Tag:Rutgers
Posted on: October 3, 2009 11:58 am
 

No. 1 Thomas Aquinas

The biggest game of the weekend in South Florida may have been played.

Twenty BCS-conference prospects took the field Friday night when No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (here in Ft. Lauderdale) beat No. 2 Byrnes (S.C.) 42-34. I'm not one for hyping high school players -- the game was on national television which gives me hives -- but this one was too big to ignore.

Aquinas' LaMarcus Joyner returned a kickoff 100 yards and had a 48-yard touchdown reception. Joyner says he is down to Florida and Ohio State. Byrnes tailback Marcus Lattimore (still undecided) had three fumbles and was held to less than 100 yards. Rutgers' Greg Schiano was in town to see his quarterback commit, Byrnes Chas Dodd (no relation). There were three Tennessee football commits on the field as well.

Other celebutants spotted in the crowd -- Urban Meyer and Aquinas alum Joe Castiglione. Oklahoma's AD is a South Florida guy having been a house boy for the late Jackie Gleason (The Great One did his show from Miami). Castiglione noticed one day that one of the Gleasons' dogs was missing. Turns out it had been eaten by a Gator.

All of this is very confusing for a guy who attended St. Thomas Aquinas (in Florissant, Mo.) and who has a daughter who attends St. Thomas Aquinas (in Overland Park, Kan.). Can I be a fan of the Florida Aquinas?
Posted on: September 7, 2009 10:06 pm
 

What the hell just happened to Rutgers?

That was the old Rutgers.

The really old Rutgers.

In 2001, West Virginia beat the Scarlet Knights 80-7. That was Greg Schiano's first season. The former Miami defensive coordinator said things would get better. They did, slowly and surely. Three years ago the program was competing for a BCS berth. But what happened Monday afternoon was scary for those who remember 80-7.

It looked like retro-Rutgers. Cincinnati embarrased the Scarlet Knights 47-15 in a game that seemed to set the program back to 2001. Rutgers used three quarterbacks. It couldn't stop air on defense. Worst of all, the result sucked the air out of a crowd that was ready to explode, celebrating Rutgers' shiny new stadium renovation -- $102 million worth to be exact.

Rutgers seems to be headed back to the swamps of Jersey from which Schiano dragged it.

"In all my career in the NFL, in college, I haven't seen holes like this," ESPN analyst Brian Griese said at one point.

Cincinnati had 510 yards with 1:10 left in the third quarter. It ended with 574. Quarterback Tony Pike should rightfully move to the top of Heisman lists after throwing for 362 yards and two touchdowns. That was almost understandable. Cincinnati has one of the better offenses in the Big East. Defense? Ten new starters coached by a new coordinator.

Rutgers barely averaged four yards per play. Schiano began last season 1-5, winning his last seven in a row. That's not a plan you want to follow.

While Schiano has to dig in, quick, Brian Kelly should have one foot on an airplane. Even though Cincinnati signed him to an extension in the offseason, there is no way the coach is going to stick around for long. Washington and Tennessee took shots at Kelly during the offseason. It wasn't exactly the best of times to be going to Washington or Tennessee. That's why Kelly stayed, but for how lo
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 4, 2009 8:22 am
 

Five things I believe about the Big East

Random thoughts going into the Big East media day in Newport, R.I. ...

Call it the Mountain West – East. The question is why the Big East deserves an automatic BCS bid and the Mountain West doesn’t.

I can’t think of one good reason, especially this year. The Mountain West goes three teams deep (TCU, BYU, Utah). The Big East might not have a ranked team this season. After distinguishing itself after the ACC raid, the Big East, at least this season, is the Big Least.

It’s wide open. Five teams have a legitimate shot at winning the league – West Virginia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and South Florida.

That’s good for those schools, bad for the league as a whole. The Big East doesn’t have a big dog that will make a national splash. Every team has holes. Rutgers lost its quarterback and best receivers. Pittsburgh lost its top tackler and rusher. Pat White and the buzz is gone from West Virginia.

Greg Paulus will play quarterback for Syracuse ... at some point and it will make total sense. When the former Duke guard began shopping himself and when Syracuse bit, it seemed like a joke. I mean, what was next Mike Krzyzewski drawing up plays for David Cutcliffe?

