Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A bunch of (slightly) educated guesses

Almost exactly two years ago, I made a bunch of predictions for the 2009 season. I then went back and graded myself the following spring, with accurate predictions getting one point, sort-of-correct predictions getting a half-point and crappy predictions getting none. The result ...
So that's 13 predictions and a total of 4 1/2 points. I'm not exactly Nostradamus.
... was underwhelming. I picked Florida (which went 12-1 and finished No. 2) to win it all, Tim Tebow to win the Heisman (he was a finalist but got beat out by Mark Ingram), Michigan to go 7-5 (not quite), etc. In other words, there were a lot of close-but-not-close-enough picks mixed in with a few good ones and a few terrible ones.

And that's the extent of my prognosticating history; last year's predictions were nonexistent due to my work schedule and the resulting end of my original blog.

So ... interpret that success/crappiness rate as you will. If it makes you feel any better, I still have complete confidence that what you read here is more insightful and accurate than what you'll get from Lou Holtz and Mark May, which is basically the equivalent of saying "this hamburger isn't filet mignon but is better than dog crap."

Anyway, now that we've established some context, here are your Official 2011 Forever Saturday Season Predictions:
  • Alabama will win it all. Oklahoma's the safe pick and will probably go undefeated, but I'm going with Bama on the assumption that the quarterback play will be decent, Trent Richardson will be borderline dominant and the defense will reach or exceed its typical level of awesomeness (just look at the depth chart and then think about who the coach is). The schedule isn't too bad, either: A trip to Florida, a home game against LSU and the finale at Auburn are the only games that seem like plausible losses, and none of those seem particularly daunting right now. So the pick is Alabama over Oklahoma in the BCS championship game.
  • Landry Jones will win the Heisman. I was hinting at this the other day in my post about the modern-day Heisman criteria and the near-exclusive emphasis on guys whose teams end up in the national title game. Landry Jones will put up gigantic numbers as the star quarterback for a team that's starting at No. 1 and will probably stay there all season (or at least until the title game); he's gotta be the favorite. Andrew Luck might be the awesomest quarterback since Peyton Manning or whoever, but I think he's gonna be victimized (for lack of a better word) by the same thought process Manning was back in '97: He's so hyped and so highly regarded that it's gonna be hard to impress/excite people. I mean, it's hard to envision his numbers being any better than they were last year, when he barely edged out LaMichael James to finish second after Stanford went 11-1. And maybe even more importantly, Stanford and its decimated coaching staff are highly unlikely to be a nationally relevant storyline (at least not as relevant as last year) come December. Being awesome is great, but as I said the other day, winning the Heisman nowadays pretty much requires being awesome and playing for a national-title-worthy team. Luck only fits one of those criteria and will therefore have to settle for a $30 million paycheck next April.
  • Texas will bounce back massively. To be specific, Texas will go 9-3. Mack Brown employed a bad offensive coordinator (Greg Davis) for way too long and replaced him with one who's at least decent (Bryan Harsin), which should by itself account for three wins. And I'd be concerned about the loss of Will Muschamp if Brown hadn't gone out and hired blitz-mad D-coordinator Manny Diaz from Mississippi State, who might be a slight step down but is also widely regarded as one of the best young coordinators (on either side of the ball) in the country. Garrett Gilbert will be better, the defense will still be good and the talent will still match up with anybody in the country. With Nebraska off the schedule and only three legitimately good teams on it, I'm seeing a significant turnaround and a top-tier-ish bowl game.
  • Auburn will be OK. Gotta put my proverbial money where my mouth is: I'll say Auburn finishes 7-5 and somewhere near the bottom of the polls. I just can't envision a nuclear implosion at the level of 5-7, which is what the sports books are saying. Yeah, the schedule is really hard, but all that stuff I wrote about Gus Malzahn and Michael Dyer and Ted Roof has to mean something ... right?
  • Michigan will finish 8-4. I came to this highly scientific conclusion by averaging out my worst-case scenario (6-6) and my best-case scenario (10-2). The problem is that anything in that range is entirely possible, because nobody has any idea exactly how much the defense will improve under hypothetical savior Greg Mattison and how much the offense will drop off now that Rich Rodriguez is analyzing stuff on CBS rather than calling plays. My guesses: "quite a bit" and "some but not a lot." The other tricky part is the schedule: Other than Minnesota at the bottom and Nebraska at the top, the Legends Division (arghgh) is a jumble of teams that are all roughly equal. Michigan could go 5-1 or 3-3 or possibly even 1-5 in the division, although the quantity of upperclass talent makes that last scenario pretty unlikely. I'm gonna write a little more on Michigan on Friday, but since it's not Friday and this is the spot for predictions, I'm going with 8-4.
  • Notre Dame will finish 10-2 and play in a BCS game. Insert Lou Holtz/Beano Cook senility reference here. I've been sold for a long time on Brian Kelly, and I think this is the year he puts it all together at Notre Dame. If Dayne Crist stays healthy and Michael Floyd stays sober, they should both put up ridiculous numbers as the offense takes the Brian Kelly Leap to Dominance. The defense will be slightly improved to the point of being above average, and that should be more than sufficient given the expected offensive awesomeness. Caveat: The first four games are tough (South Florida, under the lights at Michigan, Michigan State and at Pitt). But if ND somehow gets through that stretch 4-0 or even 3-1, a BCS game is a virtual lock. Seriously -- just try to find two losses in the back half of the schedule.
  • Arizona State will go 9-3 and play in the Pac-12 title game. In short, ASU is the best of a mediocre crop in the Pac-12 South. I'm tentatively optimistic about Brock Osweiler and a loaded group of receivers combining to form a really good downfield passing game (if the O-line allows one to exist). Between that and the combination of Cameron Marshall and Kyle Middlebrooks at running back, the offense will be somewhere between good and excellent. The defense should be fine, but it's depressing to think about how much better it could be with Lawrence Guy (NFL draft), Omar Bolden (torn ACL) and Brandon Magee (torn Achilles). Guh. Anyway, with Arizona having no O-line and just as many injuries on defense, Utah losing a bunch of key pieces on both sides of the ball and UCLA and Colorado being ... umm ... UCLA and Colorado, the division title is there for the taking. I'm calling nine wins, a second loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game and a contract extension for Dennis Erickson (please note that my predictions do not necessarily represent what I think would be best for the program).
  • Oregon will go 11-1 and win the Pac-12. I'm of the opinion that Oregon is head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, so this isn't exactly a huge leap of faith. To make things a little more interesting, I'll throw this out there: Oregon's one loss won't be to Stanford or LSU. Neither of those teams will be able to keep up. And I've already ruled out ASU, so I'm talking about a legitimate upset, like maybe USC or Oregon State or Arizona (think about how close UA was to winning in Tucson two years ago). The offense will still be really good overall, but consistency will be a little harder to come by this year with a mostly overhauled O-line, and one bad game (like last year's ugly one against Cal) will be the difference between perfection and the Rose Bowl.
  • Wisconsin will win the Big Ten. It's basically a Wisconsin-Nebraska battle unless Ohio State comes together in remarkable fashion or Brady Hoke continues to poop gold at Michigan, and with an absolute juggernaut of a running game and possibly the best quarterback in the conference (must be nice to lose a good senior starter and somehow get better at the position), I gotta go with Wisconsin. I just can't see Nebraska having enough offense to keep up in a hypothetical Big Ten championship game matchup. The defense should be good, too, with most of the relevant pieces returning and linebacker Chris Borland coming back from a broken leg that knocked him out for the final nine games of last season. Running the table isn't out of the question, but there are enough pretty good teams in the Big Ten that I don't see anybody getting through unscathed.
  • Ohio State will be closer to typical Ohio State than apocalyptic Ohio State. After years of Tresselball and excruciating (for me) wins over Michigan that all seem the same when zoomed out, it's hard to imagine/remember anything different. It is possible that Ohio State will be, like, not good this year: There are only four starters back from last year's defense, the quarterback spot is a complete mystery, the offensive line has underachieved for the past several years and the two biggest offensive weapons are both sitting out the first half of the season. But of those first five games, only two -- at Miami and home for Michigan State -- are even remotely losable, and the rest of the schedule is a bunch of crap along with a road game at Nebraska, a home game against Wisconsin and The Game in Ann Arbor. In other words, 7-5 seems like the absolute worst-case scenario, and 10 wins is probably more likely than seven. My prediction: 9-3. If that somehow includes a loss to Michigan, the celebration at my house will last for months.
  • Miami will be about as mediocre as last season's Miami. I just said this like a day and a half ago, but I'll repeat it here anyway: Miami will be decent. The suspensions are all minor enough that by Week 5 -- when 2-2 is basically the worst-case scenario -- everyone will be available, and the ACC is as mediocre as ever beyond Florida State and Virginia Tech. Miami just needs four wins against the gooey middle of the conference to lock up a spot in a bowl game (any bowl game), which seems totally doable and would be a fine start for Al Golden. That would also slightly delay the debate about whether Miami will actually have a program in 2012 and beyond.
  • Florida State will win the ACC but won't be quite ready for the national title: As mentioned above, the ACC is as uninspiring as ever and should be a cakewalk for Florida State and Virginia Tech in their respective divisions. It's that game against Oklahoma on September 17 (and possibly a trip to Florida in November) that makes things dicey. I love FSU's defense this year, but the offense is a massive question mark; nobody really knows what E.J. Manuel is gonna bring to the table, and none of the skill-position guys jump out. It's hard to run the table without some bread-and-butter options on offense; the only comparable team to win a title in recent history was 2007 LSU, and that required a crazy, not-repeatable string of events that saw a two-loss team get into the national title game. The guess here is that Florida State loses to Oklahoma but then rolls through the ACC, beats Va. Tech in the conference championship game and makes the short trip to the Orange Bowl at 12-1.
  • Arkansas will be this year's (relative) disappointment. Three new starters on the offensive line (including both tackles), a new interior D-line, a quarterback who has basically played one career game and a star running back who's out for the season. According to brilliant people like Rick Reilly, that formula equals national championship. According to me, that formula equals ... ummm ... something well short of a national championship. There are enough tough games (at Alabama, against Texas A&M in Arlington, Auburn and South Carolina at home, at LSU) that I just can't see anything better than 9-3. The official prediction: 8-4 and a mediocre bowl game.
  • Boise State will run the table again. As is the norm for Boise, the first game is the toughest one: If they can get past a good-on-paper Georgia team in Atlanta on Saturday, chalk up another trip to the Fiesta Bowl and an honorary seat in New York for Kellen Moore. The Mountain West is a little tougher than the WAC, but it won't matter this year, especially with TCU in somewhat of a rebuilding mode and having to play on the smurf turf on November 12.
  • Some absolutely ridiculous and sure-to-be-wrong bowl guesses: I have no idea why I'm doing this, but here goes: Wisconsin will play Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Boise State will play Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, Florida State will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, West Virginia will play Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and Alabama will play (and beat) Oklahoma in the BCS championship game. And then I will cry because it will be eight months until football again.

