Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:31 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:38 pm
Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send your questions via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.
From @Mark Johnson w SEC the best conf who do you think is the 2nd best after realignment?
There is a big drop-off between the SEC and the next-best conference. Having won six BCS titles in a row is quite an accomplishment and with four or five SEC teams expected to open the season in the top 12, it doesn't seem like anyone is close to make a move to overtake Mike Slive's league.
Going forward, I'd lean to the Big Ten in who I'd list as the next toughest conference. A big reason for that is Urban Meyer's arrival giving Ohio State and really the rest of the Big Ten such a jolt. On top of that you have Michigan now surging back on track, coming off a BCS Bowl win; Wisconsin coming off back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances; Michigan State coming off its best season in over a decade and Nebraska joining the league in 2011. The downside of it is the uncertainty of the direction Penn State is headed.
The other conferences I had right there with the Big Ten are the Big 12 and the Pac-12. From an off-the-field component the Big 12 still seems fairly unstable given all of the uncertainty around it and its recent history. On the field, you've had Oklahoma State rise up with consecutive top 10 finishes. We'll see if Mike Gundy's program can sustain it. Same for Bill Snyder at K-State. Baylor had a fantastic season but figures to backslide some with RG3 gone. OU had a "disappointing" season yet still finished in the top 15 and now gets Mike Stoops back to run the defense. Texas appears to be on the way back up after two woeful seasons.
The Big 12 also added two programs in WVU and TCU that are poised for big debut seasons because they both return a lot of young talent although the Horned Frogs, given this week's events and key player dismissals, definitely don't look as strong as they did a few days ago.
Larry Scott's league is on much more solid footing than the Big 12 big picture, but it's still coming off a season where one of the teams that played in its title game, UCLA, finished with a 6-8 record. That doesn't speak well of the league when something like that happens. Chip Kelly just led Oregon to perhaps its best season ever, but the Ducks still have the Will Lyles recruiting mess hanging over the program. Stanford lost Andrew Luck and a couple of other top 15 draft picks and the Cardinal are likely to drop out of the top 20, although with the way David Shaw has recruited, it doesn't seem like this program will plummet off the national radar. USC is poised for a great 2012, but after Matt Barkley's senior year, the Trojans will have to deal with the meat of the NCAA's scholarship sanctions. After these three teams, the rest of the conference is in scuffling to get to be Top 25 caliber.
From @Drew Conrad what do you think about University of Utah promoting a 25-year-old to OC?
No question it's risky to flip the keys to a guy this young, but Brian Johnson has spent a lot of time around some very bright offensive minds, starting with Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen, going through Andy Ludwig and Norm Chow. That's a pretty interesting mix of coaches and styles. From the guys in the coaching world I've asked about Johnson, I've heard a lot of good things. Almost all of those guys keep talking about how focused and smart the former QB is.
His experience working with head coach Kyle Whittingham and knowing what he wants is also key for a new hire. Johnson's level of coaching experience isn't much less than what Kliff Kingsbury had when he took over play-calling duties at Houston, and that worked out great for the Cougars. The biggest difference there though is that Kingsbury's head coach Kevin Sumlin had been an OC before while Whittingham is a defensive guy.
The short-term concerns here are that the team lost two very good offensive tackles and on top of that a terrific O-line coach, Tim Davis just left the program for Florida. And obviously, they need to get better at QB if they're going to be serious contenders in the Pac-12 South.
From @GoonerAggieFan Thoughts on the Staff that Kevin Sumlin has put together at A&M, including his most recent addition Terry Price?
It is excellent. He brought one of the sharpest young offensive guys in coaching with him from UH in Kingsbury. That guy is going to be a star in this business very soon. He also brought one of his betters recruiters in the Southwest in Clarence McKinney, and landed USF D-coordinator Mark Snyder, who is one of the top defensive guys in the country. I'll have a lot more on the Aggies in a week or so. I'm heading to College Station in a few days.
From @marty roberts If FSU shores up OL, how far u think they can go this year? And where u think they start in rankings?
Given all of the youth and newcomers from the JC ranks they're adding into the mix, that is a pretty big if. I'd expect improvement, but can this group make such dramatic strides to go from being as shaky as they were last year to the caliber of being part of a BCS title contender? I have my doubts, especially when you consider after last season's hype, it's basically anything short of a top-five season will be seen as a major disappointment/underachieving yet again.
The line was a mess last year. FSU was 110th in sacks allowed and 104th in rushing. You can't be an elite team no matter how tough your defense is being so bad in both those stats.
