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Tag:Florida Atlantic
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:05 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:08 am
 

A sad goodbye to Karl Benson & perhaps WAC

The enduring image of Karl Benson will be his practically skipping through the University of Phoenix Stadium press box on Jan. 1, 2007.

Boise State had just shocked Oklahoma, college football and the world. The commissioner of the Broncos’ league was along for the ride. Karl Benson, a former Boise State shortstop, had just seen the gosh-darndest thing in his life. Along with the rest of us.

He was proud that his lowly-but-proud Western Athletic Conference had taken advantage of the BCS rules to – put in terms of the conference’s marketing slogan – Play Up. Yes, the loosening of BCS bowl access rules in 2006 contributed to Boise’s rise. But it took the team’s performance on the field to convince the world that college football wasn’t the exclusive domain of the Big Six conferences.

WAC member Hawaii went to the Sugar Bowl a year later but the new wave punk band that was the WAC slowly broke up over the years. Boise State skipped from the Mountain West to the Big East. Others followed.

The plucky little conference that couldn’t be killed was on its death bed Thursday with the news that Benson had become the new Sun Belt commissioner. On the surface, Benson is trading a job at the 10th-rated conference in FBS to one rated 11th(and last in the division).

In reality, it is the latest shift of conference realignment tectonic plates. The 50-year old WAC that Benson leaves behind be damaged beyond recognition.  It was formed in 1962 in order to grab an NCAA tournament automatic bid – there were only 24 at the time. The Original Six included Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.  The current seven-team league (in football) could be absorbed like rain into the soil by some combination of Benson’s new conference and the emerging Big Country (Conference USA/Mountain West conglomeration).

It really depends on the intentions of the Big Country. 

Benson, 60, fought the good fight out West with dignity. Now it’s time to keep the Sun Belt alive and kicking. Time after time on the conference call announcing his hiring, Benson was not shy about saying he wanted the 10-member Sun Belt (in football) to grow to 12. At least. It doesn’t take too much to figure out where those two (or more) teams are going to come from.

As mentioned, in 2012 the WAC is down to seven teams, one above the NCAA minimum. The teams that emerged from that conference to gain BCS bowls under Benson’s watch – Boise State and Hawaii – are long gone. Just a guess but look for the Sun Belt to go after WAC member Louisiana Tech – if the Big Country doesn’t get to Ruston first. The New Orleans-based Sun Belt already has members at Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

“There are schools in the [Louisiana] footprint that would make sense,” Benson said.   

Other possibilities: Any combination of Appalachian State, Georgia State, Jacksonville State and Liberty. All four are moving up or in the process of moving up to FBS.  

Benson has literally held the WAC together by force of personality. First, reorganizing after half the then-16 team league left in 1999 to form the Mountain West. (He got the news lying down on the couch at home after eye surgery.) Then with the departure of Boise State (Mountain West, then Big East) as well as Fresno, Hawaii, Nevada (Mountain West) Benson hustled within the last year to add Texas State and Texas-San Antonio. The next FBS game those two schools play will be their first.

The pity is if in the end Benson was somehow forced out of the WAC. The conference owes its current existence to him. With the Sun Belt’s Wright Waters stepping down, the lowest-ranked FBS league is about to experience a rebirth. The so-called Group of Five non-BCS conferences (WAC, MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt) could to shrink to three.

In a way it consolidates Big Six conferences’ power. The apparent end of BCS automatic qualifying conferences in 2014 means that access to the game’s biggest bowls becomes more important for the “non-AQs” that Benson helped make famous.

“I often asked who is the next Boise State?” he said. “With my Sun Belt hat on, why not someone from the Sun Belt?”

 

WAC football membership in 2012

Idaho 
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Texas State
Utah State


Sun Belt football membership in 2012

Arkansas State
Florida Atlantic
Florida International
Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Monroe
Middle Tennessee
North Texas
South Alabama
Troy
Western Kentucky


Posted on: September 20, 2011 4:12 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:13 am
 

SEC wants Missouri, the logical No. 14 choice

All you had to do was put together the puzzle pieces on Missouri.

Earlier Tuesday, we reported that West Virginia was out as far as joining the SEC or ACC. Logically, that held that Missouri was likely to be the SEC's 14th school. That looked to be the case after the Kansas City Star reported that Missouri had "an offer on the table" to join the nation's strongest conference.

Except that the SEC immediately shot down the report: "The SEC has not extended an invitation to any school beyond Texas A&M since it extended invitations to Arkansas and South Carolina."

That would be two decades ago.

All this develops while the Big East and Big 12 attempt to reconstitute themselves into a combined league going forward. A source said Tuesday representatives from both leagues would like to meet in a central location but that there was nothing imminent through Wednesday. There's a long way to go -- the SEC likely wouldn't entertain an application until the Big 12 collapse. However, such a move by Missouri's would clear up conference realignment just a bit.

"I think there's something to that," said an administrator not from the Big 12 but whose school would benefit if Missouri left for the SEC.

