August 25, 2005

Huggins vs. Zimpher

Lets take a break from football for the moment. Quite frankly, I am done with the predicting, the outlandish claims, and the breaking news from camps about the third string TE spraining his pinky toe. I am ready for it to happen on the field. Wins, losses, who looks surprising and who laid the first week egg.

But lets turn our attention to this brew haha down in Cincinnati for a moment. Watching ESPN and all the media blitz that exists nowadays, I know most know the situation. Bob Huggins, the winningest coach in UC history, was fired (okay, he resigned, officially) on Wednesday by UC president, Nancy Zimpher.

Dont feel all sorry for Hugs, he landed softly with a $3 million parachute. At issue here a horse-and-cart question. Zimpher resigned Huggins due to his "out of control" handling of the basketball team and the university's perception in the national media due to the soft academic reputation that Hugs has with his players. (It is fair to note that UC has graduated 11 of their last 17 players.)

The issue puts forth the legitimate argument about winning versus graduating. I come short of congratulating Zimpher for her stand. College athletics is big business and winning trumps graduation. Simply put, I want to see who UC hires and how well that coach does. I have never heard of a coach saving his job by marching into the AD's office and talking up his high graduation rate.

Photo credits:
Zimpher - AP
Huggins - Todd Warshaw/Allsport

August 19, 2005

The National Champion Debate

College football longs for a playoff to determine a true national champion. With the bowl money being as lucrative as ever, our hopes are not going to be realized in this lifetime. Lets set the record straight, however. Most years, college football gets it right. Two teams ascend the polls and walk into the championship game undefeated. The winner is truly the champion of the college football.

Some years there are more than one team remaining that is undefeated. For the life of me I will never understand why one undefeated team is better than another. Why should one team get punished for not being able to play another team. Now, granted, this means BCS conference teams. I would love to say that Utah was a national champion last year, but no poll will allow it. Besides, outside of Salt Lake City, I doubt there is too much complaining.

The years I am reviewing only go back to the first champion after my birth, 1977. Its a bias, but in later years, I can remember those arguments for each teams.

My friend, Casey, once challenged me to go back and apply the BCS formula to past years. His goal was to provide a retro analysis of the BCS. Would the BCS have worked to have solved debates in previous years? In most cases this would have eliminated split national champions and broken a tie. However, the BCS was created to put No. 1 vs. No. 2. What will always derail the system are years where more or less than two teams are undefeated.

2004: USC and Auburn, national champs.
This is a caveat for me that gives a national championship to a deserving candidate later in the look back. Go with it, essentially.

2003: The LSU Tigers stand alone.
I hold to you that in 2003, the LSU Tigers were the only national champion. Again, the BCS was created to put #1 vs. #2. It did that. Oklahoma lost the Big 12 championship game yet, still made the Sugar Bowl versus the Bayou Bengals. LSU, Oklahoma, and USC all had one loss. In my mind, that made them all forfeit the right to lobby and complain and they all squarely left the decision up to the computers. Each team had a reason to have to remain silent. In this case, USC lost to Cal in overtime in Berkeley. I should remind you, this was not the 2004 Cal that got cheated out of a BCS bowl bid, but rather the 8-6, 2003 California Golden Bears.

USC was flashy in 2003, they had Mike Williams and a high-octane offense that the media started to love. They also received a ton of press being in Los Angeles compared to Baton Rouge and Norman, OK. I like the Trojans, their program is the best in the nation since 2001. But I am looking at the process of getting a national champion. What never helps the Trojans circa 2003 is their only one win against a team that finished the season ranked, before beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

The BCS worked in 2003. Its interesting that the AP poll dropped out this year in determining the national champion. The pollsters cited reasoning that the press should report the news, not create the news. Gimme a break. The press has long before tried to create the news, save me the PR posturing. Its funny too that the AP will still continue to have a poll, but it wont determine the college champion. You dont think AP writers will cite their poll if it should conflict with the newly-created Harris Poll? Puhleeze.

In 2002, Ohio State beats Miami in a thriller between the only two undefeated squads. Earlier in 1999, Florida State would beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl in a similar matchup between #1 and #2, the only undefeated schools.

The BCS avoided major controversy in 1998, 2000, and 2001 when the only undefeated teams (Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Miami, FL respectively) won their matchups against the "next best team". (Florida State twice and Nebraska in 2001 had blemishes.) Debate can rage about who should have played in the final game, but the point is rendered moot by the undefeated favorites winning

Michigan would have played Nebraska in 1997, no sentimental vote due to Coach Tom Osborne retiring would have been needed. The split here would create the BCS starting the following year.

1996: Florida doesnt even earn a shot at the national title with the BCS applied to the situation. Florida State and Arizona State entered the bowl season #1 and #2. Florida was #3 and drew the rematch with the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl thanks to the Rose Bowl's locked agreement with Arizona State. The Sun Devils were beaten by the #4 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, while the Gators got their revenge and their national championship, beating Florida State 52-20 in New Orleans. Florida was elected the national champion over Ohio State. You could sit back and make an argument there about Ohio State needing a piece of the championship due to their win making it possible for Florida to get their title. However, Florida had beaten the team that beat them earlier, and Ohio State still had the "school up north" to blame for their demise. Michigan's four loss season didnt help OSU at the polls.

In 1995, juggernaut Nebraska destroyed Florida, 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. Both teams were undefeated, and college football had no controversy.
    1994: Penn State gets their due, splitting the title with Nebraska.
    With the BCS in place Penn State plays Nebraska for the title. I can't predict a winner. I won't get into that debate, however, for Penn State to not have earned a split is ridiculous in my opinion. The Nittany Lions were not a team that won umimpressively through the year. Their only "set back" was to Indiana, winning 35-29, a score that looked close, until you read the boxscore and saw that IU connected on a hail mary with :00 on the clock (and subsequently converted the two-point play) to end the game within six.

    Penn State had nothing to play for on that play. The voters showed that they don't watch the games, they only see the scores when covering their teams on their beat. The coaches poll was just as negligent, proving that SID's didn't watch much more football than the coaches, who hand the duty of voting off to in order not to be bothered with the task.

    The process at the time was the Bowl Coalition and it did not unlock the Big Ten or Pac-10 champion from the Rose Bowl. Penn State was forced into the game with a three loss, cinderella Oregon. That matchup as well, cost the Nittany Lions who have a history of such things. (see 1968, '69, and '73 - Joe Pa would not win his first title until 1982.)

