Projecting football fortunes of this year’s Final Four

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Even as the preeminent sport in collegiate athletics continues to trudge ever so carefully toward a possible playoff, another is nearing the end of its annual month of madness.  College basketball, of course, is what we’re speaking of and, as you no doubt know courtesy of your busted brackets, its Final Four participants were decided over the weekend — Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State.

The first three have long been known as basketball schools rich in hoops history, although the Buckeyes have its own roundball tradition that’s not to be scoffed at, especially since the arrival of Thad “I’d Sweat Profusely in the Arctic” Matta.  This, of course, is a college football blog — for all of your “amateur” hoops needs, check out CollegeBasketballTalk.com — which means we need to weave the upcoming events in New Orleans into something that relates to our area of focus.

In other words, does a school’s success in one sport portend anything for another?  Of course not.  One literally has nothing to do with the other.  In fact, just one Div. 1 institution — Florida, 2007 — has won a national championship in football and men’s basketball in the same year, much to the chagrin of one of the schools participating in this year’s Final Four it should be noted.

Still, “we” thought it’d be a nifty and/or keen endeavor to take a look at the Final Four participants and see if the respective schools’ hardwood success this year will somehow give way to similar results on the gridiron in 2012.

(Here’s a hint: probably not.)

So, in order of projected success, here are thumbnail looks at how these basketball schools may fair in the “other” sport this coming season.

1. LOUISVILLE
Last Final Four appearance: 2005
Football record the following season: 9-3, No. 19 in final AP poll

If the first two seasons under Charlie Strong are any indication, the Cardinals are in this football thing for the long haul.  Despite “just” a 7-6 record overall in 2011, the Cardinals took home a share of the Big East title in Strong’s second year.  With somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 returning starters — including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who possesses most of the tools to be something very special at this level — as well as West Virginia’s departure for the Big 12, the Cardinals should be one of the — if not the — preseason favorites for what would be a run at a second straight conference crown.

2. KENTUCKY
Last Final Four appearance: 2011
Football record the following season: 5-7, 2-6 in SEC play

Even as the Wildcats took a step — or two — back from a first season under Joker Phillips in which UK won six games and qualified for a bowl, the program’s first win over Tennessee in more than a quarter of a century helped salve some of the wounds created by the five-win regression in 2011.  The biggest problem for UK in 2012, or any other year for that matter?  The conference in which it resides, one which you may or may not know has made its mark playing a high-level of football on an annual basis.  It’s highly possible that Phillips is a good, solid head football coach; in the SEC, however, “good, solid” simply won’t get it done, in 2012 or any other year.

3. KANSAS
Last Final Four appearance: 2008
Football record the following season: 8-5, Insight Bowl win

Two wins to start the 2011 season — over Div. 1-A McNeese State and the MAC’s Northern Illinois — gave way to 10 consecutive losses, including six by at least 28 points and four by at least 42 points.  Not so surprisingly, Turner Gill gave way to Charlie Weis at season’s end.  The former Notre Dame head coach inherited a mess, and he’s gone about cleaning it up in part by bringing in a handful of transfers that should be able to contribute immediately to the talent-deficient Jayhawks.  Still, it will be an uphill climb just to get back to respectability for Weis & Company, let alone make any type of Mark Mangino-level imprint on the Big 12 and grow up and spare me the weight jokes people.

4. OHIO STATE
Last Final Four appearance: 2007
Football record the following season: 11-2, loss to LSU in BcS title game

Were it not for NCAA issues, the Buckeyes would sit atop this mini-list.  Alas, sanctions have rendered OSU ineligible for the postseason in 2012, including the Big Ten’s second annual conference championship game.  All is not lost for the university in the state of Ohio, however, as the hiring of two-time BcS champion head coach Urban Meyer has reinvigorated a program tainted by scandal over last year and a half.  2012 for Meyer and his new coaching staff will be all about “the process”, particularly on the offensive side of the ball with the implementation of Meyer’s brand of the spread.  There may be no chance for any type of title for the football Buckeyes in 2012, but there is hope that 2013 and beyond will bring the type of gridiron success for which this football-first school is most known.

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.

Edgerrin James’ nephew to transfer from Miami

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Last season, Jeff James was one of seven players  suspended for Miami’s Russell Athletic Bowl game against West Virginia.  Nearly four months later, he’s gone.

In a press release, Miami announced that the defensive back “is no longer a member of the football program.” No reason was given for the nephew of former Hurricane great Edgerrin James deciding to leave The U.

“I talked to Jeff and we both felt it was in his best interests to get a fresh start somewhere else,” head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. “We wish him all the best in his future plans.”

James was a three-star member of UM’s 2016 recruiting class.  247Sports.com had the Orlando high school product rated as the No. 112 safety in the country and the No. 1,678 player in its composite rankings.

The defensive back played in one game as a true freshman, the season-opening win over FCS Florida A&M.