Because the SEC is so sensitive to the landscape right now, don't be surprised either that the report could actually wreck a Missouri move to the SEC. It is known that SEC commissioner Mike Slive doesn't want to move on an existing conference member -- especially from the Big 12 -- until things are resolved legally.

Don't forget that Baylor could threaten legal action against Missouri if the school was accepted to the SEC. A Big 12 source said that for legal purposes, the Big 12 is still considered a conference as long as it has five members. The NCAA requires minimum membership of six for a conference to exist.

For those of you just jumping into the subject matter, think of Missouri as the best player left on the draft board. With Nebraska, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Pittsburgh spoken for in the past two years, Missouri suddenly looks very attractive. It has two top 30 markets in Kansas City and St. Louis and is contiguous to three SEC states (Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee). It touches two Big Ten states (Iowa, Illinois).

Missouri's fans and some of its administrators were a bit too convinced last year that Missouri was going to the Big Ten. It turns out the school wasn't near the top of the list when Nebraska was invited.

Tuesday's developments obviously don't necessarily place Missouri in the SEC. The Big 12 could survive. The SEC may be looking elsewhere. With Oklahoma and Oklahoma State seemingly out the door to the Pac-12, we won't know for sure on the national landscape until Texas declares its intentions.



For a few minutes there on Tuesday afternoon, Dan Beebe was trending on Twitter over Two and a Half Men. Or that's what I was told. 

I'm not really sure. The social Twitterverse exploded Tuesday with the news that Pac-12 bound Oklahoma was demanding that Beebe, the Big 12's embattled commissioner, be replaced. OU wanted that as a condition of staying in the Big 12. Interesting that on Monday, OU president David Boren was basically tap-dancing on the Big 12's grave after getting permission from regents to head to the Pac-12.

What changed and why did Beebe become a pawn in this discussion? Most likely because OU doesn't have the votes from Pac-12 presidents to actually join the league. There was a report Tuesday that Pac-12 presidents are prepared to vote by the end of the week but there is no consensus. In other words, exactly what we've been hearing for weeks.

Oklahoma and Texas may want to go to the Pac-12, but the Pac-12 has been more than hesitating. Cal and Stanford don't want to include the academically unwashed Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. The Pac-12 is going to make a killing with a dozen teams, why invite the OU/UT drama into the mix? Big, happy families are hard to find these days in college athletics.

In essence, two iconic college sports names -- Oklahoma and Texas -- may have just quibbled and bitched their way out of an invite to what promises to be the richest conference in the country. Can you imagine, then, the Big 12 staying together? It may be forced to kiss and make up. The infighting, jealousies and bickering is going to make the Great Plains version of Jersey Shore. 

It's not the man (Beebe), it's the culture. Texas and Oklahoma were among those who voted Beebe a raise and extension in June. What's changed? Certainly not Longhorn and Sooner egos.

Let's sum up Tuesday: An ultimatum to Dan Beebe by a school headed for the Pac-12 trumps an offer to Missouri that the SEC says didn't happen. 

Everybody caught up?



Officials had every right and duty to delay Saturday’s Oklahoma State-Tulsa start. There were concerns about lightning and, no doubt, liability. But did Oklahoma State and Tulsa take it too far in forcing the players to perform in a game that ended at 3:35 Sunday morning?

Tulsa has game-cancellation insurance for such occurrences so the school would have been reimbursed had the game been cancelled. There is no corresponding open date for the schools when the game could have been made up. But would it have been possible to play the game on Sunday?

Tulsa AD Bubba Cunningham told CBSSports.com that the decision to play the game so late was made jointly by himself and Oklahoma State AD Mike Holder after consulting with game officials and both coaches.

"We were about seven minutes away from cancelling the game," said Cunningham of the contest that kicked off at 12:15 am CT. "We talked about student-athlete welfare as we made the decision. That’s why we had midnight as the tipping point."

The game was allowed to start after midnight because both coaches needed time for their teams to warm up after weather conditions improved. Cunningham said he would think twice about agreeing to start a game that late again. The original starting time was 9 pm CT at the request of Fox regional.

The game started so late that it came close to apparently violating NCAA rules

Cowboys coach Mike Gundy added that had the game started at 7 pm CT, the rain and weather delays would have likely hit in the third quarter of the game instead of before it.

"I just don't think it's best for the student-athlete," said Gundy whose team plays a top-10 matchup this week at Texas A&M. "I wasn’t excited about our players being out there at 2 and 3 in the morning for a football game. I was concerned about their health. I don’t know how players compete at 2 or 3 in the morning. You don’t want a young man to get an injury and not be able to play the rest of the year."

There was, in fact, a significant injury. Tulsa's G.J. Kinne suffered a reported tear of the MCL in his left knee. The Tulsa World stated that the typical recovery time is two to four weeks.

Cunningham said game cancellation insurance had been purchased by Conference USA after Hurricane Katrina had impacted members Southern Miss and Tulane. Weather delays have become one of the overriding topics of the early season. Baylor and Texas Tech had games delayed last week. The Western Michigan-Michigan game was postponed to the game that the statistics didn't count in the NCAA rankings because the game didn't go the minimum three quarters.

