Tag:Penn State
Posted on: August 8, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 10:17 am
 

What to expect from this week's NCAA retreat

Let's calculate the odds of any real change coming out of this week's NCAA presidential retreat.

All we have is history which has not been kind. In the late 1980s, the nation's college presidents were charged with taking control of athletic landscape amid a time of scandal. In other words, live up to their job description.

So much for that. In the quarter century since 1987 (SMU death penalty) college football has averaged three football major violation cases per year. In one 13-day period in July (during our reform series, consequently), three schools went on probation in football in less than two weeks.

The presidential initiative hasn't failed -- the venerable Myles Brand was the first NCAA CEO to come from the academic side. It has been more uneven. For good reason.

Athletics aren't a front burner item to most college CEOs. They are in charge of what are frequently billion-dollar budgets. Athletics is a small part of that budget. They would be no big deal if the embarrassment factor weren't plugged in.

"Athletics is about two percent of my budget," Penn State president Graham Spanier said, "but probably 10 percent of my time. Clearly, I spend a disproportionate time on athletics. It's the one area that brings credit to you if you do it right. At the same time it's the area of the university that has the chance to bring discredit to the university."

Remember, this is from the CEO of one of two schools with football national championships that have never had a major violation in football. (BYU is the other.)

Look at what has happened recently at Ohio State and North Carolina. The presidents, in a way, have ignored the importance of athletics as their school's reputation took a hit. Ohio State's outgoing Gordon Gee is still being ripped for his March 8 comment about Jim Tressel.

"I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."

While watching his football program slowly disintegrate from within, North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp inadvertently committed an NCAA secondary violation.

These are the leaders of the NCAA. And their time is running out.

"I'm deeply worried about football," Spanier told me this summer. "I believe if we don't fix some of the problems in football, [that] in five years it will be as bad as basketball."

That's as damning as it gets. There are a lot of folks in college athletics who believe basketball is so far gone that it is irretrievable. Football still has a chance. That's why this retreat was called, to discuss the big picture but to concentrate on football.

A collection of presidents (Spanier is among them), ADs and commissioners will gather in Indy to discuss academic success, fiscal sustainability and integrity. Those are NCAA president Mark Emmert's words. We'll see if anything comes of them.

The difference this time is we have talking points. Most notably, SEC commissioner Mike Slive proposed a new model at the conference media days. The BCS commissioners basically agree with him.

If the NCAA (read: presidents) don't take significant action on those proposals, the commissioners can throw up their hands and say, "Hey, we tried our best." In a small way, Slive's words publicized the leverage those commissioners hold. Do nothing, and the minutia of the NCAA Manual could drive them to someday break away and form their own division.

That move alone could be driven by the current discussion over cost of attendance. But NCAA president Mark Emmert is against any kind of model that would make players employees.

"I am adamantly opposed to paying student-athletes to be athletes," he told me. "There is merit in having discussion about increasing of the support they get to manage their legitimate costs of being a student."

We're back, then, to the old conundrum of fitting a profit-driven pursuit into an academic/amateur model.

"I would rather do away with collegiate athletics than abandon the amateur model," Spanier said.

 It is more than interesting that it is the commissioners who are suddenly taking the lead on NCAA reform.

"It's a different day when commissioners are almost in competition to see who can come up with the best reform package," Emmert said.

Slive makes perfect sense when he suggests doing away with text and phone call limitations for coaches. This is how modern teenagers communicate. If they choose not to respond to a coach, they don't have to.

"When you really think about it, why can't coaches make phone calls?" Slive said. "Our focus needs to be on those rules and regulations that go to the heart and soul of the integrity we want in intercollegiate athletics."

In other words, smash the Tressels. Ignore the texters.

So it's up to you, presidents. If you don't want to get that integrity back it's time for action. In a vague and complicated way, those commissioners have issued a challenge. It has become clear that the NCAA controls basketball because of the billions being produced by the tournament. The commissioners, though, control football. They created and manage the BCS, which awards $200 million in bowl payouts.

