Tag:South Florida
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: December 10, 2008 12:44 am
 

National notes

My Heisman ballot:

1. Tim Tebow
2. Sam Bradford
3. Colt McCoy

I can't give you a quantitative reason why Tebow is my No. 1. His numbers are down from '07. However, after watching him lead that fourth-quarter comeback against Alabama, it's more of a feel, an emotional reaction.

I go back to Sept. 27 when Tebow basically called his shot after the Ole Miss loss and then delivered! Nine wins in a row. Go back and at the quotes from that day. Tebow as Babe Ruth pointing his bad toward the Wrigley Field bleachers.

Until Saturday, Bradford was my guy. I had started hyping him for Heisman back when he was a freshman. How many players ever have led the country in pass efficiency two years in a row?

It's hard to vote Colt McCoy third when he took a team with a mediocre offensive line and led it in passing and rushing. The point is, I can't slide a piece of paper between the three of them.

The voters: John Adams, Knoxville News Sentinel; Tony Barnhart, CBS; Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe; Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman; B.G. Brooks, Rocky Mountain News; Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Brian Davis, Dallas Morning News; Mike DeArmond, Kansas City Star; Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com; Michael DiRocco, Florida Times-Union; Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle; Scott Ferrell, Shreveport Times; Anthony Gimino, Tucson Citizen; Herb Gould, Chicago-Sun Times; Teddy Greenstein, Chicago Tribune; Mike Griffith, Knoxville New Sentinel; Eric Hansen, South Bend Tribune; Matt Hayes, Sporting News; Tommy Hicks, Mobile Press-Register; Ron Higgins, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Mark Janssen, Manhattan Mercury; Todd Jones, Columbus Dispatch; Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star; Ted Lewis, New Orleans Times-Picayune; Mike Lopresti, Gannett Newspapers; Tom Luicci, Newark Star-Ledger; Ray Melick, Birmingham News; Rodney McKissic, Buffalo News; Brett McMurphy, Tampa Tribune.

(Two voters did not want their names used)

The rest of the national awards, etc.


MVP: McCoy

There's a difference between the Heisman winner and MVP. McCoy did more with less. Texas wouldn't be in the conversation without him.

Best quarterback: Bradford

This is getting confusing so let's just drop it.

Best running back: Shonn Greene, Iowa

The nation's No. 2 rusher came on in the second half of the season to surpass Michigan State's Javon Ringer and UConn's Donald Brown as the most consistent ground force in the nation.

Best receiver: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech


Do back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards do anything for you? An NFL star in waiting.


Best tight end: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

This was tough. I recently shifted away from Missouri's Chase Coffman who was too injured at the end of the season to back up a spectacular first eight games of the season.

The 6-foot-6 inch Gresham gets opens, is hard to tackle and has speed. Need anything else?

Best offensive lineman: Andre Smith, Alabama.

He is what coaches look for when they recruit left tackles. A case can be made for Smith, the likely Outland Trophy winner, being Bama's MVP. Without him protecting John Parker Wilson and carving out holes for Glen Coffee, the Tide don't start 12-0.

Defensive player of the year: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC

From a troubled beginning, this voracious tackler became the foundation for one of the best statistical defenses in history.

Best defensive lineman: Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

Ask BYU's Max Hall what he thinks of the nation's sacks leader In their October matchup, Hughes sacked Hall three times.

Best defensive back: Eric Berry, Tennessee.

Lane Kiffin should be at Berry's house right now making sure he's happy, comfortable and ready to take 20 snaps a game on offense.

Best special teams player: Kevin Huber, P, Cincinnati

You won't find many other All-Americans on the best Cincinnati team in history that won 11 games and the Big East. We'll give it to Huber who bombed 20 punts more than 50 yards and dropped 20 punts inside the 20.

Remember when Cincinnati used to be a basketball school?

Freshman of the year: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State

How did he get from Texas to Corvallis?

Coach of the year: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Staff of the year: Penn State

The Broyles Award is doing a disservice to Penn State. The honor goes to the assistant coach of the year. Not only were there no Penn State assistants among the finalists, the Broyles folks didn't do the right thing and pick the entire Penn State staff.

With JoePa ailing, his staff basically took over and led the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten title. Big ups to defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. They were the glue.

Biggest disappointments: Georgia, Notre Dame, South Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, the ACC, the Pac-10.