    As a Notre Dame fan, it hurts to say that 1993 worked. Florida State and Nebraska entered #1 and #2 in the Orange Bowl after the Irish didn't light enough candles at the Grotto the next week for their game against Boston College. The Eagles won 41-39 in South Bend and ended a FSU-Notre Dame rematch. Nebraska held their own against the Seminoles, taking a late lead, but losing when a desperation field goal missed badly. Earlier in the day, the Irish had a chance to sway voters if they could have crushed a one-loss Texas A&M squad. The Domers won on a late field goal, not enough to sway the voters, determined to give Bobby Bowden a national championship. (Alright, that was the fan coming out.) Noteworthy to mention is the exclusion of the 1993 Auburn Tigers. Auburn went 11-0 on probation. I don't reward probation teams.

    was beautiful with #2 Alabama upsetting #1 Miami, FL in the Sugar Bowl, 34-13.

    In 1991
    , Miami would have played Washington, but again the Rose Bowl prevented it. However, unlike Penn State later in 1994, the voters split for the title.

    Colorado and Georgia Tech split the 1990 title, however, using the BCS would have put the Big 8 champion against the ACC champion in a bowl for the title. The one loss, one tie Buffaloes would have earned a shot over several powerhouses saddled with two losses heading into the bowl season.

    In 1989, the Colorado Buffaloes were undefeated headed to the Orange Bowl against Notre Dame. The Irish prevailed 21-6, handing the title to Miami who had beaten Notre Dame earlier in the season to end the Irish 23-game winning streak. Under the BCS, Miami would have gotten their direct shot at Colorado, but at the time bowl reservations were set well in advance and the Orange had already committed to Notre Dame.

    1988 saw #1 Notre Dame beat undefeated West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Before 1988, some of the arguments begin to breakdown:

    What would the BCS have done with Independents? In 1988, powerhouses Penn State, Florida State, Miami, along with Notre Dame were not aligned with conferences. In 1987, does an 11-0, independent, #3 Syracuse break through the 1-2 held by Miami and Oklahoma? The 1987 Hurricanes would win the title on their home field, the Orange Bowl, 20-14. The Sooners would win in 1985 after beating undefeated, #1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl. Do the 1984 BYU Cougars even get a shot, coming from the WAC?

    1983 would be the next instance of a national championship stripped. Nebraska and Texas were 1-2 but did not meet. The Huskers were obligated to the Orange Bowl as a Big 8 member, and Texas headed to the Cotton Bowl as the SWC champion.

    The Georgia Bulldogs beat Texas 10-9 in Dallas to end Texas' hopes. Presumably it was seen as a small chance wasted with Nebraska set to destroy Miami like they had crushed everyone so far that year. Texas fans watched in horror as Miami pulled the impossible, leaving them lamenting a late fumble that Georgia QB John Lastinger took in for the deciding score with 3:22 left.

    1982 would be another instance of an undefeated losing, paving the way for a blemished champion. Penn State defeated Georgia, 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl to catapult themselves to #1.
    Nebraska finished with one loss, but it was to the Nittany Lions, whereas the SMU Mustangs (members of the then-powerful SWC) finished 11-0-1 and got nothing. A tie against Arkansas in their final home game gave Penn State the chance and Joe Paterno his first national championship.

    In 1980 and '81, Georgia and Clemson would be the only undefeateds before and after the bowls. Georgia beat Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, and Clemson dispatched Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

    Someone has to explain to me how in 1978, Alabama and USC split the vote, even though USC beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa during the season. Looking back I guess USC got payback tying the Tide in 1979, even though Alabama was 12-0 and USC 11-0-1. Applying the BCS would have met these two schools both times.

    Add 1977 to the mix of national championships that don't happen. In '77 Notre Dame beat #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, 38-10. The Irish margin of victory and losses by #2 Oklahoma and #4 Michigan helped put the Irish to the top, assisted finally by #3 Alabama beating a 9-3 Ohio State team. In BCS mode, the Irish don't get to play Texas. Either #2 Oklahoma does, or the polls realize that OU already had their shot and give #3 Alabama the chance. Notre Dame helped themselves by the circumstances at the time. The Irish were free to go to any bowl of their choosing.

    Lessons learned:
    - Pre-BCS, it was good to beat the undefeated #1 in the bowl game, even if you weren't #2. 1977 Notre Dame, 1978 Alabama, 1982 Penn State, 1983 Miami all profitted.

    - The BCS era is far better than what we had before when all of the big conferences were locked into their bowl ties. The SEC champion went to the Sugar Bowl, the Big 8 to the Orange, the SWC to the Cotton, the Big Ten and Pac-10 to the Rose, and the ACC to the Citrus. The Big East did not exist until 1991.


    In closing, college football takes hits and fan boards love to talk about a "mythical national championship" and the need for a playoff. The playoff has been nothing new for an idea, but big money flows through the bowls and the chamber of commerces that host the games.

    Its a good track record that since 1977, I can only eliminate three national champions (1977 Notre Dame, 1983 Miami, and 1996 Florida) even getting a shot at the title. Those teams took advantage of the situation that existed and the conference comissioners could have not signed exclusive contracts with the bowls, giving them the freedom of movement. They are to blame as well.

    The game will always be governed by money, a sad college sports fact, however, the fun in college football is the debate. The heated arguments exist (trust me, I will go purple in the face about Notre Dame '93) and they give college football its zealous interest.

    I believe the 2006 format of the BCS will eliminate all problems. The format calls for one game after the major bowls. The teams will be unbalanced again and conference tie-ins will get stronger (SEC-Sugar, ACC or Big East-Orange, Big 12-Fiesta, Big 10/Pac-10-Rose), however, there is no scenario that exists since 1977 that would have prevented the national champion the chance to play for the title.

    I dont want a playoff, it ends these debates, it ends the rivalries with schools costing others the chance of winning with key losses. However, national championships will shed their "mythical" label and that is a positive for The College Game.

    Photo credits:
    Nick Saban with Sugar Bowl trophy - AP
    Danny Wuerffel - Wide World Photos
    ND-FSU scoreboard - The Observer
    Kevin Butler, UGA - Dallas Morning News

    August 14, 2005

    Third on the list...The Big XII

    Moving right along with the conference evaluations and rankings, we move to the Big 12. The conference is to say, unbalanced. The South division carries the hammer with Oklahoma and Texas being national contenders and Texas A&M and Texas Tech being New Years Day threats. The North division is a pick'em. I can argue for and against any team in the North to win the division.

    The Big 12 is South-heavy, but Iowa State sneaks in to grab my #5 position:
    1. Texas
    2. Oklahoma
    3. Texas A&M
    4. Texas Tech
    5. Iowa State

    The aforementioned along with Kansas State, Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, and Oklahoma State could all go bowling if its ever possible that 10 teams from a conference could qualify. Talking depth, the conference is strong with all those teams having hopes, but it lacks in star quality after the OU-Texas two-step.

