Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 3:32 pm

Les Miles does not answer The Question

ATLANTA -- Les Miles wouldn’t go there when The Question was asked.

It’s obvious that No. 1 LSU can afford to lose Saturday and still play for the national championship. That has led to the anti-climatic nature of the SEC title game here on Saturday. But LSU’s coach obviously didn’t want to consider the option of losing Friday when asked if a team that hasn’t won its conference should be allowed to play in the big game.

“I have a very strong opinion,” said Miles who then paused a few seconds. “It will be something I will share with you some other time in my life.”

Unspoken answer: You’re damn right we should be in the championship game. We’ve beaten seven ranked teams, three in the top three including Alabama.

The question was phrased another way during Friday’s pre-game press conferences: Should LSU be in the BCS title game win or lose?

“I have given little thought to that,” Miles said. “I do know that that is an issue out there for other folks. It’s not one for us. We’ve talked about it several times but not about the ‘What ifs.’ It’s about what we’ve accomplished at this point.”

Miles has an ally in Georgia coach Mark Richt. The Bulldogs were fourth going in the BCS going into the final weekend of the 2007 season behind Ohio State, West Virginia and Missouri. Missouri and West Virginia lost, leaving a bunch of two-loss teams (and one-loss Kansas which had completed its season) to compete for the other top-two spot.

LSU jumped Georgia that year, vaulting from No. 7 to No. 2 in the final BCS standings after winning the SEC title game over Tennessee. At that point Georgia was 10-2 having lost only to South Carolina and Tennessee. The Dawgs won their final seven regular-season games, finishing fifth in the BCS behind Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, LSU and Ohio State.

So much for a non-conference winner playing for it all. It has actually happened twice in BCS history -- Nebraska (2001) and Oklahoma (2003). Georgia did have a nice consolation prize that year, beating the snot out of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.

“The bottom line is when you play a game or have a season or have a system there’s certain rules that you abide by,” Richt said. “If the rules say you must be conference champion then that’s the way it is. If the rules don’t say that then I don’t you have to be the conference championship to play in that [BCS title] game.

“ … Why should somebody go stumping and try to convince everybody that should be part of the criteria when it’s not?”

When told he had tap-danced nicely around the issue Friday, Miles told, "Best I can do." 




Posted on: December 1, 2011 10:04 pm

A&M acts late on Sherman

Something happened with Mike Sherman.

A day ago he was talking about recruiting three stars and turning them into five stars. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why he was fired Thursday.

Targeting three stars is probably not the right philosophy going into the SEC.

Anyway, something happened to Sherman. Radically. A day ago it looked like the Aggies’ coach was safe. The athletic department owed a lot of money to a lot of people but … come to think to think of it, maybe that’s why he was fired Thursday.

Four years, .500 record. A&M had enough especially owing upwards of $50 million to various entities ($16 million loan to the university, $9 million to buyout Sherman, unknown exit fee to the Big 12).

Something happened to Mike Sherman and it likely has a brush mustache and is part of the Bowtie Revolution.

That would be president R. Bowen Loftin, the driving force behind the school’s move to the SEC. A little Bowen mind-reading here: Best to start with a clean slate with the competition about to be ratcheted up in the SEC.

Great idea except that Loftin is an academic making intrusions into a glorious, tradition-bound football program. That said, Sherman was a reach from the start. AD Bill Byrne handed a seven-year contract to the Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator. Who exactly was Byrne’s competition?

What he got in exchange was a 25-25 record and numerous blown second-half leads. The Aggies, in a word, were soft. At least this year. A 20-3 halftime lead at home melted away against Oklahoma State and its 107<sup>th</sup>-ranked pass defense. There was an 18-point halftime lead against Baylor that went pffft. The Aggies led mediocre Missouri 14-0 at home. And blew that one too.

Much more was expected out of a team that was 9-4 in 2010 and returned 18 starters. Someone at A&M likely looked around and saw Arizona hire Rich Rodriguez and Washington State Mike Leach and asked, “Just what the hell are we doing about anything?”