Then I started thinking: Syracuse is its absolute bottom. It’s probably going to finish last again in the Big East. Paulus is a good athlete, although isn’t about time we quit slobbering over his high school quarterback exploits?

It comes down to a what-the-heck thing? Syracuse can’t do any worse. The Orange’s offense is terrible. Let’s see what Paulus can do.

These schools need to break through. Rutgers, South Florida and Pittsburgh.

Remember 2006 when Rutgers was on the cusp of a BCS bowl? It is 18-12 since beating Louisville that year. South Florida rose to No. 2 a couple of years ago but have developed a nasty habit for disappointing. The Bulls are undefeated in the past two Septembers, 7-8 the rest of the way.

Dave Wannstedt won nine games a year ago and his program seems ready to turn the corner but his Panthers have yet to do it. The likeable Wanny is two games above .500 in his four seasons.

Randy Edsall won’t be around much longer. Two years ago UConn shared the league title. Last season Donald Brown rushed for 2,000 yards, led the nation and left early for the NFL. UConn had as many draft picks as Alabama (four).

Those are signs of a big-time program.

Edsall, entering his 11th season, got some interest from Syracuse, his alma mater, but he can do much better. If he continues to win, he will.

Posted on: June 23, 2009 11:51 am
Edited on: June 24, 2009 2:12 am
 

Picking the Big East

Sometimes you feel like the smartest person in the college football world.

Sometimes you throw darts.

Welcome to the Big East where all you need is flexible wrist. Don't worry about a bulls eye. Anywhere, you throw it, you could be a winner. Since 2003 eight different schools have claimed at least a share of the Big East title. A lot of that has to do with realignment after ACC expansion. But the conference remains perhaps the most competitive BCS conference.

Last season six of the eight teams made it to a bowl. In 2006-2007, three Big East teams had made it to the top three in the polls. With only eight teams, the league had one less NFL draft pick (27) than the Big Ten's 11 teams (28).

The demise of the Big East was greatly exaggerated. In the four years since realignment it is 3-1 in BCS bowls.

A case can be made for at least four schools being good enough to win the league this season.

Picking the Big East ...

1. Rutgers -- This dart lands in Piscataway. The Scarlet Knights will go to their first BCS game mostly because they have the league's most favorable schedule. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida and West Virginia have to come up the Jersey Turnpike.  Even though Greg Schiano loses his quarterback (Mike Teel) and two best receivers (Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood), there is enough talent to fill in. All five starters are back on the offensive line, including 325-pound NFL prospect Anthony Davis at left tackle. Schiano gave up his play-calling duties on defense, handing them over to assistants Bob Fraser and Ed Pinkham. The pressure will be on but the Knights have time to wade into the deep end. They get Howard, Florida International and Texas Southern at home before playing their second Big East game. The momentum created by a seven-game winning streak to end '08 will carry over with 16 returning starters.

2. South Florida -- It helps to have the Big East's best offensive (quarterback Matt Grothe) and defensive (George Selvie) players. The offense gets more of a pure spread with the promotion of Mike Canales to offensive coordinator. Grothe might have to use those magic legs more than ever with only one returning starter on the offensive line. Selvie can be a freak at times off the edge. He slipped back in '08 after 14 1/2 sacks in 2007. The Bulls must learn to finish. They started 6-0 in '07 and 5-0 in '08. If they are going to get off to a similar start this season they must win at Florida State on Sept. 26.

3. Pittsburgh -- I really want to pick the Panthers to win. I really do. Dave Wannstedt might have the most talented team in the league but he will have to prove it. The loss of tailback Sean McCoy to the NFL was a killer. Early enrollee Dion Lewis has a shot at the job. If senior Bill Stull doesn't hold onto the quarterback job (nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions, there's always junior Pat Bostick. The defense will be stout again with Mick Williams at defensive tackle. Linebacker Adam Gunn returns for a sixth year of eligibility after breaking his neck in the '08 season opener. Wanny has stockpiled talent with three consecutive top 25 recruiting classes. Coming off a nine-win season, he needs to take the next step and win a bowl game in his fifth year at Pittsburgh.

