Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Category:NCAAF
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.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:06 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.
Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 9:48 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Biggest Surprises of first month

A month into the 2011 season and it's time to look back on the biggest surprises thus far. And by surprises I mean pleasant surprises, not disappointments. That's a list for another day.

1. Clemson: 
The Tigers who have been perpetual underachievers prone to teasing more than producing may just have turned the proverbial corner under Dabo Swinney this year. Swinney hired former HS coach Chad Morris to run his offense and Clemson is really getting results, going from 86th in scoring up to 33rd. After looking shaky early, the Tigers, led by QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins, have responded by knocking off three ranked teams in a row, highlighted by last weekend's win at Lane Stadium. That W was also quite a departure for a team that had lost four of its previous five road games.

1. Nordly Capi, DE, Colorado State: 
Talk about a shocker. Capi was thrown into action four snaps into the 2011 season after standout DE Broderick Sargent was lost of the year with an ACL injury. Capi, a 6-3, 249-pound sophomore from Florida, who had no sacks in four games last year, goes on to terrorize the New Mexico offense that day, forcing four fumbles, setting an NCAA single-game record. And, the kid hasn't really slowed down much since, going on a five-game sack streak, CSU's longest since Clark Haggins had one of the same length in the late 90s. Capi, who is said to have a really outgoing and fearless personality (he wants to be a fire fighter after his football career is over), leads the nation in both sacks (eight) and forced fumbles (five).

3. Michigan Defense: The Wolverines D would be even higher on this list if they've played a few more decent teams (although WMU, ND and SD State do have capable offenses), but the fact that this unit has gone from 108th in scoring defense to 4th is still remarkable and a big tip of the hat to new DC Greg Mattison who has replaced Greg Robinson. Finally, this D is more than just stud DT Mike Martin as DE Craig Roh has gotten healthy and given them some presence and Kenny Demens, Thomas Gordon and Jordan Kovachs really have taken to the new system, which is a big reason why a unit that was 114th in pass defense has jumped 100 spots despite seeing some good passing attacks.

4. Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB:
RG3 has played out of his mind in the first month. The guy who arrived at Baylor with the rep as one of the fastest men to ever play QB in college football, has blossomed into a true passing threat. Griffin leads the nation in passing efficiency by a wide margin, has a sterling 18-1 TD-INT ratio and almost unfathomable 18-20 TD-INC ratio. For comparison, the No. 2 guy in passing efficiency Russell Wilson is 13-28 in TD-INC.

5. K-State: Bill Snyder is doing it again at Kansas State. The Cats went to Miami and took down a Miami team that was coming off a big win over Ohio State and then they took down a ranked Baylor team. Led by speedy Miami transfer Arthur Brown, K-State has gone from 78th in scoring defense up to 17th and this team has a decent shot of opening the year 7-0, matching last season's win total before OU comes to town in late October.

6. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, QB:
We knew the former NC State QB was good. His 3-1 TD/INT ratio in three seasons in the ACC was very strong, but it's been how quickly he has taken to this new system and his teammates and how accurate he has been that is so impressive. You'd think the timing with the new receivers wouldn't be as crisp as it has been. Remember this is a guy who had never completed above 59 percent of his passes. This year he's at 75 percent and is averaging a gaudy 12.5 yards per pass attempt, tops in the country and on pace to shatter Ty Detmer's NCAA record of 11.1 ypa. Just a part of the reason why RussellManiaXVI is running wild in Madison.

7. Ga. Tech offense:
Guess opponents haven't quite figured out Paul Johnson's offense after all. The 5-0 Jackets, 71st in scoring and 119th in passing last season, have been very sharp in 2011 behind QB Tevin Washington who has been burning defenses with the pass, sporting a 10-1 TD-INT ratio and a passing efficiency number of 260.7 (he'd be #1 in the nation if he had enough pass attempts). Tech is #2 in the country in scoring and up to No. 79 in passing offense.

8. Auburn:
The Tigers may have been in the preseason top 25, but they had many critics looking at all of the talent the defending national champs had to replace and were scratching their heads. Gene Chizik's team has looked pretty shaky at times, but this bunch is still finding ways to win close games. Their 16-13 win at No. 10 South Carolina last weekend earned them a place on this list as the young Auburn D kept Marcus Lattimore from running wild and limited Steve Spurrier's team to 2-10 on third downs.

