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Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Mailbag: Should Dooley be on the hot seat?


Here is this week's mailbag. If you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @JackParMa Is Derek Dooley the right hire for Tennessee?

  I'm skeptical at this point but I honestly don't know. I don't think anyone can say with much certainty one way or the other. I realize one of my friends who grew up a diehard Vols fan, Clay Travis wrote the other day about Dooley on the hot seat, but I really think it's too soon for that. 

On paper, you wouldn't have expected a guy with Dooley's record at La. Tech to have been able to land the UT job in the first place. He had a 17-20 career record at La. Tech and didn't even have a winning record in the WAC. But he is what they could get at that time and he deserves a legit chance to make it work. He inherited a very unstable situation that had seen two dramatically different coaching regimes in the previous two seasons that had basically torn up the fan base.

Publicly, Dooley has said and done many of the kinds of things that UT fans would like to hear and see from their head coach off the field. The issue has been he's yet to have anything close to a win that would show that he can coach and he's the guy to lead this program back into the top 15. The Vols are just 3-7 in SEC play since he took over and those three wins were against UK, Vandy and Ole Miss, teams that went 4-20 in league play. They've lost to every good team they've faced. They've also had a bunch of double-digit losses in these games: losing by 35 to Oregon; 14 to UF; 27 to UGA; 31 to Bama; 14 to South Carolina and by 10 this year against a young UF team. They did give a scare to LSU though. Before Mike Hamilton left, he even softened up the non-conference schedule even more to give the Vols and Dooley (his hire) a better chance by dumping a solid UNC team for woeful Buffalo.

All that said, this is still a sophomore-dominated team and now it's one that has suffered two injuries to its two best players, WR Justin Hunter and QB Tyler Bray. It is still only year two for Dooley. The Vols should keep getting better and be much improved in 2012. The question though is, can Dooley actually get them from being a fringe top 25 team to what we expect the Vols to be? A big leap is going to have to take place at some point. Who knows if he can do that? The one thing I do think you can say is that given all of the chaos this program has gone through, pushing the reset button at this point would only lead to more chaos. And who knows how good of a coach they may be able to get this time around? It's not like you're going to get Urban Meyer to take this job right now. UT hired Dooley. The school needs to give him at least two more years before we can begin to figure out whether he is the right guy there.

From @jasonrub  Washington Huskies are 4-1, Keith Price 7th in passing efficiency, Chris Polk 16th in yards rushing. Can Sark keep this going?

Yes, and because of those two guys (Price and Polk) the Huskies have been consistently good, scoring at least 30 in each of their first five games. They have a decent chance to be a top 25 team this year. Things are going to keep getting better for U-Dub with Sarkisian there. He's got them on the upswing. He's proven he can win big games. He's proven he can recruit. He's got a good product that he believes in and can sell, and with the instability at UCLA and USC (and Cal and Arizona for that matter), it gives the LA native an even better run to recruit in Southern California. The stock is going up for Washington football. Way up.

From @Lexvegaskid  should strength of schedule be factored back into the BCS?

It really already is a big component via the human polls. The voters factor in which opponents teams beat (or lose to) basically in how they fill out their polls. It's certainly more subjective than it is in some computer formula too.

From @ABThatIsMe  Thoughts on Mike Glennon's performance thus far.All we hear ab as State fans is Russell Wilson but our qb is playing lights out

Glennon's numbers are good: 16 TDs, 4 INTs, 64 percent completion percentage although he wasn't as sharp in the games against even close-to-decent competition: Wake Forest, Cincy and Ga. Tech (7-4 TD-INT). NCSU is averaging 25 ppg against those three and 39 ppg against Liberty, South Alabama and CMU. The Pack has also taken a lot of sacks, ranking 107th in sacks allowed. Even if Wilson was there, I'm not sure they'd be be that much better. You never know. 


Their biggest problem is on defense, where they're 89th in scoring D and the schedule only gets tougher from here.

From @gnewburn What does Muschamp need to do to right the ship after UF's recent beatdowns?

Just keep recruiting to fit his system and continue to keep preaching disciple, focus and toughness. UF is 94th in turnover margin and near the bottom of the country in penalties--things almost no team can overcome, especially not a young team in such a brutal league. But a lot of this should've been expected.

I didn't get where people in the preseason saw this UF team as a top 20 bunch. They had to replace almost the entire O-line, didn't have a proven QB and had a very young secondary. They did have speed, but speed alone isn't going to make you an SEC title contender. 

From @TjzyChocChzy  When will the media start giving some real attention to who the next coach will be at Oh. St?

Huh? The media's been talking about it quite a bit for months. I wrote a detailed list of candidates, leading with Urban Meyer back in May. Actually, I first mentioned the possibility of Meyer going to Ohio State back in Dec., 2010.

The reality is Luke Fickell has the job and nothing is going to happen till the season wraps up. OSU wanted to be fair to him and to their players because this program has had more than its share of distractions over the past year. 

