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Top Teams 2008

After Week Seven

  1. Alabama
  2. Penn State
  3. Texas
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Florida
  6. USC
  7. Georgia
  8. LSU
  9. BYU
  10. Missouri
  11. Ohio State
  12. Oklahoma State
  13. Texas Tech
  14. Utah
  15. Kansas
  16. USF
  17. North Carolina
  18. Miami
  19. Boise State
  20. Georgia Tech
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Entries in Pundit Roundup (38)

Friday
May302008

Pundit Roundup Status

I'm in favor of scrapping it.

All those in favor say aye, all those opposed say nay.

Tuesday
Mar252008

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!

Special two-week edition since last week's Pundit Roundup was never published. 

* * *
Victors Valiant?

There's a new sheriff in town at Ann Arbor.  A million dollars alone are being invested in a new weight room.  Players are exhausted from workouts.  Dire predictions of Michigan's worst record in a generation are being floated around as the team adjusts to an entirely new offense and defense.  And then there's that hyper-talkative strength trainer Mike Barwis.

Catch up on the transitioning Wolverines with ESPN's Ivan Maisel 

Fun, But Foolish

You know where I stand on this: college football doesn't need a playoff.  College basketball is not the model to follow, either.  It's deeply flawed, and The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart does a good job of taking apart the sham claim that it is somehow a real championship.

Don't believe it.

Oh, the thrills and chills stuff is real. But we likely won't know who the best in the nation is.

That's right. The notion that a season-ending, one-and-done playoff delivers us the best team is false. Heck, the NCAA Tournament is flawed from the start because it doesn't even feature the 65 best teams in the nation.

But, it's too late. The NCAA and CBS already have you hooked and hoodwinked.

As the NCAA hoops tournament shows us each year, any team can beat any other team on any given day.

But why should a team that loses one, two or three games during the regular season be forced to prove itself all over again in a three-week playoff?

Conversely, why should a team with an average or losing record be allowed the chance to compete for a championship?

Get on your knees and thank the gridiron gods that college football isn't polluted by a playoff. And I hope it never happens.

A championship title -- or the right to compete for a championship -- should be based on what a team did during the course of a long, hard season. College football's regular season acts as a de facto playoff, rewarding teams that take care of business week in and week out. There's no way to save your season after slacking for three months. And that's how it should be.

That's why every single weekend matters in college football. Every upset in September and October is huge news. And when a top-five team loses in November, it rocks the sport to its core.

With conference tournaments followed by the NCAA tourney, college basketball has sold its regular-season soul for a March tourney that rings hollow, too.

It all boils down to this: A champion shouldn't be crowned based on who gets hot over a three-week period. And, really, that's all a playoff tells us: Who got hot. Not, who is best.

Is college football's BCS formula infallible? No. But it's at least a darn good approximation for finding the two most worthy teams of playing for the national title.

No Job Is Safe

If he does nothing else in his life, Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard will be remembered for defeating USC last year.  Not only did he beat the Trojans, he beat them with the league's worst team.  Against arguably the nation's best team the last six years.  In their home stadium.  Ending their 30+ game home winning streak.  After completing just 11 passes all game.  Two of those passes, however, were a 4th and 20 conversion and the game-winning 4th down touchdown pass.

Now he's in a heck of a fight just to be Stanford's starting quarterback against two solid competitors.  What have you done for me lately, huh?  Although that's the way it should be.

ESPN's Pac-10 guru Ted Miller has the rest of the details

Ok Maybe This Job Is Safe

Joe (Paterno) won't go.  He's running out of options, thanks partly to his cantankerous ways and partly to several modest seasons since the 2005 Orange Bowl and various off-field transgressions embarrassing the dignity of the program.  I've given up trying to figure out when (if?) he'll leave.  Every couple years someone is convinced this is the year the Paterno reign ends.  And then he soldiers on.

Here's the latest effort from CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd

Opium For The Masses

There's certain games that aren't played that leave you scratching your head.  Number one on the list is Pitt/Penn State.  Joe Paterno is flat-out wrong in finding every reason not to play this series.  He's let the people of Pennsylvania down.

The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart recommends several other games that need to be played 

Burning Spear

The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart went to Tally to figure out what went wrong at Florida State.  Here are his findings, in three parts:

Another Workout Death

This is a sensitive issue, since unknown pre-existing conditions are quite often to blame when a young athlete dies during drills.  However I can't fault Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden for asking some good questions and doing the research that finds only seven times since 1966 has there been a year without a non-contact football death (1999 the most recent).

Sometimes bad things just happen.

Sometimes people die for no good reason at all.

But why does the sometime in college football almost always seem to be during some form of offseason conditioning? If football practice is supposed to simulate the actual intensity of a game, and the level of effort demanded in a mat drill is no different than that what is expected on the playing field; then why are kids dying in March and not in September? Unlike mountain climbing and auto racing, there is no reasonable expectation of death while playing football. So why are lives being lost preparing for the game?

Maybe these tragic deaths are not inevitable. Maybe it’s time to start asking ourselves different questions. Are we demanding much more from these athletes than is required to safely play? Are we spending enough money on testing for pre-existing conditions that lead to deaths? Could either of these factors have contributed to the death of any of these student-athletes?

These are tough questions.

But they are not nearly as tough as what Enock and Gisele Plancher are going through this week as they prepare to bury their son.

* * *
Quotable

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez

"If they had ever set a stat for spring practice sacks allowed, we would have broken it, and it would never be broken again," Rodriguez said. "I mean, I can remember our first spring game at Tulane. We had a little intrasquad scrimmage. It was so bad offensively that the defensive coaches let one of the female student trainers call defenses. And I still didn't get a first down."

Former Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker

"You're losing and coming into meetings hearing how it's your fault," says former FSU running back Lorenzo Booker. "But I always wondered, 'What are the coaches doing to get better?' It's a two-way street. We felt it was us losing the games, not the coaches.

"It was like they had no part in any of it. It was like they had no accountability. It was like Jeff Bowden was untouchable. It was like no one on the staff could criticize him. The defense always did its job. The guys on defense would get mad at us. But after a while, they understood."

CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd re: much-hyped Ohio State quarterback commit Terrelle Pryor

In one sense, Pryor can't possibly live up to the hype, can he? If he wins a national championship, that's what he was supposed to do. If he wins a Heisman, well, it's been done before in Columbus.

Terrelle Pryor

"Troy Smith ran some zone-read stuff early in his career, and then he developed into a pocket passer and did a lot of stuff out of the shotgun," Pryor said. "He became a better quarterback -- not just an athlete -- by the time he was done. I feel I can do the same. Both schools said they would utilize my athletic ability in the offense, but I think I can be more well-rounded at Ohio State."

* * *
Miscellaneous

. . . USC coach Pete Carroll is working towards 'A Better L.A.' (Bruce Feldman/ESPN) . . . Quarterback Nate Davis and Ball State teammates are the MAC's new golden boys (Bruce Feldman/ESPN) . . . I-Formation (Ivan Maisel/ESPN) . . . He said/she said and improprieties the story of Nyan Boateng's rocky college career (Ted Miller/ESPN) Georgia, Missouri and Wisconsin must navigate the expectations dance (Mark Schlabach/ESPN) . . . Ray Ray McElrathbey's lost scholarship story: it's complicated (Mark Schlabach/ESPN) . . . A wise marketing gimmick by Florida coach Urban Meyer: race the team, win a scholarship (Dennis Dodd/CBS Sports) . . .

. . . Inside Dish: USF dishes on how to beat the Rich Rodriguez offense (Matt Hayes/The Sporting News) . . . Nice guys like Tyrone Willingham finish last (Matt Hayes/The Sporting News) . . . Bubblegum pop and college football don't mix (Tom Dienhart/The Sporting News) . . .  Casting a College Football Hall of Fame Ballot (Tom Dienhart/The Sporting News) . . . Football is all about contact, but safety is still a huge priority and some new NCAA rule changes addressing safety are welcome (Terry Bowden/Yahoo! Sports) . . . Previews, everywhere (Rivals.com) . . . History tells us Notre Dame must wait (Olin Buchanan/Rivals.com) . . .

. . . Disgust with the game's excesses (Tony Barnhart/Atlanta Journal-Constitution) . . . Erack Plancher's death brings tragic end to a life full of promise (Mike Bianchi/Orlando Sentinel) . . . George O'Leary's tough-guy rep bends to a broken heart (Mike Bianchi/Orlando Sentinel) . . . Nick Saban is still a big deal in Louisiana (Paul Finebaum/Mobile Press-Register) . . .

* * *
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left. 

Tuesday
Mar112008

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!

***
Southern Revival

The latest name in new-age vagabond offensive gurus in the mold of Gus Malzahn: Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.  Malzahn had his books.  Franklin has a website.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach has more

The spread offense has provided Franklin a second chance, too. When Franklin resigned as Kentucky's offensive coordinator after the 2000 season, he was accused of supplying the NCAA with information that led to coach Hal Mumme resigning and the Wildcats being placed on probation. Franklin even wrote a book about his experience and sued Kentucky and Mumme.

"I was told by people that I would be done in coaching forever if I wrote that book," Franklin said. "The way I looked at it, I'd be done if I didn't write the book. The innuendo and rumors were purposely placed out there to make me look like a rat. Most people believed it to be fact. I felt writing the book was the best thing to do. I don't regret it."

Franklin paid dearly for his actions. After leaving Kentucky, he was out of work for three years. He was hired as general manager and coach of an indoor football team in Lexington, Ky., in 2003, but left after only one season. At the time, Franklin's consulting business was struggling to get off the ground. He lost his home and cars and filed for bankruptcy.

Finally, Troy coach Larry Blakeney hired Franklin as offensive coordinator before the 2006 season. Franklin helped Troy win its first Sunbelt Conference title and bowl game in his first season. Tuberville came calling after Franklin's second season at Troy.

"It's been a very humbling experience," Franklin said.

Profiles in Scourge

Rick Neuheisel's doing his best impression of USC at the moment, right down to hyping the excitement of practice (we're talking about practice!).  I don't have a clue how that experiment's going to work out, but he's certainly got people curious and Bruin fans excited.

He is the anti-Dorrell. Neuheisel is telling his old teammate as much when he talks with reporters. Karl Dorrell was a great guy and a decent coach but he lacked what Slick Rick has and L.A. demands.

When they played together, Neuheisel contends the quiet receiver barely spoke to him until Dorrell was a sophomore, even though their lockers were separated only by that of quarterback David Norrie.

"My senior year he came up and said, 'Hey, I need to get five catches in this game,' Neuheisel said. "I said, 'Karl, this is a breakthrough.'"

Dorrell got his five catches in the 1983 USC game and then said, "I need five more."

"Look it up," Neuheisel said, "Rose Bowl, 1984."

Five catches, two for touchdowns.

See the entire Dennis Dodd profile here.

We Hardly Knew Ya

The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi comes not to praise the All America Football League (AAFL) but to bury it:

Warning: When somebody from a start-up minor league sports franchise approaches and tries to get you to invest money or buy season tickets, run away like they're trying to sell you a downtown condo.

You see, these people are hopeless dreamers. They think their brilliant idea will work where all others have failed. The AAFL, for instance, thought it would capitalize on the popularity of college football and tie professional teams to big-time college programs.

Miscellaneous

Washington quarterback Jake Locker will be playing some baseball (Bruce Feldman/ESPN) . . . The I-Formation returns after a several month absence (Ivan Maisel/ESPN) . . . Brett Favre's football miracles started at Southern Miss (Pat Forde/ESPN) . . . Spring questions (Stewart Mandel/Sports Illustrated) . . . Spring nuggets (Dennis Dodd/CBS Sports) . . . 10 scariest college football players (Olin Buchanan/Rivals.com) . . . Mountains of previews at Rivals.com . . . Duke coach David Cutcliffe is working with a bunch of overweight, out-of-shape kids (Tom Dienhart/The Sporting News) . . . Poor man's draft picks (Matt Hayes/The Sporting News) . . . Pete Carroll is calling other coaches lazy (Matt Hayes/The Sporting News) . . . Former Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell stumps for Tommy Tuberville and his version of discipline (Paul Finebaum/Mobile Press-Register) . . . 

Announcements

ESPN College GameDay is headed to Florida for the Gators' Orange and Blue Game on April 12

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Mar042008

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006 Again!

It's back ... maybe?  New format for this week, shaking things up a bit.  Feedback is welcome (check the Pundit Roundup archives for reference)

*** 
Error of Omission

ESPN's Bruce Feldman reports that ESPN The Magazine editor Gary Belsky has listed "the 27 best sports in the world right now".  College football checks in at No. 16, which is frankly beyond the pale ridiculous.  How does this happen?

It should be noted Belsky didn't attend a college where college football is a big deal, and I'm sure that had something to do with his list. Also, since he has lived in New York City for a while, I think he gets the double whammy of not being exposed to the passion of the game.

Three cheers for Los Angeles which is the only "big three" American city with any kind of consistent interest in college football.  New York has ... Rutgers?  Eh.  Chicago has historically putrid Northwestern.  But Los Angeles is graced by both USC and UCLA.

Paterno vs. Bowden Slow-Motion Race to Somewhere

The Sporting News' Matt Hayes is suggesting a scenario where 2008 is the last rodeo for Penn State coach Joe Paterno.  The situation around both coaches is so morbid and bizarre.

Neither has any intention of leaving, to the point of defiance.  They rage against the dying of their once-prominent programs, yet seem unable to adequately prop them up.  The door to the right offers another year (and another, and another) as the coach of a program no longer able to contend for titles and the misery of bad press and failed expectations.  The door to the left is retirement or a coerced exit and a potential Bear Bryant/Charles Schultz-esque immediate death once heartbreak stops their hearts.  Neither is a sexy choice.

Such is the dilemma of having a singular, consuming passion.

Coaching vs. Talent

The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart is in Tallahassee investigating the sources behind Florida State's fall from once-great heights.  Was the cause simply a drop in talent?  Anecdotal evidence says yes, and no.  The quarterbacks haven't been great the last few years, but it's not like FSU was hurting with so-so talents like Thad Busby and Danny Kanell.  I think losing the offensive initiative (wherefore art thou, Fast Break Offense?) and certain highly skilled assistants (Chuck Amato, Mark Richt) doomed the program.

Discipline

Thoughtful stuff from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart

1) How should college football handle bad behavior?

2) Can coaches be objective when it comes to discipline?

It goes almost without saying that there's lots of gray area for anyone attempting to answer either.  Fire away. 

Miscellaneous

West Virginia's Pat White: last man standing (Cory McCartney/Sports Illustrated) . . . Catching up with USC coach Pete Carroll (Dennis Dodd/CBS Sports) . . . An interview with ousted Florida State Athletic Director Dave Hart (Matt Hayes/The Sporting News) . . . Looking at some of the new coordinators in college football in '08 (Tom Dienhart/The Sporting News) . . . A debate about the appropriate amount of time that should be allocated for spring practice (Rivals.com staff) . . . Assorted spring previews (Rivals.com staff) . . .

Georgia faces eight coaches who have "won some kind of national championship" this season (Tony Barnhart/Atlanta Journal-Constitution) . . . Memo to Nick Saban: just shut up and coach football (Paul Finebaum/Mobile Press-Register) . . . The 'Nicktator' -- Nick Saban -- is soft on crime (Kevin Scarbinsky/The Birmingham News)

Announcements

Ted Miller is leaving the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to cover Pac-10 football for ESPN

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Wednesday
Oct242007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Late Wednesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman names the 10 most difficult playes to game plan for.  Nice list.

Also: Friday Mail Bag, opinions on upsets and upstarts

From Desi in Chicago: Which of these three men is the last man standing at his current school: Karl Dorrell, Dennis Franchione or Bill Callahan?

Feldman: My hunch is Callahan is the first to go, then Fran and then Dorrell. UCLA is also the least likely of those three to be throwing around money.

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel returns for another round of The I-Formation

--- ESPN's Pat Forde returns with another round of The Dash

Also: Florida's win blows SEC East race wide open

Watching Tebow and Woodson operate is an opportunity to watch two totally different guys excel at the same position. 

Woodson is all poise and precision in the pocket. His 415 passing yards and five touchdowns, in the face of a prodigious pass rush, were impressive.

Tebow was even more impressive. He's all blood and guts, running over tacklers and running away from tacklers and making throws from all angles.

"He almost wills things to happen out there," offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said. "They have him in the pocket, and he just stays alive."

And, at game's end, he killed Kentucky.

After a poor Wildcats kickoff was returned to near midfield by the Gators' Brandon James, you figured Florida would try to run out the clock nursing a seven-point lead. Instead, Meyer told Mullen on the headset, "Let's take a shot here."

On first down, Tebow play-faked and looked deep, only to find the coverage in place. So he dumped to the outside to Kestahn Moore for 9 yards. Three plays later, the Gators went for the big play again, and Tebow rifled a 40-yard strike to Percy Harvin.  Tebow plowed in from the 2 to put the game away.

"Our game plan against him was good," Wildcats defensive end Dominic Lewis said. "We had guys in the right spots. He just made better plays."

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach returns for another round of On (and off) the Mark

Also: Todd Reesing sparks Jayhawks revival, USF won't get second chance to crash party

Reesing, a sophomore from Austin, Texas, was written off as a college quarterback long ago. He is listed at 5-foot-10 but might be an inch or two shorter. His height was the main reason college coaches didn't flock to Austin to recruit him; he threw for more than 6,500 yards with 70 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in high school. His only major scholarship offers came from Kansas and Kansas State. Nearly all the Texas schools ignored him.

"It was kind of the story of my recruiting process," Reesing said. "I was kind of written off by people because of my height. Even though I put up huge numbers in high school, I wasn't recruited by a lot of schools. Listed next to my name was that height and people wouldn't take a look at me."

Opponents are always looking for Reesing now. He ranks 14th in the country in pass efficiency, completing 57 percent of his passes for 1,652 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel returns with another round of The Mailbag

Also: Rutgers' upset deals blow to USF and Big East

Also: The Mandel Blog 

--- Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy profiles swashbuckling Texas Tech coach Mike Leach

--- Sports Illustrated's Arash Markazi says the aura that surrounded USC during its amazing run is gone

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney checks in with another edition of the All-Out Blitz

Also: Dennis Erickson is working his magic again at ASU

--- CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd says Pete Carroll's Trojans face a huge test against Oregon in Eugene

Also: Sunday 7, LSU avoids questions and upset with incredible finish, Weekend Watch List, battered Buckeyes tackle their demons

These aren't the defense and field-position Bucks of 2002. In some ways they're even more swashbuckling than the '06 team that seemingly had sprinter's speed at every position. Boeckman, a faceless junior from St. Henry, Ohio, has thrown downfield more than the Heisman Trophy winner in becoming the Big Ten's top-rated passer.

Complementary receivers last year, Brian Robiskie, Ray Small and Brian Hartline are producing at a rate similar to Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez. Ohio State pass catchers are averaging 2.41 touchdowns per game compared to 2.38 for last year's group.

There's always the pounding running game. Budding star Chris "Beanie" Wells is on pace to run for 1,200 yards. The offense as a whole is outscoring the '06 team through seven games 35.7-33.5 points per game.

The defense was the strength from the beginning. In a season when it seems no one is playing it, the Buckeyes are No. 1 this season in points and yards allowed. Linebacker Jim Laurinaitis has done nothing to diminish his Nagurski Award in 2006 (best defensive player).

It's almost sickening now to suggest these Buckeyes are underdogs. They have won 26 of their last 27 games. The school plays tag with Texas for the label of richest athletic department. But after the superstar team of last season, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Ohio State was generally picked third to fifth in the Big Ten.

But what else are you going to call them? And who else are you going to put up there at No. 1?

--- CBS Sports' Spencer Tillman says a new kind of motivation is required for today's student-athletes

Once again Tillman's got something interesting to say.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes looks at third-year college football coaches

Also: Winners and losers, Inside Dish, Hayes' Top 25, ten things to watch this weekend, Heisman Watch

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart says rumors still swirl about North Carolina coach Butch Davis

Also: Blog Fog, despite lapses Sooners are among nation's best, Saturday Dreaming, Week 8 Awards

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden says it's all about the QB's

Like a good point guard in the NBA, a la Steve Nash, he also has to be able to manage the offense. I know manage is probably the most overused word in the American Football Dictionary, but it has never been more true. With so much of the offense being changed at the line of scrimmage these days (in my first year at Auburn in 1993 we went undefeated and never checked off one time at the line of scrimmage), it is up to the QB to get the offense in the correct play. Before he does that, he must call the defensive front based on where the middle linebacker is and the secondary coverage based on where the safeties line up. After all of that, he must have the physical and intellectual ability to distribute the ball to the correct receiver or ballcarrier whether it be read one, read two or read three.

Also: Sweet 16

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis tells us what stories we aren't hearing about

And one more thing...the BCS will work itself out. Enough about the calls for a playoff because this year has been crazy. This is a playoff! Every weekend is elimination. More on this next week.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers another round of mail

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell says the USC Trojans are in unfamiliar territory

Also: a profile of USC Heisman Trophy winner Charles White

Also: some positive changes to next year's NFL draft

--- CSTV's Jerry Palm says LSU is still No. 2

--- CSTV's Carter Blackburn warms up college football's hot seats

--- Be sure to check out all the latest from the Rivals.com team of Olin Buchanan, David Fox, Steve Megargee and Mike Huguenin

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson says thanks for watching to some of his more loyal viewers and briefly revisits the playoff proposal one loyal viewer sent his way before heading off to military missions unknown in the Middle East

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside says the Penn State players' off-the-field behavior is under scrutiny

Also: college football's upset bug bites USF, Pooch Kicks

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel says LSU returns to a familiar path after a chaotic detour

Also: Easy win over Notre Dame does little for USC Trojans, on road to title Ohio State must dodge critics

Also: The Quad Blog

--- The New York Times' Thayer Evans says coach Mike Gundy's tirade is a boon for Oklahoma State

Also: Kansas star Aqib Talib swaggers on both sides of the ball

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse says No. 2 Boston College isn't even ranked second in its hometown

Also: Still more Bowl Championship Shame?, struggling Aggies might benefit from a trip to Tuberville

--- Be sure to visit the Mr. College Football blog by Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tony Barnhart

--- The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianci says sadly, it's time for Bobby Bowden to retire

--- The New York Post's Lenn Robbins is calling Thursday night's Boston College game against Virginia Tech the school's acid test

--- The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt says that when adversity looms, Alabama now has Nick Saban

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Neal McCready says the Heisman Trophy is Tim Tebow's to lose

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky says the Super Bowl's big, but it's no Saban Bowl

It started with a writer from New Orleans. Next came an LSU official, followed by a writer from Baton Rouge and a writer from Lake Charles.

One by one, the Louisiana scribes gathered around after midnight Saturday in the lounge area of the LSU press box.

They didn't want to talk about the instant classic we'd all just witnessed, about the latest edition of the most physical, competitive and unpredictable rivalry in major college football, about LSU 30, Auburn 24. 

They wanted to talk about the coming of Armageddon, about the end of the world as we know it, about the biggest game in the history of college football, the history of games, the history of the world.

They wanted to talk about LSU at Alabama.

You know.

The Saban Bowl.

It's so big, both teams need the extra week to prepare for it, and the press corps from each state needs the extra week to hype it.

Like a Super Bowl.

One of the Louisiana writers said he plans to spend an entire week in Tuscaloosa leading up to the Nov. 3 kickoff. He probably won't be alone.

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick says don't harass the Harris Poll voter

Sunday morning, as I put together my Harris Poll after all the upsets of the previous day, I looked at all the teams out there - the undefeated teams as well as those with one loss - to carefully fill out my ballot.

 Because all teams don't play each other and all schedules are anything but equal, the predicament becomes deciding whether to vote for the team you really think is the best team in the country, or voting for the team that has played its schedule the most successfully.

Or - and here is where I tend to fall - try to find some meaningful balance between the two, including strength of schedule, performance, significant wins, and, to be honest, eye appeal.

So when I finally plugged in my No.1 and 2 votes, I voted for Ohio State as No.1, and LSU No.2.

Why? Because Ohio State has history. Ohio State has the Big Ten. Ohio State is a "safe" vote.

And maybe because, deep down, I think Ohio State is going to lose before the season is over, so what does it hurt to make them No.1 for now?

I voted LSU No.2 because I really think, despite the overtime loss at Kentucky, the Tigers are still the best team in the country (although Auburn could change my mind about that this weekend).

That, my friends, is one confused ballot.  The solution is more informed and consistent voters, not rallying for a playoff that ultimately settles nothing.

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Paul Finebaum says this college football season doesn't add up

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.
***

Ballhype: hype it up!
Monday
Oct222007

Another Pundit Roundup Delay

I've been distracted with the whole California's Burning thing going on today.

I have several friends and family in San Diego who are affected so I've been busy today trying to figure out what's going on and where they are etc.

So far so good although my friend Stephanie had to evacuate her Rancho Penasquitos home and my friend Victor's parents had to leave their Poway home.  My brother is in the Sabre Springs area near to both Stephanie and Victor's parents but amazingly hasn't had to evacuate.  He's approximately that black dot furthest south (of the four black dots) on the map below.  All friends and their families in Los Angeles seem to be fine and free from fire as well.

Almost forgot: my friend Matt's parents were evacuated from their Escondido house near Del Dios Highway. 

Witch-Fire-Map-500.jpg
 

Of little surprise, there's a college football angle here.  San Diego State football has a home game this weekend against BYU.  Practices are probably limited or terminated and depending on the future course of the fire the game could conceivably be postponed.  The Aztecs play their games in Qualcomm Stadium which right now is an evacuation site similar to the Sugar Bowl during Hurricane Katrina.

What a week of weather, huh? 

Wednesday
Oct172007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman lists the top 10 matchups to watch in the second half.

9. Navy at Notre Dame, Nov. 3
Forget USC-ND: This is the Notre Dame game worth tuning in for. If there was ever a season where Navy had a chance to knock off the Irish, this is it. ND has won an NCAA series-record 43 straight games against Navy. They've done so in nine different stadiums, but this is the worst Irish team in that span. Their offense is horrible and their run defense isn't much better (93rd overall) and Navy has a very potent ground attack. The Irish have scored 80 points in the last two meetings in this series, which is exactly the same number of points the Irish have scored in their first seven games this season.

