Tag:Virginia Tech
Posted on: November 2, 2010 5:38 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 6:57 pm
 

Big East expanding to 10 teams

John Marinatto looked like a wounded man last spring in Phoenix. Not so much physically, but emotionally.

According to reports, the Big East commissioner's conference was under attack. The popular notion was that the Big East didn't have long to live after the predatory Big Ten got through with it. Depending on what you read, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and/or Syracuse, were candidates to leave the Big East. Marinatto put on a brave front last April at the BCS meetings saying the league was using former NFL commissioner and Georgetown chairman of the board Paul Tagliabue as a consultant.

In an unguarded moment, though, Marinatto admitted to checking his text messages for the latest news during Mass.

The skies cleared above the Big East a bit on Tuesday when the league announced it would expand to 10 football-playing schools at some point in the future. No timetable given but a conference source said, "You can say the Big East would want to move quickly."

At eight teams in football, the Big East is the smallest conference in Division I-A. It was weakened significantly when it lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston to the ACC in 2003. Since then, during BCS television negotiations at one point, the league received a waiver to remain an automatic qualifying BCS league because potential TV partners wanted the league's Northeast markets.

In the last month it was learned that the Big East and TCU of the Mountain West had spoken. Villanova, already a Big East basketball member, is trying to decide whether its I-AA football program should move up to I-A. If that is the case Temple, another Philadelphia school and former Big East member, would probably be out of the running for a return to the conference.

Other schools mentioned include Central Florida and Houston from Conference USA.

One source said Villanova was "50-50" about whether to join the league in football. If Villanova joined in football, the league would have to add only one more football member. An NCAA moratorium on I-AA teams transitioning to I-A ends next summer.


TCU is the outlier in the discussion but a potentially valuable addition for the Big East. Forget the geographic designations, the school would be as far from some Big East schools as it is currently in the Mountain West. TCU probably wouldn't join as a basketball member. There is thought to be some reluctance within the Big East about adding any more basketball members to the already unwieldy 16-team basketball conference. The soonest TCU could leave for the Big East would be 2012. Per Mountain West rules, TCU would have had to notify the league office by Sept. 1 of this year if it was leaving for 2011.

One potential hurdle has been removed if TCU were to join. The Mountain West does not have a financial penalty for schools that leave the league.

Best guess: If Villanova doesn't move up, look for TCU and Central Florida to join. The league would be wise to value the Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando markets. The Big East already is in Tampa-St. Pete with South Florida. A natural conference rivalry no doubt would develop between UCF and USF.

After expansion, Big East could set to reap a financial windfall from its next television contract. The league's TV deal with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-13 season. The football deal with ESPN expires after the 2013 season. Negotiations would probably begin around September 2012.

Because of increased competition for league rights, conferences have been seeing a huge spike in income. The SEC finalized a 15-year deal with the SEC and CBS in July 2009 worth $3 billion. The ACC signed a 12-year deal with ESPN in May worth $1.86 billion. The ACC more than doubled its major rights holder income with the deal.

Fox narrowly missed out on winning at least part of the ACC contract. A merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, another possible player in college sports, is awaiting federal approval.

The Big East presidents made the decision unanimously to expand Tuesday at their annual meeting. A smaller, core executive committee is studying the expansion issue and could meet anytime to address the issue, even by phone, according to a league spokesman.

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.

 

Posted on: October 4, 2010 12:46 pm
 

National notes

Before we begin, here is your daily dose of Les Miles. Actually, it's the only dose of Les Miles you need for this week. If you learn anything more from this postgame video about Saturday's Unlucky 13 vs. Tennessee, let me know.


**A warning going into Week 6 ...

There is a real chance almost halfway through the season of an unprecedented logjam at the top of the BCS -- six undefeated conference champions, four of them in BCS leagues.

It's early but there is some separation and definition to the season after five weeks. Alabama is clearly the class of the SEC. Nebraska and Oklahoma are undefeated in the Big 12, and can't meet until the conference championship game. Ohio State's trip to Wisconsin in a couple of weeks suddenly looks less daunting. Boise State is going to rush through the WAC. TCU and Utah are likely to decide the Mountain West head-to-head. Oregon looks like it is going to run away with the Pac-10.

If all that happens, here is one projection of how the final BCS standings might look. Is too early? Never. The first BCS standings will be released in two weeks.

