- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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Devil of a decision at ASU
Tuesday, August 22
1. I haven't checked the papers yet today: Is Rudy Carpenter still the starting quarterback at Arizona State? Coach Dirk Koetter fell victim to coaching conventional wisdom when he initially chose senior Sam Keller over the sophomore. Of course, wisdom becomes conventional because it's usually right.
2. Keller received his release and may leave. He needs the advice about writing angry e-mails. Write it and wait a day before you decide to send it. If Keller leaves, he won't play this season. If he stays, he might. If he leaves, who wants a petulant quarterback? You want a guy who gets sacked and pops right back up.
3. Speaking of quarterbacks and starting jobs -- do yourself a favor next year and don't waste any time wondering if Joe Bluechip will win a starting job. Matt Stafford is third-string at Georgia. Robert Johnson won the job at Arkansas, and freshman Mitch Mustain said, "I've still got a lot to learn." Yep.
Freshmen Rolle, Smith shining at FSU
Thursday, August 17
1. History tells us that about half of the top high school recruits match their megastar hype. But the early word on last February's top recruits is good. Florida State defensive back Myron Rolle shines, and Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith is opening holes. Just wait until they learn the plays.
2. Wisconsin passers completed 200 passes last season, and 196 of those catches didn't return to the 2006 Badgers. That might be why coach Bret Bielema signed six wide receivers last February. One of them, Xavier Harris from Fort Lauderdale, already is proving himself ready for playing time.
3. There's real hope at Stanford because 6-foot-7, 235-pound redshirt junior wideout Evan Moore, who dislocated his hip in the opener last season, caught three touchdowns in a scrimmage Wednesday. Moore has stayed healthy for one season out of three. If he does so this year, he'll be one of the best receivers in the Pac-10.
QB no longer a question at FSU
Tuesday, August 15
1. The big question at Florida State is whether freshman safety Myron Rolle, the top recruit in the nation last February, starts in the season opener against archrival Miami. What the big question isn't about, for the first time in years, is the quarterback. Drew Weatherford will be as good as a depthless offensive line allows.
2. Another top sophomore quarterback in the country, Arizona's Willie Tuitama, went 13-of-19 for 117 yards and two scores in a scrimmage Saturday. He also threw one pick and nearly threw another. Tuitama, for all his talent, hasn't played much. How quickly will maturity overcome his feeling bulletproof?
3. The Southeastern Conference solved its dilemma of whether to force Alabama or Florida to move its Sept. 2 game from a night kickoff to 12:30 p.m., EDT for TV by deciding to televise Georgia-Western Kentucky. I bet Lincoln Financial is thrilled to have its first title sponsorship of a telecast include a I-AA team.
NCAA shows compassion
Thursday, August 10
1. The NCAA cut USC wideout Dwayne Jarrett considerable slack. He received $18,001 in benefits, but must donate to charity only $5,352 and will serve no suspension. The light penalty speaks to intent -- the NCAA believed Jarrett didn't intend to skate around the rules. It's a compassionate decision, but the NCAA isn't known for that.
2. Texas fans may relax when they hear senior tailback Selvin Young talk about the team that will surround freshmen quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead. "With the wide receivers we have," Young said, "I could play quarterback. The jump ball is going to be a big thing." Limas Sweed is 6-foot-5, but somehow, I think the offense will be more complicated than throwing the jump ball.
3. One Minnesota Gopher is excited that tailback Laurence Maroney left after his junior year for greener wallets. "We started passing the ball a lot more," senior quarterback Bryan Cupito said. "I got a lot more confident. All those guys are in the NFL now, thank God. It's tough when you hand the ball off so much." Thank God? I just don't think coach Glen Mason shares that sentiment.
Tuesday, August 8
1. Harrison Beck's decision to bolt from Nebraska illustrates the downside of recruiting hype, especially with prima donna quarterbacks. Reality is, when they step on campus, they're young and unschooled. Some respond not by working harder, but by saying, if I can't play at Here U., I'll just go to There U. By the way, Husker starter Zac Taylor started out at Wake Forest.
2. Some quarterbacks grow up. Troy Smith made a huge impression at the Big Ten preview. It's clear the guy's a leader, and he's pretty sharp on the field, too. Illinois coach Ron Zook asked Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, one former Buckeye assistant to another, if Tressel would consider not playing quarterback Troy Smith against Illinois. Zook was kidding -- I think.
3. In case you missed the chat Monday, here's an update on Alabama wide receiver and kick returner Tyrone Prothro, who broke his leg so horrifically against Florida early last season. He is now walking on his own power without pain, but not for a great length of time. In other words, he won't play before 2007. If then.
What was Bomar thinking?
Thursday, August 3
1. When Oklahoma quarterbck Rhett Bomar got busted for underage drinking while attending a Hornets game in Oklahoma City, you had to wonder why he didn't understand that he lived in a fishbowl. Now that he has been run off by OU for being overpaid at a summer job, an NCAA violation, wonder no longer. Bomar just isn't that smart.
2. If you remember the bad old days of Oklahoma probation, you had to marvel at the zero-tolerance reactions to Bomar and teammate J.D. Quinn (also kicked off) by OU president David Boren, athletic director Joe Castiglione and coach Bob Stoops. If Barry Switzer were dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave.
3. Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton has taken up yoga and started riding his bike the three miles from apartment to campus, seeking one more edge in making this a great senior season. All well and good, but coach John L. Smith will be happy if Stanton's brain is more flexible. Smith wants Stanton to stop forcing throws and let the offense live to play another down.
Can Schaeffer qualify?
Tuesday, August 1
1. No one in the Southeastern Conference outside of Ed Orgeron believes that quarterback Brent Schaeffer, the Tennessee transfer, will ever academically qualify at Ole Miss. Without him, the Rebels will continue to flounder on offense. But as long as linebacker Patrick Willis is running sideline to sideline, Ole Miss will be competitive.
2. My theory about Texas high school football is that, as many players as there are, there are only enough blue-chippers to support two top-10 teams. The question is, which two? In the early 1990s, it was Texas A&M and Colorado. Now it's Texas and Oklahoma. That's the obstacle that Aggies coach Dennis Franchione must overcome.
3. I wrote a column in 2004 about Special Spectators, the nonprofit based in Chicago that arranges for patients in children's hospitals to have a total game-day experience at college football games. On Aug. 15, I'll emcee a fund-raising dinner for Special Spectators at Fulton's on the River in Chicago. Check it out at SpecialSpectators.org.
Will Bama or Florida blink?
Thursday, July 27
1. Neither Florida nor Alabama wants to move its Sept. 2 night game to the 12:30 p.m. slot for the SEC's regionally televised games. Why? It's kind of hot right around then. But neither the conference nor the network plans on showing a test pattern that afternoon. So which school blinks?
2. Iowa State center Scott Stephenson transferred from Minnesota. Stephenson said Big 12 football is faster than the Big Ten, and the stadiums louder. "At Nebraska, I couldn't hear my guards making calls," he said. "I couldn't hear (quarterback) Bret (Meyer)." Maybe that's a commentary on Gopher fans.
3. We lined up three deep around Adrian Peterson on Wednesday, and the Oklahoma junior is clearly more relaxed around the media than he was as a freshman. Peterson revealed that his goal for this season is 2,200 yards, but he wouldn't declare himself the Heisman favorite. He has figured out that just because the writers ask a stupid question doesn't mean he has to answer it.
Locating the Big 12 MVP
Tuesday, July 25
1. There's no question in my mind that the Big 12 Most Valuable Player will be Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor. Why? Without him, Nebraska's offense won't have much value at all. Now, if that offensive line can protect him
2. You've seen Texas coach Mack Brown on the sideline intently looking at the field, bent over at the waist, hands on his knees. Better view? No, his left knee hurt so bad that Brown stood that way for relief. He had the knee replaced nine weeks ago. While he begrudgingly admits he'll use a golf cart next month, the knee gets better every day.
3. Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker credits his 9.5 sacks last season to his senior year at Kennewick (Wash.) High, when he played quarterback on an 0-9 team. Carriker said he got hit so much that he decided to take his revenge on opposing quarterbacks. Unfortunately for the Big 12, he's not done yet.
Youth served at Northwestern?
Thursday, July 20
1. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald will announce the hiring of an assistant to replace himself in the next day or two, and it won't be a former head coach acting as some sort of consigliere. Fitzgerald started in that direction, he told me, but decided he needed a younger guy who would want to recruit and do more than be a wise old man.
2. Duke can't catch a break. Freshman Zack Asack took over the quarterback job from Mike Schneider last season, so Schneider transferred. Now Asack has been suspended for a year because of plagiarism. It looks as if Marcus Jones, who played quarterback and wide receiver last season, won't be catching any passes this year.
3. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, discussing the new rule that the clock will start when the ball is kicked off instead of when the return team touches it, asked, "What if we take the lead with four seconds to play? What do we do with the kickoff?" He smiled. "Should we kick it backward?" If you can cover it after four seconds have elapsed, sure.
Is Louisville still a hoops school?
Tuesday, July 18
1. Louisville is getting ready to announce a $63 million expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium that will raise the capacity from 45,000 seats to 63,600 seats, including 45 new skyboxes. What does that mean? Next time someone says Louisville is a basketball school, raise your hand to disagree.
2. Greg Schiano of Rutgers and Dirk Koetter of Arizona State got together in Scottsdale last spring and spent four hours watching video of the Sun Devils' 45-40 defeat of the Scarlet Knights in the Insight Bowl. They debriefed each other on their game plans, Schiano said, figuring they won't play again any time soon. It's so commonsensical that I'm surprised more bowl coaches don't do that.
3. Auburn fans are outraged by The New York Times' story on how a university sociology professor gave football players independent study credits as if they were candy. The outraged fans used the "Everybody does it" defense, and also complained about the Times' reporting methods. What the fans haven't done is defend the professor's work on its merits.
Start spreading the news
Thursday, July 13
1. As Cal tailback Marshawn Lynch prepares for the spread that new offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar brought from Northwestern, he has become a fan of the Wildcats' Tyrell Sutton. "He's solid," Lynch said. "Looking at the tape, you've got to be a real patient runner with this offense. When he sees it, he accelerates. Solid."
2. All fired up for recruiting season? Following those new summer commitments? Note this line from the AP story about wide receiver Whitney Lewis's transfer to Northern Iowa from USC, where in three years he gained 38 total yards. "Many recruiting publications had Lewis rated higher than Bush coming out of high school." Yep, that would be Reggie Bush.
3. That brings us to the transfer-in-waiting of Miami linebacker Willie Williams, who arrived in 2004 with great controversy after a long list of juvenile arrests. I'm wondering whether his failure to match expectations is a result of a knee injury as a freshman, too much hype or a continuing problem between his ears.
Fitzgerald has the right stuff
Tuesday, July 11
1. Pat Fitzgerald is 31 years old, which conventional wisdom says is too young to be a head coach in the Big Ten. But these are unconventional times at Northwestern, and Fitzgerald has the makeup to be a leader. He proved that as an All-American linebacker with the Wildcats, and as their linebacker coach. Here's hoping his learning curve isn't too steep.
2. You can debate from now until Wake Forest wins the BCS as to whether off-field issues should be considered when a player is nominated for honors. While I have heard that Christian Peter cleaned up his act over the last decade, I still did a double-take when I read that Nebraska named the once-troubled defensive lineman to its Hall of Fame.
3. Two college football players have died in the last week, a third was involved in a fatal accident and another headline indicates that a team captain has been arrested for assault. I realize there's little college football news now to blunt the force of these stories. But there's something to be said for players' being kept so busy in the fall.
Is UNC an '06 darkhorse?
Thursday, June 29
1. When I heard Minnesota tailback Gary Russell might be able to raise his grades enough to be eligible next fall, I raised an eyebrow. It takes a real commitment to get back on the academic horse after you tumble. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Russell isn't in summer school. It's on you, Amir Pinnix.
2. Please take a seat before you read any farther. Temple -- Temple! -- has received three oral commitments from recruits who will sign next February. The Owls' young coach, Al Golden, became known as an up-and-comer while on Al Groh's staff at Virginia. I wonder the last year Temple had three commitments by July 1.
3. North Carolina hasn't won more than two consecutive games since 2001, coach John Bunting's first season. The Tar Heels, 5-6 last season, have seven home games, a veteran defense and an improved coaching staff (OC Frank Cignetti, DE coach Danny Pearman). If you're looking for a dark horse
Charles in charge?
Tuesday, June 27
1. Early commitments have been around for more than 10 years, but only now have we begun to get a foothold on the West Coast. Part of that may be due to national recruiting by the top powers. Cal coach Jeff Tedford had a player tell him last week that he would take an offer from Texas because the Longhorns had only two slots left.
2. There's talk among Texas fans that sophomore tailback Jamaal Charles may be the best ever to come through Austin. Given the legacy of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams, both Heisman winners, allow me to raise the first eyebrow. If I didn't have a quarterback who had ever taken a snap, I'd brag on my tailback, too.
3. Michigan faltered last season when tailback Mike Hart suffered a hamstring injury against Notre Dame. Overdependent on Hart? Yeah, but heralded freshman Kevin Grady didn't live up to his considerable hype. Grady dropped 20 pounds over the winter. If the Wolverines aren't Hart-healthy, then Grady should be ready to help.
Text messaging cuts?
Thursday, June 22
1. The days of unlimited text messaging may be numbered. There is support among coaches for treating text messages as if they were phone calls, which are governed by the recruiting calendar. E-mails will continue to be unlimited but e-mails aren't as intrusive in the lives of the players, the coaches or their families.
2. Cal coach Jeff Tedford hired Mike Dunbar from Northwestern to bring the spread offense to Berkeley. Tedford also visited spread guru Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia. But Tedford isn't shelving the I, not with tailbacks Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. Tedford is just adding to it. The spread got most of the snaps in the spring, but the fall will be more balanced.
3. Various and sundry awards have announced their "watch lists" in the last week. I don't want to sound like a football Scrooge -- OK, I do -- but other than publicity-hungry award officials and SIDs, who gives a flip? If someone not on the list plays well this fall. Will he get less consideration? No.
How about a World Cup-style playoff?
Tuesday, June 20
1. Finally, a playoff proposal I like: Dr. Jeff Kirchner at the University of North Carolina suggests a 32-team World Cup-style event. Take eight four-team groups in which everyone plays one another. Two teams from each group advance to single-elimination play. I think eight teams and two four-team groups would be fine. Play three games in group play and advance four teams to a Final Four. Five Saturdays and you're done. Who's with me?
2. UCLA toils in the shadows of Troy these days, but the Bruins deserve kudos for continuing their tradition of good nonconference games. UCLA announced Monday that it will play a home-and-home with Nebraska, which joins Notre Dame, Tennessee, Texas, Kansas State, Utah and BYU on the Bruins' future schedules. Maybe the SEC schools will take the hint.
3. FieldTurf is going into War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, where the big alums of Arkansas are still annoyed that warhorse athletic director Frank Broyles decided six years ago to move some games from the old Little Rock stadium to the renovated Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Tradition always dies hard, but campus games work much better these days, especially with NCAA recruiting rules.
Sweetheart of a deal
Thursday, June 15
1. The Los Angeles Times reported that USC's sweetheart lease deal with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum may be in danger if the NFL renovates the stadium. Am I the only one falling out of my chair laughing? If I understand this, Reggie Bush's family's lease is evil and may cause mass forfeits, but it's OK for the school to pay L.A. way less than market value.
2. Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski needs all of 49 seconds in his professional boxing debut to knock out some tomato can who showed up in the ring wearing Ohio State gear. Irish fans surely will take it as an omen for the coming football season. Maybe boxing promoter Bob Arum could find some load in a USC uniform for Z's next fight.
3. In 2003, I wrote about how many freshmen had been thrust into starting quarterback jobs. It's great how many of them -- Brady Quinn of Notre Dame, Chris Leak of Florida, Kevin Kolb of Houston, Reggie Ball of Georgia Tech, Jordan Palmer of UTEP -- stuck around for their senior year. No trend developed. Freshmen are, by and large, still goobers. This group is special. Take note of them this fall.
Sprinting to stardom?
Tuesday, June 13
1. Xavier Carter wins the 100 and 400 meters in the same hour at the NCAAs. He's a backup wide receiver at LSU. The list of sprinters who wanted to be football stars is long. The list of football stars who were world-class sprinters? Bob Hayes, um, uh, I'm thinking Speed helps, but give me precise routes and sticky hands any day.
2. Of all the teams I left out of the Top 25, the one that I keep coming back to is South Carolina. The Gamecocks lost most of their defense, and opponents will put two people on wideout Sidney Rice the minute he leaves the locker room. But I have this suspicion that the Ball Coach will figure out something and steal some wins.
3. I try not to veer too far into mean-spiritedness. I mean, we're all trying here, right? So without further verbal tap-dancing, let me announce that former Florida State quarterback Chris Rix has opened a quarterback academy. No handicapped-parking jokes, please. No happy-feet jokes, either. Positively no Miami jokes. Pause here for awkward silence
Pitch and putt
Thursday, June 8
1. So Jeff Samardzija can pitch for the Boise Hawks, the Cubs' Class A team, and play wide receiver for Notre Dame, but Iowa quarterback Drew Tate can't become a pro golfer by accepting a $25,000 prize for making a hole in one in a tournament? The difference is that Tate played in the golf tournament because of his football celebrity.
2. You keep hearing that the number of multi-sport high school stars is diminishing in the age of specialization, but every year February signees bolt for baseball bucks after the June MLB draft. Miami may lose quarterback Daniel Stegall to the Mets, the Miami Herald reports. That would leave the Canes in USC's boat, with only two quarterbacks (Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman).
3. Frank Solich's attorney claims that he has the hair analysis to prove that someone put the date-rape drug into the Ohio coach's cocktail last year. Police found Solich incapacitated behind the wheel. Date rape, I've heard of. Career rape? The Ohio University administration has been conspicuously loud with its refusal to comment.
Don't dismiss the Trojans
Tuesday, June 6
1. USC's football life has gotten a lot easier. The Los Angeles district attorney won't file sexual assault charges against redshirt freshman Mark Sanchez, and junior John David Booty begins to throw this week as he recovers from back surgery. The Trojans have gone from two quarterbacks, to zero, and back to two. Keep them in your top 10.
2. Having spent nearly two decades building name recognition, the Black Coaches Association wants to change its name to the Diverse Coaches Association. No, I am not clever enough to make that up. What does Diverse mean? Will the DCA represent you if you have a southern accent? If you want to bring back the single-wing?
3. More fallout from the 12-game schedule: as Tony Barnhart at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out, the SEC voted to move its season-ending rivalries to Thanksgiving weekend, beginning next year. The Iron Bowl, Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson -- all of them will be permanent residents in your holiday weekend plans. If I-A officials knew then what they know now, would they have voted for the 12th game?
Thursday, June 1
1. Coaches have made it to June 1, which means May recruiting is over, which means vacation, right? Not quite. June means summer camps, which have become an important recruiting tool for incoming seniors. Coaches have to make sure they get their top prospects to camp. Vacation these days is early July -- maybe.
2. Brady Quinn is on every Heisman short list, which is part of being a star Notre Dame quarterback. But did you realize three returning passers finished ahead of him in efficiency last season? Everyone knows Brian Brohm of Louisville, but keep an eye on Rudy Carpenter of Arizona State and Phil Horvath of Northern Illinois.
3. Speaking of the Huskies, they also have the top returning rusher in Garrett Wolfe, who is followed by Marshawn Lynch of California and Tyrell Sutton of Northwestern. Three teams will face Wolfe and Sutton next season: Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), and Ohio State.
Transfer of power
Tuesday, May 30
1 . The Big 12 coaches, as expected, rose up against adding a ninth league game to the schedule. Why play Nebraska when you can bring in Texas State? But the fact that the league even considered it means someone in the conference understands the schedule credibility issues that arise from buying so many I-AA games.
2. The NCAA rules barons will decide today whether to add coaches' challenges to the replay rules. Coaches, control freaks that they are, are clamoring for it. But isn't this the year the rules committee took steps to shorten games? Challenges do anything but that.
3. Speaking of NCAA rules, a new one allows graduates to transfer without sitting out a year. Already a couple of players have taken advantage, the most prominent among them is Arizona quarterback Richard Kovalcheck, whom the City Paper in Nashville says is going to Vandy. If you're cynical, you see this change easily abused. But I like how players will be rewarded for graduating.
Stanford's strange bedfellows
Thursday, May 25
1 . So Connecticut high school coaches voted to suspend any coach who wins by more than 50 points. Hey, it's a lot easier than teaching defense. I'm reminded of the exchange between West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden and William & Mary coach Lou Holtz after a big Mountaineer win. Holtz: "I thought we were friends." Bowden: "My job is to score. Your job is to stop me."
2. The Big East looks to me as if West Virginia and Louisville have simply switched roles from last season. The Mountaineers are a darkhorse for No. 1, and the Cardinals are the darkhorse's toughest road game. West Virginia beat Louisville, 46-44, in triple overtime, last season. Of course, I don't expect WVU to lose to South Florida, 45-14. I still can't figure out how Louisville did that.
3. It's all in the timing. Stanford hired Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby to replace Ted Leland, who nearly 18 months ago hired fellow Pacific grad Walt Harris as football coach. Harris is 180-degrees different in temperament from Kirk Ferentz, whom Bowlsby hired at Iowa. Bowlsby and Harris are professionals; they'll get along fine. But politics isn't the only thing that makes strange bedfellows.
Top 25 musings
Tuesday, May 23
1. When I appeared on Omaha's ESPN radio station Monday, I was asked whether the post-spring Top 25 ranks teams by where I think they will be on Aug. 31 or Jan. 9. I've always ranked teams in the preseason by where I think they will finish. During the season, I rank them by where I think they are that week. No one told me to do it that way. I just do.
2. I should have listed Arizona State and Tulsa among the teams also receiving consideration for the post-spring Top 25. They were late cuts. I've gotten a lot of e-mail about Alabama and South Carolina, too, but both SEC teams lose a lot on defense. I expect both will win seven or eight games, but in a 12-game season, I don't think that will get them ranked on Jan. 9.
3. So the Big House is getting bigger. While I appreciate the new press box, my first wish would be for the architects to figure out a way to trap the noise in the old bowl. You've never heard 110,000 people be as quiet as they are in Ann Arbor. Except when they're complaining about Lloyd.
Hall makes progress
Thursday, May 18
1. Take it as a sign of progress that when the College Football Hall of Fame announced the election of Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward on Tuesday, no one mentioned that he is only the second African-American at that position from Division I-A to be so honored. No one notices anymore. Coaches, that day will come.
2. It's no coinicidence that the Hall elected players from schools such as Air Force, Colorado, Miami and Florida State. The Hall has some catching up to do. Ward and Hurricane safety Bennie Blades are the first players from the latter two schools' last 20 years, when they have been the most dominant schools in the sport.
3. Regarding ABC's Saturday night prime-time package of games, author Keith Dunnavant e-mailed me with this reminder from his book "The Fifty-Year Seduction": 25 years ago, NBC announced a prime-time package of games. The NCAA objected, the case went to the Supreme Court, and that's why we have wall-to-wall televised games today. There really are no new ideas.
Success doesn't make you immune to problems
Tuesday, May 16
1. Texas junior do-it-all back Ramonce Taylor has been charged with felony possession of marijuana, and I'm guessing fewer Longhorn fans are delighting in USC's troubles. The loss of Taylor won't take down Texas -- Jamaal Charles is still around -- but like the arrest of USC quarterback Matt Sanchez, it's an example of how success doesn't make you immune to problems.
2. Neither do struggles. Kentucky cornerback Bo Smith came back from a fractured skull that knocked him out of 2004 to start eight games last year. In the 2005 Blue Ribbon, Kentucky defensive coordinator Mike Archer called Smith "probably the toughest kid on this football team." Coach Rich Brooks dismissed Smith from the team Monday for violation of team rules. That one will sting.