From @DavidLeake Fielding college football questions for the Friday mailbag. <more important for a championship team, offense or defense?

Defense carries more weight than offense if you look at the teams that have won BCS titles, starting with the first one Tennessee. UT didn't win anything with the great Peyton Manning, but he left and they had a fierce D and they shut down FSU in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. Two years later, OU had a great defense and held FSU to two points in the 2001 Orange Bowl. Miami's defense, led by the great Ed Reed, had more stars than any D perhaps in the history of the college game, destroying Nebraska the following season. USC had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, but it was really the Trojans defense that took apart Oklahoma. Florida's defense de-railed Heisman winner Troy Smith and Ohio State, and that run of BCS titles the SEC has gone on has been predicated by dominating defensive linemen and fast defenses.

From @Kilo1899 Mailbag question: Halfway through the season, who is your coach of the year? Player of year? Freshman of year?

Coach of the Year: Dabo Swinney, Clemson.
  Player of the Year: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU.

Freshman of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:02 am
Edited on: October 12, 2011 12:58 pm
 

Stats That Matter: It's a snap for Chad Morris

The Clemson Tigers are the biggest surprise of the first half of the 2011 college football season. The Tigers were unranked in the AP preseason poll. They didn't even register a single vote. Twenty-three teams outside of the Top 25 even got one vote, including Maryland, N.C. State and Miami.

Entering the season, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was on the hot seat. In what what a rather bold move, Swinney handed the keys to his offense over to Chad Morris, a 42-year-old long-time Texas high school coach, who had all of one season of college experience, at Tulsa. To say the new Tigers offensive coordinator has had a huge impact would be an understatement. The 6-0 Tigers are 19th in total offense and 31st in scoring, up from 88th and 86th, which helps explain why they've already matched last season's win total. So for the latest installment of Stats That Matter, I figured it was a great time to find out what number Chad Morris really puts a premium on.

"Total snaps," Morris said without any hesitation as soon as I began to explain the concept of the column. "We want 80 or more. If can snap the ball 80 times or more, we've only lost one time since we put this offense in, back in 2004 and that one loss was in the first year of the system. We snapped it 99 times and got beat."

Morris' Stephenville High School team in Texas lost to Wichita Falls Rider High 63-56, he said.

Why 80?

"We feel like like it does a lot of things for us," Morris said. "By getting 80 or more, it tells us that we've had great tempo through the course of the game. We have a chance to wear down a defense. Obviously if you've had 80 snaps, you're having success because you look at your average scoring and it's about one out of every 15 to 18 snaps. Your conversion rates go up. All of that stuff. Everything works hand-in-hand. It's just something we target. We chart it every day. I know at halftime if we have 44 snaps, you double it, and I know we're on track."

The hand-in-hand part goes like this: The added pace that enables Morris' offense to get into a rhythm also takes a physical and emotional toll on the defense, which ups the frequency of the Tigers hitting more big plays as the game wears on. Defenders wilt, becoming more prone to busted assignments and just having trouble getting lined up before the ball is snapped and end up caught out of position. "There's no question about that," he says. "We've doubled the output of big plays in six games from what they had this time last year just because of what we're doing tempo wise."

Even though the Tigers seem to be thriving, they are technically about one snap per game on average below Morris' magic number. "We're averaging 79.1 snaps a game," he says. "We're pretty close to what we want."

In the Tigers first two games, the players, especially first-time starting QB Tajh Boyd, were still getting up to speed, literally. They ran off 72 snaps in each. But they followed up that by rolling up 92 snaps against FSU and Auburn. At Virginia Tech, they fell back to 67. 

"Well, 'OK, why didn't we get 80?'" asks Morris, who actually has a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a minor in statistics. "Then the next stat we look at is the number of three-and-outs. For every three-and-out that you get, you take three snaps away that we figure you probably would've gotten at a minimum. So at Virginia Tech, we had seven three-and-outs, which is 21 snaps for the game that we figure we didn't get. Or let's just say we cut that down to three three-and-outs instead of seven, that's 12 more snaps you pick up, which basically puts us at our number. 

"We talk to our players about this stuff religiously. It's 'Tempo! Tempo!' every day. We always talk to our quarterback and our center because they're the ones who control the tempo of the game."

Factored into Morris' math are plays that may not officially count because they get nullified by a penalty, but the coach still adds them to the tab.

Morris developed his system after spending time about a decade ago learning from another wildly successful coach in the Southwest, Gus Malzahn. "Eighty snaps is the targeted number that both Gus and I have talked about. It's something we've worked together on. He's been using it, and obviously he shared with me."

Other up-tempo guys may focus on a different key number. Former West Virginia and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's barometer for his offense was first downs, and his target number was 25, because, he told me Tuesday, if you don't get those first downs, you can't ramp up tempo.

