Skip to content

2011: A look ahead

Carnac

What’s that you say?  It’s barely stopped raining confetti following Auburn’s BcS title game win over Oregon and we’re already talking about a 2011 season that won’t start for another eight months?

You damn right we are.  And you know why?  ‘Cause that’s how we roll.  Or something.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at how at how things may play out in 2011.  And, based on our look ahead to the 2010 season, you don’t have much to worry about if there’s anything negative about your school below.

FIVE COMPELLING STORYLINES

1. The Conference Shuffle
You may have forgotten, but several schools will be ditching long-time conference homes for some new league digs in the coming months.  Nebraska to the Big Ten from the Big 12.  Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12 from the Big 12 and Mountain West, respectively.  Boise State from the WAC to the Mountain West.  Perhaps the most intriguing angles will come from the two BcS conferences with new additions; specifically, how will the split into two six-team divisions and the addition of a conference title games affect the leagues as it pertains to the BcS?   It’s hard to say at this point in time how this mini-expansion apocalypse will impact the various conferences, but it’s certainly a new frontier these leagues will be plowing.  And something that bears watching as conferences like the Big Ten and Pac-12 continue to sniff around adding even more schools in the coming years.

2. Can the Big Ten Recover From New Year’s Day Bowl Embarrassment?
Last year at this time, we were asking if the Big Ten had displayed earnest growth based on their performance during the 2009-2010 bowl season or if it was merely just a one-year blip.  The 0-5 massacre on the first day of 2011 suggests the latter is the case.  We all know — or at least should know — that bowl performance is not indicative of conference strength one way or the other.  However, it’s a number that’s used to fuel national perceptions, and right now the Big Ten is back nationally to where they were two years ago: a sloth-like, middle-of-the-road conference that has a long ways to go before they climb even with the likes of the SEC.

3. Can Texas Two-Step Back to Their Rightful Place?
Any way you parse it, the 2010 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Longhorns.  Not only was UT 5-7 overall, but they finished an unsightly 2-5 at home — including losses to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor.  Again, at home.  Following that disaster, Mack Brown overhauled most of his coaching staff either of his own volition or out of necessity, including bringing in new coordinators on both sides of the ball.  There’s simply too much talent on that roster for yet another disastrous year in what could very well be Brown’s swan song.  Oops, did we type that out loud?

4. Last Call for JoePa-hol… Maybe?
Despite rumors that were running rampant that Joe Paterno would be forced to step down due to health concerns, the legendary head coach will be back for his 147th season as Penn State’s head coach in 2011.  But, will it be his last?  Paterno is entering the final year of a three-year contract, and administration stated after a meeting with Paterno this past weekend that his future won’t be discussed until after the ’11 season.  He’s gotta go at some point; will this be the year?

5. The NFL Labor Issue
Based on the rhetoric coming from both sides of the NFL’s labor issue, there seems to be a very good chance that the players will face a lockout at the hands of the owners.  There’s also a very real possibility that the lockout could drag into the regular season, costing the NFL games… and leaving college football as the only “major” game in town.  We’ve heard from a couple of members of athletic departments that filling that football vacuum and sliding some games to Sunday “is something that has been talked about and will continue to be talked about if (the labor projections) continue” to look gloomy.  The NFL will always be king; college football, though, could very well be a big beneficiary of that league’s stupidity.

WAY-TOO-EARLY HEISMAN ROLL CALL

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford — The quarterback surprised some by returning to the Cardinal for another season.  It would be no surprise at all if he winds up in New York City in December holding the same stiff-armed trophy he finished runner-up for late last year.  With the coaching change at Stanford, this could be a dicey player to stick at the top of the Heisman list, especially if athletic director Bob Bowlsby decides to eschew the in-house approach for a replacement.

2. Darron Thomas, Oregon — The Ducks quarterback should’ve received more Heisman attention than he did in 2010.  That will be rectified in 2011 as the junior-to-be is too talented as a runner/passer to ignore much longer, the spotty play in the national title game notwithstanding.

