Tag:Iowa
Posted on: June 29, 2009 3:01 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2009 12:09 pm
 

Picking the Big 12


The Big 12 South Division race, the Big 12 title game, the Heisman race and the national championship hinged on the conference's three-way tiebreaker. We found out about the 11-year-old rule when Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech each tied at 7-1 in the South Division.

Oklahoma "won" the tiebreaker because it finished the regular season as the highest-ranked team in the division  -- by .0128 of a point in the BCS standings. Instead of reliving the Austin angst, let's just say that one Longhorn suggested that if the tiebreaker rule wasn't changed in the offseason his school ought to pull out of the Big 12.

What's changed? Not much. The rule wasn't changed and Texas is still in the league. At the spring meetings, the Big 12 ADs accepted the coaches' vote that the tiebreaker remain the same. Why?

 One theory is that Texas probably doesn't get much sympathy from the other coaches because ... it's Texas. The school is perceived to have the best of everything so it didn't get much sympathy from schools that don't. Yeah, jealousy sucks.

 There is nothing to be gained for schools like Missouri, Iowa State, Colorado, Baylor, etc., so why change? Hey, the league got two teams in the BCS. To the other schools it doesn't matter who plays in those games as long as the money keeps rolling in.

 The tiebreaker makes sense. Why wouldn't you want your highest rated BCS team to win the tiebreaker? There was some feeling that the SEC tiebreaker is fairer.

In a three-way tie, the SEC drops the lowest-ranked team and decides things head-to-head. But since you're chasing a BCS title, the SEC tiebreaker potentially keeps the highest-ranked team out of a title shot.

The tiebreaker would have been a footnote on the national scene had not Texas and Oklahoma been involved. The rivalry was bitter enough without having to explain why the Horns lost out when they beat the Sooners on the field. Yeah, Oklahoma's fortune might cause a bit of consternation in Austin.

"They got a huge break," Texas' Colt McCoy said.

Like I said, nothing has changed. Texas and OU still hate each other. There is a good chance we could have another tiebreaker train wreck at the end of this season. Only the teams will change.


Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State could all start the season in the top 10. The Red River Shootout on Oct. 17 shapes up as one of the most intense in the history of the rivalry. Just for controversy's sake let's assume the Horns win in Dallas, they still have to play in Stillwater on Halloween. If the Cowboys win they could win out until a Nov. 28 date in Norman. If the Sooners win that one, we're looking at another three-way 7-1 finish.

Who wins it in the BCS tiebreaker? In that scenario, you'd have to like Oklahoma again. The Texas loss would be six weeks old by then and beating Oklahoma State impressively would be the emphatic final statement for the computers the pollsters. That same thing happened last year when OU blew out Texas Tech.

Closer to the field, for the second consecutive year the Large Dozen remains the conference of quarterbacks. It sports a Heisman winner (Sam Bradford), a runner-up (Colt McCoy) and well as 2009 Heisman candidate Todd Reesing of Kansas. You can add Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson, Baylor's Robert Griffin and Texas Tech quarterback du jour Taylor Potts as difference makers.

Just giving you a fair warning, Texas fans. Grow your hair out now. You might be pulling it out in December.

Picking the Big 12 ...


North Division

1. Kansas -- If this were Miami, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Reesing would be on the cover of every preseason mag in the country. Meier is the leading returning receiver in catches per game (10.8). Briscoe is second in receiving yards per game (108.2). Reesing already has led the Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl and is in line to become the school's best quarterback ever. Mark Mangino already has proven he can coach. If a new set of starting linebackers can tackle and if KU can beat either Oklahoma, Texas or Texas Tech (he is a combined 0-9 against the three) this could be a special season. The Jayhawks get the slight edge in the North because the Nebraska game is at home.