Asked what the biggest difference are between what Morris is doing and what Malzahn does now, the Clemson coach said:  I think there's a little bit of difference with what we do. Right now, he's running a little bit of more gap-scheme than we are. We're more of a zone-scheme. They run more counter and power. But the next year you may change it because that's the old high school coach in you because you have to adapt to what you've got."

In Clemson's case, it helps in their zone scheme to have a dynamic running back like 190-pound Andre Ellington, who is very suited to what they're doing. "It doesn't require you to have guys that just blow people off the ball up front," Morris said of the zone scheme. 

The comparisons between Malzahn and Morris, who clearly has benefitted from the path the Auburn coach has paved, are obvious. Of course, having the personnel to make things sizzle is key. Without Cam Newton and an experienced O-line, Auburn is ranked 80th in total offense and 64th in scoring, down from seventh in both in 2010. Morris, meanwhile, inherited a pretty gifted triggerman when he got to Clemson in sophomore Tajh Boyd, a 6-1, 225-pound former blue-chip recruit with good feet and a very quick release.

"He's a pleaser," Morris said. "Tajh is learning this system and having fun in it. He's flourishing in it and it fits him to a T. He's not having to think a whole lot. He's just going to play."

But there were some growing pains. "It was pretty difficult because it changes his thought process," Morris said of his QB, who is completed 63 percent of his passes with a 15-2 TD-INT ratio. "He was trying to think every play when he first started in this system instead of letting the system dictate itself. That's one thing I always stress to our players: 'I don't want you thinking. I want you reacting.' And right now he's doing a great job of just managing the game as far as when to move the chains with his feet, when to throw a ball away. He's also done a great job of not putting a ball in jeopardy."

The Tigers did have a big scare last week when Boyd went down awkwardly against Boston College. What initially looked like it could be a gruesome knee injury, proved to be a sprained hip that probably won't keep him out of this week's game against Maryland. 

"I was hoping it wasn't his knee," Morris said. "I didn't have a whole lot of thinking to do other than having my next guy calm and ready to go."

After all, being in a hurry is something Morris knows plenty about.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Auburn, Clemson, Tulsa
 
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:45 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 6:08 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest duds of first half

We've seen through the first half of the season that many things (Oklahoma, LSU, Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson) have been as good as advertised while a few others have emerged as pleasant surprises (Clemson, K-State, CSU's Nordly Capi, Illinois), which we hit on last week here in the blog. But there is a flipside to that. This week's Top 10 list: biggest disappointments of the first half of the season:

1. FSU: After an off-season of hype about how "the Noles are back!!", the team that was preseason No. 6 team, has been a complete dud. FSU has lost three in a row and really hasn't beat anyone of note. FSU is one of those schools that the media (and I'm guilty of this too because I was practically serving drinks on that bandwagon since January) is all too eager to get fired up about. Then again, anyone who spent time around Tallahassee this off-season heard the way Jimbo Fisher talked about this team and its talent and its focus and maturity and well, we couldn't help but get more intrigued. Yes, there have been injuries to a few key guys (QB E.J. Manuel and WR Bert Reed) but lots of teams deal with injuries. The Noles have been mistake-ridden and are doing the kinds of things elite teams simply don't have issues with. They are 114th in turnover margin, 112th in rushing, 100th in sacks allowed and 120th in penalties.

2. Maryland's offense: Maybe this stems from The Curse of Ralph, but whatever it is, things are off to a dismal start for Randy Edsall in College Park. Danny O'Brien came into the season as one of the most promising young QBs in college football (22-8 TD-INT ratio as a freshman in 2010) but now looks completely lost. O'Brien has a 4-6 TD-INT mark and was benched after going 1-6 last week against Ga. Tech. O'Brien was sharp in last year's West-Coast style offense. In Edsall's new spread under Gary Crowton, the QB has been a mess. The Terps who were 9-4 last season and 29th in scoring and scored over 40 points five times last season, are 91st in scoring.

3. Mississippi State: No one thought Dan Mullen's team was going to win the loaded SEC West this year, but the way the Bulldogs have fizzled has been a head-shaker. They needed overtime to beat La. Tech and trailed a miserable UAB squad 3-0 at halftime before coming back to win 21-3. And those are actually some of the more positive things. MSU is 0-3 in SEC play and will likely need to knock off one of the SEC's better teams (South Carolina, Bama or Arkansas) just to finish above .500.

4. Memphis: It's only Year Two for coach Larry Porter running this dumpster fire of a football program and it's hard to think any coach could fix things in that short of a time frame, but should things look as bad as they do now? The C-USA Tigers actually might be the worst team in FBS. They are 1-5 with their lone win coming against FCS Austin Peay. The Tigers then lost to a Sun Belt team that was 4-8 last year (Arkansas State) 47-3. Then they lost to a Rice team that came in 1-3 and the Owls crushed Memphis 28-6. The Tigers are 116th in scoring and 115th in defense. And this is a program that Memphis AD R.C. Johnson "deserves to be in the SEC"?!?! Of all of the out-of-touch comments made by administrators and power brokers in the NCAA in the past year, Johnson's line is king.