Biggest surprises: Oregon State, Ball State, Alabama, Buffalo, East Carolina, Rice, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech.

Sometimes you just live right: Charlie Weis almost got run out of town after a 6-6 season. His reward? A trip to the Hawaii where he can continue to recruit linebacker Manti Te'o. 

Don't give me any of this stuff about a dead period. Te'o will be a captive audience as the Irish take over Oahu.

Best games: Texas 45, Oklahoma 35, Oct. 11 in Dallas.

The winner usually wins the Big 12 South and competes for the national championship. Right? Right?

Texas Tech 39, Texas 33, Nov. 1 in Lubbock.

Not to pick on the Horns here but the reason they are playing Ohio State instead of Florida is Crabtree's game-winning catch with one second left.

UCLA 27, Tennessee 24 (OT) Sept. 1 in the Rose Bowl.

Tennessee's defense held UCLA's Kevin Craft to only four interceptions in the first half. Then, in his best performance of a long, long season, Craft rallied the Bruins in the second half.

Rick Neuheisel led a post-game pep rally.

Florida 31, Alabama 20, Dec. 6 at the SEC championship game.

The BCS was smiling as the closest thing to a national semifinal was played out in front of the largest Georgia Dome crowd in history.

Whine of the year: Pete Carroll and USC

You lost to a team you weren't supposed to (Oregon State). You paid for it in the polls. Deal with it. Maybe the difference between that and Florida losing to Ole Miss? Urban Meyer has made a habit lately of winning the big ones <em>and</em> the little ones.

Best stories:

Six teams ranked No. 1 during the season (the most since 1984)

Alabama arriving a year early (at least) under Nick Saban

Utah, TCU and BYU making a huge statement by the Mountain West: The BCS doesn't belong to the six power conferences.

Notre Dame's collapse from 4-1 and Weis barely hanging on for another year.

Oregon State beating USC and chasing its first Rose Bowl in 44 years.

Coaches in waiting.

Coaches waiting in line ("resigning" in the middle of a season).

The end of a Bowden (Tommy).

The continuation of a Bowden (Bobby).

The longing of a Bowden (Terry, to get back in the game).

Joe's hip.

Charlie's knee.

Nate Davis' gloves.

Jay Jacobs' "shock" over Tommy Tuberville's "resignation."

Tennessee goes from old school to youngest coach in the country.

The (sad) state of Washington. (Combined records of the Huskies and Cougars, 2-22).

Big 12 quarterbacks.

Big 12 offenses.

Big 12 top 10 games each week.

The Big 12 surpassing the SEC, if only for a moment, as the best conference in the country.

The tie in the Big 12 South.

The cry that followed.

Politcking.

Text messages.

The high road.

Running it up.

Calling off the dogs. 

Flyovers.

"To me that's a little ridiculous," Bradford said.

That's a good way to end it, for now.

 

 

Posted on: October 22, 2008 12:19 pm
 

National notes

Kansas just gave up the most yards to Oklahoma since the wishbone era. It has lost twice. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is undefeated and  in the top 10. Guess who is favored Saturday in Lawrence?

Kansas, by 2 1/2. The game opened as a pick 'em. That line raised a few eyebrows around the country so I lobbed a call to Las Vegas Sports Consultants this week.  LVSC is responsible for setting the line at a lot of the major sports books in Vegas.

"This is actually pretty common," one of their spokesmen said. Kansas Texas Tech. "Throw out rankings as far as point spreads."

The fact that Texas Tech has struggled in its last two games (Nebraska, at Texas A&M) probably has something to do with it. So does Kansas being at home where it has won its last 13.

 For an SEC official, Wilbur Hackett Jr. is still a heck of a Kentucky linebacker

 

It was umpire's forearm shiver than took down South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia during LSU's 24-17 victory.

If it wasn't for the fact that South Carolina eventually scored on the drive and that both coaches diffused the situation there were some serious questions to be asked.

The biggest: What was Hackett, at Kentucky from 1968-70, doing moving into Garcia? Aren't officials taught to stand still if it looks like they're going to be involved in the play?

Several accounts of the game said that Hackett "collided" with Garcia. Yeah, and Oprah likes to "nibble" on chocolate chip cookies.

