Tag:Pittsburgh
Posted on: September 14, 2009 4:34 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2009 9:54 am
 

Breaking down the polls and Heisman race

USC walks into the belly of the beast, slays Ohio State with a dramatic game-winning drive and picks up two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. One in AP.

Obviously, Florida is still the overwhelming No. 1 in both polls but I’m already starting to wonder what it would take to pass the Gators if they keep winning. The two teams below them are from different conferences (Texas, USC) and don’t play each other. No. 4 Alabama doesn’t play Florida in the regular season.

At first glance, Florida looks safe. It has 56 of the 60 first-place votes in the AP poll and 56 of the 59 votes on the coaches’ poll. Those numbers didn't change after the Gators mopped The Swamp with Troy, 56-6. 

The other teams getting first-place votes are Texas (one in AP), USC (a combined four) and Alabama (two in AP).

The rest of the way Florida plays only two teams that are currently ranked (LSU and Georgia). Same for Alabama (Ole Miss, LSU). Texas faces five ranked teams (Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Kansas). USC plays one (Cal, Oregon State).

Alabama had a similar lead at No. 1 before it lost to Florida in last year’s SEC title game. The Tide had 58 of the 61 first-place votes going in. After Bama lost and Oklahoma and Florida won their championship games, the final regular-season coaches’ poll was the closest in the BCS era.

Oklahoma (31 first-place votes, 1,482 points) ended up one point ahead of Florida (26 first-place votes, 1,481 points). Third-place Texas had four and 1,408.

Just for grins, I figured up the top six final regular-season first-place vote getters since 2004:

1. USC, 90 1/3 points
2. Ohio State, 62
3.  Oklahoma, 49 1/3
4. Florida, 26
5. LSU, Texas, 11
6. Auburn, 9 1/3

 One of the better poll results Saturday was Florida State beating Jacksonville State. I know, I know, FSU has looked shaky and isn’t ranked.

But this is about BYU. The Cougs need FSU to win as often as possible, aside from this week when the Noles go to Provo. If FSU somehow gets back into the polls, BYU could make a more solid case for playing for the national championship. If it goes undefeated, it would have beaten four ranked teams (Oklahoma, Florida State, TCU and Utah). 

If you’re wondering where this going consider that total would be more than Florida, LSU or USC.

 If the BCS championship game were played today, it would be USC vs. Alabama according to our old friend Jerry Palm. Check out the most accurate BCS projections and collegebcs.com.

 Live by the pass, die by the pass: SMU’s nine interceptions lead the country but it has thrown four interceptions which ties for third-most nationally ... Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen has thrown the most passes this season without an interception, 76 ... Purdue is  home of the leading rusher (Ralph Bolden) and the quarterback who is tied for No. 1 in interceptions. Joey Elliott is tied Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton. Each have six.


The right-now, no-hype, no-b.s., not-what-they-did last year Heisman rankings for this week

Case Keenum, Houston: When he lost his coach (Art Briles who went to Baylor) everyone thought Keenum would go in the tank, or transfer. He bonded immediately with second-year coach Kevin Sumlin who might make him a Heisman finalist. Keenum threw for 366 yards against Oklahoma State as the Cougars beat a top-five team for the first time in 25 years.

Tim Tebow, Florida: Four passing touchdowns and one rushing in the rain against Troy add to the legend.

Colt McCoy, Texas: Three passing touchdowns against Wyoming in Texas’ 15th consecutive non-conference win. That ties a school record.

Max Hall, BYU: A week after beating Oklahoma, Hall gets a rocking-chair game against Tulane. Led the Cougars to scores in seven of eight possessions.

Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh: A workhorse freshman who is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.

 

 

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: May 30, 2009 8:24 pm
 

Stanley Cup final prediction

Last year, the Penguins admitted they were overwhelmed by it all. It showed.

They're much better prepared in this year's Stanley Cup final. They have the two best players in Crosby and Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't look like he's ready to throw up all over himself. Like Detroit, they're rolling four lines.

This being the final hockey of the season, I'm going to predcit the score for every game:

Game 1 -- Detroit 3, Pittsburgh 2

Game 2 -- Pittsburgh 4, Detroit 2

Game 3 -- Pittsburgh 3, Detroit 1

Game 4 -- Detroit 4, Pittsburgh 1

Game 5 -- Detroit 5, Pittsburgh 3

Game 6 -- Pittsburgh 3, Detroit 2 (OT)

Game 7 -- Pittsburgh 4, Detroit 3 (OT). Penguins win their third Stanley Cup.