That someone was probably Loftin. He conspicuously changed his tune on Sherman following the Thanksgiving night loss to Texas.

Before: “As far as I'm concerned, yes," he said Tuesday. "We don't want to make any hasty moves, and we look forward to him being our football coach in the future."

After:  "We're thinking hard about [the season and the future]."

A president is allowed to change his mind, but this president has his nose poked so far into athletics that, well, you get it. A&M most likely will pursue Kevin Sumlin, one of its former assistants. Sumlin is right down the road in Houston about to take the Cougars to a BCS bowl.

But A&M might be late. There was a report Thursday that Arizona State had already offered Sumlin. I’ve got a better idea. There’s a young guy up the road coordinating a salty defense. Had a great year. Name’s Manny Diaz. Works for Texas.

But that would be deal breaker for Bowtie Guy who just let century-old ties with the Longhorns to head South. His program may already be headed there. 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 30, 2011 9:07 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 9:09 pm

Why UCLA is going bowling

UCLA’s waiver to go bowling at 6-7 hinged on three key issues according to an NCAA source.

The NCAA’s bowl licensing subcommittee made a bit of history when it granted the Bruins bowl eligibility even if it loses the Pac-12 championship game on Friday. They are currently 6-6.

UCLA will go bowling regardless according to an NCAA …

… because the Pac-12 championship was not a scheduled game. UCLA, then, is being viewed as a 6-6 team for bowl purposes. (Certainly not for bowl promoters’ purposes.)

…because the Pac-12 cannot fill all seven of its bowl slots.

More to the point, there are only 71 bowl-eligible teams at the moment. Denying UCLA would have put the college football right at the cut line – just enough teams to fill 35 bowls. That means that a non-regional team probably would have been shipped out West to fill the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

North Texas was allowed to play in a bowl after winning the Sun Belt at 5-6 in 2001. The Mean Green lost the New Orleans Bowl to Colorado State to finish 5-7. 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 30, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 8:36 pm

Door finally opens for The Pirate at Wazzu

Mike Leach and Washington State have a lot of people to thank.

Start with Ohio State. Jim Tressel, Gordon Gee and Gene Smith in particular. Throw in USC, Penn State and Syracuse. There’s probably a few others out there, at least accused of reprehensible behavior. In their own way, they all opened the door a little further for Leach to find work again.

After sitting out the two previous seasons, The Pirate verbally agreed to take the Washington State job per our Bruce Feldman.

How bad does it look now suing a former employer? Not even. A potential courtroom smackdown of Craig James would draw a standing-room crowd. But it’s no reason to shun an accomplished coach. Leach’s legal preferences have nothing to do with cheating to win a championship, taking extra benefits, lying or looking the other way while alleged victims suffered. In fact, Leach should be admired for sticking to his beliefs and doggedly pursuing those three lawsuits. They dragged on at the same time college athletics made most of the news -- dragging itself into a sewer.

Time and circumstances, it seems, can always turn a pariah into a savior. Especially one armed with equal parts charisma, quirkiness and offensive innovation.

We reached critical mass on Wednesday. Washington State’s desperation to win outstripped any off-field concerns there would be about Leach. His case against Texas Tech currently caught up in the Texas State Court of Appeals doesn’t seem like that big a deal at the moment. Not when Ohio State is throwing $4 million a year at Urban Meyer at the same time it is fighting the NCAA on two fronts. Not when USC is just entering the worst phase of its NCAA penalties. Not when Penn State may never be the same.

In this sometimes sordid world of college athletics, these types of lawsuits seem like paper swords. This pirate swings a much more substantial such weapon. Winning remains the currency of choice, which it should be in Pullman.