3. Cam Newton, Auburn — After the way the quarterback dominated SEC defenses in 2010 on his way to winning the Heisman, why would he not start at the top of the 2011 list?  Simple: only one player has won back-to-back Heismans, and that happened way back in the seventies.  Of course, any inclusion of Newton is predicated on Newton returning — BIG if — instead of leaping to the NFL after just one full season as a starter at this level, which we will know no later than Saturday.

4. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina — We believe it’s a federal law to throw a curve ball into the middle of these lists, so why not toss the talented soon-to-be sophomore running back into the early mix?  Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman.  Logic would dictate that Lattimore will receive even more of the workload after proving himself to head coach Steve Spurrier to be a reliable cog in the offense.  Logic would further dictate that, with a year of seasoning and three-fifths of a solid offensive line returning, Lattimore will be able to improve his 4.8 yards per carry from this past season.

5. Kellen Moore, Boise State — Based on Moore’s first three years with the Broncos, he would appear to be a mortal lock for at least another trip to New York City, provided he can remain healthy and the wheels don’t fall of the BSU freight train.  The senior-to-be has averaged 3,600 yards, 33 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his three years as a starter, all the while completing just over 68 percent of his passes.

6. LaMichael James, Oregon — The nation’s leading rusher in 2010, James, like Luck, decided to eschew a shot at NFL riches for another season of college ball.  For whatever reason, despite his productivity, James does not receive the hype and/or love from the media that he seemingly deserves.  Is he being viewed as a “system back”?  We’ve gotten that impression from some and, although we believe it to be unfair, it’s not likely to abate at any point in the near future.

Bonus Pick: Matt Barkley, USC — Call this one a serious hunch, but we feel that the USC quarterback is on the precipice of fulfilling all of his immense high school hype and throwing some serious numbers out onto the Heisman table.  Plus, it will make NBC Sports.com‘s college football editor very happy, and could potentially help curb his incessant whining over the state of the Trojans.

RICH RODRIGUEZ MEMORIAL COACHING HOT SEAT

1. Paul Wulff, Washington State
The man is 5-32 in three years with the Cougars and barely made it to a fourth.  If he doesn’t show marked improvement in the won-loss ledger, you can bet he won’t get a fifth year and will instead be thrown out on his Wazzu.

2. Mark Richt, Georgia
During his 10 years in Athens, Richt has only finished a season with a winning percentage below .667 twice.  Oddly enough, both of those seasons have come in the past two seasons.  The native Dawgs are getting restless and, with a new boss sitting in the athletic director’s office with a winning mandate for the football program, Richt had better win this season.  Or else.

3. Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
Slick Rick returned to his alma mater with great fanfare… and has proceeded to defecate all over the bed.  All Neuheisel has done is wrap a pair of 4-8 seasons around a 7-6 second year during his three seasons with the Bruins.  Perhaps most disturbing is an utterly inept offense that spits and sputters despite the presence of a former quarterback in Neuheisel and an offensive genius in Norm Chow.  What it will take for Neuheisel to remain at UCLA beyond 2011 remains to be seen, but it sure as hell will have to be more than what Slick Rick has done thus far.

4. Ron Zook, Illinois
No coaching hot seat would be complete without the perpetually on-fire backside of The Zookster.  Zook bought himself a little bit of time with a seven-win season that included a bowl win, but he’s still just 28-45 in six years in Champaign.  Even more unacceptable is the fact that he’s 16-32 in the Big Ten and has finished above .500 in conference play just once — the Illini’s Rose Bowl season waaay back in 2007.  It appears Zook will get one more season to show the program is taking significant strides.  Then again, dude has the same number of lives as a couple of felines, so we’ll see.

5. Dennis Erickson, Arizona State
The fourth-year coach was thiiis close to getting the axe following the 2010 season, but received a reprieve.  Based on what we’ve been told, it will be his one and only commutation, especially since the Sun Devils are the early pick by some to win the Pac-12 South.  In other words, Erickson might want to consider winning post-haste.

FIVE RISERS
1. Alabama
C’mon, this might be the biggest no-brainer of the bunch.  Is there really any explanation needed as to why the Tide, which finished No. 10 following the blowout of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, is very likely to find their way back into the Top 5 for the vast majority of the upcoming season?  Then again, the quarterback position…

2. Syracuse
Oh yeah; I went there.  Consider this my one flyer in this category.  And, no, I don’t see the Orange as a Top 10 team at any point during the ’11 season, but, given the strength — or lack thereof — in the Big East, Doug Marrone has the opportunity to do something special as early as this coming year.  Hell, UConn made a BcS bowl; why can’t the ‘Cuse?

