Tag:Clemson
Posted on: August 12, 2009 1:00 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2009 1:01 pm
 

Five risers and five fallers for 2009

Five risers

Baylor – (See stories on the site) Fifteen seasons without a bowl are about to come to an end if everything breaks right.

Houston – Ten victories for the Cougars are possible in wide-open Conference USA. Case Keenum (5,000 yards passing) is a Heisman candidate. There, I said it. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech had better watch out in September. The Cougars would take a split and have the talent to sweep.

Kansas – The Jayhawks have finished at the top of the standings once since 1968. Forty-one years ago they shared the Big Eight title and went to the Orange Bowl. In 2007, they went 12-1 and shared the Big 12 North title with Missouri. (The Tigers won the division based on its head-to-head victory over the Jayhawks.) No one is expecting KU to go 12-1 again, but it has the stuff to win its first outright title in anything (even a modest division title) since 1930. Nebraska has the easier conference schedule but the Huskers have to play in Lawrence.

Michigan State –  After Ohio State and Penn State, the Spartans might be the pick in the Big Ten. Third-year coach Mark Dantonio has the program trending upward after winning nine games in ’08. Even with the loss of quarterback Brian Hoyer and leading rusher Javon Ringer, there are expectations that Sparty will compete in the Big Ten. Michigan State doesn’t play Ohio State and gets Penn State at home. Linebacker Greg Jones might be the conference’s best defensive player.

Nevada – At last check, the Wolf Pack were the only team in the country to run the Pistol offense. That’s not a good matchup with still-emotionally fragile Notre Dame opening up at home against Nevada. Coach Chris Ault will pull everything out of the bag. Give me quarterback Colin Kaepernick (one of only five players ever to pass for 2,000 and rush for 1,000) and tailback Vai Taua (1,521 yards rushing) and I’ll take my chances.


Five fallers

Auburn – Gene Chizik recruited well and God knows he knows how to roll in a limo. But I’m having a hard time figuring out how new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn makes chicken salad out of chicken spit. The offensive talent isn’t there, just like it wasn’t for Tony Franklin last season. Chizik might do great things. They won’t happen in 2009, though. Look for a repeat of 5-7.

Buffalo – In the frat party that followed the Bulls’ MAC championship, a lot of folks forgot that Buffalo lost six games. It didn’t exactly roll over people. Seven of its 14 games were decided by six points or less. It was outgained in conference play. Point is, 2009 could go either way. This year, MAC rivals will not take the Bulls lightly.

Clemson – The Tigers will find a way to slip off the edge of the cliff, even coming off a 7-5 season. Start with a rookie head coach (in his first full season) Dabo Swinney. A life-size poster of C.J. Spiller is nice but where’s the beef? Baylor (see above) has more all-time draft picks. Tommy was never good enough. The Tigers are favored by some to win the ACC. When they don’t we’ll hear more chants of “1991, 1991 …” the last year Clemson won the league.

Miami – Just when the Canes seemed ready to turn the corner, here comes the schedule from hell. Miami could be a better team than ’08 and still come out of the first four 1-3. And how did AD Kirby Hocutt get roped into having to play Central Florida and South Florida on the road in the same season?

South Florida – There’s nothing wrong, exactly, with the Bulls. I’m just wondering when they’re going to quit teasing. In a wide-open Big East, South Florida could win it, or finish fifth. The program seems to have peaked after winning nine in both ’06 and ’07. Jim Leavitt has the league’s best offensive player (Matt Grothe) and best defensive player (George Selvie) this season. We’re waiting, coach.

Posted on: July 27, 2009 10:15 am
Edited on: July 27, 2009 10:17 am
 

Five things I believe about the ACC ...

Random thoughts from the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. The events ends Tuesday. Then it's on to to the Big 12 media days in Dallas.