The Cowboys-Golden Hurricane game started so late that Oklahoma State assistant Glenn Spencer had to leave during it. His wife Angela died during the first quarter of game won by Oklahoma State 59-33. She had been dealing with the effects of a heart transplant.

"It affected me. I have a lot of respect for their family and what they’ve gone through," Gundy said. "I wasn’t in the best of moods or as focused as I should have been.

Gundy added: "I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. But at some point do we really want to start a game at 9 o'clock? ... Our APRs are going up, our required numbers of hours to be passed by semester is going up, everything is moving toward education, then we’re going to start our game at 9 o'clock? Whoever is making those decisions needs to think things through before we’re put in those situations."

Tulsa goes to Boise State for a game that starts at a more reasonable time, 7 pm CT.




Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium (capacity: 29,181) is the smallest Nebraska has played in since 1971 ... Vanderbilt's James Franklin became the first Commodore coach to win his first three games at the school since World War II ... It's been three years since the Big 12 has seen a conference game between two top 10 teams aside from the Red River Shootout (Oklahoma-Texas). No. 7 Oklahoma State travels to No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday ... Boise State has had only three drives (out of 27) that ended in negative yards this season. Two of those came in victory formation while taking a knee ... Two of the top three rushers meet this week at Michigan Stadium. San Diego State tailback Ronnie Hillman is No. 2. Michigan's celebrated quarterback Denard Robinson is No. 3 ... South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is on pace to rush for 2,492 yards. That would put him 136 yards short Barry Sanders' single-season record ... Florida Atlantic leads all non-BCS schools with only one turnover this season. That ties the Owls with eight other BCS schools. FAU is also the only team not to score a touchdown yet in FBS ... Since the beginning of the 2006 season Vanderbilt has intercepted 81 passes, 10 in three games this season ... USC's Robert Woods has caught more passes (33) this season than seven teams have completed.


Before posting this week's Heisman top five let me explain that I love Andrew Luck. I adore Andrew Luck. I would want Andrew Luck to marry my daughter. But I cannot in good faith put him in my top five. Tell me which one of these you would remove -- based on the season to date -- in place of Luck. Did I mention I love Andrew Luck?

1. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina; 2. Kellen Moore, Boise State; 3. Robert Griffin III, Baylor; 4. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin; 5. Denard Robinson, Michigan.
Posted on: February 5, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2011 1:23 pm
 

Dodd mail 2/5

Observations after being trapped in Dallas this week by an ice storm on one end and a blizzard in the Midwest on the other. After three flight cancellations, two rental cars and a 154-minute delay at DFW, I made it home.

Please tell me you share my joy.

--With the Super Bowl in Big D this week (actually, Big A, Arlington), the NFL needs to take action. Isn't it about time Roger Goodell fines the National Weather Service $25,000 for excessive blows to the region?

--If there is anyone who should be aware of the dangers of frostbite it is a college hockey player, right? 

--The latest UGA -- bulldog mascot -- has died at Georgia. New signee Isaiah Crowell should be getting a call soon. Crowell brought a bull pup to his signing press conference to emphasize his love of the Dawgs. I'm thinking the puppy has plenty of eligibility left to become the new UGA.

--In response to one of his columns about college training techniques, the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi got this from a reader: "Since 2000 — 21 college football players dead. I am an ex-Marine, and I have to believe that in the same time frame we had more young people go through boot camp with less fatalities. And I would guess our boots [soldiers] started at a lower level of conditioning. So what is wrong?"

The three biggest stories of the week -- at least in this corner of the world  -- were National Signing Day, the firings and suspensions of medical personnel at Iowa and Rich Rodriguez.

Your reactions ...


From: Greg

Dennis, what coach (Rodriguez) does not understand is that he thought he was hired to FIX something. He kept saying it would take time to FIX. Michigan was not broke! They competed for Big Ten titles every year. They were in the national title hunt a few times. They went to bowl games 30 straight years!! He never built on that success. He ruined it.

Man of Michigan:

Rich Rod didn't use the word "fix" until he got on campus and saw the dearth of talent. Maybe he should have done a better job of evaluating talent. I'll give you that.

But "Rodriguez supporters" -- you'll see the math here-- paint a different picture of the state of Michigan football when Rich Rod arrived.


From: Jim

Dennis, nice article about Rich Rodriguez. I am a Michigan fan, and really appreciate hearing Rich's side of the story. I met Coach Rod at his UM football camp and when he posed for pictures with my special needs son, he really impressed me. I would love to write or e-mail him at CBS and express my thanks for his service to UM -- if you would pass along any contact info for Rich, I'd appreciate it. Please keep up the good work in your columns, Go Blue! - Jim C.


Jim:

You can contact my here in the fan feedback section. I'll e-mail you Rich Rod's contact information.

From: Chioke


Dear Dennis, When could you see Howard Schnellenberger retiring?


