Tag:Wisconsin
Posted on: June 15, 2009 10:04 am
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Picking the Big Ten

This might be the worst I've seen the Big Ten in 11 years.

That's as long as I've been at CBSSports.com, so 1998 seems like a reasonable benchmark. In '98, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State shared the title. Michigan was coming off a national championship. Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl that year. Ohio State went to the Sugar Bowl.

For gosh sakes, in '98 John Cooper was about to win at least 10 for the fourth consecutive year.

Now? Illinois can't decide whether it is a contender or in the middle of the pack. Bret Bielema is feeling the pressure at Wisconsin. The only new coach in the league is aptly named Hope (Danny, at Purdue). Eleven years ago the Boilermakers won their last six in row, went to the Alamo Bowl and upset Kansas State with Drew Brees.

The 2009 Boilers are coming off their worst season (4-8) in 12 years.

Iowa wants to be good again but it could use less yapping from its fans and more production on the field. And Michigan ... where have you gone Wolverines? A total meltdown in Rich Rodriguez' first season has to be rectified, like, yesterday.

Indiana and Minnesota will be at the bottom of the league, a place with which they are familiar.

The Big Ten remains the leader in BCS bowls (19) but you don't have to be told the league has lost a step in recent years. The 28 NFL draft picks each of the last two seasons ranked fifth (2008) and tied for fourth (2009) among major conferences.

The league is only 9-20 in bowls (1-6 last season) since 2005.  

Here's my best example for how average the Big Ten has become: Penn State has to replace 12 starters (the most in the league), including its entire secondary. It is a twisted ankle at quarterback away from finishing fifth. A good, not great, group of receivers have to be replaced by what might be good, not great, group of receivers.

Still, the Nittany Lions are a virtual pick-'em with Ohio State to go to the Rose Bowl.

By the way, the Rose Bowl is going to be it for the conference champ.  I don't see a national title contender in the bunch. The letters U, S and C will burn the ears of Big Ten loyalists. USC has beaten Big Ten teams by a combined 60 points the past three Januarys. The Trojans will likely be waiting in Pasadena to lay the smack down once again.

Like the Woody and Bo days, it's still a two-team league. Unlike the Woody and Bo days, there's not much national buzz.

1. Ohio State -- How do you lose Beanie Wells, Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinaitis and get better? You don't. But there is enough left for the Bucks to win the Big Ten again. They have won at least a share of the four previous titles. Everyone seems to be jumping on the Terrelle Pryor bandwagon this season. Look, I like the kid and the athlete. I'm still not convinced he's going to make that quantum leap this season. There will be more pressure on Pryor to carry the offense with his legs if either Brandon Saine or Dan Herron can't become the big dog at tailback. Much will be learned on Sept. 12 when USC visits. Give Jim Tressel a running game, a punter and 105,000 homers and he will field-position you to death. If Tres can't pull it off in September, there's a rematch waiting in Pasadena.

2. Penn State -- It's a miracle of modern science. No, not JoePa's body, I'm talking about the Penn State staff. It has stayed together (for the most part), remained loyal and helped Joe dig out of that 2000-2004 hole. The Nittany Lions are Rose Bowl contenders for the foreseeable future. The defense keeps its snarl with the return of linebacker Sean Lee. The unit did finish in the top 10 in total defense last season. Will the D miss defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans? As mentioned, Daryll Clark has to stay healthy. He has enough elusiveness along with tailback Evan Royster to win the league. Ohio State comes to Happy Valley on Nov. 7.

3. Iowa -- If only Shonn Greene had returned, we might be talking about the Hawkeyes giving Ohio State and Penn State a run. With quarterback Ricky Stanzi having a year of experience and three offensive line starters returning, the Hawks will be productive but in a different way. Stanzi likely will have to make more plays himself (hint: scramble) unless sophomore Jewel Hampton or freshman Jeff Brinson replace those Greene yards.

