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Tag:Auburn
Posted on: September 30, 2009 11:14 am
Edited on: September 30, 2009 8:10 pm
 

National notes 1/4 of the way through the season

The best of September

Who would have thought by the end of the month …: USC would lose to Washington a week after a heart-stopping, game-winning drive at Ohio State? [Ok, maybe by now there are a few of you.] … Unranked the preseason, the Big East would have two marquee teams – Cincinnati and South Florida … Houston would have the best Big 12 record [2-0 after beating Oklahoma State and Texas Tech] … Two Heisman winners would be knocked out of games … NC State’s Russell Wilson would have a career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 29-1 … Auburn’s Chris Todd would lead the SEC in touchdown passes [11] … Not that the SEC would have three teams in the top 10 in total defense but the Pac-10 would have two … The only three teams yet to allow a touchdown pass would be winless Eastern Michigan, undefeated South Florida and USC [3-1].

Coach of the month: Oregon’s Chip Kelly. On the night of September 3, his world was falling apart. LeGarrette Blount threw a punch and almost started a riot after Oregon looked punchless losing its season opener to Boise State.

Almost four weeks later, the Ducks might be the team to beat in the Pac-10. They have won three in a row, two over ranked teams and have a new lean-on tailback in redshirt freshman LaMichael James.

Team of the month: Miami. Playing September schedule in the country, the Hurricanes beat two ranked teams [Florida State, Georgia Tech] and showed signs of being its old self. Losing to Oklahoma this week wouldn’t be a disgrace. Coming out its death march 2-2 could be a jumping off point for an ACC title.

Also considered: Texas A&M, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Florida, Stanford, UCLA, Idaho.

Player of the month: [tie] You’re gagging on this by now but Florida would not not undefeated with Tim Tebow. His 24 rushes for 76 yards against Tennessee on Sept. 19 were the difference.

LSU safety Chad Jones is this season’s Charles Woodson. Against Mississippi State on Saturday, he single-handedly stopped Tyson Lee on back-to-back plays inches from the goal line. He also provided the eventual game-winning 93-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Worst conference: Based on previous accomplishments, it’s the MAC. The nation’s largest conference [13 teams] has only one team with a winning record coming out of September. [Central Michigan, 3-1]. The league is 13-29 in the non-conference, 7-27 against I-A competition and 3-19 against BCS conferences.

Best conference: SEC by a hair. The Big 12 has six ranked teams vs. the SEC’s four. But the SEC is 23-2 in the non-conference, a national best 6-2 against BCS conferences.

If you think the SEC has padded its schedule with I-AA teams, actually only the Sun Belt and Pac-10 have played fewer games against “inferior” competition. The SEC is 5-0 against I-AAs. The Big 12 is 9-0. Almost a third of its non-cons have come against I-AAs.

Best trend: Smaller offensive linemen. Boise has been doing it for a while but the Broncos are soaring toward a BCS berth with a line that averages 285 pounds. Remember those hog mollies at Michigan? They weigh in at a svelte average of 295 under Rich Rod who likes ‘em lighter and lively.

Worst trend: This month it had to be the coaches’ poll. It went into the season not exactly on the same page with the BCS commissioners. As long as the coaches are going to go completely  underground [hiding all their ballots] beginning in 2010, the possibility exists that the poll will be jettisoned from the BCS process next year.

As for now …

Steve Spurrier gave us a glimpse of his voting habits in July when he admitted that his football ops guy had filled out his preason all-SEC ballot. That caused a huge stir when Spurrier/ops guy didn’t make Tebow a unanimous choice. Spurrier/ops guy picked Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead but was allowed to change to Tebow after it became an issue.

Following convincing wins by No. 3 Alabama and No. 2 Texas on Sept. 19, Florida got all the first-place votes [55] for the first time this season after struggling to beat unranked Tennessee.

Then, there was this week. What a mess. 

No. 12 Oklahoma State is ranked three spots ahead of Houston, which beat the Cowboys by 10.

Cal, which just lost to Oregon by 39, is ranked seven spots ahead of the Ducks.