And if you control football, you control college athletics. Slive did what Emmert couldn't, call from specific sweeping changes to the NCAA. Emmert has no real power on the subject. He is a figurehead -- a highly educated and accomplished one, but still a figurehead. He represents 1,200 schools with different constituencies, goals and budgets.

All you have to do is look at the Longhorn Network situation. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe took the lead, issuing a temporary ban on televising high school games. Big 12 ADs voted unanimously last week on a one-year moratorium. With a summit addressing the issue scheduled for later this month, I asked Emmert if there was any NCAA bylaw to cover the televising of prep games.

"Maybe," he said. 

(Here is a full Q & A with Emmert.)

Posted on: August 4, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 9:59 am
 

Breaking down the coaches' top 25

A drive-by reaction to the preseason coaches poll released Thursday. If nothing else, it is another sign that we are closer to actual football.

 Oklahoma is No. 1 in a preseason poll for only the second time in the BCS era (2003 was the other). The Sooners got 42 first-place votes. Alabama is a distant second with 13 first-place votes but is only 40 points away from No. 1 (1,454-1,414). That 1-2 slotting probably will last at least to Game 2. In Week 1, Alabama hosts Kent State. Tulsa goes to Oklahoma.

That also means the winner of No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU in the Jerry Dome isn't likely to jump into the top two.

 Speaking of which, still researching the last time two top five teams met on a neutral field in a season opener. Your input is welcome.

 At least seven of the 25 teams are on probation or are being investigated by the NCAA for major violations: Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, LSU, Boise State, Auburn.

 Of the 11 teams to win championships in the BCS era, eight are in the preseason poll: Auburn, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida State. Missing: Tennessee, Miami, USC (not eligible).

 You want an early opinion on the season? Ask Tulsa's rookie head coach. Bill Blankenship. His Hurricane play three teams in the top eight in the first month -- No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 7 Boise State and No. 8 Oklahoma State.

 Four of the top five teams play each other in the first three weeks. (LSU-Oregon, FSU-Oklahoma).

 Boise State is the only school in the top eight not playing another school in that group. If the Broncos get into championship contention again, you can already hear the haters.

 The SEC has eight teams in the top 25. That's up from six to end last season. What are the odds that the Strength Everywhere Conference will claim a sixth consecutive national championship? Answer: Good. Very good.

 The SEC (eight), Big 12 and Big Ten (five each) account for 18 of the 25 teams.

 To the surprise of no one, 20 of the 25 teams who ended ranked in 2010 are ranked to begin 2011. Missing: Maryland, Utah, North Carolina State, Central Florida, Nevada.

 The dividing line comes at Arizona State. Penn State is No. 25, three points ahead of the Sun Devils, the first of "others receiving votes."

 The Big East was shut out of the top 25. The highest-ranked BE school is West Virginia at No. 27.

 Defending champion Auburn (No. 19) is by far the lowest-ranked defending champion in the preseason coaches poll in at least nine years. LSU was previously the lowest at No. 6 in 2008 during that period. Others: Alabama, 2010 (No. 1), Florida, 2009 (1), Florida, 2007 (3), Texas, 2006 (2), USC, 2004-2005 (1), Ohio State, 2003 (2), Miami, 2002 (1).

 Fifty teams, 42 percent of FBS, received votes.
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:04 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 8:12 pm
 

Five things about the Big Ten

With the Big 12 media days kicking off Thursday here are five key issues to consider: 

1. The 800-pound Buckeye in the room: The world is waiting to see how the second-richest athletic department comes out of possibly its most disgraceful period in school history. Following a Watergate-like cover up, the head coach "retired" but not before allowing five players to compete while ineligible. No big deal. All it meant was that Ohio State won its sixth straight conference title and a $20 million BCS bowl. There are enough leftovers in this mess to be the subject of lectures in finance, history, ethics and sports law classes for years. While the NCAA weighs the football program's penalties, this year's Buckeyes will be the slow-down-and-look wreck on the highway. Everyone will be gawking. It is rookie coach Luke Fickell's job to unite Buckeye Nation and what is still a talented roster. Don't be surprised if Ohio State wins the Leaders Division and the Big Ten. Call it Jim Tressel's going-away present.