4. Cincinnati -- The Bearcats were lucky enough to hold onto coach Brian Kelly. The ultimate coaching ladder climber (three jobs since 2003), recently signed an extension through 2013. If Kelly sticks around long enough, Kelly could make Cincinnati into a watered down version of Miami in the old Big East, an urban school waiting to bust out. In his second full season, Kelly produced 11 wins, a conference title and an Orange Bowl berth. Injuries forced Kelly to use five quarterbacks last season. The survivor, senior Tony Pike, is back. He'll throw to Marty Gilyard, the leading returning receiver in the league.

5. West Virginia -- Sorry, West Virginians. You lose Pat White and your prospects don't improve. White was one of the Big East's best-ever players and perhaps the best player in West Virginia history. The slippery quarterback cannot be fully replaced, but Jarrett Brown will give it a shot. The senior gets his shot to start in his final season. The 6-foot-4 Brown is more of a physical dual-threat quarterback. What Brown can't do, tailback Noel Devine can. After rushing for almost 2,000 yards in his first two seasons, this could be Devine's breakout year. A Heisman run wouldn't be surprise. The Mountaineers will have to win at least nine again to make it happen. That could be a struggle.

6. Connecticut -- UConn forces you to pay attention. The basketball team has a higher profile. In a league of football overachievers, it is not the first option. South Florida is in its 13th year of existence, but UConn has been in I-A only seven years. The country had to pay attention last season.  Donald Brown led the country in rushing, the Huskies blew out conference champ Cincinnati and won eight games. Coach Randy Edsall's name continued to pop up for higher profile jobs. Edsall stayed. However, Brown is gone to the NFL so don't expect another 2,000-yard season. Notre Dame transfer Zach Frazer will take over at quarterback throwing to 5-9 Kashif Moore, the team's leading receiver.

7. Louisville -- This has to be a make or break season for Steve Kragthorpe. He is 11-13 in two years. Last season crashed with a five-game losing streak. The once powerful offense is now struggling. Tailback Victor Anderson rushed for 1,000 yards but only 207 of those came in the last four games. Louisville desperately needs something good to happen. The schedule is not kind. In consecutive weeks the Cardinals play at Kentucky, at Utah, Pittsburgh, Southern Miss, at UConn and at Cincinnati.

8. Syracuse -- If Doug Marrone's work ethic could be transformed into wins, the Orange would be back in a major bowl. Cuse Nation is excited about one of their own taking over. Still, Marrone is a rookie head coach inheriting a train wreck. The new coach has embraced Syracuse traditions. Redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib was named starter in spring practice but there is the small matter of a former Duke guard in the mix. This was a good place for Greg Paulus to land. A one-year cameo could get the Cuse back on track. Before missing last season for academic reasons, Mike Williams caught 60 passes in '07 and was second-team all-Big East. The defense finished last in the conference in total defense. Look to the Jones brothers for improvement. Senior Arthur is a defensive tackle who has 31 1/2 career tackles for loss. His brother Chandler is an end who could get into the lineup as a redshirt freshman.

 


Posted on: June 9, 2009 9:19 am
Edited on: June 9, 2009 4:21 pm
 

Picking the independents

When senior citizens complain, they tend to whine about wanting their juice, maybe turning up the heat, or, for gosh sakes, somebody find the remote. Jeopardy's on. 

Joe Paterno is one of those senior citizens. He also tends to whine. Recently he chose the Big Ten as his target. Late in life other 82-year-olds want their favorite chair, pillow or blanket. The Penn State coach prefers Big Ten expansion. Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh are his favorites. Pretty much anyone but Notre Dame.

The fact that no one of consequence even commented on JoePa's ramblings confirmed that they were just that -- ramblings. Paterno might want it his way but he's got it all wrong.

The only way Big Ten expansion works is if Notre Dame is the pick. Ten years ago, the conference (Big 11, really) walked down the aisle hand-in-hand with ND. A marriage seemed imminent. Then the engagement was abruptly broken off when the Notre Dame's board of trustees reiterated its preference to stay independent.

Since then, the former lovers' prospects have dimmed. Big Ten football has regressed recently. Despite two BCS bowls this decade, Notre Dame has seen some of its darkest days since its last appearance in 2006. Coach Charlie Weis' job hangs by a thread. He is the program's fifth coach since '96. The last national championship was 21 years ago.