Penn State had beaten doggies Syracuse, Akron and Temple. After losing at home to Iowa it is No. 13, four spots ahead of the unbeaten Hawkeyes.

Keep it coming, fellas, can’t wait to see how this effects the BCS standings.

Team schizo: Florida State. Do you have to have it explained?

Say goodbye to:  BYU [in the BCS], Al Groh, Ralph Friedgen, Steve Kragthorpe.

Posted on: September 27, 2009 7:06 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2009 7:07 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

That was a heck of a Heisman race wasn’t it?

Sam Bradford trying to go back-to-back. Tim Tebow trying to win his second stiff-arm. Now what? The only thing that links them at the moment is the memory of splitting headaches. The Heisman race is not over with damage suffered by both superstars, the race will have concussions as a subtext.

Bradford suffered his a couple of years ago against Texas Tech. It was more than painful. The subsequent loss to the Red Raiders knocked OU out of the national championship race.

Florida was able to survive Saturday against Kentucky, 41-7, but it lost its leader and most inspirational player to a concussion.

These things never go away meaning that once you suffer a concussion you are incrementally more likely to get another, and another, and another. Ask Troy Aikman who had to retire because of them.

Superman finally showed he is vulnerable. We never thought we’d see it. The thing is, the college football season is still linked to Bradford and Tebow. If Tebow hurts his head again, it’s curtains for the Gators. Their offense already is reduced with the loss of Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin. Oklahoma may get Bradford back this week from his separated shoulder.

Only Texas’ Colt McCoy remains fully healthy from the preseason Three Amigos storyline. Bradford hopes to return against Miami, which would be a good sign. He absolutely has to be ready by Oct. 17. Despite the loss to BYU, everything is still on the line with the Texas game looming that day.

Tebow spent part of the night throwing up into a trash bag. His, and the Gators’ future, a bit cloudier.

 Kentucky’s Rich Brooks on Taylor Wyndham, the kid who hit Tebow:

“I just told him that these things happen in football and you can’t feel responsible. What you did is make a clean football play. I don’t feel any better about it myself.”

Brooks knows a little bit about concussions and quarterbacks. In 1995 he was head coach of the St. Louis Rams. The team got off to a hot start but quarterback Chris Miller suffered a concussion. The Rams finished 7-9.

“That,” Brooks said, “was the beginning of the end.”

Dick Vermeil took over in 1997.

 Chip Kelly clinched the coach of the year award – for September.

OK, that doesn’t quite make sense but remember where Oregon was at the beginning of this month? LeGarrette Blount was punching out the opposition and teammates. The public and media were screaming for his head.

They got it, but which way were the Ducks headed? Up, it turns out. In Saturday’s 42-3 victory over pretender Cal, Oregon set itself up as the next-best team in the Pac-10. A challenger, maybe, to USC’s death grip on the conference.

But back to Kelly. He somehow held the team together after it lost its best running back, then pointed the Ducks back on the field. They followed the Boise State – which doesn’t look that bad by the way – with wins over Purdue, Utah and Cal. The last two teams were ranked.

The Ducks now have a personality – and it’s a good one. Nick Aliotti’s defense held Heisman pretender/contender Jahvid Best to 55 yards on 16 carries. Jeremiah Masoli, slammed by fans recently, completed 21 of 25. Blount even contributed playing Best last week on the scout team.

For once Oregon’s throwback jerseys didn’t make you throw up. They were kind of cool. So is Kelly who has Oregon in the thick of the conference race four games into his head coaching career. The intense little coach is a mix of schemes and desire.

Asked before the game how his team could possibly knock off powerful Cal, he responded:

"They've got to knock us off.”

 It’s 1967 and counting for Indiana. A soul-crushing 36-33 loss to Michigan means the Hoosiers haven’t won in The Big House since Sgt. Peppers.

• What are we to make of Ralph Friedgen? His time at Maryland is coming to an agonizing end. The thing is, coach-in-waiting James Franklin doesn’t exactly look like the answer. Fear the Future. Rutgers stomped the Terps 34-13. Maryland now has more turnovers [13] than touchdowns [11] this season.