3. Texas
Almost as big a no-brainer as ‘Bama.  Again, too much talent on that 85-man roster, and Mack Brown is too good of a coach, to allow yet another debacle to take place.

4. Mississippi State
OK, I lied; there’ll be two flyers in this category.  A 9-4 season that included close losses to Auburn and Arkansas, and a big blowout win in the Gator Bowl has the Bulldogs set up for a leap from perennial also-ran to legitimate contender in Dan Mullen’s third year in Starkville.

5. Florida/Florida State
A new head coach at UF seems to have reinvigorated the entire Gator football program, something we fully expect to carry over into a rebound ’11 season.  A first-year head coach at FSU has no doubt brought new life to Seminole Nation, as evidenced by a recruiting class that could easily finish in the top three in the country.  It’s a better sport when programs like these two are relevant.  Expect that to be the case in 2011.

FIVE TUMBLERS
1. Virginia Tech
Yes, Frank Beamer & Company seem to reload year after year, but losing one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the country in Tyrod Taylor (no relation) as well as two of your top running backs to early entry is not exactly the optimal recipe for sustaining success.

2. Missouri
Blame this hunch solely on attrition.  When you lose your best player on the offensive side of the ball, especially when it’s at the quarterback position, and one of your best on the defensive side of the ball, there’s a very good chance for at least a brief step back for the Mizzou program.

3. Ohio State
Shocked at this one?  You shouldn’t be.  Four offensive starters suspended for, barring a successful appeal that results in a reduction, the first five games of the season does not portend well regardless of the schedule.  Down one-third of your starting offense, suddenly games against Miami (Fla.) and Colorado don’t look like such gimmes, and the game against Big Ten co-champ Michigan State gets that much tougher.

4. UConn
Randy Edsall was Huskies football.  As much as we didn’t like the hire for Maryland, we think his departure will have a very negative impact on UConn, which go only eight votes in the final AP Top 25 poll, at least for the short-term.  Then again, they do still reside in the Big East…

5. Michigan State
Personally, I thought the Spartans’ magical 11-2 run was a mirage.  They will prove me correct in 2011 as they have to go on the road to face Notre Dame — a team I nearly put in the Five Risers — Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa, as well as take on Wisconsin at home.

EARLY-BIRD TOP FIVE*

1. Oklahoma: I didn’t buy into the preseason Sooner hype last offseason; I’m ready to this year.  Wholeheartedly and unequivocally.

2. Oregon: Darron Thomas, LaMichael James & Company returning?  Something tells me that No. 2 might end up being too low.

3. TCU: Sure, the Horned Frogs lose some key performers — chief among them quarterback Andy Dalton — but the combination of a likely Top Five placement in the preseason polls, a “favorable” schedule and a helluva football program built by Gary Patterson has the private school poised to remain on the fringes of title contention for years to come.  Especially when their schedule really gets easy with the move to the Big East.

4. Stanford: Jim Harbaugh left a helluva foundation for whoever it is that takes over, especially if the Cardinal stays in-house — which they should — for a replacement.  Oh, and Andrew Luck somewhat unexpectedly returning for another year?  That’s enough to at least start them off inside the Top Five.

5. Boise State: The move to the Mountain West should help the Broncos’ “street cred”, even just a little and even with the loss of Utah from the conference.  Chris Petersen reaffirmed his commitment to BSU, and Kellen Moore returns for one more season on the blue turf.  What’s not to like about their chances of competing yet again for a BcS slot… and maybe a spot in the national title game in New Orleans a year from now.

(*With this Top Five, and unlike the early Heisman Roll Call, I’m going with the assumption that Newton will leave early; if he doesn’t, Auburn would be my No. 2)

Permalink 18 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Rumor Mill, Top Posts

Injuries end playing career for Rutgers wide receiver

Michaelee Harris, Tejay Johnson

Injuries have ended the career of Rutgers wide receiver Tejay Johnson, per NJ.com’s Dan Duggan. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood made the announcement at Monday’s Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.