    Quarterbacks in the Big XII begin with Vince Young of Texas. Young's arm isn't the reason to worry. He had nice numbers (1,849 yards, 12 touchdowns) but his legs (1,079 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns) were the bread and butter for the Longhorns. Reggie McNeal of A&M is next and is a better passer than Young with the wheels. McNeal threw for 2,791 yards, 14 touchdowns, running for 718 yards and 8 scores. Continuing the dual-threat theme is Donovan Woods at Oklahoma State. Woods threw for 1,628 yards, 13 touchdowns and rushed for 436 yards and 10 scores. The final dual guy is Brad Smith of Missouri. Smith has suffered from overhype, but is a solid QB for the Tigers, passing for 2,185 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for 553 yards and 4 touchdowns.

    Texas Tech quarterback Cody Hodges will put up assinine numbers, especially with Tech's amazingly weak early schedule. Three different quarterbacks (Sonny Cumbie, B.J. Symons, and Kliff Kingsbury) have produced 40+ touchdown seasons. There is no reason to think the same result will not occur.

    The rest of the conference is a mixed bag of competitions and inconsistency. Oklahoma will decide between Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar. Colorado's Joel Klatt threw for more interceptions than touchdowns in 2004. Erstwhile, no one has confused Dylan Meier and Alan Webb at K-State with Ell Roberson. Bret Meyer hopes to duplicate a solid freshman season at Iowa State and Nebraska is pinning its hopes on Zac Taylor, a junior college transfer, or Harrison Beck to learn the system faster than the departed Joe Dailey.

    Running Backs
    The Big XII returns three starters with 1,000 yard seasons in 2004. Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma is another Heisman candidate for the conference after his runner-up finish last year, posting 1,925 yards and 15 touchdowns. Nebraska's Cory Ross gained 1,102 yards with six touchdowns and Stevie Hicks at Iowa State went for 1,062 and five scores.

    Taurean Henderson would be a 1,000 yard back at any other campus than Texas Tech. Henderson averaged 5.2 yards per carry, going for 840 total yards and 15 touchdowns. He also pulled down 60 receptions for only 286 yards, usually a safety valve in the system. A&M's Courtney Lewis gained 742 yards with 9 touchdowns.

    Texas and Kansas State will need to fill the most gaping holes. Vince Young was by far the leading rusher for the Longhorns and Darren Sproles will be a tough guy to replace in Manhattan.

    Wide Receivers
    The conference is usually not noticed for its passing, but Mike Leach at Texas Tech is changing the view. Tech's Jarrett Hicks returns after a 1,177-yard, 13-touchdown performance. Hicks' average of 15.5 yards per catch might indicate he is not just a product of the system. Todd Blythe at Iowa State put up 833 yards and 9 touchdowns as a freshman. Oklahoma State's D'Juan Woods needs to add steak to his sizzle, going for 20.9 yards per catch, but only 33 receptions. Travis Wilson at Oklahoma put up double-digit touchdowns (11) as did Missouri's Sean Coffey (10)

    The Aggies and Longhorns return four apiece on their lines, whereas Kansas State will have questions with only Jeromey Clary returning at RT. Solidifying line play in the conference will determine the fortunes of many teams.

    Front Seven
    Dragging down the conference is the mediocre return of depth in the front seven on all teams. No one team in the conference returns everyone, usually teams are bringing back three to five of the starters from 2004.

    When I read reports of teams and see words like solid, steady, dont give up the big plays or help wanted, it makes me wonder about the strength of the conference. Granted, names on defense in college football tend to develop during the year. Its the reason why you read any publication and you hear about the offenses. Big 12 teams usually dont get torched long, and have safeties that play the run well due to the depth of running backs in the conference. I will trust my instincts and say another solid group will be known by season's end.

    Scheduling and momentum will determine the Big 12 North. That side of the conference will be won by a team that pulls off a road win and holds serve at home against the North. The South will be decided at the Red River Shootout. Its hard to predict Texas to win, given the mentality of the Longhorns. The Sooners are still a contender, regardless of what you read.

    Tingle's Takes:
    - Nebraska and Colorado close the Big 12 North season in Boulder. That game will in some way determine who goes to the Big 12 Championship Game.
    - At the Big 12 Championship Game, the North team will again be fodder for the South entrant.
    - Has there ever been a more disappointing 12-1 season to some fans?
    - Texas Tech has a great schedule for contending for the South with only a road game at Texas being stiff, everything else is winnable.
    - Nebraska's experiment with the West Coast offense isn't their demise. Lack of talent and improved programs in places where Nebraska used to dominate recruiting have led to the Cornhuskers fall since the Rose Bowl in 2002.
    - It's Brad Smith's last shot to take Missouri somewhere memorable...
    - If Texas doesn't win at the Shootout this year...hang it up.
    - Colorado's scheduling habits are Miami, FL this year, at Georgia in 2006, at Arizona State in '07, and at Florida State in '08. Wow.

    SECond to one...

    In continuing our look at the conferences, the SEC quickly follows behind the Big Ten in the second spot. There is no doubt the conference is deep this year and depending upon results, could unseat the northern conference if some teams up there don't pan out. The conference is usually the tops in the nation in revenue and attendance, but just falls short of the title this year.

    When I think of the SEC's top five, I arrive at this list:
    1. LSU
    2. Tennessee
    3. Florida
    4. Georgia
    5. Auburn

    You know you have a deep conference when the fifth place team is only the defending national co-champion in 2004. (I have a view about national champions. Its a later write-up.)

    The SEC is noted for having players at the positions and come draft day for the NFL. On pure talent alone, I would rank the SEC #1. What gives the pre-season title to the Big Ten is the lack of depth in the conference. Throw Alabama in at #6 and Arkansas at #7 and the SEC is the best in the nation. However, after that, the dropoff resembles a cliff.

    Quarterbacks in the SEC are plentiful in the SEC, but the quality remains to be seen. Florida returns Chris Leak, so they have no transition other than getting down the Urban Meyer playbook. Leak threw for 29 touchdowns and 3,197 yards passing for the Gators with the Zooker. With Leak returning three wide receivers combining for nearly 1,750 yards receiving, Leak might hit 40 touchdowns.

    Erik Ainge is supposedly in a position battle at Tennessee with Rick Clausen. Clausen can hang his hat on the Cotton Bowl performance after Ainge and the departed Brent Schaeffer were injured, forcing Clausen into duty during the Notre Dame loss. To me, this "battle" is nothing more than a chance to keep UT in the running for the third Clausen in the family line. Jimmy Clausen is set to be a highly rated prep star, following his brothers perhaps to Big Orange Country. Ainge returns from a 17 touchdown, 1,452 yard performance in only eight games. Ainge makes the Vols special, Rose Bowl possible special. Clausen is a good distributor of the ball, but I can imagine fierce pass rushes in two early games in Baton Rouge and Gainesville giving him problems.