Still, ND retains favored status in the BCS. The public at large didn't know about ND's almost special dispensation when it came to the BCS. It had arguably the easiest entry into a major bowl -- basically win nine and finish in the top 12.

 Notre Dame also happened to keep all the bowl money itself (minus expenses, of course). Why join a conference? It gets $4.5 million for playing in a BCS bowl. Even in years when ND doesn't go to the BCS bowl, it receives a $1.4 million check just for participating in the system. The deal with NBC pays it another $8 million per year. At least. 

That's why Notre Dame is the only school that makes sense for Big Ten expansion. The conference could use the money. Notre Dame is a ratings winner whether it is 7-1 or 1-7. People watch the same way they watch dogs fighting in the middle of the street.

It interests us.

It's easy to see why the trustees want to stay independent. Why split all that money 12 ways? Of course, if Notre Dame joined the Big Ten it could dictate some favorable terms. For example, it is assumed the school wouldn't be sharing any of that NBC money.

You can also see why Notre Dame expansion makes sense to the Big Ten. Adding the Irish would boost the Big Ten's TV ratings, its bowl coffers (at some point) and its profile. Think how the fledgling Big Ten Network could benefit. There would be a central location to catch up on everything Notre Dame.

Big Ten expansion into South Bend would be easier on both ends to recruiters. For existing Big Ten coaches who could tell prospects, "Come play against Notre Dame," and for Notre Dame which could tell prospects, "Come win the Big Ten."

None of this is going to happen soon. Commissioner Jim Delany recently called Big Ten expansion a "back burner issue." While the conference's football prospects might be down, things are always cyclical in college football. Notre Dame, as you will read below, is expected by some to get back to a BCS bowl this season.

For now, a 12-team Big Ten with Notre Dame is a conversation piece. It might never happen. The economy might worsen and it might be inevitable. There is one thing conclusion when it comes to the subject:

Please don't listen to JoePa.

Picking the independents...

1. Notre Dame -- It's all in place -- the schedule, the front-line talent, the network, the hype. Forget all that. ND goes nowhere this season unless Jimmy Clausen makes the next logical step in his progression. The junior improved last season adding 18 pounds and throwing for 25 touchdowns. It all came together in the bowl game when his only four incompletions against Hawaii were drops. With better protection, a better running game, better receivers and a better outlook, Clausen should begin to fulfill the promise he brought to South Bend three years ago. Whether it's enough to save Charlie Weis' job is another issue. It's BCS bowl or bust for The Big Guy. Weis will ride as far as Clausen can take him. The kid will benefit from the return of four starters on the offensive line. Experts have fallen in love with receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate. The running game (No. 100 nationally) has to get better with the arrival of freshman Cierre Wood. Clausen can give Wood a few pointers on how to approach that freshman season. The quarterback had his ego knocked back to The Stone Age in 2007-2008. But, seemingly, Clausen has lived and learned. With his body still intact from all those sacks, Clausen should thrive. But will it be enough to win at least nine games?

2. Navy -- It was hard to place Navy second behind ND. If everything goes right for the Middies, they could be the best of the independents. They won one more than Notre Dame last season. The last two seasons they've been competitive with Notre Dame which is important after four decades of losses. The prospects are bright for '09. In his first full season as head coach, Ken Niumatalolo won eight games, a sixth consecutive Commander-In-Chief's Trophy and got Navy to a bowl. The best thing to happen to Navy, in a weird way, might have been an injury to dangerous quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. That allowed budding talent Ricky Dobbs to start four games in '08. Dobbs wants to be president someday (after his Navy commitment, of course). His moves could make the triple option even more dangerous. The front seven is the strength of the defense. Remember that you read it here first -- in June: Look out Ohio State and Pittsburgh. Navy visits both in the first three weeks of the season. Dobbs and the option are coming.

3. Army -- Good things are being said and written about new coach Rich Ellerson. If he can transfer his magic to this run-down program, then ... well let's wait and see. There have been 12 consecutive losing seasons. The Army brass has made bad decision after bad decision. There is no reason that the Black Knights shouldn't at least be on a par with Air Force and Navy, but somehow Army has sunk to the depths of Division I-A. Ellerson comes from I-AA Cal Poly bringing the triple option on offense and double-eagle flex formation on defense (think Arizona's "Desert Swarm"). Army won't go to a bowl but it needs to build enough momentum to give Navy a game on Dec. 12.

