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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)

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SEC’s Mike Slive cautious on freshman eligibility conversation

Mike Slive

The two most powerful men in college athletics continue to be on opposite sides of a divisive topic, like Republicans and Democrats on just about anything. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are not seeing eye-to-eye on te topic of freshman eligibility. Not yet at least. Delany has spearheaded the recent conversation, but Slive is advises to be patient on the topic until the NCAA rules take effect in 2016.

“We have to remember that each college student has his or her own academic challenges,” Slive said in a statement Monday. Slive was responding to the idea presented by Delany and the Big Ten to prevent student-athletes in certain sports from competing as freshmen in order to provide a more stable introduction to academic life.

“To put a blanket over these student-athletes with a year on the bench doesn’t address those individual needs to incentivize academic progress,” Slive continued.

The Big Ten may be fighting a losing battle here, or Delany may be drawing his line in the sand to back up the idea the Big Ten really is focused more on academics than other conferences. Delany and the Big Ten are currently seeking opinions about freshman eligibility rules.

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Former Rutgers & Minnesota QB Philip Nelson dodges prison

Philip Nelson

Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson will not have to serve any prison time for his involvement in a brutal attack that led to the injury of a Minnesota State football player. Nelson was instead sentenced to 100 hours of community service and was credited for serving two days in jail.

Isaac Kolstad was left in coma after being allegedly being attacked by Nelson and kicked in the head. Following the incident, Nelson was booted from the Rutgers team shortly after he had transferred from Minnesota. Kolstad has since made progress in his recovery in his rehab from his brain injury.

Nelson agreed to a plea that would result in a misdemeanor fifth-degree assault for pleading guilty.

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Boise State has tough slate in 2015 as MWC releases schedule

Jay Ajayi, Bryan Harsin

Defending Mountain West Conference champion Boise State has quite the challenging schedule ahead of it in 2015. In addition to opening the season on a Friday night at home against former head coach Chris Petersen and Washington, the Broncos visit BYU and Virginia before getting to the Mountain West Conference schedule in October. The MWC conference schedule, released today, will send Boise State to Colorado State and Utah State on consecutive weeks in October. If the Broncos can manage to get to Halloween without a loss, or perhaps just one, then Boise State could be set up well for a return run to the College Football Playoff’s New Years Six line-up.

The Mountain West Conference features 22 games against bowl teams from 2014 including 11 from the Pac-12, 6 from the Big Ten, 3 from the SEC and 2 from the ACC. There are no games scheduled against Big 12 schools this season, but the MWC will go toe-to-toe with other Group of 5 conferences; the MAC, American and Conference USA. There are also five games against independent programs including BYU, a former MWC member.

The 12-team conference will continue to use an eight-game conference schedule format, with each team in the conference getting four home games and four away. Each member of the conference will play five division games and three cross-division games. The conference is in the midst of a four-year scheduling cycle that guarantees each school gets to play every member of the conference home and away.

As has been the case the last two seasons, the highest-ranked division champion will be given home-field advantage for the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. The conference title game will be played on Saturday, December 5. Boise State hosted Fresno State in last season’s conference championship game and won. Fresno State hosted the title game the previous season and defeated Utah State. This makes home teams 2-0 in the MWC conference championship game.

While the conference has set aside games for Thursday night and Friday night dates, the Mountain West will release broadcast details that could move certain games away from the tentatively scheduled Saturday dates. The MWC has broadcast rights deals with both ESPN and CBS Sports Network for national coverage and ROOT Sports and the Mountain West Network for regional broadcast options.

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Bret Bielema takes driving privileges from Razorback busted for DWI

Bret Bielema

Arkansas defensive lineman Tevin Beanum was recently arrested for suspicion of DWI. In response, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema took a page out of the old parenting handbook and took Beanum’s car away from him.

Bielema refrained from removing Beanum, a sophomore in 2015, from the roster but did need to find a way to respond. This led Bielema to consult with Beanum’s mother, and the two decided to take the keys and the car from the Razorback in addition to other requirements before being reinstated by Bielema.

“It sounds simple. I think a lot of today’s problems can be solved by an old school way of thinking,” Bielema said in a report by Arkansas News. “So I picked up the phone and called his mom. We talked about different things. He has to go through the court system and obviously he’ll have ramifications. But I’ve basically banned the use of his car for any time other than when he’s coming over here or going to academics. His car is to remain parked.”If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

What happens if Beanum is found driving his car outside of those proposed limitations laid out by Bielema?

“If he gets pulled over for running through a stoplight at 10:30 at night then he’s violated my rules and there’s going to be an even bigger consequence.”

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Here’s hoping Bielema’s old-school way of discipline lets that message sink in for Beanum and the rest of the team.