This is a program that was in the Rose Bowl as recently as 2003. It’s also a program that ran itself into the ground with a series of bad hires and bad decisions. Remember when Mike Price went to Alabama? Wazzu is a small-budget operation that exists on the edge Throw in a suddenly winnable Pac-12, stability and money – lots of money – and the choice was easy for Washington State AD Bill Moos.

Did I say small budget? That, it should be noted, is about to change. The Pac-12 is counting on what could be a $30 million per year payout per school in the near future. Armed with those kinds of Benjamins, Moos acted decisively. Kansas was the other main suitor. Jayhawks AD Sheahon Zenger has a long relationship with Leach. Kansas football is experiencing a similar football downturn. Someone needs to put a bottle of Heinz 57 on Zenger’s desk. Ketchup! He just got skunked.

Or maybe it’s just the college football landscape. Maybe Leach was balancing offers from both schools. Washington State: 9-40 over the last four years, but a member of what claims to be the richest conference in the country. Kansas: 5-19 in two years under Turner Gill in a league that is guaranteed (we think) to stay together only six more years.

A bad rich program is better than a bad unstable one.

Either way, we can only hope that Craig James never again has to do either of their games, right?




Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 28, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 3:30 pm

Coaches' realignment in Pac-12

At this rate, Washington State's head of football operations will be the dean of Pac-12 coaches.

Just kidding, a little.

Black Sunday turned into Black Monday when two more Pac-12 coaches were reportedly fired. UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel and Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson are done. That brings the total number of conference coaches to depart in the last year to five. (Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford)

This isn’t a changing of a guard, it’s a purge. It’s almost as if someone decided that with the conference about to launch it’s own network, it needed a new “look”.

Out: Erickson at Arizona State. In: Mike Bellotti?

Out: Dan Hawkins in 2010 at Colorado. In: Jon Embree

Out: Mike Stoops at Arizona. In: Rich Rodriguez.

Out: Jim Harbaugh, from Stanford to the 49ers. In: David Shaw.

Out: Neuheisel four days before the Pac-12 title game. In: ?

Next out: Paul Wulff at Washington State. Next in: Mike Leach?

Half the league has changed or is in the process of changing coaches, which led a lot of us to check our media guides. Who exactly IS the dean of Pac-12 coaches at this point? With apologies to the Wazzu ops guys, that would be Oregon State’s Mike Riley who just completed his 11<sup>th</sup> season in his second head coaching stop at the school. Cal’s Jeff Tedford is next at 10 years. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is third who just completed his seventh season. (But only his first in the conference.)

Neuheisel might be the first fired coach to participate in a conference championship game conference call. Give Slick Rick credit for manning up. His team is in the game only because USC is ineligible. The Bruins are prohibitive underdogs to Oregon a week after losing to the Trojans 50-0. Among the highlights from Monday:

On giving thought to even appearing on the conference call: “We all know what we’re getting into when we get into the profession … I’m just thankful for the opportunity to help bring it back to a place where I would be proud. [Positive things happened] they don’t always make it to the front pages of the newspaper. There was a lot of effort, good work done when I was here. It won’t be a bitter memory at all.”

On leaving: “Certainly when you’re the UCLA coach you’d like to play better against USC. When you lose in the fashion that we did, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.”

On the future:  “This has kind of hit me between the eyes a little bit. We’ll  make any decision about which course to take [in the future]. I love coaching, I know that. I’d have to take some time to figure all that out.  

On Friday’s championship game: “I hope like heck I’m not a distraction.”

This is a spectacular fall from grace for a favorite-son alum. At least another fall from grace. Don’t forget he left Washington after the NCAA tournament pool scandal that eventually led to him suing the NCAA – and winning.

Arizona State and UCLA are arguably the two best jobs in the league after USC. I’ve always wondered why 85 spectacularly talented kids wouldn’t want scholarships at Arizona State. The new coach will inherit a senior quarterback (Brock Osweiler), a good place to start in the Pac-12. Sun Devil Stadium is being remodeled.

