Week six's contenders and pretenders

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I’m sure “Separation Saturday” has already happened, but as we move forward with conference play, it’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders.

CONTENDERS

South Carolina (4-1 overall, 2-1 SEC)

I’m always sort of waiting for the Gamecocks to implode around this time of the year. I can’t tell you how many years the wicked USC of the East has has started 5-1 or 6-2, only to fold like a towel down the stretch.

But, this team looks different. They’re playing better and with a sense of urgency. With Florida and the rest of the SEC East down, there hasn’t been a better time to make a move. South Carolina’s remaining schedule is manageable. They’ll have to avoid a ‘Bama-beatin’ hangover against Kentucky (who proved last night they’re no walk in the park) and overcome back-to-back games against Arkansas and Florida.

I’m not expecting South Carolina to run the table, so the Nov. 13 match-up in The Swamp now takes on some serious precedence if Spurrier’s club is going to carry a tie-breaker over Florida.

Michigan State (6-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten)

Look at Sparty sitting high atop the Big Ten standings! Not only did Michigan State win against favored Michigan in Ann Arbor on Saturday, but they flat-out handed it to ’em. They also did something no other team’s been able to do so far: contain Denard Robinson. In the Big Ten, defense is king, but Michigan State has been able to defeat teams with great defense and offense.

How the team has responded to Mark Dantonio’s health issues have been nothing short of inspirational. Sparty’s been playing hard and, what do you know, they don’t have to play Ohio State this year. Michigan State will still have to take care of business, though. An Oct. 30 date at Iowa City against the Hawkeyes awaits the Spartans.

Nebraska (5-0 overall, 1-0 Big 12)

The Cornhuskers simply dominated Kansas State Thursday night in every aspect of the game. Granted, it’s Kansas State, but quarterback Taylor Martinez gave a chin-rubbing, Heisman-pondering performance. There simply hasn’t been anyone in the Big 12 who has dominated like Nebraska.

Despite Texas’ struggles, next week’s battle against the ‘Horns in Lincoln should tell us a lot about Nebraska. Texas can’t afford to drop three straight (it would be the first time under Mack Brown), so I expect them to come in to Memorial Stadium playing like a caged animal. A week eight match-up at Oklahoma State is the only real test remaining for Nebraska.

Florida State (5-1 overall, 3-0 ACC)

A drumming in Norman aside, Florida State has played superb football through six weeks. In five wins, the Seminoles have swept past their competition by an average of 31 points and look to be the class of a down ACC.

Their 45-17 dismantling of rival Miami (see pretenders) on national television was more than enough to mention Florida State back among college football’s elite.

Auburn (6-0 overall, 3-0 SEC)

Don’t look now, but Auburn controls their own destiny in the SEC West. With Alabama falling yesterday, the Tigers just need to win out and they’re in the SEC Championship Game. Easier said than done, right?

The next two weeks will tell us a lot about the Tigers. Back-to-back home games against Arkansas and LSU will test the merit of Auburn and quarterback Cam Newton and the Iron Bowl will be in Tuscaloosa this year.

Let’s also point out Auburn just beat South Carolina a week ago who, so I’ve heard, had a big win this weekend …

PRETENDERS

Miami (3-2 overall, 1-1 ACC)

Other than Texas, there may not be a team who, in hindsight, was less deserving of such a lofty preseason ranking than the Hurricanes. Two bad losses to Ohio State and Florida State on national television showed once and for all the the U is not back.

In fact, they’re not even close.

Jacory Harris continues to be inconsistent and his durability has become an issue. I’m not sure how hot Randy Shannon’s seat really is, but to say the Hurricanes have underachieved so far this season is an understatement. For as bad as the ACC has been this year, the Hurricanes still have a shot for a conference title, but they’ll need to get past Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

Arizona (4-1 overall, 1-1 Pac-10)

This is a struggle. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of this team, yet. Through four games, the Wildcats were playing with a purpose, but barely got by against Iowa and Cal. That string of good fortune finally caught up with Mike Stoops and ‘Zona lost to a 2-2 Oregon State at home.

If Arizona is really the Pac-10 championship-caliber squad they think they are, they’ll rebound against USC, Stanford and Oregon — their three toughest remaining tests. If they can’t, it’ll be just another year where Arizona finishes the season colder than Tiger Woods’ winless streak.

Florida (4-2 overall, 2-2 SEC)

You know you’re an elite program when 4-2 is tough-goings, but the Gators are having a down year. Period. Florida hasn’t dropped two straight conference games since 2007 and Meyer’s team finished 9-4 that year.

After watching South Carolina get physical on Alabama, there’s an argument that the power in the SEC East has shifted a couple states north. Florida’s offense has struggled and their defense has been gashed a couple of times. As usual, there’s speed on the team, but this season is showing that’s clearly not enough.

Pittsburgh and UConn (5-6 combined, no conference wins)

Weren’t these two supposed to be all that and a bag of chips at the beginning of this season? Wasn’t Pittsburgh ranked and unanimously projected to win the Big East? What happened to Dion Lewis, the returning Big East Offensive Player of the Year? Through five games, Lewis has 206 yards and two touchdowns. I think he had that in one game last year.

UConn was the dark horse — the feel-good, sexy pick after the tragic death of Jasper Howard and solid bowl victory over South Carolina. To date, UConn’s done nothing. After defeating Vanderbilt in week five, the Huskies turned right back around and dropped one against Rutgers, who lost to Tulane.

Come on, man.

Bonus: To Be Determined

LSU (6-0 overall, 4-0 SEC)

Seriously, how does this team keep winning?