1. Alabama: With all the talk about the Pac-10's strength this season, the SEC still rules. The Tide are all but assured of playing three more ranked teams -- South Carolina, LSU and Auburn.

2. Oregon: Pollsters are already falling in love with the Ducks despite a dicey strength of schedule to this point.

3. Ohio State: Like Alabama, likely to play three more ranked teams (Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan). If you think the Big Ten's strength will carry the Buckeyes into the top two, think again. Oregon's offense is stronger and will make a stronger case, especially on the road where Jim Tressel seems to play conservatively.

4. Big 12: I am well aware that Kansas, Oklahoma State and Missouri are also undefeated making it five in this league. I'm also projecting that, regardless, this is where an undefeated Big 12 champion would end up if everyone else wins out. Among the five Big 12 undefeateds: Kansas State plays Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Missouri. Missouri plays Kansas State, Oklahoma and Nebraska. Nebraska plays  Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Missouri. Oklahoma plays only Missouri and Okie State. The Cowboys still have Kansas State, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

5. TCU/Utah: The Mountain West race will come down to the teams' Nov. 6 meeting in Salt Lake City. If either finishes undefeated it will most likely finish ahead of an undefeated Boise.

6. Boise State: There was bad, bad news for the Broncos on Sunday. They were jumped in both polls by Oregon for No. 3 in the rankings despite having superior accomplishments and super schedule strength to this point. Oregon has played a I-AA (Portland State) and a team that might as well be I-AA (New Mexico). Boise has played two ranked teams, one in the top 10 on the "road" (Virginia Tech at FedEx Field).

For the previous two weeks Boise, at No. 3, had gained on No. 2 Ohio State and pulled away from the No. 4 team. After one week of WAC play -- against admittedly horrible New Mexico State -- the voters have fallen in love with Oregon and are already damning the Broncos for their schedule.

There are 18 remaining undefeated teams. Five of those (28 percent) are in the Big 12. By the end of this week there will be 16 because of head-to-head meetings (Michigan State-Michigan, Nebraska-Kansas State). Also, by the end of the week a maximum of 11 teams will have the possibility of finishing undefeated because of assured head-to-head games. After this week only four undefeated teams will be alive in the Big 12; three in the Big Ten. Only one undefeated team (at most) will be able to come out of the Mountain West, Pac-10, SEC and WAC.

**Texas is out of the AP poll for the first time in 162 weeks (2000). The streak in the coaches' poll had lasted 192 weeks. Texas, 3-2, still has games left against Nebraska, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M meaning it could be headed for its worst season since before Mack Brown arrived in 1997.

**TCU posted its first road shutout of an opponent in Gary Patterson's 10 years as head coach, 27-0 at Colorado State. That's significant because Patterson is a defensive wizard whose teams have finished tops in total defense each of the last two seasons.

**Speaking of the Horned Frogs, the interest in the Big East is apparently real and reciprocal. TCU could join the league as soon as next season. One reason: There is no financial penalty to leave the Mountain West.

**Poor Jaime Hill. The BYU defensive coordinator was fired after Friday's loss at Utah State. You expect that in the SEC, but at BYU? Hill joined the staff from the CFL in 2006 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2008. BYU, 1-4, is off to its worst start in almost four decades.

Some other d-coordinators who might want to watch their backs:

Tyrone Nix, Mississippi. The Rebs got upset by Jacksonville State giving up 49 points and got beat by Vandy, 28-14. Had to hold off Kentucky 42-35 on Saturday. Rebels allowing almost 33 points per game.

Doug Mallory, New Mexico. Not really fair because his future is tied to embattled head coach Mike Locksley. The Lobos have allowed a I-A-most 35 touchdowns and 52.6 points per game.

Co-coordinators Keith Patterson/Paul Randolph, Tulsa. The Hurricane gave up 51 points at East Carolina, losing on the last play of the game. Oklahoma State put up 65 on Tulsa which is 106th in pass efficiency defense.

Ray McCartney, Wake Forest. His defense has given up 68 points to Stanford, 24 touchdowns in five games and 36.8 points per game.

**Team Schizo: Washington has lost to the worst BYU team in years, got run off its home field by Nebraska and now has beaten USC in consecutive seasons.

**Team Schizo II: Kansas lost to Baylor by almost seven touchdowns, 55-7, in Waco. Not even the locals care about Baylor, a Big 12 doormat. There were an estimated 15,000 empty seats at Floyd Casey Stadium. It's bad when your team is intimidated by the Bears.