2. Quick, name the members of the Leaders and Legends divisions: No, really. I'm serious. All those corporate goofs talk about branding and synergy. In this case, the Big Ten paid some consultant or another six figures to confuse the public. Commissioner Jim Delany was looking for competitive balance so North-South or East-West were probably out. I get that. What I don't get is why the words "Schembechler" "Hayes" or "Grange" couldn't have been worked in there somewhere. This is a conference that is about to profit off the grainy images of old Joe Paterno coaching shows from the 1960s (on the Big Ten Network). Instead, the corporate goofs have succeeded in making the Big Ten (really 12) teams anonymous. Why is Ohio State a Leader given its current rep? Why isn't Penn State a Legend given that it is coached by one. An enterprising reporter could embarrass some coaches at the media days by asking them to name the members of each division. For now, the easiest way to remember is this: All the Ms (Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State) and the Ns (Nebraska and Northwestern), plus Iowa, are in the Legends. The Ps (Penn State, Purdue) and the remaining Is (Indiana, Illinois) are in the Leaders. That leaves Ohio State and Wisconsin to memorize on your own. A nursery rhyme, it ain't.

3. Nebraska assimilation: A tight-knit family hasn't been this charged up for a big move since the Clampetts figured California is the place they oughta be. In this case it's the Big Red loading up the U-Haul and moving to the Big Ten. Nebraska can't wait, per the wishes of Tom Osborne who had enough of Texas. Football-wise not much has changed. Some of the road trips are daunting. The Huskers move from one 12-team conference to another. They still haven't won a conference title since 1999. They still aren't "back". The Big Ten won't change those story lines. Talent-wise, Nebraska will compete just fine. It could make the Big Ten's title game in its first season. Other than that, Nebraska feels a lot better about itself having already inheriting some of that Big Ten arrogance on its way out the door from the Big 12. One thing, though: If the Big Ten is such a respected academic league why is Nebraska the only school not a member of the Association of American Universities. Expansion was not just about football. Yeah, right.

4. The rise of Sparty: In 2010, Michigan State won its first Big Ten title since 1990. (Tying with Wisconsin and Ohio State.) Next stop: The Rose Bowl. It's been 22 years since the Spartans got to Pasadena. After four seasons of steady improvement, Mark Dantonio has a chance to do it. To some, Michigan State is more than the trendy pick to win it all in the Big Ten. Kirk Cousins is one of the best pocket passers in a country in love with the spread offense. Edwin Baker (1,201 yards, 13 tds) may be the conference's best running back. A strong linebacking group must be rebuilt, although the schedule breaks Michigan State's way. It gets Ohio State in Columbus in the last game of the player suspensions. Michigan and Wisconsin come to East Lansing. Dantonio won't wow you with quotes but this is as solid a program as there is right now in the Big Ten. When the coach survives a heart attack and the team still wins 11 games something is going right. If it comes together, who knows Michigan State could get revenge on Alabama in a BCS bowl? (Bama trounced the Spartans 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.)

5. The traditional mob boss: And I mean that in the best possible way about Delany. He is simply -- with the possible exception of SEC counterpart Mike Slive -- the most powerful man in college sports. Delany doesn't speak often publicly but when he does, he is usually provocative. Look for more of the same when Delany speaks Thursday during his annual state of the conference address at the media days. This is the guy who deftly tried to lure Notre Dame to the Big Ten (remember the rumblings about breaking up the Big East?), then ended up with a hell of a consolation prize -- Nebraska. This is the guy who slapped down the non-BCS conferences with impunity during a December forum in New York. "The problem is," Delany told the BCS wannabes, "your big stage takes away opportunities for teams to play on the stage they created in 1902." This is the guy who created the model for the conference network. Remember, there is still no guarantee the Pac-12, Longhorn and all these other networks will succeed. Ask Delany. It was a long slog to get to this point. With all the issues in play -- Ohio State, NCAA reform, conference realignment -- expect Delany to make his opinion known this week.
Posted on: March 16, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 2:32 pm
 

Battle battles on for Penn State

TUCSON, Ariz. -- There are a lot of Talor Battles who never get this reward. You know the type: Gritty, talented player performing for a mediocre program overshadowed by football.