4. Michigan State -- The Spartans are the Big Ten's flavor of the month. Coach Mark Dantonio has averaged eight wins in his first two seasons in East Lansing and the program ready to take off. Even with the loss of his two best players -- quarterback Brian Hoyer and tailback Javon Ringer -- there is plenty of talent waiting offstage. Watch true freshman tailbacks Edwin Baker and Larry Caper. Sorry Penn State, Michigan State might have the best linebackers in the league starting with junior Greg Jones, a consensus preseason all-Big Ten pick. Dantonio has the two best leg men in the league in kicker Brett Swenson and punter Aaron Bates. Iowa, Penn State and Michigan come to East Lansing. Ohio State is off the schedule.

5. Illinois -- What's your legacy going to be Juice Williams? Two years ago Illinois' quarterback guided a stunning upset at Columbus. Last season Williams and the Illini slumped. In his senior season, Juice could go out as one of Illinois' quarterback greats. Even though he led the Big Ten in passing yards, Williams threw too many interceptions (16). He will hook up often with the incredible Arrelious Benn. New offensive coordinator Mike Schultz will try to squeeze some of the old Juice out of his new quarterback. Schultz oversaw a similar offense at TCU. We'll know about the Illini before Oct. 1. They play Missouri in St. Louis and Ohio State in Columbus in September.

6. Northwestern -- The Big Ten's annually pesky Wildcats figure to be that way again. After Tressel, Pat Fitzgerald might be the league's best coach.  His team started 5-0 and came within an overtime loss to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl of winning 10 last season. There are too many holes this season to expect Northwestern to finish in the top half of the league but somebody's going to get punked by the purple in the parity-filled Big Ten.

7. Wisconsin -- Is it time to panic yet? Bielema started 21-5 in his first two seasons, then slumped to 7-6 last year. But it was the way it happened: Bielema still hasn't been able to find a serviceable quarterback. The Badgers looked lost on defense and the prospects aren't good for this season. The formula to beat Wisconsin hasn't changed: Let the tailbacks get their yards, smack the quarterback in the mouth, wait for the turnovers and control the ball against a poor-tackling defense.
 
8. Michigan -- I was at a Michigan scrimmage in April during the Final Four. Granted, you don't learn much from watching a scrimmage but it seemed to me the offense still struggled to move the ball. Rich Rod better hope that the early-enrolling Tate Forcier is the answer at quarterback. There isn't much behind him. The defense should toughen up. A bowl is a possibility but will a 5-7 season be considered progress?

9. Minnesota -- Third-year coach Tim Brewster has a new state-of-the art stadium. That won't distract fans from asking if the five-game season-ending losing streak is the beginning of the end or just a nit in Goldy's fur. Watch the combination of quarterback Adam Weber  and receiver Eric Decker.

10. Purdue -- There are spider webs in the cupboard left over from Tiller's era. Only two starters return on offense. The most experienced quarterback is fifth-year senior Joey Elliott who has played in 10 games in three seasons. Hope is looking at an 0-5 start if he can't beat Northern Illinois and Toledo early.

11. Indiana -- Kellen Lewis wasn't going to play quarterback anyway. Still, his dismissal from the team in April all but assures another down year in Bloomington. Lewis, the program's career passing touchdown leader, had been moved to receiver to make room for junior Ben Chappell. Lewis was the Hoosiers' best athlete. Without him there aren't many playmakers or much hope. Coach Bill Lynch might be on the hot seat.

Posted on: December 28, 2008 5:27 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2008 5:46 pm
 

Random bowl thoughts ...

I really want to believe that Miami and Florida State have turned the corner. I really do. After watching them back-to-back on Saturday in bowl games, though, that is clearly not the case.

Florida State's defense is worthy of its predecessors, but is probably losing that unit's best player Everette Brown. Offensively, the line still has to be game-planned around. Quarterback Christian Ponder is inconsistent. When he does get the ball out smoothly, Ponder has (had) one reliable receiver in Greg Carr.

There's a reason only one quarterback (West Virginia's Pat White) has started and won four bowl games. Did you see Miami freshman Jacory Harris against Cal in the Emerald Bowl? He did an admirable job until that killer fumble deep in his own territory. All it did was decide the game. Harris had to know that he either has to go down in that situation or throw the ball away. His struggle allowed the ball to come loose and Cal to win.