    The remaining top five have talented players but mixed results (or in the case of Brandon Cox at Auburn, no results) from 2004. JaMarcus Russell was rotated with Marcus Randall last year to an annoying level. Looking back the Tigers might have been better served to roll the dice will Randall and use Russell as a change of pace. Russell delivered with 9 touchdowns and 1,053 yards passing in sporadic fashion. What Tiger fans remember is the Capital One Bowl, minus the last play. Russell came in for Randall and led the Tigers to two late fourth-quarter scores to put Iowa in the position of needing a miracle. Russell will be pushed this year by super frosh Ryan Perillioux, who de-commited from Texas to come to Baton Rouge. Matt Flynn is almost an afterthought at the #3.

    D.J Shockley will finally get his chance "Between the Hedges". The senior only had to wait for Athens legend, David Greene to graduate after 50+ starts to arrive at the opportunity. Shockley only has 967 yards passing for his career on 133 attempts (67 completions) with 10 touchdowns. Much will be expected as Georgia has very young depth at the position.

    Brandon Cox only has to replace a man who was dubbed being a part of the best backfield on the plains in 50 years. Cox played in mop-up duty, completing 64 percent of his passes for 357 yards and 4 touchdowns, but now the natural wonder about him stepping to the forefront will determine the Tigers fate. Good for Auburn is their schedule, with the first five coming in Jordan-Hare. Good for Cox is the returning of a deep receiving corps.

    Running backs
    Georgia returns a stable with Thomas Brown (875 yards, 8 touchdowns), Danny Ware (692; 4) being joined by Kregg Lumpkin (523 yards; 6 touchdowns in '03) after a knee injury wiped out his 2004. Not to be forgotten is Michael Cooper who topped Lumpkin in '03 only to be passed on the depth chart by Brown and Ware in '04.

    Until yesterday, LSU had just as deep as a returning stable, but Alley Broussard was lost for the season. Don't cry for the Tigers however as they return Joseph Addai (680 yards, 3 touchdowns) and 2004 Sugar Bowl MVP, Justin Vincent (322 yards and 2 touchdowns).

    Tennessee returns a 1000-yard back in Gerald Riggs, Jr. Riggs will carry the load for the year in Knoxville and could easily top 1,600 yards, seeing as though he and Cedric Houston combined for over 2,000 yards in 2004.

    Florida and Auburn have questions at running back. DeShawn Wynn and the word bust are starting to be paired by the Gainesville faithful. Wynn gained only 217 yards with a 3.7 yard per carry mark. Skyler Thornton led the Gators with only 230 yards. Auburn lost the best tandem in college football for 2004 and perhaps 20 years in losing Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams to the NFL. The pair combined for 2,078 yards and 20 touchdowns. Tre Smith, Carl Stewart and South Carolina transfer, Kenny Irons will try to imitate the duo, but will never hope to replace that special output.

    Wide receivers
    What Auburn and Florida lack at the running back spot, they have in abundance at wide receiver. Auburn returns five receivers who gained over 300 yards, led by Courtney Taylor with 737 and 6 touchdowns. Florida returns a strong trio in Andre Caldwell, Chad Jackson, and Dallas Baker (98 receptions, 1,748 yards receiving, 14 TD's combined).

    Tennessee has even more embarassment of riches with five receivers returning. The quintet combined for 114 receptions, 1,732 yards, and 18 touchdowns. Robert Meachem will look to stretch the field whereas Jayson Swain, C.J. Fayton, Chris Hannon, and Bret Smith are chain movers.

    LSU's flashiest guys, Skyler Green and Early Doucet, were not the leaders. Craig Davis (43-659-1) and Dwayne Bowe (39-597-5) return the numbers. Doucet and Green could provide the sizzle, leading LSU to Pasadena. Green is more of a return specialist.

    Georgia has questions. It's tough to replace Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson and their 97 receptions, 1,571 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Leonard Pope (25-482-6) is the leading returner and a fave target for Shockley.

    LSU and Georgia return intact lines from 2004. Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn return three a piece. Max Jean-Gilles for Georgia is the best lineman of the bunch with Florida's Mike Degory returning as the best center in the conference.

    Front sevens
    Dynamic players David Pollack and Marcus Spears are gone, but the top five return promising talent. Jesse Mahelona thrived at Tennessee coming from junior college. Brandon Siler is a rock for Florida at LB. The SEC usually produces talent, and names to know by the end of the season. Practicing with the talented, returning O-lines will provide the names.

    LaRon Landry at LSU and Greg Blue at Georgia are the names of the units, while questions abound all over the conference.

    Alabama could join the top five and replace an Auburn or Georgia with a healthy Brodie Croyle for the entire season. The Tide defense will be 1992-caliber, but like Penn State, the offense is the liability, mainly due to missing Croyle than ineptitude. Big things could happen. Houston Nutt at Arkansas didn't like the taste of sitting at home last year. The Matt Jones era is over, but that could actually lower Nutt's blood pressure. As many plays as Jones would make, he would cause problems forcing his will sometimes. Mississippi State got their players believing with a win over Florida last year and Sly Croom is building a base, but its years from seeing the fruits of his labor. Mississippi signed Ed Oregeron from USC, and he is cleaning house. Kentucky and Vanderbilt are well, the usual. Everyone will take their revenge on Steve Spurrier at South Carolina while he inherits a mess, but the kicking won't last long.

    Tingle's Takes:
    - Tuscaloosa, AL will be the place to be on Saturday, October 22nd. Tennessee and NCAA snitch or heroic informant Phil Fulmer brings his Vols to town. The reception will not be pretty and might include a subpeona.
    - Spurrier will beat somebody. Probably a home game. Alabama and Florida are warned.
    - LSU fans might not see Tiger Stadium after dark against any of the heavyweights (Tennessee, Florida, Auburn) coming to town. The Tigers are human during the day, always have been.
    - Urban Meyer will finally know pressure and coaching mixed together after his Bowling Green and Utah experiences pale in comparison to the opening kickoff at the Swamp against UT.
    - Boise State will make Dawg fans sweat, including my wife, but the Georgia size will save the day. Shockley will need to hit the ground running.
    - Erik Ainge better start for UT. Fulmer better get his head out of his arse with this "competition" nonsense.

    - Alabama will beat Florida to get Tide fans dreaming of 1992. All the hate in the world will carry Bama over Tennessee. (LSU on the road, Auburn at home in back-to-back weeks ends the pursuit of Atlanta, however.)

    Bowl breakdown:
    LSU - BCS (possible Rose)
    Tennessee - Capital One (possible BCS wildcard)
    Florida - Outback
    Georgia - Peach
    Auburn - Cotton
    Alabama - Houston
    Arkansas - Music City

    The SEC will not fill the Independence Bowl, again.