3. With the baseball draft coming upon us, some recruiting victories enjoyed last February will be lost to the lure of, literally, big-league money. Not at Washington, where Husky quarterback signee Jake Locker, a projected high baseball pick, announced Monday that he still wants to play football. Slowly, Washington continues to make its way back from the depths.
If you build it
Thursday, May 11
1. As someone who covered college football for The Dallas Morning News when the Southwest Conference imploded in 1994, it felt good to see that TCU will play at Texas next season. But when TCU announced the game at Austin without a return date in Fort Worth by the Longhorns, it reminded me why the SWC broke up.
2. Nearly a decade ago, I mocked John Junker when he signed a Web site (Insight.com), whatever that was, as a title sponsor of his bowl game. Now, I work for a Web site. This week, Junker moved the Insight Bowl telecast to the NFL Network, which has 11.5 million homes, right up there with The Bowling Network. But will I mock Junker? Nope.
3. The Minnesota House and Senate have passed plans to build an on-campus stadium for the University of Minnesota, but the plans are so different that there's no guarantee a bill will emerge. It's not my money, so this is easy for me to say, but the Gophers have no shot to return to the top of the Big Ten without a new stadium.
Tradition scores a rare win
Tuesday, May 9
1. There are, well, a million decisions in college football made for money. But the soul of the sport is its tradition, and it's great to see the rare occasion when tradition is accommodated. Texas and Oklahoma found a way to keep the Red River Shootout in Dallas. I'm sure that the way to stay involved money, but who cares? They're staying.
2. When Sen. John McCain endorsed Tom Osborne in the Nebraska's governor race, he mentioned that he met the former Husker coach by going with Arizona State to Lincoln for their 1995 game. Nebraska won, 77-28. Why did McCain go? "I was suffering under the delusion that somehow Arizona State might have an opportunity to win," he said. A year later, the Sun Devils did, 19-0.
3. Two important rules changes to shorten games that are way too long: the clock will start when the ball is kicked off instead of when it's caught, and it will start on a change of possession once the ball is spotted. That may cut a few plays a game, which stinks. Any chance we could cut some commercials? No, I didn't think so.
Leinart, Fulmer and the BCS
Thursday, May 4
1. I defended Bob Leinart's right to pay whatever rent he deemed necessary for his son Matt. A number of you wrote to point out that there would be nothing to prevent an unscrupulous coach and dad to put players up in a nice place (And I thought I was a skeptic). Anyway, Leinart acted honorably, but I see your point.
2. Bravo to Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer, who lit into his players after suspending senior linebacker Marvin Mitchell following his arrest for disorderly conduct last weekend. Not only that, Fulmer went public with his anger. More coaches should let their fans know they won't stand for such behavior.
3. At least the BCS is consistent. Never a group to anticipate problems, the commissioners who run the postseason have no policy about what to do if a championship team is subsequently found to have ineligible players. Just like their tinkering with the BCS formula, these guys only fix problems after they occur.
Playing what if in Raleigh?
Tuesday, May 2
1. This just in: 24 hours have passed without a new USC scandal. While the Reggie Bush saga and the Mark Sanchez arrest have been Trojan nightmares, the Dwayne Jarrett story will make only the NCAA look stupid. Bob Leinart is not a booster. He's the dad of Jarrett's roommate and teammate.
2. Just as NC State fans grew used to the idea that three straight season-ending wins meant things weren't so bad, the NFL comes along and reminds them how good the Pack might have been. How does a team with three first-round choices on its defense go only 6-5 against I-A competition?
3. Tradition lovers welcome the news that a bowl game returns to Legion Field in Birmingam, Ala. In the real world, Legion Field is falling apart and Conference USA is sending a higher finisher to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile than to Birmingham. As a Mobile native, I can't tell you how good that feels.
Red River Rivalry changing streams?
Thursday, April 27
1. The Reggie Bush housing issue may be a gray area, but the arrest of USC backup quarterback Mark Sanchez for sexual assault is not. Until his case is adjudicated, Sanchez is suspended. That leaves former walk-on Mike McDonald as the starter until John David Booty recuperates from back surgery. Two words: Uh and Oh.
2. The Red River Shootout's life in Dallas continues its slow death spiral. Whether a city should spend $60 million on the Cotton Bowl for only a few days each year is worthy of serious civic debate. As a football fan, I vote for tradition. You can bet that if Texas-OU goes to campuses, both schools will schedule another game in the Dallas area.
3. Keith Jackson means it this time. The Voice of College Football, at age 77, is going fishing. He won't be in our living rooms on fall Saturdays. The sport will survive. It always does. But that doesn't make his departure any easier to take.
Spy games overrated
Tuesday, April 25
1. Jimmy Clausen will go to Notre Dame, fresh off his private-high-school career, and fulfill the grand expectations placed on any teenager who has the stones to announce his intentions at the College Football Hall of Fame. The hype is unfair. So is comparing him to overhyped Ron Powlus. But that's the world we live in.
2. The BCS is meeting in Phoenix, trying to figure out how to easily explain the new five-bowl system in which the Fiesta Bowl is different from the BCS Championship Game that will be hosted by the, um, Fiesta Bowl. Good luck: eight years in, the public still doesn't get the BCS. You think maybe it's too complex? Naaah.
3. Forgive the glee I take from the West Virginia spying incident at Marshall. A Mountaineer student is busted taking notes at a Herd practice. There is a rich tradition of spying in college football, some of it undercover, some of it underhanded, all of it overhyped. Do you really think WVU needs a student's notes to beat Marshall? I don't either.
Houston, we have a problem
Thursday, April 20
1. For anyone who thinks the NCAA should limit the number of bowls, the marketplace seems to be doing a pretty good job. The Houston Bowl is on its deathbed, and honestly, will college football miss it? Yes, two fewer teams may have a bowl trip, but if a 7-4 team stays home, the sport will survive.
2. It seems as if there are fewer spring games and fewer top players who do much in spring practice. There are more no-contact jerseys and more offense vs. defense formats for "spring games." Coaches would love to scrimmage other schools, but monkeys will run the spread offense before the NCAA approves that.
3. Houston senior quarterback Kevin Kolb hasn't been a starter for six years. It only seems that way. Kolb, with 35 career starts, already has thrown for 9,752 yards. If he matches his average, he'll finish with about 13,000 passing yards. That would place him behind only Timmy Chang, Ty Detmer and Philip Rivers in I-A history.
Remembering Tom Mickle
Tuesday, April 18
1. Tom Mickle created the framework for matching No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a bowl game a decade ago on a cocktail napkin. The executive director of the Capital One and Champs Sports bowls has always been an isle of common sense in the sea of postseason inanity. His soft-spoken greeting 'How ya' doin, brother?' has been a part of this beat for my 20 years on it. Mickle died suddenly Monday at age 55. College football will miss him.
2. New Orleans may be slow to get on its feet, but Tulane has a new practice field, practice locker room and weight room. The Green Wave lost six players, not unusual attrition. Kicker Jacob Hartgroves moved to Texas A&M because Tulane eliminated its mechanical engineering major in the post-Katrina belt-tightening.
3. Could it be? After years of throwing in one fifth-year senior quarterback after another, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach may be stuck with -- ugh, a sophomore. Good thing it's Graham Harrell. He completed 27-of-38 passes for 227 yards in the spring game.
Penn State's heir apparent
Thursday, April 13
1. We know that Penn State quarterback heir apparent Anthony Morelli has the arm. The question is, can he run the team? Quarterback coach Jay Paterno said yes. "The things I wanted to see, like leadership and fire, he has shown," Paterno said. Morelli looked good in the last scrimmage. The Blue-White Game is April 22.
2. Ohio State must replace nine defensive starters, and secondary coach Paul Haynes thinks he has found two keepers in second-year safeties Jamario O'Neal and Anderson Russell. The best story in the Buckeye secondary belongs to fifth-year senior Antonio Smith. The former walk-on has earned a starting job -- and a scholarship.
3. Oklahoma strong safety Reggie Smith won a starting job as a freshman last season. But the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Smith proved how talented he is this spring by excelling at field corner. That means he's big enough to hit hard and fast enough to cover the field. It's another sign that the Sooners will be strong again.
Springtime in the South
Tuesday, April 11
1. The good news for Georgia? Freshman Matt Stafford threw a 64-yard touchdown to converted cornerback Mikey Henderson on the first play of the spring game. The bad news? Neither the first- nor second-team offense scored another touchdown. I know coaches don't want to give away any secrets, but
2. When I ran into South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier at the Masters, he praised tailback Cory Boyd, whom the university suspended last season for testing positive for marijuana. "Big, strong, flat-bellied kid," Spurrier said. Boyd and sophomore Mike Davis will be a great combination this fall.
3. Quarterback Joe Dailey, who started for Nebraska in 2004, hightailed it from Lincoln to North Carolina after Huskers coach Bill Callahan gave the offense to Zac Taylor, completed 8-of-15 passes for 65 yards in the Tar Heels' spring game Saturday. Dailey is a half-step ahead of Cam Sexton for the starting job.
SEC hits the Masters
Thursday, April 6
1. If you're looking for an SEC head coach this week, try the Masters. Mike Shula came Wednesday, wearing a canary yellow shirt with an Alabama logo, providing him anonymity of a sort. Steve Spurrier will be in Chris DiMarco's gallery today, according to Tommy Tuberville, who arrives at Augusta National Friday.
2. The Mid-American Conference finally finished its schedule, and Buffalo really did bail on playing West Virginia. All of a sudden, I-AA Eastern Washington appears on the Mountaineers' schedule. This isn't an isolated incident. Expect future contracts across Division I-A to have bigger penalties for cancellations.
3. As a reminder that all recruiting rankings are speculative: freshman quarterback Derek Shaw, from Oceanside, Calif., orally committed to Miami, signed with Arizona State, and 14 months later, is leaving Tempe. Nothing is as third-string as being behind Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter.
Giddy in Gainesville
Tuesday, April 4
1. The giddiness on the Florida campus these days extended to coach Urban Meyer, who pushed Monday's practice to Tuesday so he could go to Indianapolis. Didn't cancel it, mind you. Coaches only get 15 practices. Not even a national basketball title would make a coach give up a practice.
2. Georgia junior cornerback Mikey Henderson was game to experiment during spring practice at wide receiver. It's no longer an experiment. Coach Mark Richt said he "has seen enough of him to know he's going to help us." D.J. Shockley's backup, Joe Tereshinski III, has secured his hold on the quarterback spot.
3. When John David Booty backed up Matt Leinart last fall, USC quarterback coach Steve Sarkisian said Booty could start for a lot of teams. Sarkisian said it again his spring. Translation: as long as Booty, who had back surgery on Friday, returns to full strength by August, the offense is his. Freshman Mark Sanchez can't catch up.
Weis in Zbikowski's corner
Thursday, March 30
1. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis's explanation of why he didn't object to Tom Zbikowski becoming a professional fighter revealed the coach's combination of common sense and big heart. As long as the NCAA signed off on it, Weis wasn't about to stand in the way of his player and a six-figure payday.
2. I hear Rocky Hinds is doing well in his quest to win the starting quarterback job at UNLV. In the wake of John David Booty's back problems, however, Hinds would have a real shot at playing had he stayed at USC. It's hard to make an impatient kid believe in "one play away." The Trojans could use him.
3. Kentucky lost three of its top four wideouts, and coach Rich Brooks hopes he found a replacement on campus. Senior guard Ravi Moss, his basketball career over, began his tryout in the opening spring practice Wednesday. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Moss, who scored 5.7 points per game this season, last played football in sixth grade. If he drove the lane against Big Baby, he's ready for fall Saturdays.
Remembering Ron Schipper
Tuesday, March 28
1. Ron Schipper never left Division III, but that made him no less a coaching giant. After 36 years, he retired from Central (Iowa) College in 1996 with a record of 287-67-3, once a national champ (1974) and twice a runner-up (1984, 1988). The American Football Coaches Association honored him with its most prestigious honor, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award, in 2004. His most famous player? Harry Smith, the host of "The Early Show" on CBS. Schipper died Sunday at age 77.
2. Notre Dame strong safety Tom Zbikowski has decided to turn pro -- as a boxer (got ya!). According to a story posted Monday on boxingtalk.com, Zbikowski will fight on a Top Rank card on June 10 at Madison Square Garden. Can't wait to hear Coach Charlie Weis' reaction. Injury? I bet Zbikowski can fend for himself.
3. Speaking of which, Blue & Gold Illustrated recently named its all-Notre Dame team of the last 25 years. Only two players, corner Shane Walton and center Jeff Faine, played after 1994. That speaks volumes about the Irish from 1995-2004.
Sharp(ton) look for Miami
Thursday, March 23
1. Glenn Cook is penciled in to start at middle linebacker as Miami begins spring ball, but coach Larry Coker went out of his way Monday to praise Darryl Sharpton, who played three games as a freshman last year before a season-ending injury. Sharpton is Vilma-sized and Vilma-smart. He said no to Stanford to stay home.
2. BYU senior quarterback John Beck blossomed last season under new offensive coordinator Robert Anae. Beck threw for 3,709 yards and 27 scores last year and has started 26 games, more than any returning Cougar QB since Heisman winner Ty Detmer. This spring's goal? He better be cutting down those 13 picks.
3. Notre Dame prof Ted Mandell is revising "Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys," his book/CD about the greatest college football finishes since 1970. He asked me for my top 10. What I'm wrestling with is whether last season's USC-Notre Dame and USC-Texas games belong, or are they just fresh in my mind?
Position change for USC's Lewis
Tuesday, March 21
1. In 2003, Parade All-American wideout Whitney Lewis made a big signing day splash with a late switch from Florida State to USC. Because of injuries and academics, that's the last splash he made. Lewis played in nine games last year without a catch. The Trojans need healthy tailbacks, so he'll try that this spring.
2. After last season's 5-6 disappointment, five assistants have left Joe Tiller's staff at Purdue. The latest blow came when quarterback coach Blaine Bennett, passed over to replace departed offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, left for Michigan State. The Boilers could use some stability in a hurry.
3. The change in coaching at Colorado will take the biggest effect on the offense. Dan Hawkins' scheme depends more on speed and misdirection than did Gary Barnett's offense. On top of that, the Buffs have virtually no experience at quarterback and little at tailback. Defense and special teams must carry the day.
Where's the beef at FSU?
Thursday, March 16
1. As Florida State spring practice gets underway, don't expect any fast cures for the offensive line. The Seminoles have only six scholarship linemen in spring ball. They signed six in February, which, said coach Bobby Bowden, still isn't enough. "We feel like we ought to have 16 or 17," Bowden said. "If we stay healthy, we'll be OK."
2. With Texas tailback Jamaal Charles running track, this spring looked like a good time for 270-pound sophomore Henry Melton to find some playing time. He may have done so -- at defensive end. Melton has taken some snaps there, and to the delight of him and Mack Brown, has been effective. Stay tuned.
3. Vanderbilt redshirt sophomore Chris Nickson and redshirt freshman Mackenzi Adams didn't expect to be the target of so much attention in March. They are the guys competing to replace four-year starter and first-rounder-to-be Jay Cutler. Nickson threw three passes last season and ran 15 times. Adams is more in the Cutler dropback mold.
Double trouble in Austin?
Tuesday, March 14
1. You read it here first: Texas won't make it to the Sweet 16. Sez who? History. It's been 28 years since the reigning football champion has won more than one game in the NCAA basketball tournament. Shoot, the Longhorns would be the first champ to win a game in the tournament in seven years -- if they beat Penn.
2. No team has ever won the football and basketball national titles in the same academic year. The best basketball finish by a football champion? Notre Dame, the last team to win two March Madness games, reached the Final Four in 1978, three months after Joe Montana led the football Irish to No. 1.
3. Conversely, the best football finish by a basketball champion took place in 1988-89, when Michigan won the Rose Bowl and finished fourth in the final polls. Three months later, interim coach Steve Fisher took the Wolverines to the basketball championship.
Chow's L.A. story
Thursday, March 9
1. Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow returns to USC on Friday to work out Matt Leinart, which sounds like a weekend boondoggle, since Chow spent untold hours with Leinart for four years. "I hear his arm is stronger," Chow said. Leinart turned down the chance to play for Chow at the Senior Bowl. That's when Chow came to like the Titans' hometown draft candidate, Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt.
2. Replacing Marcus Vick may not be Frank Beamer's toughest task. There's no better measure of a quality program than staff stability, which is why Virginia Tech will bear watching. Beamer had hired only one assistant in the last six years. In the last three months he has hired four: three on offense, one on defense.
3. Texas coach Mack Brown told Austin American-Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls this week that it's likely that both Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead will play at quarterback this fall. They're both freshmen. It makes sense. But I had this wave of Applewhite-Simms discomfort wash over me. Horns, reach for your Tums.
Twice the fun
Tuesday, March 7
1. The Fiesta Bowl folks must stage the BCS Championship (Jan. 8) and the Fiesta (Jan. 1) at the Cardinals' new stadium, and the Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. They are looking at moving the Insight to New Year's Eve, which would mean two games in two nights at two stadiums. Their hope is that fans in town for one game would want to go to both.
2. Minnesota has had 16 1,000-yard rushers in its history. Ten of them have come under coach Glen Mason. With Laurence Maroney turning pro and Gary Russell failing to maintain his grades, the Gophers will begin spring ball without a returning four-figure runner for only the second time in six seasons.
3. Now that Texas' Mack Brown has won a conference championship, Mason ranks first among I-A coaches in victories (117) without winning at least a share of a league title. In second place? Houston Nutt of Arkansas, with 92. Mason has a new contract. Nutt doesn't.
You can study and win
Thursday, March 2
1. Only five I-A football programs reached the top 10 percent of Division I APR scores, the latest measurement of academic performance, released by the NCAA yesterday. Duke, Stanford and Navy? No surprise. Auburn and Boston College? Big surprise. Three of the five went to bowl games. Turns out you can study and win.
2. Of the eight I-A schools that performed so poorly that they lost scholarships, four of them are in the Mid-American Conference, and none are in the formerly-known-as-BCS leagues. Schools that live on the periphery of I-A recruit prospects on the academic periphery. Unfortunately, now there are consequences.
3. TCU joins Syracuse in looking for a 12th game. Why can't they make a deal with each other? They're both looking for a home game. The Horned Frogs have only five home game in the schedule released yesterday. One problem is that I-AA schools are so in demand as visiting teams that they have raised their prices.
Gotta be the shoes
Tuesday, Feb. 28
1. What do coordinators and shoes have in common? Tommy Tuberville changes them every year. The Auburn coach has hired Will Muschamp to be his third defensive boss in three seasons, and the Tigers have moved from Nike to New Balance to Under Armour's new cleats in 2006. Tuberville is scheduled to tape a TV ad for Under Armour this week.
2. Miami's announcement of future home-and-home series with Oklahoma and Florida shines a light on how the Hurricanes have thrived as so many schools that share a city with an NFL team (SMU, Houston, Temple) have struggled. Miami will come out if the Canes are good and the schedule has marquee names.
3. Speaking of marketing, Tennessee followed its first losing record in 17 years by raising its ticket prices for the first time in five years. Trust me when I tell you I don't know EBITDA (Earnings before Income Tax, Depreciation and Amortization) from a city in Europe, but I'm pretty sure that's the opposite of what they teach in business school.
Thursday, Feb. 17
1. If you're worried about Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson's ankle, don't. When offseason conditioning began, Peterson ran a 4.41 in the 40. Strength coach Jerry Schmidt announced, "4.4" and told Peterson not to run again. When a couple of teammates also ran "4.4s", albeit 4.46 or so, Peterson's competitive instinct took over. He got back in line. This time: 4.35.
2. There may not have been many head coaching changes, but coordinators continue to move around. That's just another sign that next year, there will be a lot of head coaching changes. When the mob comes, throw them a coordinator. That staves them off for a year. If the mob comes back, coordinators won't be enough.
3. Michigan's Lloyd Carr replaced his coordinators quietly and bloodlessly. In the last few days, Terry Malone (offense) and Jim Herrmann (defense) left for the NFL, replaced by fellow staffers Mike DeBord and, after a two-day stint with the Bears, Ron English, respectively. Smart moves by Carr, even if no one at Fortress Wolverine ever acknowledged the need for change.
No time to complain
Tuesday, Feb. 14
1. JoePa went to New Haven last week to accept the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award. He'll be on Charlie Rose tonight on PBS. When he started to complain about the travel, his son Jay reminded him: "Last year you were being eulogized." End of complaint.
2. Myles Brand deserves credit for making the NCAA more commonsensical and user-friendly. But as a full-fledged Olympic junkie, I can't help but believe that he missed the boat by not letting Jeremy Bloom play football and maintain his Olympic career. College football could have reaped a huge benefit.
3. One month after arriving at Syracuse as quarterbacks coach, Brian White has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Greg Robinson turned down better résumés and bigger names to hire quarterback coach Phil Earley, who spent last season as a volunteer at the elbow of Auburn's Al Borges. The pathetic Orange offense needs some Borges.
Whistles, not tee times
Thursday, Feb. 9
1. Dennis Erickson, 58, Bob Toledo, 59, and Jim Colletto, 61, have restarted their college careers at an age when many coaches look for tee times. Erickson returns to Idaho, where he coached in the 1980s. At this rate, maybe 96-year-old Johnny Vaught died too soon.
2. After Nick Holt left Pete Carroll's USC staff two years ago to become head coach at Idaho, the Trojans scheduled the Vandals in 2007 as a way to lend Holt a hand. Maybe Holt figured out what was coming. He fled Idaho this week to return to Carroll's staff as defensive coordinator.
3. If you promised me that K.W. State and JFU, the marching bands led by Kanye West and Jamie Foxx on the Grammys last night, would schedule a game this fall, I'd cover it just to be there for halftime. Real marching bands could use a little of the life in what West and Foxx threw down last night.
Remembering John Vaught
Tuesday, Feb. 7
1. John Vaught retired as Ole Miss coach in January 1971 because of ill health. Nice call, Doc: Vaught lived 35 more years. Only a few years ago he regularly attended former coach David Cutcliffe's practices. Vaught, who died last Friday at age 96, is as well known for developing quarterbacks Charley Conerly, Jake Gibbs and Archie Manning as for winning 190 games.
2. Alabama coach Bear Bryant used the tackle-eligible pass play to beat Vaught's Rebels twice. In 1968, Vaught, a member of the rules committee, blocked the door of the committee meeting and said, "We are not leaving this meeting until we do something about that damn tackle-eligible pass." The committee banned it.
3. You might not consider Northwestern coach Randy Walker an offensive guru, but the top coaches do. In the last week, Walker has lost offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar to California and offensive line coach James Patton to Oklahoma, where he joins Dunbar's predecessor, Sooner offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
Thursday, Feb. 2
1. One more thing about the instant-replay rule that the Football Rules Committee will include next week: there will be a coach's challenge, as in the NFL. The belief is it may help get the call right, and it may defuse volatile crowds, which may not boo as loud if they see their coach doesn't make the challenge.
2. Don't expect the NCAA Management Council to rubber-stamp the approval of 6-6 teams in bowl games for which their conferences have a tie-in. Division I-A is split. The conferences with a lot of tie-ins -- BCS leagues -- want approval. The non-BCS leagues want access for their 8-4 teams.
3. Congrats to Mike Shula, whose wife Shari gave birth to their third daughter, Ryan, on signing day. The NCAA doesn't allow new arrivals on signing day until 8 a.m. Ryan waited until 10:46 a.m., at which time she loudly declared her intent.
Reviewing instant replay
Tuesday, Jan. 31
1. When the NCAA Football Rules Committee meets next week to consolidate all the instant-replay rules into one, it likely will use the Big Ten model as a basis. The committee also will develop a Plan B for system crashes, such as when Vince Young, with his knee down, lateraled on a play that went for a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
2. Water seeks its own level, and so do coaches in search of loopholes in the recruiting portion of the NCAA Manual. But you can't find anyone who doesn't like the two-day dead period between last weekend and signing day on Wednesday. Coaches and players get to catch their breath and make decisions.
3. Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told the Indianapolis Star that the recent spate of arrests and other bad publicity emanating from the men's basketball and football teams used a lot of goodwill with the public. Even if Burke didn't intend to fire a shot across coach Joe Tiller's bow, I bet Tiller felt the bullets whistle by.