Catching up is tingly with anticipation

Texas A&M officially ready to go: What's been known for a month was made official on Wednesday, as Texas A&M informed the Big 12 that it's applying to an "unspecified conference" (hmmm, I wonder which one) and will leave by June 30 of next year if the application is approved.

Translation: If the SEC wants us, we be gone.

The SEC's informal vote a few weeks ago didn't come out in A&M's favor, but that wasn't official, and the conference's official statement via Florida president Bernie Machen said they were "open" to expanding in the future (I suppose three weeks is technically "the future"). According to ESPN, the SEC hasn't actually received an application yet; once that happens, A&M needs nine votes out of 12 for acceptance.

Back before that first vote, I said this:
I have a hard time believing that the SEC would shoot this thing down after extensive behind-closed-door negotiations that led to A&M burning a whole bunch of fragile bridges.
I'm not so sure anymore. Common sense leads me to believe A&M wouldn't do all this so publicly if it hadn't already been decided that there's a 100 percent chance of acceptance, but common sense was thrown out the window a long time ago. There still hasn't been any talk of a 14th team (which I think is what led to the not-so-supportive vote last time), so I don't see what will be any different this time around other than A&M having a more concrete exit plan in place. Maybe the negotiations that have reportedly been ongoing for the past three weeks allowed the people in power at the SEC to feel some level of comfort with A&M's move and the timeline it would allow for finding another team to bring in next offseason. We'll find out whenever the application is filed, which should be soon since A&M will want time to negotiate an exit fee and whatnot.

As for the Big 12, always-in-limbo commissioner Don Beebe said this:
"As previously stated, the conference will move forward aggressively exploring its membership options."
The obvious candidates are Houston, BYU and maybe SMU, although SMU's candidacy is based more on self-promotion than logical fit. For what it's worth (which is nothing), Houston and BYU both came out with the standard, "We have had no discussions but are always looking for the best opportunity blah blah blah" statements.

Texas names a quarterback: Mack Brown surprised nobody (except maybe Case McCoy) on Monday by naming Garrett Gilbert the starter for the season opener against Rice. There was talk in spring that McCoy -- a sophomore and the brother of that other McCoy guy from Texas -- was making a legitimate push to take the job, but Gilbert did enough in fall camp to retain his spot.

In case you've forgotten, Gilbert was pretty bad last year as a sophomore: He threw 10 touchdowns and a national-worst 17 picks while completing about 59 percent of his passes, which doesn't seem bad but isn't good in Texas' dink-and-dunk offense. How much of that was Gilbert and how much of it was since-departed and much-reviled offensive coordinator Greg Davis is a matter of debate, but an 8-of-17, one-interception, no-touchdown performance in the spring game wasn't exactly convincing evidence of a breakthrough under new OC Bryan Harsin (formerly of Boise State).

Still, Gilbert is the only guy with experience and is unquestionably talented, and it'll be a shock if the offense as a whole doesn't take a significant step forward under Harsin. The play-calling alone should make Gilbert noticeably better; if he's not, he won't be starting for long. Mack Brown has said in nicer words that there'll be a short leash ...
"Last year, we didn't make some changes we should have. We won't do that this year."
... so McCoy may very well get a shot. Fortunately for Gilbert, the schedule gives him plenty of chances to impress early: The first four games are Rice, BYU, at UCLA and at Iowa State. Of that group, only BYU (at 32nd) finished in the top 80 last year in pass-efficiency defense.

Ohio State goes with the senior: Luke Fickell announced Monday that fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman will "probably take the first snap" at quarterback against Akron on Saturday. The qualifier is necessary because freshman Braxton Miller, the obvious QB of the future who's listed as an "or" starter on the depth chart, is expected to rotate in for an undetermined amount of playing time throughout the game. Fickell's comment:
"Again, the whole idea is we want to continue to create competition and to make sure that those guys understand that by saying 'or' that we need both."
There are a lot of quotes with the standard stuff on experience and senior leadership, but the fact of the matter is that Bauserman is only slightly more experienced than Miller in game settings: He's thrown 47 career passes (about two games' worth), and not a single one of them was meaningful. His only real game experience came last year on the road against Illinois when Terrelle Pryor got dinged up for a series. Bauserman came in and threw two passes; the second was intercepted, and Pryor immediately came back in to hand off for the rest of the game as OSU held on. So ... it's safe to assume he knows the playbook, but he's not particularly mobile and may or may not be a good passer.