 Fire up fireronzook.com. Ohio State destroyed Illinois 30-0 in a rematch of the Illini’s epic 2007 upset at The Shoe. This one was epic only in the way Illinois has slumped since then. The Buckeyes churned to a 13-0 halftime lead Saturday without completing a pass.

Preseason All-American receiver Arrelious Benn of Illinois has one receiving touchdown in his last 11 games, none this season.
 
“It’s like a nightmare,” Illini quarterback Juice Williams said, “a nightmare from which you can’t ever wake up.”

 Auburn quarterbacks combined for 1,985 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Through four games this season, Chris Todd alone has 1,012 yards passing and 11 touchdowns.

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

1. Chad Jones, LSU: I told you Saturday it’s time they establish a new award in this kid’s name [The Chad]. All the Tigers safety did was stop Mississippi State twice from the one-inch line with the game on the line. Oh, and did I mention the College World Series star also scored the eventual game-winning touchdown on a 93-yard punt return?

2. Tim Tebow, Florida: Superman finally blinked. After almost four years of pounding, it seems that Tebow’s body wore down just a little bit with what seems to be a concussion. Still, he piled up more than 220 yards in total offense in less than three quarters.

3. Colt McCoy, Texas: It was only Texas-El Paso, but McCoy stayed red hot throwing for three touchdowns.

4. Tony Pike, Cincinnati: The shining reason why the Big East matters this year. Cincinnati is unbeaten because Pike has developed into a top flight quarterback.

5. Case Keenum, Houston: 38 of 58 and the game-winning touchdown [rushing] vs. Texas Tech. What can’t this kid do?

 

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

Breaking down the polls and Heisman race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Posted on: August 28, 2009 12:17 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2009 8:17 am
 

Seven more "things" to consider this season

You've read "25 Things". Here are seven more also getting votes ...


Terry Bowden

Eleven years out of the game and unable to find a suitable job in I-A, Bobby’s boy settled in at Division II North Alabama.

It seems that the celebrated former Auburn coach (.675 winning percentage) isn’t planning on retiring in Florence. He has brought in 24 I-A transfers, seven from his dad’s program alone. Not that the Lions were about to fall off the edge of the earth. They reached the I-AA semifinals last season and have won at least 10 in the last four years.

The idea is to win fast, win a lot and maybe grab a I-A job. Among the notable transfers are former North Carolina State and Nebraska quarterback Harrison Beck and FSU receiver Preston Parker.

Parker was kicked off Florida State in February after his third arrest since 2006. But he can play. Parker caught 104 passes in three seasons with the Noles. 



Mike Gundy is a man, he’s 42 but he’s no less paranoid

It hasn’t made much national news, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is up to his old media-baiting self.

Gundy recently cut off the team from media (practice, interviews, everything) saying the team needs to focus for its Sept. 5 opener against Georgia. That’s bad enough, but he hasn’t restricted all media. A couple of Cowboy-friendly types have been allowed in. Not surprisingly they are a guy who works on the Cowboys recruiting site and the radio color man.

So maybe “media” is too definitive a word in that case.

What grinds the legit media is that Gundy is a 27-23 coach bankrolled by a billionaire booster at a state institution. Where's the accountability? We don’t know if Gundy is beating players, denying them water breaks, hell, holding illegal tryouts.

Not saying it’s happening but with the doors closed, can’t say it’s not happening. It’s not just me talking. Read this excellent piece by the Tulsa World’s Bill Haisten. Pay particular attention to the lead.

I remember catching up to Gundy 3 ½ years ago the day it was announced that Pickens had donated $165 million to Oklahoma State.  Coaches were kidding him at the American Football Coaches Association annual convention about getting a loan. Gundy was almost oblivious. Pressure? What pressure?

Pickens is now 81 and is perhaps wondering what happened to all that money. Where has Gundy’s three-year old rant and this stunt gotten him? Nothing tangible. He is a YouTube celebrity. Recruiting hasn’t been hurt. It’s like an old hat in the closet. You pull it out years later and remark, “Man, did that look silly.”