FAU have a heck of a question:
Haven't thought about that in a while but it is a worthwhile inquiry. Schnellie will be 77 on March 16. In four of his five years at FAU, the Owls have finished in the top three in the Sun Belt Conference. (They tied for the league title in 2007 and won the New Orleans Bowl.)

As long as Howard continues to be energized and remains healthy, I see no reason why he can't keep going. The strategy now seems to be one year a time. Schnellenberger was extended in 2007 through 2010 but a clause in the deal (per this blog) says an additional year was added to the deal because the Owls' new stadium was not finished. 

Schnellenberger wants to keep going. He's fine with basically a year-to-year contract. The Sun Belt remains winnable in any given year. Why not?



From: Kevin

Not so fast Dennis. Looks like Clemson has caught Jadeveon Clowney's attention. Clemson has put defensive players in the NFL with handsome paychecks as well. SEC is not a lock for this talent.

Climpson's For Clowney:

Agreed. When I wrote this Clowney piece Clemson wasn't as much in the picture as it is now. Dabo Swinney has done a great job of rallying late in recruiting. This is going to buy him some time. If Clowney does come to Clemson it's going to be a monster recruiting class. 

You know what happens after monster recruiting classes -- monster expectations.



From: Lee

Being an Auburn fan, at first I thought this Clowney column was going to be downing the SEC. But after I read it, I really enjoyed it and appreciate you Dodd doing us all a favor and actually talking about football. Thanks!

Friend of Aubie:

I'm glad to write something new(ton) about Auburn. For a large part of the season the words, "NCAA", "Cecil", "payoff", "Mississippi State", "sleaze" and "cheating" were required in any mention of the Tigers. Even up to the point when they won in Arizona. Even up to the point when we wonder how long that national championship will last.



From: Dennis

If the kid's dad knew sickle cell ran in the family why didn't he have the young man tested for it? 

Seems a responsible parent would do just that and not blame a college for giving his or her child a chance at a better life via a free education. But that would have meant they took responsibility for their son's well being, huh? May also have meant no football with a chance at the NFL and a big payday for the entire family. 

The bottom line is no matter how hard society and a bunch of lawyers try, there's no child proofing the world. Life is filled with adventure, danger and mixed results. This was one of those adventures that didn't have a storybook ending.

Legal Expert:

I wouldn't call the death of a player and "adventure." 

The fact is, Bennie Abram's dad only had an idea that sickle cell ran in the family. I'm betting he was no medical expert and had no idea what it meant to his son. Besides. Ole Miss HAD tested Bennie Abram for sickle cell. The family is suing for wrongful death because of the way Abram's treatment was handled.

That's where there is sometimes a disconnect. It's one thing testing a player. It's another telling him and his family. It's another, then, dealing with that player in the proper way during playing and practice seasons. 

I believe Alaska was the last state to test for sickle cell at birth (or the remaining state that doesn't). Point is, the hospital may test for it, the test may be positive, the doctors may notify the parents, but what does that mean 18 years later when the kid is in college? The parents may have forgotten. There may not even be symptoms up to that point.

By the way, the Abrams are not suing a school that gave their child a "free education". Bennie Abram was a loyal Rebel who wanted to play so bad for Ole Miss that he walked on. 
Posted on: September 23, 2010 4:36 pm
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

The closest Alabama has come to the schedule it will face the next three weeks came in 1952. Bama faced No. 5 Georgia, No. 2 Maryland and No. 16 Auburn. The Tide could face three consecutive top 10 teams considering it plays No. 10 Arkansas, No. 9 Florida and No. 12 South Carolina in the next three weeks ... Oregon State is basically admitting that Boise's blue turf is in its head. You might have read -- how could you not? -- that Oregon State painted its practice field blue to get ready for Saturday's showdown in Boise. There is some thought that the blue turf blends in with Boise's blue home jerseys.  Maybe, but that still makes it hard to explain Boise's success at home -- 63-2 since 2000, which leads the nation. The Broncos haven't lost in blue (jerseys) on the blue (turf) since 2001 ...

Houston true freshman Terrance Broadway starts this week against Tulane. UCLA knocked out the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, Case Keenum (knee) and Cotton Turner (collarbone), for the season ... While Florida's offense still needs to get it together, its defense has been impressive -- a nation-leading 10 interceptions and plus-7 in turnover margin ... Is there any more cursed program when it comes to running back injuries than Iowa? For the second consecutive year, Jewel Hampton will miss the season with a knee injury ... New Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Wheeler leads the country with 11 touchdown passes. Veteran Zac Robinson, since departed, threw 15 td passes all of last season. New offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen is making his mark ...

For what it's worth here are SWWL top four defenses (in random order) -- Texas, TCU, Nebraska, Alabama. Combined they have allowed 3.97 yards per play and a total of 19 touchdowns (1.18 per game) ... There's a reason Kansas may have had problem signaling in plays last Friday at Southern Miss. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Joe Dailey, KU's on-campus recruiting coordinator, was taken off play-signaling duty prior to the game  because his role had been against NCAA rules. The NCAA states that "field level" duties are for those "who are performing a service associated with action on the field of play ..." In other words, a coach. Dailey is a former Nebraska quarterback who coached with Turner Gill at Buffalo. KU hosts New Mexico State trying to come out of the non-con 2-2 ...