9. The Big 12:
For all of the chaos with this conference off the field, the product on the field has been better than expected. Both Oklahoma schools look like potential BCS title game candidates. Texas is undefeated and showing some spark on both sides of the ball, while getting some plays from its young QBs. Baylor knocked off TCU early and has been turning heads. Texas Tech and K-State are both still undefeated. Even though A&M's second half troubles cost them a win over future SEC brethren Arkansas, the Big 12 is still 27-3 in games outside of the conference play and has six teams in the PA top 25, the same as the SEC has.

10. Vanderbilt:
James Franklin is generating a lot of buzz on the recruiting trail and that vibe is carrying over to the field, where the Commodores, a team that won four games the previous three seasons, is 3-1. Vandy's D has been very sharp forcing turnovers at an eye-catching rate (the school is No. 5 in turnover margin). Vandy absolutely dominated Ole Miss, 30-7 in mid-September in a way that jogged people's minds trying to recall the last time Vandy football demolished another SEC opponent the way they did the Rebs that day.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:25 pm
 

The Mailbag returns: RG3's Heisman hopes

Before I joined CBS, I had a regular Friday mailbag each week. I'm resuming that here. Send your college football questions to me via Twitter @BFeldmanCBS.
 
From @GoBearsGo95 how many wins would Baylor need for RG3 to win the heisman.
 

Griffin has taken over my top spot in the too-early Heisman rankings after his spectacular first month, throwing 13 TDs and 0 INTs. The most impressive part is that he has actually thrown more touchdowns than incompletions (12). That is staggering. Even more jaw-dropping is that this is a guy who came to Baylor known primarily for his World Class speed, not is passing skills. There is no way, he can keep that ridiculous pace up, but given the way he lit up well-respected Gary Patterson's D on national TV in the opening week, Griffin has gotten off to the start he needs to at least get invited to NYC for the ceremony.

Then again, last year, around this same time, I didn't think Cam Newton could sustain his fantastic pace for a whole season, and he did. Not only that, Newton actually got better as the pressure increased. Newton, though, also had a better supporting cast and arguably the top impact defender on his team too (Nick Fairley). 

Baylor needs to win at least 10 games for Griffin to have any shot at overtaking Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore, who are established favorites by now. The Bears have four "national stage" kinds of games remaining: at Texas A&M, Oct. 15; at Oklahoma State, Oct. 29; Oklahoma, Nov. 19 and then against Texas, Dec. 3. I think Baylor needs to win at least three of those to really have a good chance to win it.


From @RealNick_OSU How do u think Ohio St will handle head coaching job over offseason assuming OSU loses a couple more games? Meyer?


Barring the Buckeyes running the table and going 13-1, I think it'll be tough for Luke Fickell to keep this job. I realize that is an incredibly high standard to accomplish, especially given the off-field circumstances, but with the prospect of Urban Meyer, a former OSU assistant who has won two BCS titles out there, if Ohio State can get him, they almost have to go for him. 


Meyer wrote about his affinity for the Buckeye coaching job in his book a few years ago. I suspect at some point the pull of getting back into coaching is going to be too strong. And plum jobs don't come open very often. Certainly not this sweet of a gig, especially for a guy who once coached there. I'll say this I have been very impressed by Meyer as a game analyst. He is insightful and way ahead of the game. I really thought he and Chris Spielman did a terrific job last week during the ND-Pitt game, but I still can't see him, as the competitor he is, not being too wired to get back in the mix. 

From @whetherPROOF chances UF knocks off Saban in the swamp saturday?
 
 

I'll give it 20 percent. Anytime you have blazing speed, like the Gators do, and a talented D-line, like the Gators do, you have a shot. The problem is Alabama's D is so much bigger, more physical and well-coached than anything else UF has seen so far. I don't see UF being able to exploit mismatches the way they could in past games this year. Also, the Tide's O-line is very good and should be able to provide room for Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy and the big-game experience will pay off for Bama here.

From @andrewltyler Will Texas Tech's streak of bowl games attended be coming to an end this year?

Nope, look for Tech to go bowling again. The Red Raiders really don't play anyone of note till Oct. 8 vs. Texas A&M, but these wins still count. Seth Doege is a good QB and he has some pretty good weapons around him. Assuming they win at KU, which I suspect they will, they just need to find two more Ws and I think they can get that with home games against Iowa State, K-State and Baylor in Arlington.