Miller is the athletic guy being groomed for the starting job, and the guess here is that his path will mirror Pryor's back when he was a freshman: He'll got sporadic time until either the starter looks terrible or he looks too good to keep off the field, and then he'll be the long-term guy. Whether that happens this year is anybody's guess. Either way, Ohio State's quarterback play will probably be decent but not at the level its typically been at for the past decade.

South Carolina to play two QBs: It's like the good ol' days for Steve Spurrier, as South Carolina plans to play both 17th-year senior Stephen Garcia and sophomore Connor Shaw in Saturday's potentially interesting opener against East Carolina. It's been assumed (by me and pretty much everybody else) that Garcia's return from his fifth suspension (lol) meant he'd be thrust back into the starting job, but that apparently hasn't been determined. Spurrier said he plans to rotate the two to throughout at least the first half of the first game:

Spurrier said it doesn't matter who starts, because both players will play for a few possessions in the first half.

"I don't know how you can say one guy is the quarterback for the year when you've got two that are pretty close and one of them is struggling," said Spurrier, referring to the five interceptions Garcia threw in the final two games last season. "I don't know how you tell the other guy he's not going to have a chance."

It's unclear whether Shaw has actually played enough to earn a shot or if Garcia has just been his typical interception-happy self in fall camp. According to Spurrier, Shaw has been better in scrimmages while Garcia has been better in practices (although "better" is purely a relative term). Garcia's experience presumably plays a not-insignificant role in the decision.

Honestly, I'm skeptical that the rotation will continue very long in a year in which an SEC East championship is pretty much the baseline -- this isn't a season for experimentation. Spurrier is the one guy we know can win with two quarterbacks, but the key to that is having both guys actually playing consistently well ... or Marcus Lattimore running for a billion yards and the defense being dominant. That'd work too.

UCLA agrees with South Carolina on the multiple-QB thing: The never-ending quarterback battle at UCLA will just keep on rolling right into the season: Rick Neuheisel announced Wednesday that Kevin Prince will start, Richard Brehaut will play in a non-starting role and Brett Hundley might see time in a "small offensive package" (perfect spot for "that's what she said" reference).

Given Hundley's offseason injury and mediocre spring performance, it's highly unlikely that he'll start at any point this year unless the other guys are a cumulative disaster; his time is 2012. As for Prince and Brehaut, they were equally mediocre last year (50-ish percent with slightly more interceptions than touchdowns) but are now in the Pistol offense, which would seem to give the more mobile Prince the edge ... if he can actually stay healthy for once. Completing more than 45 percent of his passes is gonna be a necessity, though. Brehaut can do that.

Unlike Spurrier, Neuheisel is on the 3,000-degree hot seat and might be willing to just shuffle his quarterbacks in and out based on whims and conversations with his visor. Prince should get the majority of the snaps as long as the offense looks better than it did last year, but again, completing passes is important.

The Big Ten has a championship trophy: Here it is:

Dr. Saturday hits the nail on the head when he calls it "a derivative of other trophies resting a silver football on top of an oddly shaped silver platform," but that's fine. It looks like a championship trophy.

And after the dumb divisional names, the attempt to placate every important conference figure ever with the trophy names and the brief-and-fortunately-overruled discussion about moving the Michigan-Ohio State game to midseason, I'm cool with anything the Big Ten does that's not head-shakingly embarrassing. The bar is set pretty low.

Oklahoma to honor Austin Box: As you might recall, Oklahoma middle linebacker Austin Box overdosed on painkillers in May and died at the age of 22. Sadness and all that.

Some sort of helmet decal and a first-game moment of silence would be the norm, but the OU players have come up with a more dynamic way of remembering a reputed leader who'd have been entering his senior year:

The top-ranked Sooners plan to honor late linebacker Austin Box this season by allowing a defensive player to wear his No. 12 jersey for each game. Landry Jones wears the same number on offense and says he asked Box's parents for permission to keep it.

Coach Bob Stoops said the team will announce each Friday who will wear Box's jersey for the upcoming game. Defensive captain Travis Lewis, who played alongside Box at linebacker the past three seasons, will handle much of the decision-making on who gets the honor, along with Jones.

Very cool.

Kansas State unveils the worst mascot in history: Since one mascot apparently wasn't enough, Kansas State felt the need to give Willie the Wildcat a sidekick -- an environmentally friendly one, of course -- and announced it on Wednesday. The result is called "EcoKat" and is a mind-boggling, horrific, WTF-inducing abomination:

Uhhh ... what? According to the school's official and totally necessary explanation, EcoKat is "played by a K-State student who auditioned for the role ... outfitted in a costume made of 90 percent repurposed materials."

I'm speechless.

This won't surprise you at all: According to Packers beat writer Bob McGinn, Terrelle Pryor scored a 7 on his Wonderlic. Pryor later tweeted that he scored a 22, but according to Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert (who administered the test), that score came on his second try after scoring "significantly" lower on the first attempt.

Yes, I realize that the Wonderlic means nothing and is completely pointless, but the fact that Pryor couldn't hit double digits still makes me laugh.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's not so bad for Miami (this year)

Miami got a ruling Tuesday on the 12 guys in eligibility limbo. The verdict:
Quarterback Jacory Harris and 11 other Miami players who accepted extra benefits from former booster Nevin Shapiro will be allowed by the NCAA to play again, some as soon as the second game of the season.

The harshest penalties handed down Tuesday were reserved for those who took gifts from Shapiro while being recruited. Defensive lineman Olivier Vernon will sit out six games, while Ray Ray Armstrong -- considered among the nation's top safeties -- and tight end Dyron Dye will miss four games apiece.

Harris, Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo all must sit out one game and make restitution for accepting benefits after enrolling at the school. Four other players must repay small amounts, all under $100, but will not miss any games.

So ... that's not so bad. The Maryland game might be ugly since the starting lineup will be mostly piecemeal, but Vernon and Armstrong are the only meaningful players who will be out beyond this Saturday. That's unfortunate for Ohio State since they play in Coral Gables in Week 2.

In the short term, Stephen Morris will get a shot to start at quarterback against Maryland and possibly take hold of the competition he and Harris staged throughout camp. They were supposedly splitting snaps 50/50 the whole way, so if Morris plays well in the opener, the bet here is that he starts until he shows he shouldn't.

In the larger context of the season as a whole, Al Golden's gotta be breathing easy. The defense won't be completely decimated, and even though an 0-2 start is very possible, respectability and a bowl game are both realistic goals. Miami 2011 will be comparable to Miami 2010.

It's too early to say whether this means anything for Miami in an institutional sense. The NCAA apparently didn't look at most of the improper benefits as being too severe, but the real damage/punishment will be dependent on the proof (or lack thereof) of coaching-staff involvement and recruiting payments. That's the stuff that's bringing up death-penalty talk.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The new Heisman criteria

About once a week, I come across an article on ESPN or or wherever with a headline along the lines of "Justin Blackmon has Heisman hopes" or "Making the Heisman case for Keenum" (how witty).

If it were 1992, those would be reasonable and not-totally-pointless stories. It isn't 1992.

I'm not sure exactly what changed when I was 10, but the past 20 years have established a clear and exclusive set of criteria for Heisman winners, and they've become even more pronounced recently. There are only two:
  1. Be a quarterback or running back
  2. Be on a BCS-conference team that either (a) plays for the national championship or (b) wins at least eight games primarily because the Heisman candidate posts historically impressive statistics
Pretty straightforward, right? Be a quarterback or running back and play for a really good major-conference team, preferably one with a spot in the BCS championship game.

Upshot: Justin Blackmon isn't winning the Heisman, Case Keenum isn't winning the Heisman, Alshon Jeffery isn't winning the Heisman, Jared Crick isn't winning the Heisman and Vontaze Burfict isn't winning the Heisman. Those guys have a cumulative chance of zero percent.