Johnson will have a to-be-determined role with the team in his senior year at Rutgers.

The Egg Harbor Township, N.J., native converted to wide receiver in spring practice after making 35 tackles as a safety in 2013. He was frequently limited by injuries over the course of his career, and according to Duggan his move to wide receiver — his natural position — was made in an effort to limit the wear and tear on his body.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Bo Pelini continues to be self-aware about his cat and Faux Pelini

Bo Pelini Cat 2

Say what you will about Bo Pelini as a coach, but this is pretty funny:

If you don’t know what Pelini’s getting at, that means you’re not following Faux Pelini on Twitter, which means you’re doing Twitter wrong. This isn’t the first time the real Nebraska coach has engaged the fake Nebraska coach — back in January during the BCS Championship, Pelini asked the parody account if he could have his cat back.

The Nebraska coach also brought his cat to the Huskers’ spring game this year.

Pelini has a reputation of being an incredibly intense coach on the sidelines — which stems from moments like this — but he said at Big Ten Media Days on Monday that he’s trying to show he’s a different person off the field:

And hey, if his cat and a parody Twitter account are the vehicle for showing that, it’s pretty awesome.

Permalink 1 Comment Back to top

Jimbo Fisher sounds fine with Jameis Winston playing baseball

Jameis Winston AP

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston admitted earlier this month he’ll eventually have to choose between baseball and football, but wants to continue his two-sport career for as long as he can.

Jimbo Fisher, too, is all for his Heisman-winning quarterback continuing his career on the diamond. From Fisher’s appearance on ESPN’s First Take this morning (h/t to Coaching Search):

“Baseball is a game of failure. Baseball is a much greater game of failure. It’s a whole different mindset. Anytime you’re competing in any sport, I think it’s good, but what baseball teaches you is how to overcome adversity. It teaches you how to fail and fail and fail, and still be able to perform.

“I think as a quarterback, I don’t care how good you are, there are going to be bad moments. … I think baseball slows it down for him and has made him a better (football) player.”

That’s a good take on it, though Winston only had five hits in 39 at-bats with eight walks and nine strikeouts for FSU this spring. Batting involves an awful lot of failure — and even when you don’t fail and hit a ball hard, there’s still a chance you’ll make an out. If Fisher thinks playing baseball is making Winston mentally tougher, then by all means should he continue to play.

Where I’d be worried if I were Fisher is Winston pitching. Winston is a much better pitcher than he is a hitter, posting a 1.08 ERA with 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 33 1/3 innings last season. But every pitch he throws is putting strain on his ulnar collateral ligament, and if one day he feels a pop in his right elbow and needs Tommy John surgery…it could very well wipe out a full season of his football career.

It’s not a huge risk, given Winston doesn’t pitch an awful lot for FSU. But baseball’s rash of Tommy John surgeries this season has created such a panic over any minor elbow discomfort, that if Winston does feel a little twinge one day next spring maybe it’d be best for his football career to shut down his baseball one.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top

Auburn WR commit is Rivals No. 1 class of 2016 recruit

Auburn logo

The recruiting class of 2016 is still a year and a half away from its signing day (unless an early signing period materializes), but Rivals released some early ratings for the group and ranked wide receiver Nate Craig as 2016′s top recruit.

That’s good news for Auburn fans, since Craig pledged his verbal commitment to the Tigers on July 21.

Of course, a verbal commitment isn’t really a commitment and 18 months separate us from February 2016. But Craig did commit to Auburn while holding offers from powerhouse programs like Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC, among many others.

If his rating holds, the Tampa native would join Percy Harvin, Derrick Williams and Dorial Green-Beckham, all of whom were wide receivers ranked as the No. 1 recruit in their respective classes.

Permalink 5 Comments Back to top

Beavers’ standout center may not be ready to start season

Oregon State v Arizona State Getty Images

Oregon State C Isaac Seumalo became an instant starter for the Beavers the day he stepped onto the team’s practice field as a true freshman. Seumalo, however, may not open the season as a starter this fall due to a broken foot he suffered during the Hawaii Bowl.

Seumalo missed all of spring practice due to his recovery, and Oregon State head coach Mike Riley doesn’t have a definitive timetable for the center’s return.