5. Ohio State: An offseason overstuffed with off-field drama has carried over to the fall, where the Buckeyes and first-year head coach Luke Fickell have dealt with more player suspensions, which has only created more problems for a team that was already depleted. There were signs early that this could be a long season for OSU when the Buckeyes almost got knocked off by a Toledo team that gave Fickell's team all it could handle despite committing a ton of penalties in Week 2. Then Miami and Lamar Miller lit them up while the OSU passing game was atrocious. It hasn't gotten much better since. OSU barely avoided getting shutout in Columbus by Michigan State. Then last week, the Buckeyes blew a 21-point lead in the second half at Nebraska and lost 34-27 thanks to more ineptitude in the passing game and the Huskers run game rolling over the OSU D. With a road trip to unbeaten Illinois, Wisconsin and games against Penn State and at Michigan remaining, it's no stretch to think Ohio State could miss a bowl game entirely. The good news? Word is Urban Meyer is going to be very tempted to take this coaching job.

6. Kentucky offense:
We know that the Wildcats lost some key offensive guys from last year's team when WR Randall Cobb, RB Derrick Locke and QB Mike Hartline moved on, but no SEC team should be this much of a mess on offense, especially when you consider most of the offensive line was back. UK managed only 14 points and just 190 yards of total offense in its opener against WKU, a 1-4 team that gave up 44 points to Indiana State.  
Last weekend against South Carolina, UK's level of ineptitude was staggering: matching its number of first downs (six) with turnovers (six). The Cats QB went 4-26 for 17 yards with four INTs, which was indicative of a team near the bottom of the NCAA ranks in rushing and passing and 119th in scoring. Kentucky beat writer Kyle Tucker broke down the futility even further. He noted that 174 of their 377 offensive plays (over 46 percent) have gained no yards, negative yards or ended up turning the ball over. It's been that bad.

7. Arizona:
 As I reported here in the blog Monday, despite leading the Cats to bowl games in three straight seasons (something which doesn't happen much with Wildcat football), a 1-5 start meant the end of Mike Stoops in Tucson. The Cats were dreadfully inexperienced on both lines and missing their best DB, safety Adam Hall for most of the season so far and standout WR Juron Criner also had been out didn't help. Nor did a front-loaded schedule, which featured back-to-back-to-back games against three top 10 teams. Last week's loss to previously winless Oregon State 37-27 proved to be the final straw. The Cats would be higher on this list, but realistically looking at the first half of their schedule and all of the inexperience on the lines and it was hard to figure they'd be more than 2-4 at this point.

8. Texas A&M defense:
This is the second year in Tim DeRuyter's system, but even without the great Von Miller, things have been a lot shakier for the Aggies than most would've expected. A&M suffered consecutive second-half collapses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas, where the Aggies gave up almost 1000 yards or passing. A&M was able to stop the losing streak at Texas Tech last weekend, but still got shredded for 40 points. They are dead last in pass defense and close to that in turnover margin (104th).

9. Boston College:
The Eagles (1-5) have one of the best players in college football in LB Luke Kuechly but the rest of the team is simply not producing. Their lone win was over FCS UMass. BC has lost three home games to Northwestern, Duke and Wake Forest. And the schedule hasn't really started to get into the toughest part for them yet.

10. Minnesota:
It has been a trying year for the Gophers. First-year head coach Jerry Kill has battled health issues, but after a respectable close loss at USC in the opener, it's been one dreadful performance after another for this team. The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State, a team that has a hard time beating anyone that isn't New Mexico. Then, Minnesota lost to North Dakota State and been outscored by Michigan and Purdue 103-17 the past two weeks. A 1-11 season looks likely.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:44 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest duds of first half

We've seen through the first half of the season that many things (Oklahoma, LSU, Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson) have been as good as advertised while a few others have emerged as pleasant surprises (Clemson, K-State, CSU's Nordly Capi, Illinois), which we hit on last week here in the blog. But there is a flipside to that. This week's Top 10 list: biggest disappointments of the first half of the season:<br /> 

<br /><br />

<strong>1. FSU:</strong> After an off-season of hype about how "the Noles are back!!", the team that was preseason No. 6 team, has been a complete dud. FSU has lost three in a row and really hasn't beat anyone of note. FSU is one of those schools that the media (and I'm guilty of this too because I was practically serving drinks on that bandwagon since January) is all too eager to get fired up about. Then again, anyone who spent time around Tallahassee this off-season heard the way Jimbo Fisher talked about this team and its talent and its focus and maturity and well, we couldn't help but get more intrigued. Yes, there have been injuries to a few key guys (QB E.J. Manuel and WR Bert Reed) but lots of teams deal with injuries. The Noles have been mistake-ridden and are doing the kinds of things elite teams simply don't have issues with. They are 114th in turnover margin, 112th in rushing, 100th in sacks allowed and 120th in penalties.<br /> 

<span style="color: #333333; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><br /></span>

<strong><span style="color: #333333; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;">2. </span>Maryland's offense:</strong> Maybe this stems from The Curse of Ralph, but whatever it is, things are off to a dismal start for Randy Edsall in College Park. Danny O'Brien came into the season as one of the most promising young QBs in college football (22-8 TD-INT ratio as a freshman in 2010) but now looks completely lost. O'Brien has a 4-6 TD-INT mark and was benched after going 1-6 last week against Ga. Tech. O'Brien was sharp in last year's West-Coast style offense. In Edsall's new spread under Gary Crowton, the QB has been a mess. The Terps who were 9-4 last season and 29th in scoring and scored over 40 points five times last season, are 91st in scoring.