The other big key is E.J. Manuel also needs to take a significant step forward and become much more consistent. Part of his struggles, no doubt, were due to the inexperienced O-line and to his injuries, but you look at just how much he and the Noles struggled in their regular season finale at UF and it's clear this is still a team with a lot of work ahead.
As far as where the Noles will open the season, I'd expect them to begin around No. 11 or 12. On paper, there is a lot of reasons for enthusiasm: returning QB coming off a pretty good first season as a starter with a gifted young group of receivers, an outstanding defense returning and the influx of (another) touted signing class. The problem: it seems like we've heard much of these same reasons why FSU is finally poised to compete for a BCS title again before, almost annually in fact, and for a variety of reasons, it hasn't came true and things fizzled out. And, why I used the word "problem" is that I suspect that notion isn't something only the media now believes, it's something players on the team hear about so much that it's a challenge to not let that mindset seep into the locker room: 'O.K., what's going to creep up and muck things up for us this time?'
From @Omer Subhani how good/bad was recruiting job by All Golden considering circumstances? TheU
The recruiting job Golden's staff at Miami did this year, considering the circumstances of the avalanche of publicity the Nevin Shapiro story got, and the fact that there is an on-going NCAA investigation still hanging over the program, was remarkable.
As I said on our Signing Day Central show, I think there were three big keys to this class: the first was having a local star hold firm on being very public about his desire to be a Cane as Duke Johnson, perhaps the most dynamic running back prospect in the country, did. The second was stocking up on depleted positions (WR, D-line and DBs) with scholarship restrictions looming. The third was finishing with a flourish to build up that momentum going forward, and by reeling in Tracy Howard, the nation's top CB recruit, Golden did that in a big way. Remember, Howard was a kid who just a few weeks earlier was said to be a long-shot for Miami. Highly touted DE Tyriq McCord was another big late pick-up who many top programs chased hard.
If Golden can land a class this deep and talented in the face of all of the Shapiro stuff/NCAA player suspensions, it'll be interesting to see what he can do at Miami once the NCAA's ruling finally is known.
From @djr98 wat do u think of arkansas for 2012?
I like the Hogs chances to be a top 10 team, but I don't like their chances to win the SEC West and compete for a BCS title. Reasons for a top 10 run: Tyler Wilson is back, along with Knile Davis and they do get LSU and Bama at home this year. Reasons why I don't think they can win the SEC: I'm not sold on the defense. It wasn't good enough in 2011 and they're losing most of the best players they had on that D to the NFL.
From @joe king Who's gonna be next years Sammy Watkins,An can Hugh Freeze recruit well enough after Mullin has dominated the State this yr.
I'll go with Dorial Green-Beckham being the biggest impact freshman wideout. He has freakish athleticism at 6-6, 225 and will play in a wide-open offense at Mizzou with a promising young QB (James Franklin) where they run the ball well enough to stress defenses. That should enable DGB to have a lot of big-play opportunities.
Freeze is an ultra-aggressive recruiter and a good salesman. He also knows the area around Ole Miss as well as any coach they could've hired. I suspect he'll probably end up offering more scholarships before the summer than any coach in the country. I have no doubts he will get some talented players to Oxford. He was able to nab a couple already.
The on-field product is going to be mediocre for a few years, though. Freeze inherited a complete mess from Houston Nutt. Recruiting there had really tailed off save for Nitt's final class there. The program was in disarray and that won't be mended overnight. Dan Mullen just put together a very strong class, especially on the D-line and at linebacker. There is a pretty sizeable gap for Freeze to try and close.
Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:34 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 3:42 pm
Think the recruiting process gets crazy for blue-chip high schoolers? Well, it can be even more chaotic if you're a proven college QB who can be eligible immediately.
Danny O'Brien, a 2010 Freshman All-American and former ACC Rookie of the Year, who had a 22-8 TD-INT ratio while helping lead Maryland to a 9-4 record and a top 25 finish, announced earlier this week he's transferring from the Terps program after the tumultuous first year of the Randy Edsall Era in College Park. A pro-style QB who still has two years of eligibility remaining would intrigue a lot of programs, but O'Brien's even a hotter commodity because he's on schedule to graduate with a Business degree in the spring and would be eligible as a graduate transfer this fall. Much like former N.C, State QB Russell Wilson was for Wisconsin this past year. However, unlike many of these recent graduate transfer cases, O'Brien has two years remaining, not just one. Even the SEC's new rule restricting graduate transfers would be open to O'Brien because he has two years of eligibility remaining, not just one season. And that twist has only spiced things up even more here.