2. Nebraska -- Bo Pelini is slowly building Huskerville back to its usual standards. Slowly is the key word because defense is Pelini's thing and the D showed astounding lapses last year. Slowly, because Nebraska has not had a first-team All-American on the defensive line in 12 years. Tackle Ndamukong Suh could break the streak. Some draft boards already have him in the top five. There is little room for error where Pelini is a turned ankle away from having real problems at quarterback. Zac Lee is the guy after Patrick Witt, who was being counted on, left before the spring. A lot of folks think Nebraska has the advantage in the North because of its schedule. I see road trips to Missouri, Baylor, Kansas and Colorado, plus a home game against Oklahoma. Please tell me how that is favorable?

3. Missouri -- The Tigers will take a dip after back-to-back Big 12 North titles. Missouri knows it. The fans know it. The league knows it. The key is trying to make an 8-4 season seem like a success. Six-foot-five Blaine Gabbert takes over for Chase Daniel, only the greatest qb in Missouri history. He would be wise to spread the ball out to 1,000-yard rusher Derrick Washington and receivers Danario Alexander and Jared Perry. The Tigers will score, just not as often. If the defense is shored up at all this team could be on the fringes of contending in the North. At times, the secondary looked like a fire drill. Linebacker All-American linebacker candidate Sean Weatherspoon passed up the draft and will chase the school's career tackles record as a senior.

4. Colorado -- Has Hawk Love turned into Hawk Doubt? Entering his fourth season in Boulder, Dan Hawkins has won only 13 games. The pressure is on to produce (hint: Big 12 North contention and a bowl game). Hawkins isn't backing down, saying this at the senior banquet: "Ten wins, no excuses." The quarterback situation is unsettled with son Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen maybe sharing the job again. Freshman tailback sensation Darrell Scott was upstaged by fellow freshman Rodney Stewart who led the team in rushing. Here's the scary thing: In a league with unrelenting offenses, CU has lost six of its top 10 tacklers.

5. Kansas State -- This isn't the old Big Eight for Bill Snyder. Back in 1989, he was taking over Kansas State from a zero position. This time he is chasing his own legacy. Not to diminish what Snyder accomplished, but back in the early 1990s, Missouri and Kansas were jokes and Oklahoma was sliding. There was no Texas to play two out of every four years. The Big 12 has more depth and strength than the Big Eight as Snyder tries for Miracle In Manhattan II. Snyder got K-State from dregs to the brink of a national championship game in nine years. Will the 69-year-old have that much time this time around?

6. Iowa State -- Iowa State swapped coaches with Auburn. Gene Chizik went. Paul Rhoads came. Rhoads, from nearby Ankeny, seems like he wants to stay awhile. He'll be looking up at the rest of the Big 12 North for a while. Ripping Wally Burham from South Florida to be his defensive coordinator was a huge get for Rhoads. The offense will have a chance with dual-threat Austen Arnaud at quarterback


South Division

1. Texas -- Mack Brown smiled when I told I had his pregame speech ready for the OU game. "We beat the Sooners last year, boys. Now let's go out and get some revenge!" Yeah, it's about that and a lot of things for Brown and the Horns. Except for perhaps some suspect running backs, Texas is loaded. Brown has his best team since the 2005 national championship crew. Hybrid defensive end/linebacker Sergio Kindle should be this season's Brian Orakpo. McCoy is driven not only by the tiebreaker but also his second-place finish in the Heisman. Still, it all boils down to Oct. 17 in Dallas.

2. Oklahoma -- Sam Bradford won the Heisman, became the first quarterback to win back-to-back Big 12 titles and got the Sooners to the national championship game. What is there left to accomplish? Plenty for Bradford who listened to family and advisors and put off the NFL. His body can fill out a bit and it doesn't look like there will be a Matthew Stafford to compete with in the draft this year. Oklahoma's questions are at offensive line and receiver. If this were anywhere else but the Big 12 South, the Sooners would be prohibitive favorites to repeat. With a break here or there, they still might end back up in the national championship game.