• Gene DeFilippo is my hero. When Jeff Jagodzinski played footsie with an NFL team, Boston College’s AD drew a line in the turf. Follow through on the interview, DeFilippo said, and you’re gone. Jags did and DeFilippo canned his coach after two seasons. Longtime defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani got the job.

If more ADs were more assertive and upstanding as DeFilippo maybe we wouldn’t have more academic scandals. (You listening Florida State?)

• C.J. Spiller thinks a lot of himself. The Clemson running back’s impression of his talents kind of match the annual hype surrounding his team. Both are overblown.

“Every year I’ve been at Clemson, I’ve considered myself a Heisman Trophy candidate,” said the tailback who rushed for a career-low 639 yards last season.

To be fair, Spiller is the program’s career all-purpose yardage leader. Some projections have Spiller being the first running back taken in the 2010 draft. Still, until Clemson actually cashes in all this talent it will still be, well, Clemson.

But to be totally fair, is a Heisman candidate in July.

Coach Dabo Swinney begins his first full season with plenty of promise – and hype. The school commissioned a life-size poster of 5-foot-11 Spiller to, you know, get his name out there. SID Tim Bourret had the idea after considering it had 25 years since Clemson’s last life-size poster of Refrigerator Perry.

“It’s so old-school it’s new,” Bourret said. “Nobody does these things anymore. Everybody does internet and e-mail.”

The highest a Tiger has finished in Heisman voting was quarterback Steve Fuller in 1978.

The cost of a limited printing run of 4,700 was offset by two sponsors. The posters are now becoming keepsakes and collectibles. Bourret said more posters could be printed if other sponsors jump on board. That will happen if Spiller gives those sponsors a reason to jump on board.

• You won’t believe Virginia Tech’s secret weapon. He’s 6-foot-3, 287 pounds and throws the ball 85 yards.  Tight end Greg Boone is Tech’s “Wild Turkey” in the formation that features a change-of-pace back taking snaps.

Boone came out of high school as the No. 15 quarterback in the nation but was quickly switched to tight end. That might throw off some defenders who don’t believe Boone can be lethal. Last season he played 42 offensive snaps rushing 21 times for 76 yards. We’re waiting, though, for Boone to throw. He says he can chuck it more than 80 yards using only a three-step drop.

Tyrod Taylor and Ju-Ju Clayton are the quarterbacks but Boone insists the fall-off wouldn’t be much if he was forced to play.

“I’m not sure I’d need that much time (to get ready),” Boone said. “Tight end and quarterback basically know the offense.”

The real show is Friday during the walk-through. Boone and teammates stand about 40 yards away and try to hit each letter of HOKIES in the end zone. Ohio State dots the “I”. Boone hits every letter.

“He’s a little freakish quarterback back there,” said teammate Kam Chancellor.

• Bobby Bowden’s NCAA fight is a story outside the FSU lockerroom. Both quarterback Christian Ponder and linebacker Dekoda Watson insisted there is no distraction for the team as the school waits to see if Bowden's 14 career victories are taken away.

“Honestly, we’re not worried about it,” Ponder said. “We know that Coach Bowden is a strong person. He could care less whether those games are forfeited so we could care less … It might hurt to lose the Joe Paterno contest. We already know Coach Bowden is one of the greatest coaches in college football.”
 
“He’s the sweetest man you’ll ever meet in your life,” said Watson a senior from Aiken, S.C. “I only heard that man cuss five or six times since I’ve been at Florida State. It wasn’t even big cuss words. The ‘d’ word, maybe the ‘h’ word but they say that in the Bible.”

• It’s better that folks stay asleep on Wake. Demon Deacons quarterback Riley Skinner prefers that folks don’t realize that his team has won 28 games and an ACC title in the last three seasons.

“I hope we fly under the radar,” said Skinner, a redshirt senior. “That’s usually when we play our best, when our guys sneak up on people.”

It was argued that after all the recent success maybe Wake Forest has arrived. Wake is picked in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Division this season. Sounds like a championship run is imminent.