UCLA should never be this far down. Big city. Access to big-time recruits. Rose Bowl. I’ve said it before but Neuheisel’s biggest mistake was that UCLA became boring. In L.A., the one thing you cannot be is boring. 

Posted on: November 28, 2011 8:48 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 6:06 pm

Urban Meyer will be the next coach at Ohio State

Urban Meyer will be Ohio State's next coach, has confirmed.

The 47-year-old Meyer comes to one of the most promiment football programs in the country with a proven track record. He has been successful at every level as a head coach -- Bowling Green, Utah and Florida where he won two national chamnpionships. The Ashtabula, Ohio native had been out of the game for a year after resigning at Florida on Dec. 8.

Meyer has agreed to a seven-year, $40 million deal according to at least two reports. The seven-year contract may have something to do with Meyer's ability to dig out from NCAA penalties which are expected to be handed down soon. 

The school has scheduled a 5:15 p.m ET press conference.

The  Columbus Dispatch reported that Ohio State AD Gene Smith was to meet with the current coaching staff Monday morning. 

The program is awaiting sentencing on two fronts. Ohio State has been charged with “failure to monitor” in the Bobby DiGeronimo booster case. The school thought it had wrapped up the situation involving Tattoogate and Jim Tressel during an infractions committee hearing in August.   

The school already has vacated all its wins from the 2010 season and will dock itself five scholarships over the next three years.  

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:39 pm

Power Poll Week 13: SEC can't be beat

Let’s see, what would it have to be?

Georgia by 30? Georgia by 40?

That’s the projected point spread that would keep LSU out of the BCS title game as the season draws to an anti-climactic close. LSU virtually clinched a spot in the BCS game last week. It really doesn’t matter if it beats Georgia on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game. Does it?

Actually, it does. The best possible result for everyone in the SEC is Georgia winning. That would all but assure the league an unprecedented three BCS teams. That wouldn’t impact an LSU-Alabama championship game rematch.

Unless Georgia wins by 30.

Or would it be 40?

This week's Power Poll ... 

1. LSU: Best. Team. Ever? Getting into discussion after beating seven ranked teams, three in top five.
2. Alabama: Second place in SEC West = Second in the country.
3. Oklahoma State: Big, big Georgia fans this week because OSU needs a big, big Bulldog margin of victory over LSU.
4. Stanford: This is the look of a hot BCS at-large: 11-1 with prospective Heisman winner.
5. Arkansas: Did Bobby Petrino have words for Les Miles? “Not many,” says LSU coach.
6. Virginia Tech: Yes, Virginia there is an ACC Championship Game. You’re just not playing in it.
7. Houston: Tulsa had its shot, and failed miserably.
8. Boise State: Chris Petersen signs two new recruits – Slim and None – in hopes of getting to BCS.
9. USC: Neuheisel: UCLA has “closed the gap.” Actually, soon to be working at The Gap.
10. Oregon: The ice on LaMichael James’ elbow looked troubling.
11.Oklahoma: Life in the Big 12: A week after giving up 600 yards to Baylor, Sooners smother Iowa State.
12. Michigan State: Classy: Dantonio didn’t rest players against Northwestern prepping for Big Ten title game. Spartans won 10 for the fourth time in history.
13. Wisconsin: Montee Ball within shouting distance of Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing touchdowns record.
14.Georgia: Richt couldn’t be blamed for going to middle of Georgia Dome and lobbing middle finger to his own fans Saturday.
15. Michigan: Exactly 366 days since Ohio State has beaten Michigan.
16. South Carolina: One of Spurrier’s masterful coaching jobs this season and against Clemson.
17. Kansas State: National coach of the year award awaiting Bill Snyder’s acceptance.
18. Baylor: Texas Tech pays for two cheap shots on RGIII. Rout 66 by Briles vs. Red Raiders.
19. TCU: Getting ready to face UNLV team that just beat North Carolina. Wait, that was basketball.
20. Nebraska: Say Rex Burkhead 38 times. Bo Pelini did. It resulted in 160 yards vs. Iowa.
21. Florida State: Jimbo Fischer has swept Miami and Florida in each of first two seasons.
22. West Virginia: Baby steps for Big East. First produce a ranked champion.
23. Southern Miss: If it isn’t already, Larry Fedora’s phone should be ringing off the hook.
24. Clemson: November goes out like a lamb for Tigers, who lost three of last four.
25. Penn State: Bowl poison?