Coach Randy Shannon deserves a lot of the blame for mismangement of the clock in the final two minutes but Harris didn't do his team any favors either. The freshman had no urgency to his step. With a chance to run out of bounds near midfield, he elected to cut toward the middle of the field. That wasted more time and showed how much this raw talent has to learn.

In his second career college start, Harris lost for the first time in 32 starts dating back to high school. There are better days ahead. I think.

 Please, someone, make Cal's Jahvid Best the 2009 Heisman frontrunner. I don't care if Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford come back. Best right now is the best tailback in the country. After rushing for 186 yards against the Canes, the sophomore ended No. 2 on Cal's single-season rushing list.

  More on White: It almost seemed like coach Bill Stewart was trying to showcase his quarterback for the pros in the Meineke Bowl. While White will go down as one of the Mountaineers' all-time great, he will not be a quarterback in the NFL. I like to compare him to the guy whose record he broke, Brad Smith of the New York Jets. White passed Smith on the all-time rushing list for quarterbacks. He will never be known as a passer.

Most likely, White will make an NFL roster as a slash-type player similar to Smith or Ted Ginn Jr. of Miami.

While you consider White's numbers from Saturday, don't forget these lines against Pittsburgh (15 of 28, 143 yards, two interceptions), South Florida (14 of 23, 141 yards) and Colorado (10 of 14, 43 yards).

 After Wisconsin's pitiful showing against Florida State, is the Big Ten's rep on the line again or what? Going into Sunday the conference was already tied for the second-worst bowl record this season (0-1).
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 29, 2008 10:44 am
Edited on: October 29, 2008 2:11 pm
 

National notes

Breaking news out of Happy Valley: You don't have to be a linguist to figure out Joe Paterno said a mouthful this week after getting his ailing hip checked.

"I want to find out from (doctors) what needs to be done," Joe said, "and get it done as soon as I can after the season is over so I can get on the road to recruit."

Recruiting? For, like, 2009? There you have it, in case you're wondering if JoePa is going to hang up the white socks. The Penn State president's office had no comment. (OK, kidding on that last one).

 Minnesota was a national embarrassment in 2007: 1-11, last in total defense. It couldn't get worse.

 

There was whispers that rookie head coach Tim Brewster was a colossal mistake. But the coach had yet to work his 
magic.

"He's the best recruiter I've been around. Period," said Texas' Mack Brown.

The two had worked together for 13 years. There was a reason Brown kept him close. Brewster could charm Warren 
Buffet out of his wallet.

"I'm just surprised he did it so early," Brown said. 

It is more than a surprise that Minnesota 7-1 and ranked 20th. From the dregs of '07, Brewster now has the Gophers 
in contention for the biggest I-A turnaround ever. The current record is an 8 1/2-game improvement. Hawaii improved 
by that margin in 1999 (from 0-12 to 9-4). Minnesota is currently eight games better than last season. If it 
finishes 10-3 it would tie the record; 11-2 and it break it.

The turnaround started, of course, with recruiting. Brewster says he brought in 45 players for official visits. Thirty-one signed, including a couple of jucos who provided immediate help. Defensive backs Traye Simmons, Tramaine Brock and Simoni Lawrence have combined for 7 1/2 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 17 passes broken up and three forced fumbles.

Quarterback Adam Weber matured. Receiver Eric Decker is tied for third nationally with 66 
receptions. Defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg is back healthy from a broken wrist.

There are those who will tell you that for all credit Brewster gets for this season, he must bear some blame for 
last season. The cupboard wasn't exactly bare when Brewster took over Glen Mason's 6-7 team in 2006 before the 
bottom fell out. Six of the 11 losses were by a touchdown or less, two in overtime.

"It was gut-wrenching," Brewster said. "We had a lot of sad Saturday evenings, a lot of hard Sundays. There's been 
nothing given to this team."

Minny has benefitted from a friendly schedule -- it misses Penn State and Michigan State -- but, hey, things were so bad last season that it isn't fair to put qualifiers on this turnaround. The defense is No. 1 in takeaways with 24.

"It's really different, especially from last year," defensive back Kyle Theret said. "We weren't even close to 
shutting down people to six points, no touchdowns."