Now the Cowboys are no longer a curiosity. Oklahoma State has a top 10 ranking. It’s about time Gundy started winning big. Unfortunately, that ranking and a quarter will get you a bag of chips.

The problem for Okie State, as it always has been, is Oklahoma and Texas. Those powers form a cement ceiling above Stillwater every season. That hasn’t changed. Neither has Coach Clandestine. Maybe he is feeling the pressure of having to deliver on Boone Pickens’ investment.
 


Chill pill

In the middle of one of the hottest Southwest summers in recent history, Oklahoma and Texas can agree on one thing:

Taking a pill to monitor players’ core temperature is a good idea. The CorTemp capsule is about the size of a vitamin and ingested about five hours before practice. Players thought to be at high risk of heat-related maladies are selected each day.

Trainers pass a monitoring device over a player’s stomach (the pill  is somewhere in the intestines) to check body temperature. Texas trainer Kenny Boyd calls it an “ingestible thermometer.”

The $35 pill is too pricey for some programs but with heat-related illnesses killing players at a record pace this decade, no price is too high. Sickle cell trait (usually brought on my physical exertion) became the leading killer of Division I players this decade.

The Eagles, Vikings and Jags in the NFL use the pill as well as Nebraska and North Carolina on the college level.

If you’ve read this far you’re still wondering how the players get rid of a pill filled with electronics. It is, um, passed. No word on how, or why the pills are recycled.



… Or they could just forget the whole thing and let those state troopers fight it out

A proposal from the American Football Coaches Association calls for both coaches and ADs to accompany their teams on the field for a pregame handshake before each game. The initiative starts with next week’s opening games.

A thoughtful gesture, but college football isn’t exactly the Stanley Cup playoffs where teams form a handshake line at the end of playoff series. These guys are minutes away from tearing each other’s heads off. It’s hard to imagine Alabama and Auburn exchanging handshakes. More like haymakers.

Forced to confront Lane Kiffin on Sept. 19 in Gainesville, will Urban Meyer shake hands or whip out a taser?

AFCA executive director Grant Teaff says the association’s code of conduct calls for coaches to shake hands before the game. Is that the same code of conduct that Rick Neuheisel adhered to when he committed 50-plus secondary violations?

 

Possible bowl rematches

The bowls are loathe to stage regular-season matches in their games, but with the rash of TV-arranged non-conference games, rematches could become more frequent. The reason these games are being arranged in the first place is because the teams are TV draws.

And what are bowls looking for? These big regular-season games could be the first of a doubleheader to be completed in the postseason.

Sept. 5: Georgia at Oklahoma State, also in the Cotton Bowl.
Sept. 5: BYU vs. Oklahoma in Irving, Texas, also in the Fiesta Bowl
Sept. 19: Kansas at UCLA, also in the Insight Bowl
Oct. 17: Texas vs. Oklahoma in Dallas, also in the BCS title game (don’t laugh, it could happen)
Oct. 24: Boston College at Notre Dame, also in the Gator Bowl



Technology meet the economy

It's possible now to go an entire season in the Sun Belt, Ohio Valley and Big Sky conferences without ever meeting another human coach.

Those conferences cancelled their in-person preseason media days as a way to save money. In the case of the Sun Belt, it went to video streaming its media days. You already know that several schools no longer print media guys, the assumption being that everyone has a large hard drive, a speedy processor and time to stop in the middle of a story, slip in a CD and look up something.

Now that human contact has been removed from the equation, can alien probes of various orifices be far behind?

Point being, the cost-saving excuse in some ways is a sham. Michigan is saving one-half of one percent on its budget. There are ways to save money, but once the boulder gets rolling down the hill there are a lot of copy cats.

These schools wouldn't be in this economic crunch if they weren't all operating under the same model. Remember, teams have been staying overnight in a hotel for years the night before home games.


Smelly, cussing guy in overalls? Text CNHSKRHELP

By allowing fans to text for help, isn't Nebraska admitting it has a problem?