“It’s been wild, it’s been unbelievable, it’s been amazing to see my redshirt compared to these last three years,” Skinner said. “I’m grateful Coach (Jim) Grobe has stayed. He’s a hot topic whenever a job comes up. Winston-Salem loves Coach Grobe. They’ll fight to the end of the earth for him.”

 

Posted on: June 26, 2009 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2009 11:00 am
 

Picking the ACC

It has been easy to take shots at the ACC since expansion.

The whole Florida State/Miami axis-of-excellence thing hasn't panned out. But there have been some stories worth reading. Wake Forest competes favorably representing one of the smallest schools in I-A. Everybody is waiting for North Carolina to break out under Butch Davis. Georgia Tech's option game has baffled opponents, at least in Paul Johnson's first season.

Virginia Tech has remained the only constant. The Hokies have won consecutive ACC titles and never seems to drop far off the grid. Frank Beamer could be anywhere. He has chosen to remain in Blacksburg and built an unlikely powerhouse.

The Hokies are prohibitive favorites to make it three in a row.

Atlantic

1. North Carolina State -- Invest in Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack's coach is as solid commodity as there is on Wall Street these days. Actually better, considering the state of Wall Street. For 10 years, he overachieved at Boston College. Now with more resources he is ready to deliver in Raleigh. When in doubt, I always go with a solid returning quarterback. Russell Wilson might have the most upside of any in the league. He enters the season with 249 passes without an interception, 22 short of Drew Weatherford's ACC record. During an injury-filled season Wilson still threw 17 touchdowns and only one interception. O'Brien will hit it big in his third season coming in with a four-game winning streak to end '08.

UPDATE: Linebacker Nate Irving was injured in a car accident on Sunday (6/28). Irving, when healthy, was one of the best linebackers I saw last season. If he isn't able to go this season, the certainly impacts the Pack's chances.

2. Florida State -- The bandwagon is not full. I'm intrigued why the Seminoles are most people's choice in this division. Bobby Bowden is back to having an established quarterback (Christian Ponder) for the first time in eight seasons. The offensive line is reflecting line coach Rick Trickett's toughness (left tackle Andrew Datko was a freshman All-American). But there aren't the dynamic athletes we're used to seeing. And there always seems to be some drama around the program. People have talked more about the loss of 14 victories in the offseason more than Ponder having some reliable receivers. Try to envision a nine-win season with road trips to BYU, North Carolina, Clemson, Wake and Florida. I can't. FSU could win the division and probably eight games but it will take a step back from '08 when it won nine. 

3. Wake Forest -- The Deacons have won 11, 9 and 8 games the last three seasons. It would be logical to assume the decline is going to continue. Most of the returning players are back on offense, which struggled. The defense loses eight starters. Four players were taken in the first four rounds of the draft. That's amazing but also troubling for this season. Wake will have to get those new defensive starters ready to contribute right away for it to be a factor in the division.
 
4. Clemson
-- The Dabo Swinney era goes into its first full season. A 4-2 finish by the former receivers coach was enough to raise hopes after the end of Tommy Bowden's 9 1/2-year reign. There is always the fear that Clemson is still Clemson. Since 1999, it has never won less than six or more than nine. The Tigers have had the talent to win the ACC each of the last three seasons but they always seem to disappoint. Kevin Steele was a huge get as defensive coordinator coming from Alabama. Tailback C.J. spillers is less than 1,000 yards away from becoming the ACC's career leader in all-purpose yards. Swinney will be reminded at every turn that the last ACC title was in 1991. 

5. Maryland -- We can see the end of the Ralph Friedgen era in College Park. Offensive coordinator James Franklin is the coach in waiting. The Terps should take a major dip after going 8-5. Twelve starters have departed including receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Friedgen loves Torrey Smith and redshirt freshman Kevin Dorsey as emerging talents at receiver. Franklin has done a good job shaping senior quarterback Chris Turner. 