That was the result last week in a 17-6 over slumping Purdue. Northwestern is up this week and once again the 
schedule is friendly. Wildcats quarterback C.J. Bacher is questionable with a hammy. Tailback Tyrell Sutton is out  for the season.
With games left against Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa (combined record 11-13), the Gophers could pull a complete 
turnaround and finish 11-1. A Jan. 1 bowl is not out of the question for a program that hasn't been to one since the 1962 Rose Bowl.

Brewster is one of those worker bees who finally got his shot. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when the Denver 
Broncos tight ends coach got a Big Ten job. But Brewster came well recommended. He lists his biggest influences as 
Brown, Mike Shanahan and Marty Schottenheimer. His son Nolan plays at Texas.

Armed with momentum, Brewster can't let it slip. TCF Bank Stadium, the result of a long-time Mason crusade, opens 
next season. It will be a palace, the first new Big Ten stadium built in 49 years. Open-air football in Minnesota 
sure beats the Metrodome no matter what the temperature.

"It's just not a collegiate environment. It's a pro environment," Brewster said. "The average game day temperature 
at the University of Minnesota through November 15 is 64 degrees. It's way overplayed. Winter's winter. Cold is cold. You know what? That's a good thing."


 Handicapping the Washington job.

1. Jim Mora, Jr., Seattle Seahawks secondary coach. His head says hang on to replace Mike Holmgren. His heart says 
go to the alma mater. Please, Jim, take the U-Dub job. You are the most passionate candidate available. Mora also 
comes armed with head coaching experience, something this opening desperately needs.

2. Chris Petersen, Boise State. Has to be the No. 1 choice if Mora says no, doesn't he? Petersen can recruit 
California and can't accomplish much more in Boise. It's time for him to take a step up.

3. Gary Patterson, TCU. Defensive master-mind who, with the right offensive coordinator could be perfect for the job. Part of the Mountain West overthrow of the Pac-10. Completely happy at TCU but someday he will listen. Will he take Washington's call? 

4. Pat Hill, Fresno State. Pat would improve the defense and the get the media back but he has never won so much as 
a WAC title. Petersen's younger.

5. Troy Calhoun, Air Force. NFL experience, Pacific Northwest roots. Run-based offense that some Washington loyalists want to see return to Husky Stadium.

6. Lane Kiffin, unemployed. Still having problems identifying what Lane has actually done. The list of failed 
Raiders coaches goes out the door. Supposedly, he can coordinate an offense but this job needs soooo much more.

7. Dave Christensen, Missouri offensive coordinator. Somewhat of a flavor-of-the-month. DC has been there for eight 
years. Missouri's offense has been on the national scene for two. Christensen looks cool riding his motorcycle and 
has U-Dub ties but doesn't this opening deserve a guy with head coaching experience?

8. Mike Leach, Texas Tech.  Leach wants it. Does Washington want him?

9. Gary Pinkel, Missouri. He ain't going so forget it.

 

 The finalists for the Draddy Award, also known as the academic Heisman

 

Andrew Berry, CB, Harvard -- You would expect nothing less from this former Goldman Sachs interim who participated in 
Harvard's first night game last season.

Ryan Berry, QB, South Dakota State -- Pre-med and American Dairy Association basketball clinic participant.

Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri -- Heisman candidate and business administration major who counts Warren Buffet among his close friends.

Brian Freeman, OT, Carnegie Mellon -- three-time student employee of the year finalist. Rock on, Brian.

Casey Gerald, CB, Yale -- Accepted to Harvard Business School and applying for Rhodes scholarship. Thank goodness 
the football thing hasn't gotten in the way.

Graham Harrrell, QB, Texas Tech -- You can't touch him (4.0 in first semester of graduate work) and you can't touch 
him (sacked only three times this season).

Quin Harris, LB, Louisiana Tech -- Graduated magna cum laude in clinical kinesiology.

Jeff Horinek, LB, Colorado State -- Seems to have mastered in football his areas of post graduate interest: 
nutrition and biomechanics.

Ryan Kees, DE, St. Cloud State -- Pride of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

Alex Mack, C, Cal -- Pancakes, knockdowns and magna cum laude in legal studies.

Ryan McDonald, OL, Illinois -- Aerospace engineer major. Career should lift off. Thanks, I'll be here all week.

