Posted on: July 29, 2010 11:16 pm

Five things about the Pac-10

The latest from my preseason media day tour...

USC’s long road back. How long will it take? How painful will it be? USC is just beginning what promises to be one of the darkest periods in its history. It might get through the crippling NCAA penalties in as few as five years. We’re talking 2015 being the first year to be able to have enough talent to compete for a Pac-10 title again. But it won’t be easy. Oklahoma suffered similar penalties and was dead for 10 years. It took Alabama eight years to win a national championship after similar penalties in 2002. Watching Lane and the boys negotiate the loss of 30 scholarships and two postseasons will be the key thing. I’m sure Kiffin has a plan – he always does – but the program has to bottom out first. The embarrassment isn’t over in regards to Bush’s Heisman and the 2004 title. Both might still be taken away. After that, the 2010 Trojans could win the league have to watch the Rose Bowl on TV. It was one of the best dynasties in the history of college football and now it’s gone. For how long, we don’t know.

The winner. Oregon might have been the favorite to defend its title until Jeremiah Masoli got stupid. USC might have been the favorite until Reggie Bush was stupid. What about Arizona, a program that has never been to the Rose Bowl? It has five of the nine conference games at home, including USC, Washington and Cal. Mike Stoops has to break through at some point. After consecutive eight-win seasons, it might be time for the Wildcats to break through.

East Coast bias. Don’t blame the media this time. There was an East Coast bias on the part of the players. This is back to being the year of the quarterback in the league. The Pac-10 took its top four quarterbacks to New York for an unprecedented media day on the East Coast – Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, Matt Barkley and Nic Foles. However, only Barkley and Foles made it to L.A. for the traditional Pac-10 media day. I don’t want to hear any griping from Stanford and Washington about national honors for their quarterbacks at the end of the season. Guys, you’ve got to take care of your local media first.

Divisional alignment. It seems to be a conversation piece around here as the league decides how to divide into two six-team divisions in 2011. There is the “zipper” alignment. Example: travel partners Oregon-Oregon State, Cal-Stanford ,USC-UCLA, Arizona-Arizona State and Washington-Washington State are split into separate divisions. There is my North-South alignment: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford vs. Colorado, Utah, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State. Whatever the plan, everyone wants to play in L.A. because of recruiting. And with USC on probation, there are going to be plenty of players available in Southern California.

Hot seat. Paul Wulff at Washington State and Dennis Erickson at Arizona State. It's almost a hopeless case at Wazoo. Erickson has to win seven just to go to a bowl. ASU is playing two I-AAs. The wolves will be out if there is not significant improvement at each school.

Posted on: July 7, 2010 4:50 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2010 5:51 pm

Preseason mags' top 25

We love the polls. College football polls to be specific. Preseason college football polls to be exact.

There is the annual cry to get rid of them. Hogwash. First, the Associated Press isn't going to disappoint its subscribers by scrapping one of its most popular offerings of the year. Second, there would be no preseason magazines without preseason top 25s.

And last time I checked, the magazines aren't going away either. We need them. We want them. The likes of Athlon and Lindy's are selling better than ever. There are regional editions. Sure, some of them outdated by the time they hit the stands. (USC No. 3, Athlon? Really?) That's OK. The sport is year-round now. It's not going to stop for a printing press.

The mags' arrival officially stirs the juices. Suddenly, it's OK to break down the Sun Belt, predict the WAC. Argue about the SEC East. That's why this blog is devoted to one of my annual obsessions -- a combined poll from all the preseason magazines.

I combined five polls, from The Sporting News, Phil Steele, Lindy's, Athlon. Yahoo Sports and CBSSports.com. Our official preseason poll won't come out until late August. For this purpose, then, I'm using my post-spring top 25.

A few notes, rules and notifications:

*Each school was assigned a number in descending order. Twenty-five points for a No. 1 ranking, 24 for No. 2, etc.

*Schools are then ranked from highest-point total to lowest.