That was Battle, a senior Penn State guard, for the majority of his four seasons. A nice player, not a great one, but one who had to carry the Nittany Lions many miserable nights. Maybe the best thing that can be said is that he persevered. Battle recently became the third player in NCAA history to get 2,000 points, 600 rebounds and 500 assists in his career. Still, it looked like his career would in depression until a run to the Big Ten tournament championship game was enough to put Penn State into the bracket for the first time since 2001.

"It's definitely been an uphill climb," said the 6-foot, 170-pound guard from Albany, N.Y. 

Penn State plays its first NCAA game in a decade here Thursday morning, against Temple. The Nittany Lions are a middling 72-61 during Battle's four years. An NIT championship two seasons ago was followed by an 11-20 stinker in 2009-10. The low point had to be an 0-12 start in the Big Ten.  

"That," Battle said, "was a God-awful feeling ... What we did [this season] was jell together and mesh and play together as a team. We have to, we don't have the exceptional talent of a Duke." 

Who knew his surname would also become an appropriate verb for his life. His stepfather is Dan Buie, a once-marvelous player who ended up at Division II Washburn in Topeka, Kan. It was there in the late 70s that an eight-year-old Talor would shoot around on the Ichabods' floor at halftime.

His AAU team, Albany City Rocks, featured another more-famous New Yorker, Jimmer Fredette. 

"I wasn't shy about shooting it myself," Battle said. "We just kind of rotated, whoever was hot. I've been talking to Jimmer a lot of late. Everybody wants to talk to him now."

Battle? Not so much until recently. The season looked like another wash until Penn State beat Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State to get to the Big Ten title game on Sunday. Even then, the tournament wasn't a certainty with a 19-14 record. You have to feel good about a guy who took 130 career starts to get to this point, becoming the Big Ten's second-leading scorer this season (20.1 points) and the school's all-time scorer. 

It's not clear if the NCAA selection committee actually knew, but the scheduled a "rematch" in Penn State's opening round NCAA game. According to Battle, the Lions were pummeled by Temple in a preseason scrimmage. 

"The most important thing was they out-toughed us," Battle said. 

Not anymore, at least not now. Penn State is back in basketball for this short, little while.

"This," Battle said, "is all new to us."
Posted on: December 13, 2010 1:37 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2010 6:05 pm
 

Dungeons, Dragons and Big Ten divisions

The new Big Ten has 12 teams and will start every season with two Ls.

If this has you confused, it's meant to in the new Large Dozen. The Big Ten made a big deal Monday out of revealing the names of its two six-team divisions. Then it underwhelmed us. The divisions are named Leaders and Legends. Not to be confused with Dungeons and Dragons or Abbott and Costello.

Leaders Division:  Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Legends Division:  Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern


"There's nothing, maybe, like it out there," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said.

That's certainly true. With all the great history and tradition available to it, the haughty Big Ten went low brow, corporate, generic. Leaders and Legends? That's the name of the trophy store down the street. What were "Gods" and "Superheroes" already taken? One thing for sure: The league won't be getting any cease and desist letters from famous people unless it's this guy. Sign ups are now being taken for summer school classes just to memorize the members of each division.

"Maybe if people don't embrace it in the first hour," Delany said, "they will in the first 24 or 36."


It's likely to take longer, if ever. If you're like me you're already wondering how the league promotes a Leaders Division showdown between Purdue and Indiana. It also prompts the question: Are the Leaders not legends and the Legends not leaders? And the alliteration thing is about as clever as a handoff to Archie Griffin. Delany was asked if the "two Ls" thing won't be associated with losses.

"You're the first one who has mentioned it," Delany said.