Greg Micheli, QB, Mount Union -- Quite the mathlete. Division II All-American and physics major.

Darryl Richard, DT, Georgia Tech -- If this guy can play for Paul Johnson, he deserves for to be on this list.

Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State -- Not everything about Ohio State is overrated.

Louie Sakoda, P/K, Utah -- Laser Foot who can drop punts inside the 20 with the best of them.

Posted on: October 5, 2008 6:20 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2008 9:24 pm
 

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

There is some doubt as to whether Joe Paterno can finish the season.

 Brace yourselves. I know this will be hard to believe but there is more trouble with Pac-10 officials. Stanford's Jim Harbaugh went a little nuts after Notre Dame's 28-21 victory.

 

 

 Just so we're all clear on this: Those cuddly, loveable, loseable Cubs played exactly three more games than the Washington Nationals. It feels soooo good for those of us ready to stick a finger down our throats at the mention of everything Cub.

 

Good tee times available, Cubbies. Have a nice offseason ...

 On to the oblong ... Jake Harry's scholarship is in danger. OK, not really. But the Missouri punter does feel a bit, shall we say, underutilized?

 

The junior from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif. did not punt Saturday night against Nebraska. Not even close, really. The first-team offense scored on all of its possessions Saturday excpet one -- a 59-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half. He has punted nine times all season (Missouri has punted 10 times as a team). Harry has punted only twice in the last three games.

Reminded of this fact, super serious coach Gary Pinkel said, "We're going to have to work on that in practice. That's not reality."

Neither is this: Missouri's offense has not gone three-and-out with Chase Daniel at quarterback this season.

You're welcome in advance for this week's Heisman candidate trivia.


 Anyone want a piece of Ron Zook now? He was the first coach in nine years to win at Ohio State and at Michigan within a 12-month span in nine years. The last coach to do it? Illinois' Ron Turner in 1999. Illinois trounced Michigan 45-20 at The Big House on Saturday.

 Yes, that was Joe Paterno up in the press box again due to what was reportedly pain in his right hip.

 

"I'm not letting anybody get near me with a knife," JoePa said.

 Florida's fantastic freshmen, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, each ran for 103 yards in a win over Arkansas. The last  time Florida had two players each rush for 100 and have no receivers over 100 yards was 1997. Wait a minute, wasn't that under Spurrier? Strange.

 

 USC avoided losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2001 with a 44-10 win over Oregon. The Trojans actually trailed 10-3 and faced a fourth-and-2 at Oregon's 34. Pete Carroll's, as he frequently does, went for it. Mark Sanchez threw a touchdown pass to Damien Williams.

 

 Is Charlie Weis working his quarterback magic again? In his first seven games Jimmy Clausen threw one touchdown and five interceptions while winning once. In his last eight games including a win over Stanford on Saturday, Clausen has thrown 18 touchdowns (only seven interceptions) and is 6-2.

 


 Bad times at Kansas State. Fans were booing and a less-than-capacity crowd left early during a 58-28 loss to Texas Tech. Ron Prince's embattled defense has been thrashed repeatedly dating back to last season. In its last season I-A losses, teams are averaging 49 points and 538 yards. Quarterbacks are completing 70 percent while having throwing 20 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Texas Tech's Graham Harrell threw for more yards against Kansas State (454) than Air Force, Navy and Army did combined (265) on Saturday. Those three schools haven't thrown for as many yards on the season as Harrell did on Saturday: Army, 279; Air Force, 412; Navy, 439.

The service academies played the whole game too. Harrell was yanked in the second half.

 At least Nebraska gets a break next week after losing by five touchdowns to Missouri. It goes to Lubbock. Thank you sir, may I have another.

 

 Some Wisconsin seniors got a windfall in their e-mail. Because the band was suspended indefinitely for acts that would make Penn State players blush, there suddenly were 300 empty seats to be filled in Camp Randall Stadium. The school contacted seniors who had lost out on the ticket lottery. They were told to show up at the stadium shortly before the game to claim their free ticket.