Campus police say they will accept "citizen crime reports" in the form of texts from fans at games. Nice move. But when are they going to do something about that freakish mascot?

 

Posted on: August 12, 2009 1:00 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2009 1:01 pm
 

Five risers and five fallers for 2009

Five risers

Baylor – (See stories on the site) Fifteen seasons without a bowl are about to come to an end if everything breaks right.

Houston – Ten victories for the Cougars are possible in wide-open Conference USA. Case Keenum (5,000 yards passing) is a Heisman candidate. There, I said it. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech had better watch out in September. The Cougars would take a split and have the talent to sweep.

Kansas – The Jayhawks have finished at the top of the standings once since 1968. Forty-one years ago they shared the Big Eight title and went to the Orange Bowl. In 2007, they went 12-1 and shared the Big 12 North title with Missouri. (The Tigers won the division based on its head-to-head victory over the Jayhawks.) No one is expecting KU to go 12-1 again, but it has the stuff to win its first outright title in anything (even a modest division title) since 1930. Nebraska has the easier conference schedule but the Huskers have to play in Lawrence.

Michigan State –  After Ohio State and Penn State, the Spartans might be the pick in the Big Ten. Third-year coach Mark Dantonio has the program trending upward after winning nine games in ’08. Even with the loss of quarterback Brian Hoyer and leading rusher Javon Ringer, there are expectations that Sparty will compete in the Big Ten. Michigan State doesn’t play Ohio State and gets Penn State at home. Linebacker Greg Jones might be the conference’s best defensive player.

Nevada – At last check, the Wolf Pack were the only team in the country to run the Pistol offense. That’s not a good matchup with still-emotionally fragile Notre Dame opening up at home against Nevada. Coach Chris Ault will pull everything out of the bag. Give me quarterback Colin Kaepernick (one of only five players ever to pass for 2,000 and rush for 1,000) and tailback Vai Taua (1,521 yards rushing) and I’ll take my chances.


Five fallers

Auburn – Gene Chizik recruited well and God knows he knows how to roll in a limo. But I’m having a hard time figuring out how new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn makes chicken salad out of chicken spit. The offensive talent isn’t there, just like it wasn’t for Tony Franklin last season. Chizik might do great things. They won’t happen in 2009, though. Look for a repeat of 5-7.

Buffalo – In the frat party that followed the Bulls’ MAC championship, a lot of folks forgot that Buffalo lost six games. It didn’t exactly roll over people. Seven of its 14 games were decided by six points or less. It was outgained in conference play. Point is, 2009 could go either way. This year, MAC rivals will not take the Bulls lightly.

Clemson – The Tigers will find a way to slip off the edge of the cliff, even coming off a 7-5 season. Start with a rookie head coach (in his first full season) Dabo Swinney. A life-size poster of C.J. Spiller is nice but where’s the beef? Baylor (see above) has more all-time draft picks. Tommy was never good enough. The Tigers are favored by some to win the ACC. When they don’t we’ll hear more chants of “1991, 1991 …” the last year Clemson won the league.

Miami – Just when the Canes seemed ready to turn the corner, here comes the schedule from hell. Miami could be a better team than ’08 and still come out of the first four 1-3. And how did AD Kirby Hocutt get roped into having to play Central Florida and South Florida on the road in the same season?

South Florida – There’s nothing wrong, exactly, with the Bulls. I’m just wondering when they’re going to quit teasing. In a wide-open Big East, South Florida could win it, or finish fifth. The program seems to have peaked after winning nine in both ’06 and ’07. Jim Leavitt has the league’s best offensive player (Matt Grothe) and best defensive player (George Selvie) this season. We’re waiting, coach.

Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:05 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2009 12:34 pm
 

Picking the SEC

You're tired. We're all tired.

Of the SEC.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't believe the hype. Since it expanded in 1992, the SEC has won seven national championships in 17 years, four of the last six and three in a row. It generally sends the most players to the NFL, approximately 36 a year since 1990. How many leagues can narrow the national championship race to one game? Since 2006, the winner of the LSU-Florida game has been the national champion.