Apparently the commish wasn't on Twitter Monday which blew up with general mockery and disgust. A firm no doubt got six figures to "consult" on the division names and new logo. You'll love that when you see it. The league was cute with its embedded "11" in the old logo. In the new one, the "I" in "Big" has turned into "1". The "G" is meant to kind of simulate a "0". Maybe, but the "G" also looks like a "6". The league might be sending us a Da Vinci Code message on its future expansion plans.

"Now that you mention it ...," Delany said of a possible interpretation of "Big 16" in the new logo.

What is this a trademark or an M.C. Escher print?

All those names, all those (lower-case) legends and the league completely blew it. Schembechler and Hayes divisions would have been perfect. If Delany was worried about favoring individuals, then consider none of what went on Monday would have been possible without Bo and Woody enhancing the brand.

Instead the league used some of those people names for its conference awards, hyphenating them to get as many leaders and legends into the mix as possible. That makes the league's major awards look like chick-flick characters from your basic Lifetime movie. Who can forget Meredith Baxter-Birney playing Colleen Stagg-Paterno in "Looking For Love in Iowa City"?

My take on the subject wouldn't be complete without a list of suggested division names from myself and Twitter followers earlier on Monday. We got your generic right here.

Posted on: October 31, 2010 5:01 pm
 

The Day After In College Football

Brian Kelly never could have foreseen his first few months on the job at Notre Dame.

The scope of the rebuilding job is obviously bigger than anyone imagined. His quarterback Dayne Crist, the triggerman for his offense, is out for the year. The defense was a chronic problem before he arrived. The results had been spotty even before Saturday's embarrassing 28-27 loss to Tulsa.

All that pales in significance to the fact that media are openly speculating about his job security in the wake of death of videographer Declan Sullivan. After Saturday's game, Kelly surprisingly admitted it was his decision to go on with practice with Sullivan in the air.

"You have to be able to look at the weather conditions and find out whether you believe it's going to be a productive day, first," Kelly said. "We believed it to be productive, it was productive, obviously up until the tragedy."

 No blaming, no scapegoating. For now, it's all on Kelly. That's almost an admission that Notre Dame is going to have to pay some kind of settlement after the tragic accident. Liability, in a sense has been decided.

While Sullivan's family released a touching statement over the weekend, can we safely assume that there is going to be some kind of lawsuit against the school at some point?

"Quiz is very adamant in our meetings about, 'Are we going in or out [for practice]?', Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said of football video coordinator Mark Quisenberry, 'and I'm only putting my tower up 20 feet if we go out.' "

Upon seeing that, a lawyer e-mailed me saying: "I would make Tressel my star witness."


It's impossible that Kelly could have predicted all that he was getting into. There have been two deaths. Recruit Matt James died in the spring when he fell off a hotel balcony during spring break. Kelly faces the task of digging out of the losing while the school deals with a lawsuit. Can any amount of winning overcome that?

* As USC took a third quarter lead over No. 1 Oregon Saturday night, an interesting possibility emerged. Had USC won, that would have whittled the last of unbeatens to four -- Auburn, Boise State, TCU and Utah. That also would have all but guaranteed one of those non-BCS schools playing for the national championship. A USC win would have meant the possibility of only one undefeated major-conference champion (Auburn). Assuming that at least one of the three non-BCSes went undefeated (TCU and Utah meet this week), one of them would probably move up enough in the BCS to play for the title.

For its champion, the SEC right now is mostly likely able to produce 1) an unbeaten Auburn, 2) a once-beaten Alabama  or 3) the SEC East champion where each team in the division already has at least two losses. In scenarios 1) and 2) (assuming a USC win), the SEC would have a team in the BCS title game. In scenario 3) it wouldn't. In fact, it's possible that two non-BCS schools could play for the title.

* The motto in the Big Ten: Now we wait. We wait for the latest BCS standings each week to see how bad Michigan State's chances were damaged by the blowout loss to Iowa. The Spartans are now tied in the Big Ten standings with Ohio State (both are 4-1). The two don't meet this season which means if they tie, the next tiebreaker for the Rose Bowl -- or possibly the BCS title game -- is highest ranked team in the BCS. Prior to Sunday night's BCS release, Jerry Palm had Ohio State significantly ahead of the Spartans.