Terp, Rebs receive boosts
Friday, Jan. 27
1. Florida quarterback Josh Portis's transfer to Maryland is a needed boost for Terps coach Ralph Friedgen in a week when top in-state prospect Antonio Logan-El, an offensive lineman, switched from the Terps to Penn State. When seven in-state kids commit to JoePa, that's not good for Maryland -- or its coach.
2. I couldn't figure out why the decision by former Tennessee quarterback Brent Schaeffer to go to Ole Miss struck a chord. Then it hit me: Vols coach Phil Fulmer revamped his offense by hiring three former Ole Miss coaches, including David Cutcliffe. Rebels coach Ed Orgeron responded in kind.
3. The ACC released its 2006 schedule this week, and this is what the 12th game has wrought: only four teams -- Georgia Tech, Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest -- play more than one non-ACC game against the other five major conferences or Notre Dame. North Carolina State and Boston College play none.
Senior (Bowl) moments
Thursday, Jan. 26
1. Best line I heard at the Senior Bowl: at practice Monday, Michigan wideout Jason Avant asked his position coach, the Titans' Ray Sherman, about his playing career. "You want to know how good I was?" Sherman asked. "Back home, they still choose me in case I show up."
2. Runner-up: North/Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, a former USC defensive back, followed South/49ers head coach Mike Nolan to the lectern at their press conference Tuesday. "My USC players are better than his Texas players," Fisher began. "I don't know what happened in the national championship game."
3. Georgia signed coach Mark Richt to a contract extension through 2013, which should end the speculation that Richt someday might replace his mentor, Bobby Bowden, at Florida State. The only thing worse than replacing Bowden in Tallahassee would be replacing Joe Paterno at Penn State. We should all live that long.
Senior Bowl groans and grins
Wednesday, Jan. 25
1. At the Senior Bowl Tuesday, Vandy quarterback Jay Cutler of the North team peruses the rosters. "Is DeMeco Ryans here?" Cutler asks. Yes, he is told, the Alabama linebacker is on the South team. "Ooohhh," Cutler moans. "I thought he wasn't going to be here!" Ryans hears the story. A big grin spreads over his face.
2. San Jose State defensive coordinator Tom Williams interviewed with the Jaguars in Mobile on Monday. On Tuesday, Tom Hayes, the defensive coordinator at Stanford, Williams' alma mater, left for the Saints. Cardinal coach Walt Harris passed on Williams a year ago. Harris should give him a second look.
3. If you're looking for a smart take on how you look at recruiting, go to al.com and find today's column by Neal McCready of the Mobile Register. He details the nature of college fans: my team's coach is a great recruiter, your team's coach cheats, and there's no middle ground. Wish I had written it.
Senior Bowl notes
Tuesday, Jan. 24
1. Rick Neuheisel and Rip Scherer, the quarterback coaches of the Ravens and Browns, respectively, both told me they would rather be college head coaches. Scherer said a friend told him to think of the NFL as the River Jordan where he would cleanse his sins. Perception would apply that more to Neuheisel, wouldn't it?
2. Scherer had gotten down the road with Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who's looking for an offensive coordinator, when the Browns extended Scherer's contract. The Cal job may be the biggest assistant job that's still vacant. But how much coordinating do you do when Tedford, the quarterback guru, is your boss?
3. The players lined up alphabetically for the Senior Bowl weigh-in. Sandwiched between California offensive linemen Ryan O'Callaghan and Marvin Philip was Stanford defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo, which, now that I think about it, captures the last four Big Games.
LSU fans tweak USC
Monday, Jan. 23
1. If you're an LSU fan, or if you're not, you must go to onepeat.com. A couple of Tiger fans created the site to raise money to rent a billboard that will point out that USC has won only one of the last three BCS titles. Location? Near the USC campus. It's clever, and any excess monies will be donated to Katrina relief.
2. UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, on new receivers D.J. McCarthy, whom Dorrell hired from Central Florida: "He is very familiar with Florida and the surrounding states and I think that will be a big plus in our recruiting efforts." Call me crazy but I just don't think the Bruins will live or die on how they recruit in Florida.
3. So I'm off to the Senior Bowl, where the most fun I have each year is figuring out who makes the easist transition from one position to another. Last year, Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones turned into a first round tight end. This year? Keep an eye on Tulsa tight end Garrett Mills, who will work as a fullback.
SECond to three
Friday, Jan. 20
1. There are no prouder fans than SEC fans, who believe their league stands second to no one. Actually, it stands fourth. The SEC went 7-8 this season against other BCS conferences -- 7-9 if you throw in Notre Dame. The "lowly" Big 12 went 8-5. The ACC went 13-9. The Big Ten went, yep, 10-10 (ND included).
2. New York Jets coach Eric Mangini promoted linebacker coach Bob Sutton to defensive coordinator, the same Sutton who led Army to a 44-55-1 record from 1991-99, including 10-2 in 1996. Is that good? Well, in the six seasons since, Army has gone 11-58. College football misses Bob Sutton.
3. Tennessee trumpeted its school-record 30 players on the SEC Academic Honor Roll, including second-team All-SEC defensive lineman Parys Haralson and quarterbacks Rick Clausen and Erik Ainge. Let's just hope that it's coincidence that their best grades came in the same season as Phil Fulmer's worst record (5-6).
Scouts not impressed with award winners
Thursday, Jan. 19
1. It's interesting how the NFL scouts view the top college football award winners. The scouts aren't impressed. Outland Award winner Greg Eslinger, Biletnikoff winner Mike Hass, Guy winner Ryan Plackemeier all went uninvited to next week's Senior Bowl. Should we believe the scouts or our own eyes?
2. Regardless of whether or not Pat Hill gets an NFL job, just the fact that he has been interviewed by two teams will make it much easier for Fresno State to hire a new coach if and when Hill does leave. The coaching industry now sees that the NFL sees Fresno.
3. Bob Toledo took UCLA to Pac-10 championships in 1997-98. Toledo still has three years left on his contract with the Bruins, who fired him in 2002, but he got bored. Toledo lobbied for the San Diego State job. His former assistant, Rocky Long, hired him as New Mexico offensive coordinator. It's still who you know.
Self-promotion unnecessary for Davis
Wednesday, Jan. 18
1. A number of coaches at the AFCA convention remarked on what a great job Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis did in bringing along quarterback Vince Young, and how few people knew that because Davis isn't a self-promoter. Now that Davis has won the Frank Broyles Award, he doesn't have to self-promote.
2. Alabama junior wide receiver/kick returner Tyrone Prothro is having surgery to remove the rods from the leg he broke so horrifically in October against Florida. Once that is done, he can begin to rehab in earnest. No one knows how long it will take. If I had to guess, I'd say his senior season will be in 2007 -- if ever.
3. Keep an eye on LSU athletics. The athletic department has a $3.4 million deficit because of Hurricane Katrina, and announced ticket price hikes yesterday to combat it. With the economy in Louisiana in the sick bay, it will be interesting to see if the deficit is a one-year-only deal, or the first chapter in a long book.
Vikings raid college coaching ranks
Tuesday, Jan. 17
1. There can't be any argument about who did the best recruiting job this year. New Minnesota Viking coach Brad Childress snagged Virginia Tech quarterback coach Kevin Rogers, UCLA running back coach Eric Bienemy, Wisconsin offensive line coach Jim Hueber and Oklahoma wide receiver coach Darrell Wyatt.
2. Someone asked the question about how rare it is that Texas holds the college football and baseball national championships simultaneously. It has been done seven times, four by USC and most recently by Miami in 2001. Now if the No. 5 Longhorns can win the Final Four, too, we'll talk rare.
3. My friend Bruce Feldman lists Penn State and Notre Dame as the big winners in the early-decision game. I disagree, because the guys in queston, Nittany Lion linebacker Paul Posluszny and Irish quarterback Brady Quinn, either couldn't (Posluszny, injury) or wouldn't (Quinn, relationship with Charlie Weis) leave.
Welcome to Morgantown
Friday, Jan. 13
1. West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, on the bright side of coaching in a small state: "We got 11 offensive starters from 10 different states," he said. "It's like the United Nations. I think that has helped us. When they come to Morgantown, that's their home. It's not like everybody is from this state, then me."
2. Mason Crosby's decision to return to Colorado for his senior year made me think: Do kickers ever come out early? Since Sebastian Janikowski did so in 2000, only one placekicking junior has put himself in the NFL draft: Peter Christofilakos from Illinois in 2003. That fall he kicked for an NAIA soccer team.
3. North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato is stunned that his All-ACC junior linebacker Stephen Tulloch is leaving early for the NFL draft. "He's 5-foot-10!" Amato said. Staying an extra year wouldn't make him taller. The bigger issue is experience: Tulloch (listed at 5-11) only started six games before this year.
Searching for No. 12
Thursday, Jan. 12
1. It's mid-January and some schools are still scrambling to find a 12th game. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops says the Sooners can't find anyone willing to play them. Kansas State and Louisville have found one another, with a return date scheduled for 2008.
2. Speaking of Stoops, his brother Mike, the Arizona coach, said he turned to quarterback Willie Tuitama at midseason because he had nowhere else to turn. "You don't want to play a true freshman unless you have to," Mike said. "We just weren't getting any better." The Wildcats, after a 1-6 start, split their last four.
3. Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron's first year ended with coaches and players fleeing. Coach O tried to lure Virginia Tech quarterback coach Kevin Rogers to Oxford as offensive coordinator. Rogers went to the Minnesota Vikings. Orgeron hired the guys ousted at Miami, Dan Werner and Art Kehoe. Year two may not be so bleak.
Tuesday, Jan. 10
1. The NCAA took the first step Monday in approving a provision that would allow 6-6 teams to go to a bowl only if they are filling one of their conference's contractural berths. It's a sensible compromise between those who like the bowls to have some competitive integrity and those who like, um, money.
2. Five more juniors declared for the NFL draft on Monday. The biggest impact came from Notre Dame tight end Anthony Fasano. He and Jeff Samardzija would have been a great inside-outside combination next fall for Brady Quinn. I still think the Irish's chances next year depend on finding defensive speed.
3. Marcus Vick ended any lingering controversy Sunday about whether he should have been given another chance at Virginia Tech when, according to police charges, he pulled a gun on three people. Vick turned himself in to a local magistrate, and all but turned in his draft prospects to the NFL.
Monday, Jan. 9
1. On the wall in the Texas meeting room where Vince Young made his announcement Sunday, the lettering says NATIONAL CHAMPIONS. Beneath that it read, 1963, 1969, 1970, and the unspoken expectations in that last comma caused problems for a lot of Longhorn coaches. So, I bet, will the comma after 2005.
2. I know this is awful, but there's this little, selfish part of me that hopes that the six to eight weeks that Penn State junior linebacker Paul Posluszny must sit out while his two damaged knee ligaments heal will dissuade him from leaving for the NFL. He and Notre Dame wideout Jeff Samardzija may be the only two returning All-Americans next fall.
3. Thanks to all who sent me the One-Pete emails, a riff on USC's Three-Peat that never was. Speaking of which, Texas won its first national championship since splitting the 1970 title with Nebraska, and after five days of stories, I haven't heard from a single LSU fan complaining about why ESPN refuses to recognize the Huskers.
Friday, Jan. 6
1. Vikings coach-to-be Brad Childress and Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers are old friends. Keep an eye on whether Rogers is lured to Minnesota. That would be bad news for the Hokies and for their quarterback, Marcus Vick, who is awaiting discipline for the Dumervil Stomp. Vick's not having a good week.
2. Texas took the ball over with 6:42 to play, down 38-26 to a team that had won 34 consecutive games, and never panicked. What's so impressive about that is that the Longhorns had been behind in the fourth quarter only once this season, way back in Game 2 at Ohio State, and by six points, not 12.
3. Good. And lucky: There's no official record for percentage of fumbles lost, but if there was, the Longhorns surely would have broken it. Texas fumbled 35 times this season -- 2.8 per game -- and lost only nine. In five games, including the Rose Bowl, Texas fumbled four times. But USC recovered only one.
Predicting the Rose
Wednesday, Jan. 4
1. USC 37, Texas 28. I think that the only team that can beat USC is USC. I don't think the Trojans will make the mistakes that will give the Longhorns the opportunity to win. As talented as USC is, it's their mental strength that has won 34 straight games. I think it will be the difference at the Rose Bowl.
2. Bobby Bowden doesn't need Cismesia. He needs Amnesia. The curse of the kicker has cost the Florida State coach one more high-profile game. You can't help but think that when Bowden has had a great kicker (Scott Bentley, Sebastian Janikowski), he has won a national championship. Apparently, it's that simple.
3. The tragedy of the West Virginia miners should end any concern that a young team will get full of itself after a historic 11-1 season. Coach Rich Rodriguez said Tuesday that his team must remain hungry. As the whole state mourns, the Mountaineers learned a sobering lesson about what's important. It's not football.
Tuesday, Jan. 3
1. Those aren't the headlines that Miami football expects to make on Jan. 2, and that is surely the point. Larry Coker dumped his offensive staff after three seasons of mediocre results. Still, I thought you could separate Gloria Estefan from Miami quicker than legendary offensive line coach Art Kehoe. Who snaps him up?
2. No disrespect meant to Wisconsin and West Virginia -- they deserved to win -- but where were the heads of SEC banner-carriers Auburn and Georgia? Let's hear it for a coach with one foot out the door (Barry Alvarez) and a conference being pushed out the door (Big East).
3. Of course, Jamie Christensen made a field goal at the gun to beat Texas Tech. Of course, he hit a knuckleball that barely cleared the crossbar. How else would Alabama win its 10th game? I think this victory sealed this team in the family bible of Tide fans. Talk about overachievers.
Friday, Dec. 30
1. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier becomes the 19th coach to take at least three schools to a bowl. Spurrier, at 6-6, fits right in. Only seven of the other 18 have winning records in bowls. The leaders in winning percentage: Dennis Franchione (3-2, .600) and Lou Holtz (12-8-2, .591).
2. The best things about Oklahoma's 17-14 victory over Oregon in the Holiday Bowl last night? Both teams confirmed their reservations in the 2006 preseason rankings; the sight of defense in a bowl game; the Sooners and Ducks meet again in September and Oklahoma proved its venture into mediocrity was a round trip.
3. At the bowl halfway point, it will be tough to lay a bigger egg than Georgia Tech did in the Emerald Bowl. Tech turned Utah receiver Travis LaTendresse (16 catches, 214 yards, four TDs) into the second coming of Lynn Swann. The Yellow Jackets couldn't leave their hearts in San Francisco. They didn't bring it.
Wolverines need tweaks
Thursday, Dec. 29
1. That's five one-play losses for Michigan this season, which means the Wolverines need tweaks, not an overhaul. If the offense showed as much creativity for the first 800 plays of the season as it showed on the Cal "The Play" imitation on the last play of the Alamo Bowl, that might help.
2. Doesn't it seem as if the officials from the Sun Belt Conference should have called something on that last play? Photographers were on the field, and perhaps a few others from the sideline. But that crew may have been overmatched from the start. To answer your question: The NCAA assigns neutral crews to bowl games.
3. Maybe it's the distance from the ACC to Boise, or maybe it's the mountain air, but that's two straight ACC teams that faded in the fourth quarter of the MPC Computers Bowl. Last year, Virginia took a big lead against Fresno State and lost in OT. Yesterday, Boston College nearly gakked a 27-0 lead against Boise State.
The QB Pac
Wednesday, Dec. 28
1. The biggest story in the Pac-10 over the second half of the season -- other than USC of course -- is the emergence of new quarterbacks. Steve Levy at Cal, Willie Tuitama at Arizona and, as he proved last night, Rudy Carpenter at Arizona State, all revitalized their teams down the homestretch.
2. To congratulate Colorado for hitching its britches and playing respectably in the 19-10 loss to Clemson at the Champs Sports Bowl last night would be like saluting the Buffs for breathing. Last night just highlighted how lame an effort Colorado gave against Nebraska and Texas. Cost coach Gary Barnett his job, too.
3. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has complained about the Wolverines being passed over by the Outback Bowl for Iowa. There may be a connection between his complaints and the lack of tickets purchased by the maize and blue. Let's see if his players want to be in the Alamodome. I bet Nebraska does.
Tuesday, Dec. 27
1. Here's the problem with bowls (and I'm a bowl guy): Teams are matched without regard to whether the matchup is good. Toss in the wild swings in motivation, and the result can be just as easily a clunker as a nailbiter. We deserve more in the postseason. The bowls, alas, just want to move tickets.
2. DeAngelo Williams climbed over Garrett Wolfe of Northern Illinois and Jerome Harrison of Washington State into first place in I-A rushing after his 233 yards against Akron Monday night. It may not seem fair, since Wolfe and Harrison don't have bowl games, but Memphis earned the opportunity, didn't it?
3. UCF's 49-48 loss to Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl is only the third in 11 overtime bowls to end on a missed extra point. As omens go, Alabama went from its 35-34 loss to Michigan in the 2000 Orange Bowl to a top-five ranking -- and a 3-8 record. The Golden Knights should be fine, once their defense gets old enough to shave.
That's a program
Friday, Dec. 23
1. The difference between a team and a program? Cal went 8-4 in a rebuilding year. That's a program. In the Las Vegas Bowl victory over BYU, a healthy Marshawn Lynch ran for 195 yards and three scores, and freshman DeSean Jackson made two spectacular touchdown catches. Bear fans can't wait for September.
2. And when a head coach calls up an assistant from the farm system, that's a program. Former Oklahoma quarterback and graduate assistant Josh Heupel returns to his alma mater and Bob Stoops after one season at Arizona working for Mike Stoops. Until Mike establishes a winner in Tucson, he'll be the farm team.
3. One of the enduring mysteries of life is how Paul Johnson has taken Navy to three consecutive bowl games and gotten barely a sniff from other schools. The Midshipmen also went 8-4 in a rebuilding year. They didn't humiliate the Colorado State defense (611 yards, no punts, 51 points) because of better talent.
Thursday, December 22
1. In 2001, Tim Rose's East Carolina defense blew a 38-8 halftime lead at the GMAC Bowl and lost to Marshall, 64-61 in two overtimes. Last night, Rose returned to Mobile as defensive coordinator for Toledo. Armed with a 28-13 halftime lead, the Rockets shut out UTEP in the second half. Redemption tastes sweet.
2. Florida State's top priority on offense next season will be to improve the protection for quarterback Drew Weatherford. Two reasons for hope: senior guard Matt Meinrod may get a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and junior tackle Mario Henderson's fire in his belly may finally be catching up to his talent.
3. The suspension of Wisconsin tailback Booker Stanley for allegedly choking a woman is much worse news for Stanley than for the Badgers. Starter Brian Calhoun led I-A in carries this season with 318. Still, the way the Auburn defense hits, Calhoun will need a blow. Sophomore Jamil Walker must step up.
Wednesday, December 21
1. Happy 79th birthday to Joe Paterno, the AP Coach of the Year, who will celebrate in south Florida because the Nittany Lions arrived yesterday, a full two weeks before the Orange Bowl. Perspective? JoePa is two years younger than Darrell Royal, who retired 29 years ago.
2. Texas fans, judging by my e-mail, are upset by ESPN's discussion of the Trojan dynasty and the lack of respect implied by the discussion. Then USC play-by-play man Lee Hamilton asked me Tuesday about a lack of respect for the Trojans on the East Coast. Is there a more overblown cliché in sports than respect?
3. As if its game with UCLA wasn't going to be a pointfest to begin with, Northwestern lost two of its top eight tacklers, junior tackle Trevor Schultz and sophomore corner Deante Battle, for the Sun Bowl because of academics. Even with a complete lineup, the Wildcats allowed a 59 percent completion rate.
Tuesday, December 20
1. The skeptic in me wonders whether the NCAA's new graduation success rate is more accurate than the old measurement, or just a prettier one. The GSR counts athletes who transfer. Division I's old rate: 54 percent. The new GSR: 64 percent. That still means three in eight players aren't leaving with a diploma.
2. A reader wrote with a preemptive defense of the Big East in bowls this season. Three of the conference's teams -- West Virginia, South Florida and Rutgers -- play opponents on or close to their home turf. Of course, it may just be payback for all those Orange Bowls hosted by former Big East champ Miami.
3. Another reason to watch the Liberty Bowl next week: Fresno State quarterback Paul Pinegar threw five picks in 242 attempts (Bulldogs went 8-1). He threw eight picks in his final 144 (Bulldogs went 0-3). Fresno State had better regain its offensive balance. Tulsa forced 20 interceptions, fifth in I-A.
On the coaching carousel
Monday, December 19
1. Hiring reset: eight I-A jobs filled. One, Dan Hawkins, was a head coach. Three offensive coordinators. Two defensive coordinators. Two others. Six white. Two African-American. One opening left (Rice). Best available coordinators: Al Borges (Auburn), Jon Tenuta (Georgia Tech), Gene Chizik (Texas).
2. Mack Brown told his assistants, who might have eyes on other jobs, the same message he told his juniors looking at the NFL draft: don't talk to anyone until Jan. 5, the day after the Rose Bowl. "If we ask the kids to be a team," Brown told his staff, "you should be a team, too." But why would they leave a 12-0 team?
3. Now that colleges include bowl stats in their season records, it's tougher to break per-game records. Notre Dame averages 38.2 points per game, better than the school record of 37.6, set in 1968. The Irish must score 32 points in the Fiesta Bowl to set the record. But Ohio State hasn't given up more than 31 this year.
Good news, bad news
Friday, December 16
1. In the latest edition of How Bad Do You Want to Be a Head Coach?, Turner Gill is taking over at Buffalo. Good news: the former Nebraska quarterback and assistant becomes the fifth African-American head coach. Bad news: he's at Buffalo, which has yet to prove it belongs in I-A.
2. Gary Darnell, a proven veteran, won the Texas A&M defensive coordinator job. If you believe the gossip, Aggie coach Dennis Franchione looked hard at two NFL defensive gurus, the Cowboys' Gary Gibbs and the Jaguars' Brian Van Gorder. The latter became head coach at I-AA Georgia Southern last week.
3. The Big 12 conference released its 2006 schedule this week, and nine teams will play their 12 games without an open date. This is what coaches feared and athletic directors ignored when they implored presidents to add the extra game. Newsflash: money talks. If we get weather-forced cancellations, when will they play?
Thursday, December 15
1. The imminent departure of Dan Hawkins to Colorado proves how solid the program is at Boise State. When Arizona State hired Dirk Koetter away from the Broncos five years ago, Boise State promoted Hawkins. Now the school will promote Chris Petersen to replace Hawkins. It rarely works as smoothly as that.
2. During the Master Coaches' bowl conference call Wednesday, the most optimistic voice about Texas' chances against USC was MC Pat Dye. (I love making them sound like rappers). Dye noted that Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, when at Auburn, held USC to 24 and 23 points in 2002-03.
3. LSU fans have spent three years complaining about what redshirt sophomore quarterback JaMarcus Russell can't do. Now that Russell's injured shoulder has knocked him out of the Peach Bowl against Miami, I think the Tigers will fall in love with Russell all over again. Matt Flynn isn't JaMarcus Russell.
Wednesday, December 14
1. While the Rocky Mountain News reports that Colorado is close to hiring Boise State's Dan Hawkins, a representative of one candidate has been told that Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is the front-runner to replace Gary Barnett. Grobe has a contract at Wake through 2012.
2. Kudos to Arizona State athletic director Lisa Love, who pushed her chips behind coach Dirk Koetter. Love resisted the knee-jerk reaction by any new AD, which would be to bring in her own person. Arizona State doesn't need a new coach. It needs to play better defense.
3. Here's my ranking of the six finalists on my ballot for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award: Joe Paterno, George O'Leary, Pete Carroll, Charlie Weis, Mack Brown, Karl Dorrell. I actually typed O'Leary, Paterno, Weis at the top, but I thought that shortchanged JoePa. Carroll over Weis? If it were easy to win 34 straight, more coaches would do it.