*I also included an average poll rank, mostly because not all the schools were named in all five polls. Example: Oregon State finished No. 25 because it got 11 points from being ranked No. 15 in The Sporting News.  The likes of Cincinnati (eight points) and Utah (five) were ranked in two polls but finished with fewer total points than Oregon State.

*Thirty seven schools received votes.

*Alabama was not a consensus No. 1. Phil Steele made some waves by picking Oklahoma No. 1.

The annual compilation:

1. Alabama: Duh. Haven't lost an SEC regular-season game since 2007. Highest rank, No. 1. Lowest, No. 3 (148 points, Avg. rank between No. 1 and No. 2)

2. Ohio State: The Big Ten is back. Ohio State never left. Highest rank, No. 2. Lowest rank, No. 3. (142 points. Avg. rank between No. 2 and No. 3)

3. Boise State: Should be a consensus top five pick with major polls debut next month. Highest rank, No. 2. Lowest rank, No. No. 6. (136 points. Average rank between No. 3 and No. 4)

4. Florida: Fastest team in the country, again. Highest rank, No. 4. Lowest rank, No. 7. (123 points. Avg. rank between No. 5 and No. 6)

5. TCU: Nation's best defense the past two seasons. Highest rank, No. 4. Lowest rank, No. 11. (113 points. Avg. rank between No. 7 and No. 8)

6. Nebraska: Fitting that these two are tied. They hate each other. Highest rank, No. 5. Lowest rank, No. 11 (112 points. Average rank between No. 7 and No. 8)

7. Oregon: Most talent in the Pac-10. Highest rank, No. 6. Lowest rank, No. 15 (111 points. Avg. rank between No. 7 and No. 8)

8. Texas: Adding physicality to offense. Highest rank, No. 4. Lowest rank, No. No. 11 (110 points. Avg. rank between No. 7 and No. 8)

9. Oklahoma: Rebuilding into Big 12 and national power again. Highest rank, No. 1. Lowest rank, No. 12. (106 points. Avg. rank between No. 8 and No. 9)

10. Virginia Tech: Class of the ACC until further notice. Highest rank, No. 8. Lowest rank, No. 13. (94 points. Avg. rank between No. 10 and No. 11)

11. (tie) USC: Two-year bowl ban begins. Does the dynasty continue? Highest rank, No. 3. Lowest rank, No. 16. (90 points. Avg. rank No. 11)

Iowa: Sexy dark horse pick in the Big Ten. Highest rank, No. 8. Lowest rank, No. 14. (90 points. Avg. rank No. 11)

13. Wisconsin: Fresh from pounding Miami. Factor in Big Ten. Highest rank, No. 6. Lowest rank, No. 23. (82 points. Avg. rank between No. 12 and No. 13)

14. Miami: Starting to look like Canes of old. Highest rank, No. 4. Lowest rank, No. 14. (79 points. Avg. rank between No. 12 and No. 13)

15. Florida State: New coach, healthy quarterback. Great prospects. Highest rank, No. 14. Lowest rank, No. 20. (60 points, Avg. rank No. 16)

16. Arkansas: Petrino starting to work his magic with Ryan Mallett. Highest rank, No. 16. Lowest rank, No. 21. (50 points, Avg. rank between No. 17 and No. 18)

17. North Carolina: Nation's best defense? Highest rank, No. 12. Lowest rank, No. 24. (48 points. Avg. rank No. 18)

18. Pittsburgh: Coming first 10 win season since 1981. Highest rank, No. 14. Not ranked by Steele. (45 points. Avg. rank No. 17)

19. LSU: Les Miles on the hot seat? Highest rank, No. 18. Not ranked by Steele. (35 points. Avg. rank No. 19)

20. Georgia Tech:
Defending ACC champs seem to have gotten better. Highest rank, No. 13. Not ranked by Steele, Yahoo and Athlon. (30 points. Avg. rank No. 16)

21. Auburn: Chizik not ready to cede state to Alabama. Highest rank, No. 15. Not ranked by Lindy's and Yahoo. (29 points. Avg. rank between No. 18 and No. 19)