Wisconsin, 3-1 in the Big Ten, did not play this week. It has lost to Michigan State, and beaten Ohio State. Iowa, also at 3-1, hosts Ohio State on Nov. 20.

* Nebraska pulled into a tie in the Big 12 North with Missouri and now only has to win out to get to its second straight (and last) Big 12 title game. Nebraska's remaining schedule: at Iowa State, Kansas, at Texas A&M and Colorado. Missouri's remaining schedule: at Texas Tech, Kansas State, at Iowa State, Kansas.  Anybody else notice that the road to the Big 12 North goes through Ames, Iowa? The plucky Cyclones host both Missouri and Nebraska.

Whatever happens this year at Nebraska, the Huskers are getting back to their roots. Taylor Martinez set the single-game quarterback rushing record against Kansas State. Roy Helu Jr. set the overall single-game rushing record (307 yards Saturday vs. Missouri).  According to figures supplied by Big12sports.com, Nebraska's 860 yards on its 24 touchdown runs is more than 17 I-A teams have rushed for the entire season.

* The Pac-10's exclusive 90-day negotiating window with Fox Sports begins Jan. 15 according to Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. The Pac-10 and Big 12 are the next conferences to get big paydays from their rightsholders. The ACC was the last to cash in getting a $1.86-billion deal from ESPN. That pales in comparison to the SEC's $3 billion deal finalized in July 2009 but is another indicator that college football has been undervalued in the market. That's one of the reasons Jim Delany created the Big Ten Network. It's also a reason the new Pac-12 is expected to significantly increase its media rights.

* For the first time since 1979, Florida and Georgia came into the Cocktail Party unranked. The Gators beat the Dogs for the 18th time in the last 21 meetings, 34-31 in overtime. If there was ever a time for Mark Richt and Georgia to get Florida, this was it. The Gators won't stay down like this for long. Urban Meyer called it one of his biggest wins. Florida remains in control of its own destiny in the SEC East.

* Joe Paterno needs one more win for his 400th after beating Michigan.

* Quote of the day from Virginia's John-Kevin Dolce after knocking Miami quarterback Jacory Harris out of the game: "When you chop the head of a giant, the rest of the body goes with it."

Posted on: October 26, 2010 11:55 am
Edited on: October 26, 2010 1:47 pm
 

National Notes

All Cam Newton all the time? Seems like it especially with the question of the week that has risen up on various talk shows, Twitter accounts and in my brain:

Is Cam Newton better than Tim Tebow? At this point in time the answer is yes. Cammo is bigger (6-feet-6, 250 pounds), stronger (watch him bulldoze those linebackers) and faster than the Gainesville god known as Tebow. Newton won't approach Tebow's numbers because this might be his one and only season at Auburn.

The irony is that Florida had him and let him get away. Actually, Newton admits he let himself get away. The laptop incident didn't help but Newton was being redshirted and had an ankle injury in his final semester with the Gators. Tebow and John Brantley were ahead of him on the depth chart, making it easier for Newton to transfer.

After becoming the national juco player of the year, Newton found the perfect coach (offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn) with the perfect offense at Auburn. The rest you've watched each Saturday. The latest accomplishment was setting the SEC season rushing record by a quarterback -- with four games left.

"He's the best facilitator of the football as a college quarterback," said Pete Cordelli, a former Notre Dame assistant. "He runs his football team like he's a point guard. It's Showtime on the Plains. Who can you take and put on the other 119 teams  and make them better? Can you imagine him at Oregon or Oklahoma? Imagine if he was at Penn State, we wouldn't be talking about Paterno retiring. Imagine him at Ohio State?"

That's a lot of imagining but only one team has him. 


* The next question is whether Newton will go Prince on us and change his name to a symbol: N - mg = ma

(The equation is deciphered below)

* By the way, don't blame Urban Meyer. He's got enough problems. Critics want the Florida coach to get rid of lawbreakers (you might have heard there have been quite a few), but they want to blame him for letting Cam I Am for "getting away."