Former Kansas coach Mark Mangino has not been hired by Minnesota as a consultant according to the Gophers AD. Joel Maturi denied a broadcast report that Mangino had been hired. Several outlets reported that Mangino was on the sideline during Saturday's loss to USC. Mangino resigned under pressure in December and has been residing in Naples, Fla. ... Guarantee-game fallout: Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida Atlantic are tied for the best overall record in the Sun Belt, 1-1 ... The SEC has as many teams ranked in the top 15, six, as every other BCS conference combined ... Boise is 7-17 all-time against teams from BCS conferences. Five of those wins have come since 2006 ... My picks this week. I'm really good.

Posted on: May 18, 2009 10:49 am
Edited on: May 18, 2009 1:05 pm
 

Picking the Sun Belt

(Over the next few weeks I'll pick the order of finish in each I-A conference. Why? Because it's the offseason and I can't get cfb out of my mind....Starting with the Sun Belt.)

The Sun Belt has graduated from pushover to pesky. Last season four of the eight teams were bowl eligible. Two went bowling and one (Florida Atlantic) became the first Sun Belt team to win consecutive bowl games.

The likes of Maryland and Texas A&M got stung by Sun Belt teams. Typically on the lowest rung of Division I-A conferences, some of the programs have more stability than some power conferences. Howard Schnellenberger nurtured Florida Atlantic from zygote to a share of the conference title in 2007.  Larry Blakeney (2008 Sun Belt coach of the year) is beginning his 19th season at Troy. Steve Roberts is in his eighth season at Arkansas State.

This how an improved Sun Belt stacks up for 2009:

1. Troy -- Blakeney has won eight games each of the last three seasons. That's almost impossible to do in the Sun Belt. Look for at least eight wins this season. Troy might have the league's most loaded team.

You've got to like a linebacking crew named Boris and Bear. That's seniors Boris Lee (126 tackles) and Bear Woods (nine TFLs), who might be among the best pair of linebackers in the country.

Quarterback Levi Brown and receiver Jerrell Jernigan will hook up frequently. Brown threw only three interceptions in 326 attempts. Jernigan caught a school-record 77 passes.

The schedule does Blakeney no favors. The Trojans end the season against Arkansas, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Lafayette. If Troy is intact after the Arkansas game, the conference title might be on the line in the final two weeks against the Owls and the Cajuns.

Wait a minute: Bear Woods?

2. Arkansas State -- If a rebuilt offensive line comes around the Red Wolves could upset the Trojans and win the league. Quarterback Corey Leonard broke his own record for total offense in 2008. Tailback Reggie Arnold (1,074 yards) was the league's No. 2 rusher. Eight starters return on defense including Sun Belt defensive player of the year Alex Carrington (10.5 sacks, 19 TFLs) at defensive end.

Texas A&M is still trying to figure out how it lost to Arkansas State. It's pretty simple: The Red Wolves were that good and A&M was that bad.

3. Florida Atlantic -- After a 6-1 finishing kick, the Owls became the first Sun Belt team to win back-to-back bowl games. Will there be a hat trick? It's up to the defense, which returns a bunch of starters but must get better. It finished 110th in sacks.

Any team with Rusty Smith will have a chance. The senior quarterback has thrown for 62 touchdowns and for more than 8,000 yards. 

Returning tight end Jason Harmon went from jock to picking up jocks. An all-conference pick in 2007, Harmon tore his knee up in 2008 spring practice and decided to become a student equipment manager while he rehabbed.

4. Middle Tennessee -- Rick Stockstill might be the next big thing for some I-A power. In three seasons with the Blue Raiders he has won the league, led them to a bowl game and beaten Maryland.

Watch the offense which has 10 starters back and is being led by Tony Franklin, Auburn's deposed offensive coordinator. With no one looking over his shoulder and better pieces to fit his scheme, Franklin should thrive. Get ready Dwight Dasher (38.6 percent passer as a backup), your life is about to change. Dasher is one of the more athletic players in the league. Franklin, though, will emphasize the quick passing attack.

5. Louisiana-Lafayette -- It would seem the Ragin' Cajuns have to slide. They lost Sun Belt player of the year (tailback Tyrell Fenroy) and offensive player of the year (quarterback Michael Desormeaux).  The offensive line, however, is the best in the league with center Chris Fisher (Rimington Trophy watch list) and coach Rickey Bustle's son Brad (Lombardi Award watch list ) at left guard.
 
If Rickey Bustle is relying on the defense to get the Louisiana-Lafayette to a bowl he might be disappointed. The Cajuns defense gave up more than 200 yards per game rushing and was 100th in sacks last season.

6. Florida International -- The provost can't get the all-star basketball coach's name right. Where does that leave Mario Cristobal? After somehow scratching out five victories in '08, the third-year football coach has a bigger task ahead: Getting bowl eligible with a schedule that includes road trips to Alabama, Rutgers and Florida.