“I think it’s on pretty good schedule to be ready to play, if not at the very first game, early,” Riley told the Oregonian’s Gina Mizell at Pac-12 Media Days. “So we’re going to be very, very careful with that. So that’s why I’m being very careful when I say he’s going to play. But I anticipate him being ready. I would think he might be ready for the first game, but maybe not.”

Oregon State opens the season against against the Portland State Vikings and returns to the islands to play the Hawaii Warriors on Sept. 6. If Seumalo hasn’t returned to the lineup by that point, the Beavers have an open date, which will grant the lineman an extra week to heal.

Seumalo, who was named to the Outland Trophy watch list this summer, is one of the nation’s top interior blockers. He’s already considered the top center prospect for the 2016 NFL draft by ESPN’s draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr.

“Seumalo is another center who could easily move to guard, and is also athletic enough to handle tackle,” Kiper wrote. “He already has 25 starts, but will be coming into the season with a layer rust after missing the spring with a foot injury.”

Riley is considering the possibility of moving Seumalo to guard upon his return. Riley told Mizell that he actually prefers Seumalo to play right guard, while sophomore Grant Bays steps in as the team’s new center.

Either way, the Oregon State offensive line is far better with a healthy Seumalo in the lineup than when he’s not.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Ohio State AD: B1G expansion ‘is about money’

Gene Smith

Ohio State AD Gene Smith knows how to pander to his audience. Within the course of two days, Smith gave two different spins on the addition of Rutgers (and Maryland) to the Big Ten Conference.

Smith defended the league’s addition of Rutgers Saturday in an interview with NJ.com’s Dan Duggan.

Smith stated Rutgers “will bring a lot to the table.” The Buckeyes’ athletic director complimented Rutgers’ prestigious academic programs. He also mentioned the football team’s success under former head coach Greg Schiano and the money the school put into the program during that period.

The idea Rutgers was chosen to become a member of the Big Ten Conference due to a business decision was merely an after thought.

Smith was far more candid Sunday during an interview with The Columbus Dispatch’s Todd Jones. When Smith was asked directly about the Big Ten’s additions of Rutgers and Maryland, Smith stated the obvious.

“From a business point of view, it makes huge sense,” Smith told Jones. “This is a business deal. This is about money. Everybody wants to dodge that; I don’t. It’s about the stability of our conference for the long term.”

Smith looks at these moves as a way to adjust to the changing landscape of college football and the United States’ shifting population.

“It provides a new geography for us to have a presence in, for a number of reasons: television, recruiting, (and) providing Penn State with some geographical partners,” Smith stated. “The reality is, growth was inevitable for intercollegiate athletic conferences. We needed to be part of that.

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason enough by itself to look at the concept of expansion.”

With the Big Ten’s media days set to commence Monday and Tuesday, a big spectacle will be made of the additions of Rutgers and Maryland. The two programs will be accepted as equals among the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, etc. The reality is these program were merely business acquisitions which proved to be a means to an end for the Big Ten Conference.

Permalink 19 Comments Back to top

Steve Spurrier expects Mike Davis to turn pro after season

Mike Davis

South Carolina RB Mike Davis rushed for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. If he has a similar junior campaign, Davis won’t return to Columbia for his senior season.

“Mike Davis, if he has a big year, he’s going to go pro,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff after his annual media golf event Thursday. “And we’re going to tell him to go pro, because he should. The lifespan of a running back is only a certain amount of years. If a young man after three years can go, we’re going to shake his hand and let him go. That’s why you keep recruiting more running backs.”

After Spurrier watched former RB Marcus Lattimore suffer two major knee injuries, which put his potential professional career in jeopardy, the coach’s only recourse is to recommend Davis leaves after this season, whether he has an outstanding year or not.

“The thing as a running back is your life expectancy isn’t long in the NFL,” South Carolina running backs coach Everette Sands told Aschoff. “Here in the SEC, it’s probably the closest thing to the NFL.”

South Carolina will help Davis by employing a running back rotation this fall with fellow juniors Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson in the backfield. This will prevent some of the wear and tear other feature backs around the country will experience.