This is where we talk about Charles Woodson and why his case isn't replicable: Woodson was by far the best player on the best team* in the country in '97. He dominated on defense, offense and special teams (when it mattered, anyway); whenever he was on the field, he was the best player out there. And in the biggest game of the '97 season, he made the biggest play -- one I could re-enact in my head with frightening accuracy -- while Peyton Manning was busy blowing the Florida game for the 17th time in a row. So if you're the best player on the best team and you play both sides of the ball and make a couple huge, legendary plays while no obvious (quarterback or running back) candidate jumps out, you can win. That happens a lot, obviously.

Ndamukong Suh should have won easily two years ago but instead finished a distant fourth behind Mark Ingram, Toby Gerhart and Colt McCoy (who had probably his worst season as a starter). If anything, the voting has gotten less open-minded since Woodson won.

So yeah ... it's all about the backfield dudes. Here's the list of winners since 2000:

2000: Chris Weinke, Florida State
2001: Eric Crouch, Nebraska
2002: Carson Palmer, USC
2003: Jason White, Oklahoma
2004: Matt Leinart, USC
2005: Reggie Bush, USC (never happened, of course)
2006: Troy Smith, Ohio State
2007: Tim Tebow, Florida
2008: Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
2009: Mark Ingram Jr., Alabama
2010: Cam Newton, Auburn

All but two of those guys -- Palmer and Tebow -- played in the national championship game the year they won the Heisman. USC went 11-2 in '02 and finished No. 4, while Florida went 9-3 in '07 (this was the year in between their two national titles) as Tebow became the first 20/20 player in college football history.

The Heisman has become the Best Back on the Best Team Award (or occasionally the Most Dominant Player on a Very Good Team Award),

Now that we've got that out of the way, here are the old and outdated criteria that most people think still matter but really don't:
  1. Huge, mind-blowing stats (only necessary if playing on a good-but-not-great BCS team)
  2. Being a household name at the start of the season
Like I said before, this isn't 1992, and nobody will care if Case Keenum throws for 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns while Andrew Luck throws for 2,500 and 30 touchdowns. We're not in the Ty Detmer/Andre Ware era anymore.

As for No. 2, neither of the past two winners was even on the radar at the start of the season -- Cam Newton wasn't even on the freakin' Davey O'Brien watch list, which is comprised of pretty much every quarterback anybody thinks might be capable of being good. If your team is elite and you're the star quarterback/running back, you can win the Heisman.

None of the things mentioned above are shocking revelations, but here's where I'm going with this post: There are quite a few guys who could conceivably win the Heisman but are getting no Heisman-related hype because people are busy writing about whether Justin Blackmon can win an award that he really can't. A brief, off-the-top-of-my-head list:
  • E.J. Manuel (if Florida State is as good as everybody thinks, he'll get a lot of the credit)
  • David Wilson (running for 1,700 yards for a team with a good shot at going 12-0 might be enough)
  • Logan Thomas (see David Wilson, except subtract about 1,000 rushing yards and add a whole bunch of passing yards)
  • Garrett Gilbert (he might not even start but could win the Heisman if Texas has a massive bounceback and he has a McCoy-as-a-sophomore-type season)
  • John Brantley (see Garrett Gilbert)
  • Michael Dyer (what if Auburn's offense is still really good and, not coincidentally, Auburn is still really good?)
  • Cyrus Gray (this might not even be a sleeper pick -- he's one of the best running backs in the country on a top-10 team with a good shot at a BCS bowl)
  • Spencer Ware (if LSU survives the Jordan Jefferson situation and goes something like 11-1, he could be this year's Mark Ingram)
  • Dayne Crist (playing quarterback for Notre Dame is like Heisman gold, especially if ND is actually good)
  • Aaron Murray (a big-name QB on a high-profile SEC team with a ridiculously favorable schedule)
I'm probably missing/forgetting some guys, but that's kinda the point: Again, there are a lot of players -- some of whom aren't even established starters -- who could win the Heisman ... as long as they fulfill the two criteria mentioned at the top of this post. If the team sucks or the guy is anything other than a quarterback or running back for a major-conference team*, forget about it.

For the record, my pick isn't on that list. Official predictions are coming Wednesday.

*I'm undecided about where Kellen Moore stands in relation to these rules. He doesn't technically play in a BCS conference, but Boise State has established itself as such a regular top-10 team and BCS candidate that its big-name players can easily become household names, which isn't the case for most mid-major-type schools. I think Boise should basically be considered a major-conference program when we're talking about national recognition.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Catching up gets a sweet Macy's discount

Tulsa suspends Damaris Johnson indefinitely: Damaris Johnson, the best return man in the country and a pretty good receiver (he was a second-team All-American last year with over 2,600 all-purpose yards), was suspended indefinitely Friday for his apparent role in some thefts/embezzlement from a local Macy's.

Speaking of which, this seems like a brilliant scam except for the part about ... well, pretty much all of it:

Tulsa police spokesman Leland Ashley says Johnson was questioned Thursday after his girlfriend, Chamon Jones, was taken into custody in an embezzlement scheme.

Ashley says Jones, who works at a local Macy's, is accused of selling more than $1,500 worth of merchandise to Johnson for just under $13 on one occasion. She also is accused of only charging him 34 cents for merchandise totaling $1,283.

Additionally, the charges were (allegedly) on her credit card -- like Macy's wasn't gonna notice that. There haven't been any arrests thus far, but Tulsa obviously sees the writing on the wall.

To quantify Johnson's overall value to a Tulsa team that finished No. 24 last year and should be among the favorites in Conference USA again this season, here are his relevant stats:

Johnson had 872 yards receiving, 560 rushing, 904 on kickoff returns and 292 on punt returns last season while scoring 13 touchdowns. He is also the NCAA's career record-holder with 3,417 kickoff return yards.

His loss would hurt. A lot.

Thayer Evans takes the words right out of my mouth: I've been telling people throughout the whole Ohio State saga that the only way to truly penalize schools for being dirtier than dirt is to take away the money they made from being dirty, the money they'll make in the future or both. Schools would actually be compelled to police themselves if the NCAA were to come out with punishments like "No home nonconference games for two years" or "Give us all the TV and gate money from all the games you never technically played." columnist-type guy Thayer Evans is apparently in agreement, because his article from Friday on how to fix college football (although that's a bit of a stretch) pretty much echoes my thoughts:

Continue with reducing scholarships and postseason bans, but change the rules to allow the NCAA Committee on Infractions to also penalize schools the next fiscal year by seizing the money they receive from their conferences, just like the DEA takes illegal proceeds from drug dealers.

That’s millions of dollars for BCS conference schools. Let the seriousness of the violations determine how much money is seized. ...

In the case of the Ohio State saga, take all $22.6 million from the Buckeyes that each Big Ten school reportedly receives annually.

And if the allegations of payments, prostitutes and an abortion for a girlfriend financed for University of Miami players by convicted Ponzi scheme architect and booster Nevin Shapiro are true, seize the reported $13 million the Hurricanes receive from the Atlantic Coast Conference for years.

Bingo. He also suggests redistributing the money to the other schools in the conference, but I think that's a little unrealistic -- the tattling would be out of control. Still, the general idea is the right one.

The other thing that has to happen: Show-cause penalties for coaches should be way more common. If a head coach commits or is aware of major violations and doesn't do anything about it, he should be banned from coaching forever. The same basic premise should apply to athletic directors, compliance directors, etc. It's ridiculous that the people who commit the crimes can just move along and leave their former employers and/or players to take the brunt of the punishment.

Iowa considering heart-wrenching team entrance: I'm not really an animal person -- just ask my wife -- but this isn't your typical animal story:
A former player proposed Friday that the Iowa football team be led onto the field this season by Hawkeye — the dog seen in a widely viewed photograph lying near the casket of his fallen Navy SEAL owner.