Brady Hoke addresses how defensive goals have changed in college football

New Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke meets with members of the media at the Hatfield-Dowling Complex near Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Hoke is a former head coach at Michigan. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP
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Brady Hoke is looking forward to getting back in coaching this season as Oregon’s defensive coordinator. A year away from the game from the coaching point of view after being let go by Michigan, Hoke is taking on a big task with revamping Oregon’s defense. With the offenses Hoke will see in the Pac-12, he knows the defensive goals that have been regular staples for decades in the past will no longer be what he believes to be a realistic goal.

It used to be the goal was 13 points or less. That was the standard everybody had,” Hoke said this week as he met with the Oregon media for the first time since being hired. “The style of offenses have changed. You can also see defenses evolving for the style of offense. If you’re going to play Stanford, your team goals for that week may be a little different, defensively, because of the style of offense.

“When you’re going to play Arizona, your points per possession become more important than holding [Stanford running back and Heisman Trophy finalist] Christian McCaffrey under 100 yards rushing. You have to be realistic for your players.”

It seems as though Hoke is prepared to give in on a few defensive goals he has lived by for years in hopes of achieving a larger vision with Oregon’s defense. Considering how much Oregon’s defense needs to improve. The Ducks ranked 117th in total defense in 2015. The lowlight of the season had to be the Alamo Bowl meltdown that saw a 31-point lead against TCU end up with a loss to the Horned Frogs. The question is what will be the goal for the Oregon defense in 2016, and how realistic will it be?

“If you set unrealistic goals — we want challenging goals, but unrealistic goals, that’s not fair to those kids,” Hoke said.

Helmet sticker to CoachingSearch.com.

Colorado promotes Darian Hagan to RB coach, shuffles offensive coaching duties

Handlers lead Ralphie, the mascot of Colorado, around the field before Colorado hosts Southern California in an NCAA football game in Boulder, Colo., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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One of key members of Colorado’s 1990 national championship team is moving up on the coaching staff in Boulder. Darian Hagan, who played quarterback for the Buffs in 1990 and won three Big Eight titles when conferences actually had numbers reflective of the number of teams in their conference, has been promoted to the role of running backs coach. The school announced Hagan’s promotion among a couple of accompanying coaching staff changes on Saturday. Hagan had been serving as a director of player development.

For Hagan, this will be the second time he has held a role as an assistant coach on the Colorado sideline. He was an offensive assistant in 2005 under Gary Barnett and he was a holdover when Dan Hawkins was named head coach in 2006. Hagan moved to the role of director of player development in 2011 under Jon Embree and he continued in that role under  head coach Mike MacIntyre.

“Darian brings a lot of pride and passion to our football program with his history here, and also brings expertise to our running backs,” MacIntyre said. “In shifting our offensive staff assignments a little bit, he will give us another dimension in our running game and working with our running backs.

As Hagan gets moved into the coaching staff, MacIntyre adjusting the coaching responsibilities on the offensive side of the staff to make room. Klayton Adams, who was coaching the running backs and tight ends, will now coach the offensive line. Gary Bernardi will take on the coaching duties with the tight ends and fullbacks after coaching the offensive line last season.

 

Bowling Green WR Gehrig Dieter transferring to Alabama

Bowling Green wide receiver Gehrig Dieter makes a reception for a touchdown against Georgia Southern during the first half of the GoDaddy Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP)
Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP
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Alabama will be adding a 1,000-yard wide receiver by way of a graduate transfer from the MAC. Gehrig Dieter will transfer from Bowling Green to Alabama in 2016, and he will be available to play right away. Dieter announced the news of his transfer to Alabama on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon.

Dieter is scheduled to graduate from Bowling Green in May, which means he will be a graduate transfer. This makes him eligible to play right away next fall at any other FBS program with a spot available. That FBS program just so happens to be the defending national champions. With freshman Calvin Ridley breaking out for the Crimson Tide in 2015 en route to a national championship, it looks as though Alabama will have quite a 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position. However, there could be a minor snag preventing Dieter from playing this season. Because this will be Dieter’s third four-year football program, he will need a waiver approved by the NCAA in order to be cleared to play this season. Dieter previously played at SMU before heading to Bowling Green.

Dieter was Bowling Green’s second-leading receiver in 015 with 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns. Together with Roger Lewis (1,544 yards, 16 touchdowns), and quarterback Matt Johnson (4,946 yards, 46 touchdowns), Bowling Green had a dynamic offense that now faces a bit of an uphill battle heading into the spring. With Dieter transferring and Johnson graduating to the NFL and head coach Dino Babers taking a job at Syracuse, Bowling Green could be set to take a step back next fall.

Johnny Lattner, Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer, dies at 83

GPHR 45/1638:  Football player John Lattner, posed action diving in uniform inside the Stadium for Football Guide, May 1952.
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The Notre Dame football family lost a legend today. Johnny Lattner, winner of the 1953 Heisman Trophy, passed away at the age of 83 after battling lung cancer.

In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy in 1953, becoming Notre Dame’s fourth in program history, Lattner also received the Maxwell award in both the 1952 and 1953 seasons. He was also named a consensus All-American in 1952 and 1953. The Chicago native played halfback for the Fighting Irish under Frank Leahy from 1950 through 1953. The “bread and butter ball carrier” went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a knee injury suffered during a two-year stint in the United States Air Force cut his pro career short. Lattner went on to dabble in some coaching at the high school level as well as at the University of Denver. He remained the head coach at Denver until the school shut down the football program in 1961.

Lattner was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.