Edsall employed a system that didn't suit the 6-3, 210-pounder very well, and O'Brien, along with the rest of a team that finished with an abysmal 2-10 record, struggled. The young QB appeared to regress last year. Edsall benched O'Brien in a loss to Georgia Tech in early October and later made comments in the media that certainly didn't come across as a ringing endorsement of the quarterback.
After O'Brien informed Edsall of his decision to transfer, the coach said in a statement: "I'm disappointed by Danny's decision. Danny told me that he's not committed to our program. that he's not 'all in.' I want what's best for all of our players."
Obviously, Edsall wasn't happy about the news, and apparently isn't just showing that by the statement. He also had denied permission of O'Brien to transfer to Vanderbilt. That wouldn't stop O'Brien from being able to attend Vandy, but it would keep him from getting a football scholarship there. In many cases, coaches try and restrict the places where one of their former players can transfer to, and the criteria usually is if that other program plays in the same conference or appears on the schedule in the next year or two. Vandy, however, is not in the ACC or slated to face the Terps any time soon. (The last time the two schools met on a football field was in the late '80s.) But Vandy's coach is James Franklin, the man who used to be the Terps offensive coordinator when O'Brien had his breakout season in 2010. Franklin also had recruited O'Brien from North Carolina to College Park. In addition, Edsall has blocked two of the other former Terp starters (LT Max Garcia and LB Mario Rowson), who also announced they were bailing from Edsall's program Monday, from transferring to Vandy as well.
The players can appeal that decision to get Edsall's restrictions overturned. An NCAA source said that student-athletes often win such appeals.
On Thursday morning, O'Brien's high school coach Todd Willert, who says he speaks to the QB almost every day, expects the family will make such an appeal in order to have the option to transfer to Vandy.
"I believe they will," said Willert. "This weekend, Danny and his family will sort through everything. They think (Vandy) should be an option but I don't know exactly what they'll decide. It should be an option for him. Just be fair to everybody. Danny has no ill will towards anybody."
Attempts to reach O'Brien on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Among the schools believed to be in the mix to land O'Brien in addition to Vandy are Wisconsin, Stanford, Michigan State, East Carolina and Ole Miss. Willert would not disclose which programs O'Brien has had contact with but says there has been a lot of interest.
Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:50 pm
Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.
From @Philly_Sak Given all the circumstances, how do you feel Bill O'Brien did salvaging the PSU recruiting class?
As you mentioned, the circumstances around this class were so catastrophic, relatively speaking, people couldn't have expected too much after all that has been happening around State College of late. On top of all of that, you also had a new head coach without any head coaching track record having spent most of his time away from his new program while he finishes up with in the NFL. That is A LOT to overcome.
Recruiting analysts ranked the class around No. 50 nationally and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. That's actually better than what I would've expected given the circumstances. Of course, we try not to read too much into the team rankings especially. After all, a few years ago, Stanford signed a class that was ranked around No. 50 nationally and in retrospect the group with Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and others should've been no lower than No. 2 overall.
The downside is six prospects who had verbaled to PSU opted to go some place else. Many of them will play in the Big Ten but for Ohio State. They did hang on to touted WR Eugene Lewis, a local kid who all the recruiting sites are very high on. DL Jamil Pollard and Brian Gaia, an offensive lineman from Maryland, are two other coveted recruits bound for Penn State.
While it helped that O'Brien immediately retained Larry Johnson who had been the program's best recruiter, I really think due to all of the above this was about as close to a lost class as a big-time program will ever have.
On the bright side, there have been reports this week that many top 2013 recruits, including one of the top-ranked tight ends, Adam Breneman are high on PSU and O'Brien. You'd have to think O'Brien's work in New England with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will help sell guys like Breneman, and if he can reel in a highly touted 2013 recruit early that will stir some much-needed momentum with the next wave of kids. But recruiting is going to be an uphill battle there for quite some time and Meyer and Brady Hoke having as much momentum as they do now is only going to make it that much harder. Beyond that, Wisconsin has never been stronger coming off consecutive Rose Bowl trips.
From @ClintonOftedahl After USC/Barkley, which schools made out the best with players postponing the NFL Draft?
I agree that no program made out any better than USC sorting out which underclassmen stayed/left for the NFL. The Trojans did lose their best lineman in LT Matt Kalil and their top pass rusher, DE Nick Perry, but it was Barkley, who will be a four-year starter and has been the leader of this team the past two seasons, that was the pivotal guy. They also retained T.J. McDonald, one of the nation's top safeties, who is the leader of the defense. If Barkley bolted, I expect the Trojans would be an eight or nine-win team. With him, they are a legit national title contender.