    Photo credits:
    Chris Leak -
    Gerald Riggs, Jr. - Rogelio Solis/AP
    Brodie Croyle - Kyle Carter/AP
    Steve Spurrier - Katie Kirkland/The Gamecock

    August 12, 2005

    The Best Conference is...(six-part series)

    Each year, fans from any of the six BCS conferences make their claims to superiority. In fairness, it is tough to measure leagues against one another by pairing them up due to different sizes. In this analysis, I will be using the top five schools from each conference to make my decision. However, it should be noted that some conferences will receive marks for having strong teams that don't make their top five.

    My friend, Rob, is about to experience his chin hitting the floor. The best conference going into the 2005 season is the Big Ten.

    The top five for the Big Ten will be:
    1. Michigan
    2. Iowa
    3. Ohio State
    4. Purdue
    5. Michigan State

    The reasoning for the top slot is that any one of those first four teams could make the BCS. Purdue has a dreamy schedule with no Michigan or Ohio State. The Buckeyes return a lot of talent from last year and if they work out their QB concerns and upset Texas then the sky is the limit. Iowa is a very strong team, getting Michigan at home and at Columbus, and the Wolverines are a national contender.

    The key for the Big Ten being #1 is their depth of returning quarterbacks. Chad Henne at Michigan returns after a stellar freshman season after Lloyd Carr loosened the reins and Mike Hart was discovered for the rushing attack. Henne finished with 25 touchdown passes and 2,743 yards passing.

    Drew Tate at Iowa would be the second strongest returnee of the conference, going for 20 touchdowns and 2,786 yards. The last 56 of those coming on the memorable ending of the Capital One Bowl versus LSU when Tate found Warren Holloway with :00 left to win the game, 30-25.

    Drew Stanton came on for the Spartans halfway through the year before a shoulder injury put him out during the Michigan game. In that game, Stanton was 10-13 for 95 yards and rushed for a touchdown before being knocked out. Michigan used the momentum and staged a great comeback, winning 45-37 in triple OT after trailing 27-10 with 5:44 to play.

    Stanton appeared in eight games, throwing eight TD passes and amassing over 1,600 yards. However, Stanton rushed for 687 yards on 96 carries for 5 touchdowns. Stanton comes into this season as the #1 QB for MSU after Damon Dowdell graduated.

    What Stanton couldn't finish for the Spartans at Michigan, Troy Smith did for Ohio State. The junior filled in for Justin Zwick and torched the Wolverines for 145 yards rushing while going 13-23 for 241 yards passing with 2 touchdowns.

    The Buckeyes have a controversy on their hands though, as Zwick played more in 2004 and will be the starter for the opening game due to Smith's off-season problems causing a suspension for the first game.

    Brandon Kirsch at Purdue rounds us out going 58-94 for 711 yards, with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions last year as a backup to Kyle Orton.

    Running backs? Surprisingly, this is the weakest area for the Big Ten coming into this year.

    Mike Hart exploded as a frosh in 2004 for Michigan, gaining 1,455 yards and scoring 9 touchdowns. Hart was discovered after the Notre Dame loss, and Michigan's offense responded. It was the Wolverine defense that did the undoing in some big games last year, not the offense.

    Jason Teague ran for 687 yards for Michigan State, splitting time with two other rushers and Stanton's ability to scramble. Teague and sophomore, Jehuu Caulcrick (113-619-5) return to form a formidible duo.

    Purdue returns solid contributors in Jerod Void (159-625-3) and Brandon Jones (113-477-2). The ground game, however, is only a nice compliment in Purdue's attack. Close yardage situations, especially in the red zone hurt the Boilermakers.

    Iowa returns a bevy of backs, but last year, they couldn't stay healthy. Marques Simmons is the leading returner with 194 yards. With three returners on the offensive line, Iowa will drastically improve as long as the injury bug stays away from Iowa City.

    Ohio State is in the same boat as Iowa minus the injuries. OSU running backs haven't been good in a while minus Maurice Clarett. Returning after 381 yards gained is Antonio Pittman. Erik Haw will feature prominently and incoming freshman Maurice Wells will get his chances. Ohio State does return 4 starters on the o-line, so there should be improvement.

    Wide receivers?
    Every team in my top five for the conference returns two receivers who caught at least 25 passes. The lowest man on the totem pole is only the explosive Ted Ginn, Jr. at Ohio State with 25 catches for 359 yards and 2 touchdowns. Opposite Ginn will be Santonio Holmes. Holmes led the Buckeyes with 769 yards on 55 receptions and 7 touchdowns.

    Clinton Solomon and Ed Hinkel at Iowa combined for 121 receptions and 1,649 yards with 13 touchdowns. Perhaps the flashiest duo resides in Ann Arbor. Steve Breaston and Jason Avant will fill the hole left by Braylon Edwards. Even with Edwards' ballhawking, the UM #2 and #3 combined for 72 receptions, 768 yards and 6 touchdowns.

    Purdue will always place quality wide receivers in their offensive scheme. Kyle Ingraham (51-624-7) and Dorien Bryant (38-584-3) return. Rounding out with Jerramy Scott (39-444-3) and Matt Trannon (36-405-2) at Michigan State.

    Ohio State returns four starters as well as Michigan. Iowa returns three along with Purdue and Michigan State.

    Hit or miss here...Iowa and Michigan State will have to lean on their productive offenses, replacing at least seven on defense. Michigan sits the fence, returning six, but with heavy losses in the secondary, and Ohio State and Purdue return practically everyone.

    What helps the Big Ten are those left out. Wisconsin is traditionally strong and will go bowling this year, and Penn State has a standout defense, but a high school offense. Improve that offense and Penn State will win 7 or 8. Illinois made one of the better off-season hires in Ron Zook. Without the pressure-cooker that Florida was, Zook will be given more time to improve the talent in Champaign. Northwestern and Minnesota are dangerous teams to play away from home and even Indiana is renewing optimism after new coach Terry Hoeppner was hired from Miami, Ohio.

    Tingle's Takes:
    - I like Kirk Ferentz at Iowa but when the right NFL job opens he's gone.
    - Jim Tressel will finally experience a year all about football and nothing about Maurice Clarett. Look out.
    - The Big Ten / MAC challenge, otherwise known as opening weekend for most, will feature yet another sweep by the Big Ten.
    - Texas will end Ohio State's national title hopes. I think the Buckeyes are conference title material, but Texas will put an end to these dreams of Roses in Columbus in a hurry.
    - Look for Purdue to tank after they beat Notre Dame, just like last year.