 


Posted on: February 6, 2009 11:22 am
Edited on: February 6, 2009 5:14 pm
 

Recruiting wrap

Dear Pat Summitt:

Please excuse Lane Kiffin for, in some small way, taking away from your accomplishment.

It was a night to celebrate a career milestone. Instead, some of us were distracted by Senor Smoke's flaming of Urban Meyer. You didn't deserve that.

Pat, just to remind everyone: You've won 1,000 games. The Laner has called out Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer and is 0-0 as a college coach.

 Let's hope Ka'lial Glaud takes his classes more seriously than he takes his college choice.

Heads, stay in bed, tails, go to history lecture?

Don't laugh. Glaud signed a letter of intent with Rutgers this week because the Scarlet Knights came up tails when he flipped a coin. It was down to West Virginia and Rutgers. Glaud was conflicted so he went Harvey Two Face. The three-star linebacker from Atco (N.J.) Winslow Township raises some interesting possibilities for future coin flips.

Heads, go to the post-game party; tails, study?

Heads, drive the booster's Escalade; tails, keep driving your beat-up '88 Corolla?

Heads, Heinken; tails, Natty Light?

Heads, start a fight outside a bar at 3 a.m.; tails, study?

 

 I want Dre Kirkpatrick to fail. Maybe that's too harsh. I want what Dre Kirkpatrick represents to die off.

The nation's No. 1 defensive back committed to Alabama on Wednesday, but it was the way he did that turned the stomach. In front of a supportive hometown crowd, before cameras televising the vent live, Kirkpatrick played out the time-worn practice of putting on his new school's hat to announce his decision.

But it was the way he did it that turned the stomach. Kirkpatrick baited the crowd. Created some theater. "Ya'll ready?, he asked, then pulled a gym bag out from underneath a table. From inside the bag came a plastic bag and finally a red velvet box.

Sufficiently teased, the crowd yelled its approval as Dre pulled out the Alabama cap. His left arm in a sling (the result of a recent shoulder operation), Kirkpatrick then told his audience, "I'm not afraid of Julio Jones," referring to the Tide's freshman All-American receiver.

Somebody give me a barf bag. Kirkpatrick is the latest embodiment of the sense of entitlement some of these recruits get. Kirkpatrick is recovering from surgery, hasn't even enrolled -- much less taken the field -- and has called out a future teammate.

Why do I get the feeling this kid is going to crash and burn, spectacularly, in T-town?

 

 High school powerhouse Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas took care of one side of the ball. Now what can coach George Smith do on the other side? Smith's program produced an incredible 11 players who signed letters of intent this week. Raiders populated rosters  from Ohio State to Notre Dame to the Ivy League. The Raiders were the nation's No. 1 prep team in 2008.

 A fine story by Ken Gordon of the Columbus Dispatch describing "The Pryor Effect". It seems there is a quarterback who was willing to commit knowing he'd have to wait at least two years behind Terrelle Pryor.

 UCLA not only finished in the top 10 nationally, it sent a message down the 110.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 8, 2008 7:38 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2008 11:22 am
 

Random thoughts on a football Monday

Colt McCoy is the Heisman leader in the prestigious Rocky Mountain News poll. Yours truly voted in it this season.

 Nagurski Award (best defensive player) went to a Big 12 player? Texas' Brian Orakpo was sixth in sacks and 11th in tackles for loss. Okaaay ....

 

CBSSports.com's All-America team (including our defensive player of the year) will be released on Friday.


 Once again, one person didn't vote in the Harris poll. That made it three times this season someone was missing from the 114-person panel.


 Eighteen coaches voted for their own school in the coaches poll. The individual ballots were released  Monday in USA Today. There were some interesting results.

--Oregon's Mike Bellotti voted for Cal (No. 25) but Cal coach Mike Tedford did not.

--North Carolina finished with six points in the coaches poll. Two of them came from coach Butch Davis who voted the Tar Heels No. 24.

--Mike Leach voted Oklahoma No. 1, Texas Tech No. 2 and Texas No. 5. No. 5? That at least equaled the lowest ranking of the Longhorns among the 61 voters.