Really, my first reaction was that this klutz just tried to tackle a player. No one is that stupid to do it out in the open like that. Other reports said that other angles of the play showed that ol' Wilbur was defending himself. The last time I "defended" myself with a forearm and shoulder I was in a street fight.

That was a long time ago and before the court-ordered counseling so you don't need to know about it.

"We told  him ... 'You've got to use your forearm,' " LSU's Les Miles joked with reporters. "But then you have to wrap up. I want you to know that we were disappointed in his effort to be honest with you."

Couldn't Tennessee use Hackett?

 The ACC is rehabbing its image.  There are interesting races in both divisions. Florida State seems to be back, kind of, and Georgia Tech has the best record in the league.

 

Boston College's victory over defending champ Virginia Tech threw both ACC division races into a tizzy. The Atlantic Division is a four-team race with BC, Florida State, Maryland and Wake Forest all tied at 2-1 in the conference.

BC and Florida State are the biggest surprises. The Eagles (5-1) were expected to take a drop but have lost only to Georgia Tech. They control their own destiny, such as it is, with Florida State, Wake and Maryland to finish the season.

Coach Jeff Jagodzinski isn't going to win many more games committing five turnovers, including three interceptions by his quarterback Chris Crane (two returned for touchdowns). 

Maryland has beaten five ranked teams in a row (three this season). Its shut out of Wake Forest was its first over a ranked team since 1955.

Florida State seems to have a personality, finally. The defense is settling in and quarterback Christian Ponder is getting better. Graham Gano became the first FSU kicker to boot 50-yard field goals in three consecutive games.

The Noles lead the ACC in total defense and total offense.

Virginia (4-3) lost to Duke and shut out Maryland in successive weeks. The Cavaliers have won three in a row heading to Georgia Tech.  Not bad for a team that lost its quarterback (Peter Lalich, kicked off the team) and only recently got back inured tailback Cedric Peerman.

Georgia Tech (6-1) might be the league's biggest surprise. It is the ACC's highest ranked team (No. 18 in the BCS) and continues to body slam opponents with the triple option.

 The possibility exists that two non-BCS schools could get into the BCS. Only one such school has ever made it in the given year (Utah 2004, Boise 2006, Hawaii 2007). Jerry Palm explains why the non-BCS schools in the BCS better hope that the ACC and Big East champions finish as high as possible.

 

" Two non-majors get in (BCS bowls) if you're at-large pool is SEC, Big 12, Utah and Boise State," he said.

The rules state that only one non-BCS school can automatically qualify for a BCS bowl (top 12 or top 16 if it is ranked higher than a BCS conference champion).  But any non-champion is considered at-large if it finishes among the top 14. If all six BCS conference champions are among the top 14, that makes it more likely that two non-BCS school could get in.

Utah debuted at No. 11. Boise is 12th. Both of those are ahead of the highest-ranked teams from the Big East (No. 16 South Florida) and ACC (No. 18 Georgia Tech).

Here's how two non-BCS schools could get in ...

Projected final standings
1. Big 12 champion
2. SEC champion
3. Big Ten champion
4. Big 12 at-large
5. Pac-10 champion
6. Third Big 12 team (not eligible for BCS since two spots have been filled)
7. SEC at-large
8. Fourth Big 12 team (not eligible)
9. Big Ten at-large
10. Third SEC team (not eligible)
11. Utah (or other non-BCS school)
12. Boise (or other non-BCS school)
13. ACC champion
14. Big East champion

Projected BCS bowls in that scenario:
BCS title game: No. 1* above vs. No. 2* (possibly Texas vs. Alabama)
Rose: No. 3 (Big Ten)* vs. No. 5 (Pac-10)* (Ohio State vs. USC)
Sugar: No. 7 (SEC at-large) vs. No. 12 (Florida vs. South Florida)
Orange: No. 13 (ACC)* vs. No. 14* (Georgia Tech vs. Boise State^)
Fiesta: No. 4 (Big 12) vs. No. 11  (Oklahoma vs. Utah^)

^-non-BCS schools

The point being that the non-BCS schools need to root for both the Big East and ACC champions to finish in the top 14.

 The yin and yang of San Diego: San Diego State is quickly descending into unchartered depths. After losing to New Mexico 70-7 it is 1-6 and clearly one of the worst programs in America. An emotional Chuck Long said, "we have a very fragile football team."