 


 You knew this was coming: Arkansas continues to face a Burma Road of a schedule thanks in part to the rescheduling of the Texas game last month due to Hurricane Ike. In consecutive games against then-No. 9 Alabama, then-No. 7 Texas and No. 12 Florida, the Hogs have been outscored 139-31. Next up: at Auburn and at Kentucky.

 Since winning its first eight games under Dennis Erickson last season, Arizona State is 4-6 including a 24-14 loss to Cal on Saturday.

 

 Michigan has 14 touchdowns and 16 turnovers this season.
 
 The lowest scoring winning team in the Big 12 was Kansas with 35 points.

 

 Kentucky has yet to allow a touchdown in the red zone this season.

 

 SEC teams are allowing an average of 17.4 points and 288.4 yards per game. If that holds up, it would be a post-expansion record (since 1992) for the conference.

 

 Missouri beat Nebraska in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1973-74.

 

 A big shout out to the (lack of) Quality Inn in Lincoln. Why even try? I got bitten in the lobby by flies the moment I walked in. Lighting in the room was optional. It gave me a greater appreciation for what O.J. Simpson is going to face in the next 20 years.

 

At least I got to check out.

Posted on: September 24, 2008 1:49 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2008 5:40 pm
 

National notes

Time to put Ohio State back in the national championship race. I'm not saying the Bucks will get to South Florida but can we all agree they might be as strong as they've ever been this season?

Terrelle Pryor has been installed as the quarterback starter. Beanie Wells is back at tailback for the Big Ten opener against Minnesota. The Big Ten race, and Big Ten, just got a whole lot more interesting. It's a four-team race, at least, between Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin and Penn State.


When some dope asked if Pryor was now the starter after throwing four touchdown passes against Troy, Jim Tressel said: "Weren't you at the game?"

 OK, so there's a blackout at Georgia for the Alabama game. Why did Mark Richt tell everyone? There's a great story from last year when Richt the players kept the blackout secret until busting them out for the Auburn game.

 

"I had the seniors at my house before the season starts," Richt said. "They're saying, 'Coach, when are we going to get black jerseys?' I closed every door in my house and said, 'Can ya'll keep a secret? The Auburn game, we're going to wear them. But look, man, if everybody finds out it won't be that big a deal,' ...

"We get to Monday of the Auburn game. They're like, 'Coach, coach we need to get the fans to (know about) the blackout.' I said, 'No, you're giving it away.'

"Rumors kept flaring. Then one (reporter) point blanks me, 'Are you or are you not wearing black jerseys for the Auburn game? ...

"So I'm telling the equipment guy, 'When the lights go out get the jerseys laid out at their seats ... I'm in the coaches lockerroom changing and the place erupted. It was so unbelievable how excited they got. I heard guys screaming. I saw guys with tears in their eyes. It was like a sauna in there, just the body heat.

"There was so much electricity in the stadium that day. I told the guys at the end, it did look cool ... It's hard to let go of that."

Georgia won 45-20.

 Urban Meyer showed prescience when he said before the 2006 season that the new clock rules were a joke. College football went on to lose 13 plays per game and the game suffered.

 

Meyer railed again this week against the 40/25-second clock that has been largely responsible for the loss of seven total plays per game so far this season.

"I'm not a fan of the clock rule," Meyer said this week. "I think it's wrong. I think they're cheating the fans - more importantly, the players."

Florida ran a season low 54 plays Saturday against Tennessee. That will be comforting to the Vols. At least the Gators were efficient in blowing them out.

Meyer said only 46 of his team's plays were "competitive", meaning he didn't count punts, field goals, etc.

The 40/25 clock can be massaged, though. Since Oklahoma has gone to the no-huddle, it has gained nine plays per game (from 70 to 79).

Strangely enough, the state of Oregon knows how to use the clock. Oregon is No. 1 (83.75 plays per game) followed by Nevada (83.3) and Oregon State (80.3).

 Two years ago USC went on its little "streak" losing to three times to inferior opponents in two seasons. It started with a 33-31 loss at Oregon State when John David Booty got a pass blocked while throwing to Dwayne Jarrett for a two-point conversion.

 

I'm still wondering how Booty had a pass blocked at the line of scrimmage throwing a stop fade in the end zone to Dwayne Jarrett, one of the tallest receivers in ball at the time.