* If the top of the polls look unfamiliar, they should. Oregon is No. 1 for the second consecutive week in the AP poll. Other than USC, the last Pac-10 team to be ranked No. 1 in the AP poll was Washington in 1992 (five weeks). No. 2 Boise State is the highest ranked WAC team since BYU won the national championship in 1984.

* Boise rant of the week: At what point do 47-point beatdowns of WAC teams in some way equal a seven-point win over LSU. That's why I think Boise could win the SEC East, Big 12 and Big Ten.

* During this Alabama bye week, Nick Saban visited the Touchdown Club of Memphis. One snarky attendee  gave Nick his props and summed up the season properly -- at least from an Alabama perspective: "Congratulations on winning the BCS national championship last year and producing a Heisman Trophy winner. I know expectations are high in the state of Alabama and people expect another national champion and another Heisman winner. Fortunately, those expectations appear to be in reach. Auburn is No. 1 in the BCS and Cam Newton appears to be the leading candidate for the Heisman."

* What's the antidote for arrogance? Mack Brown is trying to figure that out. According to him, that's what Texas has been playing with for too long. Brown who called out his players after the Iowa State loss and, in the process, might have indicted his own motivation skills.

There is no excuse with bowl-bound Baylor coming in. The Longhorns roster routinely is comprised of the best players in Texas, some of the best in the country. Try to explain, then, how Baylor leads the Big 12 South eight weeks into the season. You can't.


* Sometimes we write too much about the winners, the BCS, bowl games, NCAA reprobates. This space is dedicated to the feel-good stories of late October.

Baylor clinched a bowl berth for the first time in 15 years after that Kansas State win. The season looked encouraging but Bears fans had learned not to assume anything. Quarterback Robert Griffin was coming off a blown-out knee. It lost at TCU by 35 earlier in the season.  Griffin now is arguably the best quarterback in the Big 12.
 
Western Kentucky broke a nation-leading 26-game losing streak in beating Louisiana-Lafayette. Akron and New Mexico now share the national lead; each have lost eight in a row. Oh, and another warning for the next Vince Lombardi at Minnesota: The Gophers are next with a seven-game losing streak.

Remember when Ron Zook was on the hot seat? Illinois' coach is a respectable 4-3, having beaten Penn State in the process. Its three losses are no disgrace, to Michigan State, Ohio State and Missouri. Those schools have a combined record of 22-1.

No shame either for Iowa State's Paul Rhoads. The Cyclones are now 4-4, chasing a bowl after beating Texas. Their four losses are to Iowa, Kansas State, Utah and Oklahoma. Combined record: 23-5.

Seven games into his second season, Syracuse's Doug Marrone has the Orange at 5-2, in second place in the Big East, a half-game behind Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh has beaten Syracuse already so it has the tiebreaker)

For only the second time and for first time in six years Baylor and Iowa State won a Big 12 Conference game on the same day. Also for only the second time in Big 12 history, Texas and Oklahoma lost on the same day when coached by Bob Stoops and Mack Brown.

* Why could Cameron Newton nickname himself "N - mg = ma"? That is more or less the mathematical representation of Newton's first law of motion: An object in motion tends to stay in motion. If I were Newton, Cam not Sir Isaac, I'd copyright that sucker.

 


Posted on: October 21, 2010 5:33 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2010 11:10 am
 

Halfway Son of Weekend Watch List

BCS bowl projections halfway through the season:

BCS championship: Oregon* vs. Alabama*
Rose: Boise* vs. Iowa*
Fiesta: Nebraska* vs. West Virginia*
Orange: Florida State* vs. Ohio State
Sugar: Auburn vs. Oklahoma

*-automatic qualifier

Notes: Oregon and Alabama win out to advance to the championship game. Alabama beats both LSU and Auburn assuring that there will be no undefeated teams in the SEC. It then beats the SEC East champion to advance. Despite one loss, it vaults over undefeated Boise, the TCU/Utah winner and perhaps even Oregon.  It doesn't matter for the Ducks who stay in the top two because undefeated Boise, Utah/TCU can't catch it in the BCS standings. Meanwhile, other current undefeateds Auburn, LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Missouri also lose locking in Oregon. Alabama would be playing for the first back-to-back national championship since Nebraska in the 1990s. Oregon would be playing for its first.