<br /><br /><br /><strong>3. Mississippi State:</strong> No one thought Dan Mullen's team was going to win the loaded SEC West this year, but the way the Bulldogs have fizzled has been a head-shaker. They needed overtime to beat La. Tech and trailed a miserable UAB squad 3-0 at halftime before coming back to win 21-3. And those are actually some of the more positive things. MSU is 0-3 in SEC play and will likely need to knock off one of the SEC's better teams (South Carolina, Bama or Arkansas) just to finish above .500.<br /> 

<br /><br /><strong>4. Memphis:</strong> It's only Year Two for coach Larry Porter running this dumpster fire of a football program and it's hard to think any coach could fix things in that short of a time frame, but should things look as bad as they do now? The C-USA Tigers actually might be the worst team in FBS. They are 1-5 with their lone win coming against FCS Austin Peay. The Tigers then lost to a Sun Belt team that was 4-8 last year (Arkansas State) 47-3. Then they lost to a Rice team that came in 1-3 and the Owls crushed Memphis 28-6. The Tigers are 116th in scoring and 115th in defense. And this is a program that Memphis AD R.C. Johnson "deserves to be in the SEC"?!?! Of all of the out-of-touch comments made my administrators and power brokers in the NCAA in the past year, Johnson's line is king.

<br /><br /><strong>5. Ohio State:</strong> An offseason overstuffed with off-field drama has carried over to the fall, where the Buckeyes and first-year head coach Luke Fickell have dealt with more player suspensions, which has only created more problems for a team that was already depleted. There were signs early that this could be a long season for OSU when the Buckeyes almost got knocked off by a Toledo team that gave Fickell's team all it could handle despite committing a ton of penalties in Week 2. Then Miami and Lamar Miller lit them up while the OSU passing game was atrocious. It hasn't gotten much better since. OSU barely avoided getting shutout in Columbus by Michigan State. Then last week, the Buckeyes blew a 21-point lead in the second half at Nebraska and lost 34-27 thanks to more ineptitude in the passing game and the Huskers run game rolling over the OSU D. With a road trip to unbeaten Illinois, Wisconsin and games against Penn State and at Michigan remaining, it's no stretch to think Ohio State could miss a bowl game entirely. The good news? Word is Urban Meyer is going to be very tempted to take this coaching job.

<span style="color: #333333; font-family: verdana, helvetica, arial, sans-serif;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Helvetica;"><br /><br /></span></span>

<strong>6. Kentucky offense:</strong> We know that the Wildcats lost some key offensive guys from last year's team when WR Randall Cobb, RB Derrick Locke and QB Mike Hartline moved on, but no SEC team should be this much of a mess on offense, especially when you consider most of the offensive line was back. UK managed only 14 points and just 190 yards of total offense in its opener against WKU, a 1-4 team that gave up 44 points to Indiana State.  <br />Last weekend against South Carolina, UK's level of ineptitude was staggering: matching its number of first downs (six) with turnovers (six). The Cats QB went 4-26 for 17 yards with four INTs, which was indicative of a team near the bottom of the NCAA ranks in rushing and passing and 119th in scoring. Kentucky beat writer Kyle Tucker broke down the futility</a> even further. He noted that 174 of their 377 offensive plays (over 46 percent) have gained no yards, negative yards or ended up turning the ball over. It's been <em>that</em> bad.

<br /><br /><strong>7. Arizona:</strong> As I reported here in the blog Monday, despite leading the Cats to bowl games in three straight seasons (something which doesn't happen much with Wildcat football), a 1-5 start meant the end of Mike Stoops in Tucson. The Cats were dreadfully inexperienced on both lines and missing their best DB, safety Adam Hall for most of the season so far and standout WR Juron Criner also had been out didn't help. Nor did a front-loaded schedule, which featured back-to-back-to-back games against three top 10 teams. Last week's loss to previously winless Oregon State 37-27 proved to be the final straw. The Cats would be higher on this list, but realistically looking at the first half of their schedule and all of the inexperience on the lines and it was hard to figure they'd be more than 2-4 at this point.