Anyway, those days are over, right? The points is, USC should be on alert opening the Pac-10 season Thursday back at Oregon State.

 Not much more to be said about Tennessee except that a 2-4 start looks likely. The Vols play at Auburn this week followed by games against Northern Illinois and at Georgia.

 

Arizona State (2-2) is Tennessee West. With games coming up at Cal, at USC and at home against Oregon, the Devils could start 2-5.

 Fourteen teams are currently 4-0, only six of them have ever won a national championship (TCU, Alabama, Georgia, BYU, Penn State, Minnesota). Maybe more surprising, five of the 14 are from West of the Mississippi (Missouri, Texas Tech, Utah, BYU, TCU).

 

 San Diego State coach Chuck Long on the difference between I-AA Cal Poly and Notre Dame.

 

"The way we played both there wasn't much difference," he said.

The Aztecs (0-3) lost to both the Mustangs and Irish in back-to-back weeks.

 Make sure you view this video on an empty stomach. This is how Texas lost tight end Blaine Irby for the season with a dislocated kneecap.

 

 Maybe it's just me but it seems that certain schools should never, ever be in need of a quality quarterback. Why can't these three programs find a consistent signal caller?

 

Florida State:  Tied for sixth-worst nationally with five interceptions. No. 55 in pass efficiency.
Cal:  Tied for 68th nationally and fifth in Pac-10 in sacks allowed.
Auburn:  Second-worst in the SEC and 95th nationally in pass efficiency.

--Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has a myspace page which shouldn't surprise any of us.

On it you can learn the 47-year-old Leach enjoys "football, throwing stuff and pirate history". Listed among his friends are Urban Meyer and Bobby Bowden. He lists his income as "$250,000 and higher."

Away from the keyboard, Leach sounds like he is seriously considering Tech student Matt Williams as a walk-on kicker. Williams won a year's free rent at an apartment complex after booting a 30-yard field goal between the third and fourth quarters of Saturday's win over Massachusetts.


 “Very impressive kick, and maybe I’ll get to see him again because we’re always looking for depth at kicker,” Leach said after the game. “We have a tradition of walk-on kickers rising to the top."


 More BYU:

Bronco Mendenhall on being a defensive coach in this offensive age: "Most of the time defenses aren't as glamorous. Schools hire offensive coaches possibly to make themselves look better in the hiring process and please fans.  Sometimes offensive names are more attractive."

Draft guru Gil Brandt on the BYU "system":  "I think they had a system that was advanced from whatever anybody else had. When the wishbone came in, people were trying to stop the wishbone and didn't have the right people for it. Then all of the sudden they found out how to stop the wishbone.

"That never caught up with them at BYU. They attracted quarterbacks who were made out to be better than they were because they were in this really good system.  I think this team has better players (than the previous BYU great teams)."

FYI: BYU is No. 11 this week.  It was No. 8 four weeks into the season when it won its national championship. It debuted at No. 13 in the first regular-season AP poll and got to No. 1 in the Nov. 19 poll after beating Utah 24-14.

It finished No. 1 in AP after beating Michigan in the Holiday Bowl and No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 South Carolina lost their bowl games.

Posted on: August 6, 2008 2:00 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2008 4:28 pm
 

Five things you should know about the MAC

Five things you should know about the MAC

1. Yes, Nate Davis is wearing gloves ... which is strange if you're a quarterback. Ball State's Davis was the MAC's top passer last season throwing for a conference-most 3,667 yards. No. 1 in MAC pass efficiency, Davis leads a return of the conference's top seven passers.

Ball State offensive coordinator Stan Parrish calls Davis one of the best he's ever had. That means something considering Parrish has both Super Bowl (Tampa Bay) and national championship (Michigan) rings. He worked with some guy named Brady while at Michigan.

Why the gloves? Davis, a shotgun quarterback in high school, had trouble taking the snap under center when he arrived at Ball State. Parrish suggested gloves for traction. Davis never took them off, playing some of his best games against BCS schools. Two years ago Davis threw for 250 yards against Michigan in an eight-point loss. Last season he threw for 422 yards and three scores in a one-point loss to Nebraska.