Nine starters return on offense but the unit was last in Sun Belt rushing and total offense. That's the good news. A whole new defensive line must be installed. The D gave up at least 31 six times last season.

It is South Florida and Christobal has recruited well. Freshman All-American T.Y. Hilton averaged 180 yards in all-purpose yards.

7. Louisiana-Monroe -- Entering his seventh season, coach Charlie Weatherbie has yet to finish above .500. After losing quarterback Kinsmon Lancaster, the Warhawks could lose eight again (4-8 in '08). A lot will be put on Trey Revell who was impressive in nine games as a backup.

Louisiana-Monroe falls into that Sun Belt trap of having to play too many guarantee games. How do the Warhawks get better when they have to travel to Texas, Arizona State and Kentucky?

8. North Texas -- Things have not gone well for Todd Dodge in his first two seasons since coming from Southlake Carroll High School. Three victories in 24 games have Dodge on the hot seat.

Offense hasn't been a problem. North Texas scored at least 26 points five times last season. Todd's son Riley takes over at quarterback. The pair were deadly in high school. Riley originally committed to Texas but signed with the Mean Green. Now both have to produce.

The defense has to get better. Try to figure out this dichotomy: The D was the worst in I-A last season but is one of the more experienced groups in the Sun Belt this season.

9. Western Kentucky -- The Hilltoppers officially enter Division I-A as its 120th member and are eligible for the Sun Belt title. Welcome to the big time, boys, now accept your whipping. Playing only six conference teams last year, Western Kentucky went 2-10. Against I-A competition outside the Sun Belt, the Hilltoppers went 0-5 and didn't score more than 13 points in any game.

Posted on: October 15, 2008 10:56 am
 

National notes at the halfway point

One of the best measures for an improved program is the games ahead/behind method. Look at baseball standings for an example. The NCAA includes a section in its statistics book each year that tracks the most improved teams from one year to the next. In 2007, it was Illinois which went from 2-10 in 2006 to 9-4 last season. That's an improvement of 6 1/2 games.

Hawaii holds the record improving by 8 1/2 games in 1999. Ironically, the Warriors might be on the opposite side of that stat this season.

At the halfway point, I thought it would be a good idea to figure the biggest improvements and biggest declines of the 2008 season. Remember, some of the numbers might be skewed because we've played only half a season. But this might be a good measuring stick for coach of the year candidates and provide a short list of coaches about to be fired.

Most improved

1. Minnesota +7 1/2 games (from 1-11 to 6-1)
2. Duke +5 1/2
3. North Carolina +4
4. Pittsburgh +3 1/2
5. several tied at +3

Biggest decline

1. Hawaii -5 1/2 games (from 12-1 to 3-3)
2. Central Florida, Tennessee -4
4. LSU, Arizona State, Florida Atlantic, Michigan, West Virginia, Rutgers, Kansas - 3 1/2

Most improved by conference: Baylor, +3; ACC, Duke +5 1/2; Big East, Pittsburgh, +3 1/2; Conference USA, Rice/Marshall, +3; Mountain West, Colorado  State/UNLV, +3; MAC, Ball State/Northern Illinois, +3; SEC, Vanderbilt/Ole Miss, +3; WAC, New Mexico State, +3: Independents, Notre Dame, +3; Big Ten,  Minnesota, +7 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida International/Louisiana-Lafayette, +3; Pac-10, Stanford, +2 1/2.

Biggest decline by conference: ACC, Boston College/Clemson/Virginia, -2 1/2; Big 12, Kansas, -3 1/2; Big East, West Virginia/Rutgers, -3 1/2; Big Ten, Michigan, -3 1/2;  Independents, Western Kentucky, -2 1/2; Conference USA, Central Florida -4; MAC, Bowling Green/Ohio/Miami (Ohio), -1 1/2; Mountain West, New Mexico, -3; SEC, Tennessee, -4; Pac-10, Arizona State -3 1/2; WAC, Hawaii -5 1/2; Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic, -3 1/2.

Storylines for the second half

Will anyone go unbeaten?: It looks like the SEC and Big 12 will cannibalize each other. That leaves a bunch of one-loss powers that also could include Ohio State, Penn State, USC and Utah or Brigham Young.

Heisman race: Tim Tebow won't repeat and the Big 12 looks like it has a lock on the 2008 winner. But which player?

JoePa In the Sky With A Headset: Can Penn State's venerable coach win a Big Ten title and national championship without setting foot on the field the rest of  the way? Physical problems continue to keep JoePa in the press box. When asked Tuesday if he needed a hip replacement, Paterno answered cryptically, "I don't  know." It isn't exactly Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds but anything Joe does the rest of the season is going to be followed closely.

The non-BCS challengers: TCU, BYU and Utah are all in the mix. If Tulsa can win at Arkansas on Nov. 1 the Golden Hurricane will be a factor. The MAC is  simply too tough for Ball State (7-0) to go undefeated but you have to root for the Cardinals. Their best receiver's career is over (Dante Love) and their quarterback (Nate Davis) wears gloves.