<br /><br /><br />

<strong>8. Texas A&M defense:</strong> This is the second year in Tim DeRuyter's system, but even without the great Von Miller, things have been a lot shakier for the Aggies than most would've expected. A&M suffered consecutive second-half collapses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas, where the Aggies gave up almost 1000 yards or passing. A&M was able to stop the losing streak at Texas Tech last weekend, but still got shredded for 40 points. They are dead last in pass defense and close to that in turnover margin (104th).

<br /><br />

<strong>9. Boston College:</strong> The Eagles (1-5) have one of the best players in college football in LB Luke Kuechly but the rest of the team is simply not producing. Their lone win was over FCS UMass. BC has lost three home games to Northwestern, Duke and Wake Forest. And the schedule hasn't really started to get into the toughest part for them yet.

<br /><br />

<strong>10. Minnesota:</strong> It has been a trying year for the Gophers. First-year head coach Jerry Kill has battled health issues, but after a respectable close loss at USC in the opener, it's been one dreadful performance after another for this team. The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State, a team that has a hard time beating anyone that isn't New Mexico. Then, Minnesota lost to North Dakota State and been outscored by Michigan and Purdue 103-17 the past two weeks. A 1-11 season looks likely.

Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:43 pm
 

Arizona cans Mike Stoops

Arizona fired head coach Mike Stoops after seven plus seasons with the Wildcats, a source told CBS Monday night. The 49-year-old Stoops had led Arizona to bowl games in the previous three seasons, equaling the school's previous best stretch, but this season has gotten off to a horrible start for U of A with the team at 1-5 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak. 

  Arizona's lone win came over FCS Northern Arizona. Since then the Wildcats went on a brutal stretch where they lost to No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 6 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon, then dropped games at USC and at previously winless Oregon State last weekend. In those five, the Wildcats have surrendered 37 points or more in each of those five losses. 

The fiery Stoops did lead Arizona to its highest regular-season ranking in 12 years, going up to No. 9, in 2010 but this squad returned only 10 starters and haven't been able to overcome tons of inexperience on both lines and injuries to some key players including star wideout Juron Criner. Despite the presence of standout quarterback Nick Foles, Arizona ranks just 68th in scoring. On defense, the Wildcats rank 117th in scoring defense.

The Wildcats return to action on Thursday, Oct. 20 when UCLA visits Arizona.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:42 pm
 

Arizona cans Mike Stoops

Arizona fired head coach Mike Stoops after seven plus seasons with the Wildcats, a source told CBS Monday night. The 49-year-old Stoops had led Arizona to bowl games in the previous three seasons, equaling the school's previous best stretch, but this season has gotten off to a horrible start for U of A with the team at 1-5 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak. 

  Arizona's lone win came over FCS Northern Arizona. Since then the Wildcats went on a brutal stretch where they lost to No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 6 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon, then dropped games at USC and at previously winless Oregon State last weekend. In those five, the Wildcats have surrendered 37 points or more in each of those five losses. 

The fiery Stoops did lead Arizona to its highest regular-season ranking in 12 years, going up to No. 9, in 2010 but this squad returned only 10 starters and haven't been able to overcome tons of inexperience on both lines and injuries to some key players including star wideout Juron Criner. Despite the presence of standout quarterback Nick Foles, Arizona ranks just 68th in scoring. On defense, the Wildcats rank 117th in scoring defense.

The Wildcats return to action on Thursday, Oct. 20 when UCLA visits Arizona.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:29 am
 

Examining the Heisman race

We are near the midway point of the season and the Heisman race is very murky. After a few weeks with Baylor's Robert Griffin III in my top spot, I have Stanford's Andrew Luck back at No. 1. Luck has been as advertised, looking like the closest thing to an NFL QB as you'll see playing at the college level. With him, Stanford is a legit BCS title contender. Without him, the Cardinal would be struggling to get bowl eligible.

Luck has a 14-2 TD-INT ratio and is completing 73 percent of his passes, up from last year's under 71. A few weeks before the season Luck told me one of his goals was to improve five percent on his accuracy and much of that would hinge on his bettering his timing with his receivers, many of whom are new, on their routes. Even though he's only up about three percentage points from last year, he's actually up 7 percent from where he was at this same stage in 2010 (113 for 172, 66 percent, 16 TDs, 4 INTs).

Griffin has been superb, although his numbers have started to tail off just a bit. He's still completing 80 percent of his passes with a 19-1 TD-INT mark and trails only Russell Wilson in passing efficiency. Griffin's TD-INC ratio is now 19-28. If he could've led Baylor in a rally to beat K-State, RG3 would still be number one on my list.

LSU's Tyrann Mathieu is up to third on my list. No defender has a bigger impact on a game than the Honey Badger, the wild card on arguably the country's top D. Mathieu is a magnet to the football and he doesn't just get to it, he often finds a way to take it. Mathieu leads LSU in tackles (41), is second in TFLs (5.0), leads in forced fumbles (4), leads in fumbles recovered (three), is second in passes defensed (six) and is tied for the lead in INTs (two). And I can say this from being around a team that spent a week preparing for LSU, the threat of the Honey Badger is almost as destructive as the Honey Badger himself. 