--Nebraska got all of five points in the poll. Four of them came from coach Bo Pelini who slotted his Huskers No. 21.

--Most overrated team by a coach: Missouri. Gary Pinkel had his Tigers at No. 18. They barely stayed in both polls.

--Three five-loss teams finished with votes -- Kansas, Rutgers and Buffalo.

 Here are the combined top five of the seven Big 12 coaches who voted in the coaches poll. This is an issue, of course, because Texas finished .01816 of a point out of the BCS title game.

 

1. Oklahoma (five first-place votes)
2. Texas (1)
3. Florida (1)
4. Alabama
5. USC

The seven are: Art Briles, Baylor; Mack Brown, Texas; Dan Hawkins, Colorado; Mike Leach, Texas Tech; Gary Pinkel, Missouri; Gene Chizik, Iowa State; Bo Pelini, Nebraska. Only Chizik and Mack Brown had Texas ahead of Oklahoma on their ballots. Briles, Hawkins, Leach, Pinkel and Pelini voted Oklahoma No. 1.

Four coaches voted Texas No. 1 in the coaches poll. Amazingly, one of them wasn't Mack Brown: Chizik, Todd Dodge, North Texas; Rick Neuhiesel, UCLA; Mike Price, Texas-El Paso.

Chizik worked for Brown. Dodge played at Texas. Price played Texas this year was grateful for the Horns coming and filling his stadium. Neuheisel is the head scratcher but a lot of stuff The Rickster does causes us to scratch our heads.

 How my BIG playoff would have looked in 2006 and 2007:

 


2007

Regular season national champion: Ohio State
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC


Playoff bracket

No. 1 LSU vs. No. 8 West Virginia
No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 5 Missouri
No. 2 Virginia Tech vs. No. 7 Kansas
No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 6 USC

2006

Regular season national champion: Ohio State
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC


Playoff bracket

No. 1 Florida vs. No. 8 Oklahoma
No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 5 Wisconsin
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 7 Auburn
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 6 Boise State

 The old lady next to us offered us a drink, she was guzzling gin out of a thermos. That much I remember from the last time the Cardinals won a division. Back in 1975 they were the St. Louis Cardinals and I was just out of high school.

 

Friend Jack Scanlan and I somehow scored tickets in the bleachers at old Busch Stadium to what was then the biggest football game in The Loo's history.  On a cold, cold day, Jackie Smith caught a touchdown pass and the Cardinals of Jim Hart, Terry Metcalf and Mel Gray beat the Giants 14-6.

It was a bigger deal then than it was today in Arizona. The Cardinals migrated from Chicago in 1960 and spent 27 mostly-frustrating seasons in my hometown. I still follow the Cards enough to know that the Bidwells are still the Bidwells.  Cheap and clueless.

Good on ya to Arizona, though. The city deserves a team to fit that magnificent stadium.

And, no, take the old lady up on her offer. I was only 18, besides I'm a vodka man.

Posted on: October 15, 2008 10:56 am
 

National notes at the halfway point

One of the best measures for an improved program is the games ahead/behind method. Look at baseball standings for an example. The NCAA includes a section in its statistics book each year that tracks the most improved teams from one year to the next. In 2007, it was Illinois which went from 2-10 in 2006 to 9-4 last season. That's an improvement of 6 1/2 games.

Hawaii holds the record improving by 8 1/2 games in 1999. Ironically, the Warriors might be on the opposite side of that stat this season.

At the halfway point, I thought it would be a good idea to figure the biggest improvements and biggest declines of the 2008 season. Remember, some of the numbers might be skewed because we've played only half a season. But this might be a good measuring stick for coach of the year candidates and provide a short list of coaches about to be fired.

Most improved

1. Minnesota +7 1/2 games (from 1-11 to 6-1)
2. Duke +5 1/2
3. North Carolina +4
4. Pittsburgh +3 1/2
5. several tied at +3

Biggest decline

1. Hawaii -5 1/2 games (from 12-1 to 3-3)
2. Central Florida, Tennessee -4
4. LSU, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic, Michigan, West Virginia, Rutgers, Kansas - 3 1/2

Most improved by conference: Baylor, +3; ACC, Duke +5 1/2; Big East, Pittsburgh, +3 1/2; Conference USA, Rice/Marshall, +3; Mountain West, Colorado  State/UNLV, +3; MAC, Ball State/Northern Illinois, +3; SEC, Vanderbilt/Ole Miss, +3; WAC, New Mexico State, +3: Independents, Notre Dame, +3; Big Ten,  Minnesota, +7 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida International/Louisiana-Lafayette, +3; Pac-10, Stanford, +2 1/2.