 


Meanwhile across town, the University of San Diego is the only unbeaten team in I-AA. (6-0)

 Dad's week: Iowa's Kirk Ferentz suspended his son James last week after the kid was caught for underage alcohol possession.

 

Colorado's Dan Hawkins benched his son, starting quarterback Cody, in favor of redshirt freshman Tyler Hansen against Kansas State. CU won 14-13.

 A sign of how far things have fallen at Michigan: Defensive end Brandon Graham has guaranteed a victory over Michigan State. Michigan shouldn't have guarantee anything over Little Brother but these are trying times. The Spartans are 6-2. Michigan is 2-5.

 

Posted on: October 15, 2008 10:56 am
 

National notes at the halfway point

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

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

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

Most improved

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

Biggest decline

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

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

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

Storylines for the second half

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get out your swords and Johnny Depp movies.

BCS bowl predictions at the halfway point

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

*-conference champ
^-non-BCS automatic qualifier

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 


Posted on: October 8, 2008 10:39 am
Edited on: October 8, 2008 11:11 pm
 

National notes

One day closer to the ultimate comeback by Mitch Mustain.

If you've forgotten him, get in line. Mustain was the uber-recruit from Springdale, Ark. who signed with the 
hometown Hogs, went 8-0 as a freshman starter then transferred to USC amid the Houston Nutt shenanigans. The 
transfer to USC looked curious from the start. Mark Sanchez was there. So was highly regarded Aaron Corp.

At one point this season, Mustain dropped to fourth on the depth chart. Now with Sanchez nursing an injured knee 
Mustain might get his first start with the Trojans. I have no idea the amount of rust on Mustain but it says 
something that he rose up the depth chart to be in position to take over when Sanchez got hurt against Oregon.

The latest from Tuesday's practice: Sanchez threw lightly but did not practice. With three days to go before the 
Arizona State game, that's a positive sign for Mustain.

 It looks like Joe Paterno is going to be around for a while.

This is news because 1) the Penn State coach broke his leg two years at Wisconsin, the same place Penn State will 
play on Saturday 2) the reports coming out of State College lately have painted a bleak picture of his current 
health. Paterno was noticeably limping Saturday at Purdue and had to coach again from the press box. The 81-year-old 
has been seen at practices getting around in a golf cart.

The story, often repeated, is that Paterno injured his knee attempting an onside kick during a drill. However, after 
the Purdue game he was seen wearing two different shoes and was steadying himself at the podium while speaking to 
reporters. JoePa has taken to doing his weekly coach's show from his home.

"We're a little worried," quarterback Daryll Clark said after the 20-6 victory. "His leg's been bothering him for a 
little while now. But he's still there at practices doing what he can."

Joe being Joe, he shot down speculation that he is anywhere near the end of his career.

"I can't walk like I used to walk all the time," he said. "I used to love to get up and walk five, six miles. But I 
can't do that and still go out and go to practice for a couple hours. It just wears down on me. But what I have can 
be fixed, so we'll work on it.

 
"I'm going to have to live with it for a couple of weeks, maybe more. But hey, that's why I get the big money."

There is an increasing vibe that when Penn State eventually makes a change that the new coach might now come from 
the current staff. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and defensive line coach Larry Johnson are the most likely 
candidates.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying Joe is going anywhere. A Big Ten title or national championship run will give him 
more reason to stick around.

 Ole Miss continues its up and down season. A week after winning at The Swamp, the Rebels lost an emotional game to 
South Carolina, 31-24. That leaves them 1-2 in the SEC West with a bye week before going to Alabama on Oct. 18.

I spoke to Houston Nutt recently.

Was there any temptation to shove it in Arkansas' face after that Florida win?

Nutt: I really deep down inside haven't thought about that (like) 'Look at us now.' "

OK, so how sweet was it?

Nutt: It was very sweet. We played Florida in the championship game in Atlanta (while with Arkansas). I thought we 
had 'em there. You beat Texas, you beat Tennessee, you beat Alabama, but this one ranks so high. It was 629 days 
since this team had won an SEC game."

After beating Georgia, Nick Saban mentioned the day-by-day grind that it takes to win at this level. You have to 
agree.

Nutt: "The constant grind, that's why you need three weeks of the summer to get totally away from it"

How close are you guys to turning it around?

Nutt: "The disappointing thing is, we're still sitting at 73 scholarships. A lot of names you heard the last three 
years aren't here. You're good at defensive line, you're good at receiver. There are some holes. The biggest hole 
was the mindset."