The touching photo of Hawkeye exploded in popularity earlier this week, depicting the close bond between the Labrador retriever and his owner, 35-year-old Rockford, Iowa, native Jon Tumilson.

Tumilson, a Navy SEAL, was one of the 38 soldiers killed Aug. 6 when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. His funeral was held Aug. 19, and according to those who attended, the dog laid near the casket throughout the service.
Man ... that photo is utterly heartbreaking. Iowa needs to make this happen, although I'd still take Adam Taliaferro and Brock Mealer in a "most emotional team entrances ever" pool.

On a lighter note: The people of Ohio just can't let Jim Tressel go, which is funny for us but should be embarrassing for them. Buried in this ESPN story about Tressel "apologizing" (not really) to OSU fans is this tidbit:
The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association suggested to its members in July that they might honor Tressel by mimicking his typical game attire in their season openers.

Some said they planned to do so; others see no reason to honor a coach who was pushed out of his job for breaking NCAA rules and covering up his knowledge that several of his players had accepting improper benefits.
Some of those people sound logical. Hint: It's not the first group.

LSUFreek wins the internet: Message-board lurker LSUFreek is the widely recognized king of college-football-related gifs, many of which I stumble across and mean to post here but never do. I finally remembered (these are both a little old, but it doesn't matter):

JoePa's shoulder shimmy is comedy gold.

SMU wants to join the Big 12: Good luck with that. If the Big 12 gets desperate, there are probably other schools available that are known for more than the worst scandal in NCAA history and have more than one winning season in the past 30 years.

LSU loses its QB and probably its title hopes

Jordan Jefferson has been arrested and suspended indefinitely:
LSU players Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns face felony battery charges and are reportedly in the process of turning themselves in to authorities for booking at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Meanwhile, LSU coach Les Miles has suspended the pair from the football team. LSU released the following statement this morning:

“Jordan and Josh have been suspended indefinitely,” Miles said. “We will continue to cooperate with the authorities in an effort to find out exactly what took place during the incident.

“As sad as this incident is, it’s important that we learn from this and that we take away a valuable lesson. This has weighed on all of us. It’s time for us to come together as a team and focus on what we are here to do.”
The arrest part seemed inevitable based on Wednesday's report that police seized 49 pairs of shoes (!) from Jefferson's apartment following witness reports that he kicked a man in the head in last weekend's ugly bar fight. The suspension was sure to follow (even if it is the SEC), meaning LSU will be without its starting QB for the foreseeable future and possibly the entire season.

Whether or not Jefferson returns at some point is mostly irrelevant: LSU's national title hopes just took a massive hit, as there's no chance he'll be on the field next Saturday night in Dallas against Oregon for a game that will put one team in the top two and the other in an absolutely-must-win-out position. And in the first month alone, LSU also plays at top-25 teams Mississippi State and West Virginia. Whatever amount of time Jefferson misses, it will be meaningful.

So LSU needs a quarterback, and the next guy in line is probably NOT ex-Georgia recruit Zach Mettenberger, who was everybody's favorite "player to watch" back in spring; instead, fifth-year senior Zach Lee has been taking the second-team snaps in camp. Lee actually started as a redshirt freshman, but there's a reason he was leapfrogged by Jefferson: He threw 14 touchdowns and 16 picks, and he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in his last three SEC games that year. In other words, he wasn't good (again, he was also a redshirt freshman).

Lee did get some regular playing time last year during the SEC portion of the schedule after Jefferson's disastrous 3-for-10, two-interception first half against Tennessee, and he was a little better but far from great: He completed about 60 percent of his passes but hit the 100-yard mark only twice (insert Mike Leach laughter here) and threw the aforementioned two touchdown passes, both against Florida. LSU went 4-2 during that stretch as Jefferson and Lee split snaps pretty evenly. Jefferson then regained control of the job against Mississippi and held onto it for the final three games.

So ... unless Lee has taken a huge step forward after reportedly being left in the dust by Jefferson this spring -- or unless Mettenberger has a hype-fulfilling revelation -- the passing game probably won't be very good. That could be a problem against Oregon, West Virginia, Florida, etc., especially when you add in the graduation of running back Stevan Ridley and top wideout Terrence Toliver. It's tough to win championships (national, SEC or otherwise) if you can't score touchdowns.

Running the wildcat with uber-athlete and former five-star QB recruit Russell Shepard -- the designated "get him the ball in space" guy in LSU's not-very-creative offense -- would be an interesting possibility ... except Shepard was suspended Thursday (good timing, amirite?) for "violating school and NCAA codes that pertain to discussing NCAA inquiries with teammates." It's unclear when he'll be back, but he's out for at least the opener.

Here's an interesting quote from Caesers betting expert Todd Furhman from an interview just yesterday:
“Right now I’m operating under the assumption Jefferson will play and plan to open the game at Oregon -1,” Fuhrman said. “If he can’t go and Lee starts, however, I’d be inclined to make Oregon somewhere in the -2.5 to -3 range.”
Whatever the swing is for the Oregon game, you can apply it at a macro level for LSU's season. Miles was saying stuff like this ...
"(Jefferson) gets it out of his hand so quickly. He goes through the reads and progressions. There's much less hesitation in the decision-making process."
... all offseason, and it's all irrelevant now that the ball is in Lee's hands for at least the early part of the season. Like I said three paragraphs ago, it's tough to win championships if you can't score touchdowns, and it's tough to score touchdowns without a decent quarterback.

Lee might be decent -- which is as much as can be said for Jefferson's uninspiring 2010 season (seven touchdowns and 10 picks) -- but the fact that he was comfortably behind Jefferson to begin with doesn't offer a ton of hope, and being thrown into the lineup a week before the opener offers even less.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I can't believe this is actually happening

Ummm ... what?

Michigan and Appalachian State are ready for a rematch. The Wolverines announced Thursday that they will open the 2014 season at home against Appalachian State.

"The opportunity to play again is a good thing," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told Angelique Chengelis of The Detroit News. "I don't see how it could be a negative."

Obviously. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?



404 error game cannot be found
database fatal error #34-32!
brain shutting down

Miami crosses its collective fingers

As you might have heard, there are some guys at Miami who may or may not be ineligible for allegedly receiving boatloads of improper benefits from Nevin Shapiro. Miami president Donna Shalala said Wednesday that there are 15 athletes in question, but she didn't specify whether those guys played football or basketball or something else; the original Yahoo report named 12 football players.

According to the Miami Herald, eight of those players have been declared ineligible ... kind of:
The University of Miami has declared eight student-athletes – all believed to be football players – ineligible and has asked the NCAA to initiate the reinstatement process, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

Quarterback Jacory Harris is one of the ineligible athletes, the source said.

At least four other football players were not declared ineligible by the university because it is believed the impermissible benefits each allegedly received from former UM booster Nevin Shapiro totaled less than $100 -- meaning they can pay it back, usually by donating to a charity.

In order for UM to ensure that those deemed ineligible have a chance to play Sept. 5 in the opener at Maryland without risking severe penalties by the NCAA, UM had to declare them ineligible. The NCAA will now review each player’s case and either reinstate them – every case is handled individually – or rule how many games they have to sit out.
The NCAA process is kinda backwards (big surprise, right?): You have to declare a guy ineligible in order to get him a hearing with the NCAA and get verification of whether he's actually eligible. This is what Auburn did with Cam Newton last year right before the SEC title game, and it took the NCAA about two days (I think it was a Tuesday-to-Thursday deal) to rule him eligible. The big-picture investigation is supposedly* still ongoing.