At No. 2 in terms of schools that benefitted the most from the stay/go status, I'd put Notre Dame. Brian Kelly has to feel good about having LB Manti Te'o for another season and they also keep Tyler Eifert, one of the country's better tight ends. Eifert is a big plus for a team that lost its best weapon, WR Michael Floyd and has issues at quarterback. Having a legit go-to guy like Eifert for 2012 will be huge for whoever becomes the starting QB.
Right after them, I'd put Oklahoma, which retains Landry Jones, who three months ago, most observers figured was a lock to leave. Another fan base that should be breathing a big sigh of relief is Arkansas. The Hogs QB Tyler Wilson gave a lot of consideration to bolting for the NFL in the days leading up to the deadline, but he's going to be back as is RB Knile Davis.
For the fifth spot, I'd list Georgia. The Dawgs lost gifted tight end Orson Charles but didn't lose LB Jarvis Jones or DB Baccari Rambo. The last big "winner" here I'll mention is Wisconsin. Most top young running backs tend to jump to the NFL when they get the chance. Montee Ball, who just capped off a magnificent season, didn't jump, and that's surprising.
From @Falb7 Does Urban Meyer have a right to be upset with Bret Bielema's comments about his recruiting tactics?
As I said last week, it's hard to sift though much of the finger-pointing and backtalk we had in the aftermath of signing day. None of the guys involved ever come out looking better for being a part of that, although selfishly I do think it does spice up subplots to the games in the fall and sweeten potential rivalries or, in some cases, foster new ones.
No coach ever likes to get accused by a peer especially for shady business on the recruiting trail. The perception-is-reality stuff has to be frustrating but as long as it doesn't turn off recruits, and that sure doesn't seem to be the case with Ohio State, I doubt Meyer will lose any sleep over it. Rival coaches only tend to grouse about people's success. They never seem to pay much attention to anyone that isn't impacting their own success. Or the guy who is going 3-9 and signing all of the "two-star" kids.
The one thing that doesn't sit well, and this was something a lot of Florida fans pointed out was that Meyer had been very outspoken as he left coaching for what he deemed unethical recruiting methods that had been increasing in recent years. Some of Meyer's critics, such as Mike Bianchi, have called him out on that.
"What I've seen the last five years is a complete turn in the integrity of the college coaching profession," Meyer said in one radio interview last year. "It's completely turned the other way. Right now, it's not good because the risk-reward is 'have at it, do what you've got to do to get the great player, go win games and at the end of the day we'll find out what happens down the road.' "
From @jgeer92376 A CFB question - which team of Stanford, Baylor, Oregon, Michigan State or Wisconsin will suffer the most for losing their QB?
It's a toss-up between Stanford and Baylor. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were as close to "Franchise QBs" or program-elevators as we've seen in the last 20 years. Even though both programs are in much better positions now than when before both QBs signed with them out of high school, there is going to be significant drop-off in 2012. After that, I'd put Michigan State next because of all Kirk Cousins meant to his program on and off-the-field the past four years. The program that loses the least: Oregon. Darron Thomas was a good QB, especially in that system, but Bryan Bennett was already nipping at his heels and redshirt Marcus Mariota is right there pushing him.
From @MR_SOUTH_BEACH where do you see mich being ranked in the preseason poll and can they beat alabama ?
I had them No. 11 in my early rankings for 2012. The program has some nice momentum coming off an 11-win season and a Sugar Bowl win in Brady Hoke's first year. And, the Wolverines finally beat Ohio State, which is huge for their psyche in Ann Arbor.
For the Wolverines to take the next step and be a national title contender, which is where they'd need to be to knock off Alabama this year, Denard Robinson needs to be much sharper as a passer. He actually seemed to regress in 2011. His completion percentage was way down (from 63 percent to 55 percent) and he threw four more INTs despite quite a few less attempts. He also got away with some jump balls that could've turned into more picks. You'd think the off-season with time to review his work in his first season with OC Al Borges would be a good thing in that regard. We'll see. There is plenty of talent around him (especially RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, who after Montee Ball is near the top for running backs in the Big Ten), but they are going to miss center David Molk, who was solid anchoring the line.
They also need to find a way to get tougher on defense, which isn't going to be easy considering they have to replace NG Mike Martin. But there are a lot of very promising young players who got settled in last fall and should thrive with another off-season with Greg Mattison. Keep an eye on Jake Ryan, a budding star there.