Biggest decline by conference: ACC, Boston College/Clemson/Virginia, -2 1/2; Big 12, Kansas, -3 1/2; Big East, West Virginia/Rutgers, -3 1/2; Big Ten, Michigan, -3 1/2;  Independents, Western Kentucky, -2 1/2; Conference USA, Central Florida -4; MAC, Bowling Green/Ohio/Miami (Ohio), -1 1/2; Mountain West, New Mexico, -3; SEC, Tennessee, -4; Pac-10, Arizona State -3 1/2; WAC, Hawaii -5 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, -3 1/2.

Storylines for the second half

Will anyone go unbeaten?: It looks like the SEC and Big 12 will cannibalize each other. That leaves a bunch of one-loss powers that also could include Ohio State, Penn State, USC and Utah or Brigham Young.

Heisman race: Tim Tebow won't repeat and the Big 12 looks like it has a lock on the 2008 winner. But which player?

JoePa In the Sky With A Headset: Can Penn State's venerable coach win a Big Ten title and national championship without setting foot on the field the rest of  the way? Physical problems continue to keep JoePa in the press box. When asked Tuesday if he needed a hip replacement, Paterno answered cryptically, "I don't  know." It isn't exactly Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds but anything Joe does the rest of the season is going to be followed closely.

The non-BCS challengers: TCU, BYU and Utah are all in the mix. If Tulsa can win at Arkansas on Nov. 1 the Golden Hurricane will be a factor. The MAC is  simply too tough for Ball State (7-0) to go undefeated but you have to root for the Cardinals. Their best receiver's career is over (Dante Love) and their quarterback (Nate Davis) wears gloves.

Biggest looming controversy: If a one-loss team from the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12 is edged out of the BCS title game by an undefeated non-BCS school.

Next coach to be fired: Given the swiftly declining situation at Auburn it might be Tommy Tuberville. Other than that, Washington's Tyrone Willingham and  Syracuse's Greg Robinson are locks. Keep an eye also on San Diego State's Chuck Long and Central Florida's George O'Leary.

Biggest upset looming out there: Not in terms of David and Goliath but watch the Texas at Texas Tech game on Nov. 1. If both teams keep winning you're looking at No. 1 Texas vs. a Red Raiders team that should be in the BCS top five. If Texas Tech wins try to wrap your mind around Mike Leach and his Pirate  Love jumping up to No. 1.

Get out your swords and Johnny Depp movies.

BCS bowl predictions at the halfway point

BCS title game: Penn State* vs. Oklahoma*
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Alabama
Sugar Bowl: Florida* vs. South Florida*
Orange Bowl: BYU^ vs. Virginia Tech*
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC*

*-conference champ
^-non-BCS automatic qualifier

  Remember last week when Washington State held open tryouts to find a scout team quarterback? The winner of that competition, Peter Roberts, suddenly finds himself a viable backup option with the Cougars headed into the USC game.

 Speaking of injuries, it's a shame that two stars at Kentucky and North Carolina recently saw their careers end. Carolina's Brandon Tate, the I-A career  leader in kick return yards, is finished because of a knee injury. Exciting Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons is done because of a knee ligament tear.

 

 Don't say I didn't warn you. I know what I said about Texas and Texas Tech above but indulge me: The way things are shaking out, a Kansas-Oklahoma State Big 12 title game isn't out of the question. If Texas beats Missouri on Saturday then it becomes more likely. Kansas is playing better and has Texas at home later in the season. KU and Missouri meet in Kansas City on Nov. 29.

 

Oklahoma State is playing better than anyone in the conference (that includes Texas). That head-to-head game is Oct. 25.

 Remember this when you watch BYU and TCU on Thursday night. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall allows each special teams unit to name a captain. The captain then  names starters and backups for each unit. Wonder if that ever happens in the SEC?

 

 


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