    My pick for the title: Michigan wins in a tiebreak against Iowa thanks to the win in Iowa City by the Wolverines.

    Upset: Michigan will have one loss coming into the OSU Michigan State.

    Bowl Layout:
    Michigan - BCS
    Iowa - Outback (can't repeat to Capital One Bowl); strong BCS at-large possibility
    Ohio State - Capital One
    Purdue - Alamo
    Michigan State - Sun
    Wisconsin - Music City
    Penn State - Motor City

    Photo credits:
    Troy Smith - Jay LaPrete (AP)
    Ted Ginn Jr. -
    Warren Holloway - NY Times
    Zook at Illinois - AP

    August 11, 2005

    Full of sound and fury...signifying nothing.

    Year in and year out, athletic directors around the country scramble to fill holes in their football schedules. Small schools go fishing for large, BCS daddies to help secure new equipment or at least cover the expenses for the year. Large schools usually schedule easy wins in front of the home crowd. Basically, they bring the little guy into the Colosseum to be slaughtered.

    These meetings are clandestine, usually settled in back room dealings and announced to awaiting fans through a press release by the school's sports information department. But there comes a time when two schools on somewhat equal footing want to get together and the posturing begins. Two kids in the sandbox begin to fight over the proverbial "ball".

    Mitch Barnhart is UK's athletic director. Barnhart has come under considerable fire for his hiring of Rich Brooks to direct the UK football team coming off harsh NCAA penalties for cheating under coach Hal Mumme, now at New Mexico State. To some, Barnhart is an outsider to the program unlike the wildly popular predecessor, C.M. Newton.

    Looking to improve UK's fortunes, Barnhart has been scheduling easier games for the Wildcats in order to foster bowl hopes and build a program. The Wildcats recently added games with Akron and Temple to the slate after the NCAA proposed legislation permanently allowing 12 games for division I-A football.

    Tom Jurich is the UofL athletic director. Jurich comes to the Cardinals via Colorado State. Jurich has played the role of the underdog in his whole professional life, and has seemingly made all the right moves at Louisville, especially getting Rick Pitino to the Derby City after his stint with the Boston Celtics. Pitino's signing, obviously formerly in the college ranks with Kentucky, elevated the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry to new hatred.

    At stake in the football battle is when to play the game. UK and UofL have had history only since 1994. Then, coaches Howard Schnellenberger and Bill Curry wanted to have a game that would excite the state about football, instead of just passing the time until the hardwood showdown. The Governors Cup was born and UK hosted the first four games due to Louisville not having a top-flight facility. The Cardinals promptly had Papa John's Cardinal Stadium built and its been a home-and-home since. The game has always been the first game of the year for the schools minus Louisville signing a 2001 contest against New Mexico State, drawing the ire of Wildcat fans everywhere.

    The ugliness recently reared its head when UK said they wanted to continue the series, however, they wanted to move the game back to a later date. U of L said they wanted the game to remain the kickoff of the season. Begin the standoff.

    UK is the larger school. There is no doubt that UK controls the fan base of the Commonwealth and mainly even in the city of Louisville. In a negotiation it is perceived that UK wields the hammer, giving Louisville their only sellout game in an otherwise weakened Conference USA schedule that Louisville played.

    Jurich scored a coup in 2004, getting the Cardinals moved to the Big East starting the 2005 season, giving the Cardinals an inside track to a BCS bid. The move also puts the Big East as one of the top conferences in basketball.

    To an outsider, Louisville looks like the little brother starting to better their older sibling. Now UK, the older brother, wants nothing to do with the Cardinals. They want to take their ball and go home.

    In fairness, the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals do not have a lot of football history period. UK made their bones when most of us weren't a glimmer in our daddy's eye under Paul Bryant in the late 40's and early 50's. Louisville has been the "Johnny come lately" of college football, first making a splash in 1991, playing in the Fiesta Bowl after several teams pulled out due to the Arizona's legislature's decision to not honor the Martin Luther King holiday as an official holiday.

    Now the Cardinals have a high-flying offense under head coach Bobby Petrino. Petrino is a villain in heroes clothing; the ultimate example of that winning can cure all ills. It was just two years ago that Auburn officals landed their plane just across the river from Louisville to lure the coach away from UofL to the "loveliest village on the plains". All this done, mind you, without current coach, Tommy Tuberville, knowing about it. Lo and behold, the deal falls through, the press gets wind of the deal, and Tuberville proceeds to take the Tigers to a 13-0 record last year. (I am sure T squared wielded a hammer in his contract renegotiation.)

    The only card that Louisville has to play when negotiating a deal is to the press. Jurich ponied up and portrayed the big brother Cats just as that, a bully used to getting their way and now wanting to dictate matters off the field since they were no longer doing so on the field.

    The tale goes from posturing to ridiculous when State Representative Denver Miller, D-Louisville actually proposed state legislature requiring the schools to meet first. The sad part is that politics were being involved for the second time in the Louisville-Kentucky saga. The basketball teams were made to play in the 1983-84 season after then-Governor John Y. Brown applied his political pressure to the issue. The Cats and Cards hadn't met in over 70 years outside of a tournament appearance earlier that spring.

    The possible football series suffered due to the basketball not being played. The conventional wisdom held at the time was that if they could play in football, why not basketball. So the two schools, only 80 miles apart, never met.

    Other issues existed. Who truly held the power? Why did UK suddenly want to dictate matters? Was their any complaining in 1998 after UK won 68-34 at Louisville with Tim Couch torching PJCS for five touchdowns? Why was UofL so adamant that the game be first when they signed NMSU in 2001?

    These could all be explained ad naseum, however, the two schools struck a deal the other day and the series will continue. Louisville will host in 2006 and 2008 as the first game of the year, and when UK gets the home date in 2007 and 2009, the game will be later, around the middle of September after a few cupcakes.

    Months of wrangling and they essentially decided that who holds the home game dictates home rules.

    Just another chapter added to the rivalry for fans to argue. Just remember kids, run along and play nice...

    August 09, 2005

    Three games you WILL watch on opening weekend.

    Junkies like me will watch them all, but here are the three not to miss:

    1. Florida State vs. Miami

    Has there ever been more uncertainty about this game in the past? The quarterbacks will be completely green after Wyatt Sexton's summer episode. Can you name either running back for either school? What about the wide receivers? The sound I hear of crickets is very reassuring.

    The Seminoles (sorry to offend anyone) will be at home, helping their greenhorns, Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford adapt to the FSU system. Kyle Wright of Miami will have the better defense backing him up as the Canes return all starters to the D. Look for Devin Hester of Miami to make a runback or game-changing play.

    Gimme the Canes, 20-17.