"When I went out there, they were bigger than I thought,” KU linebacker Steven Johnson told the Kansas City Star. “I’m just like, ‘What in the world are they eating?’ ”

Posted on: October 1, 2010 12:18 am
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

The Pistol formation is sweeping the country, if you consider sweeping a list of about 10 schools. The variation on the shotgun was invented by veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault in 2005. It features a quarterback four yards behind center and a running back three yards behind him.

The advantage for the offense is more downhill running than in a zone read where the running back frequently is running parallel to the line. Because the backfield is essentially in an I-formation it's harder for defenses to target their blitzes. Alabama, Arkansas, Boise State, Duke, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and UCLA are using it in varying degrees this season.

Nevada (at UNLV) is 4-0 for the first time since 1992 and ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1948.

Boise State (at New Mexico State) is chasing a national championship.

UCLA (vs. Washington State) switched to it to jump start its offense this season. The Pistol produced 264 rushing yards last week against Texas.

Alabama, Boise, Indiana (vs. Michigan) and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are undefeated.

"Most great ideas are born out of necessity," UCLA's Rick Neuheisel said. "We needed to run the football better. Looking at the equipment we had, it just wasn't working. We had to accept that. We were very fortunate to have been given some great advice from the University of Nevada coaching staff. We kind of poured ourselves into it. It was a little bit of a leap of faith." ...

NC State (hosting Virginia Tech)  is ranked for the first time in seven years ... In a game that might go a long way toward deciding the ACC's best quarterback (non-Russell Wilson division), Miami's Jacory Harris plays at Clemson against Kyle Parker. Each of the last three games between the teams have gone into overtime ... Former Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis goes against the Vols for the first time when Tennessee visits LSU ... The problem at LSU is offense, specifically Jordan Jefferson's passing. Jefferson has yet to throw a touchdown pass and has completed less than half his passes to go with three interceptions ... A.J. Green returns for Georgia in its game at Colorado. The losing coach should check the temperature of his chair. Mark Richt and Dan Hawkins, are all but on notice about their job security ...  Florida Wildcat sensation Trey Burton is the grandson of Lawrence Burton who finished fourth in the 100 meters at the '72 Olympics, was a first-round pick of the Saints and played receiver at Purdue ...

Not surprisingly, the Big Ten and the SEC combined have almost half the teams in the top 25 (six each). You can see what this is coming down to: The Big Ten and/or SEC champion vs. Boise State in the polls/BCS/public discussion ... Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh on playing at Oregon:  "Just thinking about it, we're going to be ready to walk out of that tunnel, 80,000 screaming Duck fans. We'll have our team huddled around us beneath that stadium. It doesn’t get any better than that. I'm getting excited thinking about it." Sounds lyrical except that Autzen Stadium seats only 54,000 ... Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker will miss his fourth consecutive game because of what are reportedly complications from diabetes ...  The Sun Belt player of the year so far is Troy's Jernell Jernigan. The sophomore receiver is second nationally in all-purpose yards (208 per game). In addition to averaging almost 100 yards in receptions per game, Jernigan returns kicks and punts and lines up in the Wildcat. Troy is No. 14 in total offense and plays perhaps the Sun Belt game of the year Tuesday at Middle Tennessee ... Central Florida's George O'Leary (Wednesday vs. Alabama-Birmingham) is 1-19 against BCS teams. That's the same record as the man he replaced in 2004, Mike Kruczek. That's according to research done by CBSSports.com's Matt Brodsky.

Posted on: September 15, 2010 10:27 am
Edited on: September 15, 2010 10:31 am
 

National notes

Don't tell anyone but we didn't learn much from Showdown Saturday except that Virginia Tech would have a hard time winning the Colonial Athletic Association.

For the most part, Showdown was a letdown.

Mark Twain could have replaced Mark Ingram and Alabama still would have beaten Penn State. OK, Ingram has better top end speed than Twain but you get my point.

Alabama's season is boiling down to three-week stretch during which Bama plays at Arkansas (Sept. 25), at home against Florida (Oct. 2) and at South Carolina (Oct. 9).

Miami still has work to do in its long-awaited comeback. Jacory Harris has a lot of work to do with his judgment.  After throwing four picks vs. Ohio State, Harris is tied for second nationally (at least in the NCAA top 100) with four interceptions.  Last year Harris was No. 2 in picks (17) behind Ole Miss' Jevan Snead (20).