--The Fiesta Bowl would gladly welcome Nebraska which it hasn't had since 2000. West Virginia would be making a second trip to the Valley of the Sun in four years.

--The Orange Bowl gets one of its more intriguing matchups as Florida State returns to the big time returning to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2005. Ohio State has to settle for an at-large berth after failing to win a sixth consecutive Big Ten title. The Buckeyes return to the Orange for the first time since 1977.

--The Sugar is filled with two at-large participants. Oklahoma returns to New Orleans for the first time since the 2004 (2003 season) national championship game loss to LSU.


Ranking the remaining MICs

11. Urban Meyer, Florida: Let's not forget that 20 years ago, Florida football didn't matter. Post-Zooker, Meyer made it a bigger national power than it was under Spurrier.

12. Joe Paterno, Penn State: No matter how his career ends, JoePa will leave the program in great shape.

13. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: An example of having patience with a good coach. Beamer started out terribly but the administration allowed him stay. Now he's one of the best in the country.

14. Al Golden, Temple: The nation's hottest young coach has got it back to the point where the Big East should consider inviting back the Owls.

15. June Jones, SMU: The first and only coach to lead the Ponies to a bowl game since the death penalty. That's good enough for me.

16. Mike Riley, Oregon State: Beavers win eight or nine each year and are always a factor in the Pac-10 race. Don't forget the Civil War is in Corvallis this year.

17. Larry Blakeney, Troy: In the same category as Snyder and Paterno on a smaller scale. Would Troy even exist without Blakeney?

18. Pat Hill, Fresno: Never won a WAC title but kept the Bulldogs relevant to the point that they're jumping to the Mountain West.

19. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: It's early but all the signs are good that FSU will soon be back on the national scene.

20. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU: Like Meyer, Bronco is allowed a down year.

21. Bo Pelini, Nebraska: If the NFL doesn't come calling, Nebraska will begin winning championships again under Bo.

22. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin: Saturday's win allowed BB to make this list. Ohio State was his second win over a ranked Big Ten team. Barry Alvarez' hand-picked guy is trending upward.

23. Greg Schiano, Rutgers: The momentum has slowed since 2006 but Rutgers is back among the living under Schiano to the point that the Big Ten is sniffing around.

24. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: Operating with a low budget against Big Ten giants, the Wildcats are more than competitive with Fitz.

Oregon set the school season scoring record Thursday in the season's seventh game. The Ducks have 386 points and are averaging more than 55 points per game ... Strange how two Big Ten programs defined themselves by invoking Vince Lombardi this week. First Minnesota AD Joel Maturi said, "It's not like he would be replacing Vince Lombardi," of the new coach after firing Tim Brewster. Then Rich Rodriguez said this about his struggling defense: "Listen, Vince Lombardi could come too and [it's] not going to fix some of the problems we have on defense." ... Ohio State (at Minnesota) hasn't lost consecutive games since 2004 ... TCU has lost one fumble this season ... Texas A&M has lost 12 consecutive televised games dating back to 2008. The Aggies play at Kansas Saturday on Fox Sports Net ...

In this Week of the Head Shot in the NFL, it's interesting to note that Arkansas' Ryan Mallett was knocked out of Saturday's game with a concussion. He practiced Tuesday and will play Saturday against Mississippi ... The last six Auburn-LSU games have been decided by six points or less ... Mississippi State is ranked for the first time in nine years ... Until BYU kicked a field goal in Saturday's 31-3 loss, TCU had not allowed a point in almost three games -- 175 minutes, 10 seconds. A third straight complete shutout would have marked the first time in college football since Boston College in 1992.

 

 
 
 
 
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