    2. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh

    I hear a ton about this new coach from the NFL who had success and how he will lead a program back to glory. I read about how one team is looking to lock up some recruiting areas to re-create a pipeline back to the school. I read about how the coach is a guy "coming home" to make things right.

    Boy, the Pittsburgh Panthers with Dave Wannstedt sure have the locals happy.

    Unlike his counterpart Charlie, Dave Wannstedt is creating no talk outside of the three rivers. He has matched Weis in attitude and willingness to recruit, already having 12 signees for 2006, but you wouldn't know it from the national pundits.

    The game itself will wreck one team's season and kick start the others. The Irish and their schedule is well documented. Pittsburgh faces Nebraska on the road two weeks later and then seeks to re-conquer the Big East after last year's title. The Panthers also face both Louisville and West Virginia on the road.

    The game will feature two new schemes for the squads and the coaches but the players are mostly the same. The Irish look to avenge a 41-38 loss from last year, and I think they will get it.

    Notre Dame 24, Pittsburgh 23

    3. Boise State at Georgia

    Alright, lets get this out of the way. I have a bit of a personal bias on this one. The wife and I will be Between the Hedges for this game. We found tickets online and I hope to have a separate entry about the experience.

    However, even before securing tickets, I knew the time for kickoff of this game. Boise State will get their points, fans have to realize that, however, the Georgia line should push the Boise line around all day long. So long as Georgia doesn't sputter or get turnover-happy, they should win. However, it will be fun to watch Boise State AMP it up.

    Georgia 38, Boise State 27

    August 07, 2005

    The Pretenders

    Each college football season, the media gets a hold of a few teams in the pre-season and they join their bandwagon, only to leap off around mid-October when the team starts to tank.

    Now, the list we have today is not necessarily a bunch of tankers, but then again, I don't see these teams getting to the lofty heights spoken about them.

    Arizona State Sun Devils
    Everyone is loving the Devils like its 1996 all over again and somehow Jake the Snake has returned to campus. Wrong. ASU had a defense in 1996. ASU is also being bandied about as the team to pull off the upset over USC. Wrong again. Last year's game was 42-0 at half.

    The bigger problem? I don't know if a program is ready to move on after you have last year's starting tailback, Loren Wade, was arrested on murder charges of a former teammate. Add in a cloud of darkness over a program that swept two earlier complaints made by ASU coeds about Wade under the rug. That is kind of distracting. The Devils will get a full dose of football reality come September 10th when they venture down to Baton Rouge to meet LSU.

    Auburn Tigers
    Auburn was your 2004 co-national champions. Forgive me, but I will always see a 12-0, major conference team who didn't get a shot at the title as a co-champ, ala Penn State in 1994. However, you don't replace Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, and Jason Campbell in one fell swoop. Someone needs to explain this to AU fans who feel that the Rose Bowl is their destiny after last year.

    Auburn returns a nice team and you will see them on New Years Day for sure. But, like Arizona State, Auburn has a bit of an off-season shadow lurking over them. Wide receiver Ben Obomanu was the unsuccessful target of a drive-by shooting. The interesting thing in the article is that Obomanu refused to mention who shot him. I don't know about you, but I would be singing like a bird if I knew the guy who wanted to put me six feet under.

    But back to the on-field issues. The Tigers return six on their defense, but the names of the D are gone. Junior Rosegreen, Carlos Dansby, and Carlos Rogers, the Thorpe Award winner for top defensive back.

    The Tigers will be nice. But not BCS material.

    Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    Notre Dame will be improved. Brady Quinn will have a great year. But there is not enough magic in the Golden Dome itself to get Notre Dame to a BCS bowl in year one under Charlie Weis.

    The problem with Notre Dame, beyond their killer schedule is that the Irish are not very good after you get past their first wave. Quality depth at Notre Dame has been lacking since the Clinton administration. Weis has been hard on the recruiting trail addressing the problem. However, those kids wont see campus until 2006, a year too late for such lofty expectations to be realized.

    Irish fans however, are convinced that Weis and his Super Bowl rings are the next coming of Ara Parseghian, Knute Rockne, or Frank Leahy. In year one, Lou Holtz went 5-6, yet Irish fans had a sense that the previous year's 5-6 under Gerry Faust was desperation whereas Holtz provided hope. It wasn't until year three that the Irish had their championship. Weis in year three could get Notre Dame back to the BCS. Anything done earlier than that would amaze.

    Nebraska Cornhuskers
    Someone needs to explain to me exactly why Frank Solich was ran out of Lincoln. Bill Callahan, to date, has put forth the greatest farce in college football. Nebraska was horrible last year. Feel free to pick your reason why among the loss to Southern Miss at home, losing 70-10 to Texas Tech, or how about 45-21 to a depleted Kansas State team.

    Supposedly Nebraska has recruited well since Callahan's arrival, but in this writer's opinion, signing day means nothing. It's how you develop what you have that counts. Sure, the Huskers will win more than they lose and get back to bowling, after the nations longest bowl streak was handed to Michigan. But, it will be another coach that will lead Nebraska back to national status, not Callahan.

    Photos courtesy:
    Jason Campbell at Sugar Bowl - Ric Feld/AP
    Charlie Weis - USA Today
    Bill Callahan - AP
    ASU helmet - AP

    August 06, 2005

    Challengers to the throne

    Everyone in their right mind expects the USC Trojans to win the national title. How can you debate against it? They return Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Matt Leinart. They also still have Reggie Bush, their do-everything tailback/returner/slot receiver. Wide receivers were young last year, but the Trojans managed and with Leinart throwing the ball to you, you can become a star in Pete Carroll's system.

    The change for the Trojans is the loss of offensive coordinator, Norm Chow to the Tennessee Titans. The debate is how big of a loss is Chow. Look, Leinart isn't suddenly going to forget how to throw a football. Bush's speed will still be in the 4.3-4.4 range (for a 40-yard dash). Also, depending upon who you believe, Pete Carroll was calling the plays anyway. I think Chow's departure will show up next year, when Leinart graduates and a new quarterback takes the reins.

    So let's talk some other teams, capable of ascending to the throne of college football:

    The Longhorns return Vince Young, fresh from shredding the Michigan Wolverine defense in the Rose Bowl with his legs for 192 yards and four touchdowns. For good measure, Young added 180 yards passing and one touchdown through the air.

    What the Longhorns lose is Cedric Benson. Tailbacks Selvin Young and Ramonce Taylor will get the first shot of replacing Benson. Good luck. Benson took a lot of heat off Young, the QB.

    The Skinny:
    The main belief in Texas stems from the Rose Bowl appearance. This is still a program that can't beat Oklahoma (ala Tennessee and Florida in the mid-90's). Also added to the schedule is a September 10 date at Ohio State. The much improved Buckeyes will provide an early glance of Vince Young without Cedric Benson. Win that and the OU hurdle still exists. Lose, and your hopes are gone on September 11th.

