Tag:Sun Belt
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: August 5, 2008 12:16 pm

Five things you should know about the Sun Belt

1. Is it possible to be at the top your game at age 74? Howard Schnellenberger is doing it again, having led Florida Atlantic to the conference's first win over a Big Ten team (Minnesota) the Sun Belt title and New Orleans Bowl victory. It's the same formula Schnellie used at Miami, scour the state for fast Florida talent. Why not extend him through 2010?

2. Better times ahead. The Sun Belt is usually whipped with a belt by I-A powers in gurantee game. But for the second consecutive year at least three of the league's eight teams finished .500 or better.

3. The best program is ... Troy. Coach Larry Blakeney is entering his 18th year with the Trojans. Troy is competing for bowl games and producing NFL talent on a regular basis. Blakeney has won eight each of the last two years and has one losing season since 2002.

4. Bouncing back from the Alabama hangover. In a season of upsets the Louisiana-Monroe's stunning win at Alabama was one of the biggest. Journeyman coach Charlie Weatherbie was in charge of a team that had lost its first four games by 18, 23, 40 and 17 points. The 24-point underdogs hung in against an uninterested Crimson Tide and perhaps turned around the program.

5. The Sun Belt is the home of the best spread option offense in the country. Unfortunately, North Texas coach Todd Dodge ran it in high school. The transition of the offense to I-A was not pretty as the Mean Green finished 2-10 allowing 45 points per game. Something is wrong when you score 62 -- and lost by 12 to Navy. Better days are ahead for Dodge but the conference is getting tougher too.


Posted on: May 1, 2008 1:00 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2008 2:50 pm

The real story behind the BCS meetings

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany's calculated plan worked.

Tuesday at lunch, Delany emerged from the BCS meetings and went on a rant about his place (and his conference's place) in the postseason. Remember, Delany doesn't talk publicly about much of anything with reporters. At least lately. This past week he has been practically chatty talking about his league's perception. He, the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl aren't obstructionists, he said, in college football's postseason. In fact, Delany contended, that the Big Ten and Pac-10 have been progressive in helping deliver the Rose Bowl to the BCS. Without it we'd still in the old Bowl Coalition.

"The characterization of the Big Ten and Pac-10 being at one place and everyone else being at the other place, I don't think that's accurate," Delany said. "You guys (media) have an opportunity to talk to a lot of people here. I would ask you to ask each one of those people how strongly they feel about the call for change. I don't see it."

Then Delany lobbed the bomb that changed the course of these meetings.

"Thirty-six months ago, all six commissioners, all six (BCS oversight committee) presidents, the AD advisory committee said we don't want a plus one," Delany said. "About 18 months ago, people people said let's look at it. I think there are a lot of people who like where they are, but they should speak for themselves."

Basically, Delany called out his peers.

If you want a plus-one, identify yourself.

On Wednesday, they did. The six BCS bosses were paraded out for the media to state their case. For: ACC commissioner and the SEC's Mike Slive. Against: Everyone else -- Big 12, Big East, Pac-10, Big Ten and Notre Dame AD Kevin White.

Considering the group needs a consensus to change things, there's a loooooonnnng way to go before we get a playoff. The Big 12 presidents considered the issue in March and turned it down flat. Big East commish Mike Tranghese said, "We're opposed to a playoff. We don't think a playoff is in the best interests of college football."

The great thing was hearing all these powerful public. None of us (media) thought a plus-one would be passed but we weren't expecting what was essentially a public vote. Now these guys are on record. If you want to write your local congressman, er, commissioner now you know where to go.

  Slive, who stuck his neck out and presented the plus-one, was disappointed that the issue wasn't "vetted" more by presidents at the conference level. The Big 12 was the only league that formally presented the issue to its presidents. The Big 12 presidents rejected anything resembling an NFL-style playoff that meant a team would have to play more than 14 games. A Big 12 champion playing in a plus-one championship game would be playing in its 15th game.

  The so-called Group of Five non-BCS conferences (WAC, MAC, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt) have a combined vote but didn't use it because a formal vote wasn't taken.

"There could have been support for a plus-one model if it meant a better chance for a team from the Group of Five to have a chance to play in it," said WAC commissioner Karl Benson. But we're happy with the system with the way it is. It has provided access and it has provided revenue."

  The so-called "bracket creep" argument doesn't make sense. Several commissioners said they were concerned that a four-team bracket would soon expand to eight or 16. Don't believe the hype. The BCS commissioners (and their presidents) control the BCS. That's different from Divisions I-AA, III and III where NCAA committees control the playoffs.

If the commissioners and presidents wanted a playoff to end at four, it would end at four. There would be no group above them who could overrule.

While I was in Florida ...

  These schools had more players drafted than Alabama (which had none): Arkansas State, Army, Bentley, Buffalo, Coastal Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, Furman, Gardner-Webb, Hampton, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwest Missouri State, St. Augustine's and Wheaton.

  Matthew Stafford somehow got anointed as the No. 1 quarterback in next year's draft. Stafford is popular with the honeys, loves NASCAR and can lift a keg over his head, but to call him the best NFL quarterbacks prospect after only two seasons? It must be a shallow draft next year. Matthew has yet to throw for 300 yards but has been held under 100 yards six times.

  Two more bowls made the postseason cut. The approval of the St. Petersburg and Congressional bowls by the NCAA on Thursday brings the number to 34. That's 68 teams for a division that produced only 71 bowl-eligible teams last season. That's also three more than the NCAA Tournament. I'm waiting for the time when the St. Pete and Congressional have to petition the NCAA to allow a 5-7 team in its shindig because there aren't enough teams to go around.





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