You Can Call Me Al
Tuesday, December 13
1. Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges is at the peak of his game. The 50-year-old helped create first-round draft choices out of all three players in his 2004 backfield. This year's offense averaged more points and yards than that one. So why isn't Borges getting interviewed for head coaching jobs?
2. Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson has agreed to take snaps at wide receiver at the Senior Bowl. How many will depend on whether USC's Matt Leinart accepts an invitation to play. The game has invited six QBs, per usual, but it's keeping a slot open for Leinart.
3. When Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe ran into Minnesota coach Glen Mason in New York last week, Kragthorpe asked if he could schedule more games with the Golden Gophers. "Two of my three years here, we've opened with losses to Minnesota and gone on to win eight games," Kragthorpe said.
2006 Heisman Favorite?
Monday, December 12
1. At the Heisman Trophy press conferences Saturday night, I listened to Texas quarterback Vince Young's disappointment at finishing second and considered whether he or Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn would be the Heisman favorite next year. So I thought a little more and chose Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson.
2. UConn offensive coordinator Norries Wilson may have a deep-seated desire to help the downtrodden. He may have a career death wish. Or he may really want to be a head coach. The 40-year-old dallied with Temple (0-11) and Buffalo (1-10) before taking over at Ivy League doormat Columbia (2-8).
3. As Texas coach Mack Brown and I watched kids scramble for autographs before the Heisman ceremony, I asked him if he had an autograph he treasured the most. Brown said he has the last four presidents. His favorite remains one he got as a child at the Mickey Owen Baseball Camp: Mickey Mantle.
Irish Anniversary Cards
Friday, December 9
1. Thanks to all the Notre Dame fans who marked the one-year anniversary of my eulogy for Irish football, written after Urban Meyer left the university standing at the altar and eloped with Florida. The column holds up -- well-written, clever -- with one exception. It's wrong. Not only wrong, but loud wrong. Oh well.
2. Minnesota coach Glen Mason told me he doesn't know whether junior tailback Laurence Maroney will return for his senior year or go to the NFL. The Gophers return 1,000-yard rusher Gary Russell, as well as three offensive linemen, none of them center Greg Eslinger, named the Outland Trophy winner last night.
3. That's quite a message that Colorado is sending. Not the firing of Gary Barnett, but saying that the money from the 12th game next season will pay off the $3 million that the university owes Barnett. Remember that the next time someone tells you the 12th game is necessary to pay for non-revenue sports.
Thursday, December 8
1. When successful coaches slump, they have a bank of goodwill from which they can draw. But Gary Barnett used all his resources to stay employed through the recruiting scandal that engulfed CU the last two years. Once the Buffs lost their last two games by a combined 100-6, Barnett found his rainy day fund dry.
2. Oregon athletic director Bill Moos wants a post-bowl, four-team playoff. In a panel discussion in New York on Wednesday, Moos said that his budget has risen over 10 years from $18.5 million to $41 million. "There weren't many million-dollar coaches [then]," Moos said. "How many $2 million coaches will there be 10 years from now? And how are we going to pay for it?"
3. Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo decried a system in which a bowl could "choose the team with a 3-5 [conference] record over the team with a 5-3 record" because the former -- O.K., it's North Carolina State -- travels. The most surprising thing is that DeFilippo sounded surprised. Once again: Welcome to the ACC, Gene.
Wednesday, December 7
1. A conference must have its champions average a final BCS standing of 12th over four years to secure its automatic bid. What I didn't know is that the BCS leagues decided to throw out the standings before the ACC raided the Big East. The four-year average begins with the 2004 season. Nothing before that season counts.
2. Why bring that up? With Florida State finishing this season at No. 22, the ACC's four year average from 2002-2005 is 12.75. The ACC has been saved from embarrassment by a technicality. With Virginia Tech at No. 8 in 2004, The next two champs' final ranking can't add up to more than 18.
3. Alabama coach Mike Shula, on the difference between recruiting after a 9-2 season and recruiting the previous two seasons while going 10-15 and dealing with NCAA probation: "This year, we're being picky in recruiting. The last couple of years, if we thought they were good, we took 'em."
Tuesday, December 6
1. By the time you read this, Kansas State coach Ron Prince has been recruiting for several hours. "I'm on the road at 4 a.m., trying to get some players," Prince said Monday night. First step: re-recruit the seven players who committed to Bill Snyder. After that, sign 18 more. K-State needs a full class of recruits.
2. Georgia is playing the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta, which explains why the Dawgs received 27,000 ticket requests from contributors for the 15,000 tickets that must be spread among boosters, faculty, staff and students. It may not be fair to West Virginia, but having Georgia in this one-time-only Sugar Bowl just feels right.
3. The National Football Foundation has its annual College Football Hall of Fame dinner tonight at the Waldorf-Astoria, and you won't be able to walk 10 feet down Fifth Avenue without bumping into a head coach or athletic director. The dinner is fine. It's the hospitality rooms afterward where you hear the best stories.
BCS Gets Karmic Payback
Monday, December 5
1. Admit it, playoff breath: the BCS got it right. Sure, the BCS got lucky. We're one Bush Push or one clock manipulation (Penn State) away from a third straight controversy. But one play often separates winners from losers. This year's lineup is karmic payback for what the BCS put us through the last two years.
2. Mock the Big East all you want, but the rule is plain; as long as the league champion averages a finish of 12th in the final BCS Standings over a four-year period, the league will keep its automatic bid. West Virginia, 10-1 with a loss only to Virginia Tech, finished 11th.
3. After he scored his third TD Saturday, USC tailback LenDale White flipped the ball toward the official and started to celebrate. Then he broke away and snatched the football off the ground. It was the 54th of his career, a USC record. "I forgot," White said. "One of the linemen said, 'That football is yours. Better go get it.'"
Friday, December 2
1. Kansas State won't hire anyone before Monday. Bill Snyder's last football team will have its banquet on Saturday night, and Snyder will be honored by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The school wants Snyder to have the spotlight one last time.
2. In 12 weeks, USC tailback Reggie Bush and UCLA quarterback Drew Olson have each won Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week three times. Only one player from either team has won the defensive award: Bruin linebacker Spencer Havner in Week One. As if you didn't know the game Saturday would be a pointfest.
3. Rice plucked Ken Hatfield off the reclamation heap after Clemson dumped him in 1993, and now the Owls may have a chance to go in a similar direction. The rumor in coaching circles is that R.C. Slocum, who won four conference titles at Texas A&M before being fired in 2002, is interested.
Turning the corner?
Thursday, December 1
1. Ron Prince's courtship by Kansas State is tangible proof that young, talented African-American coaches can work the system, too. Prince, 36, has had four NFL minority internships. He has proven he can develop offensive linemen. When Prince got an interview, he nailed it. Maybe a corner is being turned.
2. Trendspotting: Heisman Trophy winners get a ballot. Last year, Oklahoma's Jason White voted for his tailback, Adrian Peterson. This year, Matt Leinart of USC is voting for Reggie Bush. Do Bush or Vince Young have a teammate to vote for next year? I don't think Bush sticks around for us to find out.
3. UConn coach Randy Edsall believes championship games -- and his game against Louisville, too -- shouldn't be played after Thanksgiving weekend because the six-week 'contact period' has begun. "All of us lose a week of recruiting." Edsall said. He would begin play in August. But TV, like nature, abhors a vacuum.
When cats bark
Wednesday, November 30
1. Penn State goes to the Rose. The Buffs go to the Fiesta Bowl as Big 12 champion. The Orange takes Notre Dame. If the Fiesta didn't take West Virginia, then the Mountaineers go to the Sugar and Texas falls all the way to the Cotton. One more thing: if the Buffs win, dogs purr and cats bark.
2. Rice coach Ken Hatfield said at a press conference Tuesday that the Owls would be better next year and that he didn't anticipate any staff changes. That sounds like he's coming back, just as it sounded when I spoke to him two weeks ago. Yet his assistants are convinced that he is thisclose to resigning.
3. What do North Carolina (5-6) and Kansas (6-5) have in common beside Dean Smith? Both of them beat more teams with winning records (four) than did Notre Dame (three). Irish fans say that ND's schedule looked formidable at the beginning of the year. By that logic, Tennessee should be in the Sugar Bowl.
Tailback U. trouble?
Tuesday, November 29
1. USC junior LenDale White injured his shoulder Sunday, which may have moved Reggie Bush one step closer to the Heisman. More of the workload could fall on Bush. More workload, bigger numbers. The problem? Bush and White had been USC's only healthy tailbacks. Now there's Bush. What if he gets hurt?
2. The ACC ignored geography when it invited Boston College to join. Can't ignore it now: the Eagles are 8-3 and no one's first choice among the ACC's bowl partners. If the Peach gets Georgia or Alabama to fill the Georgia Dome, BC's relative lack of ticket sales could be swallowed.
3. O.K., Bobby Bowden isn't going to fire Jeff. But the Florida State legend and his son the offensive coordinator are in a no-win situation. Injuries on the line and general inexperience have hampered the Seminoles' offense. But as long as Jeff stays, Bobby won't be the loyal head coach. He'll be the daddy protecting his son.
Playoffs, patterns and possibilities
Monday, November 28
1. You want a college football playoff? What are the ACC and Big 12 Conference championship games if not the first weekend of March Madness? Frankly, I'd rather see Texas play Virginia Tech. Colorado and Florida State, after their beatings, appear headed for the Champs Bowl in Orlando.
2. My heart broke for Iowa State last year when the Cyclones lost to Missouri in overtime in the final regular-season game and missed the Big 12 Championship Game. I have less sympathy this year. With a 14-3 second-half lead at Kansas, Iowa State got outplayed. Three overtime losses isn't an oddity. It's a pattern.
3. Yeah, Texas A&M lost, but redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen McGee gave Aggie fans offseason hope. His teammates rallied to McGee, too. After A&M went ahead 22-21 in the third quarter, safeties Jaxson Appel and Melvin Bobbitt sat with McGee on the bench before the defense went on the field. Offense and defense don't mix like that often.
Friday, November 25
1. Coaches tell their quarterbacks that there's nothing wrong with a punt. Live to fight another down. So why does Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt, down 21-13 at West Virginia, choose to go for fourth-and-four from his own 48 with less than a minute to play in the half? The Mountaineers missed a field goal. But still
2. O.K., I'll admit I haven't paid enough attention to the Big East. But where has West Virginia been hiding quarterback Pat White? The redshirt freshman had his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game before the first quarter ended. When his left arm sharpens, he'll be ideal for Rich Rodriguez's offense.
3. It can't help anyone at Ole Miss feel any good that as its offense sputters, and coach Ed Orgeron has apparently run off offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, that former Rebels coach David Cutcliffe appears set to return to Tennessee and revive his old friend Phil Fulmer's offense. It will be a long offseason in Oxford.
Wednesday, November 23
1. All the arguments that Notre Dame fans have made to promote Brady Quinn as a Heisman candidate -- his superior numbers, the success of the team -- apply more so to UCLA's Drew Olson. He leads the nation in pass efficiency (Quinn, 5th), the Bruins are 9-1 (Irish, 8-2), and Olson isn't a finalist for the Davey O'Brien? (Quinn is).
2. The Doak Walker Award announces its finalists Wednesday. On a ballot that asked me to rank 10 backs, I had Reggie Bush of USC, Jerome Harrison of Washington State and DeAngelo Williams of Memphis 1-2-3. What Harrison did, especially on a losing team, impressed me. Williams carried the Tigers as well as he carries the ball.
3. The Lott Award asks not only for outstanding defensive play on the field, but outstanding character off the field. From a list of impressive candidates, my ballot went: linebacker DeMeco Ryans of Alabama, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson of Maryland and defensive end Brennan Schmidt of Virginia. I'll say this: reading the efforts to help others made by these guys is a great way to head into Thanksgiving.
Planning a Fiesta
Tuesday, November 22
1. Fiesta Bowl officials, in their weekly Sunday night conference call, seriously discussed inviting Auburn to play Notre Dame instead of Ohio State or Oregon. But once the Tigers only rose to 10th in the latest BCS Standings, well behind the No. 6 Buckeyes and the No. 7 Ducks, that becomes a much harder sell.
2. Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg sounded surprised Monday at the number of replays (88 in 70 games) that his conference has reviewed this season. What I've noticed is officials, out of caution, all but asking to be reviewed. If some of these guys marked the ball any slower, they could call delay of game on themselves.
3. DeAngelo Williams of Memphis must rush for 129 yards against Marshall to beat Washington State's Jerome Harrison in the Division I-A rushing race -- maybe. If the Tigers (5-5) get a bowl bid, then Williams would have to maintain his lead, and against a better defense than Marshall (153.7 rushing yards per game).
Stepfather knows best
Monday, November 21
1. As amazing as Reggie Bush's 513 all-purpose yards seemed against Fresno State Saturday, one veteran Bushwatcher didn't go gaga. Bush's stepfather, LaMar Griffin, said he was impressed, but added, "It was the stuff I've been seeing since he was nine years old. I saw him in high school [do] a little bit more than that."
2. There won't be many head coaching vacancies this year, so the two hottest coordinators, Auburn's Al Borges (offense) and Georgia Tech's Jon Tenuta (defense), must keep doing what they're doing for another year. I wish I had paid closer attention when they matched wits in the opener.
3. Conference USA has four 5-5 teams -- Houston, Southern Mississippi, Memphis and UAB. That means the league may have seven bowl-eligible teams -- or three. Since the six automatic-bid leagues may leave open as many as five bowl berths, C-USA has a lot of prestige (and extra practices and bowl payouts) at stake.
Friday, November 18
1. So Georgia Tech has to "vacate" 72 games over six seasons because it used players who were academically ineligible because the academic and compliance people misapplied/didn't understand/ignored the NCAA Manual. Doesn't sound like this one lands on the desk of George O'Leary or Chan Gailey.
2. Remember Montana Mazurkiewicz, the boy who called "pass right" for Notre Dame but died before coach Charlie Weis called the play? A website, www.passright.org, is raising funds for a memorial and his medical bills. They're selling rubber Livestrong-style bracelets that say, "Pass Right." Check it out.
3. Stanford fans may revel in the fact that Steve Levy, a former fullback, will make his first career start for California in the Big Game. But older Stanford fans will shudder, recalling how, in 1972, freshman Vince Ferragamo came off the bench for the injured Steve Bartkowski and led the Bears to a 24-21 victory.
Spurrier vs. first family of coaching
Thursday, November 17
1. There's a rumor among coaches that Rice coach Ken Hatfield will retire at season's end. Hatfield told me last night that he will sit down with athletic director Bobby May after the season "to see where we are." The Owls, 1-9, have only two senior starters. There's a lot to return to. "It's still fun," Hatfield said. "When you see the light in their eyes, that's why you coach."
2. In case you're wondering, as South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier prepares to face Tommy Bowden and Clemson, Spurrier is 9-10-1 against the first family of coaching: 5-8-1 against Bobby (Florida State), and 4-2 against Terry (Auburn, 1993-98).
3. Choose your favorite rebuilder in the MAC West. Ex-doormat Northern Illinois has gone 33-13 since 2002, and coach Joe Novak has done everything but win the division. By beating Toledo, 35-17, NIU is one win over Western Michigan away. But first-year coach Bill Cubit has taken the Broncos from 1-10 to 7-3.
Rush hour's over
Wednesday, November 16
1. There used to be almost a direct correlation between the top 10 rushing teams and the top 10 teams. Not anymore. In fact, six of the top 13 rushing teams don't even have winning records. If you took Texas (second) and USC (seventh) out of the top 13, the other 11 teams are a cumulative one game over .500.
2. Bill Snyder never had much use for the media. He focused on football, and regarded everything else as a distraction. In recent years, Snyder has revealed how much time he didn't give to his family, too, and how much he regretted it. His remarks Tuesday regarding his family were touching, and a little sad.
3. In recent years, an average of forcing three turnovers per game has been a rare achievement for any defense. TCU and Miami (Ohio) are the only teams to have done so this season. Neither, however, is close to the record for turnovers forced in a season. Tennessee recovered 21 fumbles and intercepted 36 passes in 1970.
Big Ten first
Tuesday, November 15
1. If I'm picking first in the offensive line draft, I'll take Minnesota. How else you you explain that three different Gopher tailbacks, the most recent being Amir Pinnix and his 206 yards against Michigan State, have been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week? No Big Ten team has ever done that before.
2. It's extremely possible that the Pac-10 could have two BCS teams -- USC and Oregon -- and only two other teams qualify for bowls. If Arizona upsets Arizona State, the Sun Devils don't qualify. That would leave, barring upsets, UCLA and Cal as the other bowl teams. That's a pretty good definition of top-heavy.
3. Only four linebackers have won the Lombardi Award in its 35-year history. That block of granite usually goes to an interior lineman. It's a measure of the respect that linebackers A.J. Hawk of Ohio State and Paul Posluszny of Penn State have earned that both of them are Lombardi finalists.
First rule in bowl bids
Monday, November 14
1. First rule of bowl bids: the invitation goes to the team that gets TV ratings and travels. Call it whatever bias you like. But the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. My guess is that after Notre Dame, the one at-large bid available will go to a 10-1 Alabama or a 9-2 Ohio State ahead of 10-1 Virginia Tech or 10-1 Oregon.
2. All the hype about LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell has been about his size (6-foot-6, 252), his speed and his arm. But the most impressive thing about the redshirt sophomore who led the Tigers to an overtime win at Alabama was his composure and discipline. Russell never rattled, and LSU never turned the ball over.
3. Southern Mississippi has outscored its last four opponents 44-0 in the first quarter and won only two of the games. Coach Jeff Bower blames a lack of depth, but hurricane rescheduling had a hand in it. The Golden Eagles played all four on the road, the last two in a five-day span. Goodbye, C-USA East lead.
Barry's last (home) stand
Friday, November 11
1. In 1990, while at The Dallas Morning News, I picked Wisconsin as "The Team of the '90s." The Badgers had won six games in three years. But new coach Barry Alvarez seemed worth taking a flyer on. Three Rose Bowl victories later, Alvarez coaches his final home game in Madison, and I got at least one prediction right.
2. Analyze Phil Fulmer's problems in Knoxville all you want, from the punchless offense to the sum-is-lesser-than-the-parts recruiting, but the bottom line to being 3-5 this late in the season is the headline on the e-mail that Tennessee sent out Thursday: "TICKETS REMAIN FOR UT-MEMPHIS, UT-VANDERBILT."
3. Cal promised to refurbish Memorial Stadium for years, promised for so long without doing that coach Jeff Tedford could have walked if the school didn't get moving. That's no idle threat, but there's nothing like archrival Stanford's $85 million renovation of its stadium to get Cal moving. Plans were unveiled Thursday.
Thursday, November 10
1. If you've heard Miss. State coach Sly Croom speak, you may understand the context missing from his criticism of Alabama in a speech this week. Croom is a no-nonsense guy, and he regards any form of post-play celebration as nonsense. He doesn't whine, and those comments shouldn't be read as such
2. Adidas will pay Notre Dame $60 million, and just in time. ND will pay Charlie Weis at least half that, and after 2005, the Irish get a lot less from the BCS. Now, ND gets a conference share of the BCS pot ($17 million). Next year, ND gets only what an individual school gets from its conference -- about $4.5 million.
3. Marshall is 4-5 after its overtime loss to Southern Mississippi on Tuesday night. To qualify for its seventh bowl in eight years, the Thundering Herd will have to win at Memphis in Tiger tailback DeAngelo Williams' last home game. It could be worse -- three of Marshall's victories have come by a total of five points.
Wednesday, November 9
1. Tulsa senior Garrett Mills leads I-A tight ends in catches (6.89) and receiving yards (90.67) per game. He's a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. But the John Mackey Award created a rule that excludes Mills because he doesn't always line up next to a tackle. Hey, Mills is the kind of kid that you find a way to keep in your race, not out.
2. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden turned 76 on Tuesday. The Seminoles haven't contended for No. 1 in five seasons. They lost their most recent game and the schedule only gets tougher. But since Bowden turned 70, Florida State has gone 57-19 (.750). Sounds like he still has his fastball to me.
3. Texas fans assume they'll see Colorado (7-2, 6-1) in the Big 12 Championship. But Iowa State is 6-3 (3-3), with two overtime losses, and has won its last three games by 27, 28 and 28 points. The Buffs have to go to Ames on Saturday. Let's not check those Denver-Houston fares on Dec. 3 just yet.
Fiesta for Bama?
Tuesday, November 8
1. If Texas goes to the Rose Bowl, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl gets the first BCS pick. If Notre Dame wins out, the Fiesta likely takes the Irish. If Alabama finishes with one loss and doesn't win the SEC, Virginia Tech and Ohio State don't stand a chance for the Fiesta bid. An Irish-Tide matchup would be a ratings bonanza.
2. Texas and USC both punted only once in their wins Saturday. The Longhorns average 2.9 punts per game, fourth best in the nation. The Trojans average only 2.6 per game. But that's only second. First? Louisville has punted 18 times in nine games. That pace, 2.0 per game, ties the NCAA record set by Nevada in 1948.
3. Georgia got four days off, which meant four days of rest and treatment for quarterback D.J. Shockley's sprained knee, and on Monday, coach Mark Richt named Shockley a captain for the Auburn game on Saturday. Rest easy, Dawg fans. Sounds like Shockley is, figuratively speaking, full speed ahead.
Miami Dance Party
Monday, November 7
1. It will remain as one of the enduring images of the season: the quiet Virginia Tech crowd, barely participating as the band performed its traditional on-field rendition of the "Hokie Pokey" between the third and fourth quarters. On the sideline at the 30-yard-line, Miami offensive tackle Eric Winston happily danced along.
2. Penn State fans, referring to the Michigan loss, are writing me to maintain that the JoePas are one second away from being unbeaten. Well, Miami fans could say the Canes are one dropped field-goal snap from going into overtime at Florida State. Once you open the "almost" door, a lot of people can rush in.
3. I can't remember going this deep into the season and there being no coach in any of the six automatic-bid conferences who has either resigned or is an obvious candidate to be fired. Maybe it's because only 11 of the 65 schools are out of bowl contention. Can almost everyone finish 6-5 or better?
Friday, November 4
1. Miami goes to Virginia Tech having allowed fewer than 200 total yards in each of its last four games. Hokie quarterback coach Kevin Rogers told me the Canes combine great speed and depth with more sophisticated schemes than they used to use, plus more situation substitutions than most college defenses.
2. Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil, the I-A sack leader, didn't get one until the final seconds last night against Pittsburgh. But the threat of his sacks made Panther sophomore right offensive tackle Mike McGlynn commit four false starts, including on consecutive snaps that stunted a fourth-quarter drive.
3. Why don't I put Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn on my Heisman short list? I don't think he's as good as Vince Young or Matt Leinart. I don't think he's as dangerous as Reggie Bush or Maurice Drew, and DeAngelo Williams is the best pure running back in the nation. That's already five names on a three-name ballot.
Thursday, November 3
1. I flat missed the boat on West Virginia, but I felt better when coach Rich Rodriguez said the team jelled a lot faster than he expected, too. WVU has taken control of the Big East, humiliating UConn on Wednesday, 45-13. If Louisville beats Pittsburgh tonight, the Mountaineers will be close to clinching a BCS berth.
2. When did a Heisman candidate last suffer because of teammates' injuries? The loss of two quarterbacks has made Memphis too one-dimensional. That DeAngelo Williams gained 167 yards anyway against UAB on Tuesday is a testament to his talent. He deserves to be a Heisman finalist.
3. Keep in mind, everyone, as you chew your fingernails in anticipation of the Virginia Tech-Miami game on Saturday night, that in a full-blown playoff system, this game wouldn't be nearly as important. The fact is, the game is a de facto playoff game, even down to the Hokies' home-field advantage.
Wednesday, November 2
1. The saddest thing about Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry making the statements about the need for more black players to compete is that the Falcons promptly went out and got routed by BYU, which may be the whitest school in Division I-A. DeBerry was not only politically incorrect, he was just flat incorrect.