My friend The Lovely Vicki cheerfully texted me Sept. 7 with the following: "this might be the year Navy beats ND".  I don't endorse her glee there, but it's obvious some people have been circling that date in anticipation of something embarrassing.

Also: Feldman Picks

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel document's Nebraska's efforts to stem an insurrection in offing Athletic Director Steve Pederson.

For one thing, as Perlman made clear in his statement Monday, he believed that Pederson had tied his future so securely to Bill Callahan, the coach he hired four years ago, that Pederson couldn't objectively make any changes.

Also: Oklahoma takes advantage of Missouri mistakes in win

--- ESPN's Pat Forde checks in with two edition of The Dash (most recent and Oct. 9)

Also: Savory Southern sojourn (with SEC commish Mike Slive, part of an ESPN series on "Southern Living: A Weekend in the SEC"), LSU the latest top-ranked team to fall, instant analysis LSU - Kentucky

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach delivers another round of On (and off) the Mark

Also: Lights, camera, action

--- ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski tells us why the Franchione newsletter really matters

Damning.

--- ESPN's Bill Curry writes about life in the SEC

To read the rest of ESPN's SEC series, scan the menu running down the right side of this article

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel checks in with another round of The Mailbag

The 2007 season had barely begun, and already I was scurrying around Manhattan in a mad scramble to find a sports bar showing a potential upset-for-the-ages (Michigan-Appalachian State) in the making. Looking back now, those first few hours of that first Saturday in September wound up setting the tone for the season to date.

I would never have guessed just five weeks later I'd be sitting in the press box at the most anticipated game of the season, Florida-LSU, clamoring for play-by-play updates during Stanford's game-winning drive against USC. Or that I'd be voting South Florida in my top 10 that night and Cincinnati in my top 15.

As is obvious by now, we are in the midst of a college football season unlike any before it, one in which no team -- not even the mighty Trojans -- is immune from defeat on any given week and where the national landscape changes drastically from one week to the next. In fact, this is the first time I can remember being this far into a season and having no idea who will play for the national championship.

Also: Week eight rankings, week seven pickoff

Also: The Mandel Blog

--- Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy says it's the year of the upset - so who's next?

Also: More upsets and a surprise Heisman winner could cap the most volatile season in memory

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney ranks the top five one-loss teams

Also: Meet Texas Tech's TD machine, breaking down Saturday's Oklahoma - Missouri showdown

Not bad for a guy who had never played wide receiver in a game before this season.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder was a high school quarterback, throwing for 11 touchdowns and running for five more as a senior at Dallas Carter. It's an experience that has proved helpful in Crabtree putting himself in position to make plays.

If not for a delay in Crabtree being ruled eligible to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse, Harrell would have been throwing to him last season. Crabtree was forced to redshirt and he and Harrell worked together privately and have become close on and off the field. "We call each other 'brothers,' " Crabtree said.

During that redshirt season he also picked the brains of all-Big 12 receivers Joel Filani and Jarrett Hicks, who along with Robert Johnson, combined for 205 receptions in 2006, and the confident Crabtree saw what it took to be effective in Leach's offense.

"I seen 'em, I talked to 'em every day," Crabtree said. "Basically, I just put them all together and just made one person."

--- CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd pens a halfway review: where did all the heavyweights go?

Halfway through the season, offenses are on a pace to shatter, not just break, all-time records for points, total offense and passing.

NCAA I-A record for points per team: 27.3, 2002
So far this season: 28.5

Record for total offense per team: 382.6, 2003
So far this season: 392

Record for completion percentage per game: 58.4 percent, 2006
So far his season: 59.2 percent

Record for passing yards per team: 224.6, 2005
So far this season: 234.6

Record for yards per play: 5.42, 2006
So far this season: 5.47

Also: Healing Nebraska football should start with Dr. Osborne, be careful what you wish for (or don't): Bulls could actually do it, Sunday 7, Oklahoma earns an important victory but left wondering what if, Weekend Watch List, answer to Illinois mystery lies with D.C.-wired Locksley

--- CBS Sports' Spencer Tillman wraps up his three-part series about academics and athletics

Also: Upstart programs ahead of curve in ever-changing game

Interesting read.  Tillman's writing surprises me, he's kind of bland on TV but when he puts finger to keyboard he's thoughtful and has a command of a wide range of concepts and ideas.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes gives us his midseason read on college football 2007

Also: Winners & Losers, Inside Dish, Cal flying high and staying focused, nightmare of a BCS matchup could be coming, What to Watch, Heisman Watch, recruiting put Illinois on the map this season

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart previews the second half of the 2007 college football season

Also: Conference Call, If Callahan goes, Nebraska can't blow it again, In a crazy season why not the Buckeyes?, Week 7 awards, Blog Fog, Saturday Dreaming, Aggies are laying foundation for a change, Conference Call, good NFL candidates for college jobs

--- Yahoo! Sports Terry Bowden tries to discern why traditional powers have been upset so much lately

Now, I have to be careful here because this isn't going exactly where you think it might be going. I'm not saying that coaches at the power schools are getting out-coached. They didn't get to where they are by not knowing how to coach 'em up and get 'em ready to play. I'm just saying that desperate times call for desperate measures. Coaches who are trying to find a way to win ballgames with lesser talent are more willing to scrap their old philosophies and try something new than the guys with all the talent. Heck, if I have better players than you've got, I'm going to make sure I just keep doing what I've been doing and let the superior athletes be the difference. Jackie Sherrill used to say if it ain't broken break it. Now I know what he means. If you were the first person to put in the wishbone, you won the national championship. If you were the last guy to take it out, you got fired. The successful coaches at non-traditional power schools are playing a different game than a lot of the "comfortable" folks are willing to play.

Also: Playoff pulpit (oh brother here we go again!)

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts returns to answer his Mailbag and also discusses Kentucky's victory over LSU

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell profiles Heisman Trophy winners George Rogers and Johnny Rodgers

Also: Missouri the machine

--- CSTV's Jerry Palm analyzes the initial release of the 2007 BCS standings

--- CSTV's Brian Jones relays a story about a broadcast last week that saw him anger both coaches and the lead official.  Funny stuff.

Also: Nation who loves to hate

--- CSTV's Carter Blackburn administers an interesting top 25 pop quiz

--- Be sure to check out this week's efforts from the Rivals.com team of Olin Buchanan, David Fox, Steve Megargee and Mike Huguenin

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson debates college football's top five helmets

UCLA?! LSU?!  Your co-hosts need help, heh.

Also: Signed, concerned, press conference mess

So understanding that, understand this: the four-ton egg that UCF laid at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Saturday set the Knights' program back five years. Forget Alabama, forget any monumental game that UCF has played in its 28-year football history -- this was the one game that could have changed their lives, and they blew it. Bad.

It's not a rivalry if you're getting your intestines handed to you every year. South Florida was ready; UCF was not. As an unbiased media guy, I truly have no dog in this fight, but sweet Christmas -- 64-12? 545 total yards to 144? The leading rusher in the nation garners 56 yards on the ground and no touchdowns? Are you serious?

You gotta show me something. What a disaster for UCF. And what a blow to the Big Five.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside finds critics taking early shots at USF

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel says this topsy-turvy season faces more flips

Also: Upset parade grows as Kentucky tops LSU, eccentric star flourishes in Boise State's small spotlight

Also: The Quad Blog

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse says the season's first BCS standings don't mean much

Also: Wildcats hit Tigers in the mouth, knock them down, what do phone threats, O.J. and cupcakes have in common?, Ohio State's rebuilding becomes demolition D, polls need to take the wait-and-see approach

--- Be sure to check out the blog by Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tony Barnhart

--- The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi says the Miami - Florida State rivalry is a shadow of its former self

Never in my newspaper career has a Florida State-Miami game seemed so meaningless. This is the first time in 30 years that both teams have come in unranked. Which is why they should have kept it as the season-opener. Even though both teams have been down for a while, when they opened the season against each other the game at least had some significance. When it was the season-opener, fans could at least harbor some hope about what the rest of the season would bring. Now the fans aren't hoping for greatness; they're coping with mediocrity.

--- The New York Post's Lenn Robbins says BCS madness strikes again

Consider this: A USF-Ohio State championship would pit one program that wasn't in existence 12 years ago against another that is in its 117th year of football and claims seven national titles. Somewhere in that great IT room in the sky, Woody Hayes is Googling South Florida. Hayes won't get any sympathy from Bo Schembechler, who like the rest of us, thought Ohio State was rebuilding this season.

Also: Gotta make USC No. 1 for most shocking 'L'

--- The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt says the greatest college football rivalry gets second-class treatment

--- In response to the replay review weirdness of last weekend, the Mobile Press-Register's Neal McCready says equality is absent in the SEC 

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky says minority coaches have been invisible

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick says wielding power is essential to righting wrongs

Also: letting athletes coast will hurt them someday

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Paul Finebaum says Tennessee - Alabama no longer a must-see

The Tennessee-Alabama game has become an afterthought. It's passé.

Says who?

Check the starting time. The game begins Saturday at 11:34 a.m. and will be carried on something called Lincoln Financial. There will be no Keith Jackson bellowing "Whoa Nellie" and remembering his old friend Bob Neyland and his other old friend Paul Bryant (Keith called him "Paul" and not "Bear.")

This game this year couldn't even draw Verne Lunquist and Gary Danielson. Not than anyone will miss Danielson's incessant and banal chatter.

The announcers for this game will be Dave Neal, Dave Archer and Dave Baker. Does three Dave's beat a full house?

Instead, the league's No. 1 "old-school rivalry" isn't even the No. 2 matchup on this Third Saturday in October. The top dog belongs to the Ali vs. Frazier bloodletting in the Bayou Saturday night. No. 2 on this day belongs to Florida-Kentucky, a game that usually has to fight to even get on Lincoln Financial (the artist formerly known as the JP game).

There's something wrong with this. The Tennessee-Alabama game once stood the South on its ear. Now, it's the appetizer in the SEC. This is the first time since 1988 the game has failed to make a national network (Lincoln Financial is shown in nine states).

Also: Ed Orgeron is more than a caricature

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

***

Ballhype: hype it up!
Tuesday
Oct092007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
Memo to the ESPN guys: My apologies if I missed some of your columns.  Your story archive thing went to hell, might want to have your tech guys take a look at that.

--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman lists his top 10 players at the 2007 season's midway point

Also: Hester powers LSU's offense and Instant Analysis: LSU - Florida

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach returns with his weekly On (and Off) The Mark

Also: Champaign dreams an Illini reality

"I guess you could say that you're selling an opportunity to be part of something special," Zook said. "Being in a program that wins all the time is obviously very, very good. But being part of a team that takes a program to the top is really something special."

Finally, Zook can show players his dream instead of just telling them about it.

"I think one thing about this profession is if you believe in yourself and believe in what you're doing, it's always going to pan out," Zook said.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel says LSU survived war with Florida to protect its No. 1 ranking

Also: Mandel's Blog

Also: Week 6 pickoff, Texas is missing Vince Young-type leadership, and Mailbag: a new classification system for upsets

--- Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy finds Florida looking to get back on track

--- Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden says Notre Dame and its fans face sad truth this season

Let's go back. In the spring of 2000, I wrote a 6,000-word story for Sports Illustrated on the struggles of the Notre Dame football program. That story cited two prominent issues that did not involve coaching: admissions and scheduling. More to the point, my reporting led me to write Notre Dame simply was not willing enough to admit marginal students to be competitive at the top of Division I-A football. That and the school's brutal "national" schedule left any coach in a very difficult position.

That story kicked up a lot of controversy. People I trust disputed some -- but not all -- of my reporting. They suggested Notre Dame had, indeed, admitted plenty of marginal students, but not the right marginal students. (Having rejected the likes of Carson Palmer and T.J. Duckett). That gets into very gray areas. Let's just say that for a long time Notre Dame had serious issues regarding talent evaluation and admissions. Those issues affected the viability of the football program.

--- Sports Illustrated's Arash Markazi documents Stanford's celebration in the wake of the victory over USC

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney returns with his weekly All-Out Blitz

Also: Ohio State employs familiar formula to ascend in polls, Cincy's making some noise with new coach and offense

--- CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd returns with his Sunday 7

Also: First half has been one long, strange LSD, er, LSU trip, Weekend Watch List, Insider, Notebook

--- CBS Sports' Spencer Tillman further expounds on his ideas of pay-for-play in college athletics

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes finds Cal flying high, staying focused

Also: Winners and Losers, meet the driving force behind South Florida, noise around the Illini is getting louder, What To Watch, Heisman Watch

For now, we'll stick with Stanford. The Cardinal looked like a pathetic I-AA team for much of the season. I mean, they were blown out by UCLA -- which should be shocking enough.

They couldn't play defense, the offense was anemic and -- AND -- they were playing with a backup quarterback starting the first game of his career. How fitting that this happened in Hollywood. Because, really, I still don't believe it.

Look, Stanford isn't good. There's a reason Walt Harris was fired after two years, and Buddy Teevens was canned prior to that, and Harbaugh was hired to clean up the mess. This team is devoid of talent. Period.

I wouldn't be shocked in the least if this team didn't win another game. Their best shot is this week against struggling TCU on The Farm, and Notre Dame at home on Nov. 24.

I don't want to minimize what Stanford did, because, frankly, it was monumental. I've said all along that Harbaugh was a fantastic hire; that he has the charisma (you think?) and the pedigree (he has played for Bo and Ditka among many other coaching legends) to make the Cardinal a winner.

Enjoy it, Stanford. It was one for the ages

The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart returns with another round of Blog Fog

Also: Speed 101, Week 6 awards, Saturday dreaming: Florida's desperate, Conference Call, The Soup: coaching rumors du jour

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden returns with his Sweet 16 power rankings

Also: What now?

--- Yahoo! Sports' Gerry Ahern found opportunity knocking and Ohio State answering that door Saturday

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis says LSU's win speaks for itself

Look, the Tigers won, so let's not nit-pick, but neither one of these guys is a great quarterback. They did just enough combined. But how about Jacob Hester at QB? Fans will point out that a two-man system worked for Florida last year but Tebow came in infrequently, on big running downs. Flynn and Perrilloux were alternating plays at some points.

The LSU defense didn't look great in the first half and blown coverage made them look silly. But Glenn Dorsey & Co. pulled it together to contain and then stop Tebow late in the game. Earlier in the week, I asked Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville what lessons LSU could take from his team's upset over the Gators last week. Tuberville told me first, they limited the Florida's running game. Second, they managed to contain, though not stop, Tebow. Third, Auburn gave up just 78 yards after contact, meaning his defensive players made tackles without allowing the big plays. Again, we turn to the stats from the game where LSU gave up 314 yards to Florida, 158 through the air and 156 on the ground.

So what do we take from this game? Well, for one, Miles has been elevated. His coaching decisions, which somehow worked out, endeared him to thousands of LSU fans who still questioned his chops. Good for him.

We also took away the fact that this season, LSU has been the most dominant. But that's not saying too much, considering they looked bad against Tulane last week and sloppy against Mississippi State. That's not domination, but it is winning and a lot of other teams wish they could say the same. And finally, Florida may just be the best two-loss team in history. Play this game again in Atlanta in December and the result may change.

I'd argue 2002 USC was the best two-loss team we've seen in a while, but Florida ain't bad either.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts returns for his weekly Mailbag

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell profiles Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell

--- CSTV's Jerry Palm says the road to the BCS is a bumpy one

--- CSTV's Brian Jones contends that college athletics are important and not to be frowned upon. This is in response to several educators launching attacks on college athletics this week.

But here's where I differ from the Professors. I think they are gravely flawed in their inability to recognize the benefits of participating in athletics. As I stated in a rebuttal to the op-ed piece by professor Palaima in the aforementioned Austin American-Statesman - which the Statesman still has yet to print, but I digress - as a direct result of sports, I win every day in life! Would you like to know why? Because athletics instilled in me the intangible qualities necessary to keep on persevering in this dog-eat-dog world. Athletics has taught me to take it a step further and on more than one occasion, athletics has saved my life.

Athletics was a father to this young boy from the ghetto of Lubbock, Texas, who had no father. It was the daddy that taught me hard work. It was the daddy that taught me "tough times don't last, tough people do." It was the daddy that whispered ever so quietly, "don't quit!" It's those lessons that carry me when I'm down, when I'm overwhelmed, when I'm close to throwing in the towel.

Yes, I call on my faith, but my experiences on the field and the court have played a vital role in helping me overcome so many obstacles in life. So, I take exception to the notion that "student-athletes lose." Nothing could be further from the truth. The student-athlete, like non-athlete student, loses if he or she is not able to fully grasp the extraordinary opportunities of college. And, despite the well-publicized misdeeds of a few, most student-athletes at The University of Texas and other schools throughout the country take advantage of the gifts afforded to them by athletics.

Academia sometimes has too much time on its hands.  It's like when I come across weird feminist articles about how useless or bad for the world men are.  So then you hear people pick up that flag like Sally Field saying there would be no wars if women and mothers were in charge.  Uh huh ...

Sports are both meaningful and meaningless, just like everything else.  They are just as much art as entertainment, the different side of the same coin as museums and opera except to the utmost snobs and non-thinkers who disproportionately end up at universities it seems.  Yet those are given much higher prestige while consumed less by the public.  I can't stand morning radio and shows like Today and Oprah but I don't think society is going to hell or ineficciently allocating itself because people follow those in droves.  Just don't count me as a participant.  Neither are sports and their followers fools.  The majority of critiques are hilariously hollow and dripping with disdain and jealousy.

--- The Rivals.com crew is busy at work, as usual.  Be sure to check this week's archives for stories from Olin Buchanan, Mike Huguenin, David Fox and Steve Megargee

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson, well I think he just compared USF coach Jim Leavitt to Chewbacca.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside says LSU is hoping to follow in the footsteps of their 2003 title run

[Defensiv tackle Glenn] Dorsey decided to return to school for his senior season for several reasons. He was dealing with a nagging stress fracture in his right shin last season. He also wanted to complete his degree. Dorsey is a frequent speaker at his local YMCA and one of his messages is, "Stay in school and dream big."

"Coming from a small little town (Gonzales, La., population 7,003), kids feel they can't do big things because of where they're from," Dorsey says. "I thought about that also when I made my decision."

Plus, he didn't want to leave LSU without winning a national title. He grew up 60 miles from New Orleans; the three other starters on the line were raised within 40 miles of the stadium. "That would be tremendous," Dorsey says of the possibility of ending his college career in the Superdome, site of the Bowl Championship Series title game. "That's like the ultimate."

Also: Aggies, Longhorns hope to bury pain of last week

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel says Stanford's victory over USC adds to season of upsets

Stanford replaced the subdued Harris with the more aggressive Harbaugh. He had angered U.S.C. Coach Pete Carroll with comments about how long Carroll would stay at U.S.C. and heaped praise — and pressure — on the Trojans this year, saying they may be “the greatest team in the history of college football.”

The Marquette basketball coach Tom Crean, Harbaugh’s brother-in-law, said those comments were indicative of Harbaugh’s toughness and confidence. Crean said he and his family celebrated wildly in their living room Saturday night. Crean said Harbaugh recently went through a divorce and was separated from his children, who live in San Diego. Crean said he was happy to see something go right for Harbaugh.

“I got a text from him last night that said: ‘I know you know how this feels. We love you guys. Calling recruits the rest of the night,’ ” Crean said. “I think that’s all they did the rest of the night. I’m proud of him. Everyone is.”

The toughness that Harbaugh showed as an N.F.L. quarterback is reflected in his team. Tomey and the Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly said that Stanford’s effort was something that stood out to them in their games against the Cardinal earlier in the year.

“When I watched them, the one thing that impressed me is that they really played hard,” Kelly said. “There are no guarantees in this profession. It’s crazy. This whole year has been crazy. You have no idea what’s going to transpire, but if you play hard, you’ve got a shot.”

Also: LSU survives a scare, Percy Harvin now saves his outbursts for the field, hail to the alma mater (good read about Les Miles)

Also: The New York Times' "The Quad Blog"

--- MSNBC's Michael Ventre says LSU is No. 1, but who's the second best team?

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse says on any given Saturday its madness on the gridiron

Also: For now, LSU looks like a champion, Switzer and Carville offer inside views on today's games, previewing this weekend's college football games, kickoff change has had little effect, College Football Insider: Pac-10 crew got this one right, fuzzy national title picture has two months to clear up

--- Be sure to check out Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tony Barnhart's blog: Mr College Football

--- The Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls says quit knocking the polls

Bad:

If anything, the Associated Press and USA Today should start the polls in June and have another in July before the official early-season poll in mid-August. Fans can’t get enough of college football and want it earlier and earlier.

Worse:

In an aside, I’ve always had a beef with those pollsters — writers, broadcasters and coaches — who refuse to put a team ahead of another team it just beat, if only because the victorious team was unranked or rated far below the losing squad. Now if a team like an Auburn has two losses before it knocks off Florida on the road, the Tigers still have some proving to do.

But in the case of Kansas State, which incidentally lost to that Auburn team but on the road and in a game that was tied late into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats, in my opinion, should be ranked ahead of Texas. My ballot reflected that, putting Kansas State 16th and Texas 18th. But nothing’s final. If KSU loses to Texas and Texas beats OU, they could flipflop because it’s all about what you do most recently.

That's exactly how to create a meaningless, confused ballot and why I do power rankings instead. Do you really put Stanford ahead of USC in this week's - or any week's - poll? Absurd.

--- The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi says the championship run is officially over for the Gators

It's over.

Finally, it's over.

All you Gator haters can now rejoice and sing, Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead.

And all you Gator fans can now reflect and sing, I've Had the Time of My Life.
After all these months and years, the phenomenal string of Florida national championships is now over. First it was a basketball national title. Then a football national championship. Then basketball again. And then. . .
LSU 28, Florida 24.
It was Florida's second consecutive loss and effectively removed UF from the national title conversation. And if it were going to happen, this was a most fitting night -- and the most fitting site.

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Neal McCready says Les Miles called a gutsy game and all of his gambles paid off

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Paul Finebaum asks: Can Aubun keep Tommy Tuberville on the plains?

Two weeks ago, in the wake of the Mississippi State disaster, the murmur among some Auburn boosters concerned who might be a good replacement for Tommy Tuberville after this season.

Today, in the wake of yet another spectacularly stunning upset over Florida, the question might be about whether Auburn can keep Tuberville from jumping ship following this season.

If someone just arrived back here after spending the month of September on a remote island with no Internet or phone service, they missed one of the wackiest five weeks in Alabama and Auburn football history.

They saw the fans (and some of us real geniuses in the media) write Tuberville off after a disastrous start and crown Nick Saban Master of the Universe. They saw others proclaim that "Bama is Back," and "Auburn is Dead."

In the end, almost everybody was right about something but wrong about most things.

And here we are, in a brand new month without the faintest idea what is about to happen next. And you wonder why college football is the best sport on earth.

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Oct022007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman checks in with a Friday Mail Call.

Also: Book tour bonanza, weekend picks, top 10 scariest places to play and credit goes to Zook for Illini's start

I just got home from 10 days in the South on one of the early legs of the "Meat Market" tour. I ended up falling asleep at 9:15 last night local time. Sad truth of the road swing: I do think I've gotten over Chick fil-A. Saturday in Atlanta I had it for all three meals, and honestly it wasn't planned that way.

On the ride to Athens, I tried to get an egg and cheese sandwich and couldn't get it at the Publix I stopped at, but I was told that I could get it at Chick-fil-A. Sure enough, I did. Then after the Ole Miss-Georgia game a friend's wife gave me a chicken sandwich that became a late lunch as I watched Alabama-FSU from the press box. Finally, while scrambling to the Airport Marriott to try and catch the Auburn-Florida and USC-Washington games, I needed to pick something up to go and it was either a grilled chicken sandwich or Taco Bell. I opted for the chicken. By my calculations, I had six meals at Chick-fil-A, three dinners of ribs, 11 glasses of Sweet T, and the rest of the trip I lived off PB and whey bars. I'm back on the road again Friday.

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel checks in from Tampa detailing USF's upset of West Virginia.

Pandemonium overtook the field at Raymond James Stadium, and the grizzled veteran inside you thinks, "It's September, for goodness' sake. Act like you've been there before."

And then you remember -- USF has never been here before.

In its 11th season of college football, in its seventh season of I-A football, and in its third season in the Big East, South Florida had never played before a sellout crowd at home. It had never established itself as one of the best teams in the nation. It had never reached the big time.

The Bulls did all of that Friday night. They didn't do it very prettily. But what the game lacked in artistry -- and if you missed the game on television, look at the box score and find the 10 turnovers -- it more than made up for in the passion that makes college football different from the game played in this stadium eight Sundays a year.

Also: Another weekly round of I-Formation

--- ESPN's Pat Forde says Insanity Saturday has shifted college football's landscape

Also: The Dash

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach says baseball helped Dennis Dixon find success in football

Dixon said he spent an hour throwing the football and watched film two to three hours each day this summer. "When he came back to school, I was the first person he came to talk to," Bellotti said. "He said, 'Coach, I'm totally committed to football.' I know he was throwing and watching film, but he wasn't here. He had some things to prove to people because he wasn't here."

But Kelly knew Dixon had put in the work and would return as a much different player than the quarterback who left. "I saw it when I went down there and when I'd talk to him on the phone," Kelly said. "He'd call me in the middle of the night and say, 'Coach, I'm watching film of the spring game and they're running this coverage. What do you think?' When I talked to him, I got a feeling there was a trust factor between the two of us."

Also: Cal beats Oregon, Instant Analysis and On (and Off) The Mark

With the No. 6-ranked Bears leading No. 11-ranked Oregon 31-24, Ducks quarterback Dennis Dixon had driven his team right down the field in the final two minutes. Oregon reached the California 40 with 53 seconds to play. The Ducks were on the Bears' 20 with 29 seconds to go, then the 5 with only 22 seconds left.

"They did a nice job of making it down the field," California coach Jeff Tedford said. "I was getting ready for overtime. From the 5? They're too good from there."