2. Postseason embarrassment. There's no doubt the MAC is better but it needs to get it going in bowls. In the last four years the league is 4-10. It lost all three bowl games, two by embarrassing scores: Rutgers beat Ball State 52-30 in the International Bowl and Tulsa laid an epic 63-7 whipping on Bowling Green in the GMAC Bowl.

3. Temple is no longer a joke. Al Golden went 4-8 in his second year with the Owls. The program hadn't won more than two games since 2002. Temple is believed to be the only I-A team with all 22 starters returning.

4. Ditto for Buffalo. In two short years, Turner Gill has led Buffalo to respectability. The Bulls were 5-7 last season, the program's best record this decade. Gill will be Nebraska's coach some day if the success continues.  He's just not ready yet. In the offseason his name came up for the Huskers vacancy.

5. Play up. It would be nice for the MAC to start winning some of these non-conference games against BCS schools. The conference went 5-37 against BCS-conference programs last season. Maybe the news is that Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Toledo and Kent State each actually beat one of the big boys.

Last year there were embarrassments like MAC champion Central Michigan's 52-7 loss at Kansas and Western Michigan's 38-point loss at West Virginia. Toledo did beat Iowa State but it also lost to Purdue and Kansas by a combined 60 points.

This season MAC teams play 10 games against teams currently ranked in the coaches' poll. Games to watch this season: Akron at Wisconsin, Aug. 30; Central Michigan at Georgia, Sept. 6; Western Michigan at Nebraska, Aug. 30; Northern Illinois at Minnesota, Aug. 30; Toledo at Arizona, Sept. 6; Bowling Green at Pittsburgh, Aug. 30; Vanderbilt at Miami (Ohio) on Aug. 28 followed by the RedHawks' trip to Michigan on Sept. 6; Boston College plays Kent State in Cleveland on Aug. 30.

There is hope: Five years ago MAC teams beat five ranked teams.

Posted on: July 28, 2008 10:59 am
Edited on: July 28, 2008 11:00 am
 

Five things you need to know about the Big Ten...

 

1. Ohio State is really, really good: The rest of the league, not so much. In building up to this point, the Buckeyes have played in the last two BCS title games. This is the team that was supposed to win it all. As long as the SEC doesn't show (Ohio State is 0-9 vs. the conference in bowl games) the Bucks should win the national championship.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league has slipped in recent years. While Ohio State is chasing its fourth consecutive conference title (third outright), no team has stepped up to challenge it. It certainly isn't Michigan (lost six of the seven to Ohio State). Iowa and Purdue have declined. Northwestern is Northwestern. The Big Ten was 2-5 in bowls last season. Only 28 players were drafted, fifth-best among I-A conferences.

2. Illinois is the IT team: It's not all about trashing the rest of the league. The Illini fired a shot across Ohio State's bow by winning in Columbus then advancing to the Rose Bowl. Ron Zook wants his previously scatter-armed quarterback Juice Williams to complete 70 percent of his passes. (Williams says he can do it). The defense should be the strength even with the loss of linebacker J Leman. If Illinois gets past Missouri in the opener this could be a special year.

3. However, Wisconsin will finish second: Bret Bielema has won 12 and nine games in his two seasons in Madison. He is loaded again this season and gets Ohio State at home. The only question is at quarterback which never seems to matter at Wisconsin. Going back to 2004, the Badgers are 25-1 at Camp Randall. Look for another January bowl.

Wisconsin is one of only three teams to play in that month each of the last four seasons. The others are USC and West Virginia.

4. JoePa doesn't know: He spelled it out at Big Ten media days when asked (again) how long he's going go. "I-D-O-N-T-K-N-O-W". The Nittany Lion In Winter is working without a contract this season. That's going to make it easier for president Graham Spanier to make a change after the season. The next question (and battle) is whether the replacement comes from inside or outside the staff.

5. Rich Rod takes off: With no proven quarterback, tailback or receiver Rich Rodriguez brings his zone read spread option to Ann Arbor. Piece of cake, right? Well, the last "outsider" at Michigan (Bo Schembechler) seemed to do OK.

Rodriguez has been well received and should finish 8-4 or 7-5 in his first season. Watch out, though, in Years 2 or  3.

  

 

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