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 27, 2011 11:38 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:16 pm

The farce that has become the Pac-12 title game

Look what the NCAA has done. Look what the Pac-12 done. Look what Rick Neuheisel has done.

Actually, UCLA’s coach-for-now might be the least culpable in the farce that has turned into the first Pac-12 championship game.  Start with the fact that there is every reason to believe the best team might not be playing in it. And that one of the league’s worst is playing in it.

USC has the same record as and has beaten North Division champion Oregon (both 10-2). The Ducks will be the prohibitive favorite in the conference’s first championship game that looks more like a September conference opener. It’s hard to argue against the Trojans playing the best Pac-12 football at the moment. Actually, some of the best football in the country.

The Trojans all but shouted that from the top of the Coliseum Saturday night routing UCLA, 50-0. That would be the UCLA that is the South Division “champion” facing Oregon Friday in Eugene. There may not be a worse league title game in history. And, yes, I’m counting the MAC and Conference USA.

At least teams from those conferences had earned their way to their championship games. UCLA is the back-up date to the prom after the head cheerleader said no. Take away the divisions and UCLA finished in a tie for fourth. But in this age of divisional formats, paper heroes can be created. UCLA was that Back-Up Plan because, well, you might have read somewhere that USC is ineligible for postseason play. The Trojans, Pac-12 and NCAA went into this season knowing that was the case.

What they didn’t know is that the second-place team in the South would be 6-6 UCLA, coming off a skunking by the Trojans. What they didn’t know is that UCLA would “clinch” the South when Colorado, a team that had lost 23 straight road games, would win at Utah.

They couldn’t have conceived that only that championship game is keeping Neuheisel from being fired right now. Should be quite a celebration in Eugene, and a funeral dirge in Westwood once the plane lands. Among other sins, UCLA’s coach actually had the temerity to suggest that UCLA had “closed the gap” on USC in the last four years. Bad move, Slick Rick. That probably explains why Matt Barkley was still in the game in the fourth quarter chucking his sixth touchdown pass.

USC got hammered with the one of the worst penalties in NCAA history. In terms of closing that gap, UCLA couldn’t even kick down a door that was left wide open.

Neuheisel being fired after Friday’s Eugene beating is a given. AD Dan Guerrero can’t tap dance fast enough around the issue. If the Bruins somehow won and got to – wait for it – another home game in the Rose Bowl, that would only heighten the urgency. The Bruins would be playing in the Rose Bowl but they’re not nearly a Rose Bowl team

Call it one of the unintended consequences of a postseason ban. Surely, the NCAA infractions committee couldn’t have conceived of these circumstances when it banned USC: A team ineligible for a bowl would be replaced by a team about to be ineligible for a bowl.

An explanation: A UCLA loss would drop the Bruins to 6-7, making the Pac-12 South Division “champions” (love using those quotes) ineligible for a bowl. The Bruins could then could seek a bowl waiver from the NCAA if the Pac-12 can’t fill its seven bowl slots.

Great. Nothing says “bowl experience” than a team with a losing record. Though, using that logic, if Ohio State is going to be allowed in the Sugar Bowl because of some unknown rule, UCLA at least has played by the rules to get to 6-7. Those rules being set by the NCAA when it banned USC.

You’re way ahead of me if you’re thinking that Alabama can play for a national championship without winning its division, but UCLA can’t play in a bowl after “winning” its division. (Check the standings. USC is two games better than UCLA.)



Category: NCAAF
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