Arkansas News also reports Bielema has suspended wide receiver JoJo Robinson, but the reason beyond violating team rules is unknown. Robinson could return to the team as early as Sunday.

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SEC fills your calendar with dates for spring practices, spring games and NFL pro days

Alabama Spring Game

Vanderbilt is already midway through its spring football schedule, but the rest of the SEC is just getting ready for spring football. On Monday, as Texas A&M opened up spring camp and a day before Ole Miss gets underway, the SEC released the notable dates for your spring football fix in the southeast.

Each team in the SEC currently has a spring game scheduled, except for Kentucky and Texas A&M. Stadium renovations at Kyle Field will prevent Texas A&M from hosting a spring game for a second straight season. Many of the spring games throughout the SEC will draw large crowds, and the conference should once again lead the way in spring game attendance.

Here are your spring practice start dates, along with dates for spring games and pro days for those looking forward to the NFL Draft. Plan accordingly.

SEC Spring Football

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LSU being used as guinea pig by NCAA and SEC, says recruiting reporter

Les Miles

Last week LSU’s football program was hit with some strong recruiting sanctions by the NCAA. Those who follow the recruiting game seem to think LSU is being punished unreasonably, with one recruiting analyst going so far as to say LSU is being used as a guinea pig by the NCAA and SEC.

“I think the SEC and NCAA are using LSU as a guinea pig,” said Michael Carvell, a recruiting reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said in a report published by The Advocate. “Somebody had to be first. Unfortunately for LSU, it’s them.”

LSU has been banned from signing early enrollee recruits for the next two recruiting cycles and will lose 21 of 210 days on the recruiting calendar to evaluate potential recruits. The sanctions stem from one LSU recruit signing a financial aid agreement with LSU in August with the intent to enroll at LSU in January. That recruit, Matt Womack, ended up committing to Alabama. Football programs that fail to have the player under the agreement to enroll early face penalties. It is believed LSU is the first school to be extended such a punishment, which makes this punishment historical in a sense.

How much this ultimately hurts LSU remains to be seen. Many seem to think LSU will see minimal impact on the recruiting trail, which would make sense. LSU tends to recruit very well, plays in one of the top conferences and is nearby loads of talent. LSU should still manage to recruit effectively, even with the sanctions imposed.

If nothing else, what has happened at LSU will grab the attention of coaches and recruiters around the country as they look to ensure they do not swing and miss on early enrollees.

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Steve Spurrier is now on Twitter

Steve Spurrier

Twitter can be fun, especially when college football coaches get involved and connected. LSU head coach Les Miles is on board. So is Penn State head coach James Franklin. UCLA’s Jim Mora has been known to dabble in the social networking platform, and has gotten in trouble for it along the way. New Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also decided to start tweeting.

Well, brace yourselves because one more big name head coach never at a loss for words is hopping on board to share his thoughts 140 characters at a time; Steve Spurrier.

Give him a follow.

And if there was any doubt…

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Oregon QB commit scores game-winning basket for wrong team

Seth Green

Minnesota native Seth Green is a four-star dual-threat quarterback on his way to Oregon in the Class of 2016. He also happens to be a pretty decent high school basketball player, as his 24-point performance over the weekend would suggest. But as can all too often be the unfortunate case for any talented athlete, it can be a mistake that ends up being the most notable moment for all the wrong reasons.

In a tight regional playoff semifinal game and 20 seconds to play between Green’s East Ridge High School and Cretin-Derham Hall, Green took an inbound pass and made his way down court for an uncontested lay-up. Normally that is a good play, but Green’s lay-up went into his team’s own basket, awarded two free points to Cretin-Derham Hall. The basket turned a one-point lead into a one-point deficit. Oops. Cretin-Derham Hall went on to win by a final score of 70-65.

“That will not define who Seth Green is,” Cretin-Derham Hall head coach Jerry Kline said after the game according to Star Tribune. “He’s a great player, a good kid, and I feel bad for him. He was going so hard and just feel for him at this time.”

The good news for Green is he has plenty of opportunities ahead of him. Perhaps one day, if he has not already, Green will get to start laughing about this unfortunate sequence of events.

Green is the 10th ranked dual-threat quarterback in the nation and the top prospect in the state of Minnesota according to Rivals.

Photo credit: Rivals

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Connor Cook sings praises of new crop of Michigan State receivers

Connor Cook

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook may be losing a few key targets from last season, but the veteran starting quarterback is getting a jump on speaking highly of his new go-to receivers in 2015.

Cook enters this spring looking to build chemistry with some new starting wide receivers. Michigan State loses its top two receivers from 2014, Tony Lippett (1,198 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns) and Keith Mumphery (495 yards, 3 touchdowns). This is the nature of the college game, of course, with players only able to stick around for so long before moving on in one capacity or another. Cook, preparing for his third season as the starting quarterback for the Spartans, knows there will be others ready to compete for an opportunity to start and play a key role in the Michigan State offense in 2015.