 More on the greatest stat of the season so far ...

D&E told you earlier this week that No. 3 Missouri had not had a three-and-out this season with Chase Daniel at 
quarterback. In those 48 possessions, Mizzou has scored 33 times (28 touchdowns, five field goals). The 15 "misses" 
include five punts, four lost fumbles, three series turned over on downs, two missed field goals and one 
interception.

 Brouce Mompremier has been cleared to do conditioning a couple of weeks after he was one of three players involved 
in Black Saturday. The South Florida linebacker was among the three who each suffered serious spinal or back 
injuries.

 As mentioned in today's main story, Ball State's Dante Love will never play football again after being injured against 
Indiana. He is rehabbing and is expected to make a full recovery. Washington State quarterback suffered a 
non-surgical spine fracture.

Mompremier's got back on the practice field on a limited basis on Tuesday. His injury has been defined as 
nueroproxia, which is temporary failure of nerve conduction in the absence of structural changes, due to blunt 
injury or compression.

 Cincinnati (vs. Rutgers) and New Mexico State (at Nevada) will be the last two teams to open conference play this 
week.

 Georgia Tech freshman Jaybo Shaw completed nine of 13 passes in his first career start against Duke, all to  
Demaryius Thomas for 230 yards. That's the second-highest receiving total in school history.

 Big week for punt blocks involving guys named Carter: North Carolina's Bruce Carter blocked three punts against 
Connecticut. Navy blocked two punts resulting in touchdowns against Air Force. Navy's Blake Carter blocked a punt in 
the first half that was returned for a touchdown. In the second half, he picked up a punt blocked by teammate Bobby 
Doyle. Navy had not blocked a punt in nine years.

  Rutgers has dropped to 1-4 leading coach Greg Schiano to say he might have overestimated his talent. Maybe his 
schedule has been overrated. The Scarlet Knights have beaten two ranked opponents since Schiano took over in 2000. 
That's as many ranked teams as Vanderbilt has beaten this season.

  Texas' Mack Brown on the Big (Scoring) 12: "Every time we look up, the most phenomenal thing is to see 50 points 
in this league. Nobody is surprised. At one time, you said, 'God they scored 58.' Now people are pulling them out  
to keep it to 58.' "

  Seeing the scoring explosion a different way: The nation's top scoring team is Tulsa. Factor in time of possession and  
the Golden Hurricane are averaging a point every 28.7 seconds. No. 2 Missouri is averaging one every 28 seconds.

 How important is Oklahoma-Texas this week? Eight times in the previous 12 games during the existence of the Big 12 
the winner has gone on to win the South Division. Two other times, the loser has played for the conference title. 
The other two South Division titles have been won by Texas A&M.

 Oklahoma is the only team in the country not to lose a fumble this season.

  Washington is 0-5 for the first time in 39 years and one of only two winless teams in I-A. North Texas is the other.

  Name the 12 teams averaging both 200 yards passing and rushing and you win a sucker. Answer below.

  More about Ball State:

 It is located in Muncie, Ind. where basketball is king. The 1990 Ball State team went to the Sweet 16 before losing 
to UNLV. Muncie Central High School has won eight state championships.

When radio voice Morry Mannies went to school there in the 1950s tuition was $150 and enrollment was 4,000. Today 
there are 18,000 students

The last MAC team to be ranked was Bowling Green in November 2004.

The school was shut down three times before 1917. At that point it was bought out of foreclosure by the Ball family. 
It was originally known as Eastern Indiana Normal School. 

The famous "Boom, goes the dynamite" guy, Brian Collins, is from Ball State.

 The 12 incredibly balanced teams referred to above: Oklahoma State, Nevada, Oregon, Penn State, Tulsa, Arkansas 
State, Louisville, Illinois, Indiana, Fresno State, LSU and Southern Miss.

 

Posted on: October 2, 2008 11:15 pm
 

Way to go, Wanny

You want to root for Dave Wannstedt. The Pittsburgh coach just hasn't been able to get it done at Pittsburgh. That season-opening loss to Bowling Green was wince worthy.

Then Wanny went back to his Pennsylvania roots and just worked, methodically beating Buffalo, Iowa and Syracuse before Thursday.  It finally paid off with a 26-21 victory over No. 10 South Florida.