Realistically, I doubt he can win it, but if Luck and Russell Wilson tail off and LSU wins the SEC and he keeps making big plays, he has a better chance than people might think.  We are in a different era of sports and awards and Mathieu can definitely get to NYC for the ceremony.

Former N.C. State QB Russell Wilson has made Wisconsin a BCS title contender. The transition to his new Big Ten team couldn't have gone any smoother. He's been brilliant, leading the nation in passing efficiency at 216.89. In three seasons at NCSU, he was at 135.5. The nimble 5-11, 205-pounder, who had never completed better than 59 percent of his passes in three seasons of ACC play, is up to 75 percent this year and burning defenses with big play after big play.

Trent Richardson is fifth on my list. The Alabama back has been at his best in the Tide's two toughest spots, shredding Florida in the Swamp for 181 rushing yards and lighting up Arkansas for 126 yards rushing and 85 more receiving. Of all the top running backs Richardson has the best shot to win the Heisman because he plays for the best team and because he will have a marquee opportunity early in November when LSU visits 'Bama.

The field: It's been a long time since I didn't have Kellen Moore anywhere on my top five, but for as sharp as the Boise State QB has been, especially after having lost two gifted wideouts to the NFL, other quarterbacks have been even more impressive.

Denard Robinson's been on my weekly Heisman list a few times this season, but for as dynamic as he's been carrying the 6-0 Michigan Wolverines, his passing (10 TDs, 9 INTs) is holding him back in light of the other elite QBs. He completed 63 percent of his passes last year and is only at 56 percent this year.

After last weekend, I'm starting to think Miami's Lamar Miller is best player on a losing team and the speedy RB may be the best tailback in the country. He has really blossomed as he's gotten stronger and learned to be more patient. Despite a nagging shoulder injury, he's gone over 100 yards every time out and last week he ran for 166 yards on the road at Va. Tech against what was the country's #2 run defense. I know Richardson, Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James have gotten more pub, but I suspect Miller, who is as explosive as any back in the country and is also a legit 216-pounder, will prove to be the best of all of them down the road.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Mailbag: Penn St still a national power?

Time for this week's mailbag. As always, if you have mailbag questions, send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @NittanyState06  from an outsiders POV, Is Penn State still looked on as a national power? Will we begin hearing cries for JoePa to step down?

The Nittany Lions are no longer at that level and they don't look like they'll be headed back to that level any time soon. PSU did have two strong years in 2008 and 2009, going 22-4 before last season's 7-6 mark. But even in the '09 season when they went 11-2, they didn't seem like a powerhouse. They only faced one team in the regular season that was ranked (#15 Ohio State) and the Nittany Lions lost 24-7 at home. 

This year, Penn State is 4-1, but it's about as shaky a 4-1 as this program's probably had in decades. They got run over at home by Alabama and barely survived against Temple. Last weekend, they had their hands full with 1-4 Indiana. 

Obviously, Penn State still has a marquee component. The Nittany Lions have a genuine legend in Paterno and a huge fan base, but something is now missing: The on-field product. Penn State is 1-6 in its last seven games against ranked opponents (averaging about 11 ppg in those games) and five of those six Ls have come by 16 points or more. The Nittany Lions not being competitive against top teams is the biggest reason why I feel like the perception is this program no longer is a national power.

This is a team with major quarterback issues and you wonder if they'll be able to sort that out. As for the cries for JoePa to step down we've been hearing those on and off for years.

From @PaulPabst  Can Luck lose a game and still win Heisman? Any way Kellen Moore can win the Heisman?

Andrew Luck can. His team doesn't need to be perfect to win the Heisman. He will get a lot of benefit of the doubt from Heisman voters, who quite frankly probably couldn't name a second Stanford player. Even if they go 10-2, I suspect Luck still wins because most voters will say they probably wouldn't even have made a bowl game without him.

Moore needs a lot of help. While he's a strong candidate, the level of competition he faces each week holds him back. No one questions whether he is a great college QB. He is. But he needs others, such as Luck to fall. 

One of the guys with a legit shot of giving Luck a run is Alabama's Trent Richardson. He's coming off a huge game in the Swamp and he will have the whole country riveted in the Game of the Year Nov. 5 when LSU visits. If Richardson has a big day running all over that Tiger D, and Bama wins, he will give voters a lot to think about--especially if the Cardinal fall out of the top 10.

From @Lexvegaskid better defensive player: Tyrann Mathieu of LSU or (Melvin) Ingram for S. Carolina?

Both are true impact players, guys every offensive coordinator spends hours worrying about. Right now, I'll take Mathieu over every other defensive player in the country. He makes big plays at a staggering rate. For him to have already set the LSU career forced fumbles record less than halfway through his second season there is remarkable. He is that defense's wildcard since they can do so much with him. He's listed at cornerback but he's as much as SAM linebacker as anything. Mathieu leads the team in tackles by quite a bit and he really does set the tempo for his team with that frenetic style. Thus far it's been the Year of the Honey Badger.