6. Boston College -- Gene DeFilippo is my hero. Look, I liked Jeff Jagodzinski but I admire BC's AD for calling the former coach's bluff when Jags interviewed with the Jets. I admire DeFilippo more for replacing Jags with the guy who most deserved it. Frank Spaziani was d-coordinator for 10 years and had earned his shot. There is enough left over from the nation's No. 5 five defense to compete (linebacker Mark Herzlich was ACC defensive player of the year). You wonder, though, if the Eagles will be able to throw when they need to. Junior Codi Boek arrived as a quarterback, then was converted to fullback. He is now is back at quarterback. He is competing with freshman Justin Tuggle.


Coastal

1. Virginia Tech -- Beamer doesn't get enough credit. The Hokies have become the dominant program in a league that was formed showcase Miami and Florida State. In the last five seasons he has won 52 games and three ACC titles, including the last two in a row. Virginia Tech should go to a third consecutive BCS bowl. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor gets the job to himself after injuries and Sean Glennon blocked his way the past two seasons. Taylor's game resembles a certain legend whose name rhymes with "quick." Sophomore tailback Darren Evans rushed for most of his 1,265 yards in the second half of the season.  Coordinator Bud Foster might have his best defense ever. It is quick and mean. If the Hokies get past Alabama in the opener, they could be in the national championship hunt.

2. Georgia Tech -- You've got to love Paul Johnson's, um, confidence. When folks questioned whether his triple option could work in the big time he went out and won nine while beating Georgia in his first season with the Jackets. Things should be better this season Heisman candidate Jonathan Dwyer, the ACC's leading rusher, is complemented nicely by Roddy Jones in the same backfield. The defense finished in the top 25 nationally and held five teams to 20 points or less. The secondary is loaded with the addition of corner Jerrard Tarrant who was suspended for all of '08 fighting a rape accusation. The charges were dropped. The toughest stretch will be three weeks in October when the Jackets play at Mississippi State, at Florida State and Virginia Tech at home.

3. North Carolina -- Davis continues to recruit. The Tar Heels should continue to win. In Davis' second year the Heels jumped from four to eight wins. Often-injured quarterback T.J. Yates lost his two most reliable targets (Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate) to the NFL. Fortunately, the defense is loaded. If the Heels can win at Georgia Tech on Sept. 26 don't be surprised if they start 6-0.
 
4. Miami -- I don't care who is responsible. In fact, I don't want to know. The schedule, though, is a joke. Poor Randy Shannon is looking at 0-4 with the toughest first four games in the country -- at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. Shannon lost a quarterback (Robert Mavre) and had to change both coordinators. Mark Whipple came from the NFL to take over the offense. First-year d-coordinator John Lovett came from North Carolina. The defense is stout, but let's be honest. This is Miami and if they don't win big with flair, it will be a disappointment.  The progress of quarterback Jacory Harris will be on one of the major stories in the conference.

5. Virginia -- It has been a weird circle of life in Charlottesville. Al Groh's son Mike became offensive coordinator in 2006 after Ron Prince left to become Kansas State's head coach. Prince is back (as special teams coach) after being fired at K-State. Mike Groh was, um, let go after producing the sixth-worst offense in Division I-A last season. Gregg Brandon has installed a spread offense for quarterback Jameel Sewell. They should be thankful to work together. Brandon landed at Virginia after being fired at Bowling Green. Sewell missed '08 because he was academically ineligible.

6. Duke -- There won't be a more upbeat last-place team in the country. David Cutcliffe squeezed out four victories in his first season as coach. That ties for the most in Krzyzewskiville since 1994. Senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis gets one last season to work under the guy who tutored Peyton and Eli. Last season's defense held three opponents to less than 10 points for the first time since 1976. Only four starters return including potential All-ACC defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase.

 

Posted on: February 9, 2009 2:56 pm
 

Miami has a new defensive coordinator

Randy Shannon has settled on John Lovett, North Carolina's special teams coordinator/defensive assistant. Except an announcement sometime this week.