22. Penn State: JoePa going for No. 400. Highest rank, No. 18. Not ranked by Sporting News. (27 points. Avg. rank No.  20 and No. 21)

23. Georgia: New AD could be the least of Dawgs' problems. Highest rank, No. 15. Not ranked by CBSSports.com and Sporting News. (24 points. Avg. rank No. 20)

24. West Virginia: Noel Devine could carry 'Neers to a BCS bowl. Highest rank, No. 19. Not ranked by Athlon and Yahoo. (16 points. Avg. rank No. 22)

25. Oregon State: Mike Riley always has Beavers in contention. Highest rank, No. 15. Not ranked by CBSSports.com, Steele, Lindy's and Athlon. (15 points. Avg. rank between No. 18 and No. 19)

Other teams receiving votes: Notre Dame, Connecticut, Missouri, South Carolina, Cincinnati, Utah, Houston, Clemson, Arizona, Stanford, Washington, Navy.

Notes: To no one's surprise the SEC led all conferences with six teams in the top 25 (Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Georgia) ... To everyone's surprise, the ACC was second with five teams (Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech) ... The Big 12 had three of the top 10 (Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska) ... The ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 each had three teams in the top 15 ... Every national champion since 1999 is represented in the top 25 ... Six states had multiple teams in the poll. Florida led all states with three (Miami, Florida, Florida State).


Posted on: April 20, 2010 4:47 pm

Pac-10 schedule breakdown

The best thing about the Pac-10 is that it plays a true round-robin with only three, usually strong, non-conference games.

The worst thing about the Pac-10 is that is plays a true round-robin with only three, usually strong, non-conference games.

Ask the coaches.

While the Pac-10 produces a "true" champion, there are plenty of reasons to question the scheduling philosophy. The unbalanced schedule means nine conference games. Half of the league is playing four conference home games and five away games. That puts more pressure on getting just the right mix of three non-conference games. Six Pac-10 teams will be playing I-AA teams this season. Arizona State is playing two. USC gets a 13th game this season by playing in Hawaii and is still playing seven road games.

That means there are plenty of land mines out there for the contenders and a chance for the Pac-10 to drop off the national title radar this season. Even with the loss of Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon will be favored. The Ducks, though, still have to travel to USC and Oregon State as well as Tennessee in the non-conference.

If the Pac-10 expands -- a decision is coming soon -- it probably will have to abandon the round-robin scheduling format.  It might not be such a bad thing to add a winnable non-conference game and drop a conference game that could ruin your season.

Game of the year:  (non-conference) Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 27. There are other tasty games (UCLA at Texas, Oregon State at Boise, Oregon State vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas), but it's never bad to go with tradition.

Neither the Irish nor the Trojans will likely be favored to win any championships this season. That's hardly the point. There's a new coach on each side in this game for the first time since 1941 (Sam Barry and Frank Leahy). USC's current winning streak over Notre Dame (eight) is a game more than Lane Kiffin has won (seven as a college coach).  Brian Kelly tries to  bring the zone read option to a program that is searching for an identity.

Heismans are won and souls are crushed in this game. You have to watch.


Game of the year: (conference)  Oregon at Oregon State, Dec. 4. The Civil War reached new heights last season when the Ducks were featured on a Thursday night in their road to the Rose Bowl. It's hard to describe the intensity in this game but when it makes an impression on the Big Ten commissioner who know it's special.

"The games that were regional became national," said Delany speaking about the BCS has been able to highlight certain games. "Once they got me to watch Oregon-Oregon State, they got me to watch other games."

Team on the spot:  Arizona State. Three years ago the Sun Devils actually won a share of the Pac-10. Since then, they are 9-15. Only six of those victories have come against BCS conference schools. Dennis Erickson's star has faded fast. No one is expecting the Sun Devils to do much this season. With two I-AAs on the schedule (Portland State and Northern Arizona), a bowl is a must isn't it?

