Bill Hancock confirmed Saturday night that the leagues will each get credit for TCU's records in 2010 and 2011.

A four-year evaluation period for automatic BCS conference qualification has been adjusted to match up with TV contracts. That's why TCU will most likely help the Big East keep its BCS status and aid the Mountain West in getting its shot. If the MWC meets a series  of benchmarks it will get temporary automatic qualifying status in 2012 and 2013. That would help sustain the league despite the losses of Utah and BYU next season and TCU in 2012. Boise State joins the MWC in 2011. Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii (football only) will arrive in 2012.

As TCU AD Chris Del Conte said, that wasn't the MWC that TCU had joined or wanted to be part of in the future.

Some dope tweeted Sunday about TCU's weak schedule. While the MWC has been damaged by defections, it is on the brink of BCS automatic qualification because of the accomplishments of TCU, BYU and Utah. The Frogs have actively sought a tougher schedule in the Big East. Meanwhile, in the non-con Boise State comes to Fort Worth in 2011. Oklahoma and Virginia follow in 2012. There's a home and home with LSU in 2013 and 2014.

Let's see Ohio State (Marshall, Ohio and Eastern Michigan this season in the non-con) match that.

Posted on: October 15, 2010 4:04 pm
 

Mailbag, 10/15

A wise man once wrote ... "They are numerous and belligerent. They are fervent and many. They are passionate and unmoving. They are misguided they are scarlet and gray."

That wise man is me.

There seems to be this movement afoot to rationalize Ohio State's No. 1 ranking with a result from last season. Yeah, I know, seems weird to me too. While I understand that the polls are half reputation, you don't earn the No. 1 ranking in October based on a game that was played in January. But that certainly seems to be the feeling in Columbus where the Buckeyes not ARE No. 1 in both polls but, damn it, deserve it over every other team in the country.

You know why? It beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Oregon, without the quarterback who played in that game. Oregon, which is stronger now than it was in Pasadena. Oregon, which is a season older and wiser.  Last season's Oregon.

Guys and gals, is that the best you can come with in making your argument? Ohio State is better than No. 2 Oregon because of a game played 10 months ago, but you can't tell me why Ohio State is better than the 12 other undefeated teams in I-A? Way to settle an argument.

You people destroy your own argument. Boise beat Oregon last season too. Shouldn't it be, at least, a co-No. 1 with the beloved Buckeyes?

Cue the myopic, Buck-hater e-mails. I know they're coming. My point if you can calm down for a second, Brutus: There is nothing you can tell me that Ohio State has done this season to convince me it is the clear-cut No. 1. That's why I ranted Sunday.

I'm not hating on the Bucks. I happen to like The Senator in a nebbish, Firestone-regional-manager kind of way. It's hard to anger him, which is probably why his teams play so well. They're consistent and, mostly, unflappable. But let's all take a deep breath here in the middle of October. Ohio State may be No. 1 in the three polls that matter right now. That doesn't mean it should be. I believe in poll diversity. I've seen Boise State just as much as Ohio State. I marvel at what Oregon has been able to accomplish without that quarterback who played in the Rose Bowl (Jeremiah Masoli). Who's faster than Nebraska's Taylor Martinez?

Look outside the boundaries of Ohio, Ohio. There is some great football being played out there. Maybe you'll find out Saturday night in Madison. Maybe you won't. Just don't come at me with 10-month old arguments. There's a fantastic season being played out there too.


From: Ed Champagne

Is Bama good or is Penn St. BAD?

Bubbly:

The answer lies in the middle. Until the Clubbing In Columbia, I thought Alabama was a world-beater. After getting through Arkansas and Florida, it looked like South Carolina would be the easiest task in the three-game slog. I was wrong. South Carolina was better than we thought and, suddenly, Bama has troubles running the ball. For now, the best team in the SEC is Auburn.