Nowhere else does one agent (Jimmy Sexton) represent half the league's coaches. The SEC produces the most draft picks, the most talent, the best stories. Open a browser. You'll find something about Lane Kiffin somewhere.

This season, Florida opens the season as the consensus No. 1 chasing a third national championship in four years. Only two other schools have accomplished that feat in the wire service era: Notre Dame (1946-47, 49), Nebraska (1994-95, 1997).

Let's not forget those lucrative new TV contracts from CBS and ESPN. In the SEC, money flows downhill -- into league coffers.

Tired of the SEC? Too bad. You'll have to pay attention. Once again, the winner of the league will probably be in contention for the BCS title game.

Picking the SEC ...


West Division

1. Alabama -- They've dismissed the Sugar Bowl as a fluke in Tuscaloosa long ago. They'd rather remember how Bama went undefeated in the regular season and was No. 1 for several weeks. Nine returning starters on defense is a good place to start. New quarterback Greg McElroy better find Julio Jones often. A rebuilt offensive line will try to spring Mark Ingram (12 touchdowns as a freshman). The magic of St. Nick gets the nod in this packed division.

2. LSU -- Don't agonize over Jordan Jefferson at quarterback. LSU has won two national championships with, shall we say, less than dynamic quarterbacks. Crazy Les has the SEC's best running back (Charles Scott) and at least one NFL draft pick (Ciron Black) on the offensive line. After the co-coordinator thing failed on defense, Miles went out and got the best player on the board -- John Chavis, formerly of Tennessee.
 
3. Ole Miss
-- Until Ole Miss actually does it, they can't be the pick in the West. I know Jevan Snead might be the league's best pro prospect at quarterback. I know Greg Hardy can beat anyone off the edge. I know that Alabama and LSU come to Oxford. I know that Houston Nutt is underrated as a coach.  I just can't get over the fact that after beating Florida, Ole Miss lost at home to South Carolina. There's a clunker out there somewhere that will keep the Rebels from winning the West.
 
4. Arkansas -- Bobby Petrino has himself a quarterback. That's a good start. Ryan Mallett has the best pure arm in the SEC. The problem is defense and special teams. Petrino has never been known for his defensive prowess. The D surrendered more than 31 per game last season. Until that gets corrected, the Hogs won't compete in the West. Petrino wisely hired old buddy John L. Smith to run the special teams. Mallett punted in the spring. Hopefully, that won't have to be the case in the fall.
 
5. Auburn -- Let's see, Tony Franklin was fired because players had a hard time picking up his offense. His replacement at offensive coordinator is Gus Malzahn, basically runs the same offense. Let's hope Malzahn is a better communicator because his offenses might play faster than anyone in the country. Gene "5-19" Chizik has a lot to prove after coming over from Iowa State. It won't be this year.

6. Mississippi State -- All the buzz is coming from Oxford. For good reason. Dan Mullen tried to install his version of the spread in the spring with fewer than five receivers on the roster. That will change in a hurry as Mullen says he wants at least a dozen receivers to get playing time. But as his old boss found out, the passing game comes second. Mullen better be able to run the ball first and find some defensive linemen who can come off the edge.


East Division

1. Florida -- How's the view from the top? It is Florida's division, conference and national championship to lose. Every starter is back on defense. A guy named Tebow seems to have won the quarterback job. Now the question is, who replaces Percy Harvin? Meyer says he won't do it by committee. Watch for Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and incoming recruit Andre Debose to take their shots. After two titles in three years, the further motivation is Florida's first undefeated season.

2. Georgia -- Strange, but the Bulldogs seem like they're going to be OK. Joe Cox doesn't have to light it up in replacing Matt Stafford, just manage the game. Receiver A.J. Green is a year older and bigger. There are two stars on defense -- defensive tackle Geno Atkins and linebacker Rennie Curran. The last time the expectations were this low, 2005, Georgia won the SEC East. It's going to take a win over Florida to do it, so a division title isn't likely. But 10 wins out of this group isn't out of the question.