Biggest looming controversy: If a one-loss team from the SEC, Big Ten or Big 12 is edged out of the BCS title game by an undefeated non-BCS school.

Next coach to be fired: Given the swiftly declining situation at Auburn it might be Tommy Tuberville. Other than that, Washington's Tyrone Willingham and  Syracuse's Greg Robinson are locks. Keep an eye also on San Diego State's Chuck Long and Central Florida's George O'Leary.

Biggest upset looming out there: Not in terms of David and Goliath but watch the Texas at Texas Tech game on Nov. 1. If both teams keep winning you're looking at No. 1 Texas vs. a Red Raiders team that should be in the BCS top five. If Texas Tech wins try to wrap your mind around Mike Leach and his Pirate  Love jumping up to No. 1.

Get out your swords and Johnny Depp movies.

BCS bowl predictions at the halfway point

BCS title game: Penn State* vs. Oklahoma*
Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Alabama
Sugar Bowl: Florida* vs. South Florida*
Orange Bowl: BYU^ vs. Virginia Tech*
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. USC*

*-conference champ
^-non-BCS automatic qualifier

  Remember last week when Washington State held open tryouts to find a scout team quarterback? The winner of that competition, Peter Roberts, suddenly finds himself a viable backup option with the Cougars headed into the USC game.

 Speaking of injuries, it's a shame that two stars at Kentucky and North Carolina recently saw their careers end. Carolina's Brandon Tate, the I-A career  leader in kick return yards, is finished because of a knee injury. Exciting Kentucky receiver Dicky Lyons is done because of a knee ligament tear.

 

 Don't say I didn't warn you. I know what I said about Texas and Texas Tech above but indulge me: The way things are shaking out, a Kansas-Oklahoma State Big 12 title game isn't out of the question. If Texas beats Missouri on Saturday then it becomes more likely. Kansas is playing better and has Texas at home later in the season. KU and Missouri meet in Kansas City on Nov. 29.

 

Oklahoma State is playing better than anyone in the conference (that includes Texas). That head-to-head game is Oct. 25.

 Remember this when you watch BYU and TCU on Thursday night. BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall allows each special teams unit to name a captain. The captain then  names starters and backups for each unit. Wonder if that ever happens in the SEC?

 

 


Posted on: September 14, 2008 1:59 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2008 10:51 am
 

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

One last reaction from Ohio State-USC:

"I can't believe that we screwed up so badly," Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone told reporters. "I cannot 
believe this is second time this happened to this team. I thought this team made it clear after the national 
championship game -- all the gassers we ran, and all the running we did that we weren't going to mess up anymore. 
Apparently, that wasn't evident."

Second time?

 A lot of history has been made at Notre Dame, not a lot of it on crutches. Notre Dame is 2-0 after beating 
Michigan 35-17 and, if you believe in omens Irish fans, Charlie Weis still has another knee to tear up. Not to go ND message 
board here, but the schedule does look favorable especially if Notre Dame keeps getting six turnovers a game.

 

Sept. 20, at Michigan State; Sept. 27, Purdue; Oct. 4, Stanford. Do I smell 4-1?

 It was not a good day in the Pac-10. Washington State, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona State, Stanford and Arizona lost by an 
average of 23.3 points. That includes Arizona State's overtime -- but no less humiliating -- loss to visiting UNLV 
and UCLA's mind-bending 59-0 tank job at BYU.

 

That last score has me wondering how Tennessee is feeling right now.

"A butt whoopin'. We got our butts whooped," linebacker Reggie Carter told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm going home, 
go to sleep, and tomorrow forget about it."

Easier said than done. UCLA's worst loss since 1929 was complete and had me wondering which team competed in the 
Pac-10 and which was in the Mountain West? BYU's Max Hall had seven touchdown passes in THREE QUARTERS. The 
decade-old Mountain West went 4-0 against the Pac-10 on Saturday.

 In Oklahoma's 55-14 win over Washington, Bob Stoops won his 100th game in his 122nd game as the Sooners' coach. That's the eighth-fastest to 100 in history. It's also the second-highest total for a coach in 10 seasons.

 

Barry Switzer also reached No. 100 in his 122nd game. Legend Bud Wilkinson is No. 3 on the list getting to the milestone in 111 games. Oklahoma is the only school to have four coaches with at least 100 victories -- Stoops, Switzer, Wilkinson and Bennie Owen. Stoops' teams have scored at least 50 points in 24 of his victories.

 What is it with Oregon quarterbacks and knee problems? The Ducks' season hangs in the balance after its third 
starting quarterback in 10 months went down. Justin Roper reportedly tore his left MCL against Purdue and could be 
out as long as two to four weeks. There's not a lot behind Roper. Freshman Chris Harper finished the game against 
Purdue, a 32-26 overtime victory. Bellotti says juco transfer Jeremiah Masoli and freshman Darron Thomas will also 
get looks.

 

Oregon has had enough problems lately with quarterbacks being injured. Dennis Dixon's injury derailed a possible 
national championship run. In the preseason Nate Costa suffered an ACL injury that has him out of the season.