Lovett, 58, becomes Miami's third defensive coordinator in three seasons. He has been a d-coordinator at Auburn, Clemson, Maine and Bowling Green.  

 Don't expect any major rules changes to come from the annual NCAA rules committee meeting this week in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. I spoke to secretary-rules editor Rogers Redding who specifically mentioned that the timing rules will stay in play. The length of games (and plays per game) were reduced slightly in 2008 with the new timing rules.

"I think there's a sense of, let's let these soak in for a while," Redding told me. "Let's take a deep breath."

He said there was some discussion of adding a two-minute warning but that there wasn't enough support.

 

Posted on: November 21, 2008 4:33 pm
 

Locksley interviews at Clemson

Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has been interviewed by Clemson according to at least two outlets -- the Anderson (S.C.)  Independent-Mail and Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette.

Locksley's name first came up for the Syracuse opening but Clemson seems a much better fit. The program is ready to win now and Locksley brings an impressive offensive resume. He opened up the Washington, D.C. area to Illinois from where it plucked 2007 All-American Vontae Davis and receiver Arrellious Benn.

The interview reportedly took place in Detroit two weeks ago when the Illini were there to play Western Michigan. Illinois concludes its regular season Saturday at Northwestern needing a win to become bowl eligible.

Posted on: November 12, 2008 11:49 am
 

National notes

The BCS bowls right now ...

BCS title game: Alabama/Florida vs. Texas/Texas Tech/Oklahoma
 
Orange: ACC vs. Utah/Boise
 
Fiesta: Texas/Texas Tech/Oklahoma vs. Ohio State
 
Sugar: Alabama/Florida loser vs. Big East
 
Rose: Penn State vs. USC
 
 
Notes: The SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten get two teams ... The Fiesta Bowl gets the first and third picks in this scenario ... That leaves the Sugar with the Big East chumps, er, champs ... Orange definitely gets the non-BCS team because it picks last. No one is going to take Utah or Boise ahead of it because those schools just aren't new stories.
 
 
 Your official ACC tiebreaker scenarios direct from the ACC office.

First, 10 of 12 teams are still alive for the ACC title including Duke, in last place in the Coastal Division at 4-5 and 1-4. Other than that, take a couple of Advil and read on.

Atlantic Division


Florida State (7-2, 4-2) -- beat Boston College and Maryland to finish the season and hope someone beats Wake Forest. FSU currently loses a tiebreaker to the Deacons.

Wake Forest (6-3, 4-2) -- needs to beat N.C. State and Boston College and hope someone defeats Maryland.

Maryland (6-3, 3-2) -- controls its own destiny. Beat North Carolina, Florida State and Boston College and it is in.

Boston College (6-3, 2-3) -- controls its own destiny. Needs to win at Florida State, at Wake Forest and at home against Maryland to win the division.

Clemson (4-5, 2-4) -- Can't win the division.

N.C. State (3-6, 1-4) -- Can't win the division.

Coastal Division

North Carolina (7-2, 3-2) -- win out against Maryland, N.C. State and Duke and hope someone beats Virginia Tech.

Miami (6-3, 3-2) -- win out against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and N.C. State and hope North Carolina loses one more game.

Virginia Tech (6-3, 3-2) -- Controls its own destiny by beating Miami, Duke and Virginia.

Georgia Tech (7-3, 4-3) -- needs to beat Miami and have North Carolina lose twice, Virginia lose to Clemson and Virginia Tech lost two of its remaining three games (one to Virginia).

Virginia (5-5, 3-3) -- needs to beat Clemson and Virginia Tech and have someone beat both Miami and North Carolina

Duke (4-5, 1-4) -- beat Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina to finish 4-4 in the division. Then, have Virginia lose to Clemson and beat Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech beat Miami and lose to Duke and Virginia. Georgia Tech lose to Miami and have Miami lose to Virginia Tech, beat Georgia Tech and lose to N.C. State. In addition, have North Carolina beat Maryland, but lose to N.C. State and Duke.