“Obviously losing [Tony Lippett] and [Keith Mumphery] are big losses, but we have some other (rising) senior leaders who are stepping up in Macgarrett Kings, Aaron Burbridge and AJ Troup, and then younger guys like R.J. Shelton, Matt Macksood and Tres Barksdale,” Cook said, as transcribed by MLive.com.

Kings is Michigan State’s top returning receiver with 404 yards and a touchdown last season. Burbridge caught 29 passes for 358 yards and a touchdown. Troup added 113 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Shelton had 173 yards and two touchdowns in his sophomore season.Barksdale appeared in seven games and contributed two catches for 16 yards. Macksood, awarded a scholarship last spring. He appeared in seven games for Michigan State last season but not record any stats.

Ohio State continues to be the team to beat in the Big Ten, but Michigan State is not likely to be out of the running even after losing defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to a head coaching job at Pittsburgh. With Cook in command of the offense, he will have solid protection from the offensive line. If the Spartans are to thrive and challenge Ohio State, Cook will have to get on track with his receivers and avoid shaky play as he experienced at times last season.

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What if college football had a College Football NIT?

Manhattan v Syracuse

The college football world went years and decades until finally making way for a four-team playoff format to crown major college football’s national champion. The College Football Playoff is the new crown jewel of the traditional bowl system. But what if there was a second mini-tournament embedded into the college football postseason? What about a third? Maybe expanding the College Football Playoff is not going to happen, but nobody has ever said anything about possibly adding a second tournament to the equation.

The idea popped up in my head today as Chelsea upended Tottenham Hotspur to lay claim to the League Cup. I may be a novice when it comes to soccer, but my understanding is the League Cup is a middle-tier level of competition, and is certainly below the more high-end championships soccer teams in Europe compete for. For those not familiar with soccer, there are multiple tournaments teams can participate in, even during the course of the team’s regular season. It is kind of neat, but the idea would not quite translate to college football with regular seasons already as packed as they are.

But what about the bowl season?

One of the biggest complaints about the college football postseason is the idea there are too many bowl games that nobody particularly cares about. What if those so-called meaningless bowl games were given a purpose? What if, for example, the winners of the New Mexico Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl were given a chance later in the bowl season to compete in a third bowl game, whether in an existing bowl or in a brand new game in the lead-up to the College Football Playoff national championship game? Basketball does it with the NIT. Think of this as college football’s NIT.

I personally think the bowl system is fine the way it is, but if you are looking for a way to spice things up a little bit, and perhaps drive up television ratings for some of the lower-tier bowl games, why not give it a little more meaning? The College Football Playoff recorded monster television ratings. Implementing this sort of idea may not come close to rivaling that kind of viewership, but it could give the casual fan a little more interest in the GoDaddy Bowl or Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (Yes, these are real bowl games).

I know I would watch, but I already do. Would you watch with a little more interest in a second College Football Playoff-type postseason tournament?

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Penn State’s $60 million fine about to be put to good use

Penn State Community Reacts As Trustees Fire Coach Joe Paterno Getty Images

The fine money paid by Penn State is ready to start being put to good use. It is just a matter of figuring out which organization gets what amount of money. With $60 million to distribute, there are plenty f worthy causes to help support.

“There’s certainly a tremendous need,” said Linda Rosenberg, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency in an Associated Press report. “In the area of child sexual abuse, I don’t know if there’s ever enough money to help support the need.”

As it stands now, Rosenberg’s agency is handling $48 million from Penn State’s fine money. Penn State is retaining $12 million. Penn State agreed to pay off a $60 million fine as dictated by sanctions levied against the program in 2012. The sanctions were the result of the findings from the Freeh Report following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Although since then the consent decree has been vacated, Penn State committed to paying off the remainder of the fine assessed against it.

After the NCAA initially fined Penn State, state representative Jake Corman helped to push through the Higher Education Monetary Penalty Endowment Act in order to keep Penn State’s fine money within the state of Pennsylvania. The NCAA wanted the money to be spread nationally, sparking one of many legal battles that eventually went against the NCAA’s wishes.

According to the AP, Rosenberg says about half of the $48 million controlled by her agency is expected to be handed out in the form of grants over the next five years. A commission will be formed with the task to identify areas of need and solicit applications for grant support later this year. By October, grants may start to be issued.

There are a number of worthy foundations that can take advantage of this money that will be available, many connected to raising awareness and combatting child abuse, sexual abuse and more.

Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for abusing 10 boys he met over 15 years through his charity for troubled children.

 

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Pete Carroll to get honorary degree from USC

USC v Stanford Getty Images

Last summer USC announced former head coach Pete Carroll will be inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame. He will be going in with an honorary degree in hand.