 It almost went unnoticed that Florida State could still have to forfeit games as part of the penalties involving 
the academic scandal. If so, Joe Paterno could take a commanding lead in the all-time victories race. We're talking 
about Florida State's seven victories from 2007. The legendary coaches are tied at 375 victories apiece after Penn 
State beat Syracuse on Saturday and Florida State clobbered Chattanooga.

 

 Michigan State and Florida Atlantic combined for 20 punts and 36 incomplete passes in the Spartans' soggy 17-0 
victory. The Owls' Rusty Smith completed only eight of 34 passes.

 

 Cal became the West Coast Clemson when it failed to show up at Maryland. The Bears scored 21 fourth-quarter 
points to make it cosmetic but their 35-27 loss to the Terps was crippling. Cal was outmatched on both sides of the 
line for most of the game.

 

 Missouri has scored on its last 13 possession with Chase Daniel at quarterback (12 touchdowns, one field goal). If 
he could only stay on the field. The Tigers have boat-raced their past two opponents (Southeast Missouri State and 
Nevada) so thoroughly that Daniel has been removed in the second half of each game.

 

In that abbreviated action, Daniel has completed 40 of 46 the past two games for 663 yards and seven touchdowns. 
Against the Wolf Pack, Daniel completed 23 of 28 for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

 You knew East Carolina was due for a letdown. Patrick Pinkney threw a late touchdown pass against Tulane and the 
Pirates are 3-0 for the first time since 1999.

 

 Oklahoma State continues to amaze. The Cowboys passed only 10 times in a 57-13 victory over Missouri State. Their 
450 rushing yards were the fifth-most in school history. Okie State did this (offensively) last year but were just 
as bad on defense as they were good on offense.

 

 Looking ahead to next week, it's the SEC's world and we're only living in it: Georgia is at Arizona State, LSU 
goes to Auburn, Arkansas plays Alabama in the Ego Bowl. Oh, and apparently Florida is playing Tennessee too. That's 
three games with both teams being ranked.

 

 The best of the rest: (These teams weren't good enough to get into my top 25 but deserve mention) 1, Oklahoma 
State; 2, Vanderbilt; 3, Kentucky; 4, Nebraska; 5, TCU; 6, Notre Dame; 7, Northwestern; 8, Boise State; 9, Iowa; 10, 
Florida State; 11, Minnesota; 12, UNLV.

 

 Heisman Watch: 1, Chase Daniel, Missouri; 2, Sam Bradford, Oklahoma; 3, Max Hall, BYU.

 

 If you've got the time and the money go to The Huntley hotel in Santa Monica and take the elevator to The Penthouse. It's a Stars War bar scene of young hipsters trying to be crucially cool. The doors of the elevator opened and I immediately felt like a janitor. I can't believe places like this existed. It's a cliche of L.A. Not to drop names but someone said Jamie Foxx was there.
Posted on: August 9, 2008 6:08 pm
 

These teams had the five best offseasons

A minimum of off-field knuckleheadedness and nothing but positive vibes for these five programs ...

Florida Atlantic: The head coach is coming off a conference title, bowl win and contract extension at age 74. If the Good Lord is willing, Howard Schnellenberger will go until he is 84 and somehow get the Owls into a better league by the time he's done. Eighteen starters return from an 8-5 team. The first four weeks include trips to Texas, Michigan State and Minnesota. Am I crazy for thinking the Owls will beat (at least) one of those teams?

North Carolina: Butch Davis should have the Heels in a bowl in his second season. The top eight rushers and top nine receivers return along with quarterback T.J. Yates who is recovering from shoulder surgery. Assistant John Blake already is showing his worth in recruiting.  The Heels lost six games by seven points or less last season. There's no Clemson, Florida State or Wake Forest on the schedule. A second-place finish in the Coastal Division isn't out of the question.

Ohio State: Duh, right? The thing that gets me is that 13 juniors explored their draft worth in the offseason. Only one, Vernon Gholston, left. That means there are at least 12 other players on the roster who would at least be in an NFL camp at this point. Then The Vest landed the nation's best recruit (Terrelle Pryor). You know I love the Bucks on paper (No. 1 in CBSSports.com preseason top 25). A third BCS title game berth looks likely, even if they lose to USC.

Ole Miss: Ed Orgeron recruited like a mother. Unfortunately, the talent didn't translate to wins in time. Houston Nutt inherits a team that could be the surprise of the SEC West. The defense gets back its top 14 tacklers. Texas transfer Jevan Snead is ready to go at quarterback. One-time five-star recruit Jerrell Powe got eligible a couple of weeks ago. Coming off its first winless SEC season since 1982 don't be surprised to see the Rebels in a bowl game. 


Thanks, Ed.

Texas Tech: Yeah, I know. The Red Raiders are everybody's darling. Mike Leach's spread option might be the most productive in the nation. Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree are a year older and wiser. But the defense has been upgraded too (you only need a little in the Big 12) and Texas has to come to Lubbock. Anything less than 10 victories should be considered a disappointment.


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