Conn Smythe Trophy winner -- Crosby
Category: NHL
Posted on: April 28, 2009 10:40 pm
 

Second-round playoff predictions

I got one of the conference semifinal series right. Don't take that as an indication of how accurate how I'll be in the next around (please).

Western Conference semis

No. 1 Detroit vs. No. 8 Anaheim: Prior to the playoffs, the Ducks had everything but the goaltending -- experience, size, scoring and speed.  Now they've got the goaltending too as Jonas Hiller proved in the opening round against San Jose.

How's the view Joe Thornton?

The Ducks are just getting warmed up. Anaheim in seven.

No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 3 Vancouver: You've got to love the kids. The Blackhawks are the youngest and hottest team in playoffs. This is how the old Canadiens used to hit and skate.

Vancouver was overvalued in the first round because St. Louis has trouble scoring against everybody. Luongo will face quality shots, and many of them. This will be a long, bitter series that goes to the Hawks in six.


Eastern Conference semis

No. 1 Boston vs. No. 6 Carolina: Hey, I got one right. Boston smoked Montreal. Carolina pulled a shocker in Jersey. At least early on, you've got to like the Hurricanes' momentum. They will steal a game in Boston, but eventually the B's size and puck-moving ability will take over.

In what might be the best series of the playoffs, the hits and goals just keep on coming. It's run-and-gun for seven games with Boston getting to the conference finals.

No. 2 Washington vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh: Forget what I said about Boston-Carolina being the best series. When Sergei Federov scored late against the Rangers that made this a classic. The best hockey talent on the planet will be in one series -- Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Semin, Federov, Green and the new kid Varlamov.  This would make a heck of a final. Unfortunately, it will only produce a conference finalist.

Washington rolls better lines more consistently. It's a case of goaltending and I believe young Varlamov will make like young Dryden. Washington in seven.

 

Posted on: April 12, 2009 8:41 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2009 8:45 pm
 

Stanley Cup playoff predictions

 It's been a long four years. I have less hair and less money but the same love for my St. Louis Blues.

The Bluenotes are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The franchise that once owned the longest postseason streak of the four major sports (26 consecutive years) is back where it should be.

If the hockey gods continue being kind, Nashville missing the playoffs will lead to that franchise moving to Kansas City. The folks of Nashville know country music but they don't know hockey. Please, give us this franchise. We've got a new arena (Sprint Center) and plenty of open dates.

There, that's my way of easing into my annual playoff predictions:

Western Conference

No. 1 seed San Jose vs. No. 8 Anaheim:  Don't know if the team with the league's best record can finish the deal but winning the Cup, but they take care of the Ducks here in five.

No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 7 Columbus: Jackets just happy to be here in the franchise's first playoff appearance. Detroit in five.

No. 3 Vancouver vs. No. 6 St. Louis: Blues were one of the best teams in the league down the stretch. They got a huge break by finishing sixth on the last day of the season. A matchup against No. 1 San Jose or No. 2 Detroit would have been a killer. Blues carry over regular-season momentum. St. Louis in six.
No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 5 Calgary: Hawks are too young to make a run. Calgary is the most anonymous NHL team, but is good enough to reach the Cup finals. Calgary in six.

Western Conference semis

No. 1 San Jose vs. No. 6 St. Louis: Blues hit their emotional wall. San Jose has too much of everything. Sharks in six.

No. 2 Detroit vs. No. 5 Calgary: Wings goaltending inconsistencies show up. Flames in seven.

Western Conference finals

No. 1 San Jose vs. No. 5 Calgary: These teams have a colorful playoff history.  This will be the fourth meeting since 1995. San Jose leads 2-1. Just a hunch but Mikka Kiprusoff steals this one for the Flames. Calgary in seven.

 

Eastern Conference

No. 1 seed Boston vs. No. 8 Montreal:  A bitter rivalry is renewed. Habs slumped badly in the second half. Boston should have no problem winning in five.

No. 2 Washington vs. No. 7 New York Rangers:  Caps are Eastern Conference's team of destiny with all that scoring. Caps in five.

No. 3 New Jersey vs. No. 6 Carolina: Devils can't turn on the switch after a late-season slump. The Canes have that Cup look about them again. Carolina in seven.

No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 5 Philadelphia: Ever see "Gladiator"? This isn't a loser-leave-the-state series. This is a loser dies series. Slight edge to Flyers if they can corral the big two (Crosby and Malkin). Philly in six.