In Miami's case, this is what you might call "damage control" -- they need to know exactly which guys are cleared to play so they don't end up vacating games and getting even more penalties tacked on in the long run. Everything is being done by the book now in hopes of salvaging some remnants of the program when the hammer comes down, which the school obviously sees as more important than potentially winning three or four extra games this year.

Speaking of which, while it's unclear exactly which eight players have been deemed ineligible, the full list of 12 was as follows: Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Vaughn Telemaque, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, Dyron Dye and JoJo Nicholas. That encompasses the nominal** starting QB, arguably the best linebacker in the ACC, both starting safeties, two of the top three receivers, three of the four starting defensive linemen and a starting corner. So yeah ... those aren't walk-ons. On the plus side, the offensive line is free and clear!

Without knowing the specifics of exactly what the school found in its investigation and which guys other than Harris have been ruled ineligible thus far, there's no point trying to project the extent of the damage outside of "potentially crater-tastic." I mean, there's no team in the country that could lose 75 percent of its defense and a significant chunk of its offense and not come out of it way, way worse. But it's probably gonna be bad (unless the NCAA compliance people have a lot less info than we think they have, which is always a possibility given the Ohio State findings). Either way, a hearing will be expedited and Miami will know one way or another within the next 10 days -- the season opener is September 5 against Maryland.

So if you're Al Golden, your fingers are crossed and sore from knocking against every piece of wood in your presumably fancy office. Fielding a shell of a team is no way to start a new high-expectations job or rebuild a program that's sailing directly into devastating long-term sanctions.

*I'm not really sure whether Auburn would have to give up its title if it turns out Newton was ineligible. If the NCAA says, "Yup, he's eligible" and you win a national championship, can they come back and say "Just kidding" and take it away? Paging Bylaw Blog ...

**It's a little odd that everybody's going "OMG not Jacory Harris" when Harris had all but lost the starting job by the end of last year anyway. Stephen Morris put up similarly mediocre stats (about 55 percent passing, more interceptions than touchdowns, etc.), but he also added a little bit of a running threat and at least offered hope for the future since he was only a freshman. FWIW, word from camp is that Harris and Morris have been splitting snaps with the first team.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Catching up transfers with amazing speed

Notre Dame names a starting QB: Redshirt junior Dayne Crist was picked Tuesday as the winner of the battle with sophomore Tommy Rees to be (in theory) Brian Kelly's next great quarterback. This was not a big surprise since Crist has way more experience, but Rees did go 4-0 down the stretch last year after Crist got hurt and seemed to get noticeably better as the season went on. Apparently that improvement didn't continue at an exponential rate (which isn't that uncommon for Kelly's quarterbacks) this offseason.

The questions with Crist are (a) whether his paper-mache knees, both of which have been reconstructed, will hold up over the course of a season and (b) whether he can take the big step forward from effective to elite, which is what Notre Dame needs for its offense to be what it should be. In Kelly's system, the running game is always going to be somewhat of an afterthought; it's the downfield passing game where the offense will live and die. Crist is reputed to have the stronger arm and -- at least at this point -- a better grasp of the fairly basic system, so he's the guy.

I've been touting Notre Dame as one of the handful of teams that can legitimately win the BCS title this year, and the only way that happens is if Crist (or possibly Rees if Crist's knees fall apart) takes The Leap and plays like a Heisman candidate. I'm sure Kelly sleeps better at night knowing that he has two already-established quality options, but one of them has to more than just "quality." Whether that actually happens is anyone's guess -- I'm just going with "yes" based on Kelly's ridonkulous track record with QBs, especially in the second and third years of his system.

Tennessee dismisses Janzen Jackson: Wow. Jackson was second-team All-SEC last year and probably Tennessee's best player, and after leaving school in February to deal with undisclosed "personal problems," he re-enrolled in June and was reportedly back with the team. Sadly, those personal problems were worse than expected:
Coach Derek Dooley announced Jackson's dismissal Wednesday. Dooley declined to divulge specifics, but sources told that Jackson has battled substance-abuse issues during his time at Tennessee and failed multiple drug tests.

"Our program has devoted a tremendous amount of energy, resources, support and care in an effort to help Janzen manage his personal challenges," the coach said in a statement. "I will always be there to help him as a person, but there comes a time when a player's actions preclude him from the privilege of playing for the University of Tennessee football team."
That pretty much says it all.

This is obviously terrible news for both parties: Tennessee just lost its best player and one of the most talented safeties in the country, and a guy with legitimate NFL aspirations is now an involuntary vagabond who apparently can't stay clean for a month at a time. Jackson's a little late for the supplemental draft -- that was held Monday, as you might have heard -- so at this point, all he can do is try to pull himself together so he can find a forgiving coach/program and play out his final two years (or at least his junior year). On a personal note, I know a couple people with similar problems and hope Jackson is more willing to get the help he needs than most of the people in his situation are.

As for Tennessee, I said this at the time of his re-enrollment:
Assuming Jackson's "personal problems" haven't robbed him of some amount of on-field ability, he returns as probably the second-best safety in the SEC (Mark Barron at Alabama being the best) and represents a massive chip in Tennessee's bid for a second straight uninspiring bowl game that won't mean anything other than big-picture progress.
Progress is tough when you have zero depth and are continually (for a variety of reasons) forced to rely on underclassmen with minimal experience -- you can trust me on that one.

Lache Seastrunk transfers to Baylor: That didn't take long: Four days after leaving Oregon, former five-star recruit and Texas native Lache Seastrunk signed scholarship papers with Baylor on Tuesday. Interestingly, Seastrunk said in a radio interview that he'll petition the NCAA to be eligible immediately because part of the reason for his decision to come home was the deteriorating health of his grandparents. But he also said this:
"I felt like God wanted me to be (at Oregon)," Seastrunk said. "But God will also pull you out of the storm before it happens. I felt like something was about to go down, and God wanted me to get up out of there."
It sounds ... ummm ... not good when a player bolts and says "something was about to go down," especially when that player is the integral figure in an ongoing investigation into some potentially devastating shenanigans. Assuming Seastrunk is as close to Willie Lyles as the initial reports indicated, he would probably know as well as anyone exactly what's been given/told to the NCAA and how damaging it might be.

On the flipside, even if Seastrunk hasn't quite lived up to his recruiting hype, this is another big get for Baylor. He's only a redshirt freshman and will have either three or four years of eligibility (depending on the NCAA's ruling) in a spread offense that's not significantly different from the one Oregon has been running. Put Seastrunk in the same backfield with Robert Griffin and you've got the talent to do some serious offensive damage.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Art Briles is building a legitimately solid program at Baylor.

Rob Henry out for the year with torn ACL: Like the headline says, Purdue starting quarterback Rob Henry, a redshirt sophomore, tore his ACL in practice Wednesday and is obviously done for the season. Henry was pretty bad as a passer last season -- 53 percent in Purdue's offense is not good, and anecdotal evidence from the games I saw was even worse -- but he's a decent athlete who ran for about 500 yards and accounted for 15 total touchdowns as a part-time starter.

I'm not sure if the fact that Henry was ahead of former Miami transfer Robert Marve says more about Henry or Marve -- Marve was clearly a better passer last year but threw three touchdowns and four picks in his three early starts before tearing his ACL (they do that a lot* at Purdue). This year, reports from camp were that Marve wasn't recovering as well as hoped and probably wouldn't be ready. So yeah ... anybody wanna play quarterback?

The realistic options are more-athlete-than-quarterback Caleb Terbush, who has thrown a whopping four passes in his three years, and sophomore Sean Robinson, who played a little last season when Henry went down with a broken finger and completed about 40 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and six picks (yikes). Unless Marve recovers in a hurry, the offense could be really ugly this year.

*Seriously, if you go to Purdue and play sports, your ACL will be destroyed (possibly several times if your name is Robbie Hummel).