2. The Fiesta, Sugar and Orange, the three BCS bowls that can invite Notre Dame this season, will be in South Bend on Saturday for the Tennessee game. And if Notre Dame doesn't qualify for the BCS, the Gator gets first shot. The Gator will be in South Bend, too. Any questions about Notre Dame's bowl appeal?
3. Alabama has allowed one touchdown in four games, and it came after a turnover put Ole Miss on the Crimson Tide 27. Arkansas scored on a 70-yard run on Sept. 24. The last real touchdown drive against the Tide defensive starters came in the first quarter on Sept. 17, by South Carolina, in the season's third game.
Tuesday, November 1
1. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told me Monday that he couldn't recall ever having come from behind to win in the fourth quarter on consecutive Saturdays. There's a reason for that. You have to go back to 1993 to even find consecutive games that Spurrier won by seven points or fewer.
2. Judging from the comments I've heard, I may be the only one that likes the new Nike unis that Virginia Tech and Florida wore last week. I thought they looked futuristic and fresh. The new uniforms may have been a market test. Or maybe Nike had some extra orange material and found a way to use it.
3. Central Florida forced 20 turnovers when it went 0-11 last season. The Golden Knights already have forced 22 this season, including six by East Carolina in a 30-20 victory Saturday. UCF is 5-3 and one victory away from qualifying for a bowl, which proves Notre Dame right. George O'Leary can coach.
What Was UT Thinking?
Monday, October 31
1. Tennessee was long overdue in retiring the No. 16 jersey of Peyton Manning on Saturday. But if UT waited eight years, it could wait two more weeks. Why would Tennessee even think of bringing Manning back to campus on the weekend that the Volunteers played a Steve Spurrier-coached team?
2. Tennessee (3-4 with three top-five losses) vs. Clemson (4-4) would be a great Peach Bowl if they qualify for the postseason. Clemson, the last I-A team to not lose a fumble, lost three fumbles at Georgia Tech, and the game, 10-9. That's two overtime losses, a four-point, final-minute loss at Wake Forest, and now this.
3. You don't have to be Bud Wilkinson to figure out that all the what's-wrong-with-Oklahoma talk can be answered with "Adrian Peterson's ankle." The sophomore led the Sooners to a 31-24 victory at Nebraska, and if he stays healthy enough to play, Oklahoma will run the table, including that season-ender at Texas Tech.
Tech Sets Bar High
Friday, October 28
1. Virginia Tech, with its 30-10 rout of Boston College, set the bar high for the rest of the challengers to Texas and USC. Alabama, Georgia and UCLA have got to bring it just to keep up with the Hokies, much less pass them, especially with Virginia Tech's next game being against No. 6 Miami.
2. The National Football Foundation named its eight I-A Scholar-Athletes, and I don't recall a class making plays and grades like this one. Linebacker DeMeco Ryans of Alabama and center Greg Eslinger of Minnesota are All-Americans. The class has five O-linemen, two QBs and Ryans: defensive minds just got dissed.
3. Virginia Tech made seven trips into the red zone, and came out with two touchdowns and three field goals. For the season, the Hokies are 22-of-26, with 14 touchdowns and eight field goals. Not bad. Compare that to UCLA's red-zone record: 32-of-34, with 27 TDs. One word: astounding.
Ignore The Rumors
Thursday, October 27
1. NFL teams have begun to sniff around Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, according to NFL.com. Let's recall what Weis said when hired: "This is an end-all for our family. We come to Notre Dame, it's with the intent of retiring here. That's why we're coming here. We don't come here to bounce somewhere else."
2. It's one thing to believe Weis, which I do. I even believe Vince Young when he says he's coming back to Texas for his senior season in 2006. Mack Brown's players don't leave early. But if Young changed his mind, it wouldn't surprise me and I wouldn't blast him. That kind of money is hard to turn down.
3. Stanford coach Walt Harris told me a key to his team's resurgence is starting redshirt freshman Allen Smith at left tackle. Freshmen aren't usually allowed to literally protect the quarterback's back. Three games before Smith started: 10 sacks, two TD passes. Three games Smith started: seven sacks, eight TD passes.
Wednesday, October 26
1. Clemson is the last team in the nation this season that hasn't given up a fumble. And coach Burton Burns' running backs have lost only one fumble in 31 games. The Tigers' current backs, James Davis, Reggie Merriweather and Kyle Browning, have 392 career touches with no lost fumbles.
2. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, in a luncheon speech Monday, blasted ESPN for exerting undue influence on the BCS. Tuberville said we've decided Texas and USC should be in the Rose Bowl, so everyone else can go home. I just wish someone would invite me to the meetings where we make these decisions.
3. Oregon fans are chastising me for projecting Oregon State, and not the Ducks, in the Holiday Bowl. They even accused me of confusing the teams, as if you could confuse that Oregon yellow with anything. Anyway, without quarterback Kellen Clemens, these aren't the same Ducks. I think the Beavers will pass them.
Don't be No. 3
Tuesday, October 25
1. Texas moved narrowly ahead of USC in the new BCS standings. Given that the Horns next three opponents are 1-11 in the Big 12, Texas should fall back to No. 2. But the key to the BCS is: Don't Be No. 3. The margin between Texas and Virginia Tech is nearly as big as that between the Hokies and No. 5 Alabama.
2. This may be the definitive stat on how good the USC offense is: there is no older rushing, passing or total offense record in the NCAA book than the 7.9 yards per play that Army averaged in 1945 with Mr. Inside (Doc Blanchard) and Mr. Outside (Glenn Davis). The Trojans are averaging 7.8 yards per play this season.
3. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr had a hard time Monday deciding what impressed him most about the Northwestern offense: the 67 percent completion percentage, the two interceptions in 271 attempts, the five sacks allowed in seven games, or only 28 punts. All adds up to Brett Basanez being pretty good, doesn't it?
Tennessee power shortage
Monday, October 24
1. Tennessee's 6-3 loss at Alabama is only the second SEC game in Phil Fulmer's 13 seasons as head coach that the Vols failed to score a touchdown, and only the fourth overall in 160 games. But three of those six-less finishes have come in Fulmer's last 37 games. Tennessee hasn't averaged 30 points a game since 2001.
2. And then there were five: The John Unitas Golden Arm Award named seven finalists last week, and two of them failed to reach halftime Saturday. Oregon's Kellen Clemens (broken ankle) or Georgia's D.J. Shockley (sprained knee) may have golden arms, but their wheels are made of less durable stuff.
3. Speaking of injuries, Northern Illinois senior Adrian Davis filled in for the ailing Garrett Wolfe (knee), the No. 4 rusher in Division I-A, and Wolfe's backup, A.J. Harris (shoulder), by rushing for 252 yards and three touchdowns in the Huskies' 34-3 victory over Kent State. As a definition of depth, that'll do.
A new Heisman contender?
Friday, October 21
1. For all the attention that Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick gets, the Hokies are No. 3 because of their defense. Three times the Terps intercepted Vick in the third quarter, and Maryland still hasn't scored a touchdown. The Hokies have allowed six offensive touchdowns in seven games.
2. Cue the violins: I know it's early, but not only is there a chance that Wisconsin and Iowa will be playing for the Big Ten championship on Nov. 12, but they could be doing so at Badgers coach Barry Alvarez's last game at Camp Randall Stadium. I can smell the schmaltz in those game-week stories from here.
3. If you're keeping score on your Heisman scorecard, Reggie Bush has been Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week twice this season, Vince Young has won the Big 12 honor, and Matt Leinart hasn't won it at all this year. Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez has won the Big Ten honor two weeks in a row. Hmmm
Thursday, October 20
1. I'm predicting a nor'easter to hit Annapolis on Nov. 5 and another hurricane to hit Houston on Nov. 12. Why? Tulane plays at Navy and Rice, respectively, on those dates, and those are the only two Green Wave games that have yet to be rescheduled in this hurricane-ravaged season.
2. Alabama wide receiver Tyrone Prothro has been in a Tuscaloosa hospital since his broke two bones in his left leg against Florida on Oct. 1. He got an unexpected lift to his spirits Monday, when coach Mike Shula stopped by to say hello and brought with him a get-well-soon letter from none other than President Bush.
3. Make of this what you will: The Florida Atlantic Owls are 1-6. The Rice Owls are 0-5, and the Temple Owls are 0-7. In nature, the owl's greatest enemy is other owls, which figures. Temple is minus-four in turnover margin; FAU, minus-five; and Rice, minus-10.
Maybe Leinart isn't No. 1
Wednesday, October 19
1. One NFL scout watching USC quarterback Matt Leinart warm up Saturday told me there are two reasons he hopes his team won't draft him: one, no one wants to go 2-14 and get that first pick, and two, it's tough to gauge Leinart's talent when the team that picks him will put less talent around him than he has this season.
2. This is only the second time since 1984 that no Big Ten team reached 4-0 in league play. When it happened in 2000, Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue tied for the league title and the Boilermakers went to the Rose Bowl. The big key: non-league losses count in the tiebreaker, not good for Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan.
3. Not sure which is stranger: the Miami RedHawks set an NCAA Division I-A record Saturday by scoring 21 points in 1:00 of their 51-23 victory over Akron. The previous record of 21 points in 1:04, set by Kent State in 1996, came against, yep, Akron.
Tuesday, October 18
1. I'm not suggesting a return to freshman ineligibility, but WR Derrick Williams of Penn State and TB James Davis of Clemson got hurt last week. In recent years, backs Cadillac Williams of Auburn and Marcus Houston, then of Colorado, carried a heavy first-year load and were lost for the season. More than a coincidence?
2. At least five teams that dominated time of possession -- Wake Forest (34:58), Minnesota (35:15), Notre Dame (38:40), Indiana (40:09) and Michigan State (40:59) -- lost close games Saturday. Keeping an offense on the bench can disrupt its rhythm. But better athletes sometimes need only one play to score.
3. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is bringing British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to the Alabama-Tennessee game to give him a slice of Americana. Rice, a Birmingham native, loves football and grew up loving the Tide. But I don't recall her bringing diplomats home when Bama was going 4-9. Everyone loves a winner.
The top 5, the spike and the shove
Monday, October 17
1. Yeah, it's in the top five games I've attended. In ascending order: Colorado-Michigan, 1994 (Hail Mary); Notre Dame-Florida State, 1993; Alabama-Auburn, 1985 (four fourth-quarter lead changes); Notre Dame-USC, 2005; Miami-Ohio State, the double-overtime Fiesta Bowl that gave the Buckeyes the 2002 title.
2. About The Spike: Pac-10 supervisor of officials Verle Sorgen said Monday that the clock would not have started until the snap. But that's not what referee Jack Ford announced during the game, and that's not the impression that the USC coaches and players had, according to their postgame interviews.
3. About The Shove: Yes, what Reggie Bush did should have been penalized five yards. You can't help the runner. And what Bush did is done every Saturday. Find the last time any official in any game called that penalty. And until Joe West gives up his chest protector for a striped shirt, it won't be called anytime soon.
Sick of ND-USC talk?
Friday, October 14
1. I understand why fans of other schools are sick of USC and Notre Dame. Saturday's game is a gift: not just any two highly ranked teams, but USC and Notre Dame; not just any traditional rivalry -- you get the point. But, boy, is it sucking up a lot of oxygen. Are there any other games being played Saturday?
2. Same ol' North Carolina State. On its first possession, the Wolfpack commits two penalties and kills its drive. Late in the first quarter, three penalties help Clemson to its first touchdown. Next Tigers' possession, same deal: three State penalties, Clemson touchdown. The way to beat the 'Pack? Let them do it themselves.
3. Last week, the face value of the Texas-OU ticket was $85. Earlier this year, Michigan-Michigan State went for $70. Yesterday, Virginia Tech announced that coach Frank Beamer's salary is going from $1.4 million to $2 million. Who's giving coaches $600,000 raises? Look in the mirror, Mr. Ticket Buyer.
Turning the Page
Wednesday, October 12
1. No wonder UCLA senior strong safety Jarrad Page took that fake punt 38 yards to the Cal 20 in the fourth quarter. As a senior at San Leandro (Calif.) High in 2001, Page rushed for 1,014 yards on only 84 carries. He didn't carry again until Saturday. Why not? The Bruins, down 40-28, came back to win, 47-40.
2. Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford may have a long way to go, but five games into his career, the improvement in the Seminoles' quarterback play over last season is significant. Last season, through five games, the 'Noles' QBs had turned the ball over 15 times. This year, five times.
3. A reminder of a story that made news a few months back: there will be no instant replay in the USC-Notre Dame game Saturday. Since it's a nonconference game, both teams must agree to have instant replay. Trojans coach Pete Carroll didn't agree. He's not a fan of it.
Buck up, little Sooner
Tuesday, October 11
1. Chin up, Sooners. Texas senior linebacker Aaron Harris praised Oklahoma freshman quarterback Rhett Bomar (12-33-1, 94 yards, three sacks). "Bomar is going to be really good," Harris said. "We got after him and he didn't step back. He was still trying to run guys over, still trying to make plays. He didn't give up."
2. One man's first-round Lombardi Award vote: 1. Elvis Dumervil, Louisville. 2. Rodrique Wright, Texas. 3. Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College. 4. Max Jean-Gilles, Georgia. I love what Dumervil's doing. Offense know he's coming, and they're not stopping him.
3. Look at the effect Kiwanuka had on Virginia offensive tackle Brian Butler. A three-year starter with no history of cheap shots, Butler reduced himself to a chop block at the back of Kiwanuka's knees last Saturday. Butler got a one-game suspension -- and provided more evidence of how good Kiwanuka really is.
A Big Step For The BCS
Monday, October 10
1. The BCS will name Bill Hancock as its administrator Monday morning. "It's very much a behind-the-scenes job," Hancock said Sunday. "The conferences and Notre Dame manage the BCS." Still, this is a big step. The commissioners wanted to operate the BCS out of their hip pocket. The games outgrew their pants.
2. One week after the Tyrone Prothro debate at Alabama, Texas coach Mack Brown addressed why Vince Young took every snap of the Horns 45-12 blowout of Oklahoma. "I wanted him to enjoy it," Brown said. "He's won 12 straight games. He's 22-2 as a starter. Right or wrong, we thought he had earned it."
3. That's Joe Paterno, Head Football Coach, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802. That's where all of you Nittany Lions can write JoePa and apologize for all of those things you've said about him over the last five years.
A Stunning Prediction
Friday, October 7
1. Having looked at the Texas-Oklahoma teams pretty closely over the last few days, and being absolutely aware of the history of the rivalry, and with the caveat that I'm judging the Sooners more on the first three weeks of the season than the last two (off week, Kansas State), I'll be stunned if the Longhorns don't win. Stunned.
2. The last two years, Ohio State played a conference game on the road in prime time and lost: at Wisconsin two years ago and at Northwestern last year. The difference is that this season the Buckeyes are experienced and the Nittany Lions are not. Pretty big difference, even at Beaver Stadium.
3. Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles has withheld permission from Auburn to show their Oct. 15 game on pay-per-view. Funny, but Auburn granted Broyles that same permission at least twice in the last decade. Is whatever marketing reason Broyles has worth the bad blood he'll generate within the SEC? Nope.
Seems Like Old Times
Thursday, October 6
1. The ACC split into two divisions, but it's looking like the old days for Florida State. If Virginia wins at Boston College and FSU beats Wake Forest, then the Seminoles will have a two-game lead in the loss column over the Atlantic Division except for Maryland. And the Terps must go to Tallahassee (Oct. 29).
2. TCU junior quarterback Jeff Ballard, in his first start, wins Mountain West Player of the Week. For an encore, he faces a Wyoming defense that has intercepted at least two passes in each of the last four games. Ballard and Tye Gunn haven't thrown a pick in 95 attempts, going back to the shocking loss at SMU.
3. The Sugar Bowl's move to Atlanta for one season is not a first. The 1942 Rose Bowl, played shortly after Pearl Harbor, was held in Durham, N.C., because of security restrictions on the west coast. Don't get your hopes up for the Sugar Bowl, Georgia fans. The home crowd didn't help: Oregon State beat Duke, 20-16.
Wednesday, October 5
1. Of the 12 remaining I-A unbeatens, all are from the six biggest conferences. Only one -- California -- has yet to beat either a ranked team or a I-A team that currently has a winning record. That's not to pick on the Bears. Texas Tech and Georgia haven't exactly faced the 1927 Yankees, either.
2. I don't pretend to be an expert -- OK, I do pretend to be an expert -- but there's not a week goes by that South Carolina doesn't seem to get worse, not better. Twice in the first three snaps, the Gamecocks couldn't get the right players on the field Saturday night at Auburn. Steve Spurrier has got to coach those coaches.
3. Beware of Maryland. Beginning late in the third quarter against Virginia, the Terps scored on touchdown drives of 80, 94 and 80 yards. Quarterback Sam Hollenbach went 11-of-13 after halftime for 165 yards. No. 3 Virginia Tech's toughest test before Miami on Nov. 5 will be at College Park on Thursday night, Oct. 20.
Tuesday, October 4
1. One of the mysteries of the season will be how Memphis found 236 yards and two touchdowns for tailback DeAngelo Williams against UTEP. You, me and everyone else knew that the Tigers, having lost their top two quarterbacks to injury, had only Williams as an offensive threat. Amazing.
2. As Texas A&M prepared to play Baylor, which had its only Big 12 victory last year against the Aggies, coach Dennis Franchione told his team, "If I've got to say much to you to get you ready to play this week, you shouldn't be wearing maroon." That's what makes the Aggies' overtime win so troubling.
3. Texas tight end David Thomas thinks he won't see a linebacker better this season than Ohio State senior A.J. Hawk, who had 12 tackles, two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery in the Horns' 25-23 win. "You don't meet many guys who can play such such a physical game and still hit you with speed," Thomas said.
Facing the fire
Monday, October 3
1. Texas, returning from a 51-20 victory at Missouri, must face up to two drives that ended inside the Tigers 5-yard line without points; to 135 yards in penalties; to a missed extra point after a holding call made it a 30-yard kick. The Horns have enough demons to battle this week without battling themselves.
2. Memo to Florida coach Urban Meyer: you may want to do something to change your signals, or quarterback Chris Leak's cadences. Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans said the Tide defense figured them out. "You hear the signals, and they kept repeating the signals. We're college students. We picked up on that."
3. As Florida State quarterback Wyatt Sexton battles Lyme disease, he should hear Syracuse coach Greg Robinson, who studied video of the 2004 Seminoles to prepare for their game last Saturday: "I'd take that kid in a heartbeat. Good movement. He's accurate. He does know what he's seeing. I was very impressed."
Friday, September 30
1. Alabama linebacker Freddie Roach has dropped somewhere around six picks this year, including two against Arkansas. "I'm going to put him out there with the JUGS gun," coach Mike Shula said, chuckling. "Maybe we need something other than a 62-year-old arm (defensive coordinator Joe Kines) throwing to him."
2. Sixteen months ago, I sat in JoePa's office and listened to him say, "I'd like to have one more great football team." He then hinted that his '05 team would be much better. The next three weeks, Penn State plays No. 18 Minnesota, No. 8 Ohio State and Michigan. Now we find out.
3. A Stillwater reader who, evidently, isn't upset by Les Miles' departure, read the nagging questions in For Argument's Sake and pointed out two Oklahoma State losses in 2001 when the Cowboys had at least a 12-point lead, and a few wins when they nearly squandered big leads. There's more evidence than I thought.
Thursday, September 29
1. Minnesota's Laurence Maroney, the leading rusher in I-A, averages 28.3 carries per game. Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun, who's third, averages 31.7 carries. Can they keep up the pace? In the last six seasons, the rushing champion has averaged 30 carries only once: LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU in 2000 (33.5).
2. It's a wonder that more schools don't arrange this: Central Florida practices in the morning. The players are done by lunch. They take their classes in the afternoon. The coaches like the schedule because they beat the heat, they get the players fresh, and there's nothing like an early practice to enforce curfew.
3. Until the NCAA released an e-mail listing the 11 previous I-A games matching African-American head coaches, it hadn't even occurred to me that UCLA and Washington had them. To me, that's progress, just as we don't even think about whether quarterbacks are black or white anymore.
Nowhere to run
Wednesday, September 28
1. How can Florida State average fewer than 100 rushing yards per game with tailbacks like Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington? The offensive linemen are still learning to zone block. Defenses plan to take away the run and make young Drew Weatherford beat them with his arm. Once he does, the run will open up.
2. I have to admit that I believed Tennessee tailback Gerald Riggs, Jr., was all helmet and no cattle. But after watching Riggs' winning touchdown in overtime against LSU, when he met Tiger linebacker Cameron Vaughn at the 1, stood him up and drove him into the end zone, I get it now. I get it.
3. Purdue, with 21 returning starters and a favorable schedule, was the smart guy's Big Ten pick. Though the Boilers lost five games by four points or fewer in 2004, the presumption was that with experience, they would find a way to win the close one. Then came the loss at Minnesota. In overtime. Same song, different year.
What A Comeback
Tuesday, September 27
1. You'll never see a gutsier comeback than Tennessee made last night. The Vols proved they're good enough to gift-wrap two touchdowns to a top-10 team on the road and then beat it anyway. LSU had five first-half possessions end on the plus-side of the 50 with no points. That will smart for a long time.
2. West Virginia freshman Pat McAfee missed one extra point and two field goals against East Carolina. This is not the week for McAfee to lose his confidence. No. 3 Virginia Tech is next, and no team knocks down more kicks than the Hokies. They broke open the Georgia Tech game with a blocked field goal last week.
3. No coincidence: No. 1 USC goes into October without losing a fumble. So does Virginia Tech. No. 5 Florida ends September without throwing a pick. And No. 20 UCLA, a year after coughing it up 26 times in 12 games, has played gift-free. That's why the Bruins have their first 3-0 start in four years.
Monday, September 26
1. On the day before 10-year-old Montana Mazurkiewicz, named for Joe, died of brain cancer Friday, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis visited him and let him call the first play vs. Washington. Even from the Irish 1, Weis sent in Montana's pass. Brady Quinn completed it. Yesterday, Montana's family got a game ball. God bless Charlie Weis.
2. USC tailback Reggie Bush described his 11-yard touchdown run against Oregon, in which he started around left end, circled back behind the 20, and won a footrace to the right pylon, this way: "I just cut back and did what I always do." Yeah, that pretty much covers it.
3. You can't make this up: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach only lets two players speak publicly during to the week to limit popping off. So quarterback-spokesman Cody Hodges suggests scoring 100 against winless I-AA Indiana State. Leach, ever the humanitarian, shut down the offense in the second half of a 63-7 win.
We Fear Change
Friday, September 23
1. Coaches are all about routine, but Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer is having to make it up as he goes against LSU. The Vols are traveling the day of the game, and now, as their week of practice tapers down, the game gets moved back two days to Monday night. The whole scenario doesn't bode well for the Vols.
2. Teams play early-season conference games because TV wants good games in September. The downside of that is you can lose two and fall out of the race before October arrives. Tennessee is up against that wall. So, too, is the Boston College-Clemson loser in the ACC Atlantic. TV pays, but it costs something, too.
3. A belated congrats to Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who, in his 16th season as a head coach, with three conference championships (two Big Ten, one Big 12) to his credit, Barnett is over .500 for the first time (79-78-1). Slap his back quickly, though. If the Buffs lose at Miami on Saturday, it's back to .500.
Thursday, September 22
1. It's not the record that Kentucky coach Rich Brooks hope to set in his third year in Lexington. The Wildcats have lost six starters and six backups for the season because of injury. It took Brooks six years to get 20 wins at Oregon, 13 years to go to a bowl game and 18 to go to the Rose Bowl. No one's that patient anymore.
2. What's more impressive: Louisville's Elvis Dumervil's nine sacks in two games or Nebraska's 20 sacks in three games? I'll take Dumervil, even if the Huskers are only five short of their 2004 total. No other I-A player, even those who have played three games, has more than 5.5 sacks.
3. What a mess for Southern Mississippi. They've gone from having two games in the month of November to four, thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All four are C-USA games, and three are currently scheduled in a span of 11 days (Nov. 8, Marshall; Nov. 13, Houston; Nov. 19, Memphis). That's no way to win a division.