After Tedford called timeout to let his defense catch its breath, the Ducks lined up to try to tie the game. Dixon took the snap and threw to the left side for senior receiver Cameron Colvin, who caught the pass around the 4. Ezeff had to fight through a block -- which he described as an illegal pick by a different Ducks receiver -- before he chased down Colvin near the end zone.

Ezeff leveled Colvin near the 1-yard line, but the Ducks receiver tried to stretch his right arm and the football around the pylon at the end zone. The football fell out of his hand.

It bounced into the end zone and rolled out of bounds.

"In my mind, I thought he scored," Ezeff said. "I was like, 'Damn, I'm going to be in trouble with my coaches.' But then I looked up and saw [cornerback] Brandon Hampton going after the football. I saw my coaches running at me making the signal for a touchback.

--- ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski takes a balanced look at Mike Gundy's press conference rant and its role in the coach/athlete/team vs. media relations game. A must read, too much good stuff to excerpt.

--- ESPN's Bill Curry says Gundy's outburst falls into a gray area

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel returns for another round of The Mailbag

Also: Alabama matchup looms large for struggling Seminoles

Also: Mandel's Blog

--- Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy finds South Florida ready to prove itself against West Virginia (and did they ever!)

--- Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden says players are fair game and open to criticism in big-time college sports

--- Sports Illustrated's Arash Markazi profiles an 11-year-old alleged quarterback phenom named David Sills

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney profiles soon-to-be NCAA rushing record-holder Danny Woodhead of Chadron State

Also: The All-Out Blitz 

--- CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd says Cal's program is structurally sound as long as Jeff Tedford is around

Since December a group of activists have climbed into a grove of oak trees to protest the construction of new athletic facilities. One of them gets naked from time to time. He was a tourist attraction during the season opener against Tennessee. While protecting the trees, the activists themselves are protected by a chain link fence and, on game days, a security force.

"There's a lot of concerns about our fans taking matters into their own hands," a Cal spokesman said.

For now, the activists have won. Ground isn't going to be broken any time soon. A judge is expected to rule soon regarding a tangled web of lawsuits that have delayed what athletic director Sandy Barbour believes will take the program to the next level.

If Tedford wasn't tied up through 2013 with a new four-year extension, there would all-out panic among Cal fans. It's hard enough luring recruits to a 78-year-old stadium where earthquake cracks are visible.

Also: Sunday 7, great teams turn to pumpkins before Halloween, Renegade? Ha! South Florida is downright lova-Bull after upset, weekend watch list, Insider and give Jags credit for the Eagles' hot start

Observers already are noticing a looser feel to the Eagles. Ryan -- Matty Heisman for now -- is throwing downfield more. Not that he had a choice under new offensive coordinator Steve Logan.

"You guys are playing to win," offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus quoted a friend as saying. "Before you played not to lose."

If Logan ever needs work, he could slide right over to his own radio show. Whoops, Logan already has done that. His show at 620 The Bull in Raleigh, N.C., was legendary for its quirkiness, humor and cool music.

Here's a slice: The former East Carolina head coach calls tailback L.V. Whitworth "NASA" because "conditions have to be absolutely perfect for him to launch."

When the defense dominated a spring scrimmage, Logan compared it to the mother-in-law who drove her car off a cliff. "Good news," Logan said, "but I sure did like that Cadillac."

Logan's idea of a perfect play is one play, 80 yards. Down 14-0 in the opener to Wake Forest, Jagodzinski turned to Logan and politely asked, "What's going on?"

"I know," Logan said, "don't worry about it."

BC won 38-28.

--- CBS Sports' Spencer Tillman talks about dollars, cents and the burden of the student-athlete

A former coach and friend, the late Bill Walsh, had a rule. You could not raise an objection in one of his meetings without providing a solution. Next week, we'll explore what can and should be done to correct the gross inequity. The solutions might surprise you.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes returns with another round of Inside Dish

Also: The biggest losers, Winners & Losers: The AP poll goes mad, Big East looking like a big disappointment, did Coach Fran give A&M a reason to fire him?, no bull: South Florida is on the map, what to watch, Heisman watch and the Big Red of Nebraska looks awfully little.

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart says Arkansas is leading the pack in new-look offenses

No school does it better than Arkansas. Star running back Darren McFadden, a Heisman front-runner, has gone hog-wild in the WildHog formation. "He's a great athlete who has quarterback mechanics," says Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt. "We wouldn't do it unless we had a difference-maker."

Arkansas has been running a variation of the WildHog since 1999, Nutt's second year as coach. McFadden caused a stir in the scheme last season when the formation was known as the Wildcat. The absence of a steady passing threat -- and McFadden's megaskills -- prompted Arkansas to snap him the ball so often that in some games the Wildcat looked like the base offense.

McFadden took 16 snaps against LSU and 13 against Tennessee. Arkansas scored touchdowns on three of those plays against Tennessee and averaged 8.3 yards on the snaps against LSU. McFadden threw three touchdown passes from the Wildcat formation last season and one from the WildHog in the opener this season against Troy. He took the snap and ran 56 yards for a TD last week against Kentucky.

"When he's a quarterback, they're basically a spread-out offense running a lot of wishbone principles, creating a pitchman with somebody going in motion and running a misdirection zone read," says Alabama coach Nick Saban. "You have to have run support on both sides. That isn't simple to do unless you load the box. And when a defense does that, it becomes vulnerable to the pass."

Arkansas also has a variation of the WildHog called the Race-Horse, which features running backs Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones flanking McFadden as he waits for the snap.

Also: Week five awards, Blog Fog: are NFL Sundays this exciting?, all hail the Big Ten! Really, Franchione's breach of trust likely won't be forgiven, which Big 12 coach will blow up next?, Conference Call and black candidates for coaching jobs abound

What's it mean? Fran is done.

The fact the Aggies are mired in mediocrity was enough to put Fran on the edge. This news pushes him over it.

I talked with someone close to the program last night and was told there was a player's only meeting yesterday. And it was very quiet. Fran later talked to the players.

I have to think the players feel their trust has been broached. Will they continue to lay it on the line for Fran?

And, I know this about people: If they aren't truthful about one thing, you sure as heck can believe they aren't being truthful about many things in their lives.

It's all about trust. And that bond has been broken. A marriage, friendship, etc., can't thrive without trust.

Early word I hear is that Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville would be interested in coaching A&M, where he worked earlier in his career. He wants out of Auburn, and Auburn wants him gone.

Stay tuned for more coaching news each week.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden talks about how his old man almost followed Bear Bryant's footsteps at Alabama

Very interesting read here, too much to excerpt so be sure to click on this if you like back stories and imagining the possibilities if things had gone down differently in life.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Gerry Ahern says the Wisconsin Badgers got by Saturday against Michigan State

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis tries to make sense of a wild week five

No, parity is not here in college football. If you think there is parity just look at the teams who were winless heading into this weekend. Five were teams from the Sun Belt, who kept getting stomped by BCS teams. That is not parity.

However, I am beginning to believe that parity may just have arrived for the BCS conference schools. On any given Saturday, there is a growing chance that either team can win on the field. Maybe not on a regular basis, but more times than in the past. That's why Oklahoma can lose to 2-2 Colorado and Kansas State can beat Texas (again) and Auburn with two losses sticks it to Florida and Clemson goes down to Georgia Tech and Illinois skyrockets to 4-1. In the six major conferences, plus Notre Dame, I can count three teams, maybe four, who clearly, well, have little or no chance against their brethren. That's not bad out of 66 teams.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts returns for another weekly round of Mailbag

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell profiles Desmond Howard's magical punt return against Ohio State that prompted "The Pose"

Once Howard got to midfield, the Buckeyes were in his rearview mirror and there was nothing but pay dirt in front of him. As he raced down the sidelines, clear of everyone, speeding past a stunned and helpless Ohio State sideline, a thought popped into Howard's head.

"Should I do the pose, should I not? Should I do it? Should I not?"

The idea of striking the pose wasn't entirely Howard.  A teammate had actually brought up the idea to Howard earlier in the season, but Howard has just shrugged it off. He knew he was a legitimate Heisman candidate, but he didn't want to jinx himself by doing the pose prematurely.

And everything Howard was about growing up told him not to do it. Howard was raised and coached to put the team first. You don't celebrate the individual.

"Especially at Michigan," Howard said.

But in those few brief seconds, as Howard hit the 20-yard line and raised his finger high in the sky toward the Michigan faithful, he wrestled with idea. He didn't want to come off selfish, didn't want to be perceived as an individual. That was the last thing he wanted to do.

But 20 yards, later, Howard's mind had been made up.

"Once I crossed that goal line I said, `Forget it. I have to do it.'"

So as Howard ran past the goal line, entering the end zone just to the side of the far hash mark, Howard slowed up and came to a stop almost perpendicular to the goalpost.

Predictably, the crowd went wild. Howard had just scored his 23rd and final touchdown of the season and the decibel levels soared to ear-drum shattering proportions. Then, as if to defy all logic, the Big House got louder as they witnessed Howard give the stiff arm, his left leg lifted in the air, and brimming ear to ear he had just returned the longest punt in Michigan history.

"They loved it. They thought it was great," Howard said. "They thought the timing was perfect. It was like seizing the moment. So I had a lot of positive feedback."

--- Be sure to stop by the Rivals.com story archive for all the latest from Olin Buchanan, David Fox, Mike Hugguenin and Steve Megargee

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson has a feeling for history in the making.  Check out this entry about how things have changed in the state of Florida.

I'm writing this entry in my office at 8:30pm on a Friday night. I'm here because South Florida is playing West Virginia on a Friday.

Because Rec Warehouse College Kickoff re-airs twice on Saturday mornings, the crew was compelled to stay at the studio until the conclusion of the USF-West Virginia game, so that we could re-tape the opening segment of the show to include USF highlights from Friday night.

To repeat: Sun Sports is paying me, a full crew, and two analysts to stick around until midnight in order to make sure that USF highlights make it into the Saturday morning re-airs.

Let this speak volumes as to how far the Bulls have come.

And please, let this get the USF fans off our backs.

I watched Saturday morning and sure enough, changes had been made to include USF.

Also: Bull Run

Let me offer you this nugget about how sports are produced on television: when the crew starts going to interviews in the stands and lengthy biographical sketches of players, they ain't doing that to "enhance the broadcast."

They do that when the game is a dud, or a blowout. USF fans should take this as a compliment.

The final stats on Friday night don't reflect it, but South Florida's defense was absolutely stifling. West Virginia, a team ranked 2nd in the nation in rushing coming in, managed 188 yards on the ground -- 169 yards below its average.

I said it on Rec Warehouse College Kickoff, and I'll say it again: USF's defense on Friday night was as good as I've seen anybody play all year. Period.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside finds surprises galore in college football's first month

Also: One-and-out not necessarily the case in title chase, Oklahoma State hopes to move on from tirade, Justin Forsett rushes into limelight at California

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel names winners and losers after a weekend of upsets

Also: Cal holds its ground and sets its sights on a title, a mentor to quarterbacks applies a deft touch at Oregon

At Oregon and at New Hampshire, [Oregon Offensive Coordinator Chip] Kelly has impressed those around him with his ability to retain football information. On New Hampshire bus trips, a popular game was trying to stump Kelly on which college any player in the N.F.L. went to. [Oregon quarterback Dennis] Dixon said Kelly can name the college, junior college and high school of every N.F.L. quarterback.

“Football things I retain pretty well,” Kelly said. “I do forget when to pick up my dry cleaning and where I parked my car, though.”

For both [New Hampshire quarterback Todd] Santos and Dixon, Kelly’s football mind has helped them create some memorable moments.

Also: The Quad Blog

--- MSNBC's Michael Ventre asks: USC or LSU? Both have their flaws

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse returns with another round of College Football Insider

Also: Still no clear-cut favorite in crowded Heisman race, Franchione's "VIP Connection" newsletter raises a number of troubling issues, Duke lineman's brainchild might turn into dot-com gold

--- Be sure to check out the blog of Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tony Barnhart

--- The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi says if God does care, St. Bobby will beat 'Satan'

I've never bought into the notion of God rooting for certain teams. Somehow, I just don't think He takes time out from comforting tsunami victims and feeding the Sudanese homeless just so he can become the Gators' 12th Man in Baton Rouge.

But if ever we needed divine intervention in sports, this would be the week -- the week Florida State plays Alabama in Jacksonville. I don't know about you, but I have to believe God never would allow Bobby Bowden to lose to Nick Saban.

Think about it: Bowden is known across the country as "St. Bobby"; Saban is known by another message-board moniker that is sweeping the nation: "Nick Satan." Personally, I don't believe Little Nicky is a disciple of the devil, but he is a disciple of Bill Belichick. And isn't that almost as bad?

Here's all you need to know about Saban's reputation: Georgia Coach Mark Richt, a Bowden protege, closed practice last week for the first time in seven years as a head coach. Not coincidentally, Richt's decision came on the same week Georgia was playing Saban's team and, yes, within a few day of when Saban's mentor -- Bill Beli-Cheat -- was nabbed for video-sabotaging his opponent.

--- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Ted Miller says USC's Pete Carroll is clicking on quest for perfection

What often gets undersold, though, are the philosophical and intellectual underpinnings of Carroll's approach to coaching and running a program.

His style has garnered more attention, but his success is hung on substance.

Here's what he told the Los Angeles Times this summer in a column about how he is devoted to, of all things, the 1974 book, "The Inner Game of Tennis."

"We are trying to create a self-actualized program," he said. "It's really about divine nonchalance."

Huh? Don't write that off as psycho-babble, though.

"Self-actualized," a term best known as the peak of Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, simply means a person becoming the best person he can be. "Divine nonchalance" suggests being great without needing outside validation, to be above the fray.

While many coaches study psychology and leadership -- UW coach Tyrone Willingham recently recommended Spencer Johnson's "The Present" during a discussion about the topic -- Carroll is a true aficionado.

Carroll's high school football coach apparently used Maxwell Maltz's groundbreaking self-help book, "Psycho-Cybernetics" -- a celebration of goal-setting as the driving force of a good life -- to educate and motivate his team, according to a profile in The Orange County Register.

Carroll also is longtime friends with Lou Tice, a Seattle-based management and motivational guru and founder of the Pacific Institute. Carroll and Tice partnered in 2003 for a charity, A Better L.A.

Carroll can be fairly curt and standoffish when asked questions that bore or annoy him. But introduce a topic that piques his interest and an eager and highly intelligent conversationalist appears.

It's clear he's still completely engaged and driven to "do it better than it's ever been done," which at present means leading the top-ranked Trojans to a third national title since 2003.

--- The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt details Alabama's woeful play against legitimate non-SEC foes over the past two to three decades.

So let’s keep going. Alabama has played a few non-conference teams that do meet that standard recently, teams like Oklahoma (twice) and UCLA (twice) and Virginia Tech (newly arrived in the neighborhood but deserving of the big-time label because of its successes under Frank Beamer). Alabama has played those teams — it just hasn’t beaten them.

In fact, if you stick to any strict definition of big-time football, it’s been over a decade since Alabama recorded a non-conference win of that stature. The Crimson Tide defeated Michigan in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 1997. It was the last game that Gene Stallings coached, and if any further symbolic evidence was needed to illustrate the chaos that followed him for a decade, the bare statistic — that Alabama hasn’t beaten a non-conference team more illustrious than Texas Tech since — should provide it.

You can make the question a little bit tougher, and provide some context for this weekend’s Florida State game, if you ask it this way.

When’s the last time Alabama won a big non-conference game in the regular season?

Again, we aren’t talking Hawaii or BYU here. So if we exclude Duke, as we should, then you really have to gas up the time machine.

The answer lies in the Bill Curry Era, when Thomas Rayam reached a big mitt into the sky and blocked a Penn State field goal try to preserve a 17-16 win on Oct. 28, 1989. To put that in context, just remember that some of the blue-chip high school seniors that Alabama is recruiting today hadn’t been born at the time.

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky suggests September was the best month of football ever in the state of Alabama

Today, the first day of October, should be Fan Appreciation Day in this state, with a twist. 

Instead of college football teams celebrating their fans, college football fans should show their appreciation for their teams.

Think of what we just witnessed in the last 30 days.

It wasn't always pretty, and it wasn't close to perfect, but it just may have been the best month of college football there ever was in this state.

If you like games that ain't over till they're over, and not necessarily even then, it was a September to remember.

Auburn and Alabama played 10 games. Seven of those games were in doubt till a final drive. Five of those games weren't over till the final play was done.

From the first Saturday in September to the last, from Brandon Cox coming out of his fog to lead the winning drive against Kansas State to Brandon Cox rising out of the Swamp to lead the winning drive at Florida, it's been one heart-stopper after another.

No wonder Bill Oliver's on the radio selling the virtues of defibrillators.

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum says Bobby Bowden has fallen and he can't get up

Despite the media's best efforts, the FSU program has fallen and it can't get up.

Oh, it might win today (the Seminoles are a slight favorite) over Alabama. But the days of BCS glory and national relevance are long gone. FSU can't even compete for prominence in its own state anymore now that Urban Meyer has arrived. It is possible Bowden can still cobble together a decent season, in spite of a horrific start. Perhaps he can still leave the game with a modicum of respect, but most in the industry fear it's probably too late for him to go out with anything more than a whimper.

Bowden has taken the path of most great coaches who forget that the good of the program is more important than the selfish wishes of its leader and have to be shoved out the door as opposed to retiring with grace.

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To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.
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--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman offers two excerpts (one, two) from his book "Meat Market".

McKnight was the first recruit Wilson offered a scholarship to after he joined Orgeron's staff in 2005. McKnight was a sophomore back then. At the time, McKnight's coach, J.T. Curtis, a Louisiana high school legend, kept trying to sell Wilson on his seniors.

"Yeah, all right, J.T., but how can I get Joe?" Wilson persisted. "I wanna start recruiting Joe."

Wilson realized then and there that if the Rebels had any shot at landing McKnight, they had no time to spare. Orgeron, too, had brainstormed about a plan to get McKnight to Oxford. Going head-to-head with LSU for a player whom the Rebels staff believed to be the best back from New Orleans since Marshall Faulk certainly sounded like a long shot, but Orgeron suspected adding another heavy hitter into the chase could change that.

USC, which had already gotten commitments from blue-chip tailbacks Marc Tyler and Broderick Green, knew about McKnight, but the Trojans were recruiting him as a cornerback. USC linebackers coach Ken Norton had even told one of Curtis High's assistants that he thought if McKnight went to USC, he'd start three years at cornerback and go right to the NFL as a first-rounder.

Before USC coaches went out on the road for their spring evaluations last May, Orgeron dialed up old pal Pete Carroll and told him Joe McKnight would be their next Reggie Bush and was better than any back in the country. "I wanna help Pete," Orgeron later said, "but it doesn't hurt to get Joe away from LSU."

To Orgeron, USC was the perfect diversion. Sure, USC could open the kid's eyes to things far beyond Tiger country. But USC was also a four-hour plane ride away. Orgeron figured if there were some confusion in McKnight's mind, it might give Ole Miss a chance. Ole Miss might become a viable alternative for a kid who was conflicted, especially since Orgeron felt that if anyone could win McKnight's trust, it was Frank Wilson.

"If he goes to USC, he's gonna win the Heisman," Orgeron said. "His tape is better than Reggie's high school tape. If he comes to Oxford, we'll change the bricks on Manning Way to McKnight Way."

Buy his book.  Buy his book.  Buy his book.

Also: Top 10 biggest developments, week four picks and storylines and notes from around the nation.

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel returns with his regular feature the I-Formation.

Also: 2007 bowl projections

--- ESPN's Pat Forde returns with another edition of the Forde Yard Dash.

When hungry in Lexington after the once-every-three-decades victory over a top 10 team, The Dash recommends a visit to one of the SEC's great greasy spoon joints, the Tolly-Ho (40). Get yourself a Ho burger, some cheddar tots and an Oreo milkshake -- after you've had a few beers. It's a short stagger from several quality bars to the Ho.

Noted.  Also: Mark Richt is the SEC's king of the road.

The Tide had to settle for a field goal in the opening possession of overtime. When the Bulldogs offense came out for its turn, Bobo went for the kill right away.

His call: 142 Z takeoff. Stafford was to fake a handoff to the right, drawing the safety that direction. Then he'd look for his receiver deep on the left side against one-on-one coverage. "If they stuffed the run on first down, at their end of the field, their fans are gonna go berserk," Bobo explained. "You've usually got to hit one deep in a game like this." Georgia's sideline coaches asked Bobo which receiver he wanted to run the route. His response: "I don't care." Receivers coach John Eason made an unusual call, going with Henderson -- a senior who never had caught a touchdown pass, and who had dropped a deep ball earlier in the night.

The play unfolded to perfection. Stafford faked. Henderson sprinted off the line and got behind the coverage. Stafford -- a prep superstar with a cannon for an arm who occasionally is plagued by sophomore inconsistency -- threw his best pass of the night. Henderson went up after it.

"It was my battle to win," Henderson said. "He came up big," Bobo said. "That kid's been through a lot." People were always telling 5-foot-10, 150-pound Henderson he wasn't big enough to play SEC football. Henderson proved them wrong by becoming a dangerous kick returner -- but making plays like this was a whole different deal.

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach finds an ailing LSU still shines in win against South Carolina (+ instant analysis)

Also: Georgia radio icon Larry Muson to miss Alabama game.  Solid profile of the man.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel returns with another round of The Mailbag.

I won't argue with anyone who says Willingham was mistreated during his brief stint in South Bend, because in many regards, he was. If you want to argue that Weis has been unduly idolized, or that he's a flat-out bad coach, the Irish are currently giving you no shortage of ammunition.

But to go straight for the race card? For one thing, it's so absurdly simplistic, and it's also an extremely unfair generalization to place on an entire university. I'm not saying it's preposterous to think race played an issue -- obviously, racism is still very much rampant in our society -- but what evidence do we possibly have that it played any bigger role at Notre Dame than at any other school that's fired a black head coach?

Meanwhile, do people have any idea how much harm they're causing black head coaches by leveling such baseless accusations? College football is in desperate need of more minority head coaches (there are only six black head coaches among the 119 Division I-A schools), but what incentive does a school have to hire a black head coach if, as in Notre Dame's case, it's going to be accused of racism if things don't work out?

Plus an interesting observation on the rise of the spread offense.

I didn't hear the comment, but 95 percent seems like an unrealistic number considering the amount of NFL-bred head coaches around the country who will always run a pro-style offense. But I do think the spread will continue to ... umm, spread, considering the massive success being had with it by schools like Florida, West Virginia and Oregon.

In fact, the place where it's most likely to take off next is the SEC. It's no secret coaches are copycats, and as teams find out over the next couple of years (as Tennessee did last week) just how hard it is to defend the spread when you've got the right quarterback and skill players, many of them will likely adopt it themselves. (LSU has already begun doing so a bit under new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.)

I don't see the spread as a fad; I see it as an epiphany that, for whatever reason, took football coaches 100 years to realize, but now that they have, seems almost like common sense. Simply put, if you spread the field, you give your playmakers more room to run free. As the late Randy Walker, who himself converted from the power-I to the spread at Northwestern, told me in 2005, "It's as if all those years, we were playing football in a phone booth."

Also: Open letter to Notre Dame and the Big Ten and Mandel's Blog

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney returns for another round of the All-Out Blitz

--- CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd scribbles some thoughts in his Notebook.

Also: Insider, weekend watch list, Sunday 7, After Gundy goes off maybe next move should be out (bad take), Kentucky is undefeated on the gridiron - no that's not a misprint

--- CBS Sports' Spencer Tillman talks about the NFL's cheating issues and college football 

College football is a mixed bag. Former Georgia coach Wally Butts and Alabama's Bear Bryant were accused by the Saturday Evening Post of "fixing" a game between the Dogs and Tide. Alabama won that game 35-0. The 1963 trial turned into a circus with a parade of witnesses, including Bryant and two of his players who shot holes in the allegations.

By any standard, the info was the kind of stuff you can get from "just watching" and is useless against an opponent.

Joe Namath later asked how could the game be fixed when he called most of the plays? To prove his point, Bryant got up to draw X's and O's on a board to show the jury the real world of coaching and all the rest of it. Jurors' eyes glazed over and had no clue what the man was saying. Butts won a judgment of $3 million, eventually cut to $400,000 or so.

Then there's "good natured" cheating among buddies. In 1971, Texas coach Darrell Royal accused Oklahoma's Barry Switzer and his staff of sending a spy -- a grad student who took notes -- to closed practices at Memorial Stadium. Switzer said it didn't happen, but in his book Bootlegger's Boy, he fessed up. The game ended in a 6-6 tie.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes lists last weekend's winners and losers

Also: It's a bird, it's a plane ... it's Tim Tebow, what you've seen and what it really means, what to watch

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart hands out week four awards

Also: Blog fog, Tigers had better not come in half-cocked, conference call and college football soup

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden releases his weekly Sweet 16 list and analyzes Michigan/Penn State

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis looks at the differences between college football's unbeatens and the winless

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts returns with his weekly Mailbag

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell says Steve Spurrier's just being honest

--- As always, the Rivals.com crew of Olin Buchanan, David Fox, Mike Huguenin and Steve Megargee are all over the college football scene.  Pick and choose from the story archive.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside delivers a round of pooch kicks and pancakes.

Also:  Off to 4-0 start, Clemson getting better with time

Last year, after a 7-1 start, the Tigers seemed poised to win their first league title since 1991. After beating the Yellow Jackets in October, they rose to a No. 11 ranking. Five days later a crushing loss to Virginia Tech sent the Tigers slumping to a 1-4 finish.

The booster club circuit in the offseason was particularly rough for Bowden.

"It depended on the alcohol," Bowden said. "If alcohol was served and they were drinking for an hour, you'd get some pretty cold-blooded questions. But if you stand eyeball to eyeball and they're not drinking courage, it's not as bad."

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel finds that Kentucky football no longer has the blues

Also: South Florida and linebacker Ben Moffitt make long commute to success

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse returns with another round of College Football Insider.

Also: Gundy's ill-considered outburst masks real issue, when you least expect it a Saturday full of surprises, common sense and college football can actually coexist, 20 years later schools still heed stern message, expert helps us read between the lines

Three wise men have come up with an idea that might change college football officiating.

The change has nothing to do with rules or rules interpretations, but it has everything to do with perception.