Texas A&M probably headed to SEC ... eventually ... maybe soon: I'll be honest: I pretty much stopped paying attention to the A&M realignment talk after the SEC came out last weekend and said "no thanks." But this is from a story this week in the San Antonio Express-News:
Let's be clear: Everything is still a go for A&M to the SEC, no matter the vocal protests of Baylor or anyone else in the Big 12. It's just a matter of finalizing said details.

Ideally, the Aggies would like wrapping this up sooner than later — meaning by the end of this month — so they can start play in the SEC in 2012, and not drag out their remaining membership in the Big 12 over two years instead of one.

In terms of Big 12 exit fees, Nebraska's $9.25 million agreed upon last year, when the Cornhuskers announced they were bolting for the Big Ten, is perhaps in the ballpark of what A&M can expect. But that's all to be determined and a key part of the negotiations now taking place.

And this was tweeted this afternoon by Houston Chronicle beat writer Brett Zwerneman:

A&M to the SEC is happening, just nothing along those lines is apparently being announced today, including Aggies' Big 12 exit.

So ... I'm a little confused. Why did the SEC presidents vote heavily against expansion 11 days ago if negotiations with Texas A&M are in the "fine print" stage, as the Express-News says? And it's not even a "sources indicate this is still in the works"-type report; it's more like "this is definitely happening once the details get figured out." Maybe they didn't want to leave the media speculating and everybody in limbo while A&M worked out a Big 12 exit deal? Regardless, all indications are that the only thing left to be decided is the timeline. So come 2012 or maybe 2013, Texas A&M -- and presumably somebody else -- will be in the SEC, and an announcement is probably coming soon.

FWIW, Zwerneman has mentioned several times via Twitter that he thinks Houston is the most logical Big 12 replacement.

Iowa and Iowa State ditch the horrific Cy-Hawk trophy: The people at Iowa Corn apparently have a heart (those folksy Midwesterners):

"The overwhelming feedback has been negative," he said. "Because we've listened ... people want something different than what was proposed last week. And we as Iowa corn growers and the farmers we represent, we want people to be happy."

A temporary trophy will be designed for this year's game on Sept. 10. Fans will be able to suggest a design for the more permanent replacement.

I had a couple good ideas, but none that compared to MGoBlog's recommendation: "a hawk in an F16 shooting a missile at a tornado." As long as the hawk is eating corn, that's a winner.

Under Armour trying to out-ugly Nike: Somebody in the Under Armour design department thought it'd be totally awesome to give Maryland a turtle-shell helmet pattern since, you know, they're the Terrapins. The result is as bad as you'd expect:

Stop. Just stop.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Karma wins in hilarious fashion

Is this the most predictable announcement of the offseason or the most predictable announcement in the history of everything?
The Oakland Raiders selected former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the third round of Monday's supplemental draft.

Oakland took Pryor with the 18th selection of the round. By selecting Pryor, the Raiders now will not pick in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft.
I can't think of a better place for an immature, slightly unstable developmental project. When Al Davis and Terrelle Pryor get together, everybody wins.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Catching up makes ridiculous-looking trophies

AP releases its unbiased and irrelevant poll: The AP preseason poll came out Monday and looked pretty much the same (at least at the top) as the coaches poll, with Oklahoma at No. 1, Alabama a little behind at No. 2 and Oregon at No.3. The margin between Oklahoma and Alabama is slightly smaller in the AP poll, but the top two are still clearly defined and comfortably ahead of everybody else.

Notable stuff:
  • Boise State is fifth (up from seventh in the coaches poll) and has two first-place votes, which is more than fourth-place LSU has.
  • Auburn is 23rd, the lowest ranking for a defending national champion since Minnesota in 1961. Yeah, Minnesota.
  • Texas is unranked for the first time since 1998, which was (not coincidentally) Mack Brown's first year in Austin.
  • There are a whopping eight SEC teams in the top 25, including five (!) from the SEC West. Does Texas A&M really wanna run that gauntlet?
  • USC is 25th (they were ineligible for the coaches poll).
  • Michigan is 38th and essentially ranked eighth in the Big Ten. Boo.
As always, preseason polls are meaningless yadda yadda yadda.

Auburn picks a quarterback: Unsurprisingly, Gene Chizik announced this week that redshirt junior Barrett Trotter will start at QB for Auburn in the season opener. Trotter is the only guy on the roster with game experience, although it's not exactly significant: He was 6 for 9 last year for 64 yards. Trotter was nominally competing with redshirt sophomore Clint Moseley for the starting job, but the big question was whether freshman Kiehl Frazier would show up and be too good/athletic to keep off the field; that wasn't very likely for a summer enrollee and apparently didn't happen.

So the job is Trotter's to lose. He'll probably get about about a three-game trial -- Auburn opens with Utah State but then faces Mississippi State and Clemson -- and if he struggles against the real teams, the guess here is that Frazier gets some snaps in Week 4 against Florida Atlantic in anticipation of the SEC West onslaught in October.

But given Gus Malzahn's history, Trotter will probably be fine and the offense will somehow end up among the best in the conference.

Montel Harris out a month with knee injury: Possibly the most overlooked elite running back in the country, Boston College's Montel Harris -- the preseason pick for ACC player of the year -- will miss the next month after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee. That means he'll be out for the rest of camp and (roughly) the first two or three games of the season, but it could be longer if the recovery doesn't go as planned.

Here's BC coach Frank Spaziani (who's probably not at all Italian) on the injury:
"Make no mistake , not having Montel is a major hiccup.''
Yeah -- what he said. Harris had 1,278 yards and eight touchdowns last year for a team that never found a decent quarterback but still went 7-5. The guy tasked with filling his shoes, at least temporarily, is sophomore Andre Williams, who had a pretty solid freshman season (461 yards and two TDs) but obviously isn't Harris.

And Boston College doesn't exactly start off with a couple cupcakes: The first two games (the ones Harris will definitely miss) are against Northwestern and Central Florida, both of which are top-40-ish teams. A slow start and/or any extended absence for Harris would greatly diminish BC's chances of reaching a bowl game for the 13th (?!?) straight year.

Jordan Jefferson involved in rather untimely bar fight: Word on the street/interwebs all spring was that Jordan Jefferson was finally taking hold of the LSU quarterback job he's been tenuously clinging to for the past two years, and O-coordinator Steve Kragthorpe essentially confirmed this assessment at SEC media days.

So Jefferson had the job all but wrapped up despite the buckets of hype around ex-Georgia recruit and transfer QB Zach Mettenberger, and all he had to do was not screw up horrifically in fall camp. No problem, right?

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU coach Les Miles said quarterback Jordan Jefferson and several unidentified teammates were involved in a fight at a local bar early Friday morning.

Baton Rouge Police said Saturday that charges have not been filed, nor have there been any arrests.

Police spokesman Sgt. Don Stone told on Saturday night that police want to interview Jefferson, offensive lineman Chris Davenport, defensive lineman Josh Johns and receiver Jarvis Landry on Monday about the incident.

D'oh. Miles called the incident "unacceptable" and said "I can tell you and assure you that this will not happen again." Even more ominously, AD Joe Alleva said the school "will not tolerate student-athletes whose irresponsible actions tarnish the good name of a great university." That doesn't so good, but Miles said he won't determine any punishment until more details are released.

The worst-case scenario would be a Jefferson suspension (of any length). Mettenberger and other backup-type guy Zach Lee have combined to do nothing positive in their careers thus far, and LSU opens with ... ummm ... Oregon. So that'd be bad.

The other guys mentioned in the story are obviously way less crucial.

