Week One Winners & Losers

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OK, we’re gonna try this.  Let’s attempt to take a warp(ed)speed look at the weekend that was in college football.

As always, your winners/losers mileage may vary,

WINNERS

College football fansWho else could lead off the list of winners from this weekend than the ones who have waited patiently since early January for real football to return?  Sure, there were the requisite blowouts featuring ranked programs feasting on a variety of cupcakes, but that matters not right now.  College football is back, and the world is once again right.

Mark HerzlichActually, this probably should’ve led off the list of winners.  The Boston College linebacker who was the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 missed the entire 2009 season while battling a rare form of bone cancer, and then missed most of summer camp leading up to the 2010 season opener with a broken foot.  Saturday, Herzlich was back in uniform and back on the field in BC’s 38-20 win over Weber State.  Any other storyline fails miserably in comparison to this one this weekend.

Rich Rodriguez & Denard RobinsonBased on the first game of the 2010 season, Rodriguez has hitched his future as Michigan’s head coach to Robinson.  Based on the results of the first game, Rodriguez has hitched said future to the right quarterbacking horse. In front of 113,090 fans packed into the renovated Big(ger) House, Robinson was a spread-offense virtuoso in leading Michigan to a 30-10 win over UConn.  Robinson set a school record for quarterbacks with 197 yards rushing, while also going an efficient 19-of-22 for 187 yards.  Again, it’s one game, but that corner may be in sight.

Robert Bolden & Aaron MurrayPlenty of games lay ahead for the Penn State and Georgia quarterbacks, but, after Game One of their starting careers, Bolden and Murray gave at least a hint of hope at the position.  For more on those two young guns, as well as the not-so-stellar debut of another hyped rookie Swamp starter, click HERE.

College football fans, the sequelThe TCU-Oregon State game is exactly why college football fans loathe the eight months between the end of one season and the start of another.  That was college football at it’s finest.  And the Horned Frogs ultimately gave non-BcS fans a reason to squeal in delight with their 30-21 win.

Mark ManginoHe may have been a big ol’ meanie to his players, but the former Kansas head coach never, ever lost to a school like North Dakota State.  By the count of 6-3, no less.  Again, the Div. 1-A Jayhawks scored a lone field goal against a Div. 1-AA school.  At home.  Here’s a prediction: the ego of soon-to-be-former KU athletic director Lew Perkins will continue to haunt and set the KU football program back for years to come. 

MACrifice my…The Red Hawks of Miami didn’t play too well in their 34-12 loss to No. 4 Florida. They piled up 4 turnovers (one being a pick-six) and committed 9 penalties. But the valuable experience playing one of the nation’s best teams can only give Miami some insane confidence they won’t get from playing any MAC foe. The Red Hawks won just a single game last year, and three over the past two years. Let’s look for a better year from them now that they have a good game in their pocket.

Michigan State’s ground gameThe Spartans rolled up 297 yards rushing in their 38-14 win over one of the directional Michigan schools.  Last season, MSU eclipsed the 200-yard mark just twice, with their season-high of 219 yards coming against, you guessed it, their opponent Saturday, Western Michigan.  It was a historic day for MSU as well; Le’Veon Bell became the first freshman in school history to rush for more than 100 yards in his first game.

Jimbo FisherReplacing a legend is never easy.  Replacing a beloved legend and struggling with the dessert tray on the field in the opener?  Fortunately, the new Florida State head coach doesn’t have to play the what-if game as his Seminoles easily dispatched his alma mater Samford 59-6.  Quarterback Christian Ponder eased into his Heisman campaign with 167 yards and four touchdowns in his only half of work.

That K-State RB. ya know, Ol’ What’s His NameThe name would be Daniel Thomas, and the hidden Big 12 running back gem just continues to produce whenever he’s given the ball.  28 carries, 234 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-22 win over UCLA?  Yeah, one of these days his plain name will become a household one.

College football fans, the threequelWe still have Boise State-Virginia Tech on Monday night.  As the esteemed Zac Brown Band opined, life is good today.  Life is good today.

LOSERS

Ole MissI’ll let THIS and the following CFT tweet encapsulate what happened in Oxford Saturday: “Ole Miss just got Nutt’d by 1-AA Jacksonville State. Karma, she’s a nasty, nasty wench.

Les MilesMy Elyria homeboy embarrassed himself tonight.  His LSU team came within five yards of losing to a North Carolina squad that was down nine starters.  Nine.  Starters.  You play a team that’s dipping that far into the depth chart and only come out with a 30-24 win?  As much as I’m embarrassed for him, Miles should take that and pound the performance exponentially.

Florida’s offense: At the half, the Gat
ors had scored more points (
21) than they had total yards (12, 13 or 14, depending on which account you saw).  Anything that happened after that against a vastly inferior MAC opponent could not mask the stench still lingering from the first two quarters of play.  Yes, it was only one game, but it was so horrendously bad and disjointed and lackadaisical and sloppy that it has to at least raise a flag that’s off-red in color.  Following the game, head coach Urban Meyer said he thought coming in that this unit would struggle, but “I didn’t imagine the offense incompetence that we experienced today.” We think the coach may have gone a little easy on his offense after what it wrought.

Mike Pouncey and his attempts at shotgun snaps.  To use a golf analogy, the Florida center very closely resembled a 38-handicap attempting a Phil Mickelson flop off hard pan.  It was worm burners and skulls and shanks as far as the eye could see.  You could count on both hands the number of horrendous snaps by Pouncey, and would then need your feet or another’s hand(s) to finish tabulating.  No excuse from a veteran who just days ago called out the Gator freshmen to just play.

Oregon’s scoreboard operatorOregon scored 59 points and rolled up 429 yards of total offense on New Mexico in the first half.  The mercy rule was apparently in effect in the second half as the Ducks scored a meager 13 points, although they did finish with a staggering school-record total of 720 yards of total offense in the 72-0 win.

Tate ForcierThe sophomore was Michigan’s starting quarterback in 2009.  One year later, Forcier is buried behind a fellow sophomore (starter Denard Robinson) and a true freshman (Devin Gardner).  Expect those transfer rumors that have been floating around out there in recent weeks to pick up volume if the current pecking order remains the same.

Ron ZookStaked to a 13-3 halftime lead, the Illinois head coach executed a perfect play-to-lose strategy in the second half as the Illini allowed 20 unanswered Missouri points to come out with a 23-13 loss.  Take heart, Illini fans; the end of the Ron Zook Era is over in three months.  Or less.

Chris Fowler on ESPN‘s College Game Day In doing their analysis of the Oregon State-TCU clash, Fowler stated that the Beavers have “dribbled down their leg” of late in big games.  Given the 15 seconds of fame Rick Pitino achieved in an extortion case over the summer, “down the leg” might not have been the best choice of words.  Still too soon, we think.

Fowler, again  This time, the venerable Game Day host stated live on air that Jeremiah Masoli had not been cleared to play for Ole Miss and will not be eligible until 2011.  One commercial break and (probably) several really bad words later, Fowler corrected the gaffe.  In fairness to Fowler, it’s not like the Masoli situation was big news or anything.

Eye rollsI sprained that ability with the Masoli-Fowler thing.

John TaylorWhat kind of a jackass would pick Florida No. 1 in the nation?  The former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver/Duran Duran bassist, that’s who.  I don’t know what goes through some people’s heads sometimes.

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: ‘Little bit messy’

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.