3. South Carolina -- Steve Spurrier's greatest trait is his honesty. When asked at the SEC spring meetings if quarterback Stephen Garcia was ready to take over he didn't hesitate. Still needs some work, Spur Dog said. If Spurrier can't get the quarterback thing right, what hope is there for the rest of the Gamecocks? They have faded late in each of the last two seasons. Spurrier has averaged seven wins in his four seasons and has produced just one bowl win. At 64, Spurrier is committed. Is his quarterback, who has had legal problems?

4. Kentucky -- UK's run of three consecutive bowl wins might be in danger. Mike Hartline must show he can become a solid SEC quarterback. Randall Cobb remains a wild card, in a good way, as a quarterback, punt returner and receiver. Rich Brooks has his best defensive line since coming to Kentucky. He wants to get the Cats into the top 25 on a regular basis before turning things over to coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips.

5. Tennessee -- Behind the bluster, is this: Tennessee isn't particularly good. The offense is going to be painful to watch -- again. Lane Kiffin has yet to sign the quarterback who will define his success in Knoxville. His best hope at the position might be All-American safety Eric Berry who should get some snaps behind center. If the offensive line holds up, maybe super freshman Bryce Brown can keep the Vols in the hunt. Guru Monte Kiffin gets a head start with athletes on his side of the ball. Defense wasn't the problem last season.

6. Vanderbilt -- After going 26 years between bowls, Vandy just might be getting started. Coach Bobby Johnson gets all five offensive line starters back. The defense that allowed less than 20 points per game is stout as well. It will be typical Commodores in that they will struggle to score but hang in with defense. The Nov. 21 regular-season finale at Tennessee could have a lot on the line.

 

 

Posted on: May 29, 2009 3:16 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2009 3:18 pm
 

Nuggets from the SEC spring meetings

The sideshow known as the SEC spring meetings concluded Friday morning in Destin, Fla. Here are some highlights I've plucked out of the digital recorder:

Sporting News scribe Matt Hayes boiled the Lane Kiffin issue down to its essence when he asked Florida's Urban Meyer: "Why is it everyone is so obsessed with everyone being friends? Somebody needs to apologize. Why? Why can't you just be rivals and not talk to each other and not like each other, what's wrong with that?

Meyer: "Nothing. I don't know if those are stories though. That's not a prerequisite is to be friends."

 Meyer has stated that backup quarterback John Brantley will get playing time in the first half of games, at least, if he continues to progress. Brantley, in his third year in the program, might be the most patient quarterback in the country.

"It's not charity if he [Brantley] earns it. Based on spring evaluation he's earned playing time. He's got another phase to go through.  That's summer and [then] he's got training camp.

"We won't change the offense [for him], we'll change play calls."

 Auburn's Gene Chizik on defending his 5-19 record at Iowa State:

"It was more or less the perfect storm. The league got great quick. We fought a lot of those great football teams, We were in a bunch of games with a bunch of young guys. We played 11 true freshmen last year.

"I knew that it was tough when I took it. Is it tougher than what I thought when I took it? Probably not. I love challenges and I accept challenges. If I didn't I would have stayed at Texas [as defensive coordinator]. I could have stayed there until I decided until not to."

 Georgia coach Mark Richt on Matt Stafford:

"If he can survive the first year or two and he can grow, and Detroit can grow with him, he can be a real fine quarterback."

 Ole Miss' Houston Nutt on the hype surrounding his team which is favored to win the SEC West by several outlets:

"There is a lot of hype right now. Big anticipation. A lot of expectations. All of that is good, but bottom line it comes back to coaches and players.

On quarterback Jevan Snead

"If you take the last five as compared to the first five games, Jevan is a different quarterback. Those decisions he was making so much better. In the Texas Tech game, he throws an interception that is returned for a touchdown and he doesn't flinch."

Is Jevan is this year's Matt Stafford in a way?

"I hope. Matt Stafford was a heck of a guy, first guy taken. Physically what I love about Jevan is tall, strong, smart, humble, work ethic. First one in the weight room when I left at 7 a.m."