    The LSU Tigers return everyone on offense and seven starters on defense. JaMarcus Russell has the quarterback position for now, unless Ryan Perilloux, a brash recruit who audibled to LSU late from Texas, comes to Baton Rouge and turns the place upside down.

    The backfield depth and talent is the best in the nation with Justin Vincent, Joseph Addai, Alley Broussard, and Shyrone Carey. WR is set with Skyler Green being the leader and Early Doucet the most explosive element as a sophomore.

    What the Tigers lose is the swagger remaining from their championship season, and their fiery leader, Nick Saban. Les Miles comes in from Oklahoma State and he is a perfect successor to Saban's boot camp.

    The Skinny:
    Watching LSU's offense last year was a bit like the bear not knowing how to kill the bunny. With all the claws and fangs, LSU didnt know how to kill the bunny. The defense was a brute minus lapses, most notably against Georgia and the last play of the Iowa game. The schedule is a coaches dream. Tennessee, Florida, and Auburn all come to visit with Alabama being the toughest road game. The problem is that Tiger Stadium is electric at night and so-so during the day. All of those home games might be on CBS in the afternoon. The schedule will get LSU to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, giving them a shot at Pasadena.

    Miami returns all 11 defensive starters. In heyday years, that would get them the #1 ranking right there. However, its the skill positions on offense that are developing and will need that defense to carry them. Devin Hester's legs will provide the speed on defense, receiving, and special teams where he made an impact.

    What Miami hasn't had is a playmaker since Ken Dorsey. Brock Berlin could make the fabulous comeback, only after he put the Canes in the hole to begin with. Without Dorsey, the Canes have been 20-5 the past two years. Anywhere but the "U" and this would be a banner two-year record. The five losses have featured non-existent scoring and even a loss to lowly North Carolina. Miami isn't even the same team that took the field against Ohio State in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. The swagger was shattered that night and the Canes are still searching for it.

    The Skinny:
    The schedule opens up brutally with Florida State and Clemson on the road and then Colorado comes to town. Take a closer look however, and you see the FSU will struggle in finding a QB to replace Wyatt Sexton. Clemson is coming off a bad year for Charlie Whitehurst after NFL scouts were warming to his game, and Colorado did win the Big 12 North last year, but with 4 conference losses.

    In other words, the first three teams are solid, but not what they once were. The showdown comes November 5th at Virginia Tech. The Hokies went into Miami last year with the ACC title on the line and came away with the 16-10 win. That was the surest sign that the swagger isn't there as the Canes slept walked through a crucial game.

    Miami still will have talent, they still will have playmakers, but if Kyle Wright can make the offense run smooth and the players get back the hunger, the U could easily be in Pasadena.

    Michigan has Chad Henne and Mike Hart returning as QB/RB. Both are sophomores and both came on late, pacing Michigan to a Rose Bowl appearance and Big Ten title. However, the taste remaining in the mouth of Wolverine fans is one of a defense that melted down against Ohio State and Texas allowing both of their mobile quarterbacks to post huge rushing numbers.

    Michigan's strength will be their offensive line and really, everything on that side of the ball is ready to go today. Steve Breaston and Jason Avant are the WR duo to replace Braylon Edwards. They will do just fine.

    What Michigan loses is Edwards, a playmaker who took over games. The question will be for Breaston to step up and be #1. If he makes the transition, then forget you ever read this entry. However, it goes without saying that Breaston did see a lot of single coverage thanks to Edwards.

    The big problem is the secondary. Corners Marlin Jackson and Markus Curry are gone along with safety Ernest Shazor. Shazor being the guy winning the Purdue game with the punishing hit to cause the fumble by Purdue's Dorien Bryant.

    The Skinny:
    Michigan's front seven on defense will be the key to the season to get pressure on the quarterback to protect the green secondary. The good thing is that outside of Notre Dame, the Wolverines will not play a lot of passing offenses in the first month. Tricky games exist at Michigan State (a 42-37 loss to UM in the Big House last year) and at Iowa.

    The other problem is Lloyd Carr. This year's Michigan team will need to gamble a bit with their playcalling, but don't expect that from Carr. The good part is that the offense could win some shoot-outs and the schedule is nicely spaced to provide rest between showdowns.

    Michigan does get Notre Dame and Ohio State at home. They dont play pass-happy Purdue, and they can win a shootout at Iowa. They could make the Rose Bowl, yes, but it would take a morphing of Lloyd Carr into a gambler to win that one.

    Oklahoma Sooners
    What? Oklahoma? Come on, man, USC is still scoring on them! True, Oklahoma did get blasted by USC in the Orange Bowl, but the Sooners going back to the Rose Bowl is not far fetched. Besides, this whole "getting blown out last year, but come back to win the title over said team next year" angle has been done. See the 1991 Duke Blue Devils beating UNLV after losing 103-73 in the previous' years title game.

    Adrian Peterson makes the whole thing possible for OU. Peterson was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, posting 1,928 yards rushing. He could have gotten more yards, but was held out in some blowout games. Without Jason White at quarterback, Peterson will be more of the focus of the offense as well as the opposing defenses.

    The Sooners must decide between junior Paul Thompson and redshirt freshman Rhett Bomar at quarterback. They also have questions at receiver after losing four seniors and the secondary will be weakened. There are no Roy Williamses on this defense.

    The Skinny:
    Making Texas a favorite over Oklahoma is foolhardy in my opinion as the Sooners completely own the Longhorns. An early game at UCLA will test the chosen quarterback along with a later game at Nebraska. Texas A&M and a game in Lubbock against Texas Tech round out the schedule.

    Oklahoma can use last year as motivation. They can use being an underdog against Texas as fuel for the fire. They can slide under the radar this year all the way to Pasadena.

    Photos courtesy:
    Leinart/Bush - AP
    Vince Young - AP
    Justin Vincent - Andy Lyons/Getty Images
    Devin Hester - AP
    Henne/Hart - AP
    Adrian Peterson - The Oklahoman

    August 05, 2005

    Four weeks away...

    The good part about August is that MLB gets interesting with the playoff races, NASCAR will soon cut its field down to 10 who can win the title.

    But more importantly, August opens fall practices for college football. This month coaches and fans will find out what the freshman bring to the table. They will find out what the depth chart for the new season will look like. Key position battles that will hopefully determine fall success are fought. Injuries are suffered and teams shuffle to fill the gaps.

    Schools with new coaches will ramp up their enthusiasm another level. Hope springs eternal, waiting to be fulfilled during the four month season or crushed as soon as the opening kickoff sails through the air.

    This is the point of no return. Football is here, pigskin is in the air.

    About Me

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    Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.