Wednesday, September 21
1. With Hurricane Rita coming, Texas A&M announces today its plans for Saturday's game against Texas State. Maybe Aggies will let up on Bill Curry, who refused to bring his Alabama team to a 1988 game because of a hurricane. The storm veered into Mexico, Saturday was sunny, and Aggies mock Curry still.
2. Great news for Florida: junior defensive end Ray McDonald's ACL tear is small enough that he'll be out "four to six weeks." That means the Gators' most experienced pass rusher could back for the stretch run starting with archrival Georgia. His string of 22 straight starts, alas, is over.
3. As badly as the Sugar Bowl wants to play in Tiger Stadium, getting an answer in two weeks seems impossible. Forget available hotels and buses. Will it be a reward for the players? Here's an idea: take them to what's left of New Orleans, hand them hammers and put them to work. The Habitat for Humanity Bowl.
Tuesday, September 20
1. Michigan State regrets "planting the flag" at Notre Dame Stadium. It may not have occurred if Notre Dame had thought to bring the Megaphone Trophy to the game. Without it, the Spartans found another way to celebrate. Someone delivered the Megaphone to the Spartans' buses as they were about to leave.
2. In case you missed it: after Minnesota took apart Florida Atlantic Saturday, visiting coach Howard Schnellenberger called the Gophers' offensive line the best one he has seen since the 1983 Nebraska team. Those Huskers are the ones that Schnellenberger's Miami team upset to win the national championship.
3. The good news for Oregon is that its best pass rusher, end Devan Long, is expected back Saturday for USC. Long and tackle Haloti Ngata are very good together. The bad news is that cornerbacks Aaron Gipson and Justin Phinisee are still 5-9 and 5-11, respectively. Trojan star wideout Dwayne Jarrett is still 6-5.
Monday, September 19
1. Now that Notre Dame has lost, the center of the detached-from-reality universe shifts to my home state. Alabama's 37-14 victory at South Carolina is big, yes, and the Crimson Tide is better than anyone believed. But the Tide's lack of depth doesn't bode well for a SEC West championship run.
2. If you missed USC's 70-17 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night, take a minute and read the play-by-play. It's stunning. In Matt Leinart's eight series, the Trojans scored seven touchdowns. The other possession consisted of three plays before the half. It may be the most efficient offensive performance ever.
3. Joe Tiller can't help being contrary. Tiller revolutionized Big Ten offenses with his "basketball on grass" and took the Boilermakers to the 2001 Rose Bowl. Now that more people are throwing, Purdue plowed over Arizona with 239 yards and four rushing TDs. The Boilers may get to Pasadena doing that, too.
Friday, September 16
1. As late as midweek, stories out of Tennessee said freshman middle linebacker Jerod Mayo would start against Florida for senior Jason Mitchell, who hurt his knee against UAB two weeks ago. Coach Phil Fulmer said Thursday that Mitchell looked good enough to start. Nothing calms a coach in a big game like a senior leader.
2. The recruiting gurus -- and recruiters, too -- overlooked Katy (Texas) Mayde Creek High tailback Aaron Brown last year after he played only one game last season. Brown, listed as third-string for TCU last night against Utah, debuted with 163 yards on 17 carries. That's Lonta Hobbs (groin injury) in the role of Wally Pipp.
3. Keep an eye on Northwestern going to Arizona State on Saturday night. The Sun Devils had an eye on that LSU game all summer, and suffered a gut-wrenching loss. The next two weeks are tough Pac-10 games at Oregon State and home for USC. The 'Cats (2-0) have a history of beating teams that overlook them.
Thursday, September 15
1. Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson was held out of two practices this week as punishment for missing three classes in the same subject. But there's no question about whether he'll play. The Sooners' best game plan is to keep Drew Olsen, Maurice Drew and Marcedes Lewis on the bench. Peterson will make it easier to keep the chains moving.
2. I'm not sure what to make of this: the Syracuse defense is second in Division I-A in third-down efficiency (4-31, 12.9 percent). The Syracuse offense is second-to-last in third-down efficiency (16.1). You would think that quarterback Perry Patterson would get into a game and find an easier defense than he faced in practice. So far, that's not the case.
3. Someone asked Georgia Tech senior wideout Damarius Bilbo about how quarterback Reggie Ball looks too much for sophomore all-everything Calvin Johnson. "The only response that I have to that is, wouldn't you? If you were a quarterback, wouldn't you?" You have to admit that he's got a point.
No Offense, Bear
Wednesday, September 14
1. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis believes that winning the toss and deferring until the second half is an insult to the offense. "You're basically saying, 'We're not going to score the first time we get it,'" Weis said Tuesday. Oh, if we could just sit Weis down with Bryant, or Neyland, or one of those greats who thought defense was everything.
2. New Mexico coach Rocky Long may have turned the corner in building the Lobos. He has three returning starters on the offensive line, and filled the two open slots with juniors. New Mexico has allowed no sacks in two games after giving up 24 last season. That's the mark of a program builder.
3. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel announced Tuesday that quarterback Troy Smith will start Saturday against San Diego State. That makes it official. Smith's suspension for the opener, which kept him from being prepared to start against Texas, cost the Buckeyes their best lineup to beat the Longhorns. The NCAA penalty exacted a big price.
Taking A Pass
Tuesday, September 13
1. Minnesota coach Glen Mason, unhappy with the consistency of the Gophers' passing game, met with his staff for two hours Monday. They deconstructed their practices and watched video. They found the run game gets a lot of reps of its core plays. Now quarterback Bryan Cupito will work more on the basics, too.
2. According to the SEC office, the six longest drives in the conference this season, as measured by time of possession, have resulted in no points. That includes a 19-play, 80-yard drive by LSU that took 11:02. That also tells you why turnovers and inaccurate kickers will be the death of head coaches.
3. Accurate kickers, on the other hand, can change a season. Oregon junior Paul Martinez has made 11-of-12 field goals in two games. That's two more field goals than the Ducks made in all 2004. Martinez is a heartwarmer. He was the starting punter as a freshman and lost the job last year. He may be onto something now.
Young's Passing Fancy
Monday, September 12
1. So Vince Young can't throw, huh? As great a catch as Limas Sweed made on that 24-yard touchdown to beat Ohio State, Texas coach Mack Brown raved about his quarterback's read. Young looked deep, looked shallow, and then found Sweed. "I saw Vince throw that way and I was so proud of him," Brown said.
2. Compare Notre Dame's crisp opening drive -- 12 plays, 76 yards, no third downs, no huddles, 2:58 -- with Michigan's last possession of the first half. With 2:31 left, at the 50, Michigan got off only two plays in 1:25. And lost three yards doing it. Chad Henne played poorly, but the execution on the sideline was flabby.
3. Remember when Ryan Perrilloux was going to ride in and save LSU? You saw third-year sophomore JaMarcus Russell take the Tigers the length of the field, on the road, and throw a 39-yard game-winning TD on fourth-and-10 to beat Arizona State. Can we all agree we've heard enough about true freshmen saviors?
Keeping In Touch
Friday, September 9
1. Recruiters are struggling to contact prospects who evacuated Louisiana and Mississippi because of Hurricane Katrina. High school coaches update colleges as their players relocate to "Houston, Memphis and all over the country," Ole Miss offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. "It has been a heck of a mess."
2. Speaking of which, so many schools have bent over backwards to help Tulane and LSU, it's hard to single one out. But Mississippi State's decision to waive its $200,000 fee for playing "at" Tulane in Shreveport on Sept. 17 struck a chord. That's a lot of money, even for an SEC program.
3. Jim and Wanda Barkema will have a tough Saturday in Ames. Son Ben, a sophomore, plays tight end for Iowa State. Son C.J., a senior, is a tight end for Iowa. Ben wears No. 41. When C.J. moved from offensive line to tight end this year, he traded No. 73 for, yes, No. 41. Easy to remember, no?
Where's The Band?
Thursday, September 8
1. Sugar Bowl officials want to keep the game in Louisiana, because the state tourism board provides most of the game's operating budget. Tiger Stadium? Shreveport? Reliant Stadium in Houston is unlikely. The SEC isn't crazy about playing in Big 12 territory. The Gator Bowl, on SEC turf, may be the best Plan B.
2. The ACC has seven teams ranked in the AP Top 25, a conference record. Now that the league has 12 teams, it is stronger than it has ever been. Georgia Tech beat Auburn. Clemson beat Texas A&M. But I don't see a giant among them. I see only giant killers. There is a difference.
3. Whoever decided that the Notre Dame band shouldn't make the trip to Michigan Stadium on Saturday has no regard for what makes a football Saturday special. Don't tell me Notre Dame didn't have enough tickets. In a rivalry like this, the band is more important than the donors.
Some Free Advice
Wednesday, September 7
1. California quarterback Nate Longshore breaks his leg, and replacement Joe Ayoob throws an 0-for-10 in his debut. I'm not about to give advice to QB guru Jeff Tedford, but how hard can this be. Turn around and hand off to Marshawn Lynch. Throw a swing pass to DeSean Jackson. Repeat as necessary.
2. In the current For Argument's Sake, I left out one consideration concerning the future of big-name intersectional games: big-city teams need the games to sell tickets. UCLA has future home-and-homes with Notre Dame and Tennessee. Miami and Oklahoma have contracts on the desks for 2007 and 2009.
3. Clemson is excited about freshman James Davis, who rushed for 101 yards against Texas A&M, but coach Tommy Bowden is frustrated with having to kick six field goals. He thinks he made a mistake by not turning to 5-8, 212-pound senior Reggie Merriweather. Look for him to get more work at Maryland.
Tuesday, September 6
1. I'm as fond of the Florida State-Miami rivalry as the next college football nut. I appreciate good defenses. But let's be honest. That's two years in a row of matching two offenses that look as if they are reading the playbook as they go. It's painful to watch.
2. Miami tight end Greg Olsen did one of those coming-of-age things Monday night: 8 catches, 137 yards. But maybe he should have stayed in for another play or two. When was the last time an Art Kehoe-coached offensive line gave up nine sacks? In two games, much less one.
3. The look on Memphis coach Tommy West's face when quarterback Patrick Byrne suffered a broken bone in his lower leg on the season's first series said it all. There went four weeks of spring practice and four weeks of August workouts, unable to walk off the field. Plan B, as in Will Hudgens, wasn't ready to beat Ole Miss.
Vick shines on big stage
Monday, September 5
1. You expect the special teams mistakes in the opener. But the number of green quarterbacks who faltered is stunning. It's notable that one who didn't is Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick. After what he's been through the last 18 months, what's the pressure of playing an ACC rival before a national TV audience?
2. Another one who beat expectations is Kentucky sophomore quarterback Andre Woodson. He completed 17-of-27 for 278 yards and two touchdowns but lost three fumbles. That can be corrected. So can the belief that disgruntled 'Cats fans have that Rich Brooks doesn't know how to coach.
3. Note to fellow Disney employees at ABC News: I'm a big news junkie, too. I want to know when the Chief Justice dies. But the next time you interrupt a two-point Clemson-Texas A&M game with Clemson driving for the game-winning field goal in the last three minutes, could you go picture-in-picture?
Friday, September 2
1. So now we know that Minnesota tailback Laurence Maroney could have been an All-American the last two years without fellow 1,000-yard rusher Marion Barber III in the backfield. It's enough to make you believe in the Gophs again, at least until the Michigan game.
2. SEC commisioner Mike Slive said in Columbia, S.C., last night that no real contingency plans for the Sugar Bowl have begun because there are so many more pressing matters. Slive said no changes have been made yet for LSU's Sept. 10th home game against Arizona State, but it's hard to believe it will be played there.
3. Keep an eye on Vanderbilt. The Commodores couldn't close out games last season. Last night, at Wake Forest, they blew a lead again. But this time they made a stirring late comeback. Cutler is a big senior with a good arm. One victory isn't a turnaround, but I'd wait a while before writing off Cutler or Vandy.
Thursday, September 1
1. ESPN.com All-America running backs: Reggie Bush and DeAngelo Williams, yes; Adrian Peterson, no. It's more a commentary on the inexperienced Sooner offense than on Peterson. Until the Sooner O proves itself, Peterson will see, oh, 12-man fronts. Bush and Williams have a lot more open field before them.
2. A reader wrote in suggesting that the American Red Cross collect money at every I-A game Saturday for Hurricane Katrina relief. Great idea, but logistically difficult to pull off. The Red Cross is kind of busy, you know? Several schools and/or conferences have announced charitable initiatives. More to come.
3. Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko will have a very good junior year, thanks to his bond with new offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. "Coach [Walt] Harris helped me a lot," Palko said. "Coach Cavanaugh will be able to help me more. He played the position. I get along with him." Don't underestimate the import of the latter.
Let there be light
Wednesday, August 31
1. While most of Tuscaloosa sweated yesterday in the power outages caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Alabama football offices went dark for only a couple of hours. Lucky for the Crimson Tide -- they are on the same power grid as Druid City Hospital. Or maybe it's lucky for the patients and doctors.
2. Former Marine sergeant Ahmard Hall, a walk-on at Texas, not only earned a scholarship but a starting job. Hall served in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and now must open holes for Longhorn tailback Selvin Young. Hall will be 26 in November. Teammate Christopher Brown turns 18 next week. What do you think they talk about?
3. Virginia true freshman Branden Albert (6-foot-7, 310 pounds) is listed as a starting guard for the opener Saturday against Western Michigan. Here's what I like about it: the Cavs' other offensive linemen have 83 starts among them, but Al Groh isn't afraid to play freshmen. And Groh, a longtime NFL coach, calls his freshmen "rookies." I just love that.
Tough love works
Tuesday, August 30
1. Urban Meyer's tough love has produced results from wideout Andre Caldwell. After spring ball, Meyer dismissed Caldwell as a speedy player who didn't know how to get open. On Monday, as Caldwell walked to class, Meyer phoned the junior to tell him how much he had improved. Watch out, Wyoming.
2. Purdue guard Uche Nwaneri sued the university for suspending him for the fall semester after a fight with a teammate. Nwaneri says that coach Joe Tiller, and not an administrator, should decide his fate. Nwaneri was born 30 years too late. Universities, in the interest of discipline -- and appearances -- took that power from coaches.
3. Drew Olson, Paul Thompson and Erik Ainge won the three major quarterback derbies at UCLA, Oklahoma and Tennessee, respectively. In every case, experience beat youth, and in the cases Olson and Ainge, both reclaimed their jobs after season-ending injuries. In other news, the sun rose in the east today.
Blowin' in the wind
Monday, August 29
1. The Tulane football team practiced in New Orleans on Sunday morning, then bugged out to Jackson, Miss., to ride out Hurricane Katrina. The Green Wave may not get home before the opener Sunday at Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles practiced Sunday night in rain, and may not practice again until Wednesday.
2. Five freshmen from USC's acclaimed 2005 signing class are listed as second string for the opener at Hawaii. One of them actually broke into the offensive two-deep: wide receiver Patrick Turner. Some schools that win a lot scare off top recruits, who want to play immediately. That hasn't happened to the Trojans yet.
3. Baylor had 23 players miss practice late last week -- five because of injury, 18 with strep throat. I'm amazed that disease outbreaks don't hit college locker rooms more often. The biggest example? The virus that waylaid Florida State before the 1996 national championship game against Florida.
Practice makes perfect
Friday, August 26
1. As Hurricane Katrina zeroed in on Miami on Thursday, Canes coach Larry Coker seized the opportunity to practice in wet, windy conditions. "We had no muffed snaps," Coker said, as proud as could be. Don't you just love football coaches?
2. Let's interrupt the Olson Watch (Drew? Ben?) at UCLA to consider the defense. Top linebackers Spencer Havner and Justin London suffered last year because the defensive line couldn't get healthy. Same song, next verse: tackle Kevin Brown, the best of the front four, will miss at least six weeks with a high left ankle sprain.
3. Nebraska coach Bill Callahan learned the hard way. Facing a dismal kicking game (bottom of the Big 12 in punt returns and kickoff coverage), Callahan overhauled the practice regimen: more special-team time, and more of it in the middle of practice. There's another convert to the Church of Beamer.
In with the Tide
Thursday, August 25
1. News that Florida State and Alabama are negotiating to play in 2007 is a big clue that Bobby Bowden will coach at least two more seasons. Bowden, a Birmingham native, always wanted the Alabama job. Playing the Tide is one of the few things he hasn't done in 50-plus years of coaching.
2. Michigan freshman tailback Kevin Grady is making a strong case for playing time behind, or even with, sophomore Mike Hart. But Grady is only technically a true freshman. He attended the Rose Bowl, enrolled last winter and participated in spring ball. How big a benefit? "You can't even imagine," Grady said.
3. Does anyone else think it's silly that we're up to 20 -- 20! -- major college football awards? Awards have become like bowl games -- given to benefit the giver as much as the recipient. It's funny how all the other awards have failed to diminish the Heisman. It remains the most recognized award in American sports.
Creating more controversy
Wednesday, August 24
1. The I-A commissioners have managed to create another BCS controversy. The Harris poll named 114 voters, with no female journalists or administrators among them. There are at least nine black voters, but African-American coaches are annoyed that they are underrepresented. It's a big tent. Why leave anyone out?
2. Here's why it stinks that Oklahoma junior Larry Birdine will miss the year with a torn left biceps. 1) The Sooners have no more experienced defensive ends. 2) He's the guy who called the USC offense "average" before the Trojans hung 55 on OU in the BCS title game. Birdine will be known only for that statement for one more year.
3. Nice move by new National Football Foundation boss Steve Hatchell in making Dan Jenkins the official historian. The legendary journalist has forgotten more about college football than I'll ever know. I'm just worried that the Hall of Fame will be overrun by a plague of Jenkins' beloved TCU Horned Frogs.
Tuesday, August 23
1. The Harris poll voters have been identified. America, college football is in the hands of Terry Bradshaw. Feel better? Whether you agreed or not with the AP poll or the coaches poll, the voters had college football as a vocation. The vast majority of Harris voters have the sport as an avocation. Big difference.
2. Not only does Navy have the fewest returning starters in Division I-A (six), but it looks as the Midshipmen will start a backfield with no one taller than 5-9. I know coach Paul Johnson wants to resurrect the glory days, but using 1940s-sized players is not the answer.
3. The legacy of Ben Roethlisberger is that MAC quarterbacks are being taken seriously. Even with the numbers that Omar Jacobs put up last year, I can't imagine that the Bowling Green star would be getting the attention he has gotten before Roethlisberger took the Steelers to the AFC title game as a rookie.
QB surprise in Knoxville?
Monday, August 22
1. Tennessee began last season playing freshman quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer. Set for four years, right? Wrong: Schaeffer transferred and, if Saturday's scrimmage is any measure, Ainge has been outplayed by LSU transfer Rick Clausen. No word yet from Phil Fulmer, but my money's on Clausen.
2. Injuries have left true freshman DeMaundray Woolridge as Washington State's best healthy rusher. He carried for 70 yards and two touchdowns in a scrimmage Friday. The dilemma? Freshmen backs usually can't protect the passer, and the Cougars only have two returning starters on the O-line.
3. Oklahoma's Tommy Grady had a reputation as a tremendous quarterback from the neck down. He did nothing to dispel that notion when he fell out of the competition to replace Jason White in order to work on a passing a summer-school class to stay eligible. Next chance: Utah.
Friday, August 19
1. Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center at Notre Dame has on display several photographs of coach Charlie Weis in his New England days. Does it strike anyone else as strange that the photos show Weis hugging his Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady, a Michigan man?
2. The literal feel-good story of preseason practice is Colorado defensive end Alex Ligon. He had to be carried off the field on a board last week after a collision with corner Lorenzo Sims left him motionless. Ligon soon regained feeling, doctors cleared him, and this week he's practicing full-speed. With fingers crossed.
3. Here's how tough Georgia senior running back Tony Milton is: at 5-11, 200, Milton is working out at fullback, and coach Mark Richt has liked what he has seen. Milton has been injured more often than not for two seasons. And he's going to be an undersized fullback?
Justin time in Baton Rouge
Thursday, August 18
1. Alley Broussard's knee injury (ACL, out for the season) is why coaches give out 85 scholarships to put 11 players on the field. LSU now goes "only" three deep at tailback. Joseph Addai still looks to be the best. It's time for junior Justin Vincent -- the star of the 2003 title run -- to return to that form.
2. Texas and Oklahoma have played at the Cotton Bowl since the 1920s. There's something charming about playing the game in the middle of the State Fair of Texas. But the House That Doak Built has most of the age of Fenway Park and little of the charm.
3. When you look at top backfields, don't forget UTEP. Quarterback Jordan Palmer, who didn't follow brother Carson to USC, has blossomed under coach Mike Price. Transfer tailback Tyler Ebell, who didn't stick around at UCLA, can start and stop like few others. He and Marcus Thomas make a good rushing tandem.
In this corner
Wednesday, August 17
1. Texas A&M spent last spring looking for cornerbacks to bookend All-American safety Jaxson Appel. But juco sophomore transfer Marquis Carpenter missed spring drills because of a broken bone in his leg. In preseason camp, coach Dennis Franchione said, "Carpenter just continues to make plays every day."
2. Duke quarterbacks Mike Schneider and Curt Dukes combined to throw for 322 yards in a 75-play scrimmage Tuesday, which tells me Blue Devil coach Ted Roof needs to find a cornerback or two. Me, I'm pulling for Dukes to win the QB job. Someday, I want to type, "Duke's Dukes threw for ..."
3. All those freshmen who are lighting it up for your team in preseason practice? See if you read their names once classes begin, which is happening as early as this week. Coaches always expect freshmen heads to swim -- and performance to suffer -- once academics arrive.
Is the Trojans D in trouble?
Tuesday, August 16
1. Matt Leinart's numbers in USC's first two scrimmages: 20-31-0, 323 yards, three touchdowns. Is the Trojan defense in trouble? Coach Pete Carroll doesn't think so. It's just young. Two members of the heralded 2005 signing class, end Kyle Moore and linebacker Brian Cushing, already are making reservations on the two-deep.
2. The battle for the Tennessee cornerback job opposite Jason Allen has been going on for more than a year. Roshaun Fellows and Jonathan Wade swapped the starting gig last year. Fellows took the edge in the spring, but Wade's pushing him again. Whoever wins it will be very busy. What team would throw toward Allen?
3. The NCAA Football Rules Committee, the people who brought you the celebration penalty, have outlawed 13 specific unsportsmanlike acts, such as the throat-slashing move, and other gestures. The celebration penalty can be silly, but on this issue, there's no argument here. I think they're right. That stuff is weak.
O'Leary's master plan
Monday, August 15
1. Central Florida starts with a 15-game losing streak. Coach George O'Leary has set a bowl game as a goal. Yes, for this season. One measure of improvement: 18 players can bench-press 400 pounds, 10 more than last season. Don't forget, at Georgia Tech in 1994 (1-10) and 1995 (6-5), O'Leary directed a quick U-turn.
2. There may be better-known players who get hurt this month, but it will be hard to find a bigger loss than Maryland suffered when senior left offensive tackle Stephon Hoyer tore his left ACL Saturday. He has 24 career starts. The five guys who will start on the line now have a total of 12.
3. After the first summer in which incoming freshmen could enroll in school and participate in team conditioning, coaches across the country are raving about the results. But coaches always want more, so what's next? More seniors showing up in January? High school juniors working out?
NCAA etymology test
Friday, August 12
1. A reader e-mailed me this, and it's true: the word Oklahoma comes from two Choctaw words meaning "red people." I guess this means that the NCAA will ban the university name from all postseason play. "Welcome to the championship game between the Florida State -------- and the ------ Sooners!"
2. When the NCAA decided to again count victories over I-AA teams toward bowl qualification, it didn't sound good for the MACs and the WACs of the world. But the Big Ten made a deal with the Mid-American Conference. There are already 40 games scheduled between the two leagues between now and 2010.
3. Kansas coach Mark Mangino has an interesting dilemma. Charles Gordon is a preseason All-American at corner. He's also the Jayhawks' best wideout and best punt returner. Mangino says he will spend this month trying to figure out how to use him without overusing him.