On star defensive end Greg Hardy:
 
"It probably doesn't hurt when he sees (NFL draftees) Peria Jerry and Michael Oher driving different cars. That's a real motivator."

On Tim Tebow and Florida [The Gators ran the table after Tebow's inspirational speech following the Ole Miss loss]:

"He [Tebow] put that team on his back. I've never seen a quarterback make a statement like that. A couple of those weeks, now, without Percy Harvin. That to me makes him special. We didn't know how to handle it, going to class and have everybody slapping us on the back.

"Florida gave us the confidence that we can beat anybody."

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: March 24, 2009 6:19 pm
 

Terry Bowden's first quarterback

Former Nebraska and North Carolina State quarterback Harrison Beck will transfer to Division II North Alabama, becoming Terry Bowden's first quarterback in his new job.

Beck, once a highly touted prospect, started a handful of games at N.C. State the past two seasons after he had transferred from Nebraska following the 2005 season.
 
With one year of eligibility remaining, Beck is limited by an NCAA rule that allows such players to transfer only below the Division I-AA level, or to NAIA. Beck said he preferred to stay in Raleigh to graduate before moving to North Alabama in the spring.

Bowden was looking for a difference-making quarterback in his first season in Florence, Ala. The Lions finished 12-2 last season, losing in the semifinals of the Division II playoffs. Outgoing quarterback A.J. Milwee, a three-year starter, finished second in the Harlan Hill Trophy voting as a senior.
 
"I do want to get into coaching," Beck said. "I know a lot of his former guys have gone on to become offensive coordinators, that type of thing. The thing that's most appealing about Coach Bowden is there's only one other coach I felt 100 percent comfortable with. It was him and (former Nebraska offensive coordinator) Jay Norvell.

"I feel like it's the first time since then I can be myself."

Norvell is now an assistant at Oklahoma.

Bowden, out of coaching for 10 years, is determined to make a big and quick splash in Division II. Bobby Bowden's son is best known for leading Auburn to 20 consecutive victories before an acrimonious split in 1998. Former Terry Bowden quarterbacks Jimbo Fisher, Pat Nix and Dameyune Craig have all gone on to become offensive coordinators.

"I want to coach football, and the opportunity to learn from coach Bowden is something I couldn't pass up," Beck said.

Other random thoughts from Beck:

D&E: It's been a while, obviously you are among those who remember Coach Bowden as a coach?

HB: "I'm kind of weird. I remember. My world is kind of consumed by what's going on in the sport.

"It was nice to have the feeling against with Coach Bowden. He's got that personality where he's talking a mile a minute.

"It was kind of like, 'Am I ever going to get the chance to play again?' I'm calling every coach in the book I know, trying to get a GA spot. Just through the grapevine I hear Coach Bowden was looking for a quarterback.

D&E: Where else did you look?

HB: "To be honest I didn't have that many options. I'm not trying to be one of those kids who graduates and lives with Mommy and Daddy. I wanted to get this thing going. I'm going to get to play football again. I'll able to be a GA afterwards. I'm killing two birds with one stone.

"When you sit there and think about the logistics of it, the Bowdens are pretty much the football family of the South. I can go down there and play, have success and win for them, maybe become a coach. Maybe hop on that train and hang on for a while."

D&E: What about your experience since high school? You were a five-star recruit coming out.

HB: "It's not what I set out to have happen when I left high school. People will say, 'Oh, he keeps going to different places.' I 'm going to where I have a chance to play. I don't think it's because of my ability.
"The thing about the quarterback position people don't understand is the common denominator is they're (successful ones) in the places where it's the perfect storm for them ... Maybe I didn't hit mine right out of the gate. I'm still looking to find that. I hope I found it."

"I'm as confident as ever. I don't care what some chemistry student on PackPride.com is going to say about me. People romanticize football. It has a bigger meaning to them than it actually is. I put in hard work and I'm dedicated to it. I'm not concerned with how other people (perceive me). I'm all about gripping and ripping it. I enjoy playing. I like playing the game. I don't care about statistics."

 

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