Darron Thomas should just stop riding in cars: Srsly. Three times in the past year, Oregon QB Darron Thomas has been the passenger in a car that was driven by a teammate while pulled over for something not good. First it was linebacker Eddie Pleasant, who crashed while street racing in 2008; next it was Jeremiah Masoli, who was caught with pot and eventually kicked out of school (he ended up at Ole Miss last year); and most recently it was cornerback Cliff Harris, who (as you might remember) was caught going 118 in June in a car borrowed from an athletic department employee.

It wasn't known until just this week that Thomas was a passenger with Harris -- that tidbit was evident from the police video in which the cop said he smelled marijuana but didn't pursue the matter, which has caused some skepticism but hasn't led to any charges for either guy. Thomas said he was sleeping at the time, which seems odd but plausible, and Chip Kelly said (surprise!) he's "not punishing someone for being a passenger." So that's a relief ... but seriously, Darron Thomas is either in the wrong place at the wrong time with remarkable frequency or has a really sketchy group of friends.

Lache Seastrunk leaving Oregon: This is a bit of a shocker:

Duckterritory has uncovered details regarding Lache Seastrunk and a potential decision to transfer.

Sources confirm the 5-foot-9, 190 pound former five-star recruit has been granted his release paperwork from the University of Oregon. No official statement has been released by the university at this time.

It is expected by most close to him that he will in fact leave the program, possibly heading to Baylor.
The school has since confirmed his release, meaning he's a goner. Seastrunk was a five-star, top-20 overall recruit in the'09 class and was immediately tabbed the next LaMichael James (his highlight reel is stuff of legend). So far, he hasn't quite lived up to the billing; he redshirted last year and ended up falling behind 2010 uber-recruit DeAnthony Thomas on the depth chart. And when the whole Willie Lyles thing came out (with Seastrunk being the rumored purchasee), being in Eugene probably got really uncomfortable.

One thought: I wonder how much (if at all) Seastrunk really wanted to go to Oregon in the first place. If Lyles is as influential as he made people believe he was?

Anyway, Seastrunk is off to somewhere with a more friendly depth chart. Baylor is mentioned as a possibility in the story, but there's no citation or explanation; that might just be a "he's from close to Baylor so that would make sense" reference.

The weirdest trophy ever: I'll yield the floor to the always-entertaining Iowa blog Black Heart Gold Pants:
After the previous, widely reviled Cy-Hawk Trophy was relegated to the trashbin of history last month, there was one overriding thought regarding the new Cy-Hawk Trophy that would replace it: "Surely it can't be worse than the old one, right?"
That's what you thought:

Uhhh ... that's a statue for Des Moines City Hall, right? Perfect. I guess that's what happens when you put Iowa Corn in charge of designing a rivalry trophy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mandatory Miami-related reading

A few interesting notes/articles/quotes/tidbits that require minimal insight on my part:

Don't blame Randy Shannon: Randy Shannon's squeaky-clean image is hard to reconcile with what happened at Miami throughout his tenure, but he reportedly did everything within his power to stop it. He refused to associate with Nevin Shapiro in any way and threatened to fire any employee caught in his presence -- the problem is that nobody (including the athletic directors) cared or acknowledged his authority. This is Exhibit A in the argument that there's only so much a coach can do.

The bounties -- all of them: The Seventh Floor Blog has a "complete anthology" of bounties paid out by Nevin Shapiro. Take it FWIW, because there's no documentation or explanation of where the info came from, but it adds up to a little over $20K. My favorite: $500 to Devin Hester for an excessive celebration penalty in Miami's win over Florida in 2003.

The land that shame forgot: This post from Every Day Should Be Saturday was written in September of 2008 yet perfectly summarizes everything about Miami football in an explanatory and existential way. There's a reason these guys were taking money, and it's not the same reason Terrelle Pryor was taking money. Read it.

Miami AD states the obvious: According to athletic director Shawn Eichorn, there are "tough times ahead," which duh. I don't envy his job right now (although I'd settle for his paycheck).

The perfect Luther Campbell response: Original "here's some free stuff" guy Luther Campbell responded to Nevin Shapiro's allegations by saying, "That punk could never be me." If he had just dropped a couple f-bombs, that'd be '80s-era Miami football in a nutshell.

Miami players could be called to bankruptcy court: So it is possible for things to get worse for Miami -- law-talkin' guys are saying that since the players were the ones "lavished" with funds that legally belonged to other people, they could be hit with "clawback" lawsuits and forced to repay as part of the Ponzi scheme settlement. Most of those guys are making bank in the NFL and would probably be fine financially, but settling in court would just give the NCAA another piece of evidence to throw into the War and Peace-sized file on Miami.

Non-denials by the truckload: The Associated Press has assembled a fairly long and extensive list of comments from people named in the Yahoo story. Not a single person has flatly denied the allegations, while everyone seems to be saying something along the lines of "It is what it is, man," and " I am just going to let him do his talking, because to me it is really irrelevant and don't concern me at this point." Interpret that as you will.

Tweet of the year: Courtesy of columnist Chris Dufresne at the L.A. Times: "Breaking News in our dreams: USC AD Pat Haden named chair of NCAA infractions committee that will hear Miami case." Schwing!

Mark Emmert is "fine" with the death penalty: Yes, that's NCAA president Mark Emmert, and yes, he's referring to Miami in an interview with USA Today. Cue ominous version of "Taps."

Everybody gives in, cops out, whatever

So the NFL copped out Thursday and gave in to Terrelle Pryor and his team of lawyers, ruling him eligible for the supplemental draft on the condition that he be suspended for the first five games of the season.

This makes no sense; as has been reported ad nauseum, he was either eligible for NCAA games and therefore ineligible for the draft or he was ineligible for the season because he committed additional violations that Ohio State hasn't been punished for (yet). He can't just be ineligible for five games but eligible for the draft. And both the NCAA and NFL have said in the past year that they have no desire to implement NFL punishment for NCAA violations.

So this statement ...
"... Pryor made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft," the league said. "Those actions included failing to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring an agent in violation of NCAA rules, which resulted in Ohio State declaring him ineligible to continue playing college football."
... basically means nothing. It should be followed at the end by, "but screw it."

The NFL also gave itself an amusing backdoor out clause by calling the ruling "specific" to the Pryor case. In other words, "We have no basis for this ruling, but it sounds good and makes everybody happy."

Message to guys who commit NCAA violations and want to be draft-eligible immediately: Hire an agent and stonewall the NCAA. Once the school disowns you, the NFL will cave.

As for Pryor ... whatev. There's no realistic chance he goes in the first few rounds, and if he sticks around anywhere, it'll likely be as a developmental QB/WR who'll have minimal impact in the foreseeable future. But he's avoided Maurice Clarett status and will make some money; the fact that this is considered a celebration-worthy victory by his agent and lawyer pretty much tells the story.

On a related note, this comment from attorney David Cornwell is absolutely laughable:
"Personally, I hope this causes everyone to pause and conclude that we must challenge the NCAA on its 'amateurism' rules. Terrelle is going to the NFL because the NCAA mandated that he feed their families, but he could not feed his own."
Pryor was receiving unknown amounts of money from "mentor" Ted Sarniak (this was acknowledged by Ohio State), allegedly got $30,000 to $40,000 for autographs, sold his gold pants to a collector and presumably sold equipment and other apparel that was taken from OSU's inventory. His room and board were paid for via scholarship, he had access to the typical training-table fare and probably countless other free meals courtesy of Dennis Talbott, and he obviously didn't have a car payment since he was given approximately nine "loaner" cars from the super-friendly local dealership.

He's not going to the NFL because he "could not feed his own family" (at least not unless he has a ridiculous budgeting deficiency); he's going to the NFL because he's too entitled to follow the rules and has never been forced to, even now.

But hey, let's not forget: "Not everybody’s the perfect person in the world. I mean everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever."

At least it's been entertaining.
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