Got all that?

 

 All is not lost for Penn State.

 

There is a convoluted way that Joe Paterno can get to the national championship game.

1. Penn State wins out to go 11-1
2. Alabama loses to at least two of the three: Mississippi State, Auburn and Florida.
3. Texas Tech loses to Oklahoma and Baylor.
4. Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma.
5. Missouri defeats Texas in the Big 12 title game.
6. USC loses once more to either Stanford, Notre Dame or UCLA.
7. Utah loses to San Diego State or BYU.

That would leave Florida No. 1 at 12-1. Bama, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Texas and USC would each have at least two losses. An undefeated Utah might not be a threat anyway but a loss to BYU ends the Utes' hope for making a miraculous run to the national championship game.
 
The only possible No. 2 would be Penn State. Hey, I told you it was convoluted.

 That got me thinking. How DOES Utah get to the national championship game?

 

1. Penn State loses to either Indiana or Michigan State.
2. through 4. above.
5. USC loses once more.
6. At that point, it probably wouldn't matter which team won the Big 12, Texas or Missouri. It would be close with Texas having one loss and Utah being undefeated.
7. All Utah would have to do is beat San Diego State and BYU to advance to the title game.

 No matter what the standings say, it's still all about Texas in the Big 12.

 

The university is in talks to launch its own TV network. Horns TV sounds a bit inappropriate in a cable universe populated with the likes of Playboy TV, but I'm sure the school will come up with something.

Texas has the nation's largest athletic budget, somewhere north of $120 million. It made non-qualifiers a deal breaker when the conference was formed 12 years ago. Nebraska and Kansas State complained loudly but went along. Look where those programs went shortly thereafter without the benefit of non-qualifiers.

Now Texas is bidding to take over the cable universe. Makes me wonder how Michael Crabtree ever got into the end zone a couple of weeks ago.

 Tim Tebow got away with it. John Parker Wilson didn't.

 

Wilson, Alabama's quarterback, said he regretted pantomiming a cell phone call to the LSU fans following a first-quarter touchdown at Death Valley. Unlike Tebow last year at LSU, Wilson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Tebow wasn't. Guess it depends on how innovativeness of your taunt.

"Whether it should have been a penalty or not, it doesn’t really matter," Wilson said. "It was just a bad decision, something I really shouldn’t have done."

The quarterback turned his cellie off on Thursday and didn't turn it on again until after the game on Saturday.

 They're talking contract extension for Randy Shannon at Miami. That's good news for a guy who started 2-3 after a 5-7 first season. The Canes are in contention for the ACC title (who isn't?) and should start 2009 in the top 25.

 

 Bo Pelini has waited until the week of the 11th game to break out the coveted "Blackshirts" for 11 of his best defenders.

 

Makes sense to reward the Huskers for their defense. They're 81st in total defense giving up 380 yards per game and 89th in scoring defense giving up 29.1 points.

 ESPN is in negotiations with the BCS to move all five BCS games to the cable side. I don't have a problem with all the games being on one network.  But this does allow the Worldwide Leader to increase its fees to cable companies which will be passed on to us, the consumer.

 

Posted on: November 9, 2008 7:52 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2008 8:50 pm
 

Random thoughts on a football Saturday

The BCS question of the week: If Oklahoma beats Texas Tech in two weeks ,which Big 12 team wins the South and could ultimately get to the BCS title game?

The national championship chase is basically down to six teams if you make a reach and include No. 6 (in the BCS) USC. As of this moment, it's pretty much assured that the Big 12 and SEC will meet in South Florida.

Alabama and Texas Tech remained 1-2 in the BCS standings released on Sunday. Now the intrigue: Texas moved up to No. 3, followed by Florida and Oklahoma. All three Big 12 teams in the top five have a chance to win the Big 12 South.