Thursday, August 11
1. Relax, Auburn fans. Replacing three first-round picks in the backfield may not be so difficult. In Wednesday's scrimmage, against the Tigers' first-team defense, quarterback Brandon Cox completed 11-of-17 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Tailback Carl Stewart carried the ball four times for 44 yards.
2. Urban Meyer and his Florida coaching staff have had to add a couple more water breaks into a rep-heavy practice schedule than they had in Utah. Seems it's a little more humid in Gainesville than in Salt Lake City. "We have to slow things down, tell everybody to take a knee," quarterback coach Dan Mullen says.
3. We'll find out whether Arizona State should be taken seriously by Oct. 1. Over four Saturdays, they play at LSU, Northwestern, at Oregon State, and USC. They'll be up for the bookend games, but a good team will take care of the Wildcats and the Beavers in the middle. An immature team won't.
Wednesday, August 10
1. Make room for a guy named Weis in the Frank Beamer Fan Club. "The easiest way to improve the fastest is on special teams," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "Virginia Tech, didn't take long for that team to start being more competitive ... they played sound defense and their special teams were kicking butt."
2. Keep an eye on the quarterback job at Oklahoma State. Coach Mike Gundy claims he will play both sophomore Donovan Woods and hotshot redshirt freshman Bobby Reid when the season opens against Montana State. It's hard to believe he won't put the ball in the hands of one guy, though.
3. UNLV coach Mike Sanford plans to name his starting quarterback as soon as next week, to get him the most snaps possible in the offense that Sanford brought with him from Utah. Junior Shane Steichen, so-so as an injury replacement last year, has the edge on top juco recruit Jarrod Jackson.
Friends in high places
Tuesday, August 9
1. When he met with Florida State president T.K. Wetherell to discuss last season's 9-3 record, Bobby Bowden said, "I have a hard time apologizing for that." No worries -- Wetherell is on Bowden's side. When Bowden coached the Seminole wideouts from 1963-65, Wetherell was one of them.
2. I've softened my reaction to the NCAA crackdown on offensive mascots. O.K., it's well-meaning. Still, it's tone-deaf. It's as if the NCAA took a stand on abortion. The NCAA has no jurisdiction there, either. The marketplace, not the NCAA, forced all but a few schools to abandon Native American mascots.
3. Here's another reason why Pete Carroll is a players' coach. Heralded freshman quarterback Mark Sanchez got ambushed by upperclassmen armed with a razor. Sanchez got a free haircut, down to the skin. Carroll reproached his players and ruled out hazing. Most coaches, I bet, would look the other way.
Monday, August 8
1. Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey isn't known for his outbursts. That's what made his comment about sophomore wide receiver Calvin Johnson so stunning: "I've never had one that's as big and fast and had as good a hand-eye coordination." This from a coach with 16 years in the pros? I'm sold.
2. Strange bedfellows -- Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews called a fellow defensive-minded coach to shoot the breeze the other day: Ron Zook. They used to swap defensive recipes before Zook went to Florida.
3. Just when you're ready to write off the NCAA (Indian mascots? Puh-leez), they granted Kentucky freshman Garry Williams his eligibility. The offensive lineman didn't qualify academically but explained that during the first two years of high school he had to care for his sick mother. Let's hear it for common sense.
Houston has a problem
Friday, August 5
1. Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, a veteran of the I-AA playoffs when he coached Murray State in the mid-1990s, is wary of the permanent 12th game and any I-A playoff. The best team, he said, doesn't always win. "What it comes down to is kind of a survival of who has the fewest injuries."
2. Some schools lose guys to the NFL. Then there's Northwestern. Corner Jeff Backes, an Academic All-American last season, decided not to return as a fifth-year senior because of chronic shoulder pain. He's going to medical school instead.
3. LSU freshman Ryan Perilloux may be the Next Great Quarterback, but I find it hard to believe that he'll perform better than third-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Yeah, freshman Chad Henne played well at Michigan last year, but he didn't win the job in August. He got it because Matt Gutierrez got hurt.
Play it again, Sam
Thursday, August 4
1. Maryland corner Gerrick McPhearson came into the coaches' office one day this summer demanding answers. "The offense is killing us in practice," he told coach Ralph Friedgen. "They're completing every pass!" Translation: Quarterback Sam Hollenbach has found his confidence.
2. North Carolina's schedule is a coach-killer. Not only do the Tar Heels not open until Sept. 10, but they open with an ACC game against Georgia Tech, which already will have played a ranked Auburn. Wisconsin, Utah and Louisville are UNC's non-league opponents.
3. I don't know if Wisconsin coach-to-be Bret Bielema can recruit everyone, but he can recruit the Hodges of Fort Lauderdale. In 2001, Bielema, then at Iowa, hauled in Abdul Hodge, now an All-Big-Ten linebacker. In February 2004, he signed Abdul's younger brother, Elijah, to become a Badger.
Eight is enough
Wednesday, August 3
1. Those poor, delicate Big Ten teams. They rejected using the 12th game to add a ninth game to the conference schedule because -- sob -- some teams would have to play five road games and four home games. The Big East has played seven conference games forever, and the Pac-10 will play nine next year.
2. Iowa senior linebacker Chad Greenway says the quarterback that most impresses him in the Big Ten (that isn't teammate Drew Tate) is Michigan State junior Drew Stanton. "A couple of times I completely teed off on him," Greenway says. "He gets right up and the next play makes a big play."
3. The grass is greener at Baylor. Daniel Sepulveda may have won the 2004 Ray Guy Award, but he remains the Reluctant Punter. Sepulveda, a prep linebacker, volunteered to punt. "I didn't realize if I was punting, I couldn't do anything else," he says. "If I had, I don't know that I would have raised my hand."
Touch and go
Tuesday, August 2
1. Without Marion Barber III, will Minnesota junior Laurence Maroney have to carry the whole load for Glen Mason's run-happy Gophers? Coach Mason will start out with the plan to get Maroney 75 percent of the touches. Sophomore Amir Pinnix, a two-time spring game MVP, has dibs on the rest.
2. Ron Zook on why he likes it better at Illinois than Florida: "You don't get your manhood challenged every day." Meaning? "The negativity you have to deal with [at Florida]. Why do you think Steve [Spurrier] left?" It pays to replace the guy who replaced the legend. Ask Urban Meyer.
3. Purdue lost five games by a total of 14 points last season. Coach Joe Tiller said he will not bring up the failure to win a close game to his 21 returning starters: "If you point out a lack of success, you almost plant a seed." I've been called a lot of things, but never Johnny Appleseed.
Monday, August 1
1. The next time a recruit gets a text message which reads, "I AM HOT 4 YOU," it might be from a college coach. The NCAA has ruled that text messaging is a form of e-mail, which coaches might use any time, instead of a phone call, which has stricter rules. The result? Coaches are text messaging 24/7. GTG to the next item.
2. The next frontier is voice over Internet. It's not a phone call, or is it? The NCAA hasn't regulated it yet. Some coaches are worried because if its use becomes widespread, NCAA investigators could never trace it the way they can trace a coach's cell phone use.
3. Three conference media events -- the Big East, Big 12 and SEC -- down, one to go (the Big Ten, beginning Monday). Barring an upset, my all-podium coach is Mississippi State's Sly Croom. He makes it sound as though the Bulldogs' rise is a matter of when, not if, even though they have a long way to go.
Can Riggs carry the load?
Thursday, July 28
1. I thought Gerald Riggs Jr. had matured, rushing for 1,107 yards last year. Without Cedric Houston to share the job, the Vols need Riggs more than ever. Coach Phil Fulmer would say only "it will be interesting to see if Gerald can carry that load." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
2. UTEP coach Mike Price remains a big underdog in his libel case against Sports Illustrated. As a public figure, he must prove SI acted with malice when it printed salacious details about him, which might not be true. But the longer the case lasts, the worse SI looks. "I'm not going to go down easy," Price said.
3. Colorado coach Gary Barnett doesn't share the concerns of some Big 12 officials who believe instant replay will make games even longer. "If you're really concerned, limit the number of passes in a game," Barnett said. "How do you think that would fly?" He's kidding. I think.
Problems with $30 million judgement
Tuesday, July 26
1. Two problems I see with the $30 million judgment former Alabama assistant Ronnie Cottrell got from recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper: 1) Culpepper doesn't have $30 million, and 2) I'm not convinced it will make Cottrell desirable again should he want to get back into coaching.
2. Here's what coaches like most about the college version of instant replay: unlike the NFL, it can't cost them a timeout, and it's one decision they don't have to make. "I'd rather manage the game," than have to worry about it, Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said.
3. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is too polite to say so publicly, but I hear one concern he has about moving to the Big East is that there aren't any Tulanes or Armys on the schedule anymore to get playing time for his younger, inexperienced players.
Passing Leach's test
Thursday, July 21
1. Texas Tech passing genius Mike Leach said the most important attributes in a quarterback aren't physical. They're accuracy and decision making. "You can't overcome [not having] those two," Leach said. That explains why NFL clipboard holders such as Kliff Kingsbury, BJ Symons and Sonny Cumbie thrived for Leach.
2. Oklahoma might be young and rebounding from public humiliation in the Orange Bowl, but the Sooners will be in the national championship hunt again. Bob Stoops is a master at focusing his team on what's next. He repeated his mantra several times Wednesday: "You earn your way."
3. Speaking of focus, Missouri quarterback Brad Smith says the Heisman Trophy talk last year distracted him, which helps explain why the Tigers finished 5-6. It's refreshing to hear a football player admit he's vulnerable to excess flattery. That's one problem the Tigers don't have as they start preseason practice.
Tuesday, July 19
1. Coaching legend Joe Paterno has told a head coaching colleague that he will leave Penn State after three more seasons, when Paterno turns 81.
2. Among the Harris Interactive poll voters nominated by the Big East who have agreed to participate: former Syracuse athletics director Jake Crouthamel, and former All-Americans Lee Roy Selmon and Anthony Munoz. If I knew everyone would take it as seriously as Crouthamel, I'd feel a whole lot better about it.
3. The loosened bowl qualifications regarding wins over I-AA teams will make it tougher for the MACs and WACs of the world to schedule the big-revenue schools. So Miami (Ohio) and Boise State scheduled each other in 2009-10. That's more compelling than a dozen Arkansas-Murray State games.
Thursday, July 14
1. Lou Holtz finished his career with 249 victories, one national title, and two schools, Minnesota and South Carolina, that went on NCAA probation for violations during his tenure. Holtz proved over four decades that he knew how to win, which proves how unnecessary those violations were.
2. Offseason headlines about football players often generate in negative behavior. The death of Missouri redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron O'Neal is a shocking reminder to appreciate the good guys, too. At Parkway North High near St. Louis, O'Neal was a team captain and four-sport star. It hurts to lose those.
3. Over the last decade, media guides morphed into recruiting come-ons, and killed a lot of trees in the process. The NCAA cracked down. My first 2005 media guide arrived, and Georgia needed only 208 pages, down from 420 a year ago. Let's hear it for the environment, and the weight of my shoulder bag.
Smelling Like A Rose?
Tuesday, July 12
1. It's fascinating that the new BCS poll will have 10 voters for each of the 11 I-A conferences. It may be the first time in recorded history that the Sun Belt and WAC types have been accorded the same voice as the Big Ten, SEC, et al. Are the big boys going soft on us?
2. The story goes that Florida State quarterback Wyatt Sexton's strange behavior last month may have resulted from Lyme disease, which is named for Lyme, Conn., not Lyme, Fla. I know Senator Frist -- I can't make a diagnosis via the net -- but did anyone get the license plate number of that deer tick? He traveled a looong way.
3. You think the BCS has big issues? Check out Maine freshman offensive tackle Garrett Burton. He's 6-foot-11, 400 pounds. The Black Bears are young on the offensive line, too, so Burton will have the opportunity to win playing time. One position or two?
Thursday, July 7
1. Some people look at Purdue and see a national title contender: 20 returning starters, no Ohio State or Michigan on the schedule, Notre Dame and Iowa in West Lafayette, etc. I look at Purdue and see a team that went 0-5 in games decided by four points or fewer. Joe Tiller's team has to show it can win a close one.
2. By contrast, Iowa went 3-0 in games decided by four points or fewer last season, and has won its last six by such a margin, dating back to 2001. So, for that matter, has Ohio State, also dating back to 2001. Sept. 24 at the 'Shoe, anyone?
3. David Cutcliffe resigned as Notre Dame quarterback coach in order to recuperate from cardiac surgery. Where will the former Ole Miss coach resurface? Think about Kentucky. Athletic director Mitch Barnhart worked with Cutcliffe at Tennessee. That said, some of us still think Rich Brooks can coach.
Hall of a dilemma
Tuesday, July 5
1. Fresno State is campaigning for former coach Jim Sweeney to make the College Football Hall of Fame. Sweeney won 200 games in a 32-year coaching career, but his winning percentage of .564 is below the Hall's threshold of .600. The Honors Committee can consider him as a unique case. My guess: a tough sell.
2. I can find only one coach who won at least 170 games and at least 60 percent of his games who is eligible (retired for three years) and not in the Hall: John Cooper. When Jackie Sherrill (180 wins) lost his last game at Mississippi State in '03, he fell from .6006 to .5986. But then Jackie always had trouble with the rules.
3. ESPN Radio's Doug Gottlieb asked me on air Monday who are the most myopic fans in college football. Any team in the SEC that has won a national championship, I replied, and any team located in the city limits of South Bend, Ind. They all think its their birthright. Pick one? Alabama, by a nose over LSU.
Changing Tides At Alabama
Thursday, June 30
1. Let me get this straight: Bear Bryant's university is paying its basketball coach $100,000 more than it's paying its football coach? What's next? Changing the nickname from Crimson Tide to Blue Devils?
2. Stanford has announced an $85 million project to renovate its stadium, site of Super Bowl XIX. The project will slim it from 85,800 seats to 50,858 — yes, the fans will now be in same ZIP code as the game they're watching — and bring the plumbing out of the 1930s. Campus politics is what took so long.
3. USC guard Jeff Byers is out for the year because his surgically repaired hip didn't repair. That's three starters and half the coaching staff that the Trojans have lost since the end of last season. And no, I don't have the guts not to pick them No. 1. But I'm now thinking about it.
Raising the stakes
Tuesday, June 28
1. The problem with paying a coach $2 million is that when he does well, both sides will feel a raise is necessary, and raises on $2 million aren't small. That's how Bob Stoops has moved so quickly to $2.4 million — and counting.
2. Iowa State and Kansas both have off weeks in September, so moving their Nov. 19 game in Lawrence to Nov. 26 is purely for the TV bucks and exposure. It should benefit the Jayhawks more, because they have the tougher early November schedule (Nebraska, at Texas).
3. Ole Miss offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone came to North Carolina State in 2003 and ran the offense that Norm Chow installed there in 2000 before Chow left for USC. Now Mazzone is in Oxford, a three-hour drive from Chow, who's with the Tennessee Titans. Mazzone is heading to Nashville next month for a chalk talk.
Summer reading list
Thursday, June 23
1. If you promise that you'll devour ESPN The Mag's college football preview when it comes out, in the meantime, you can break your neck to find a copy of Phil Steele's 2005 College Football Preview. It is stuffed with enough college football data to keep you geeked up throughout the fall. I found last season's issue indispensable.
2. Coaches coach and writers write, unless they are Ralph Friedgen, Glen Mason, Rich Rodriguez, Fisher DeBerry, Al Groh, Joe Tiller, Gregg Brandon and several top assistants who are writing chapters for an offensive textbook for Human Kinetics, a Champaign, Ill., publishing firm. It's out next year.
3. If I'm Houston Nutt, and I see my road games this year are at USC, at Alabama, at Georgia, at Ole Miss and at LSU, I get agoraphobic real quick. Not to mention there are only three returning senior starters on the Hogs' defense.
Third Down Woes
Tuesday, June 21
1. New North Carolina State offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has a lot of work to do, and the biggest chunk of it is on third down. The 'Pack had 33 third downs in the fourth quarter last fall, and converted four of them.
2. Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle is going full speed in summer workouts, and knocking on the door of 210 pounds. During ACL rehab he had fallen to 190. Backs Ken Darby and Tim Castille are looking healthy again, too. If depthless Bama keeps them healthy, it will make noise in the SEC West.
3. Keep an eye on the experienced (only 16 lettermen lost) Texas A&M Aggies. If they get past that opener at Clemson on Sept. 3, five of their next seven games are at home. They could be 8-0 before a killer homestretch of at Texas Tech, at Oklahoma and, as always, Texas on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend.
Rooting For Wyatt
Thursday, June 16
1. I remember hearing anecdotes last fall about Wyatt Sexton's quirks and thinking that he sounded like a refreshing change from the norm. It's a short distance from quirky to disturbing. You just hope he bought a round-trip ticket.
2. Georgia awarded punter Gordon Ely-Kelso a scholarship Tuesday. He's a two-year starter. He's been a dependable, occasionally outstanding contributor, and he's just now getting a free ride? As modern as coaches are, their thinking about punters and placekickers remains anchored in superstition and mystery.
3. In an attempt to attain poll credibility, the BCS has hired Harris, a company with roots in political polling. If that's not a slap at the coaches poll, I don't know what is.
Tuesday, June 14
1. Birmingham is talking about erecting a domed stadium to replace Legion Field before the old showplace of the Football Capital Of The South crumbles. Given UAB's crowd sizes, the city needs about 25,000 seats. They have a name for that type of dome: An arena.
2. Joel Klatt threw for 2,398 yards last season. The Colorado QB should have had 2,800 yards, if only because his teammates dropped 39 passes. If I'm Gary Barnett, I make T-shirts with the number 39 on them and "request" that the receivers wear them to summer workouts. Every day.
3. A name to tuck away: Washington State senior tailback Jerome Harrison, who rushed for 900 yards last year and should get off to a big start this season. The Cougars open with Idaho, Nevada and I-AA Grambling.
Pac-10's bold move
Thursday, June 9
1. Thumbs up to the Pac-10 for going to a full round-robin schedule in 2006, which was the only condition under which the conference presidents would agree to add a 12th game. After this season, the Pac-10 won't have to use that goofy tiebreaker for teams that don't play each other. In case you're wondering, USC doesn't play Oregon State this year.
2. The editors who decided to take ESPN's name off the coaches poll never asked me for my opinion. They never shut me up when I derided the poll, either. Love those editors. Now I don't have to answer questions about "your poll."
3. Welcome to the Mountain West, TCU, which plays six of its first nine games on the road, and plays all 11 games without an off week. I thought hazing the new kid on the team was illegal.
Old Is New
Thursday, June 2
1. Ole Miss shouldn't have fired David Cutcliffe after last season. But Cutcliffe's resignation as quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame in order to focus on recuperating from triple-bypass surgery makes me wonder if his health would have permitted him to keep coaching in Oxford.
2. Most-improved schedule goes to Louisiana Tech, which last year played Auburn, Miami and Tennessee, all on the road. This year, the Bulldogs play nonconference games at Florida, at Kansas and at home against North Texas.
3. Syracuse unveiled "new" jerseys Wednesday, "new" because the design hearkens to the days of Jim Brown and Floyd Little. It's a great marketing idea by athletic director Daryl Gross. But if coach Greg Robinson can find backs who can run like Brown and Little, 'Cuse fans wouldn't care if the backs wore orange tutus.
Battling For Bowl Bids
Tuesday, May 31
1. A bowl shakeup below the BCS level is going to begin this week. Conference affiliations are going to change. Look for the other BCS conferences to take a bite out of the Big East.
2. A year after being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate, Missouri senior Brad Smith will begin this fall as the forgotten man. One statistic that is downright homely: Smith has started for three years, and his passing efficiency and total offense have diminished every year.
3. Charlie Weis has proven to be a talented offensive coach, but Notre Dame is only going to go as far as defensive coordinator Rick Minter's ability to find some production on the defensive front. The two returnees on the line, senior tackle Derek Landri and junior end Victor Abiamiri, missed all or part of spring ball with injuries.
The Tennessee Waltz?
Thursday, May 26
1. Tennessee scheduled a visit to Marshall in 2008. The chance that the Vols will get to Huntington? "If it's a $5 million Saturday," Marshall athletic director Bob Marcum said, estimating the take for a game at Neyland Stadium, "and the buyout is $350,000, you don't need to be a Wharton School of Finance graduate to believe you'll get a check."
2. Big 12 athletic directors and coaches want more than two New Year's Day bowl games. The Gator is interested. However, the Big 12 may send two to the expanded BCS, and the league isn't going to sever its historical tie with the Cotton. Is the fourth choice Gator-worthy?
3. Expect some upheaval in the Pac-10. The top four teams in returning starters — Washington (20), Arizona, Stanford and Washington State (17 each) — finished as the bottom four teams in the league last year. Nearly two-thirds of the starters in the league last season will return this fall.
Jury is still out on Callahan
Tuesday, May 24
1. Judging by my e-mail, Bill Callahan has yet to win over the Nebraska faithful. It's tough to tell any fan who considers 9-3 a slump that one 5-6 record doesn't constitute a permanent downturn. The pessimists see the Huskers becoming Alabama or even Minnesota. Both once ruled the college football world.
2. The Big East intends to climb back to respectability on the backs of I-AA opponents. Now that a I-AA victory counts toward bowl qualification, six of eight Big East teams play a I-AA opponent. Tickets are still available to West Virginia-Wofford, UConn-Liberty, Rutgers-Villanova, etc.
3. What I Did on Spring Vacation: Clemson coach Tommy Bowden will hop a ride in an F-16 fighter jet Wednesday, but he'll have to enter Gamecock territory to do so. The jet will take off from Fort McIntire Air Force Base in Columbia, S.C. The morning line has Bowden throwing up somewhere over Williams-Brice Stadium.
Hall of a class
Thursday, May 19
1. The new College Football Hall of Fame class is as star-studded as I can recall: multiple offensive stars (John Huarte, Anthony Davis, Rosie Leaks), a defensive star (Cornelius Bennett) and a TV star (Mark May, who knew how to play, too).Then again, it may just be that the guys going into the Hall of Fame are my generation or younger. Yikes.
2. Pat Dye resurrected Auburn in the 1980s and took it to heights it didn't reach again until last fall. It wouldn't have taken him 10 years to get elected if he hadn't quit because of NCAA trouble. There is no hard and fast rule regarding NCAA penance, but it took Barry Switzer a while to get in, too.
3. The post-spring depth chart at Illinois shows three or four returning starters who no longer have a starting job under new coach Ron Zook. It's a warning shot — get with the program over the summer, or you may be selling programs in the fall.
Who gives a hoot?
Tuesday, May 17
1. The Mid-American Conference accepts Temple as a football-only member, beginning in 2007, and I ask: What's in it for the MAC? Doesn't the conference already have a member or two with attendance problems?
2. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Fisher DeBerry is "fighting the U.S. government" for his spiritual beliefs. DeBerry, the Air Force coach, is being investigated by a government task force for proselytizing his football team. Bowden usually recruits the best talent on any field, but not this time. If Las Vegas bothered, the First Amendment would be a 21-point favorite in this fight.
3. Ohio State football escapes an NCAA investigation with only the $500 in quarterback Troy Smith's pocket to answer for, which means that Jim Tressel knows how to win with defense whether it's November or May.
Let's stay together
Thursday, May 12
1. Staff cohesiveness is usually a sign of winning. Check out Dennis Franchione's group at Texas A&M. All nine assistants have been with Fran since 2002, his last season at Alabama. Five of the nine date back to 1998, Fran's first season at TCU.
2. Florida released the details of coach Urban Meyer's contract. Among the bonuses: $75,000 for an SEC title, and $100,000 for a BCS bid. Wait a minute — if you win the SEC, don't you get a BCS bid? In other words, Meyer actually will earn $175,000 for winning the SEC.
3. In the switch from an 11-team ACC to a 12-team ACC, scheduling forced some strange twists. Here's one of the strangest: North Carolina must play at Miami in each of the next two seasons. That's awfully welcoming of the Tar Heels.