Walt Anderson, Ken Rivera and Jim Blackwood are the football officiating supervisors, respectively, of the Big 12, Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences. Their roster of officials are cross-pollinated because of geography.

The trio came up with the idea of developing a combined or blended crew that will work games this season in their three conferences.

--- Be sure and check out the blog of Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Tony Barnhart.

--- The New York Post's Lenn Robbins profiles Army captain Mike Viti

Viti is a team captain and one of just four regimental commanders at West Point. He told The Post because of football practices, games and travel, his regimental commander duties (he oversees eight companies and two battalions) and an 18-credit course load (“It’s the first time I haven’t taken at least 20 credits,’’ Viti said), he’s getting about four hours of sleep per night.

The heavy workload hasn’t affected Viti’s play. He has scored a touchdown in each of the past two games for Army (1-2), including a 3-yard run for a TD in Saturday’s 21-10 loss to Wake Forest.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Viti’s success is that he wasn’t born into a military household and initially didn’t see himself attending a service academy, much less become one of its leaders.

Both of his grandfathers fought in the Korean War, but his dad didn’t serve. Viti, from Berwick, Pa., was considering Villanova and Penn State. Then came the day that changed the world, certainly Viti’s: Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was in my world history class in high school my sophomore year and one of the teachers walked in and said there had been an accident,’’ Viti said. “I remember watching the second plane go into the tower and you knew then it was no accident.

“Then we heard about the plane hitting the Pentagon and the one that went down in Pennsylvania. I felt like my home was in the center of a triangle - New York, Washington and Shanksville. By the end of my junior year I made an unofficial visit to West Point and I knew then that this was the only place for me.’’

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky finds Bobby Bowden having mixed feelings about the Bama Bowl

A year later, Auburn fired Doug Barfield and came close to bringing home Vince Dooley from Georgia. When that done deal came undone, Auburn turned to Bowden.

He was busy preparing his 10-1 FSU team for an Orange Bowl rematch with Oklahoma when the call came.

"They contacted me on the sly," Bowden said. "I couldn't dare let word get out that I was talking to somebody about a job."

Bowden said he had an uncle in Childersburg, and he met with a small circle of Auburn insiders, including the president, at his uncle's house. Bowden swears the Auburn president offered him the job and asked him to resign from Florida State to take it right away.

Bowden remembered his reaction this way: "I can't do it. I'm playing in the Orange Bowl. My boys would have a fit. Y'all ought to go ahead and hire somebody else."

Bowden said he recommended Pat Dye.

"I knew Pat was a great coach," Bowden said. "I knew he had coached for Bear Bryant. I thought he'd be pretty good competition (for Bryant), and it turned out to be true."

Speaking of Bryant, Bowden said he's a big reason why Florida State and Alabama haven't played for so long. After taking the FSU job in 1976, Bowden invited Bryant to play in a golf tournament in Tallahassee. "The idea was to try to get a game with Alabama," Bowden said.

Bryant visited, but there was one problem. Two years earlier, in 1974, Alabama had needed a late field goal to beat Florida State 8-7.

"Bear said, `As long as I'm AD at Alabama, we ain't playing y'all."

And they haven't. Until now.

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Paul Finebaum says Nick Saban's impact is evident

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.
***

Ballhype: hype it up!
Monday
Sep172007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman compiles notes from around the nation.

Color me shocked:

Props to the Sun Belt: Troy thrashed Oklahoma State; FAU beat Minnesota and Arkansas State pounded SMU all on the same weekend. Someday, and it might happen in a year or two, this league might not be the worst one in 1-A football.

Also: Top 10 biggest surprises three weeks in, conference mailbag time, weekend picks (nice call on Kentucky), Huskers lose USC fear factor and week three's top storylines.

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel returns with his weekly feature: I-Formation

Also: USC mimics the past as it marches on.

--- ESPN's Pat Forde offers instant first-half analysis of Kentucky's upset of Louisville.

Also: Bedlam in the Bluegrass State. Solid stuff from Forde here.

--- ESPN's March Schlabach takes a look at the history behind Clemson's "Howard's Rock".

Legend has it that in either 1964 or 1965, S.C. Jones, a Clemson alumnus, made a trip to California. While driving through Death Valley, he stopped and picked up a large, white flint rock.

Earlier, Presbyterian College coach Lonnie McMillan had described Clemson's Memorial Stadium as "Death Valley," because that's where his teams annually went to die. Tigers coach Frank Howard began using the same moniker to describe his home field soon thereafter.

Jones brought the rock back to Clemson and presented it to Howard. The rock sat in Howard's office for a couple of years. While cleaning out his office before the 1966 season, Howard saw the rock and told Gene Willimon, executive secretary of the school's booster club, to "take this rock and throw it over the fence, or out in the ditch … do something with it, but get it out of my office!"

Instead, Willimon arranged for the rock to be put on a pedestal at the top of the hill above the east end zone. The rock was unveiled on Sept. 24, 1966, and the Tigers rallied from an 18-point deficit with only 17 minutes to play to beat Virginia 40-35.

The following season, Howard told his players "If you're going to give me 110 percent, you can rub that rock. If you're not, keep your filthy hands off of it."

The rock soon became "Howard's Rock" and a Clemson tradition was born.

Also: Schlabach's regular feature - On and Off The Mark, '07 Gators even better than title team, Florida-Tennessee instant analysis and Fulmer, Tennessee face biggest test at Florida.

--- ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski tells the story of Nebraska fans' generosity towards young soldiers (particularly Husker fans in the services).

Also: Notre Dame goes back to find its future.

Usually these postgame talks last a handful of questions. Weis didn't budge from his seat for the next 25 minutes. When a Notre Dame sports information department official tried to end the extraordinary session, Weis politely cut him off.

"No, no, we're not going to be in a hurry," he said. "I'm going to stay here and take it."

And he did, orchestrating the order of questions and reminding everyone, "I'm not going anywhere, fellas. Relax."

--- ESPN's Bill Curry, writing from the coach perspective, says Lloyd Carr and Charlie Weis must battle the "monsters" who place unrealistic demands on their programs.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel says USC's offensive line dominated its matchup with Nebraska.

Also: The Mailbag, week three power rankings and week three pickoff.

Also: Mandel's blog.

--- Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy observes USC's practices and find them tougher than the actual games. Solid read.

--- Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn found Tim Tebow's SEC debut met expectations.

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney profiles Georgia Tech tailback Tashard Choice whose patience has helped him flourish.

Last season, Choice finally received the bulk of the carries, but not the bulk of the attention. The cornerstone of the offense was All-America wide receiver and Biletnikoff winner Calvin Johnson. Again toiling in the shadows, Choice led the ACC with 1,473 yards and had 12 touchdowns on 297 carries. At season's end, he didn't even make the conference's first-team, honors that instead went to Clemson's James Davis and Virginia Tech's Branden Ore (Choice was relegated to the second-team).

"That's like a kick in the face," Choice said. "James Davis and Branden Ore are good running backs, but I led the conference in rushing, so I've got a chip on my shoulder. I want to go out and really prove myself."

So far he's doing exactly that. Choice is consistent (Saturday marked his ninth straight 100-yard game) and a workhorse (only five backs carried the ball more than him in '06). The one real knock on Choice coming into the season was a lack of game-changing speed with his 4.57 time in the 40-yard dash and a career-long run of 46 yards. He worked to change that in the offseason, though, and showed he has the ability to break the big one with his long touchdown run against Samford.

"They knew I could catch the football [and] run between the tackles, [but] they wanted to see me break longer runs," Choice said. "So in the summer, that's really what I emphasized on -- working on speed, making sure I'm conditioned to break longer runs."

Choice possesses a skills set that makes him one of the nation's best all-around running backs, but his name rarely fits in with the likes of Arkansas' Darren McFadden, Michigan's Mike Hart, West Virginia's Steve Slaton or Rutgers' Ray Rice when debating the top runners. He has a solution that would most certainly solidify his place in the conversation: a 2,000-yard season.

"[Getting] 1,800 yards is what my linemen told me [was the goal]," Choice said. "My coach told me if I get 1,800 I might as well get 2,000, so I'm on the pace."

--- CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd sees a 2003 flashback coming with USC, LSU and Oklahoma near the top of college football.

Also: Sunday 7, after week off, USC is back, weekend watch list, Keller buries past pain and focuses on revenge, Notebook: Stoops works his QB alchemy once more.

--- CBS Sports' Spencer Tillman finds several teams changing their tunes, other just hitting sour notes

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes returns with another round of Inside Dish.

The reason that Boston College QB Matt Ryan has taken a huge step this fall: his freedom within the offense. Under former coach Tom O'Brien, the plays were scripted and there were few, if any, audibles. Jeff Jagodzinski and his staff have given Ryan complete autonomy, and he can change plays at the line of scrimmage at any point during presnap reads. Plus, as well as Ryan has played, things should be even better. BC coaches have counted more than 10 drops from receivers this season, including three in last week's win over Georgia Tech -- when Ryan played flawlessly against Tech coordinator Jon Tenuta's aggressive, unorthodox blitzing schemes.

Also: Week three winners and losers, is Woodson better than Brohm?, Gators make sure Harvin gets his fill, LSU is better with Flynn than Russell, 10 things to watch this weekend.

And more than anything, that's what this sport is all about: arguing. My pal Austin Murphy spent some time with USC last year and penned a book "Saturday Rules". At the end of the book, Murphy talks to Chris Huston of HeismanPundit.com, and I don't think I've ever read a better description of why the college game is so unique -- and so perfect.

"In all these debates about who's the best team, which is the fastest conference, the deepest conference, the toughest conference -- or in (Big Tem commissioner Jim) Delany's case, the dumbest conference -- one thing remains constant: Nothing is ever resolved," Huston says. "It's like a never-ending constitutional convention."

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart says welcome to Nebraska's nightmare.

Also: Could this be Carroll's best USC team?, Week three awards, Blog Fog, the chance for Big Red to matter again, Dreamy thoughts heading into big-game Saturday, Conference Call, College Football Soup (lots of good coaching scoop).

--- Yahoo Sports' Terry Bowden offers up Terry's Takes and an updated Sweet 16.

--- Yahoo Sports' Gerry Ahern analyzes USC's victory over Nebraska

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis pens some Sunday morning thoughts.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts returns for his weekly Mailbag.

This is going to sound like I'm a weenie, but I watch games now and think to myself, "You've got to be kidding me."

The collisions that go on, the speed and the size of these players...I mean these guys are playing linebacker at 270 pounds and running 4.5 40s.

These kids are so strong nowadays, going to these training sessions in seventh and eighth grade. I never even lifted a weight until I got to college. We didn't have a weight room in my high school. The first time I ever squatted was at Nebraska. I did 225 and I could barely walk. I didn't even know what a squat was. I could hardly lift a thing.

Kids are testing their bodies to such an extent that I'm surprised there aren't more catastrophic injuries to be real honest.

--- Rivals.com's team of Olin Buchanan, Steve Megargee, Mike Nuguenin and David Fox continue to cover all angles.  Check the archive.

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson offers up a Weekend Roundup of all the goings-on in Florida sports.  Fan-tastic reading, too much good stuff to excerpt here.  Pay particular attention to the UCF talk.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside says the road to stardom nearly led Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson to quit.

Also: Linebackers making noise for top-ranked Trojans, Pooch Kicks: Barometer games can bring the heat, What big game? Nebraska plays it cool

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel says an elite class of teams has emerged to dominate the championship chase.

Also: Behind Tebow, Gators show they haven't lost a thing, at Nebraska, quarterback commits to last-chance season.

Also: Thamel's blog - The Quad.

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse finds South Carolina feuding with ESPN GameDay host Lee Corso over remarks made two years ago.

Something as simple as the center-quarterback exchange can have intrigue. Against Georgia, Gamecocks’ quarterback Blake Mitchell fumbled on the third play of the game. The reason: a wet football. The reason the football was wet: South Carolina center Web Brown, who sweats like Albert Brooks anchoring in Broadcast News.

“We change his pants two or three times a game, because Web sweats a lot,’’ coach Steve Spurrier said. “A lot of teams do that. That’s what you do, if his butt’s soaking wet, he’s going to give him a wet ball. So we have to do that two to three times a game.’’ And now you know. Even if you didn’t want to know.

Also: Veteran's Day isn't a Navy celebration, A lopsided loss to No. 1 USC has Husker fans seeing red, patience pays for Georgia Tech back Tashard Choice, for college fans, there's no place like home, College Football Insider.

--- As always, be sure and peruse the blog of Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tony Barnhart.

Notable: Who says we don't have a playoff?

--- The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi says UCF's home loss to Texas was a big winner for the program.

"We expected to win this game," UCF quarterback Kyle Israel said.

Nobody else expected it. We thought this would be an extraordinary occasionsimply because of the stadium opening. We thought it was going to be amemorable event. Little did we know the Knights would also make it a memorablegame.

Can you believe it? We went to party Saturday and an actual football gamebroke out.

If not for all the turnovers, UCF probably wins this game.

--- The New York Post's Lenn Robbins is taking a second look at his preseason rankings and provides some recommendations.

IN the words of an Amer ican icon, Gordon Gekko (no, not the insurance lizard), greed is good. And there's no money in not having a preseason college football poll. It generates too much attention.

But after reviewing my preseason Top 25, which included six teams that dropped out after two weeks, changes must be made.

1. Publish a preseason poll before teams report in August. This would give us time to see which teams suffer significant injuries (OT Ed Wang at Virginia Tech) and which have unanswered questions (Michigan's defense, Notre Dame's offense).

2. We'd learn which teams under third- or fourth-year coaches are ready to make their move (it usually takes 2-3 seasons to shop for groceries, throw out the trash, rearrange the schedule, and sweet-talk the neighbors). This season that could be Washington (Ty Willingham), South Carolina (Steve Spurrier) and Nebraska (Bill Callahan).

3. The first meaningful poll gets released the first week in October. By then we'll have learned which upsets weren't upsets and which undefeated teams are frauds.

--- The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt says Alabama's comeback victory against Arkansas was the rarest of wins at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Neal McCready says Les Miles may be That Girl for LSU fans.

You remember that girl.

Perhaps you were in high school. Maybe you knew her in college. Maybe she was a friend of a friend. But you remember her.

You were on the rebound, having just been dumped by the girl of your dreams. She was sweet, always there for you, and a good cook who understood you didn't have the cash to wine and dine her. She liked football, enjoyed a cold beer and a steak, and didn't mind when you went golfing with the fellows on Saturday afternoon and called hours after you said you would.

She just wasn't perfect. She was a couple of sizes too big and other guys weren't exactly beating down her door. She wanted you to love her, but you got bored and wanted something more. You moved on, only to discover that she got over you in aerobics class, cut out the fried food, developed a killer body and suddenly attracted the attention of more than a few of your single pals. Suddenly, you wanted her back, but it was a little too late.

OK, maybe it's a stretch, but that girl -- in a very metaphorical sense -- is Les Miles.

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky thinks Alabama and Auburn passed in the night.

It's hard to see the big picture when you're rubbing your eyes because you can't believe what you just saw.

It's hard to be the voice of reason when your ears are ringing.

But here goes.

Write down the date. In ink. Bright red indelible ink. Circle it and don't forget it.

Sept. 15, 2007.

The day everything changed.

The day the Tide and the tide turned.

It was plain to see, from the Capstone to the Plain, from Breakfast with Kodi Burns to Late Night with Nick Saban.

Also: Give Tommy Tuberville the thumb?  Let's not go crazy.

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Paul Finebaum finds Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville in need of a quick turnaround.

If you want to keep up with a coach's popularity, take a look at empty seats in the stadium and the demand for tickets. There were plenty of seats to be had Saturday at Jordan-Hare -- despite a chamber of commerce day -- and you will be guaranteed your own section this weekend for the game against New Mexico State. After that, home games loom against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Tennessee Tech.

You can bet good tables at Lee County's finer restaurants and plush luxury suites at area inns will be easy to find for that collection of stinkers.

One can only imagine the misery of the Auburn fan on Saturday. After suffering through the humiliation of losing to a program like MSU (everyone's preseason pick as the SEC's worst), the only salvation would be watching Alabama lose to the Hogs.

However, before the fried chicken could be gobbled and the sweet tea downed, the Tide was out to a 21-0 lead and seemingly putting the game away at 31-10. Then, the reversal of fortune and adrenaline rush of watching the Hogs pour 28 points on Saban. For the first time all year, Auburn fans were able to take pleasure in someone else's misery.

Then, the dagger through the heart as Bama pulled out the last-second heroics.

For all the bravado from folks about Tuberville's 3-2 mark against Saban, which coach do you think Auburn fans would rather have today?

Also: Certitude wanes on the Plains.

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Sep112007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman asks is the Charlie Weis honeymoon over at Notre Dame?

Also: Story lines to watch, weekend picks (from last week), Notes from around the nation and Top 10 toughest places to coach.

--- ESPN's Pat Forde presents his weekly running of The Dash.

Also: Western Kentucky's "Birth of a Program".  Just what we needed - another D-IA team ...

For an instant, the mannerly 36-year-old who keeps a picture of a priest at his office desk has become Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." "Heeeere's Western!" Only he's swinging a sledgehammer, not an axe.

And he's swinging it at an orange Florida helmet on the floor. As Elson brings the hammer down like Thor, it smashes a clean round hole through the top. The headgear winds up skewered on the handle of the sledge. He raises it aloft like a head on a pike and screams, but he's drowned out by the feral roar of 73 Hilltoppers. Bloodlust permeates the room. And maybe even belief.

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach asks 'what can't (Thomas) Brown do for the Georgia Bulldogs?'

More importantly, Brown wanted to graduate in 3½ years and spend the spring semester of his fourth year preparing for the NFL draft.

Brown is taking 21 semester hours of courses this fall -- three classes in speech communication, one in African literature and another in philosophy. He attends four classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and three more on Tuesday and Thursday.

"I've got a lot of goals," Brown said. "It would be sad to be here all this time and not walk away with a degree. I come from a very educated family. My mother and father are both very educated. My sister, as well. I thought it was very important for myself and my family to get my degree."

Throw in football practices four times a week and games on the weekends, and Brown faces an arduous 3½ months this fall. "He wants to graduate this semester, and he needs 21 hours to do it," Richt said. "A lot of people were telling him not to do it. But he thrives when people say he can't do it. Whether he makes it or not, I don't know. But his goal is to get ready for the NFL when the season's over, and to graduate in 3½ years. He's not going to prolong it."

Also: A regular feature - On and Off The Mark.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel returns with another Mailbag.  He'll be pleased to know that The Office's Jenna Fischer is now on the market ...

I am so tired of hearing SEC fans say that "the second-best Pac-10 team beat the fourth-best SEC team" when Cal beat Tennessee. Is that all they got?
--Joe, Sacramento

Joe, Joe, Joe. So blissfully naïve. If there's two things I've learned during my time on this beat, it's that the SEC is positively, indisputably the greatest conference in the history of mankind, and little things like logic, facts and common sense have no bearing whatsoever on this distinction.

Tennessee beats Cal last year? Yet another feather in the SEC's cap. Cal beats Tennessee this year? Completely irrelevant. USC beats Auburn 23-0 in 2003? That wasn't one of Auburn's better teams. Auburn goes 12-0 the next year and gets left out of the BCS title game? A crime against humanity, seeing as the Tigers obviously would have beaten the Trojans. Big East champion Louisville comes within an offsides call of edging SEC champ Florida out of last year's BCS title game? Exhibit A why the whole system needs to be blown up. The fact that Big East champion West Virginia beat SEC champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl just a year earlier? Eh -- the Dawgs weren't up for that game.  Les Miles calls out USC's "soft" Pac-10 schedule? Well ... duh. But wouldn't that make SEC divisional champion Arkansas -- whom the Trojans beat 50-14 just a year earlier -- even softer? No, because Darren McFadden wasn't healthy, and he's obviously capable of producing 36 points on his own. Florida beating Ohio State like a rented mule in last year's title game? Indisputable confirmation that the Big Ten can't hold a candle to the SEC. The fact SEC teams lost their other two bowl games against Big Ten foes? Never happened.

So basically, Joe, I wouldn't waste your time with one of those futile debates. Just accept the SEC's eternal superiority for what it is and we can all go back to watching The Pick-Up Artist in peace.

Also: TCU looks to make statement against Texas (oops), LSU shows its more than a defensive juggernaut

--- Sports Illustrated's Arash Markazi finds UCLA's Ben Olson content with not having lived up to the hype (yet).

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney says Sam Keller is helping the West Coast Offense fly at Nebraska.

Hugging his left arm, the tight sleeve ran from the Nebraska quarterback's upper left arm and down to his wristband. It's an accessory with a purpose.

Make no mistake, Keller is proud of what lies underneath that sleeve: a mural of tattoos containing angels and crosses which he began as a tribute to a high school friend that died in a car crash. But upon his arrival in Lincoln he began wearing the arm cover, not to hide the tattoos, but as a show of humility.

"You don't want to be flashy, you don't want to draw attention to yourself," said Keller, a fifth-year senior who transferred from Arizona State. "I never want to do that, so I just wear the sleeve."

Also: McCartney's regular feature, The All-Out Blitz

--- CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd returns with a Notebook.

Also: Talkin' TCU and BCS (oops), Weekend watch list, Les (Miles) is more at LSU than Michigan, USF's upset signals new era of Big East viability and Sunday 7.

A moment passed almost imperceptibly Saturday. It is becoming increasingly likely that no mid-major will qualify for a BCS bowl. Boise, TCU and Southern Miss all lost big.

Hawaii is undefeated but looked shaky in an overtime victory at Louisiana Tech.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes delivers his weekly round of Inside Dish.

Louisville defensive coordinator Mike Cassity might have gotten a little greedy with his unit, which has more speed in the front seven than it ever has. He added some complex schemes to confuse offenses and take advantage of the speed. Problem is, the changes only confused his own defense. So Louisville will simplify things this week against Kentucky, a week after Middle Tennessee looked like the Indianapolis Colts going up and down the field on the Cardinals. Changing the scheme in one week, though -- against a diverse and talented Kentucky offense -- may be too much for the unit to handle.

Also: Ten things to watch for in week two, Virginia Tech-LSU is the place to be, No team in the land looks as good as LSU, the heartbeat of the Hokies, LSU AD: We'll fight to keep Les Miles, Winners and losers.

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart says Nick Saban's legend continues to grow at Alabama.

Also: Conference call, Ten on the spot in week two, 25 questions that cloud my mind, Ten things you should know about TCU, Week two awards, Video didn't kill these radio stars.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden analyzes the effect of college football's new kickoff rule.

Also: LSU on the rise and other notes.

As I left Tiger Stadium on Saturday night after broadcasting No. 2 LSU's 48-7 rout of No. 9 Virginia Tech for Westwood One Radio, I couldn't help but think back to my first two years as the head coach at Auburn. During the 1993-94 seasons, we won our first 20 games, and as people have reminded me ever since, there was only one way to go from there.

Well, it's only the second week of September, but LSU just played the game of a lifetime, beating the Hokies every way you can possibly beat a football team.

All I can think now is, "Where do they go from here?"

With the brunt of the season left to play, I just don't know if they can play any better than they did Saturday night. Then again, if they just keep playing like they did, they might not need to change a thing.

Not only did the Tigers hold Virginia Tech to 149 yards of total offense but they also racked up 598 yards themselves against the No.1 defense in college football over the past two years. The loss was Frank Beamer's worst in 21 years as the head man in Blacksburg.

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis takes a look at the week that was in college football and calls for Lloyd Carr's resignation.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers his weekly Mailbag.  Inside: Tim Tebow's a quarterback, Virginia/Wyoming postmortem and Notre Dame's popularity.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell says it's "show" time for Virginia Tech.

--- Find the latest from Rivals.com's Olin Buchanan, David Fox and Steve Megargee.

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson welcomes USF into Florida's Big Four (formerly Big Three).  He called it.

Not only did USF beat Auburn, the Bulls did it on the road, at night, on national freaking television, in overtime. They preceded this win with a victory over West Virginia last year, and with a win over Louisville the year before. You're in. The Committee is mildly concerned about the fact that USF has never won its own conference title, but then The Committee realized that Miami has never won the ACC, either.

Also: A theory behind Florida State's woes.  Great stuff, as always.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside finds LSU still sweating out the details from top-notch play.

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel finds expectations changing overnight for LSU and South Florida.

Perhaps the most telling comment to come out of the game came from the Auburn junior wide receiver Robert Dunn.

“They are a great team,” Dunn said. “They grinded out the whole game and came at us with everything they had. They were a really fast team.”

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse says there are new road hazards on USC's title path.

Also: College Football Insider, Changes take Associated Press poll from dumb to dumber, Sooner or later it could be Oklahoma's year and another College Football Insider

--- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart blogs away.

--- The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi finds Florida State fans lowering expectations and claiming moral victories among other news and notes. 

--- MSNBC.com's Michael Ventre says it's USC's turn to respond in rivalry with LSU

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Neal McCready says Georgia's Mark Richt lives up to his coaching ideals

--- The Mobile Press-Register's Paul Finebaum says Alabama and Auburn appear ripe for the picking.

Also: Nick Saban faces real test in SEC play.

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Wednesday
Sep052007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman made his weekend picks.

Also: Top 10 NCAA defenses.

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel breaks out a new feature: The I-Formation (Week One). It includes some interesting book recommendations.

Also: Rematch with Vols has Cal fired up and Instant Analysis: Tennessee-California and Cal's long-awaited redemption song.

Not even two minutes into the game, the Bears opened the scoring thanks to Follett's kidney-rattling, blind-side sack of Volunteers quarterback Erik Ainge, who coughed the ball up at the Tennessee 44. Bears linebacker Worrell Williams scooped up the ball on the first bounce and sprinted for a touchdown.

"I was surprised he got up after that hit," Follett said. "Everything you practice for was coming into that hit.

Asked whether he had a name for that kind of sack, Follett replied with the six notes of the "SportsCenter" theme song: "Duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh."

--- ESPN's Pat Forde lists college football's underachievers.

Also: The Dash.

Also: Hail to the Victors.

The only possible downside to this seismic shift in the college football landscape is that teams might stop giving the likes of Appalachian State a chance. The Mounties have future games contracted with LSU, Florida and Georgia, and it would be a shame if those opportunities dried up.