While Davis isn’t considered the top running back prospect potentially available for the 2015 NFL draft — that distinction belongs to Georgia’s Todd Gurley — his size (5-9, 223) coupled with a physical running style projects well to the next level. Early projections rank Davis as a Top 5 prospect at his position prior to the start of the 2014 season.

Davis’ ability to play at a high level and avoid injuries will set him up to make an easy decision after the season.

Permalink 7 Comments Back to top

Auburn’s Gabe Wright expects to bounce between DT and DE

Gabe Wright, Bo Wallace

While Auburn’s run to the national title game last season was spurred by the team’s innovative offense and overwhelming rushing attack, the Tigers’ defense was led by defensive tackle Gabe Wright. Wright proved to be one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the nation, but his role is expected to expand this fall.

Wright will start the season at defensive tackle, but he’ll also be expected to receive repetitions at defensive end.

Wright was forced to play defensive end during spring practice due to injuries along the defensive line, and the Tigers’ coaching staff came away  impressed with his play.

“(Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Gardner) actually wanted to put me in last year, but he just stated I wasn’t mentally ready,” Wright told al.com’s Brandon Marcello. “I respect and I don’t second-guess his decision. If I’m called upon, I will answer the call. There’s no doubt about that. It just shows his confidence in me.”

Wright also wasn’t physically ready to play defensive end last year. He’s down to 290 pounds with enough the athleticism to set the edge and rush the passer.

“I’ve been wanting to drop down body weight since I’ve been here — and body fat –  which has been done,” Wright said.

Wright’s versatility will provide insurance along the Tigers’ defensive line after losing Dee Ford to the NFL and Carl Lawson to a potential season-ending ACL injury. Wright’s ability to provide depth at defensive end also allows the ultra-talented Montravius Adams to gain more repetitions at defensive tackle.

While Wright remains one of the best interior defenders in college football, his biggest contribution this season may be his ability to play defensive end until Lawson is fully healthy or one of the Tigers’ young pass rushers are ready to take over the spot.

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Urban Meyer’s wife tells Gator fans to ‘get over it’

25th Outback Bowl - Florida Gators v Penn State Nittany Lions Getty Images

Urban Meyer won 65 games, three SEC championships and two national titles during his six seasons as the head coach of the Florida Gators. Yet, there is still lingering resentment within the Gators’ fan base regarding how Meyer left the program.

Meyer’s wife, Shelley Meyer, isn’t happy with the grief her husband still has to endure from faceless detractors.

“All of my comments are about message board people,” Shelley Meyer told The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley. “I still go to Gainesville four times a year. Nobody ever says anything mean to me. What I care about are the people down there who love us and know us. The people who hate us I don’t even know.

“I just wish people would get over it. I wish we could have been there 12 years. I’m the most bummed that we weren’t there 12 years.”

For some of the irrational members of the fan base, it was about more than slipping to an 8-5 record in 2010. It wasn’t about the large contingent of malcontents left on the roster when Will Muschamp took over the program. Urban Meyer’s decision to leave the program due to health concerns and then take the Ohio State coaching job a year later was a betrayal of the fans’ trust.

“But here is my perception (about Florida fans): I think they feel like they were kind of left at the altar,” Shelley Meyer said. “They feel a betrayal, even though they were so mad at him about how our last season (2010) went. You can’t please them. You can’t please all fans anywhere; you can’t. And I’ve just accepted that, and I love when our fans are behind us and support us and I love that they love their team, but we can’t take it personally.

“Because, not one person that is close to us (from their time in Florida) has ever come up and said anything bad. ‘Why did you leave? You faked it. You weren’t sick. You had this Ohio State thing lined up the entire time.’ I would hear that all the time, and I was like ‘Uh, no.’ Because I was not coming here. So, trust me, that was not planned. So, the people who are critical of us, it’s not the people who know us. It’s the people who aren’t even around the program. They just want their team to win, and whoever can get their team to win, that’s who they’re for. And if you can’t do it or if you left them, then they’ll hate you.”

The Gators’ fan base is also currently suffering from envy. It’s easy to see how well the Buckeyes have played under Urban Meyer’s direction. Ohio State is 24-2 the past two years. Florida, meanwhile, is 22-16 under Muschamp, and the program is coming off a 4-8 season.