Last week it was announced by USC the former head coach of the Trojans from 2001 through 2009, and current head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, will be given an honorary degree on May 15.  Carroll coached USC to national prominence before turning the Seahawks into a Super Bowl champion.Carroll will be honored for his achievements at USC and his efforts to improve the community. Carroll founded A Better LA, an organization committed to a gang-free Los Angeles. He founded a similar program in Seattle as well.

Carroll will be inducted to USC’s athletics hall of fame the following day, on May 16.

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Duquesne football player (former Florida Gator) found dead

Chris Johnson

Some sad news to report on this Sunday. Duquesne’s Chris Johnson was found dead Friday morning. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Johnson apparently died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a medical examiner. Johnson, 22 years old, previously played football at Florida before transferring to FCS Duquesne.

“Everyone associated with the Duquesne football program is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Chris,” Duquesne football coach Jerry Schmitt said in a statement. “Chris was a passionate football player who was also a great teammate, who was loved by many. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Chris’ family at this difficult time.”

Johnson transferred to Duquesne in 2013. He completed his senior season in 2014. He played a role on special teams at Florida but took on a more significant role at Duquesne. He recorded 104 tackles and two interceptions in two seasons with the FCS program in western Pennsylvania.

Photo credit: Duquesne Athletics

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Pat Narduzzi thinks Pitt has what it takes to build its own Steel Curtain

Pat Narduzzi

There is no mistaking the identity new Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi is ready to mold is one based on stingy defense. Narduzzi’s defenses at Michigan State were among the best in the Big Ten and the country, and he hopes to duplicate that formula in the Steel City. What better place to do so than the home to one of the more iconic defenses in football history? Narduzzi believes the Pittsburgh area is a perfect place to implement his defensive system.

Each of the previous four season Narduzzi has been in charge of a top ten defense at Michigan State. The Spartans routinely played a physical style of defense that helped lead the program to a pair of Big Ten championship game appearances and win one Big Ten title and Rose Bowl. Narduzzi became one of the top assistants in the college football world and had chances to accept a head coaching offer before finally taking the plunge with Pittsburgh. To Narduzzi, Pittsburgh had the right ingredients to build the kind of football program he believes can succeed.

“That’s what we’ve been about at Michigan State,” Narduzzi said in an interview with USA Today. “It’s not been pretty, it’s just tough. That’s why I came here. That’s part of it. Besides all the players in the area and the surrounding areas, it’s the toughness. That’s how you build a football team, with toughness. That was one of the keys to coming here.”

Pittsburgh’s defenses was ranked 34th in the nation in total defense in 2014, and 33rd the previous season with Aaron Donald gobbling up defensive award after defensive award. Donald serves as a positive reinforcement that Pittsburgh can develop top defensive players, and that is something Narduzzi will certainly be mindful of. Narduzzi hopes to develop his program in the weight room to make Pittsburgh stronger on the field, especially on defense.

“I’d seen what [Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio] had done for all those years,” Narduzzi said. “What other blueprint do you use? What we do will be what we did there.”

If it was good enough for Michigan State, then it is good enough for Pittsburgh.

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Is Oregon a likable team?

This was an interesting question that popped up on Reddit on Sunday. Without Marcus Mariota, is Oregon a likable team?

The question was posed with a reference to how some perceived the College Football Playoff semifinal Rose Bowl match-up between Oregon and Florida State to be a battle of good and evil. Florida State had developed a bit of a negative reputation based on the off-field headlines involving Jameis Winston. The Seminoles were also the undefeated defending national champions, and some felt they had skated by all too often in 2014 to deserve a shot to compete in the playoff. On the other hand, Mariota was seen as the anti-Winston in terms of his behavior and likability in the eyes of the casual college football fan. There was a certain level of satisfaction when Oregon ousted Florida State by Florida State haters. But does that mean Oregon was a likable program? Or was Oregon simply doing the dirty work?

Outside of the Pac-12, I would guess, many college football fans seem to have a certain level of respect for the Oregon football program. The flashy uniforms certainly make them one of the more interesting and eye-popping programs, as well as the innovative offensive flair. As far as entertainment is concerned, Oregon has been the full package in recent seasons. Quick offense, new uniforms every week, lots of points and one of the better mascots around the country.

Others view Oregon as a symbol of the corporate influence in college football with its relationship with Nike. Oregon is the program that started the trend of multiple uniform combinations that many have tried to repeat in their own programs. Some believe Oregon is a sham program running a gimmicky offense that will dazzle on the scoreboard for 12 weeks of the season but ultimately prove to be inadequate against a legitimate opponent on the big stage (Auburn and Ohio State for example).

So I relay the question to you, the readers of College Football Talk. Do you find Oregon to be likable or not? What other programs do you think are likable, and which simply are not?

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