Just in case, I called Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who was grilling steaks after his Gators grilled Western Kentucky. He said his team will honor the contract.

I'd still rather see Michigan playing quality D-IA opponents. The Appalachian State story is great, but it's also an anomaly.

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach travels to Appalachian State's hometown - Boone, North Carolina.

Also: Florida State lacking elite talent.

Also: Way too many Virginia Tech stories. Enough, already.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel releases his Week One and Week Two power rankings.

Also: The Mailbag.

Also: Searching for the Big Ten Network. Wow.

Also: Week one picks.

And from the blog: An explanation behind Las Vegas' Michigan/Oregon odds.

You would think the general public would be down on Michigan right now and that bettors would be all over the Ducks. So far, it’s been the exact opposite. In the 24 hours or so since LSVC sent out its six-point line, the Vegas casinos (which aren’t necessarily obligated to copy LSVC’s number) have set their spreads as high as nine-and-a-half points in the Wolverines’ favor. In other words: The early bettors consider Michigan a mortal lock to win by six or seven.
“Most of the early money that is bet is the ‘sharp money’ from professional bettors. Your novices -- they’re going to bet later in the week,” said Seba. “The professionals realize Michigan was embarrassed, and a lot of them are playing the ‘Michigan will bounce back’ angle.”

--- Sports Illustrated's Austin Murphy finds Cal ready for its rematch with Tennessee.

Eerie:

At the end of a 20-minute chat Wednesday, California quarterback Nate Longshore circled back to emphasize a point he'd made earlier. "I have nothing but respect for Appalachian State," he repeated. "Those guys have great players, and they're the champions of their division."

This had not prevented Longshore from tweaking Chad Henne over the summer. The Cal and Michigan quarterbacks worked together at the Elite 11 quarterback camp in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. When the subject of opening-day opponents arose, Henne informed Longshore that the Wolverines would face the Mountaineers of Appalachian State.

"Must be nice," rejoined Longshore. "Will you guys wear your game jerseys for that one?"

Also: Silence in the Big House.

--- Sports Illustrated's Gene Menez lists his Heisman ballot after week one.

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney's All-Out Blitz returns for week one.

--- CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd is a writing field this week so I'll simply list the headlines and save some space here:

Kick back and enjoy as returns grow more intriguing; With The Rock in its corner, Tulsa ready to reach new heights; Weekend Watch List: Uptight? Come on, it's California; Wolverines feeling black and blue after historic upset; Cal squashes SEC arrogance with mauling of Tennessee; Sunday 7: What else did you think the first item would be?; Carr's embarrassment will grow with time.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes is equally prolific. Headlines, again:

Animal cruelty comes back to bite USC's McNair; Inside Dish; LSU vs. USC: The battle for No. 1; Ten things to watch this weekend; Scars are forever, but a Hokie never gives up; Week 1 and done? Emotional victory can't hide Hokies' warts; Week 1 winners and losers; Inside Dish.

--- Not to be outdone, The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart chips in with an army of articles. You guys are killing me.

Pouring myself a tall glass of LSU at Mississippi State; The point of more returns; LSU will be able to win with Flynn; Appalachian State's not so upsetting upset; Blog Fog: 25 questions that cloud my mind; College football Week 1 awards; Seminoles' offense a work in progress - at best; Talking grid with Herbstreit; A bad Week 1, but Michigan might not be done.

--- The Sporting News/Rivals.com's Mike Farrell lists 10 newcomers who will shape offenses and 10 freshman who will toughen up defenses.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden's Bowden Files return.

Also: Intriguing openers; Opening impressions; Second thoughts.

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis - in response to Michigan's loss to Appalachian State - says there are some things you just can't explain.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts returns with another Mailbag.

[M]y sources have told me that [Clemson] had their No. 1, Cullen Harper, fake an injury during the middle of the scrimmage, unbeknownst to the offense and Korn. Tommy Bowden wanted to see how he would respond and how the team would respond in a pressure situation. That tells me there's going to be a package for Willy Korn.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell finds the Bowden Bowl to be a family affair.

Also: Competitive drive drove Tony Dorsett.

Tony Dorsett was driving to meet his father at the steel mills in western Pennsylvania to pick up some keys one afternoon when he had one of those life changing moments.

Just old enough to sit behind the wheel, Dorsett saw a man covered in filth walking up to him, creeping closer and closer, but he had no idea who it was.

Finally, as the mystery man drew closer, Dorsett realized who it was. It was his father, fresh out of the J&L Steel Mill in their hometown of Aliquippa, Pa., trudging to the car to meet his son. He was covered in filth, practically unrecognizable.

"Right then and there it hit me," Dorsett said.

All those times his father had talked about the potential to lose an eye, lose a limb, even lose your life in those notoriously dangerous steel mills, where countless men and women busted their hump every day for decades, had finally resonated with Dorsett. He now knew exactly what his father was talking about and Dorsett was determined not to follow his footsteps.

"When I saw him that day, when I couldn't recognize my own dad, I thought I better do something with my studies and something athletically as well," Dorsett said.

--- CSTV's Brian Jones gets to something I've been meaning to write about: a change in NCAA nomenclature. We're now supposed to call D-IA the FBS: Football Bowl Subdivision. And it's all because of some hockey colleges. Whatever.

It'll take 20 or more years to retrain people to this idea, if ever. I read a lot of articles and few are picking up on this while most openly mock it. It's moves like these that further delegitimize the rulemakers in college athletics.

Proposal 65-1 came about not because we football fans couldn't make the distinction between the various NCAA sports divisions, but because of the ever powerful NCAA hockey lobby. That's right, I said, "Hockey!"

Okay let's keep it real - no one in America gives really gives a damn about hockey, aside from those that play it and their loved ones. I must confess, I occasionally watch the NHL playoffs and have attended a Dallas Stars / Detroit Red Wings game. And I absolutely loved the music the Colorado Avalanche use to enter the arena to. You know Metallica's version of "Ecstasy of Gold" from the great flick The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?

Alright, back to hockey and our new NCAA football jargon.

You see, the NCAA was concerned about schools having one sports program participating at the D-I level and the rest of the school's athletic programs playing at lower levels. Since hockey has no Division II, many D-II and D-III schools play D-I hockey but D-II or D-III everything else, so hockey is especially confusing. Schools playing any of their sports in two different divisions got frustrated when the public grouped all their athletic programs under one label, and the NCAA Board of Directors decided to do something about it.

And wouldn't you know it, schools that I, like many of you, have never heard of, have forced us to embrace this new NCAA lexicon.

Okay, you'd better stop me, the use of another three-syllable word and I might overheat. But in conclusion, lets thank a few of the of the hockey principals for their part in pioneering this new mumbo jumbo, football bowl championship subdivision slash section two dash one point one A!

So, kudos to Hartwick and Colorado College, "shokran" to SUNY Oneonta, and "muchas gracias" to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I actually had to call Rensselaer twice to get the correct pronunciation of the Institute. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, you're doing a hell of a job, but please can we keep the football terminology dumbed down for now?

--- The Rivals.com crew.  Pick and choose, it's like a buffet.

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson says TGIF (Thank God It's Football).

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside has been busy keeping tabs on the opening week of college football 2007.

Headlines:  Cal-Tennessee stands out in weekend of mismatches; Fanticipation: Clock starts for Florida's Tebow; After electric openers, blockbuster weekend lurks.

As [Chris] Leak's backup, [Tim]Tebow lifted the team with his intensity. He barreled over linebackers with ease, then motioned to the crowd as he ran off the field. Now, he has to balance passion with composure. "At times you need to get everyone going," Tebow says. "Other times you need ice water in your veins to be a field general." Still he acknowledges, "It's hard to stay all bottled up because I'm very passionate about the game."

Meyer says: "Tim's got the 'it' factor at a level I've never seen before. The it factor is the ability to have the competitive edge. We had a two-minute drill at the end of practice (last week), and he hit the last pass with two seconds left and it was like we had won the BCS national championship. Even the coaches were screaming. You want that passion. He's extremely contagious."

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel writes that with the upset in the books, focus now shifts to Lloyd Carr's future.

Also: Check out Thamel's blog: "The Quad".

---  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse has lots of goodies this week.  He almost sniffed out that Appalachian State-Michigan game with a seemingly pointless profile of the Mountaineers just days before the game.

"We don't have to play this game," Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said. "We've got a nice situation here, and we could make a pretty good profit playing at home."

Moore doesn't have to play at Michigan. He wants to play at Michigan. With a postseason playoff as a path to a national title, I-AA teams don't worry about being perfect.

"A game like this forces us to be at our best as early as we can," Moore said. "I always try to be honest with our players. They know what's up. This is a gauge for us.

"This isn't a vacation or anything, but this is a treat for our players. I want them to get caught up a little bit in playing a school like Michigan, being in their stadium."

Headlines: O'Brien award adds fan voting; College Football Insider; The 'cupcake' took a bite out of Michigan, and it's sweet; Bowden's Seminoles are still questionable; College Football Insider

Former Oklahoma State and Miami coach Jimmy Johnson on the Hurricanes’ 1985 visit to Norman to play Oklahoma:

“When I was at OSU, I was fighting them with a BB gun. I brought a .357 magnum with me when I went to Norman.”

--- Check out the blog of Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tony Barnhart.  Notable: The debate is over - college football rules.

--- The Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls is demonstrating flexibility (so far) with his AP ballot.  This is good.

--- The New York Posts' Lenn Robbins says Michigan's Big Ten title hopes are irrational.  Also: National notes.

--- The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt finds Nick Saban and staff fighting complacency after Alabama's victory.

--- In a bit of an enterprising move, The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum located actual football - and SEC - fans in New York City.

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left. 

Tuesday
Aug282007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!

***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel asks what's next for the Big East?

The cascade of good news surprised even commissioner Mike Tranghese, who guided the league through the turmoil created by the loss of three strong programs. Tranghese said the answer to "Now what?" is "Life as usual." He believes the league's credibility is no longer an issue.

"If you win, they're gonna say this is a continuation of last year," Tranghese said. "But if you lose, then you're going to be criticized. But that's what you get for being one of the six conferences [that earn an automatic BCS bid]. This is what happens with the ACC, the SEC, the Big Ten. That's what we want. We want to be treated like the five of them are. "I think cyclically everybody is going to get bit," Tranghese continued. "But the difference is, if you get bit, it's not the end of the world. You know, the ACC struggled last year, but I didn't hear anybody saying that the ACC wasn't going to be in the football business. It was cyclical. We know the ACC is going to be good again."

Also: Five Big East Predictions and five Big 12 predictions

Also: USF quarterback Matt Grothe exudes old school cool

Also: Oklahoma can't keep the lid on DeMarco Murray

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach finds Sam Keller getting a fresh start at Nebraska

--- ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit is back with his Seventh Annual Herbie Awards

--- ESPN's Todd McShay ranks college football's game-breakers and defensive game-changers. Juice Williams? I also didn't realize Sedrick Ellis played for LSU (?).

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel finds the game-changers, the five elite athletes who redefine their positions and win games.

From Mandel's blog: Charlie Weis shows true colors with quarterback decision.

Besides, Weis has now given us plenty of reason to no longer believe much of anything that comes out of his mouth. As you may recall, the coach became very annoyed last spring when various news outlets reported that Clausen, ND’s much-touted freshman phenom, was suffering from bone spurs in his throwing elbow and would eventually undergo a surgical procedure. Despite the fact the reporters in question had spoken with a fairly reliable source –- Clausen’s own father -- Weis was aghast. "He's full-go, contrary to recent reports," Weis said of the freshman. "Just so we clear that one up, the only one who will answer for the health of our players will be me."
Last Friday, however, Clausen himself spoke for the first time, and, contrary to Weis’ contradiction, said, "Following spring practice, I had a procedure on my elbow to arthroscopically remove a bone spur. It was a minor setback, and I've been rehabbing ever since." Weis did not necessarily lie about the injury -- he merely insulted the intelligence of anyone with a brain.

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney says teams forge summer bonds in interesting ways.

Also: At Air Force, summer is about ingenuity and self-reliance.

--- CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd lists twenty-five things to watch this season. What the Pac-10's stance on a playoff has to do with other examples of mudslinging and a lack of decorum in the sport I have no clue.

Also: SEC Preview.

Also: Football 101 - college game beats the NFL (duh)

Jared Freakin' Lorenzen is in the NFL. Who knew? Last time I saw him, linebackers were catching rides on his ankles while J-Load set passing records at Kentucky.

In Lexington, Wendy's managers were sending limos to his apartment at lunchtime. He was bigger than his offensive line.

The Jared Lorenzen I knew was tons of fun.

You remember the jokes: How do you bring Lorenzen down? Answer: Tell him the cafeteria ran out of Twinkies.

In the NFL, the Round Mound of Touchdown/Hefty Lefty/Pillsbury Throwboy carries a clipboard. Occupies a roster spot.

And I am sad. Remember that scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when Jack Nicholson gets the lobotomy? That's Lorenzen right now. Stripped of his personality and his meat hooks. It can't be true that Kentucky's Jared is channeling Subway's Jared because he ... needs ... to ... lose ... weight.

Curse you, Tom Coughlin.

But that's what the NFL does. It sucks the life out of you.

Also: Talent + Money + Obsession = dominant football in SEC

Once again an SEC discussion centered around things other than what's happening on the field.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes says it was time for Miami to dump that dump (The Orange Bowl)

Also: Scouting the Pac-10

Also: What's the big secret with Notre Dame's quarterback?

Also: June Jones and Colt Brennan found more than paradise in Hawaii

Also: Breaking out the early BCS Bowl predictions

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart ranks the non-BCS conferences

Also: Dumping the Orange Bowl will ruin Miami's mojo and squeezing out favorite Orange Bowl memories

Also: The top 25 college football questions

Also: Scouting the Big 12

Also: Nick Saban, the coach you love to hate

Also: College football soup - check out Boston College vs. North Carolina State

If you can believe it, 20 years have passed since the Mustangs were given the death penalty. There was no football in 1987-88 seasons. SMU has posted one winning record (6-5 in 1997) in the 18 seasons since the death penalty.

Hence, the school hasn't been to the postseason since 1984.

I sure hope SMU breaks through this fall for good-guy coach Phil Bennett, who some thought was going to lose his job after last season. The Mustangs went 6-6 in 2006 with two losses by a combined 7 points.

"I think we are a year behind," Bennett told me recently as he preps for his sixth season. "We should already have been to a bowl. We came close last year. We have a good chance to get it done this fall."

Also: Who has the easiest and toughest september

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden talks about various college football themes heading into the final days before the 2007 season.

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis looks around the country for news items and finds USC's plethora of tailbacks dwindling.

We had an interesting conference call the other day involving members of our Crystal Ball production team as we talked about some upcoming storylines. Talk turned to Virginia Tech and what its opener against East Carolina on September 1st might mean to the community. One of my colleagues made a great point--we in the media are assuming that a football game helps the healing. But what about the victims' families and those left scarred by the bullets of a madman? Do they believe that a football game will make things easier? Will it make the school forget what happened? I understand that sports play a big role on university campuses around the nation and it is easy to add memorials, symbols and moments of silence to athletic events. But let's not go overboard with what football means to Virginia Tech. It still is just football, as my colleague noted. Great point.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers his mailbag. Inside: Why USC's infractions issues are different from those at Oklahoma, whether Darren McFadden is on that greatness level of a Reggie Bush and the rising popularity of the spread offense in college football.

The spread offense puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the defense. You can sort of dictate to them what's going to happen by spreading the field out. And let's face it - every defense in college will have a weak link. What you're trying to do is get your difference makers, like West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Pat White, on an island with the other team's weakness. It's a way of getting speed on the field, but more importantly, it's about forcing the defense to defend the entire field. A traditional offense allows the defense to defend a smaller portion of the field. With the spread you force defenses to put themselves out there and then you create space for your difference makers between the tackles.

Often times you can let an inferior athlete compete with a spread offense, someone who's not a mauler and who is smaller and quicker and can use his athletic ability to just get in the way. The spread really gives you options. Now defenses are combating that by getting more speed on the field. Linebackers who used to weigh 250 pounds are now 205.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell examines the new kickoff rule

Also: 2007 schedule planner - Week 14

--- The Rivals.com crew remains hard at work (August 21 to present)

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson says adios to the Orange Bowl.

For 70 years, the Orange Bowl has been a living symbol of Miami -- the city, the school, and the football team. National championships. Orange Bowl games. The smoke. Sebastian the Ibis. "Hurricane warning" flags. Beyond that, five Super Bowls, and the last link to the Dolphins' perfect NFL season. The Orange Bowl is one of the few links to Florida's history that still stands. Around here, where the state animal is the bulldozer and the state song is "No Closing Costs," those links are precious. The outcry in South Florida, especially among those who have lived and worked there for any amount of time, is understandably loud. At this very moment, I guarantee you there's a developer in Miami eyeing the Orange Bowl property as a possible site for a condo-hotel, and it makes my skin crawl, even from 200 miles away.

But Miami did what it had to do. In the interest of competing in the ACC, competing on a national scale, and competing for fans in South Florida, Miami made the only call it could make. As a business decision, it's a no-brainer. But in the realm of public opinion, it was a tortuous choice, and that's why nobody is leaping forward to claim it.

Also: Artists and Mechanics 2007.

A great discussion between Watson and College Football Resource about Watson's Artists and Mechanics concept.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside previews the SEC and looks at two unique Florida Gator players.

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel profiles Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan.

Brennan began chasing his dream early, working with the renowned quarterback tutor Bob Johnson in eighth grade alongside a high school star named Carson Palmer. Jordan Palmer, Carson’s younger brother, who is now a quarterback with the Redskins, remembers young Colt as hypercompetitive, talking trash through the most mundane passing drills.

“When we played baseball against each other,” Jordan Palmer recalled, “he was the kid standing on second telling the shortstop about how he’d steal third.”

Brennan attended Mater Dei, a large Catholic high school and state power in Santa Ana, in part, he said, for the chance “to be part of something bigger.”

His uneven journey to stardom began with Brennan playing backup quarterback on the freshman team, being the junior varsity starter as a sophomore and then Leinart’s backup as a junior.

“Colt loved football,” Leinart recalled, stretching out the word love. “You could just tell he was one of those kids who wanted to play and never wanted to give up.”

In Brennan’s only year as a varsity starter, Mater Dei began the season 1-3, which kept him out of the recruiting limelight. There was one play that stands out from an early loss that Brennan said demonstrated to him just how all-consuming football had become in his life.

With Mater Dei trailing late in a close game, Brennan lined up for a fourth-and-14. He remembers hearing the crowd noise pulsate through his helmet, feeling the pressure swirl through his head, the significance of the moment overwhelming him. Convert the down and Mater Dei could score and win. Lose and he would be the focal point of Mater Dei’s poor start. He skipped the ball to the turf, the crowd groaned and Brennan’s world collapsed.

“I loved the game so much, that it controlled my whole life,” Brennan said. “My whole life revolved around football. When I did good in football, I was happy. If I wasn’t doing good in football, I was miserable.”

Also: Eight ways 2007 will delive.  Obligatory Nick Saban "pointing" photo, I guess Urban Meyer's ceded that title.

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse finds Florida fighting the hard stuff plus other news and notes.

--- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart blogs away.

--- The Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls likes Texas cornerback Brandon Foster and is buying what TCU is selling.

--- The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt is eagerly awaiting September 1.

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky writes that Nick Saban shows who's in charge at Alabama.

Also: Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews remains tough in a tough time.

Also: Alabama faces decisions on recruit Josh Chapman.

Also: Terry Bowden aims to get back in the game.

"If somebody were to hire me Dec. 1, I would have a staff ready to go," Bowden said. "I would have an offensive and defensive system. I would have a recruiting system and a recruiting coordinator. I'd have a plan that minute."

It's opening week, and already people are guessing who'll be the first coach fired. Is it really possible, nine years after Auburn, Bowden could be the first one hired?

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick says a behavior change in college sports might affect wins.

Also: Nick Saban doesn't do Bear-like discipline.

Also: The Hoover High mess and the player who made it to Alabama after a grade change.

I do not know Chapman, so I can't speak to his motivation for attending college. But I have met many athletes whose primary interest in attending college was to get an education not in the classroom but in football or basketball. These athletes' ambition was to play sports at the highest level for as long as possible.

Is that really so wrong? No less than Princeton Athletics Director Gary Walters made the argument last spring that participation in athletics should be given the same status as playing in the band, or performing drama, or getting a degree in art - all endeavors in which students can take classes and get academic credit. Shouldn't football players, Walters seems to suggest, get some kind of academic credit for playing football?

Walters quoted Jon Veach, a starting tailback on the Princeton football team who wrote a paper that said: "The reason athletes put so much time and dedication into athletics is because the athletes do not view varsity athletics as simply an extracurricular activity but rather a vital part of their life and an intense learning experience. I have been an athlete since I was eight years old, and I can honestly say that the summation of my athletic experiences to this point has prepared me for the hard times of my life better than any other experience. Varsity athletics are imbedded with an abundant number of life lessons, values, and striking comparisons to the real world. I believe so strongly in these values that I feel varsity athletes should be given some type of academic credit for the countless hours of training and learning."

Of course, playing at Princeton is a far cry from playing at Auburn or Alabama. And the potential for abuse in rewarding academic credit for athletics - or even the idea of creating majors based on athletic participation - gives academicians the willies.

But if playing football is why some kids go to college, and the ability to play football is the primary reason many colleges award scholarships (and accept minimum academic standards in return), then is Walters' idea really so far off base?

Also: With Nick Saban, forget about X's and O's - it's about intangibles.

"Coach Saban has done a good job of emphasizing that we take nothing for granted," said receiver D.J. Hall. "We won't let up. He says you keep pounding and pounding till the clock says zero."

This staff leads by example.

"You wonder if they ever sleep," Caldwell said. "My coach works till 1 a.m. and comes back at 4 in the morning, and he's always wide-eyed. They take every practice like it's a game. The whole immediacy with this staff is really different."

It's been a wake-up call to everybody in the organization.

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum talks to USA Today oddsmaker Danny Sheridan.

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Aug212007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman compares conferences as part of an ongoing ESPN feature. 1)Mac vs. Sun Belt and 2)Big Ten vs. Big East.

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel also contributes a few conference comparisons. 1)SEC vs. Big 12 and 2)Pac-10 vs. Big Ten.

Also: Ability to forget keeps Boise State tailback Ian Johnson focused.

Also: Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan preparing for '07 season and beyond.

Most important, [Hawaii coach June] Jones said, is the way that Brennan can thread a needle.

Accuracy, Jones said, "is God-given. You can improve a quarterback's technique, his fundamentals, all that kind of stuff. but when you get under pressure, you revert … to kind of what comes naturally to you as a quarterback and either you can hit the guy or you can't. He is a very, very gifted player. I've only seen three guys, and this is kind of a thing when I'm watching film. Jeff George, Dan Marino and Colt are the only people I've seen, when they release the ball, sometimes their right foot is off the ground. They're the only three guys on film I've ever seen do that. And that's a God-given thing."

What affect does the right foot in the air have?

"I don't know what it means," Jones said, "but I'm going to start looking for it in a high school kid."

Also: Five WAC Predictions. It's a compelling conference.

Also: Ten little Trojan running backs.

Also: After long wait, USC receiver Patrick Turner ready for stardom

--- ESPN's Pat Forde says the SEC is college football's king (SEC vs. Pac-10 in ESPN's ongoing series).

The reason is simple: The SEC has to be better than the Pac-10. It's nonnegotiable.

The quality of life in the South is dependent upon good college football. Local economies, race relations and collective psychological health all would suffer without it. Sweet tea would not be as sweet. Fried chicken would not be as crispy. Country songs would be even sadder. If SEC football were mediocre, the South might as well be back in Reconstruction.

Uh, ok. I remember some silly cheer at one of my high school's football games against our rival. Somehow our cheerleaders coaxed the crowd into a "we've got spirit, yes we do, we've got spirit, how about you!" chant (cringe). Just as surprising, within a few minutes the rival fans across the stadium responded in kind. The spirit displayed said absolutely nothing about the relevance of either side's hometown, football team or overall athletic commitment.

Forde is a sometimes magnificent writer but this is pure poppycock. I agree the SEC has the better conference (this year), but my reasoning wouldn't be so silly as to reference the differing fan cultures.

Also: Five Pac-10 Predictions.

Also: The time is now for UCLA.

The Bruins' first five road games -- Stanford, Utah, Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona -- are against teams with an un-threatening 2006 average Sagarin rating of 50th. If UCLA takes care of business in the Rose Bowl and is ready to live up to its ranking, it could be 11-0 when bussing across town to play USC on Dec. 1.

"That would be a dream come true if it came down to that," [defensive end Bruce] Davis said.

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach compares conferences. 1)WAC vs the SEC 2)ACC vs. Big 12 3)Pac-10 vs. MWC

Also: SEC balance of power shifts east.

Also: Five SEC predictions.

Also: Preseason polls aren't perfect. There's some good takeaway material in there, but it's more trendwatching than definitive analysis.

Also: Five MWC predictions.

--- ESPN's Todd McShay digs for Wake Forest styled conference "sleepers" in 2007.

Also: Ranking college football's top "units".

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel answers this week's Mailbag. Inside: Whether or not an undefeated Rutgers could make it to the BCS title game (sure, if they dominate conference play and leave no choice but to put them there, no reason to whine just yet - ed.), complaints about Mandel's "national power" team rankings, the ongoing Jim Harbaugh/Michigan spat, confusion over Mandel's various postseason opinions, Texas' (and other schools') constant shuffling of defensive coordinators, hypothetical "power" rankings for non-BCS teams, impact transfers in 2007 and the possibility of quarterback Ryan Perilloux in a Tebow-like role for LSU this year.

Also from Mandel's blog: Can these star-studded RB's break Ron Dayne's NCAA career rushing record? Wait and see, but the target is 6,443 career rush yards.  And: Miami's move from the Orange Bowl would be bittersweet.  Indeed.

--- Sports Illustrated's Arash Markazi delivers a "postcard" from USC's camp.