"We needed this one so bad," Wannstedt said.

This might be the program-changing win that Wannstedt so desperately needed. He came into the game bowless in three seasons. The high from the West Virginia win quickly wore off at the beginning of this season. But the Panthers are 4-1 and on top of the Big East, ready to jump back into the polls.

There's some personality to these inconsistent Panthers. LeSean McCoy has now surpassed 100 yards for the second consecutive game and Phil Bennett's defense is showing some grit.

Nothing is ever easy for Pittsburgh but with Navy and Rutgers up next, the Panthers could go into the Nov. 1 game at Notre Dame, 6-1. For Wanny's sake let's hope it happens. He deserves the love.

 

Posted on: September 30, 2008 7:57 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2008 7:59 pm
 

National notes

Some observations as we round the quarter pole of the season (most everyone has played at least four games):


Updated BCS bowl predictions

BCS title game: Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC
Fiesta Bowl: Missouri vs. BYU
Sugar Bowl: South Florida vs. LSU
Orange Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest


Three teams to watch:

 South Florida -- Everyone else is trashing the Big East. Some team has to win it. No one is talking about the 
Bulls. They're in the top 10 and have only three road games remaining. All the sudden the Dec. 6 game at West 
Virginia doesn't look that tough.

 

 Texas -- Oklahoma is No. 1. We're all assuming the Sooners are going to beat the Horns in Dallas. Don't discount 
Texas so easily. Colt McCoy is playing at an all-time high and the pass defense has to get better doesn't it?

 

 Kentucky -- This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. It's looking like a 9-3 year. The Wildcats are off to a 4-0 
start and have allowed only 22 points. We'll know more when they go to Alabama this week, but having a strong 
defense in the SEC isn't a bad thing.

 

Three shocking developments to come:

 Mid-season firings -- Watch for either Virginia's Al Groh, Syracuse's Greg Robinson or Washington's Tyrone 
Willingham to lose their jobs during the season. Syracuse AD Daryl Gross seems especially fidgety.

 

 Tim Tebow will not make it to New York -- Forget consecutive Heismans. I'm not a hater. Any casual follower of the 
sport has noticed Superman's downturn in production. The fourth-down stop against Ole Miss was a shining example. 
And the Heisman is all about production.

 

That, plus the glut of candidates nationwide, looks like it will keep Tebow out of Times Square.

 The upsets have just begun. OK, so that isn't so shocking.

 


Projected award winners:


Outland: Andre Smith, Alabama
Biletnikoff: Jarett Dillard, Rice
Thorpe: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
Davey O'Brien: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
Nagurski/Bednarik: George Selvie, South Florida
Groza: Louie Sakoda, Utah
Heisman: Chase Daniel, Missouri

Coach of the year: Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt


(Outland, best interior lineman; Biletnikoff, best receiver; Thorpe, best defensive back; Davey O'Brien, best 
quarterback; Nagurski/Bednarik, best defensive player; Groza, best kicker; Heisman, best player)

 

 CBS' Spencer Tillman on Pete Carroll: "After the Ohio State win, because of the relative weakness of Pac-10, Pete 
Carroll's coaching challenge totally shifted. He needed to become Dr. Phil. Be basically Nick Saban, Nick can piss a 
lot of people off. That's what he needed to."

 

 Clemson's loss to Maryland marked the eighth time in the Tommy Bowden era that the Tigers lost to an unranked 
opponent at home. The others:

 

2006 -- South Carolina 31, No. 24 Clemson 31-28

2006 -- Maryland 13, No. 19 Clemson 12

2004 -- Georgia Tech 28, No. 20 Clemson 24

2001 -- North Carolina 38, No. 13 Clemson 3

2001 -- Virginia 26, No. 19 Clemson 24

2000 -- Georgia Tech 9, No. 5 Clemson 3

 

 Is there is any question whether BYU can play for the national championship consider that BYU debuted at No. 7 in 
Harris poll and moved up to No. 9 in the coaches' poll. Jerry Palm has BYU 10th in his weekly BCS standings 
projection.

 


 Texas Tech has put up a website mimicking a presidential campaign for their stars Graham Harrell and Michael 
Crabtree. Here's an idea Mike Leach, trying bringing both guys to the Big 12 media days so hundreds of reporters can talk to them in person.

 Lloyd Carr to Syracuse?

 

 

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