As much as that upsets Alabama, it's true. Teams change throughout the season. Penn State was way overrated. As Alabama and others have proved, Joe Paterno doesn't have a playmaker on either side of the ball. The Nits are 3-3 halfway through the season and have a ways to go to get to bowl eligibility (six wins) which would net Joe is 400th career win. Penn State isn't bad, it's just not good. To paraphrase a former Arizona Cardinals coach:  "Penn State is who we thought they were."



From: Tim


Dennis, I know you guys like to create controversy but when it starts to hurt your credibility I have to try to redirect your marketing efforts. Boise State would absolutely get hammered playing a Big Ten schedule. The best teams in the overrated WAC would only be mediocre in the Big Ten. Treasure your job - they are hard to come by these days. Good luck.

Large 11 Honk:

Sorry you made bail, but I'm going to burst your bubble. I've been saying publicly for a while that Boise State could win the Big Ten this year. SEC East too. Big 12? Tell me they couldn't line up with Nebraska. I don't know how much of Boise you've seen in person but give them the eye test. That would require you watching them play. Get back to me. I'll help get you a ticket.



From: Sarah


Dear Dodd, Did you not have Ohio State at No. 2 in your pre-season poll? All they've done is kick the crap out of people, with a dominating defense and a Heisman-contending quarterback. What else would you have expected them to do so far that warrants your whining? Boise's win over Virginia Tech is not the least bit impressive after VT goes down to James freaking Madison. Put Boise in a real conference and let them play a real schedule, then we'll talk. This whole fascination with Boise is a joke and a cop out by writers, like yourself, to continue hating on Ohio State.

Just Another Mypopian:

"Kick the crap out of people"? If you want to call Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Marshall and Indiana "people", that's a stretch. They are body bags. Air. They've renamed themselves "The Lettermen" because they mail it in. You conveniently forgot about that little struggle in Champaign. And I don't mean Ed Champagne.

 Nice win over Miami, by the way. The Canes are so far out of the polls, they have to look up to see the bottom of West Virginia's cleats.

The reality is that Boise has accomplished more ON THE FIELD than Ohio State has this season.


From: Keith

Dennis, You are smarter than me, so please find a way to talk about an elephant-in-the-room topic for all of the reasonable, rational college football fans. Don't know how many of those are left, but there are at least a few of us.

Here's my topic: Much of the controversy surrounding BCS vs. non-BCS teams is pedigree. But riddle me this: how many current Alabama players -- or insert your favorite traditional power players or coaches -- were there when Bear Bryant was there? How many current LSU players were on the squad in 2007 when the title was won? Point: players, especially starters, are different every year. Five years ago all of them were in high school, or even junior high! Coaches change all the time, etc. What Alabama did ten years ago means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING today, and what they did last year still matters very little.


Time Traveler:

You've been reading my mind, Mr. Spock. A lot of the polls are built on reputation. It's why Lindsay Lohan continues to get acting roles. She might have her snoot halfway up a brick of cocaine, but she sure does look good on screen.

Few want to give Boise cred because the program has been good for 10 years. Alabama has been good for 10 DECADES! That's the difference. Line 'em up on the field and let's see what happens. Better yet, line 'em up in NCAA 11. I still haven't bought my copy yet.

Coaches and players change all the time but voters don't, it seems.


From:
  Rick

Oregon reminds me of a Little League Pop Warner type team! They are a controlled group that have gone berserk! I believe their players truly believe that they can outscore anyone! Like great golfers, they play their game - and then some, not worrying about what their opponent does. It would be interesting to see them play Boise State, followed by Alabama! Opinion? They would outscore both.

Acid Washed:

Dude, you're so all over the board I'm afraid you've had too much organic coffee (or something) out there in Eugene.

You besmirch Pop Warner teams everywhere suggesting they don't play any defense. You ever see Snoop Dogg's team. They beat the heck out of you. There's a league in central New York that leads the country in torn ACLs caused. I'm insulted at your blanket reference to Pop Warner football. It's better than you think. Ask Eastern Michigan.