An Oklahoma win in two weeks would create a three-way tie for the division. (Oklahoma still has still has to go to Oklahoma State on Nov. 29) That tie would be broken by the highest-ranked BCS team at the end of the regular season.

So who gets it?

"Can't say," Jerry Palm told me Sunday afternoon.

This much we do know: Texas has a huge advantage over Oklahoma in the computers, .920-.820. Palm says, in theory, all OU would have to do is pass Texas in the computers. That's possible considering Oklahoma's stronger schedule than Texas down the stretch.

There's also a huge variable -- the human polls. Texas jumped over Oklahoma on Sunday in the Harris poll.

The outrage in all this -- at least for Texas -- is that Oklahoma lost to the Longhorns and could be playing for the Big 12 title instead of Texas.

Another scenario. Texas Tech could lose in two weeks and still win the South if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma. In that case, Texas and Texas Tech would be tied but the Red Raiders hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

 After watching the quality of play in the LSU-Alabama game -- folks, it was not good -- I don't want to hear anything about how the Big 12 somehow takes a back seat to the SEC.

 

Example: In the 19 games since Ruffin McNeil took over as Texas Tech's defensive coordinator, the Red Raiders are giving up an average of 22 points and 330 yards having forced 35 turnovers.

Last season Texas Tech gave up 610 yards and 49 points to Oklahoma State. After the game Setenich resigned and was replaced by McNeil. On Saturday, Texas Tech gave up only 368 yards and 20 points.

"Our defense is never mentioned in the same breath with our offense," McNeil said. "Our offense is so consistent. That's where we're trying to get."

 Texas Tech became the second team since 1965 to beat a top 10 team the week after beating No. 1. The last team to accomplish what was Oklahoma in 1984. The Sooners beat No. 1 Nebraska, then beat No. 3 Oklahoma State.

 

 There was word circulating that the Rose Bowl would break its cast-in-stone (and broken only by the BCS) tradition of matching the Pac-10 and Big Ten.

 

There were some in the Rose administration -- just like us -- who simply did not want to see Ohio State and USC play again. Who wants to see a re-run of also-rans?

After Saturday, it looks like the Rose will be juuuuust fine. If you consider Oregon State vs. Penn State "fine." That would be a rematch of Penn State's Sept. 6 rout of the Beavers but any major bowl with Joe Paterno in it would be better than Trojans-Buckeyes.

The Nittany Lions' one-point loss to Iowa just about dropped the Big Ten out of the national championship picture. Penn State can still win out (against Indiana and Michigan State) and still capture the Big Ten.

The looming surprise is that with four weeks to go, Oregon State still controls its own destiny in the Pac-10. The Beavers stayed on track with an impressive 34-6 victory over UCLA. The pesky Beavers have Cal and Oregon at home before going to Arizona for the season-finale on Nov. 29.

That's not exactly a daunting schedule considering the Pac-10 is going to have to hustle to fill its six bowl slots. Only five teams are above .500.

Oregon State would be making its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1965.

 Nothing like sacking up for your lame duck coach.

 

Hard to tell who should be more embarrassed -- Tennessee's players for laying down to punchless Wyoming or Fulmer who couldn't squeeze a win-one-for-the skipper game out of the Vols.

Incredibly, Wyoming coach Joe Glenn, almost a certainty to be fired himself, is 3-1 against the SEC.

 The ACC is the only I-A conference with at least two conference losses by every member school.

 

 How bad is the Pac-10? It is basically down to Stanford (5-5) to fill all six of its bowls. Only five teams to this point are bowl eligible. The Cardinal have to beat USC at home or win at Cal to become bowl eligible. 

 

 Happy 79th to Bobby Bowden who celebrated his birthday with a victory over Clemson that put Florida State in a tie with Wake Forest for a tie in the ACC Atlantic.

 

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?

 

 


 
 
 
 
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