Eastern Conference semis

No. 1 Boston vs. No. 6 Carolina: In what might be the best series of the playoffs, the hits and goals just keep on coming. It's run-and-gun for six games with Boston winning a bitter battle.

No. 2 Washington vs. No. 5 Philadelphia: Philly stopped the No. 2 and No. 3 best players in the NHL in the first round. It can't stop No. 1 (Ovechkin). Washington's scoring balance is too much. Caps in seven.

Eastern Conference finals

No. 1 Boston vs. No. 2 Washington:  I picked an upset in the West. Might as well stay consistent. Caps outscore the Bruins in a highly entertaining series to get to their second Cup final. Washington in seven.

 

Stanley Cup finals

Washington vs. Calgary: Not exactly a ratings winner for the networks, but who cares? Ovechkin vs. Iginla. Green vs. Phaneuf. The teams met only once during the season but the hate will build up quickly. On the 20th anniversary of last Cup, the Flames grind it out in six. 

 

Posted on: January 30, 2009 1:47 pm
 

Pittsburgh's other team

The name Marino comes to mind. Mike Ditka, Hugh Green, Mark May, Bill Fralic and Russ Grimm too.

They are all chiseled somewhere into the walls of the University of Pittsburgh football complex. All-time Panther greats having played for, well, an overall good college football program. If you want to go that far.

It's not being cruel this weekend to mention that one of the few things the Steelers and Panthers have in common is their stadium and training facility in Pittsburgh. But one organization going for its sixth Super Bowl title. The other having just finished above third in the Big East Conference for the second time ever.

Why the comparison? The Steelers are in another Super Bowl. The Panthers just came out of the Sun Bowl. The Steelers have been so great while the Panthers have been just ... okay. Part of it is living elbow-to-elbow an NFL signature franchise. The Steelers are the heart and soul of the city. The Panthers? Maybe the gall bladder of the city. Part of the town, certainly, but not as essential as the Steelers.

That's not a slight, just a dose of reality. You'd think after all these years, some of that excellence would rub off.

In many ways it has. Two-hundred eight-nine Panthers have played in the NFL. Since 1937, an average of almost  four players per year have been drafted. Twenty-three have gone in the first round.  Since '04 Pittsburgh has had as many first-rounders as Florida (three).

 Pittsburgh has gone to major bowls and won two national championships (1937, 1976). Dorsetts (father and son) have graced its roster. But no one would call Pittsburgh a top 10 program today; maybe not even a top 25 program. Since that '76 championship it can be argued that Pittsburgh has been the Gallagher of college football . One tries to be funny and isn't. The other struggles mightily to be taken seriously.

Just when you think the Panthers are good, they aren't. Since 1977, the Panthers have only two more winning seasons (17) than losing or .500 seasons (15).

This is western Pennsylvania. Shouldn't things be better?  

That's an obvious question considering the amount of high school talent in the area, even after Penn State gets done. There's another obvious question hanging in the air this week in Tampa as a certain dreadlocked receiver has captured the hearts and minds of fans and media.

Who is the only person to stop Larry Fitzgerald?

Answer: Walt Harris.

Except that it isn't exactly true. Pittsburgh went to two bowls and was 17-9 during Fitzgerald's two seasons on the field under Harris. Fitzgerald was doing the things you see now back then, just on a smaller scale. One handers. Jump balls. One of the best games I ever saw by a receiver was Fitzgerald's three-touchdown game against Texas A&M in 2003.

Typically, the Panthers had lost the week before to Toledo. Harris, like those before and after him, couldn't assemble a complete team.

Speaking for sportswriters everywhere, we love current coach Dave Wannstedt. Wanny will break bread, chat you up and call you if he feels he has a player worthy of All-American consideration. That's all you can ask of a coach. He's a Pittsburgh guy. Genuine. He knows the city, has recruited well. He's also lost to Ohio and Bowling Green.


The inconsistency boggles the mind. The argument can be made that the Arizona Cardinals wouldn't be in the Super Bowl without Panther representation. There is Fitzgerald. Middle linebacker Gerald Hayes was a three-time All-Big East player at Pittsburgh.  Grimm is the Cardinals offensive line coach. Teryl Austin (1984-87) coaches defensive backs. Ken Whisenhunt came from the Pittsburgh staff to do the unthinkable in the desert -- lead the Cardinals to the brink of a championship for the first time since 1947.

Those were the days of  Marshall Goldberg. The former halfback had his number retired by both the Cardinals and his college team. Yep, it was Pittsburgh.

It just seems like neither team has won a thing since.

 

  

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