3. Oklahoma State -- With apologies to Texas and Oklahoma, this could be the best offense in the Big 12, if not the country. Returning are a 1,500-yard rusher (Kendall Hunter), an All-American receiver (Dez Bryant), and a 65 percent passer with 25 touchdowns (Robinson). The problem remains defense. New defensive coordinator Bill Young is the Cadillac of his profession. Okie State will be better just because of his presence. Perrish Cox is developing into an NFL talent at corner and is one of the nation's best returners.

4. Texas Tech -- The Red Raiders slip back to the 8-4 level this season. You know the drill: Potts will throw for eight million yards. There will be a 1,000-yard receiver or two. Mike Leach will be his usual quote-machine self. However, last season was a once-in-10-year event. There is payback waiting at Texas, at Oklahoma State and at Nebraska.

5. Baylor -- Does any Big 12 school have more upside? Joe Pawelek is an All-Big 12 linebacker. Center J.D. Walton anchors the offensive line now that Jason Smith is gone. But let's be honest, the moment quarterback Robert Griffin followed coach Art Briles to Baylor (from his commitment to Houston), things took off. A sprinter with Olympic aspirations, Griffin gave up the Big 12 track season to concentrate on what should be his breakout season in Waco. If there is a one-man team in the league, this is it. Griffin also was the team's No. 2 rusher. With more weight and more knowledge, Griffin should become the most elusive dual-threat in the Big 12 since Vince Young. At stake is a 14-year bowl drought. That ties for the longest active streak among BCS schools.

6. Texas A&M -- One former Big Eight coach said it during the offseason: This is A&M. It should be able to go over to the Houston high schools and scrounge up a couple of defensive linemen. In Mike Sherman's second season, d-line is a good place to start. The one-time Wrecking Crew was Charmin soft as one of the worst defensive units in the country. After the non-conference games, the Aggies gave up less than 35 once. Once! Nineteen players had surgery in the offseason. The Aggies better get fat early. The season ends with Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas.
 

Posted on: June 15, 2009 10:04 am
 

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: February 11, 2009 1:04 pm
Edited on: February 11, 2009 4:06 pm
 

The future of Mike Leach and other items

The feeling seems to be that Mike Leach will let the deadline expire for signing a new contract on Tuesday. I wrote about the situation on Wednesday.

That leaves him only two years left on a deal that is paid him $1.75 million in 2008, eighth-highest in the Big 12. More important, Texas Tech could be assured that Leach would be on his way out. Allowing him to walk after the 2010 season would not only hurt recruiting but probably distract Leach who would be looking for a new job.

That's not to say a new agreement couldn't be worked out at some future date, but giving a sitting coach a deadline to sign a deal is unique.

Here is a copy of what is believed to be Leach's current contract

 A look at the 2009 Pac-10 non-conference schedule: (Thanks to the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner who rounded up the skeds)

Once again the Pac-10 is showing it isn't shy about playing out of conference. The league plays few I-AA opponents and is willing (maybe because of its geography) to travel to play high-profile opponents.

Best 2009 Pac-10 non-conference games:

1. USC at Ohio State, Sept. 12 -- Game of the Century No. 1,317. Will this be Terrelle Pryor's coming out party?

2. Utah at Oregon, Sept. 19 -- By this point in the schedule the Ducks will have played Boise, Purdue and Utah. Three BCS league opponents. Combined record from 2008: 29-9. Please, stop the madness. Even if the Ducks win all three, what condition will they be in for the Pac-10 schedule?

3. USC at Notre Dame, Oct. 17 -- Seven in a row and counting for the Trojans ...

4. Oregon at Boise State, Sept. 5 -- Can't understand why Oregon (and Oregon State) keep playing the Broncos. In this case, the loser might be out of a BCS bowl.

5. UCLA at Tennessee, Sept. 12 -- Rick Neuheisel won't be leading any postgame pep rallies in Neyland. When was the last time the Bruins and Vols were each this desperate for a quarterback?

6. Arizona State at Georgia, Sept. 26 -- The Devils were embarrassed by the Bulldogs last season in the middle of a six-game losing streak. In this return game, both teams are rebuilding.