Toughest non-conference schedule:
UCLA. It's all about momentum. In his third season, Rick Neuheisel has to have it. By the first week of October he could lose it.

An 0-4 start is a definite possibility. There are no breathers in the non-non which is broken up by an early conference opener in the second week against Stanford at the Rose Bowl.

I dare any team to try this September schedule in consecutive weeks:

Sept. 4 -- at Kansas State. The improving Wildcats came within a game of winning the Big 12 North last season. Under Bill Snyder at this point they are capable of beating anyone outside the top 10. UCLA needs to mature in a hurry on offense. If it doesn't in this game, it could be another lost season.

Sept. 11 -- Stanford.  This was supposed to be an off field before it got switched for television. (Stanford was originally scheduled for Oct. 16) At least the Bruins get the Cardinal at home before (perhaps) the Pac-10's best quarterback, Andrew Luck, can get on a roll.

Sept. 18 -- Houston. This is the real WTF? Houston beat Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Mississippi State on its way to a 10-win season last year. Case Keenum sure as heck isn't going to be intimidated by the Rose Bowl. This is a pick-'em at best, a Houston victory if Keenum heats up. This is the beginning of a two for one and gives the Bruins some face time in Texas, but wedged in where it is ... tough, tough, tough.

Sept. 25 -- at Texas. More face time in Texas but this is not the game you need at this time. Mack Brown has promised that the offense will become more physical this season. The Bruins better muscle up on D coming off meetings with Luck and Keenum.

Easiest non-conference schedule: Arizona State. As mentioned, Portland State and Northern Arizona kick off the season. That means the Sun Devils will have to win seven this season to go to a bowl game. It can count only one I-AA against bowl eligibility.

Reality sets in the next week at Wisconsin.




Posted on: March 29, 2010 11:50 am

Report: Oregon ready to throw a bundle at Izzo

A television report out of Oregon says that the Ducks are preparing to make Tom Izzo the highest-paid coach in college basketball.

If nothing else, Oregon is sending a message that it is willing to pay top dollar. Obviously, Phil Knight and his millions are invovled. It's unlikely that Izzo will go because he hasn't yet. That's one of his strong points over the years. There has long been speculation that East Lansing couldn't hold him, but Izzo has stayed loyal. He's the anti-Calipari, if you will. That's why, in the words of a sign held up Sunday in St. Louis, "Izzo is the Shizzo".

The basketball hire is the next step in Oregon establishing national programs in both major sports. Mike Bellotti got football there. Chip Kelly, even with the recent suspensions, looks like he is ready to carry it to the next level. Whoever walks into the basketball situation will have some work to do but lack of financing and support won't be excuses.

Remember, I said "national programs", not "national powers." Football is close but needs to compete for, and win, more BCS bowls. Basketball awaits its future. Hmm, wonder what kind of shoes they'll wear?

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 19, 2010 1:48 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2010 4:27 pm

Bellotti misses coaching, hates being an AD

Just what the world needs, another talking head.

Just what Mike Bellotti needs, time to sort out his career.

It's certain that ESPN isn't hiring Bellotti to spin stories about his 8 1/2 months on the job as Oregon's athletic director. When the Ducks' coaching legend abruptly resigned Friday to take an analyst's job with ESPN, he descended into a sort of purgatory.

He hates being an AD, but there aren't any coaching jobs available, at least for 2010. He probably isn't sure he even wants a coaching job. But the possibility is out there and will remain out there.  Meanwhile, he gets to keep Lou Holtz and Lee Corso in line.

And he thought the Jeremiah Masoli situation was a nightmare?

It's been done before and it's been done often. Former coach goes to the TV to talk some ball while simultaneously marketing himself to some interested AD. That's not to say Bellotti will ever coach again but does anyone doubt that he misses it? The man himself still talks fondly about missing Friday nights and Saturday game days with the team. What he didn't particularly care for was the recruiting. But do any of them? It's a drug, like sports writing, that gets in your DNA and doesn't let go.

It impacts your family, it impacts your health. Coaches and hacks share the same job view: No matter detrimental it is, you keep realizing you can't live without it.