 

Posted on: October 18, 2009 6:27 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

Coaches of the year at the halfway point (seven weeks down, seven weeks to go)

ACC: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech. With the upset of Virginia Tech, Johnson is on track to win the league in his second season. Who says the triple option won’t work in major-college football. The Yellow Jackets completed one pass on Saturday.

Big East: Brian Kelly, Cincinnati. They were picking for the middle of the pack after losing 10 starters on defense. Kelly took a bunch of offensive players, made them linebackers and balanced a team that was going to score points with Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard on offense. The question is how long can Cincinnati hold onto Kelly if he wins the Big East again, especially if Notre Dame opens up?

Big Ten: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa: No one expected 7-0, especially after an opening-day squeaker against Northern Iowa. Now the Hawkeyes are to be feared after a comeback win at Wisconsin. Don’t be surprised if they’re favored on Nov. 14 going to Ohio State.

Big 12: Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State. That loss to Houston is looking better all the time.  The dude isn’t exactly Mr. Rogers but he does know how to call an offense and the addition of Bill Young on defense has made a difference. The NCAA took away Dez Bryant. Injuries took away his best running back, Kendall Hunter. The Cowboys, 5-1 and second in the Big 12 South, control their own destiny for the conference title.

Conference USA: Kevin Sumlin, Houston. Not “Sumlan” as a wire story called him on Saturday. Be assured, the Cougars’ coach is known throughout the industry. After defeating three BCS-conference teams, Houston is the favorite to win Conference USA. Kelly should be up for every major job that opens.

MAC, Al Golden, Temple: The Owls have won four in a row for the first time since 1985 and are tied for the MAC East lead. The division could come down to a Nov. 27 date at Ohio. As late as 2006 this program had lost 20 in a row.

Mountain West: Gary Patterson, TCU. Fort Worth’s favorite has the Froggers chasing their first BCS bowl and first conference title since 2005. No Heisman candidates, a great defensive end (Jerry Hughes) and Patterson’s scheming.

Pac-10: Chip Kelly, Oregon. In his first season as head coach, Kelly lost his best runner and his quarterback. All he did was win the next five after the opening-night loss to Boise. USC should be worried, very worried, when it goes to Eugene on Oct. 31.

SEC: Nick Saban, Alabama. Until Saturday, it might have been Steve Spurrier but Saban quashed that talk. In his third season, Saban has the Tide back among the elite. They control their road to the national championship; have a Heisman candidate (Ingram) and perhaps the nation’s nastiest defense.

Sun Belt: Charlie Weatherbie, Louisiana-Monroe. Among the lowest-paid coaches in I-A, Weatherbie has the Warhawks off a 3-0 conference start. That's the longest conference winning streak in 16 years. At a school that usually gets beaten down by guarantee games against  BCS schools, Louisiana-Monroe is 4-2 overall.

WAC: Robb Akey, Idaho. The Vandals are 29th in the first BCS which should be cause for a street party in Moscow. Idaho is nine miles away from the BCS (Pullman, Wash., home of Washington State is that close), but miles away from a BCS bowl. Still, Akey has taken a program that was picked for the bottom of the WAC to contention with mighty Boise State. Halfway through the season the Vandals are bowl eligible. Their only bowl as a I-A program came 11 years ago.

National coach of the (half) season: Check back on Wednesday.

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

1. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. Behind Tebow, the best player in the SEC.
2. Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Leads the country in touchdown passes (19), yards (2,464) and has beaten three BCS schools.  That’s as many as Jimmy Clausen.
3.  Jacory Harris, QB, Miami. The physical and spiritual momentum behind Miami’s rise back to the top.
4. Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh. The nation’s leading freshman runner is on pace for 1,580 yards.
5. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida. Harassed by Arkansas but came through again during the game-winning drive.

Posted on: May 27, 2009 12:27 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2009 5:39 pm
 

Voting coaches go gutless

DESTIN, Fla. -- Bobby Johnson is a good man, an honest man, a heck of a football coach.