Tennessee put up a good fight for a half against Oregon.

Florida State didn't even make it that far.

Player of the week besides the obvious (Denard Robinson)?  South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore who looks like a combination of George Rodgers and Herschel Walker for the OBC. More on him later in the week.


*
Interesting stuff here regarding Jeremiah Masoli's transfer to Ole Miss. Masoli contends he was given his release to transfer from Oregon before he was dismissed from the team. The NCAA initially ruled that Masoli would not get a transfer waiver to Ole Miss because he had been kicked off the team.


*
Not sure if I want Mike Leach back in coaching. Not because he isn't good at it. It's because he might be better as a radio pirate. Leach let loose on his satellite radio show.

On the lack of mercy given to outgunned opponents:

"If my third offense went in and we were up on them, we weren't going kneel on the ball. We were going to try to score. The reason we were going to try to score is because I spend all my time teaching that offense to score, not to sit and evaluate the feelings of the other team."

On his not having Alabama in his top five:

"A lot of folks are frontrunners and if you win last year they assume you're going to win this year and the next year. If that was the case, everybody was going to win the thing 20 years in a row. I'm prepared to be proven wrong."

Leach also said he had a standing $500 bounty on shady agents hanging around Texas Tech. Supposedly, that was for players to turn in those shady agents. Problem though:  Wouldn't paying off that bounty be a possible NCAA violation?

Leach is also an analyst for CBS College Sports.


*
USC might be the most unimpressive 2-0 ranked team. The Trojans have committed 24 penalties for nation-leading 240 yards in two games. Lane Kiffin's solution? Silence.


*
Three quarterbacks who have taken snaps at Michigan are in the top 10 in NCAA total offense this week:

1. Robinson, 442.5 yards per game
T6. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas, 351.0
10. Steven Threet, Arizona State, 322.5



*
Joker Phillips is first head coach to start his Kentucky career 2-0 since Bear Bryant in 1946.


*
Phillips might have the most versatile player in the country to this point. Through two games receiver/returner/holder Randall Cobb has scored a touchdown four different ways -- rushing, receiving, passing and on a punt return.


*
Steve Spurrier, a longtime playoff honk, on Boise State:  "The only way to settle those kinds of situation is a playoff. They aren't going to play the kind of completion that SEC schools play. We settle it with voting."



*
Thoughts and prayers for Arkansas kick returner Dennis Johnson who suffered what was termed a painful "bowel injury" returning a kick vs. Louisiana-Monroe. Here's the video


*
Who will coach Northern Illinois this week against Illinois? Huskies coach Jerry Kill was hospitalized Sunday after complications resulting from surgery earlier this month. Kill underwent surgery on Sept. 3, a day after Northern Illinois lost its season opener to Iowa State. Initial reports stated Kill, who had a tumor removed from a kidney in 2005, was suffering from dehydration this time. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys could take over if Kill can't go.

 

Posted on: September 12, 2010 11:38 am
 

The Day After in CFB

The day the ACC died: OK, maybe too harsh but it was certainly one of the worst days in ACC football since expansion.  All four ranked teams lost -- No.  12 Miami (to No. 2 Ohio State); No. 13 Virginia Tech (to James Madison); No. 15 Georgia Tech (to Kansas) and No. 17 Florida State (to No. 10 Oklahoma). The rest of the league (unranked teams) was 4-1. Overall, the ACC was 4-5.

It could get worse next week: Cincinnati plays at NC State on Thursday. On Saturday, Clemson is at Auburn, Duke hosts Alabama, BYU comes to Florida State, Maryland is at West Virginia and East Carolina goes to Virginia Tech.

Get your No. 16 jersey, while they last: If Denard Robinson isn't hot enough, check out what may be a bit of foreshadowing from the Michigan Daily.
 

YouTube sensations: The two most jaw-dropping plays of the day. Kyle Rudolph's catch and run vs. Michigan and LaMichael James' incredible run against Tennessee.

Rockin' the mic: Following an embarrassing 35-0 home-opening loss to Stanford, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel grabbed a microphone and addressed the Rose Bowl crowd. "We'll get better," he said, "We can't get any worse that we were tonight ... I promise you, we will not give up. We'll be back."