There was something that seemed too soon about Bellotti stepping down as coach last year when Chip Kelly took over. The vibe I got was that he had more to give.  Then and now. The AD thing sure didn't satisfy his career goals. His brief tenure has been, well, a mess .  Bellotti had to deal with the football program's off-field problems as well as fire coach Ernie Kent.

He was probably thinking, "Who needs the aggravation?"

As a coach, he was a mini-Paterno or Bowden, a guy whose touch had made the school a national brand. All Bellotti had to do was blow a whistle, recruit and take Phil Knight's calls. Oregon football was on cruise football. It seems to me Bellotti is jonesing for that good life again, at least a different life.

 Maybe he will re-invent himself as a TV guy.  ESPN certainly could use some youth in its college football coverage. Lee and Lou not only are flat-out old, their shtick has worn thin.

Maybe in Bellotti's mind he checked out too soon. This move keeps him close to the game while figuring out what to do with the rest of his life.

As I said, none of this means Bellotti will actually get back into coaching. There aren't any jobs available. In a year there might not be any jobs that fit him.  Example: You're not going to see Bellotti taking the Utah State job. 

It does give him time to think, to plan, to re-emerge. I do know that a lot of schools would hire him in a heartbeat. When he was coaching, his name would come up all the time, most famously at USC before it hired Pete Carroll and Ohio State before it hired Jim Tressel.

No matter what happened Friday, we still don't know for sure if Mike Bellotti is resigning from college athletics. We do know he's transitioning. To what, we're not quite sure but it's clear he still prefers calling plays more than shuffling paper.



Category: NCAAF
Posted on: March 12, 2010 8:09 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2010 8:22 pm

Oregon's season at stake

In what might be the most stunning news of the offseason, Oregon's Chip Kelly took a bold step Friday suspending quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli pleaded guilty to a felony, second-degree burglary, but authorities knocked it down to a misdemeanor. According to reports, Masoli probably won't have to serve any jail time. It look from this distance (I'm courtside at the Big 12 Tournament) that Masoli didn't get suspended so much for the crime but for lying to Kelly.

Given the climate at Oregon with all the arrests, this was a deal breaker. According to the Eugene Register-Guard, Masoli had previously told Kelly that he did nothing wrong.

Tailback LaMichael James will be suspended for a game after the altercation with his girlfriend.

Oregon was going to be a preseason top 10 team. Don't know where to put them right now.

I know this, it just became a lot easier for some team other than Oregon to win the Pac-10.

Here's a statement from Oregon president Richard Lariviere that just moved to my e-mail:

"The University of Oregon expects all of its students to be responsible, law-abiding members of our community. Recently, several UO student-athletes admitted that they failed to meet these basic expectations and, as a result, they will face consequences.

I have discussed with Coach Kelly the serious nature of the criminal situations for these young men. I am confident that Coach Kelly has carefully and fairly considered the disciplinary actions he is imposing. I know that he understands the high expectations of Oregon's faculty, students and fans."

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Oregon
Posted on: February 24, 2010 3:16 pm

Chip Kelly in radio fight with Portland host

This is what good radio is about.

Portland (Ore.) Oregonian colmnist John Canzano asked all the right questions and Oregon coach Chip Kelly engages him for about 20 minutes. This is classic stuff. Canzano takes Kelly to task for perceived uneven discipline by Kelly.

In case you've been asleep, Oregon is awash in off-field problems. Call it Florida Jr. for the moment. The difference is, I don't know if you'd hear Urban Meyer go on the radio for 20 minutes to talk about his teams' discipline problems.


Category: NCAAF
Tags: Oregon
Posted on: February 21, 2010 11:55 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2010 10:51 am

Jamere Holland's facebook page

Oregon's Jamere Holland was kicked off the team for what it appears to be some disparaging remarks on his Facebook page.

You can pretty much figure out what he did by reading his page, here.

Holland makes it at least four Ducks who have been in trouble this offseason.  

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Oregon
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