From @2xQuickDJ  if UW QB Price wins at Utah, does the national press start looking N of Palo Alto?

I like Keith Price a lot. He is playing better than I believe many expected he would, although when I spoke to Steve Sarkisian in August, he was very, very high on him.

Quite frankly, the national media really isn't focused on Washington, though. Losing at Nebraska, 51-38 didn't help and wining at unranked Utah won't really help change that. Now, about a month from today, U-Dub plays at Stanford, if the Huskies can win there, that will get people's attention around the country.
 

From @gregbranscum Is Mike Leach interested in UK if a coaching change should happen?

For starters, I don't see UK coming open any time soon. Joker Phillips just took over. He got UK to a bowl game in year one. The 2010 season wasn't a disaster. Remember this is still a Kentucky program that has averaged five wins over the past 10 years. They're 2-2 with an outside shot to qualify for a bowl game again. Even if they don't go bowling, you have to give the guy at least four years unless it is a complete disaster with issues on and off the field. There are going to be growing pains especially when you have a first-time head coach learning at a high level.
  As for Leach, I know his family really liked Lexington, but as I said, I don't see this job coming open in 2011.

From @Jon_Roser  is Memphis the worst team ever?

Wow, does it feel like things are that awful in Memphis that it has come to this? Well, I guess so. Although Howard Schnellenberger's final season at FAU might produce an even worse squad. The Owls are 0-3, but in fairness they have faced three good teams and only lost 30-14 at Auburn after trailing just 10-6 at halftime. They are at the bottom or almost at the bottom in rushing offense, passing offense and scoring. They aren't too much better on D either (112th). But at least now their schedule eases up quite  a bit.

Other teams Memphis is rivaling in futility:  New Mexico State 2005: 0-12 although the Aggies lost one in double OT to Idaho and fell by three to Utah State in the finale. 

FIU 2006 (0-12): The year before Mario Cristobal arrived, FIU scored 23 points over the final six games, but they did lose their first two games by one point each and dropped a 7 OT game to North Texas. They were a TD underdog or less in  five games and ended up losing four of those by double-digits  and three by 25 or more. 

But my pick for the worst of recent history is Temple, 2005 (0-11). The Owls lost games by 65 (Wisconsin); 63 (Bowling Green); and 48 (UVa). Aside from a 3-point loss to WMU, the Owls didn't come within 20 of any other opponent. 

This Memphis team has looked terrible and Larry Porter is presiding over one of those "disasters" I spoke about above. To lose by 44 at Arkansas State, not Arkansas, but Arkansas State is disturbing. It's one thing for a young coach to go 1-11, as it seems like this team will do again, but it's another to get blown out of the building. The defense has been really bad and their offense has been so much worse than that.

Short of them winning against UAB in mid-November, I don't see anything better than 1-11 although by that game my hunch is Porter probably won't be coaching the Tigers any more.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 11:56 am
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:45 pm
 

Daily Surf Report: The real bad Kiffin news


Just when it appeared the Trojans coach had broken free of his troubled reputation, Lane Kiffin was again tackled this week by his inescapable past, and now you have to wonder how it will ultimately shape his future, writes Bill Plaschke.

According to a report by Yahoo! Sports, former USC assistant Willie Mack Garza broke NCAA rules by reimbursing a talent scout to pay for a prospect and his mother to visit Tennessee when Garza was coaching there in 2009. Garza's boss at the time? It was, of course, Kiffin.

If there is one name that USC does not need associated with its program right now, it's Will Lyles. If there are two entities that USC does not want in the same sentence right now, it's Kiffin and the NCAA. Kiffin assured USC AD Pat Haden that he had no knowledge or involvement in Garza's alleged $1,500 repayment to Lyles for flying highly touted running back Lache Seastrunk and his mother from Texas to Tennessee for an unofficial recruiting visit.

"All I can say on that is that the alleged incident, I had no knowledge of, or no knowledge of a relationship at all," Kiffin told reporters Tuesday morning.

The other tough question involves Garza's season with the Trojans. If he was indeed a rogue recruiter for Tennessee, why would he suddenly become a clean one for the Trojans? Does USC have to worry now that its sincere two-year effort at compliance and cleanliness could be soiled with future revelations of past Garza messes? Are they sure nobody in Heritage Hall has Will Lyles on speed dial?
I am not at all surprised that some schools have gotten in hot water for using "recruiting services" as de facto shuttle services, meaning that if a school buys their service for $5,000 or $10,000, the service will do whatever it can to make sure that a group of the most coveted prospects in their area will get to campus for summer camp or unofficial visits.