"I remember exactly what I did the first time I watched Joe [McKnight] on tape," said USC coach Pete Carroll. "I quickly turned the thing off because I knew he was the real deal and he could do all of the stuff that we wanted to do. I just wanted to know who he was and where he was from.

Also: A postcard from Cal's camp.

As if they needed any more reason to make noise, Cal will be passing out 50,000 mini-megaphones before the season opener against Tennessee at Memorial Stadium.

How amateur ... 

Also: A postcard from UCLA's camp.

"13-9!"

The score sounds more like an affirmation than a result when it's yelled out by dozens of UCLA fans about eight months after the game. The two numbers read together have become synonymous with everything that is right in Westwood these days. It is the ultimate trump card for any Bruin that runs into a Trojan on Rodeo Drive or Sunset Boulevard.

"I still have people coming up to me and talking about that game," said defensive end Bruce Davis. "That game was amazing. To take down a team that was supposedly going to the national championship and hold them to nine points. It doesn't get any better than that."

UCLA's second-rate football heritage, in a nutshell.  Why lead when you can get in the way?  That said: scoreboard.

--- Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn delivers a "postcard" from Wisconsin's camp.

A New Jersey product who nearly went to UConn to stay close to home, [linebacker Jonathan] Casillas is an ultra-fast, albeit undersized (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) outside linebacker who was all over the field in scrimmages and is especially dangerous in pass protection. "Jonathan was probably our second-fastest player after Jack [Ikegwuonu] last season," said Bielema. "We can use Jonathan in sub packages as a defensive back; he's covering wide receivers man-to-man at times."

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney breaks down the nation's top-10 rushing tandems. Lots to choose from! Variety is the spice of college football life.

--- CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd previews the Big 12, the ACC, the Pac-10 and the Big East. More love for South Florida. Hmm ...

Also: Toughest schedules. Ohio State President Gordon Gee's bowtie obsession extends to pregame bowtie cookies. Yup.

Also: A Rutger tale.  I distinctly remember a Rutgers-themed billboard near the airport welcoming people to Miami while in the city for a December trip several years ago.  I knew coach Schiano had worked at Miami and was able to connect the recruiting dots, but was still baffled by it.  I guess he knew what he was doing.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes argues that UCLA could be the BCS' 10th different champion in 10 seasons (as a counterpoint to colleague Tom Dienhart's pick of West Virginia below).

Also: Whose stock is rising and falling. Interesting read.

Also: Scouting the ACC, Mountain West and Independents. Nice addition with the "Scouts' Views".

Also: Top spot doesn't guarantee USC a title.

Also: Inside Dish. Inside: Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett is a tough, fiery dude, Hawaii's shoestring recruiting budget, receiver troubles at Tennessee, Joe McKnight's role and an emerging face in the USC backfield and continued quarterback confusion at Oklahoma.

Also: College need a czar to tackle felons, too

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart scouts the Big East, the WAC and Conference USA.

Also: West Virginia could gives the BCS its 10th champ.

Also: College football soup. The best quarterback at Miami, Chuck Amato's future, Virginia Tech's healing concern, AP Poll anticipation, Nick Saban's aversion to computers and what it's like to work for him.

An interesting note from my visit with Alabama coach Nick Saban I failed to pass along: He doesn't do e-mail.

The notion was brought up as he showed me his office. I asked him: Where is your computer? He said he doesn't have one.

Classic Saban.

I also was talking with new Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley, the son of Vince who worked with Saban for several years.

"Look, Nick is a good guy," says Dooley. "I always have people call me and ask what it's like to work for Nick if he approaches them for a job.

"It's not that bad and it's a great opportunity.

"It's just that when you are at work, you are going to work. You aren't gong to run to the post office at noon to mail a package. You aren't going to go from an afternoon jog. You are there to work."

Also: Wake Forest's Jim Grobe is a good coach and a good guy.

--- Rivals.com's/The Sporting News' Mike Farrell says this recruiting class is vital for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

Also: The Playboy All-American list always is fascinating.

I guess what I'm getting at here is this: Most of these guys were missed by numerous colleges and recruiting services back in their high school days.

Garrett Wolfe (Northern Illinois), Joel Filani (Texas Tech), Patrick Willis (Ole Miss) and H.B. Blades (Pitt) were on the Playboy squad in 2006. Northern Illinois was the only school to offer Wolfe; Filani had offers from Texas Tech and Washington State; and Willis chose Ole Miss over Memphis and Arkansas State.

Blades was the most heavily recruited of the group with offers from Auburn, Virginia and Iowa State before his commitment to Pitt. Despite his great bloodlines, folks weren't exactly beating down his door.

This year Ryan Clady (Boise State), Aqib Talib (Kansas), Tommy Blake (TCU), Dwight Lowery (San Jose State), Antoine Cason (Arizona), Ray Rice (Rutgers) and Henderson (Maryland) are All-Americans, according to the magazine. Sure, some of these programs have had some success recently, but we're not talking about USC, Florida, Ohio State or Texas here.

Each of the above players was largely ignored during high school, and didn't choose their current school as much as their school chose them.

Look at them now. This, more than any other reason, is what makes college football great. Many of us wish we could be diehard fans of the Trojans, Longhorns, Gators and Buckeyes and experience the bitter taste of defeat just a few times over the course of a recruiting class.

Instead, we hold on to whatever we can as fans of guys like Blades, Talib, Cason and others.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden reacts to the release of the AP's preseason top 25 rankings.

Also: The real Heisman deal

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis gathers news and notes from around the country. Good stuff, but I'm not sure Andy Crooks is the All America candidate at tight end for Wisconsin, heh.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers reader mail. Inside: The nation's most underrated team, the importance of an experienced quarterback and the best player in the country nobody is talking about.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell finds coaches split when it comes to talk of an early signing period.

Also: 2007 Football Schedule Planner - Week 13.

--- The Rivals.com team is still hard at work with numerous features and previews. This week's (8/14 to present) offerings from Olin Buchanan, David Fox and Steve Megargee can be found at this link.

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson is understandably bored with sports right now, but finds time to ask some important questions about football at the Florida schools.

Can Florida repeat?

If history is any indication, no. The last team to win back-to-back outright national titles was Nebraska in 1994 and 1995 (Southern Cal shared it with LSU in 2003 before winning it at 13-0 in 2004). Prior to the Huskers, you have to go back to the Oklahoma teams of 1955 and 1956 to find another back-to-back undisputed national champ. The math is not favorable.

Far more relevant than history, of course, is reality, which is this: Florida breaks in 9 new starters on defense this year. If I were an opposing offensive coordinator, my game plan against Florida is to pass, pass, and pass again. The untested linebackers and secondary will be a target until they prove otherwise. As it happens, Florida plays in the pass-happy half of the SEC, with Erik Ainge back at Tennessee, Matt Stafford a year older at Georgia, Steve Spurrier's boys pitchin' it around at South Carolina, and Andre Woodson -- who may be the best quarterback in the conference -- ready to carry Kentucky. Furthermore, if and when the Gators get out of the SEC East, they still have the preposterously loaded LSU Tigers to worry about.

Offensively, I think Florida might actually be in better shape than they were last year. Though inexperienced, Tim Tebow is clearly better suited for the type of offense that Urban Meyer prefers to run, and he's surrounded by gazelles. Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, Jarred Fayson, Brandon James, Louis Murphy, Chris Rainey, and eight other guys who could start almost anywhere else in the state -- Florida's offensive cup of talent is overflowing. The defense is the question, and the concern.

Florida will score points at Spurrieresque levels this season, but at some point, they'll have to stop somebody, too. The defense will decide their season. Winning the SEC is not out of the question, but another BCS Championship Game win? With Southern Cal, West Virginia, Michigan, and LSU lurking? I'm not ready to hitch up with that wagon just yet.

--- The New York Times' Pete Thamel says Boston College expects to score and soar.

[Matt] Ryan, a 6-foot-5 strong-armed quarterback, is the reason for much of that optimism.

He hobbled his way to an impressive junior year, winning first-team A.C.C. honors despite being injured the entire season. Ryan sprained his ankle in the opener, and he said the injury bothered him until Boston College’s victory against Virginia Tech on Oct. 12.

“My ankle had been killing me for six weeks, and we couldn’t figure out how to make it better,” Ryan said. “I walked in to the trainers and said, ‘I found the best way to cure an ankle sprain — break your foot. I can’t feel a thing in my ankle.’ ”

The broken foot he sustained against Virginia Tech left Ryan wobbling to class in a boot for the rest of the season but did not keep him off the field. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, he practiced in 7-on-7 drills with the boot.

On Thursdays, he said, he would take off the boot for a half-hour during practice. On Saturdays, all he could do was hope for as little pain as possible. Ryan, who is 14-4 as the Eagles’ starter, threw 15 touchdown passes, completed 61.6 percent of his passes, and, perhaps most important, won the respect of his coaches and teammates for his perseverance.

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse says Arkansas must move past turmoil.

--- As always, there's plenty of bloggy goodness from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart. Notable: 1)Will Hawaii get any love? 2)Does Spurrier have problems on the o-line? 3)Ranking the BCS conferences 4)Miami should leave Orange bowl 5)Is Southern Cal really that good? I ask that same question about LSU.

5. There is a mini-playoff: Except for Southern Cal, every team in the Top 10 has to play another Top 10 team in the regular season. No. 2 LSU plays two (No. 9 Virginia Tech, No. 6 Florida). No. 3 West Virginia plays No. 10 Louisville. No. 4 Texas plays No. 8 Oklahoma. No. 5 Michigan plays No. 7 Wisconsin. Southern Cal plays No. 12 California, No. 14 UCLA and No. 20 Nebraska.

--- The Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls reports some bad vibes from the Texas camp.

Also: Expensive tickets.

--- The Tuscaloosa News' Cecil Hurt talks discipline and what it might mean for Alabama football in close games. He also thinks the 'Tide may not have the appropriate defensive talent in place to contend just yet.

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky finds a sense of revival at UAB thanks to a new coach.

Gene Bartow admits it. UAB football's biggest fan wasn't much of a supporter the last few years.

One example: He didn't go to as many games as he once did.

His reason for backing away?

"I lost interest with the old regime."

He wasn't alone, but Bartow's indifference was different. He is the athletic director emeritus. He was the AD who hired Watson Brown.

If Bartow felt it was time for a change, it was time for a change. And the change came. Brown left after 12 seasons to become the head coach at Tennessee Tech. Neil Callaway arrived as a first-time head coach, the third head coach in UAB history.

"This is a new beginning," Bartow said, "for a lot of us who were ready to see a change."

Also: It was behind closed doors, but Alabama must have had a good scrimmage.

Also: Alabama players must not fear Nick Saban because they keep getting arrested in nightlife quarters of town.

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick says coaches' salaries have always stirred emotions.

There was outrage over the hiring. All across the country, college presidents and administrators wrung their hands over the financial implications of the contract. Opposing coaches were constantly asked what the hiring meant.

No, not Alabama's hiring of Nick Saban.

Twenty-five years ago, Texas A&M shook college football by luring Jackie Sherrill away from the University of Pittsburgh for the remarkable sum of $1.722 million.

Not per year. Sherrill's contract was $1.722 million over six years, an average of $287,000 per season.

Also: Examining the reasoning behind a settled lawsuit between Auburn and a terminated professor who allegedly provided no-work classes to athletes.

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum says Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville needs to stem Tide.

Tuberville is respected by the Auburn Nation and genuinely appreciated, for myriad reasons. His program has been consistent in recent years (something that wasn't the case early in Tub's career), it has skated NCAA trouble and was able to wiggle out of the sociology scandal last year without even a scratch. Of course, the mark against Alabama also weighs heavily to the orange and blue crowd, many of whom grew up in the '70s and were treated like red-headed stepchildren as Paul Bryant was mowing down the Tigers to the tune of nine in a row.

There was a time when Auburn's entire self-worth was measured against Alabama. That has slightly changed over the years.

But is there any real passion and zeal for Tuberville and likewise, does he have any real fire for Auburn, that is, other than collecting a handsome paycheck?

Tuberville has successfully moved on from the Jetgate scandal but the wounds have never really healed. And there is a fear among certain Auburn people that one bad year and a subsequent loss to Alabama and the wheels could come off this program in a hurry.

***
Whew!  I know this isn't real labor but I'm spent.  I realize there's a lot more going on with this being the time just before the season starts with people cranking out previews and whatnot.  However, I'm putting a hell of a lot of time into this and am curious how you, my loyal reader, use these Pundit Roundups?

Do you read and click on a majority of the material or merely skim?  How much of it have you already read during the week?  Do you want more?  Do you want less?  Can this be pared down or will the world crumble?

Hopefully these writers slow things down a bit to more manageable levels like from a few months ago otherwise I'm going to have to pare this down, maybe clip the best 15 or so articles and neglect a lot of relevant stuff.  I'm having to work way ahead nowadays on this and still find myself scrambling at the last minute as new stories are added.

Let me know your feelings about the Pundit Roundup, thanks!
***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Aug142007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
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A "weekly must-read"
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--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman says freshman Joe McKnight didn't disappoint at USC's first practice.

Before the Trojans headed off the field, [running backs coach Todd] McNair motioned for all of his running backs to gather. He saw McKnight off in the distance giving a hug to a little toddler.

"Quit PRin' and let's go," the coach told his heralded new tailback. Actually, if McKnight looks this sharp when the Trojans put pads on, there's no telling how far the PR campaign will go.

Also: Saturday specialists deliver difference-making results.

"[Georgia Tech linebacker Phillip Wheeler is] a freak of an athlete," said a line coach whose team played against Tech last season. "You don't want to have him matched up with your tailback, but [Tenuta] does such a good job with his pressure packages, that's usually what you're stuck with. And then Wheeler just tosses your guy. He's really good with his hands.

"He was the best linebacker we saw last season."

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel looks at how some have-nots have made progress in catching up with the BCS haves.

"When they want us to play Sunday mornings at 2, I'm going to play. … If you want to be a great program, as we aspire to be, you want to be a highly ranked program, you play on the nights that are going to help you," Jurich said. "What that did was get us in homes from a recruiting standpoint. Kids aren't watching games on Saturdays. Weekdays, you have a captive audience."

The haves vs. have nots setup is boring and misleading. The great untold story of college football is that every program came from nowhere at some point. Through pluck, ingenuity and the singular genius of a particular coach or athletic director programs are constantly on the rise (forcing others into decline).

To plug Bruce Feldman's book for a moment, 'Cane Mutiny is a great tale of how Miami went from literally nothing to one of the game's dominant programs for three decades running. They did it against the backdrop of suffocating control by the powerful teams.  For such a stifling atmosphere, there sure seem to be a lot of Cinderella's in the game, huh?

Cinderella stories aren't made through Congressional intervention into the BCS process but by vision and finding the right coach or coaches. Boise State is a success now because they had an amazing run of coaches to build that thing. Who was the coach in 1997? Houston Nutt. 1998 to 2000? Dirk Koetter. 2001 to 2005? Dan Hawkins. 2006? Chris Petersen.  It's nice that they made the Fiesta Bowl and won, but their story was gold even before that.

USC was nothing more than an average football program until Dean Cromwell and Gus Henderson started winning some games in the early 1900's. The program then asked Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne to recommend someone he respected to their next coach. He pointed them towards Iowa's Howard Jones. Jones took the keys from Henderson and drove the school to several championships and got that ball rolling enough that John McKay could inherit a mess 20 years later, dust off the cobwebs of a former winner and deliver USC to its modern prestige.

Penn State got Paterno. Florida State got Bowden. Utah had Ron McBride who gave way to Urban Meyer and made that place competitive. BYU had LaVell Edwards. Competition breeds innovation and inevitably there are winners and losers. But winners don't forever stay winners (think Alabama fans have been truly happy with the last 10 or so years? USC fans from the end of Robinson I to Carroll? Notre Dame fans since 1993?) and leave openings for others to fill the void.

Have vs. Have Not/woe is the Have Not is just a strange narrative, the game is too fluid and the underdog tales too many for that. Maisel paints a somewhat rosy picture in that setup, but couches it within the framework of Congressional intervention when places like Boise State and Louisville built their success before things were as open.

--- ESPN's Pat Forde lists the top 25 pressing quarterback questions.

Also: The Michigan/Harbaugh feud.

How often, in the history of major-college athletics, has a current player just shredded a former hero from the same school? A guy who took Michigan to a Rose Bowl and was a first-round NFL draft pick, who grew up in Ann Arbor and whose dad was a Wolverines assistant under Bo Schembechler, is thrown out of the Michigan man club by a guy still in college?

Also: Gambling and trickeration is "in".

Pete Carroll gets cited here, but he's a bit of an enigma. Some things he's done in the last two years are deeply conservative and run counter to his aggressive streak.

Chris Petersen: "Since coach [Dan] Hawkins was here [at Boise State], that's been our philosophy. We don't want kids to pucker. We want them to be risk takers. We want, as coaches, to be risk takers in an educated way."

Also: The evolution of Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson. Good read.

Also: Perseverance runs in the McFadden family.  Another great read from Forde.

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach writes that top programs have questions to answer.

Also: Florida must replace nine starters on defense. I think they'll be fine.

Also: Coaches on the "hot" seat.

Former Texas Tech football coach Spike Dykes once said a coach loses 10 percent of his team's fan base with each defeat.

The way Clemson coach Tommy Bowden figures it, he has even more to lose as he begins his ninth season with the Tigers.

"We just set a record for ticket sales, so I have a bunch of people who don't like me -- most in Clemson history," Bowden joked last month at the ACC Kickoff news conference in Pinehurst, N.C.

Also: Assistant coaches salaries are going up. Way up.

Also: Seven college football secrets in 2007. Learn about South Florida's cornerbacks and USC's exciting fullback.

Also: WAC vs. Conference USA.  WAC all the way, no brainer. 

--- Sport Illustrated's Stewart Mandel reveals the results from SI's 2007 CFB Players' Survey. It's got fans talking.

Over the past month, our reporters conducted telephone surveys with a starter from every Division I-A team. It is believed to be the most comprehensive player survey -- 119 different schools are represented -- to ever appear.

Survey Results.

Players heavily tilted towards favoring a playoff (boo!), but said some interesting things.

An ACC player's opinion encapsulated both sides of the debate: "I have mixed feelings just due to the fact that the playoff system would be great at finding out the best team in college football, but the bowls and the BCS are what college football is all about -- the arguments and all that. It makes every game that much more important and exciting." ... One Big 12 player whose team played in a bowl game last year said, "I like the bowls. Some years you say it wouldn't be fair, but realistically, the teams that should make it do. And everyone knows at the beginning of the season that you have to win your games."

Also: The Mailbag. Georgia's national status and the much-critiqued "Montana Test", the effect of offensive line coach Rick Trickett's departure on national title contender West Virginia, Lloyd Carr retirement talk, Steve Spurrier's Duke vote in the USA Today/Coaches poll draws criticism, whether Oklahoma State can rattle the cages of Oklahoma and Texas, selling Mandel's new book, Hawaii's chances, Oregon's shaky play of late and whether it gets better in 2007, Florida's other football schools not in the "Big Three", Mailbag Crush criticism (again), and this gem:

I just wanted to let you know that not everyone in Bulldawg Nation is insane, and we really do appreciate how lucky we are to have Mark Richt as a head coach. You are also correct about UGA being more of a regional power, but I think (and sincerely hope) that AD Damon Evans is taking steps to create a more national schedule and presence.

Also, while I am an SEC homer, I live on the West Coast and appreciate Pac-10 football. Honest.
--Robert, Portland, Ore.

Robert: It sounds to me like you're a rational, grounded, open-minded SEC fan.

Please ... see a doctor.

Also: Virginia Tech football hits the field for the first time since April's deadly one-man murder spree on campus.

Mercifully, the majority of the article focuses on football and is quite informative.

Also, from Mandel's Blog: Coaches plotting effects of new kickoff line.

But Florida coach Urban Meyer doesn't think it's any small matter. He had his staff chart tape and determined that the average kick will now land at about the 9-yard line (as opposed to the 4-yard line previously). "You give [Gators kick returner] Brandon James the ball at the 9-yard line with a running head start? Whew, that's big right there. That's going to have a major impact. You have to have a horse to kick that thing out of the end zone now."

Meyer is so intrigued by the rule, in fact, that he's already decided if his team wins the toss in its opener against Western Kentucky, he will elect to receive. "In the past," said Meyer, "we deferred about 86 percent of the time."

And then there's this scenario someone laid out to me last week: Let's say a team scores a touchdown to go up two with less than a minute left. Understandably, the guys on the field will be excited, and, as is often the case in such situations, the refs might flag them for excessive celebration. That's a 15-yard penalty tacked on to the ensuing kickoff -- which will now start at the 15. You might as well just go ahead and let the other team try its game-winning field goal.

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney files a "postcard" from Florida (similar to Mandel's above visit to Virginia Tech).

Also: Fifteen true freshmen who will produce this season.  There's an outstanding crop of frosh this year, should be fun watching them all develop.

--- CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd previews the Independents.

Notre Dame must cut down on the big plays. The kid from Chicago already understands the atmosphere.

"I used to watch Michael Stonebreaker, Frank Stams, Chris Zorich, Todd Lyght, Bobby Taylor ...," [new defensive coordinator Corwin] Brown said. "I know how they played. In my mind, there's no reason why we shouldn't play like that."

Brown has just mentioned five consensus All-Americans.

I don't see an All American on that Irish defense. Yet.

Also: Games of the year.

Also: Boise State and its place in the world months after the Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma.

--- CBS SportsLine's J. Darin Darst previews the WAC

Also from CBS SportsLine: Conference USA Preview (Brian De Los Santos), MAC Preview (Eric Kay).

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes writes June Jones has made Hawaii football matter.

Also: USC quarterback John David Booty is a guy you could build a team around.

This argument is about the college game, not the NFL. And the college game has been overtaken by dual-threat quarterbacks: guys that can hurt defenses with their arm and legs.

But other than White, there are few dual-threat guys I'd take at this point. Sophomores Tim Tebow and Matt Grothe are two possibilities, but I want to see both do it when teams specifically game plan them. Chase Daniel has put up good numbers at Missouri, but has done little in big games.

I'm still a pro-style guy. I want someone who can take his steps, read the defense and fire a strike. Because those are the guys -- players like Booty, Colt Brennan and Brian Brohm -- who can dictate a game with a flip of the wrist. At some point, dual-threat guys have to throw the ball, have to make a play in the passing game. If they can't, they're one-dimensional and easier to game plan.

And then the offense is lost without a guy who can make a third-and-nine play in the passing game.

That's why I'll take Booty. He's a pure drop-back passer with a terrific arm and touch. He's tough and his teammates thrive off his moxie. He has played -- and played well -- in big games. What more could you want?

Also: Meet 2007's breakout college football players.

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart writes, as a counterpoint to Matt Hayes' John David Booty piece (above), that LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is the kind of guy you build a team around.

But a player of Dorsey's ilk can't be quantified in numbers. It takes me back to a conversation I had with Tom O'Brien a few years ago. I asked the sage and astute OB what was the most difficult position to find difference-makers. O'Brien didn't hesitate: He said defensive tackle.

The quest for big, fast, athletic DTs extends to the NFL, where time and again franchises reach for defensive tackles in the draft. They almost always are over valued because really good ones are so rare. Guys are either big and slow ... small and quick ... or big, quick and lazy. Few combine every attribute as well as Dorsey.

Dorsey changes blocking schemes, which frees operating space for teammates. And even though Dorsey draws special attention, he still makes plays.

Also: A time of healing for Virginia Tech.

Also: Keep an eye on these opening games.

Also: Notre Dame sure looks like a rebuilding team.

By my estimation, Weis' biggest wins last year were at Georgia Tech and vs. Penn State at home. In 2005, Weis' major triumphs were at Michigan and vs. Tennessee in South Bend. And I'm being generous, people.

Impressed?

THIS is a team that deserved to go to back-to-back BCS games? I think the thumping ND took from Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and LSU in the Sugar Bowl says it all.

Knowing all of this, do you really, deep down in your heart, think ND would have had a much worse record had Ty Willingham remained coach?

Come on, be honest.

I don't know about record, but the program's in much better shape than under Willingham. They were listless and far from dynamic towards the end of his stay. The massive 20+ point losses are still there, but at least the offense has punch. As a bonus, Weis responded to his shaky defense by hiring a hotshot new defensive coordinator. It may work, it may not, but they're trying and the overall talent's up.

Also: Oklahoma State cornerback Martel Van Zant overcomes deafness.

But Van Zant needs his interpreter at his hip throughout the day--in classes, at practices. Teammates want to help by learning sign language. "But a lot of them, they want to learn the cuss words first," Van Zant says.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy feels Van Zant would have been recruited by all the big-time schools had he not been deaf. Some were unsure how to work with a deaf player, but that didn't scare then-Cowboys coach Les Miles, who has a deaf brother and knows American Sign Language.

Although being oblivious to trash talk has its advantages, Van Zant does have one big issue to deal with: the referee's whistle. "I have to watch other players and wait for them to stop moving," Van Zant says. "I also have to wait for the receiver to move."

What about late-hit calls?

He has to have had a few of those. "No," says Van Zant.

Also: Top clashes between coaching titans.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden talks about a coaches' schedule and the future of the text messaging ban.

I have come to one quick conclusion: The players and coaches who prepare for the game work a lot harder than we folks who write about them.

Over the past two weeks, I have been in the office no later than 5:30 a.m. and left the no earlier than 10 p.m. every day.

Maybe the most difficult thing to get used to is that my Blackberry must remain turned off for most of that time. And this routine isn't just happening at FSU but on every football playing college campus in America.

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis is back with college football news and notes.

Last year, Arkansas had great success deploying sensational running back Darren McFadden in all kinds of positions. Sometimes he took direct snaps in the shotgun; sometimes he lined up outside at receiver; sometimes he would line up in the backfield but take a direct snap. You get the idea. Houston Nutt knew what kind of an athlete he had and he wanted to get him the ball as much as possible. Urban Meyer used Percy Harvin in a similar capacity. Well, like most things in college football, coaches have copied one another, so expect to see many teams using a "stud" like a McFadden to line up in different spots. I've been talking with teams across the country and don't be shocked to see six or seven teams utilize a speedster in various roles, including LSU, Tennessee and Illinois.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts replies to reader mail again this week. Inside: the trouble with recruiting rankings, sentiments about the Big Three in Florida (Florida's overrated?), and the hiring/firing business.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell ranks his Preseason Top 25.