7. Cincinnati at Oregon State, Sept. 19 -- Jacquizz Rodgers vs. the defending Big East champions.

8. LSU at Washington, Sept. 5 -- What is the Washington AD smoking? That brutal non-con schedule helped get Tyrone Willingham fired. Steve Sarkisian starts his career against an SEC monster.

9. Notre Dame at Stanford, Nov. 28 -- Irish season finale. Will it be Charlie Weis' finale?

10. Kansas State at UCLA, Sept. 19 -- Wait, Bill Snyder is actually getting on a plane to play a non-con road game?

11. Arizona at Iowa, Sept. 19 -- The Wildcats are on the rise but Iowa still start the season ranked despite the loss of tailback Shonn Greene.

12. Stanford at Wake Forest, Sept. 12 -- The I.Q. Bowl. Jim Harbaugh's scheduling instincts have to be questioned. His team is starting with consecutive roadies to Pullman (Washington State) and Winston-Salem.

13. Cal at Minnesota, Sept. 19 -- Gophers have almost everyone back in this season that will be a referendum on Tim Brewster's future. (started 7-1, finished 0-5). Hope the Bears have a secondary. Adam Decker could be a preseason All-American.

14. Maryland at Cal, Sept. 5 -- Plenty of revenge motive here for the Bears. Cal was down 28-6 after three quarters last season at Maryland before waking up. After winning nine in '08, the Bears have set their sights higher.

 How the economy will handle the glut of bowls -- natural selection.

 The president is a recruitnik too.

It is the responsibility of this space to keep alive the printed word whenever possible. To that end, let me recommend two excellent, recently-released books.

"KU Basketball Vault, The History Of The Jayhawks," is a unique look at one the most decorated programs in hoops by veteran college basketball scribe Ken Davis. Unique? When was the last time you got souvenirs with your coffee table book?

"Big Boy Rules, America's Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq" will change your entire view of the war, the government and human nature. Steve Fainaru of the Washington Post provides a deeply personal look at the Bush travesty that is the Iraq war. Steve is a Pulitzer Prize winner who was a former colleague at the Kansas City Star.

I know, I know. I can hear you. That's as close as I'll ever get to a Pulitzer.

 

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 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 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 14, 2008 1:59 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2008 10:51 am
 

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

One last reaction from Ohio State-USC:

"I can't believe that we screwed up so badly," Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone told reporters. "I cannot 
believe this is second time this happened to this team. I thought this team made it clear after the national 
championship game -- all the gassers we ran, and all the running we did that we weren't going to mess up anymore. 
Apparently, that wasn't evident."

Second time?

 A lot of history has been made at Notre Dame, not a lot of it on crutches. Notre Dame is 2-0 after beating 
Michigan 35-17 and, if you believe in omens Irish fans, Charlie Weis still has another knee to tear up. Not to go ND message 
board here, but the schedule does look favorable especially if Notre Dame keeps getting six turnovers a game.

 

Sept. 20, at Michigan State; Sept. 27, Purdue; Oct. 4, Stanford. Do I smell 4-1?

 It was not a good day in the Pac-10. Washington State, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona State, Stanford and Arizona lost by an 
average of 23.3 points. That includes Arizona State's overtime -- but no less humiliating -- loss to visiting UNLV 
and UCLA's mind-bending 59-0 tank job at BYU.

 

That last score has me wondering how Tennessee is feeling right now.

"A butt whoopin'. We got our butts whooped," linebacker Reggie Carter told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm going home, 
go to sleep, and tomorrow forget about it."

Easier said than done. UCLA's worst loss since 1929 was complete and had me wondering which team competed in the 
Pac-10 and which was in the Mountain West? BYU's Max Hall had seven touchdown passes in THREE QUARTERS. The 
decade-old Mountain West went 4-0 against the Pac-10 on Saturday.

 In Oklahoma's 55-14 win over Washington, Bob Stoops won his 100th game in his 122nd game as the Sooners' coach. That's the eighth-fastest to 100 in history. It's also the second-highest total for a coach in 10 seasons.