Only time and Florida once again playing at a high level will defuse the hatred toward the Meyers that currently exists within a fan base that previously adored them.

Permalink 45 Comments Back to top

Report: Big Ten plans to play more games in NYC

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers v Notre Dame

The Big Ten Conference is adamant about expanding its presence on the East Coast, particularly in New York City.

Adding Rutgers to the league, reaching an agreement with the Pinstripe Bowl and opening an office in Manhattan wasn’t quite enough to sate the conference’s desires.

The Big Ten Conference is considering hosting regular season contests in New York City at Yankee Stadium and Washington D.C., according to cbssports.com’s Jeremy Fowler.

The conference would use the neutral sites to help cultivate rivalries between Penn State and its newest members, Rutgers and Maryland.

“Like with Yankee Stadium — would there be a case where Rutgers or Penn State or Maryland, would they want to move a game to an iconic stadium like that?” Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman posed to Fowler. “You could bring in, for Rutgers, probably another 10 to 15,000 people there. Is that a game that makes sense to move there? Probably.”

It can also serve as an opportunity for the new schools to benefit from the more established programs in the conference. Teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin have national followings and their fans travel well. Bigger venues to host these programs will be beneficial for both the programs playing in the games and the conference.

High-profile venues can also be used to entice marquee opponents as additions to non-conference schedules. Rutgers, for example, will travel to Seattle this fall to open the season against the Pac-12′s Washington State Cougars at CenturyLink Field. Rutgers can use the lure of Yankee Stadium to bring in other opponents from the Pac-12, Big 12 or SEC.

By potentially using stadiums at key demographic locations, the Big Ten Conference will be taking full advantage of its expanded footprint and the markets it cherished when the decision was made to expand to 14 teams.

Permalink 17 Comments Back to top

UCLA specialist leaves team, replaced by JUCO punter

Jim Mora

Football coaches never let their teams or its fans forget that special teams are a third of the game.

UCLA expected to be strong on special teams this fall with both their kicker and punter returning after last season. Instead, UCLA head coach Jim Mora must deal with replacing one of the Bruins’ specialists as fall camp approaches.

Punter Sean Covington has left the team, according to bruinreportonline.com’s Tracy Pierson. A reason behind the departure has yet to be divulged.

Covington finished fourth in the Pac-12 Conference last season with an average of 42.6 yards per punt, and he received an honorable mention as an all-conference performer. Covington booted nine punts of 50 yards or longer and pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 18 times. Covington was expected to be even better this season after winning the job as a true freshman.

UCLA plans to replace Covington with the JUCO addition of Matt Mengel.

“He has an NFL leg,” kicker/punter guru Chris Sailer says told Pierson. “Strongest leg I’ve seen since (USC’s) David Buehler. Huge in kickoffs. Big potential as a field goal kicker and punter. The sky is the limit.”

Permalink 0 Comments Back to top

Kevin Sumlin issues challenge to Bob Stoops

Kevin Sumlin

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops recently took a shot at a former rival, the Texas A&M Aggies, and their soft non-conference schedule during an interview with ESPN. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin didn’t back down from the challenge when asked about Stoops’ comments.

“Coach Stoops has the right to say whatever he wants, but if he wants to play us again we’ll take him up on that,” Sumlin told aggiesports.com.

It was the perfect response from Sumlin. Not only does he avoid going tit-for-tat with Stoops, but it’s a potential opportunity to strengthen the Aggies’ schedule in the future and rekindle a playing relationship against Texas A&M’s former conference, the Big 12.

The reality is Stoops was correct in his assessment. Texas A&M doesn’t play a bunch of “toughies.”

Since Sumlin took over the program, the Aggies’ non-conference schedule has included the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, SMU Mustangs, South Carolina State Bulldogs, Sam Houston State BearKats, Rice Owls, UTEP Miners, Lamar Cardinal and ULM Warhawks.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, has scheduled the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (twice) and the Tennessee Volunteers over the same period.

The blame can’t be laid at Sumlin’s feet. Schedules are made years in advance. Even so, the programs Texas A&M scheduled were never among the country’s best. But that’s set to change in the coming years when Texas A&M plays the Arizona State Sun Devils (2015) and the UCLA Bruins (2016).