Also: 2007 Football Schedule Planner - Week 12.

--- CSTV's entire Football Preview Index ("Back to School 2007").

--- CSTV's Jerry Palm writes about Notre Dame's cloak of secrecy.

--- Rivals.com is a content factory at the moment.  Check their latest (last Pundit Roundup was on 8/7) updates from Olin Buchanan, Steve Megargee and David Fox at this link.

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse checks in with another College Football Insider.  Inside: Steve Spurrier's Duke vote, Charlie Weis' lawsuit defeat, Lloyd Carr's friendship with Russell Crowe, wild child quarterback Ryan Perilloux has been re-instated at LSU, Bo Schembechler's passing still felt at Michigan, Pitt's season ticket sale woes and Nick Saban's golf game.

--- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart continues to blog away at a torrid pace.  Notable: Why the SEC is smiling.

--- The Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls checks out practice and says the 'Horns look impressive.

Also: No slap at TCU.

Since I challenged Texas’ non-conference football schedule in my Monday column, I have received several emails taking me to task because the readers thought I was denigrating TCU’s worth. Believe me, I was not.

I was referring to the foursome as a group, not TCU by itself. The Horned Frogs are a very fine team and will be among a handful of non-BCS conference teams challenging for one of the five BCS bowls. In addition, I included TCU in my Top 25 ballot that I filed for the Associated Press on Sunday. The poll comes out a week from Sunday.

The other three teams on Texas’ schedule — Arkansas State, Central Florida and Rice — went a combined 17-20 last season. That scare anybody?

And do you really think USC would be frightened by playing TCU? I don’t think so. The presumably top-ranked Trojans play non-conference games with Nebraska and Notre Dame. If Texas were playing USC and Notre Dame this fall, school officials would be calling it the greatest nonconference schedule ever.

Also: Fiesta Bowl talk and upsetting both Boise State and Oklahoma folks.

--- The Birmingham News' Kevin Scarbinsky writes nobody throws tantrum, visor like South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

Examining the motives behind Spurrier's admissions tantrum last week.

Also: Alabama leads Auburn in recruiting war, but storm brews.

Also: Frosh quarterback Kodi Burns wows 'em at his first Auburn scrimmage.

"We saw exactly what we expected to out of Kodi," Tommy Tuberville said. "Nobody can tackle him. He threw the ball well for his first time in Jordan-Hare Stadium. It won't be his last."

Also: Getting hit hard part of playing the game.

A not-so-subtle call-out of the toughness of Auburn reserve quarterback Neil Caudle.

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick says Bill Walsh's offenses forged Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges' philosophies.

When it came to running an offense, all Al Borges knew was the wishbone, that full-house, triple-option run-oriented attack that dominated football in the 1970s.

But as an ambitious young high school coach in California, Borges knew times were changing, and if he wanted to go anywhere in his chosen profession, he'd better learn the passing game.

"So I decided to try to learn from this fellow who just got the job as head coach at Stanford," said Borges, sitting in the cool of his office before heading back out into the 100-degree heat for another practice at Auburn.

"Bill Walsh wasn't a big name yet. But Stanford was only 50 miles away from where I was coaching, so it was the easiest place for me to get to.

"I went and watched and I had no clue what he was doing. But I kept going back. Bill wasn't too easy to get to in those days, but he'd let me talk to his assistants, and I just kept following him around."

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum writes that Alabama banks on star power.

The media guide didn't exactly leave the spring game platitudes on the front cover. On page 90, there is a chart of the last 10 years of A-Day crowds (seriously) starting in 1998 with the crowd of 8,968 going right up to this year. In case you were wondering, Mike Shula had 40,000 for his farewell A-Day. This spread goes for two pages and when you flip the book to page 92, you get a chart of the other 12 SEC schools and how they drew for their spring games starting with the Tide and going all the way down to Arkansas and Vanderbilt with a measly 2,000. There is another page of pictures and then there are two more of actual photos from the game. Could a Daniel A. Moore print commemorating the great moment be far behind?

In case you've lost track, that was six straight pages devoted to the A-Day game and if you add the second page of the book with the pictures from up above, that would mark seven total pages in a 208-page book. The media guide devoted a grand total of two pages exclusively to Bear Bryant. You may have heard of him.

The moral of this story: Bryant should have spent more time rustling up a crowd at A-Day than winning six national titles and 14 SEC crowns.

Oh, by the way, Gene Stallings was awarded two pages as well. So if you add up Bryant and Stallings' accomplishments in the media guide, it still pales to the epic spring game.

So what's really going on here?

Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Alabama football has put a temporary hold on Paul Bryant, Gene Stallings and everything that happened prior to Jan. 3, 2007.

Tony Barnhart, probably the most respected sportswriter covering the SEC, recently opined in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I don't know how many games Alabama is going to win, but this season is really about one thing: Using the star power of Nick Saban to remind people that the Crimson Tide has one of the most tradition-rich programs in the history of college football."

Also: South Carolina President Andrew Sorensen (former president at Alabama) is up to his old tricks.

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

***

The infrared rays are used for the formation of the image via infrared camera.  The backup camera is attached on the rear side of any device or vehicle to produce visual images clearly.  The size of mini digital camera is very small but it is very functional to give the visual images.  The styles and sizes of camera case are available in the market for branded cameras.

Tuesday
Aug072007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel checks out the USC program and finds the coaches surprisingly reluctant about early/spring freshman enrollment.

USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said the Trojans staff does not encourage freshmen to enroll in January. Instead, they do encourage the local signees, such as current freshman Aaron Corp of Villa Park, Calif., to come to every spring practice and every spring quarterback meeting.

"They don't get the physical reps," Sarkisian said, "but they got an awful lot of the mental reps. That got them a little bit of a head start into the summer as they enroll in summer school and they're throwing out on their own with the other guys. By the time that fall camp comes around, they've got a little idea of what's happening." All of that for "a little idea" of the Trojans' offense. If all that does is provide a little idea, why not encourage quarterbacks to enroll in January? "I think your senior year of high school, that time of your life, enjoy it," Sarkisian said. "Go to prom. Go to winter formal. Play baseball, whatever you do. If the kid's got his heart set on [enrolling early], and he wants to do it, we'd love to have him. … I think we've got a pretty good system of getting our guys in here and learning our system and pushing it on them as quickly as possible. But we also have a nice luxury of [not having] to force these kids to play that early. They get a chance to watch All-Pac-10, Heisman-type players in front of them and learn from them, on and off the field."

The article is part of an ongoing ESPN series titled "Evolution of Quarterbacks"

Also: Checking in with freshman "reporting day" at Auburn.  Lots of good quotes in here.

There's one big difference, though: All of a sudden, the players against whom these prized freshmen will line up can be four years older and stronger. That's where football equipment manager Jim Vanzandt comes in to protect them.

Vanzandt measured the scholarship freshmen over the summer for their helmet and pad sizes. He measured the invited walk-ons on Wednesday. Many freshmen don't realize he knows what he is doing.

"In high school, their pads didn't fit them," said Vanzandt, who has been working at Auburn since 2002. "They managed to protect themselves by being bigger and faster. Your helmet should fit tighter than they're used to and their shoulder pads should be tighter. Some of the defensive linemen will literally get their helmets slapped off their heads. They've never been slapped by somebody this big and fast."

Last August, Vanzandt said, freshman defensive lineman Byron Isom insisted on wearing a large helmet instead of a medium. It took one play against senior center Ben Grubbs, who became a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, for the face mask of Isom's large helmet to get shoved into his face. Isom wound up with a scraped nose and lips and got a medium helmet after practice.

Also: A 2007 State of the Union for college football.  Be sure and check out the picture of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan with short-cropped dreads.

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach looks at the early enrollment of freshman Florida quarterback Cameron Newton.  The kid's a walking talking awkward analogy maker.

He told the Florida student newspaper, The Alligator, that his experience this spring was "like throwing a little goldfish in the sea."

And -

"I think I've got a chance to play this fall," Newton said. "But you've still got to compete and put yourself in cruise control. You can't get relaxed. As soon as you get relaxed, somebody can jump ahead of you."

Regardless, the kid can play. 

Also: Big Ten Media Days notes.  Indiana's James Hardy looks to be improved, Michigan and Jim Harbaugh scuffle, Wisconsin's P.J. Hill slims down (we'll see), Jim Delaney backtracks on conference expansion talk, differing views on the text messaging ban and other notes.

Also: The pressure's on for out-of-nowhere Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett.

"I think people mature at different stages," said new Georgia Tech offensive coordinator John Bond, who was hired during the offseason from Northern Illinois. "I think he matured late as a high school player and kind of matured late in college. From talking to people here, I think it kind of clicked for him the last two or three weeks of the season."

Better late than never for Georgia Tech, which goes into this season trying to replace record-setting receiver Calvin Johnson (the No. 2 choice in the NFL draft after leaving Georgia Tech as a junior).

Bennett, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior, gives the Yellow Jackets more options in the passing game. Because Bennett is at least four inches taller than Ball, he'll be able to throw over the middle more often. Bond said Bennett also is capable of making a variety of throws, allowing the Yellow Jackets to install more pass routes.

"We've got more routes and different routes," said freshman receiver Demaryius Thomas, who has earned the moniker "Baby Calvin" from his teammates because of his ability to make spectacular catches. "We've got routes over the middle and on the sideline and more deep routes."

Also: What's Hot (and not) for 2007.

--- ESPN's Joe Schad writes about Virginia Tech returning to the field.  Not to be callous but this story was talked about non-stop on ESPN's College Football Live all last week and will most likely dominate the season opener of College GameDay.  I feel terrible about what happened and sports are a legitimate and helpful part of healing, but this is overkill and frankly the college football angle is very minor compared to the real tragedy.

Not that my input matters, but I'd rather enjoy a real "moment of silence" from the college football link to the slayings and have ESPN simply embargo the story until GameDay.  Put the VT logo inside all college football related broadcasts if you like, I won't blink.  Mention the story as necessary.  But we're being bludgeoned with it and being worn down before the season ever starts.  So stop!  Please.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel is back with another round of the Mailbag headlined by Big Ten expansion talk.

Why I love college football fans reason #1,033,059:

Did you know that a group of Nebraska fans in Phoenix actually pay a radio station there to broadcast the Huskers' network on Saturdays?

Also in The Mailbag - Steve Spurrier's SEC title talk, how to make an off-the-radar team like Utah State a power (Mandel nails it: find a quality coach), confusion over LSU's offense, the Mailbag Crush isn't going over so well with some readers, Mike Stoops' future at Arizona (patience!), Baylor gets no love, Georgia's non-championship expectations, more people confusing Sports Illustrated with ESPN and the obligatory SEC homer below.

What do you think about making the BCS Championship Game like the Little League World Series, whereby the SEC champion gets an automatic berth in the title game, and the rest of the world (other conferences) fights to play for the other slot. That might finally put the SEC on even ground with the other weaker conferences.
--Ryan, Atlanta

That kind of talk had quieted down the last two years and then Florida wins in a romp in a year where there was no "great" team and then it all starts up again.  Police your own, guys.

Also (from Mandel's blog): Pac-10 commish not dealing in reality.

--- Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn wonders if Michigan can live up to preseason expectations.

A man who fit the stereotypical profile of a booster -- a fat cat with slicked-back hair, chomping a wet, unlit cigar and drinking an iced tea -- had sidled up to the scrum of reporters to listen to Carr's remarks and was offering some under-his-breath commentary. Upon hearing the "if you don't meet those [expectations], you're going to have to deal" portion of Carr's reply, the man muttered, "You have to hear from people like me."

Such is the state of affairs for Michigan, where the scrutiny comes even heavier from the inside (the fans) than it does from the press.

--- CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd says LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is unblockable.

You have to understand what 64 tackles (8 1/2 for loss) means for a defensive tackle. Linebackers and defensive backs typically make the vast majority of stops for most defenses. No tackle was among the NCAA's top 100 tacklers last season.

Yet, Dorsey finished third on his team. Mix that in with the constant double teams and a 300-pound interior lineman averaging almost five tackles per game is amazing.

Also: Big Ten exploring the unsettling dangers of conference expansion.

Also: Joe Paterno keeps 'em waiting.

Also: Big Ten Preview.

Whiskey would rather maul you, than finesse you, even if it is one of its own.

Ask Josh Nettles. Mention the backup defensive back's name in the Badgers' locker room and you're likely to get a mix of pity and laughter. It was during spring practice 2006 that Nettles became part of recent Wisconsin lore.

Tracking down tailback P.J. Hill near the sideline, Nettles chose the wrong angle.

"It was one of the most amazing things I ever saw," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "P.J. lifted him up and took him three yards and threw him out of bounds. The guys' legs were up in the air. P.J. did it right in front of the defense.

"We'd never seen anything like that. It was like Earl Campbell."

Also: West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton expect big things in 2007.

"In camp, sometimes you can tell a freshman, they don't know what the hell they're doing," [West Virginia coach Rich] Rodriguez said. "Steve was running in circles but he was really, really fast. I can remember his first play as a starter versus Virginia Tech. He was tossed the ball, then dropped the ball, then reversed directions. It was the most spectacular six-yard run you've ever seen."

--- CBS SportsLine's J. Darin Darst previews the Sun Belt (!).

Also: Chad Henne and Michigan hope to overcome late-season slides.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes calls Gainesville the best college sports city.

Also: New Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski is set up for success.

Also: Butch Davis can turn North Carolina around, but not immediately.

Also: Six sleepers ready to stir things up.  There's some sensible stuff in here mixed with some crazy talk.  I'll let you sort through all of that.

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart says no doy to talk about Nick Saban's intensity.  Solid interview with some new anecdotes mixed in with some of Saban's oft-repeated talking points since SEC Media Days.  Enigma, no?

Also: New Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe is ready for the big time.

Famous last words:

He's a coach's kid who was groomed for this job, which he told me would be his last.

Also: Coaches poll analysis - who didn't pick USC?

Also: Illinois coach Ron Zook sets his sights on a bowl game.

That talent haul didn't go unnoticed across the nation. In fact, many wondered how Zook was able to lure blue chippers to a black and blue program that has won just four games -- one in the Big Ten -- in Zook's two years. The New York Times did its best to unearth dirty deeds, but nothing was found.

"I had that paper call me last winter," a Big Ten assistant at another school told me earlier this summer. "But I told them I didn't know anything. I don't know what they were getting after."

--- Rivals.com/The Sporting News' Mike Farrell looks at the top freshman tight ends.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers his weekly mailbag and says Steve Spurier's "got that twinkle".  Also inside: whether USC would be different in the SEC and whether or not Trev said Penn State was in a rebuilding year.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell says Big Ten expansion doesn't make sense.

Also: 2007 Football Schedule Planner - Week 11

Also: The voters in this year's USA Today/Coaches poll (below).

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech; Mike Bellotti, Oregon; Bret Bielema, Wisconsin; Larry Blakeney, Troy; Bobby Bowden, Florida State; Tommy Bowden, Clemson; Jeff Bower, Southern Mississippi; Art Briles, Houston; Mack Brown, Texas; Bill Callahan, Nebraska; Neil Callaway, UAB; Lloyd Carr, Michigan; Mario Cristobal, Florida International; Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State; Bill Cubit, Western Michigan; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Butch Davis, North Carolina; Bill Doba, Washington State; Randy Edsall, Connecticut; Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M; Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee; Jeff Genyk, Eastern Michigan; Joe Glenn, Wyoming; Jim Grobe, Wake Forest; Dan Hawkins, Colorado; Pat Hill, Fresno State; Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville; Mike Leach, Texas Tech; Rocky Long, New Mexico; Sonny Lubick, Colorado State; Bill Lynch, Indiana; Doug Martin, Kent State; Les Miles, LSU; Shane Montgomery, Miami (Ohio); Hal Mumme, New Mexico State; Joe Novak, Northern Illinois; Houston Nutt, Arkansas; Tom O'Brien, North Carolina State; George O'Leary, Central Florida; Gary Patterson, TCU; Chris Petersen, Boise State; Mark Richt, Georgia; Mike Riley, Oregon State; Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia; Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic; Mark Snyder, Marshall; Frank Solich, Ohio; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Jeff Tedford, California; Joe Tiller, Purdue; Bob Toledo, Tulane; Dick Tomey, San Jose State; Jim Tressel, Ohio State; Tommy Tuberville, Auburn; Charlie Weis, Notre Dame; Tyrone Willingham, Washington; Ron Zook, Illinois.

--- The Rivals.com team is still cranking out content at a pace I can't keep up with and adequately link to on here.  To catch up on the last week of work, click this link and pick and choose the most interesting stories dating back to July 30.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside writes that mid-majors (can we use a different term?  That's sooooo college basketball.  Try "Non-BCS" teams) are no longer a surprise in the Top 25.

For the first time since the Bowl Championship Series began in 1998, three teams from conferences without automatic BCS bids are ranked in the preseason USA TODAY Coaches' Poll: No. 22 TCU, No. 23 Boise State and No. 24 Hawaii.

"I think there's narrowing," says Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Karl Benson, who has two teams in the preseason coaches' poll for the first time since USA TODAY took it over in 1991. "I think there's almost an expectation that a team (from the WAC or Mountain West) will emerge."

--- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart continues to blog away.  Notable: (1) Is Steve Spurrier Right or Wrong? (2) Questions About The Coaches Poll.

--- The Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls says the Cotton Bowl is still pushing for a spot in the BCS rotation.

Also: Top five for 'Horns?

Mack Brown declined to say if he thinks his Texas Longhorns deserve to be in the top five of the preseason college football polls.

“I don’t think anybody is,” Brown said. “I still despise the preseason polls. They’re just based on who finishes well in their bowls and who has the most starters back. Potentially, we can win all the games.”

Mack misses the point of the polls. They were created in the first place to build interest in the upcoming season and heighten the buzz, and they are no different today. Besides, when Oklahoma won its national championship in 2000, the Sooners were ranked 19th in one preseason poll and 20th in another.

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick says the Big 10 and Pac-10 are sour about a playoff.

You know, is it possible that maybe, just maybe, those two conferences have their reasons for not supporting a playoff?  That maybe they had valid reasons to not expand their conferences or create conference title games?  That maybe in spite of the extra cash, they're not the happiest with how things have gone since we decided we could somehow invent a fair and reasonable championship within a sport assembled in such a way as to make that impossible?

And then we turn around and yell at the guys with their wits about them who aren't into remaking the game every few years when people clamor for an elusive championship or are reluctant to drive further down that "money grab" road others have chosen.

Give it a rest already.  They probably think just as poorly of what you support as you do of what they support.  The difference is they're in the public minority on this (although their ability to block most change gives them power) and don't run around with this frustrated narrative that ignores so many of the reasons the various sides feel the way they feel.  All they're saying is "no".  Get over it.

The following should almost be reason enough to be "sour" about a playoff, and respected mightily:

I DON'T WANT COLLEGE FOOTBALL TO BE JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER MAJOR SPORT OUT THERE

Simmer down, show some appreciation for what the current game is like, and go watch the NFL if you want a playoff.

Also: Terry Bowden considers coaching again.

Also: There was so much more for Tyrone Prothro to do.

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum says the 2007 Iron Bowl will send shock waves if Alabama wins.

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Jul312007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***

--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman analyzes teams 51 to 75 in ESPN's "Ladder 119" countdown of the top 119 programs in the last decade.

There is a nether region of programs in college football that tend to be just decent enough that their coaches retain their jobs. Yet these teams never get over the proverbial hump and make it to a bowl game you'd watch for more than 10 minutes. That's the profile of many of these programs ranked from 51 to 75.

They usually teeter from "pretty good" to "mediocre," depending on the season, and are rarely much better or worse than that. It's a strange lot in life. The big question is: Can any of them ever jump the tracks and move up to legitimate heavyweight status where they are the perennial top-20 fixtures that blue-chippers grow up rooting for?

Also: Irish eyes smile on high-schooler Crist

[B]ut [Notre Dame coach Charlie] Weis' pitch ultimately won him over.

"His big selling point was his quarterback development and his tutelage of Tom Brady and Brady Quinn," Crist said of Weis. "Just being able to work with a guy like that drew me to Notre Dame. He said there is no one who is gonna make you a better player than I can. He was so confident.

"And, as coach Weis said, verbatim, 'I'm in love with nobody but my wife,' meaning there's always gonna be a chance. The best player is gonna play, and that was something that really stuck with me."

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel says Pete Carroll's coaching propelled USC to the top of ESPN's "Ladder 119" rankings.

USC got off to a slow start in the last 10 years. Carroll didn't arrive until December 2000, and anyone who recalls that the coaches in the previous four years were Paul Hackett and John Robinson either is a diehard Trojan or needs a hobby.

The point is that you could make the case that USC didn't dominate the decade long enough to deserve to be No. 1. But the most interesting observation to come out of this ranking is the realization that none of the teams has been dominant for 10 years. Bob Stoops has made No. 5 Oklahoma into a power over his eight seasons, but in the two years before his arrival, the Sooners won a total of nine games. No. 4 Florida endured the moderate three-year dip under Ron Zook. The only team that can make a good case for 10 consecutive successful seasons is Ohio State, which is No. 2. The Buckeyes, however, have one fewer national championship than the Trojans, and their four seasons under John Cooper in this decade produced a lot of wins, but not enough of them in big games.

Also: Two memorable encounters with Bill Walsh

Also: Harbaugh treasures time spent with Walsh

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach says underachievers and overachievers highlight teams 26 through 50 in ESPN's "Ladder 119" countdown.

Also: Steve Spurrier has high hope for Gamecocks

"We won our fourth bowl game in school history this year, by the way," Spurrier said. "The history there is not all that super-duper. ... What we need to do is understand that the object of a football season is to try to win your conference championship. I really believe that."

--- ESPN's Pat Forde tackles Pac-10 Media Day with the attendant Jim Harbaugh strangeness and USC love-fest.

Then, on Thursday at his first Pacific-10 football media day, Harbaugh sent a jolt through a sleepy room of sports writers by declaring that this USC team "may be the best team in the history of college football."

Figuring that perhaps Harbaugh had confused the current USC team with the Matt Leinart-Reggie Bush 2004 unit that went 13-0 and seal-clubbed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, he was asked if he meant what he said.

Harbaugh repeated the statement. "They may be the best team in the history of college football. My opinion."

Given one more chance at clarifying, backtracking or otherwise softening that opinion, Harbaugh stood in the pocket and delivered a third time.

"I think their current team is that good," he said.

Since there wasn't enough time to check Harbaugh's concussion history before Carroll came into the room, we had to assume the Cardinal coach was of sound mind at the podium. Naturally, I couldn't wait to ask Carroll what he thought of the latest from his new nemesis up the coast -- because if there's one thing coaches hate more than fumbles in the red zone, it's hyperbolic praise from the opposition.

"Gotta love Jim, don't you?" Carroll chirped, making it rather clear how little he loves Jim. "I'm glad he thinks that."

Do you think it, Pete?

"There's no way I'd ever try to understand what that's about. … Thanks, Jim," Carroll responded.

Also: Quarterbacks earn respect the hard way.  Good read.

But it takes a special breed to be a great quarterback, with a unique mix of attributes. This is Tedford's five-part recruiting checklist when shopping for a QB:

1. Mental and physical toughness. "Obviously, physically, you're going to take a pounding, and you've got to get up and have your team follow you. You have to be mentally tough because if you throw a couple picks, you've got to be tough enough to come back."

2. Intelligence. "You've got to be able to understand and control the offense."

3. Competitiveness. "We look for a guy who wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line."

4. Escape dimension. "Not everything happens the way it's drawn up. We want a guy who can elude the rush and make something happen when a play breaks down."

5. Natural throwing motion. "He's got to be able to get the ball around the field."

--- ESPN's Bill Curry, in respose to ESPN's "Ladder 119" feature, says rankings are subjective and sometimes irrational.

Mike Golic once said he liked the schools with the most food. Not the best food, but the most food. He once ate an entire turkey leg on camera, sneaking behind Dave Barnett and me while we were doing a two-shot. The now svelte Golic will have to devise a new ranking system, I suppose.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel says Virginia Tech now has an image problem in the wake of the Mike Vick dogfighting scandal.

I would hope the rest of the country does not view Vick's alleged transgressions as a reflection on Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech had nothing to do with it. However, because Beamer took a lot of heat for babying the similarly troubled Marcus Vick during his stint there, I imagine there will be many who lump the two together as an indictment against the program.

The good news is, Virginia Tech will have a chance this fall to supplant that image. Despite all the great teams and marquee names (Kevin Jones, DeAngelo Hall, et al.) who have come through the program since, the Hokies' defining image to this date remains that of Vick running circles around Florida State's defense that night in New Orleans.

But if Tech were to go on a national-title run this fall and truly deliver a Hollywood-like story, the program would finally take on a new identity sans-Vick.

Also in The Mailbag: why schools who never factor in the recruiting wars manage to factor in national rankings on the field, the difference between Florida State and Miami, a Mr. Irrelevant for BCS programs, Notre Dame's "home" road games, asking SI about ESPN's apparent disrespect for Georgia, differentiating the successes at Louisville and Kentucky, more Mailbag Crush talk, the risks of playing a legit OOC schedule for non-BCS contenders and offending emails.

Also: Heisman favorite McFadden must carry the Hogs in 2007

"I know it's going to be crazy," McFadden said of the season-long Heisman hoopla. "If you have a good game one week, they say he's a great Heisman candidate, and if you come back and have a bad game, it's, 'We're not sure if he's a Heisman candidate.' It probably will bother me, if I'm going to be honest, but I won't allow it to affect my playing ability."

Also: Mandel's Blog.  Steve Spurrier relegated to Opening Act at SEC Media Days, Nick Saban takes center stage (again), Gators' Meyer could use help from Goodell and 'Best in history?' Slow down there, Jim.  This blog format fits Mandel well, lots of goodies in those entries.

Also: College football and breaking the rules.

The basic tenant to keep in mind is that when a school gets nailed by the NCAA for cheating, that doesn't necessarily mean it's indisputably dirtier than its competitors. It's just that the perpetrators happened to be sloppy, stupid or unlucky enough to actually get caught.

--- CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd says expansion has done nothing to boost ACC play at this point.

Also: If you ain't cheatin', you're welcome in Slive's SEC

The magic date is June 11, 2008 -- 325 days and counting. If everyone behaves, that's when every SEC school will be out of NCAA jail, as a group, for the first time in 26 years.

Slive is crossing his fingers, toes and probably himself in the name of the Father, the Son and ... Holy Cow, let's pray it doesn't happen again.

"You've got to try," Auburn's Tommy Tuberville said. "Our league hasn't had a great reputation."

Also: Nick Saban can slog through the insanity of being head man at Alabama

"I have two gray suits and two gray sport coats," Saban said, leaning into the backseat of his Mercedes on the way to the SEC media days 75 minutes away in the Birmingham suburbs. "That's about all I have that goes with the Alabama colors. I try to wear Alabama colors to satisfy the fans. I get an e-mail the other day from a guy who's a big Auburn fan: 'They're laughing at you because you wear the same suit all the time.'

"How can I please everyone?"

Also: Little consensus on handling bad behavior

"I have a general philosophy about how to do things. If you want to, you can make a book full of rules. The key is to get your guys to make good decisions so you get them to rely on right and wrong.

"If I do this (rules) for four years, all I've done at the end of four years is prove they can follow directions. When do they become decision makers?"

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes finds that the Pac-10 will not agree to a "Plus One" playoff format.

Also: Terry Bowden's coming back to coaching.

Also: Scouting the ACC And Pac-10 at their respective Media Days.

USC coach Pete Carroll: "At a time when sports needs something good to happen, college football is coming."

Also: Virginia's Groh has some winning to do.

Also: Will new school president Gordon Gee shake up Ohio State's athletic department?

Also: Inside Dish.  Tinkering with the tailbacks at LSU, Willie Williams' role in the Louisville defense and the ACC's future plans for its championship game.

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart says it's too easy to be too hard on the Huskers.

"I flew down here this morning on a private jet," [Nebraska coach Bill Callahan] says. "The thing can go Mach I. It took us about an hour and a half."

Also: Tommy Bowden is circling the drain at Clemson.

Also: Scouting the Big 12 Media Day.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no representative in San Antonio, despite the fact Missouri was picked to win the North for the first time ever. One word: amazing.

Also: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach stands out at Big 12 Media Day.

Also: Sitting down with "St. Nick" Saban.

--- The Sporting News'/Rivals.com's Mike Farrell writes the early demise of Notre Dame quarterback recruit Jimmy Clausen has been greatly exaggerated.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden looks forward to college football 2007 ... and his hopeful return to the game in 2008.

Folks, I just can't sit and watch anymore. I need to be standing on the sideline. I need to reach down and pick some grass to toss into the wind. I need to scream in a quarterback's ear. I need to reach up and grab that linebacker by the facemask. I need to call the play that wins – or loses – the game. As much as I love writing about the game, I just need to be a part of the action again.

I sure am excited for the 2007 season, but I'm even more excited about what may come in 2008.

--- CSTV's Brian Curtis remembers Bill Walsh.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers reader questions in his latest Mailbag.  Inside: The Big East schedule strength issue, Trev's sleeper team in the ACC and the best coach in college football history.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell checks in with weeks nine and ten of his 2007 college football schedule planner.

Also: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer's burden in the wake of the shooting and murder spree that happened back in April on the school's campus.

--- CSTV's Brian Jones checks in to break down the SEC in 2007.

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson finds Florida coach Urban Meyer in a cheerful mood (among many other observations) at the Florida Sports Writers Association College Football Media Days.

--- The Rivals.com staff continues its prolific pace covering conference media days and whatnot.  See this week's archive for all their content here.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside writes that the turbulent offseason has united Darren McFadden and all his Razorback teammates.

Also: Nick Saban's 'rock star' welcome continues at Alabama.

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse checks in with a round of College Football Insider.

Also: Don't believe a word Nick Saban says.

--- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart blogs away on all things SEC.

--- The Austin-American Statesman's Kirk Bohls checks in with a bevy of entries from Big 12 Media Day including Bill Callahan's search for fullbacks, Gene Chizik's heartbreak over Texas' loss to Kansas State last yearMike Leach's praise for new North Texas coach Todd Dodge and a stable full of big-name visitors who study the Red Raider offense.

--- The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Ted Miller sits down for a candid talk with one of college football's ultimate good guys, Washington State coach Bill Doba.

What makes this all the more excruciating is that Doba couldn't find solace last season from the place he'd turned for the previous 43 years. His beloved wife, Judy, who he met as a freshman at Ball State, died after a two-year battle with cancer in April 2006, meaning thereafter Doba took his professional burden home to an empty house echoing with memories.

He admits it wasn't easy. Still isn't. With some reluctance, he'll talk about it with a catch in his voice, but he also asks that the tape recorder be turned off. He is as affable and as open as any man in college coaching, but he doesn't want his personal pain detailed again for public consumption.

Most folks wouldn't understand anyway. And, though he doesn't say it, he seems weary of people's frequent expressions of sympathy.

He covets distraction. He knows winning is great medicine. So he's thrown himself back into his work with renewed zeal. He wants to chuck his hot seat into a Pullman snow drift this fall because fans are cheering again, not because he's a good guy who's been through a lot.

That's why he decided to take over as his own defensive coordinator -- the post he held under Mike Price for nine of his 18 seasons on the Palouse -- when Robb Akey was hired as Idaho's head coach during the offseason.

He missed the hands-on teaching. He wants to be involved. He doesn't want to have any regrets when the season ends Nov. 24 in Seattle.

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick finds rival coaches keeping a close eye on Nick Saban.

In his seven months at Alabama, Saban's name has turned up more than any other coach's in other schools' allegations of secondary NCAA rules violations, an official with knowledge of the infractions process says.

That doesn't mean he's breaking more rules than anyone else - or that he's breaking any rules at all. It just shows how closely rival coaches are monitoring the Alabama staff.

Coaches at other schools never seem willing to admit to filing any official complaints about any other coaches. It seems all coaches love to talk about how, if they suspect a rival coach of doing something inappropriate, they call that coach and settle it just between themselves.

But those same coaches who say they haven't officially complained about Saban all say they know of coaches who have.

What they're complaining about, if true, would all appear to be secondary violations in nature - improper contacts with recruits, for instance - and allegations of this kind are made by coaches against each other almost every week.

Even if proved true, individual secondary violations occur so frequently that, unless the NCAA determines they occurred consistently and willfully, they rarely bring any sort of serious action against the school.

In fact, a person familiar with the NCAA's handling of such matters told me a certain number of secondary violations are tolerated by the NCAA. If anything, NCAA officials often get suspicious when a major school with a broad-based athletics program self-reports only two or three secondary violations in a year. The NCAA understands it is almost impossible not to accidentally cross the line occasionally in the course of doing ordinary business.

Also: Tommy Tuberville and his Auburn Tigers, taken for granted.

Tuberville spent his share of time in front of the largest contingent of national media ever to attend an SEC football media days event talking about everything except, it seemed, his own team.

Also: Cheating refs and what the SEC does to prevent issues that can destroy the integrity of the game.

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum says Steve Spurrier tops the list of the SEC's best coaches.
***
Phew!  That took ... forever.  Maybe I should throw in the towel around "Media Day" season next year?
***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Jul242007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel opens up his mailbag.  There's the expected reaction to his "The 100" feature from several weeks back.  Something about too much Alabama/Notre Dame talk (huh?!), not enough friendliness to the west coast, and a generational bias.

Inside: Rehashing the Ohio State/Miami game and what should be remembered from it (the bogus pass interference, of course!), an interesting wartime show of sportsmanship between the Army and Navy, the exclusion of college football's first game (Rutgers vs. Princeton), an argument over the quality of the game in the past (segregation, lack of the forward pass, etc.), "The Play" coming in at number two on the list, no "Earthquake Game", grousing over Maisel's exclusion of the "Bluegrass Miracle" play (overrated), 1931 USC/Notre Dame, Dan Marino to John Brown 1982 Sugar Bowl, recollections of "Bang the Drum Slowly" and "The Southpaw" and the rapidly aging discussion on his reference to "Rovian" tactics used to submarine Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.

--- ESPN's Pat Forde ranks the D-IA programs from top to bottom in an ESPN special: "Ladder 119".  First up?  Teams 101 to 119 with the rest to be published throughout this week. 

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel answers his Mailbag.

Inside: Husker fans cranked up about Mandel nearly including coach Bill Callahan on his list of the nation's worst coaches (a spirited defense!), some (relatively speaking) "hidden gems" to watch for this year (DeMarco Murray, Patrick Turner, Matt Flynn, Everette Brown and Noel Devine), lots more USC/Reggie Bush scandal talk, Georgia Tech headed towards 10 wins? college fantasy football picks, the unthinkable thought of SEC teams hitting the road in November to challenging locales, Vanderbilt's SEC title chances and a Nebraska fan asking for respect.

Finally -- and this doesn't apply just to Callahan but to nearly all the NFL-bred coaches in the collegiate ranks today -- you do not win championships in college anymore by playing not to lose (as they often do in the pros). It's a huge pet peeve of mine and a common theme among the worst coaches nominees (see Dorrell, Karl; Gailey, Chan). The strange thing is, Callahan has shown he's more than willing to break out the flea flickers and other trick plays, but in last year's USC and Oklahoma games, and when the game was on the line against Auburn, he retreated to all-out, run-it-into-the-line-three-straight-times-and-play-defense mode. I can't emphasize this enough. I hate that.

Also: Louisville enters the Steve Kragthorpe era.

"I was blown away by what Steve did at Tulsa," said South Florida coach Jim Leavitt. "If Louisville could even be stronger, with him they are."

At Tulsa, Kragthorpe earned notoriety for running much the same type of creative, wide-open offense for which Louisville has become synonymous. Kragthorpe's Tulsa offense was similar enough to Petrino's that he and the Cardinals' returning assistants (including offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm, Brian's brother) were able to merge the two fairly smoothly and simply change some terminology.

"It's interesting," Kragthorpe noted this week at Big East Media Days. "I worked for Kevin Gilbride in 2002 [with the Bills]. He had worked for Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville. Bobby [Petrino] subsequently came to Jacksonville and picked up a lot of the same things I brought from Buffalo to Tulsa."

In Mandel's blog this week: the unlikely excitement surrounding Big East Media Days, Steve Slaton and Pat White unplugged and Missouri: the makings of a champ?

It turns out Slaton and White are also YouTube fiends, and they’ve seen practically all of the fan-produced highlight reels out there. Asked if he’s seen a certain other YouTube clip – the one of incoming teammate Noel Devine’s high-school exploits – White giddily replies, “Have I?”

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney publishes his ACC Media Day notebook.

Also: The ACC's new coaches all face unique challenges.

Strange quote award goes to DeMario Pressley speaking about North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien:

"It's intimidation on purpose," said senior defensive tackle DeMario Pressley. "He's just quiet and he gets straight to the point. He's like an arrow: there's no messing around. 'This is what I want and this is how it's going to be.'"

--- CBS SportsLine's Dennis Dodd says the Big East is the home of the hottest, most comfortable coaches.

"I just sat there one day and laughed," said commissioner Mike Tranghese, giddy about his sudden fortune. "Could this have happened three years ago?"

No. In fact, the Big East wasn't happening three years ago. Stripped to the bone by ACC expansion, Tranghese put on a brave face and hoped. The league inched along until West Virginia beat Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl. Then three teams went into last November undefeated. Louisville won the league, then the Orange Bowl. Rutgers won its first bowl game. West Virginia won 11, losing only to Louisville and South Florida, possibly the next power to rise in the Big East.

Predictably, Big East coaches became hot commodities. Bobby Petrino broke promises, but not many hearts, in Louisville by going to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Michigan State snatched up Cincinnati's Mark Dantonio.

However, Rutgers' Greg Schiano could have taken the Miami job without interviewing but stayed, signing a long extension through 2016 that will pay him $1.6 million per year. Leavitt had signed a long-term extension in November 2005. Despite that, he had to stamp out offseason fires after his name came up at Alabama (again) and Miami.

Read on to learn about South Florida coach Jim Leavitt's various and many contract offers at big-time schools.

Also: Offseason Top 25

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes writes the Big East is good, but not national title good.

Matt needs a fact-checker ...

Let me run some numbers by you. In this decade, no BCS champion has finished worse than eighth in the nation in scoring defense. That was Texas in 2002, when the Longhorns gave up all of 16.4 ppg.

Wasn't that Ohio State?

Also: Is damage irrevocable for Miami's offense?

"People would come up to me in school and say, 'You guys are too predictable on offense,'" [Miami center] Morse said. "If they can see that, what do you think defensive coordinators can see?"

Also: Deacon doubters, this is your wakeup call.

Also: Inside Dish.  Ben Mauk's status at Cincinnati, Urban Meyer's strategy with redshirts and the Big 12's commissioner search continues.

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart says Big East media days are as fun as football.

Schiano has lots to say about his 2007 Scarlet Knights.

"Do I think (QB) Mike Teel will be better?" Schiano says. "No doubt. We'll have a good line, strong backs and a fast receiving corps. I really like Kenny Britt. He reminds me of a faster Michael Irvin."

And I have to ask about the helicopters Schiano takes to some recruiting visits.

"Yeah, it's kind of neat," he says. "There's a lot of helicopter traffic in the New York area, and we have a trade out with a company. It helps me get around quickly."

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez looks casual and cool -- as always. I like Coach Rod a lot. Maybe it's because we share a similar hairstyle!

"Have you met my guys?" Coach Rod asks. "This is Pat White, Steve Slaton, Keilen Dykes"

When I tell Coach Rod that I tabbed his Mountaineers to play USC for the BCS title, he chuckles and rolls his head.

"Why did you do that?" he says. "Well, we'll see. No doubt, we should be pretty good on offense. We always are trying to get better. I love how my guys always fight back, no matter how far down we get in games."

Also: Eight most-watched quarterback battles.

Also: Scouting the Big East including an interview with Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese.

SN: How much longer will you be commish?

Tranghese: I have three years remaining on my deal, and I'll look at it each year. But I don't see myself working beyond the end of my current deal. And I would expect turnover at many of the BCS commissioner positions in the next five years as many of us are aging.

Also: Heck yes, the Big East can win the national title.

West Virginia's offense would give a lot of established powers absolute fits.  Now about that defense ...

--- The Sporting News'/Rivals.com's Mike Farrell says texting is a viable recruiting tool.

In talking to many prospects over the last few years, text messaging simply isn't a big issue to them. Some like texting better than receiving phone calls because the athletes have time to consider their answers or to formulate a list of questions before they respond. Also, they don't have to respond to a text message. They can cancel text messaging on their cell phones altogether if it becomes too invasive.

The fact is most high school students today use this method of communication. They like it. As a high school athlete, there are worse things in the world than being recruited by numerous college football programs. I know players who would love to receive one or two text messages a month.

Here's hoping that the NCAA Board of Directors decides to embrace technology rather than run from it come August 9.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers some more questions this week.

Inside: Nebraska being overlooked? Michigan or Wisconsin in the Big Ten and talk about the Cover Two defense.

Let me tell you, as someone who's been out there, that Cover 2 is not always the best coverage, period. If that was the case, that's the only coverage you would ever see. The fact is there's no one coverage that's going to be the end-all. Football is too sophisticated. Cover 2 is an important, but small part of coverage. So much of what you do depends on your personnel. If you don't have a good middle linebacker who has ability to get some depth in pass coverage, Cover 2 is worthless. If you don't have safeties who can show you range of motion or stand in the box when needed, you have no coverage. And if you have great lock-down corners, Cover 2 nullifies their talents. If you're going to play Cover 2 for four quarters, you're going to get beat in the college game. Cover 2 has weaknesses. That's why good defensive coordinators run a whole lot of different coverages.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell writes the Big East is smiling wide this summer after a successful 2006.

As proof, coaches and media members were invited to go to town on lobster and stay at a posh Rhode Island resort for Big East Media Week.  Kudos, as those rubber chicken dinners get tiresome for the pundits and writers.

Also: 2007 Schedule Planner, Week Nine.

--- Rivals.com's writers went crazy this week as there's way too much content to possibly link.  Check this link and scan for your favorites from July 17 to July 24.

--- USA Today's Kelly Whiteside writes the football field is canvas for Rutgers runningback Ray Rice.

Rutgers will introduce a SeeRayRun.com site to promote Rice for the Heisman. But in a way, his girlfriend, Scarlet Knights point guard Matee Ajavon, launched his campaign in March. During her postgame TV interview after the Big East title game, Ajavon, the tournament MVP, shouted into the camera: "Ray Rice for the Heisman!"

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse checks in with a "College Football Insider"

Also: Blue Devils have optimistic outlook despite years and years of losing.

--- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart has plenty more updates in his blog.  Extensive ACC and SEC offseason list-making to enjoy.

--- The Birmingham (AL) News' Ray Melick writes that Ohio State has an outspoken president in Gordon Gee.

And for his own reasons, Gee opposes a playoff.

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum says give the Iron Bowl edge to Auburn, for now.

USA Today oddsman Danny Sheridan reveals some early lines for big SEC and national games if that's your thing. 

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

Tuesday
Jul172007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!
***
A "weekly must-read"
***
--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel writes a tribute to a baseball book that changed his life after learning of the passing of its author.

I always meant to interview [author Mark] Harris, or at least write him a letter and tell him how much his book meant to me. I never did. The best alternative I have these many years later is to share "The Southpaw" with everyone who loves good writing and loves sports. Pick it up soon.

--- Continuing our off-topic trend (dog days, anyone?), ESPN's Pat Forde gets in-depth with the story of a 14-year-old basketball player already committed to USC.

Luckily there appears to be a limit to this in football where player development is far less predictable.

"There's a bigger chance of misevaluation, the earlier it is," said Kentucky's [coach Billy] Gillispie, who inherited a powerhouse program that was running unusually low on buzz. "There's some question about how guys are going to continue to work and continue to grow. There's some danger involved.

"But I think the positives outweigh the negatives. So many guys are playing so much basketball so much earlier, against great competition. There are guys playing 365 days a year against great competition."

This is clearly not the case in football.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel lists the nation's 10 best and five worst coaches.

You can also call this: the easy way to make 14 out of 15 coaches unwilling to return your phone call.

Also in The Mailbag: a discussion on the importance of the safety position, E.J. Manuel's commitment to Florida State and its impact in the recruiting world, what it will take for Darren McFadden to win the Heisman, stomping down "upset" talk about the Michigan/Appalachian State game, upset talk for the Washington/Ohio State game, whether Syracuse will ever be good again [yes! -ed], argument over the semantics of "committee" vs. "tandem" when it comes to shared backfields, British college football fans, Jordana Spiro talk.

Also: Mandel returns to the blog talking about Oklahoma's punishment and what it means for USC. Memo to SI: add "permalinks" to your blog pages so people can you know, link to the damn things the easy way.

The longer the NCAA remains silent on the matter, the more the conspiracy theories grow among fans of other programs around the country incredulous that the Trojans -- who fans of other national-title contenders would no doubt love to see taken down a peg -- are dodging this bullet. Wednesday’s Oklahoma news won’t help matters.

I've heard from a contact that one theory floating around USC is that the NCAA investigation will linger for another year or more. The investigation and the cloud of suspicion becomes the punishment, hitting at USC's prestige and its ability to recruit. The Trojans have so far recruited well, but it's hard not to imagine where they haven't lost a player or two who is convinced by other schools that the NCAA is going to bring the hammer at some unknown point in the future.

If true, it's not exactly a postseason ban or vacated titles, but is certain to have a real world cost to USC's prestige which matters with parents and recruits.

One quibble:

But I’m guessing most of the public doesn’t care about such semantics. Most people are going to read the line about OU "failing to monitor" its athletes’ employment situation and say, "Well, shouldn’t USC have been monitoring Bush’s dealings with agents?" According to Yahoo!, the agents were on the sideline and in the locker room throughout Bush’s final season.

To be accurate, it doesn't appear that Bush and his family mixed with any of the agents around USC (nor have other players, to our knowledge). The people at the center of this investigation were based in San Diego County, linked to Native American casinos and East County gangs quite a distance away from Los Angeles at the USC campus. This is how USC beats that charge, since it's likely that Bush's father/family got mixed up with that whole mess back at home. It's really a San Diego story which is probably why it took so long for people to become aware of it. Once again misinformation rules the day.

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes tapes a college football preview show and comes away feeling there's a bias against west coast teams.

It didn't help that he was working alongside the king of SEC homers, Tim Brando (along with CBS broadcast mate Spencer Tillman who couldn't be bigger SEC shills if they tried). Mind you, it's just plain foolish to be talking UCLA and national championship this year, but there's room for an equity of views which just never happens with the talking heads. We need less Gary Danielsons and more Pat Hadens, methinks.

Also: Oklahoma's appeal of its punishment is an attempt at getting "wiggle room" if other misdeeds ever come to light.

Also: Numbers don't tell the story of overrated and underrated quarterbacks and tailbacks.

Also: From Big East Media Days, Hayes writes that Kentucky may rain on the Big East's parade

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart recalls a conversation with new Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and frets about the difficulties of what the Stanford job has become.

Also: Heisman winners for life.

Notre Dame's John Huarte, the 1964 winner, has his Heisman on display at his old high school, Mater Dei, in Santa Ana, Calif. "I figured it was better there," says Huarte. "Maybe it can plant a seed, inspire someone to do something they thought wasn't possible."

It worked for Southern California's Matt Leinart, who went on to win the 2004 Heisman after attending Mater Dei. No doubt, glimpsing the trophy on his way to geometry class had an impact.

Also: NCAA penalties won't hurt the Sooners.

There seems to be a growing consensus after the initial shock that Oklahoma got off light. I still don't like the idea of vacating wins since the school didn't appear to willingly "cheat". Just dock 'em more scholarships, don't take away from the other members of the team who did win (and lose) those games.

Also: Dienhart's at Big East Media Days to write that good times will only get better for the league

--- The Sporting News'/Rivals.com's Mike Farrell visits the nation's top recruit and learns his "gym" is actually a cramped garage full of workout equipment provided by an assistant coach because the school can't afford a weight room.

Good read, contrasting Pryor with the materially gifted world of last year's top recruit Jimmy Clausen.

--- CSTV's Trev Alberts answers another round of emails. Today's topics: Oklahoma's punishment, Alabama superior to Auburn (?) and repeat talk with the Gators.

I think the reason that the penalties were the way they were was because the NCAA had just gotten done doing the Kelvin Sampson basketball probation investigation. It's like if you have a kid and he misbehaves and you need to discipline him, yet he turns right around a short time later and there's another incident where you feel he needs to be disciplined. You're going to come down more harshly the next time. That may not be fair in Oklahoma's case because the two events aren't tied together, but the one thing the NCAA has always talked about is institutional control and making sure there isn't an atmosphere that lends itself to infractions. I think the fact that the basketball program had issues, right or wrong, made the penalties for football stiffer.

--- CSTV's Adam Caparell says expectations are rising in Steve Spurrier's third year at South Carolina.

Also: Caparell is up to week eight of the 2007 "Football Schedule Planner"

--- CSTV's Brian Jones breaks down the Big East and the Pac-10.

--- CSTV's Jerry Palm says the 12-game season creates opportunities for "Championship Subdivision" teams

--- Rivals.com's Olin Buchanan: Olin's Mailbag.

Today's topics: Bob Stoops' "revised" career winning percentage, SEC yada yada yada, Virginia Tech's national title hopes, Tim Tebow's Heisman hopes, Southern Miss talking undefeated season (nevermind that Tennessee game, heh), and the unearned hoopla surrounding new North Carolina State coach Tom O'Brien.

Attention media folks: a snub is a snub (is a snub is a snub).  In discussing the SEC's relative strengths, Buchanan wrote this:

Within the last 10 seasons the SEC has boasted three national champions – Tennessee in 1998, LSU in 2003 and Florida in 2006. Auburn also went undefeated in 2004, but was not given the opportunity to play for the national championship.

Oregon had one loss in 2001/2002 and was not given the opportunity to play for the national championship.  Why carry water for Auburn and not Oregon?  Both teams would have likely gone on to serious drubbings against Miami and USC, making the whole grievance tour all the more tiresome.  In the meantime, just be fair will ya?

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson says a little silence during broadcasts isn't all that bad.

I agree.

On September 9th, 1965, when Sandy Koufax struck out Harvey Kuenn to complete a perfect game for the Dodgers, Vin Scully remained silent for a full 38 seconds, allowing the crowd noise to carry the broadcast. On radio, no less.

Kirk Gibson's homer to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series? Scully paused a full 15 seconds between his home run call and his legendary "in a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened" comment. Gibson, limping on two bad legs, was already rounding third by the time Scully spoke.

And just this summer -- last month, in fact -- Scully presented a tense matchup between the Angels' lethal Vlad Guerrero and Dodgers closer Takashi Saito with a staggering 56 seconds of silence. Nearly a full minute of television time with nothing but the rising tension of the crowd and the image before you.

I watched many a Chicago Cub game as a kid, and I distinctly remember many periods of silence, nothing but the distinct noise a Wrigley crowd makes. People joke about Harry Caray being a great personality and an average broadcaster, but he had the gift of sometimes just shutting up and letting the scene tell the story. Scully obviously trumps everyone in that regard. If you haven't heard that famous 1965 broadcast, get you hands on it somehow. It's absolute broadcast perfection coinciding with an actual perfect game.

--- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tony Barnhart has gone crazy on his blog with nine entries this week. Maybe it's best I just link to the blog? The AJC desperately needs to give him an archive page for his columns because as of right now I check once a week at the AJC site and hope I get lucky to stumble upon his column (which never happens).

--- The Birmingham News' Ray Melick writes that Nick Saban does things his way, in his time.

Still, it seems to bother Saban that he's perceived as some kind of Howard Hughes-style obsessive-compulsive millionaire recluse.

"My wife, Terry, tells me the difference between how you think you are and how other people perceive you is your blind spot," Saban said. "And she says mine is as wide as the Grand Canyon."

There's no Bruce Feldman OR Paul Finebaum this week.  Wow.
***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links. You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.