 

Barry Switzer also reached No. 100 in his 122nd game. Legend Bud Wilkinson is No. 3 on the list getting to the milestone in 111 games. Oklahoma is the only school to have four coaches with at least 100 victories -- Stoops, Switzer, Wilkinson and Bennie Owen. Stoops' teams have scored at least 50 points in 24 of his victories.

 What is it with Oregon quarterbacks and knee problems? The Ducks' season hangs in the balance after its third 
starting quarterback in 10 months went down. Justin Roper reportedly tore his left MCL against Purdue and could be 
out as long as two to four weeks. There's not a lot behind Roper. Freshman Chris Harper finished the game against 
Purdue, a 32-26 overtime victory. Bellotti says juco transfer Jeremiah Masoli and freshman Darron Thomas will also 
get looks.

 

Oregon has had enough problems lately with quarterbacks being injured. Dennis Dixon's injury derailed a possible 
national championship run. In the preseason Nate Costa suffered an ACL injury that has him out of the season.

 It almost went unnoticed that Florida State could still have to forfeit games as part of the penalties involving 
the academic scandal. If so, Joe Paterno could take a commanding lead in the all-time victories race. We're talking 
about Florida State's seven victories from 2007. The legendary coaches are tied at 375 victories apiece after Penn 
State beat Syracuse on Saturday and Florida State clobbered Chattanooga.

 

 Michigan State and Florida Atlantic combined for 20 punts and 36 incomplete passes in the Spartans' soggy 17-0 
victory. The Owls' Rusty Smith completed only eight of 34 passes.

 

 Cal became the West Coast Clemson when it failed to show up at Maryland. The Bears scored 21 fourth-quarter 
points to make it cosmetic but their 35-27 loss to the Terps was crippling. Cal was outmatched on both sides of the 
line for most of the game.

 

 Missouri has scored on its last 13 possession with Chase Daniel at quarterback (12 touchdowns, one field goal). If 
he could only stay on the field. The Tigers have boat-raced their past two opponents (Southeast Missouri State and 
Nevada) so thoroughly that Daniel has been removed in the second half of each game.

 

In that abbreviated action, Daniel has completed 40 of 46 the past two games for 663 yards and seven touchdowns. 
Against the Wolf Pack, Daniel completed 23 of 28 for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

 You knew East Carolina was due for a letdown. Patrick Pinkney threw a late touchdown pass against Tulane and the 
Pirates are 3-0 for the first time since 1999.

 

 Oklahoma State continues to amaze. The Cowboys passed only 10 times in a 57-13 victory over Missouri State. Their 
450 rushing yards were the fifth-most in school history. Okie State did this (offensively) last year but were just 
as bad on defense as they were good on offense.

 

 Looking ahead to next week, it's the SEC's world and we're only living in it: Georgia is at Arizona State, LSU 
goes to Auburn, Arkansas plays Alabama in the Ego Bowl. Oh, and apparently Florida is playing Tennessee too. That's 
three games with both teams being ranked.

 

 The best of the rest: (These teams weren't good enough to get into my top 25 but deserve mention) 1, Oklahoma 
State; 2, Vanderbilt; 3, Kentucky; 4, Nebraska; 5, TCU; 6, Notre Dame; 7, Northwestern; 8, Boise State; 9, Iowa; 10, 
Florida State; 11, Minnesota; 12, UNLV.

 

 Heisman Watch: 1, Chase Daniel, Missouri; 2, Sam Bradford, Oklahoma; 3, Max Hall, BYU.

 

 If you've got the time and the money go to The Huntley hotel in Santa Monica and take the elevator to The Penthouse. It's a Stars War bar scene of young hipsters trying to be crucially cool. The doors of the elevator opened and I immediately felt like a janitor. I can't believe places like this existed. It's a cliche of L.A. Not to drop names but someone said Jamie Foxx was there.
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