Make 'em stay
Tuesday, May 10
1. John Lovett, fired as Clemson defensive coordinator last fall, surfaces at Louisiana Tech in March, stays long enough to coach spring practice, then leaves the other day for Bowling Green. I know coaching is a love-'em-and-leave-'em business, but I'll never understand why universities don't flex more muscle and demand that coaches stick around.
2. Florida State was the site of a Nike camp for high school juniors recently, and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Bobby Bowden brought the top prospects into his office. When the players who sign with the 'Noles next February are fifth-year seniors, Bowden will turn 81.
3. The Big Ten is playing six night games this fall in order to fill up TV time on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2. Five of the games are in the Midwest, and the sixth is at Hawaii. The last of the five Midwestern games takes place on Oct. 29. Television is one thing, the weather quite another.
Can we still be friends
Thursday, May 5
1. With hat -- and $5 million -- in hand, the Atlantic Coast Conference makes up with the Big East. Nine interconference games will be played between 2008 and 2012. By then, of course, no one will remember there was a dispute.
2. Coaches have spread out across the country this month to "begin" the evaluation of next year's high school seniors. "Begin" is actually "End" -- the coaches are offering scholarships right and left. We all laughed years ago when then-Wake Forest coach Jim Caldwell promised eighth-grade quarterback Chris Leak a scholarship. It's not so far-fetched now.
3. Sun Sports, a Florida cable network, will televise the documentary, "Under the Lights: Urban Meyer," beginning Friday. Here are some possible titles the network overlooked: "Urban Meyer: The First 100 Days", "Urban Meyer: Still Undefeated", and "Urban Meyer: Wait 'Til You See the Television We Make When He Actually Coaches a Game."
Make up your mind
Tuesday, May 3
1. A few years ago, I-A schools decided not to count victories over I-AA opponents toward bowl qualification because they didn't want to reward diluted schedules. Now I-A schools want to play I-AA opponents in order to keep I-AA strong. Come again?
2. USC will be the preseason No. 1. USC has the Heisman Trophy winner returning at quarterback. USC is going for a three-peat. It's May, and already you can feel the pressure that will come to bear on the Trojans this fall. Pete Carroll's smart enough to make sure his players enjoy the ride. Man, it will be tough.
3. The 2005 Tennessee Spring Review arrived in the mail, and, given the arrests and embarrassments in Knoxville, I'm sure it's no coincidence that there's a big picture of coach Phillip Fulmer with the headline, "Stability on Rocky Top." He's letting everyone know he's still in charge.
Sad day by the Bay
Thursday, April 28
1. Cal football may be resurgent, but losing the Silicon Valley Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game in the same week should embarrass the Bay Area. Then again, if anyone in the Bay Area cared about college football, they wouldn't have lost those games.
2. Texas howled when ABC asked Ohio State to move its Sept. 10 game against the Longhorns to prime time, but the home team makes the decision. Advantage: Bucks.
3. USC likely will take a 24-game winning streak into Autzen Stadium on Sept. 24. But Oregon can't look ahead. Fresno State likely will take a seven-game winning streak into Autzen the previous Saturday.
Hardly A Perfect Dozen
Tuesday, April 26
1. The word among I-A commissioners is that approval of adding a 12th game by the NCAA Board of Directors in its meeting Thursday is far from assured. The enthusiasm for the game among the commissioners and athletic directors hasn't translated to the university presidents on the board.
2. The last word on Buddy Teevens' underachieving at Stanford: more players drafted (six) than victories (four). And isn't the coach who recruited them to The Farm the guy who supposedly couldn't recruit at Notre Dame?
3. The National Football Foundation wants to replace the AP poll in the BCS with a small pool of voters that would include retired coaches and administrators. You have to admit: it would be fun to see Bo Schembechler hold the postseason fate of Ohio State in his hands.
Too Close To Call
Thursday, April 14
1. Oklahoma spring ball is coming to a close, and none of the three quarterbacks -- junior Paul Thompson, sophomore Tommy Grady, and freshman Rhett Bomar -- has separated himself from the pack. "We got three that are really good," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Thursday. In other words -- no decisions until August.
2. I admire the ACC for voting against the 12th game, taking a stand for academics and player safety. And I think the 12th game is nothing but a naked money grab by Division I-A athletic directors. But I haven't seen any evidence that playing 12 games has a negative impact on grades or on injury rates.
3. When Georgia senior D.J. Shockley, always more mobile than David Greene, broke the huddle with his offense in the spring game, they lined up in a wishbone and ran a few plays. Did pretty well, too. Who broke the news to offensive line coach Neil Calloway, one of Bear Bryant's boys, that it was just a gag?
Tuberville Seeing Red
Tuesday, April 12
1. The BCS commissioners are looking into replacing the AP poll with their own poll of writers, retired coaches, beer vendors, broadcasters, cheerleaders, etc. This idea is three stops past silly. There is not universal support for a committee to pick the teams, a la the committee that picks the basketball field. Yeah, you wouldn't want to emulate March Madness.
2. DeAngelo Williams of Memphis and DonTrell Moore of New Mexico have more in common than their one-two standing among active I-A rushers. Williams rebounded from a late-season knee injury in 2003 to rush for 1,828 yards last year. Moore tore his left ACL in the Emerald Bowl and is doing so well, he's expected back for August workouts.
3. I ran into Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville on the veranda of the Augusta National Golf Club. He looked at my ESPNU hat and asked me for one. I offered him the one I was wearing. "I can't wear that," he said. It wasn't sweat-stained. It wasn't dandruff-filled. It was red.
Thursday, April 7
1. The most interesting thing to me about Charlie Weis installing his offense at Notre Dame this spring is that he has 10 returning starters, including four third-year starters on the offensive line. If they are sharp enough to grasp Weis' concepts, the Irish should start fast on offense.
2. You know what really torques me off about Temple "goon" Nehemiah Ingram walking on to the football team as a defensive lineman? I didn't think of it first. He ought to be a natural.
3. If you're wondering what Lou Holtz has been doing since he retired at South Carolina, his golf game is in good shape. He and a partner won the biggest annual members-only tournament at Augusta National this year.
Watch And Learn
Wednesday, April 6
1. Cal quarterback signee Kyle Reed, from nearby Oakland, is attending spring practice and standing on the field with the quarterbacks as they go through drills. Coach Jeff Tedford expects Reed to compete for playing time in the fall, but even Tedford admitted he would be surprised if Reed gained a whole lot. Watching is one thing. Doing is another.
2. The American Football Coaches Association took a principled stand in refusing to reveal the ballots of the coaches who vote in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Then the BCS said it may not use the polls at all. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday, the coaches would rather reveal their votes than not vote at all. Ah, yes, principle.
3. A decade or so ago, Penn State shook up recruiting by offering scholarships to juniors who attended the Nittany Lions' summer camp. Now, more and more schools have "Junior Days" during spring practice when they offer scholarships. This is not progress, but I don't know how you stop the marketplace.
Thursday, March 31
1. In the wake of the first-degree murder charge against Arizona State tailback Loren Wade, coach Dirk Koetter is getting some help to stave off recruiting damage. Parents of recruits who signed with the Sun Devils last month will be on campus this weekend, when the state's best high school juniors will visit.
2. When Cal hired coach Jeff Tedford, it promised to renovate Memorial Stadium. After the university reiterated its promise last year — without a shovel yet in the ground — Tedford signed an extension. On Wednesday, Tedford met with the architects. A slowly fulfilled promise, but a fulfillment nonetheless.
3. The Lombardi watch list just arrived in my e-mail box. Seriously, what does this mean? It's five months before the season starts. I keep waiting for my NFL MVP watch list.
Big East Gator hunt
Tuesday, March 29
1. Hoping to renew its deal with the Gator Bowl, the Big East told officials of the Jacksonville bowl: Kick the tires on the SEC all you want. However, the SEC is sending its first two teams to the BCS and its next two to the Capital One and Outback, and our No. 2 is a better deal than the SEC's No. 5.
2. A Florida State alum recently asked me to name the two men Seminole fans hate most. His answer: former Florida coach Steve Spurrier and current Florida State offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. Ouch.
3. USC sophomore cornerback Eric Wright works hard, wrests the starting job from senior Kevin Arbet, makes a pick in the Orange Bowl and can start spring ball with nothing but blue skies. Until he gets arrested Saturday for investigation of sexual assault. It's amazing how one night can darken a career — and a life.
Search for consistency
Thursday, March 24
Three quarterbacks in search of consistency as they prepare for next fall:
1. Georgia Tech junior Reggie Ball was allowed to be inconsistent as a freshman, but the coaches began to lose patience last fall. As the Yellow Jackets begin full-contact sessions in spring ball, Ball's ability to make plays every down will be unusually scrutinized for a third-year starter.
2. Virginia Tech junior Marcus Vick, suspended for last season, begins spring practice third on the Hokies' depth chart to replace ACC Player of the Year Bryan Randall. Everyone knows the score here. Vick has the talent. If he gets his life together, and shows on the field that he's paying attention and doing his work, he'll get the job.
3. Missouri senior Brad Smith spent last season trying to prove his worth as a Heisman candidate. He performed better his first two seasons, when he just tried to play. Smith should be numb to the hype, which can only mean good news for the Tigers.
Something to build on
Tuesday, March 22
1. It's not unusual for defense to be ahead of offense in spring ball, but Tennessee linebacker Omar Gaither made four picks in the Vols' first five practices. That's good news on a defense that allowed opponents to complete 60.8 percent of their passes last season.
2. Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins knows how to build a program. He hired Randy Edsall at UConn. Still the Jayhawks open with home games against Florida Atlantic, I-AA Appalachian State and Louisiana Tech, and shipped the Oklahoma game to Arrowhead Stadium. Good season tickets for Lawrence remain a whole lot of them.
3. Alabama's lack of experience and depth on offense continued to show during spring drills. Without injured tailback Ken Darby, the Tide rushed for only 114 yards on 39 carries Saturday in the A-Day game. Of course, an optimist would tell you that Alabama's defense is very good.
Thursday, March 17
1. Good news at Connecticut: Tailback Terry Caulley, who led Division I-A in rushing when he blew out a knee in mid-2003, ran a hand-timed, sub-4.3 40 recently. Now, if the 5-foot-7, 187-pound Caulley can only beat out Cornell Brockington (1,218 yards a year ago).
2. Going into spring practice, new Syracuse coach Greg Robinson has already switched the position of senior linebacker Kellen Pruitt from weakside to strong. At 6-3, 225, Pruitt has the long limbs and the speed to deal with downfield tight ends.
3. Texas coach Mack Brown, recounting his teasing response when athletic director DeLoss Dodds proposed a 10-year contract extension last year: "You think I'm going to stay here 10 more years? That's a death wish." Gallows humor aside, as Brown begins his eighth season in Austin (70-19 .787), he's already fourth in tenure in Longhorns coaching history.
Tuesday, March 15
1. We interrupt spring practice at Texas this week to bring you — spring break. Mack Brown isn't the only coach out there who splits up spring workouts, so I'm not picking on him. But I never understood why it's beneficial to give players a week off in the midst of 15 intensive teaching sessions.
2. The four No. 1 seeds in the men's bracket won a grand total of football 12 games last season. If that's not a record for the most pathetic performance by football schools in short pants, I don't know what is.
3. All right. I admit it. As someone who thought that Washington should not have fired Rick Neuheisel, I still don't get why the NCAA's actions were so egregious that it felt compelled to pay $2.5 million in the settlement. I have to go now. I'm trying to think of a reason to sue the NCAA.
Thursday, March 10
1. Bob Pruett retired unexpectedly Wednesday after nine seasons at Marshall with a record of 94-23 (.801). How good is that? With his retirement, the number of active I-A coaches with five years' experience with winning percentages over .800 is cut in half. Now, there's only Bob Stoops (67-12, .848) of Oklahoma.
2. The five years' experience is the key. Coaches getting their fifth year next fall include Miami's Larry Coker (44-6, .880), Pete Carroll of USC (42-9, .824), and Mark Richt of Georgia (42-10, .808). Research project: find another group of head coaches with no college head-coaching experience who started so successfully. It will take a loooonnng time.
3. I wish Glenn Davis had played in the modern era. Reading the obituaries of Davis, the Army tailback who died Wednesday at age 80, it sounds as if he was Barry Sanders before Barry Sanders. It would have been great to see him. From his sophomore to his senior season (1944-46), Davis finished second, second and first in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Tuesday, March 8
1. Ron Zook is a throwback in a lot of ways. He has hired 14 assistants since he arrived at Illinois in December. When giants (Bryant) roamed the sideline, you could have more than the NCAA limit of nine. But five coaches Zook hired subsequently left for other jobs.
2. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis bought his home in the South Bend area, replete with school logo on the bottom of the pool, from former Irish coach Bob Davie. Let's hope it works out better for Weis than the last coach who bought a house from a predecessor -- Mike Price at Alabama.
3. Two springs ago, Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer made a public plea for quarterbacks. Now spring practice begins with Erik Ainge, Brent Schaeffer and Rick Clausen all having started and played well. Be careful what you wish for ...
Old school Ballcoach
Thursday, March 3
1. Steve Spurrier boots tailback Demetris Summers off the team at South Carolina, which goes to prove a point about the ol' Ballcoach. For all of his brashness and his unwillingness to adhere to the traditional coachspeak, he is more of an old-school disciplinarian than most of us realize.
2. It's hard to do in this bowl-heavy age, but Indiana has managed to assemble a complete 11-game schedule including eight Big Ten games and only six bowl teams. The Hoosiers' non-conference schedule includes Central Michigan, I-AA Nicholls State and Kentucky. New coach Terry Hoeppner eases his way into Bloomington, and I bet a few athletic directors out there are jealous.
In light of the release of grand jury testimony this week, if stock in Colorado football were any lower, it would be in my 401K. Once I saw that "Colorado recruiter" didn't make USA Today's list of the 10 toughest jobs in sports, I didn't give the list another thought.
Tuesday, March 1
1. Remember when the NCAA tried to govern a program's behavior by taking away TV exposures? That didn't work. Nothing did until the NCAA figured out the way to a coach's heart is through his scholarships. The new rules regarding academic progress will be effective. It will take a couple of years for programs to adjust. But adjust they will. No coach is so thickheaded that he will risk losing scholarships. They're too valuable.
2. Longtime Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews is recovering from hip surgery, but if you're a Seminole fan worried about rebuilding the secondary, relax. The Seminoles don't begin spring practice until March 18, and the surgeon left Andrews' foghorn vocal cords untouched.
3. Charlie Weis didn't have time to recruit signees, and it showed in Notre Dame's meager class. But judging by the coaching staff he brought to South Bend, Weis can recruit just fine.
Thursday, February 24
1. After a season in which all 12 opponents completed at least half of their passing attempts, Minnesota coach Glen Mason has revamped his defensive coaching staff. The funny thing is, he made secondary coach David Lockwood the new defensive coordinator.
2. Boise State has ample opportunity to keep its profile high after last season's 11-1 run. The Broncos open at Georgia, at Oregon State and then play Bowling Green at home. Three nonconference games, three bowl teams.
3. Reggie Roby was the first college punter in my memory that had a noticeable effect on the outcome of a game. He was a cornerstone of the Big Ten power that Hayden Fry built from scratch two decades ago. It's awful that he won't get the chance to bask in that Hawkeye glory into his old age. He died too young.
Tuesday, February 22
1. We like to think that bringing GameDay to campus is a big deal. Many of you feel the same way. But not all. "I don't remember any of it," Florida coach Urban Meyer said of the show's trip to Utah last November. "Someone gave me a tape and I watched it the other day. So much happened over a two-month period."
2. I said on Colin Cowherd's show the other day that the NCAA instant replay isn't fair to the MAC and the Mountain West because their games aren't televised. Turns out that 89 percent of MWC games were televised last season, and the league will have its own network in 2006. That doesn't disprove my point, but I shouldn't have lumped the MWC in with the non-televised.
3. An old friend of Steve Spurrier who spent some time with the South Carolina coach recently said he hasn't seen the Ballcoach this happy in years. I bet Spurrier would be a lot happier if he had a quarterback who could throw.
On The Mend
Thursday, February 17
1. Tennessee ought to move its player lounge to the university hospital. Senior wide receiver C.J. Fayton became the eighth Volunteer to undergo surgery this offseason. The good news? All three quarterbacks -- Rick Clausen, Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer -- will be healthy when spring ball begins on March 10.
2. Departing tailback Cedric Benson told the Dallas Morning News that the Texas coaches need to gameplan the Oklahoma game to win it instead of to not lose it. Benson has never been shy about speaking his mind, and when he does, he's usually right. As in this case.
3. Rick Neuheisel has moved on to the NFL, and surely hopes that the pro experience, along with time, will make him palatable again as a collegiate head coach. But the news stories of the testimony in his suit against the University of Washington aren't helping his case.
Tuesday, February 15
1. With the departure of offensive line coach Tim Davis, USC lost more offensive coaches (three) than it did offensive starters (two). The return of Steve Sarkisian as quarterback coach softens the transition, but I can't remember that kind of transition happening.
2. Auburn released its schedule, and took pains to explain that the Sept. 24 game against I-AA Western Kentucky game is there because Southern Mississippi bailed out. Thanks for the explanation, but playing a I-AA team (The Citadel) cost the Tigers a chance at a national title last year, and it may cost them again.
3. Alabama starts spring practice next week and will finish some two weeks before the last teams, Virginia and Stanford, start. Tide coach Mike Shula wants time to heal in case of injuries, but Cavs coach Al Groh said he likes having time for last year's injured to get ready for spring. It's all in how you look at it.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Thursday, February 10
1. The NCAA Football Rules Committee recommended expanding instant replay from the Big Ten throughout Division I-A for next season. That's great if your game is televised. A call that could be reversed in one game could stand in another. So much for uniformity in the application of the rules.
2. After three years in the MAC West, Bowling Green is returning East, which is great news for the Falcons' rivalries against Miami, Kent State and Ohio. They're annual again. Northeast Ohio is so important to BGSU that it moved its 2006 home game against Wisconsin to the Browns' stadium.
3. In a matter of weeks, Major Applewhite (Syracuse), Josh Heupel (Arizona) and Darian Hagan (Colorado) have taken assistant coaching jobs. It's great to see former stars return to the college sideline. Parlor game: who's the next All-Big 12 (or Big Eight) quarterback to become an assistant?
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Tuesday, February 8
1. If Norm Chow goes to the Titans, his break with USC has a different feel than the Patriots losing Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Namely, Chow's could have been avoided.
2. If you miss football like I do, try this. Wake up at 6 a.m., walk outside, find a quiet spot in your yard, close your eyes and listen very closely. If you do, you'll hear football players all over America throwing up. Winter conditioning is in full swing.
3. Let's come up with an All-Don't-Touch-This-Senior backfield for spring practice. Matt Leinart's my quarterback, and DeAngelo Williams is my tailback. Leinart will be on the mend from arm surgery, but I can't imagine that Memphis coach Tommy West will allow anyone wearing a helmet to come within 10 feet of Williams.
Thursday, Feb. 3
1. Could this be the end of the USC reign? Pete Carroll and Norm Chow may be drawing up divorce papers. The Tennessee Titans are talking to Chow, who thinks NFL work would help him get a college coaching job. "An underlying tension" remains between the two coaches, according to one colleague. "Norm needs to be stroked," the source said. "I don't know if Pete strokes him."
2. The key to the Oregon State offense is replacing quarterback Derek Anderson. The leading candidate has become juco signee Matt Moore, a former UCLA starter who got hurt, got Wally Pipped, and left. He's already on campus and preparing for spring work.
3. Top 100? Seventeen players on the 2005 Senior Bowl rosters had been on Tom Lemming's top 100 list in 2000 or 2001. Just as many are already in the NFL.
No Rest For The Weary
Tuesday, Feb. 1
1. We all look forward to signing day with great anticipation. Coaches see it as a finish line -- and a starting line. A few staffs will meet Wednesday or Thursday morning to discuss this year's juniors. I mean, c'mon. Signing day is only 12 months away.
2. More and more southern schools are pushing spring ball up so that they finish in March. Some want to finish before spring break. More do so for the reason that coaches do a lot of things: fear. If a player gets hurt, he has more time to rehab and get ready for the opener.
3. Fresno State, USC and Auburn were all looking to fill holes on their schedule for this fall. Funny thing, though. Fresno State couldn't get USC interested, and neither USC nor Auburn has the slightest interest in one another. Fans would love it. The coaches wouldn't.
Tuesday, Jan. 26
1. Mississippi State coach Sly Croom, coming off a 3-8 season, has already told his players he "expects" to go to a bowl game next fall. The issue, Croom says, is whether they expect to go, too.
2. The Road Not Taken: a year ago, Washington defensive coordinator Phil Snow had the chance to leave and turned it down because he didn't want to move his kids one year after moving to Seattle. So Snow got fired, and now he's trolling for an NFL job at the Senior Bowl. That's the part of coaching that stinks.
3. Indiana will no longer play Oregon next fall. The Ducks will instead play Houston, which needed a game after Nebraska bailed out on the Cougars. The guess here is that the Hoosiers won't schedule an Oregon. From here, it looks as if new coach Terry Hoeppner is already 1-0.
Thursday, Jan. 20
1. Elbow surgery or no, Matt Leinart will be making room during USC spring football for redshirt sophomore John David Booty. Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow says that Booty needs snaps. "Any kind of snaps, spring ball snaps, game snaps," Chow said. "His arm is his real strength. The ball comes spinning. He's got to learn who the heck to throw it to."
2. Welcome to the SEC, Les Miles. Georgia swiped Kirby Smart, a former Bulldog star, off the LSU staff, then convinced Dawg assistant Rodney Garner not to leave Athens to interview for a job with Miles.
3. Four of the top five, and six of the top 10 teams in men's hoops had losing records in football. Only three of the top five in women's hoops had losing records in football. Draw your own conclusions.
The Price Of Success
Tuesday, Jan. 18
1. Auburn gets dissed in the polls, and then defensive coordinator Gene Chizik makes a lateral move to share the same job at Texas, replacing Greg Robinson. Success is supposed to be more rewarding for Auburn than this.
2. Robinson hires Major Applewhite as quarterback coach at Syracuse, which just confirms that the former Longhorn quarterback, 26, is odds-on to be a head coach before he's 35.
3. The more the Division I-A commissioners discuss how to create a new method of picking two teams for the championship game, the more nervous the BCS bowls get. Bowl officials always want more control over which teams play in their games. The last 12 months -- adding a fifth BCS bowl, the Utah-Pittsburgh mismatch in the Fiesta Bowl -- have made them antsy.
Thursday, Jan. 13
1. Auburn juniors Anthony Mix and Marcus McNeill both decided to come back for their senior seasons in part because they saw how much teammates Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Carlos Rogers gained by not leaving early for the NFL. And I don't mean just financial gain.
2. If you had been hanging out at the SAE house at Pacific thirty-odd years ago, you would have been friends with Pete Carroll, Greg Robinson and Ron Turner from the football team, and a baseball player named Scott Boras. You think he was the treasurer?
3. The coaches brought their annual meeting to a close without taking a position on whether they should make their poll votes public, which means their credibility remains a 30-point underdog in the public arena.
Tuesday, Jan. 11
1. Eight of Mark Richt's nine assistants have been with him at Georgia all four years. That's why it's such a surprise that he lost defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder (to the NFL) and running backs coach Ken Rucker (to Texas) on the same day. No worries -- their same-day departure is a coincidence. Richt emphasized the stability by promoting secondary coach Willie Martinez to replace VanGorder. I should know how many Hispanic coordinators there are, but I don't.
2. Speaking of Texas, with much fanfare a year ago Mack Brown hired Greg Robinson and Dick Tomey to revamp his defense. They performed too well -- Brown will have to replace them. Tomey has taken over at San Jose State, and Robinson is being introduced today as the new Syracuse head coach.
3. As the recruiting stretch drive begins this week, one of the biggest surprise names among the top is Iowa. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz has quietly built a power in the Big Ten. It appears the news has reached high school seniors.
3-Point Stance Archive by Ivan Maisel