The surprising part was that someone wired a payment to one of them. This stuff has been going on for a few years now and has been pretty common in the South. Who knows what this will ultimately mean for Lane Kiffin and whether he has plausible deniability.

I do buy Plaschke's point that stuff like this only whittles away the coach's margin for error. Truth is, of all the things that have been connected to Kiffin in the past week, the news of the Trojans losing at ASU was probably a lot worse for him than this latest sticky mess. Sanctions or not, he needs to convince people around USC that he can win games and not just against those with significantly inferior talent.

*Can Bud Foster slow down Chad Morris' high-flying Clemson offense, Mark Giannotto wonders.

Over the course of 17 games (13 at Tulsa last year, and now four with Clemson this season), Morris’s units have scored less than 28 points just once, not a bad track record for someone who spent the previous 16 years, and won three state titles, as a Texas high school coach. So when Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster sat down with reporters Monday night after practice, he seemed resigned to the fact that Saturday night won’t be a game in which his unit can hold the opposition to six rushing yards, like the Hokies did at Marshall, or 112 total yards, a feat Virginia Tech accomplished at East Carolina.

“You try to contain them. I don’t know if you can stop them,” Foster said. “Keep them to a minimum, but I don’t know what that minimum is. Can you keep them to 20 points? I don’t know. They’re just a talented group.”


Morris, meanwhile, tends to signal the play into Boyd once he’s at the line of scrimmage and an opponent sets up in their defense. Ultimately, Foster says, Clemson’s goal is to have so many moving parts and such a quick tempo that a defense is forced to simply play a vanilla base defense. So the most important battles Saturday could happen pre-snap, as Foster and the Hokies try to determine whether they have enough time to switch their coverages or change in-and-out of blitzes once Boyd is under center reading the defense for his keys.

I love this matchup of the two coordinators at different stages of their careers. Another great subplot will be how much VT's star CB Jayron Hosley matches up on Clemson's stud freshman WR Sammy Watkins. Hosley played a big role in Tech completely shutting down Lance Lewis, ECU's standout receiver. Lewis is averaging 10 catches and two TDs in the Pirates games aside from the one vs. Tech. In that one, he managed just three grabs for 17 yards.

*Even though Nebraska pounded Wyoming last week, it was painful for Jared Crick, the Huskers standout DT who was sidelined for the game, to watch, writes Steve Sipple.
"It sucked, man. It really sucked," Crick said Tuesday. "I was just wanting to be out there. Not just wanting to be out there for my 32nd start. I just wanted to be out there and play with my guys. That's the biggest thing for us, just being out there for each other. Me not being able to do that really hurt me.

"It definitely gave me an itch to get back out there. It definitely gives me a lot of motivation going into this week."

Crick, the preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year, took a nasty shot to the earhole on the final play Sept. 17 against Washington. The hit knocked him off his feet. Nebraska coaches haven't disclosed why he sat out of the Wyoming game, and Crick didn't want to address the topic with reporters. Despite missing practice all last week, he feels good about his conditioning.


*The nation's three most prolific passers, Brandon Weeden, Case Keenum and Geno Smith have one thing in common: all played for Dana Holgorsen in college.

I'll have a lot more about Holgorsen later today on the site.

*Korey Williams, Southern Miss' leading tackler broke news on Twitter Monday night that he will have knee surgery and indicated his senior season is probably over.

"Had dreams of making my senior season my best season," Williams posted on Twitter. "Just ready to get this surgery and start this rehab ASAP."

USM coach Larry Fedora, who announced several weeks ago he would not comment on injuries or his players’ health this season, did not return phone calls today seeking comment on Williams’ status, reports Patrick Magee.

Meanwhile, Williams, a senior, already appears focused on preparing for the NFL.

On his Twitter account, Williams posted: "Erin Henderson. Undrafted free agent because he tore his acl his last year of college. Now starting middle linebacker for the Vikings."

*In the shameless self-promo department, I'm on a podcast with Wes Bunting from the National Football Post about two intriguing QB prospects Ryan Tannehill and Weeden as well as the young but gifted LSU secondary.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com