With all due respect, he didn't know what he was talking about Wednesday after the American Football Coaches Association decided its coaches poll would go gack to the dark ages. Starting in 2010, the AFCA will no longer reveal the final ballots of its voting coaches. It had done so the past four years bringing some credibility to a borderline corrupt poll.

Johnson, the Vanderbilt coach, is a member of the AFCA board of trustees who approved -- unanimously we are told -- the switch.

It's pretty simple: The coaches might know football, but they don't know polls. They especially don't know how to choose their consultants. The AFCA followed the recommendations of the Gallup World Poll which was called in to examine the coaches poll. Gallup takes its name from George Gallup who in 1948 was part of one of the biggest polling goofs in history. Remember "Dewey Beats Truman"? Part of the blame goes to Gallup whose organization stopped polling a month before the election.

Darn that Truman and his barn-storming tour that turned the tide in the final weeks.

"You can still make mistakes on a call," said Dr. Bob Tortura of Gallup who worked with the AFCA on the project. "That was a low point in Dr. Gallup's career, I can assure you."

So why is anyone supposed to rely on the Gallup World Poll for something as complicated and controversial as the coaches poll? That's a miscalculation that's hard to live down even 61 years later. The organization advertises itself as being "a must read for audiences that need the most accurate and up-to-date information."

Just like the coaches poll, we'll have to trust Gallup on that.

It is assumed that Johnson knew none of this when a few of us approached him here Wednesday at the SEC spring meetings.

"I can't tell you the rationale," Johnson said. "They (Gallup) do a great, I think, (job) of enlisting the top experts in the land about this situation."

Hopefully, one of them wasn't South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, one of five SEC coaches in attendance who voted in the poll last season.

"That was surprising," Spurrier said of the AFCA's announcement. "I thought we would stay public on that last vote. I sort of think we ought to stay public, keep everybody honest."

Georgia's Mark Richt, another SEC voter in the poll, agreed.

"I didn't mind opening up my vote," Richt said. "I try to make it make sense. I want to be able to defend (it) every week whether it's public or not."

One of the ideas being tossed around was actually hiding the identity of all the voters. Talk about a Star Chamber. After the past four seasons, each of the 60 or so voters (there were 61 last season) released their final ballots. That was a small concession to a system that rewards its participants with millions of dollars. Those dollars actually controlled by the participants.

Example: Coaches will still be allowed to vote for themselves.

Wonderful.

Am I the only one outraged by this? Apparently not.

"Now," Spurrier said, "There's a chance for real hanky panky."

Where's the incentive, now, for coaches to fill out their own ballots? This isn't a poll, it's a secret society that prints money.

For the past four years, the system has worked. At least it worked better, if not completely. There was transparency, accountability. The coaches' final regular-season ballots were published in USA Today. With Wednesday's announcement, they're going backward.

The best method is to release each and every ballot every week. If the coaches don't like it, don't participate. If the thin-skinned coaches who vote can't stand a little scrutiny then that's tough.  Give me $3 million a year, I'll give you my vote, my car keys and my credit card number and my underwear size.

Let's recap: This is a system that forces it coaches to vote No. 1 the winner of the BCS championship game. The AFCA essentially is legitimizing itself. The BCS would still "work" if coaches were allowed a free will after the title game.

If the Congressmen and attorney generals want some BCS source to sue, they ought to go after the AFCA. Its poll kept Utah from winning a national championship. At least the AP media voters can vote their conscience. If you recall, the AP voters thought so much of the undefeated Utes that they voted them No. 2 in the final poll.

AFCA and USA Today officials swear it has cross checks in place to keep a coach from abusing his ballot. Since we'll never see them -- just like 1948 -- we'll have to take their word for it.

A final head scratcher: The 16 board of trustees who voted to change the Division I-A poll aren't all from Division I-A. In fact, the coaches poll that makes up one-third of the BCS formula has been altered by two Division II coaches, two Division III coaches, one NAIA coach and 11 I-A coaches.

I'm sure glad the NAIA has weighed in.

Get ready for some real hanky panky. Trust me.

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: 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: 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?

 

 


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