And there is still room to add the Sooners to those schedules.

Permalink 39 Comments Back to top

Rich Rodriguez’s message to Nick Saban: ‘Cry me a river’

During SEC media days, Alabama head coach Nick Saban once again made his case for a rule to be implemented which would slow some of the uptempo offenses found around college football.

Saban cited injury concerns as well as a lack of player development and coaching as reasons why college football needs to slow the pace of these offenses.

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is having none of what Saban is selling.

“Cry me a river. No one comes to games to watch defensive coaches,” Rodriguez told ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy.

There are two positions which clearly exist within this bickering.

First and foremost, Saban sees uptempo play and lack of substitutions as a competitive advantage for teams that play at a major faster pace than most of the teams in the SEC. Meanwhile, those coaches who can’t recruit with the likes of Alabama simply see it as a way to even the playing field.

And, despite Rodriguez’s bold claim, Alabama is one of the most successful teams in college football with a defensive mastermind at the helm. Rodriguez may be an offensive genius, but the Arizona Wildcats are 16-10 the last two seasons and the coach has never led a team to a national championship game.

Nick Saban’s response to Rodriguez should be very simple — to paraphrase hockey great Patrick Roy — “I can’t hear what Rich is saying, because my ears are blocked with two of my four national championship rings.”

Permalink 21 Comments Back to top

Ohio State AD: ‘Rutgers will bring a lot to the table’

Gene Smith

As the wheels of conference realignment spun, a league’s “footprint” became more important than athletic success. A school’s market was more valuable than what it could bring to the field of play.

The Big Ten Conference’s inclusion of Rutgers may have been the most obvious case of a “Big 5″ conference looking more at a school’s location than how it will improve the league’s level of play.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, however, believes Rutgers is a major asset to the Big Ten.

“There’s some long-term historic rivalries, like ours with that team up north, and then there’s those that emerge,” Smith told NJ.com’s Dan Duggan. “I think the Rutgers-Penn State one will probably elevate itself over time and it will be one of those contests that everybody will look forward to all the time. I think Rutgers will bring a lot to the table.”

Smith cited the school’s previous success on the gridiron under former head coach Greg Schiano and the money the school pumped into the program during that era. The Scarlet Knights were 56-33 with six bowl appearances during Schiano’s seven seasons.

Under the supervision of Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights have remained competitive. They were 9-4 in 2012 but stumbled to 6-7 last season.

Despite these middling results against lesser competition, Rutgers remained attractive to the Big Ten Conference. Smith admitted the school’s location in New Jersey, as part of the New York City market, still remains a factor in Rutgers’ inclusion to the league.

“The East Coast, obviously from a market point of view, is huge for us,” Smith. “We have to have a presence on the East Coast and Penn State needed some partners on the East Coast. Rutgers does that.”

Even when another athletic director within the Big Ten Conference defends the inclusion of Rutgers from an academic and athletic standpoint, the school’s location still remains the No. 1 reason they were invited. After all, the Scarlets Knights are expected to finish last in the Big Ten’s eastern division.

Permalink 21 Comments Back to top

Stanford’s Ty Montgomery could miss USC game

California v Stanford Getty Images

Stanford’s Ty Montgomery is one of the nation’s top wide receivers, but he may not be ready to play by the start of the season.

Montgomery already missed the entirety of spring practice after he underwent surgeries on his arm and knee. Stanford head coach David Shaw then told Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News during Pac-12 media days that Montgomery is questionable for the season-opener against UC-Davis and “It will be close for USC.”

Montgomery led Stanford with 958 receiving yards last season. He was also named a Walter Camp All-American as a returner after he  averaged 30.3 yards per kick return.

Standford’s staff plans to bring Montgomery along slowly, and the coaches hope he will be ready by the end of the summer.

“Hopefully, by the end of training camp, he’ll be able to do more contact stuff,” Shaw added.

If Montgomery misses a game or two, Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will have to rely heavily on senior WR Devon Cajuste. Cajuste finished second on the team last season with 642 receiving yards. Sophomore Francis Owusu would be first in line to fill in for Montgomery until his return.

And Stanford can always rely heavily on its overwhelming running attack if the passing game sputters.

Permalink 3 Comments Back to top