From @mpodo Why isn't Jim Delany interested in expanding Big Ten right now?


The dilemma for Delany and the Big Ten is who is really worth them added? Notre Dame would be, but the Irish do NOT want any part of joining a conference unless they absolutetly have to. Mizzou makes some sense academically and geographically (linked to two strong TV markets, St. Louis and KC and wouldn't be a far trip for teams to get to) but the league didn't want to go that route last year. Pursuing teams from the Big East (Rutgers) or ACC (Maryland) who have the academics that the Big Ten says it must have don't bring much in terms of football equity. Rutgers right now is closer to Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue than it is to Nebraska or Wisconsin and Maryland just got destroyed at home by Temple.

From @J_Sweatt  how hot is mike Sherman's seat?

If the Aggies lose again this weekend, to Texas Tech, it's going to get hot. Two weeks ago Sherman seemed to be in a good spot. The Aggies were heading to the best football conference in the country and playing Top 10 football. Then they had a second-half collapse vs. Oklahoma State and they did the same thing wilting against Arkansas last week. Tech is unranked and a loss here would give a lot of folks close to the Aggies program the feeling that Sherman isn't the right guy to turn things around or lead them into the SEC. This is year four for him and even though he led A&M to the Cotton Bowl last year, he's only 21-21 there with an 11-14 conference mark. This is a loaded offense. It shouldn't be 2-3, but that'll be the record if the Aggies don't get some things figured out fast.

From @Nashville_MMA what are your thoughts on Tyler Brays progression as a sophomore? Jim Chaney has developed some outstanding QBs in his coaching career and Bray looks to be right on track. When I spoke to Chaney, the Vols offensive coordinator, he told me the light had really come on for Bray about a month before the season began where the lanky QB started to grasp what it meant to be a quarterback, not just play the position. That level of focus and preparation is often what separates the good college QBs from the decent ones.

From the tools standpoint, there is a lot to like about Bray. He's got great height, has excellent football savvy and has a gunslingers demeanor, which is a huge plus especially when you have talented targets who can go make plays for you. On paper, those strides he's made are obvious. His completion percentage has jumped from 56 percent to 69 percent and his TD-INT mark is up to 14-2 from 18-10 last year. But in truth, he really has faced only one good defense this season (Florida) and he wasn't that sharp, going 26-48 with three TDs and two picks in a loss. He did lose his most dangerous weapon Justin Hunter in that game though. He needs to show he can deliver against elite competition. This weekend's Georgia game will be a good test. The unranked Dawgs aren't great, but this is still a step up from the teams UT has handled thus far.

 

From @JayJersey14  I know I'm not the only one to ask, but what's going to happen with the Big East?

No one has much of a clue on this one. The people I've spoken to in the conference are in the dark. They're speculating, optimistically, off the speculation they are hearing. Losing TCU was a big blow after losing Pitt and Syracuse. I was told by someone who saw John Marinatto when the Big East commish learned that Pitt and Cuse were bailing for the ACC and they said it looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The league is in chaos. The best programs in the conference (WVU and Louisville) are trying to bail out to the Big 12, but they might not get the invite. If they don't and they're stuck in the Big East, there's still a real shot that UCONN also could head to the ACC.

From a football standpoint UCONN doesn't have that much cache. If you replaced UCONN with UCF I don't think you lose anything given the potential of UCF. Navy, which I'm told was ready to join the Big East in football, has cold feet after seeing the league start to erode. I imagine ECU would still love to get into the Big East and a possible hope would be to become some improved version of C-USA by taking the best of that league. It is, after all, eat-or-be-eaten in college sports right now.


From @mdg27x Considering Virginia Tech's best victory was close and only over East Carolina, are they really the favorites over Miami?

  Miami hasn't exactly been impressive either. The closest thing the Canes have had to a good win was against an undermanned Ohio State team that looks very shaky right now. UM's defense was run over last week by Bethune-Cookman. Lamar Miller has been terrific, but there are still huge questions about how solid Jacory Harris is and can he play close-to mistake-free football. Tech has given Miami fits in the past and it seems like Harris' career at Miami started its downturn two years ago in a monsoon at Lane Stadium.

From @hogeandrew Andrew Hoge Why isn't Matt Barkley in the Heisman talk when he beats out Luck and James for PAC 12 player of the week?


It's simple. Barkley has really only faced one decent team all year and he struggled. Throwing one TD pass and two INTs in a blowout loss at ASU. The combined record of the other four teams he's played is 7-12. Until he and USC can beat some better teams, he really won't be in the discussion.


From @Dbullsfan  is there any hope on the horizon for NC State fans?

I'll be very surprised if NC State doesn't have a new coach three months from now. And with a coaching change, you always get some aspect of hope.
 
 
 
 
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