It suddenly seems like a long time since Neuheisel led a pep rally after his first game. It's been only two years.

Miami fans never cease to amaze: While there only seemed to be 3,000-5,000 in the stands at Ohio Stadium, they made themselves known. The kid at the Columbus airport was interesting. Cut into the back of his head by an enterprising barber: "U Swag"

Posted on: September 9, 2010 5:29 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2010 9:37 am
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

(Overflow from Friday's Weekend Watch List)

How arrogant is LeBron James? You may have heard he is thinking about attending the Miami-Ohio State. Heaven help him if the Miami Heat star watches Miami win. It's 105,000-1. No matter what Jim Tressel says, there will be a much of hacked off Bucknuts ... San Jose State goes to Wisconsin with the distinction of having played more ranked non-conference opponents in the first two weeks of the season (two, counting Alabama) than the Badgers have in the last eight years (one). The Spartans are playing back-to-back home games in the Central Time Zone for the first time since 1999 ... Oklahoma has a nation-best 31-game home winning streak ... Texas A&M ran 99 plays against Stephen F. Austin, the most in the nation last week ... The Big 12 is back to being a running league. For a week. Three backs went over 200 yards last week for the first time since 1998 ... In Rick Neuheisel's 26 games at UCLA (hosting Stanford), he has beaten two with winning records at the end of the season -- Tennessee in first season and Temple in last year's EagleBank Bowl ... Part of an explanation, sort of, for the poor showing against Miami (Ohio).  Florida played 15 true freshman last week. That was the most of any team in the country ... The Boise State-Virginia Tech game was the most-viewed regular-season game in ESPN history (7.2 million viewers).

Posted on: August 31, 2010 11:53 am
 

Son of 25 Things to Watch

These five "things" didn't make the cut ....

26. This is the best, most-inside look at Nebraska's move to the Big Ten. The Omaha World-Herald piece shows that Nebraska was tipped off in January about possibly being left out as conference shifting took place. From there, the school played a risky, clandestine mating dance with the Big Ten that resulted in the school joining on June 11.

27. Odds on winning the national championship from Bodog.com

Alabama 4-1
Ohio State 5-1
Oklahoma 15-2
Boise State 8-1
Florida 9-1
Texas 14-1
Nebraska 15-1
Miami 18-1
TCU 18-1
Virginia Tech 18-1


In case you're scoring at home, Boise State has a better chance of winning the national chanmpionship than Florida, Texas, Nebraska or Miami.

28. Just in case you need help getting into the 2010 Heisman race, Texas coach Mack Brown says the 2004 Heisman race might not be over. 

29. Most fearsome ...

Defensive line: Iowa returns four all-Big Ten starters and its top two reserves. Only two players rushed for 100 yards against the Hawkeyes last year.

Offensive line: Alabama. Having the defending Heisman Trophy winner and his sidekick (Trent Richardson) to spring lose, how hard can it be?

Secondary: North Carolina. All four starters are back (for now) on a unit that allowed 175 passing yards per game.

Offensive backfield:  Virginia Tech. Tyrod Taylor is ready to break out. Tailback Darren Evans returns to find his spot taken by '09 freshman sensation Ryan Williams. The only question for Frank Beamer is how to split the carries.

Defensive backfield: Texas. Three starters back from a unit that picked off 11 more passes (25) than touchdowns allowed (14).

Linebackers: Michigan State. Big Ten defensive player of the year and All-American Greg Jones is in the middle. He is bookended by Spartans' No. 2 tackler Eric Gordon and talented sophomore Chris Norman. 

Receivers:
Oklahoma. Four receivers averaged at least 12 yards per catch. Watch tiny Ryan Broyles who went over 1,000 yards on 89 catches.

Special teams: Nebraska. Alex Henery handles the kicking (24 of 28 FGs) and punts (41.4). Adi Kunalic has 86 career touchbacks, 38 percent of his kickoffs. Niles Paul averaged 28 yards per kickoff return and 10.7 on punt returns.

30. Comeback player of the year

Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder rebounded from shoulder surgery. Auburn's Zac Etheridge came back from a serious neck injury. Baylor's Robert Griffin ripped his ACL in the third game of the season.  Georgia Tech defensive back Cooper Taylor needed heart surgery .

They're all back in 2010 but the winner has to be Boston College's Mark Herzlich who beat cancer and inspired a nation during his recovery -- part of which was televised.

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