Alabama is losing a lot of great players on both sides of the ball. However, they still may have the best O-line in the country and the back-ups Nick Saban had on D probably were better than anyone else's, save for maybe LSU. That Tide group also is better than most people's starters. Hoke has his share of playmakers, starting with Robinson, and Mattison is one of the brightest defensive minds around. Bama also is going to be young in most spots, so it's not unrealistic to think Michigan could pull off the upset. Still, to see a Big Ten team beat the defending national champs, especially one that is NOT breaking in a new QB definitely would be a head-turner of major proportions.
From @cbhenn What's your pre-spring SEC East 1-7 predictions for 2012?
I have Georgia winning the East. The Dawgs have a very good, experienced D returning and a savvy QB in Aaron Murray. After that, I have South Carolina. I could see Tennessee coming in third as my surprise team. The Vols will no longer be a young team. They'll have a lot of three-year starters on what figures to be a potent offense. They will be counting on a lot of unproven guys on the D-line but my hunch is they have a shot to win nine this year. I slotted UF fourth ahead of Mizzou because they have a much deeper group of athletes on defense. After that, I have Vandy and UK rounding out the division.
From @Tavon4Heisman Does Geno Smith have a better shot at a Heisman now that WVU will be in the Big 12 as opposed to playing in the Big East?
No doubt. He and WVU finished the year with a strong statement, scoring 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. All of the key skill guys are back and should be even better with another off-season to fine-tune the timing of Dana Holgorsen's system. And now, Smith moves to a bigger stage in a much more high-profile league. Four of the past 10 Heisman winners came from Big 12 schools. That's more than any other conference can claim. If Smith has a big season, and he should, he will be right in the mix to get to New York and perhaps with the trophy. He is going to need some help though from his team's defense because no matter how eye-popping his stats are, if WVU is no better than 8-4, he won't win it.
From Matthew Parten in Auburn, AL: What, in your opinion will end up being the most important off season development for Auburn this year - the premature departures of Gus Malzahn, Barrett Trotter, and Michael Dyer, the hire of Brian Van Gorder, the decisions by Onterio McCalebb and Philip Lutzenkirken to remain at school for their Senior seasons, or the upcoming hire of an offensive coordinator?
The hire of Van Gorder, who had so much success at Georgia, was a good move. His experience in the league will help a lot, but I'd say the most important development was the departure of Malzahn. Even though things dropped off dramatically in 2011, and much of that can be traced to Cam Newton and most of the O-line being gone, Malzahn is still one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. He's proven in recent years to be a very savvy play-caller and game-planner. Plus, you can also tie in the departure of a stud running back/workhorse such as Dyer and it makes it sting that much more.
From @cnichollHays You've brought up a lot of interesting stats in the "Stats that Matter" feature...what is the most interesting stat uve seen
There have been a lot of them that I was really intrigued by the more we discussed them. Tom Herman, the new offensive coordinator at Ohio State, had a really interesting one called the "double positive"that was fun to track and Texas DC Manny Diaz willingness to embrace the Moneyball mind set was cool to write about as well.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 1:02 pm
As we try and size up the best and worst head coaching hires of the the past few months, I thought it was worth delving into some of the top in-the-trenches guys and staffers who made news but on a much smaller scale during "the silly season" that is the coaching carousel. This week's Top 10: best assistant moves:
1. Oklahoma hiring back Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator: Some Sooner fans have been lamenting the Mike Stoops Jinx for years now noting that OU football hasn't been as tough or as effective, especially in big games since Bob Stoops' fiery brother left for Arizona. On paper, the younger Stoops brother certainly left a mark, coaching OU to the top or near the top in almost every significant defensive statistic. He also sparked OU to a school-best 48 wins over a four-year stretch from 2000-03 that included a BCS national title. During that four-year stretch OU had three top-five finishes and produced 10 All-Americans on defense. In the eight years since he's been out of Norman, the Sooners have only had two top-five finishes and six All-Americans on D.
2. Washington hires Tosh Lupoi as D-line coach: The Huskies had been atrocious on defense prompting Steve Sarkisian to make some tough changes. One of them meant breaking the bank for the 30-year old former Cal assistant, who helped mentor some really good defensive linemen for the Golden Bears with Cameron Jordan and Tyson Alualu both becoming first-rounders in recent years. However, Lupoi's biggest impact comes off the field, where his departure shook up the recruiting world in the past few months. Five-star DB Shaq Thompson took a late visit up to U-Dub and ended up signing with the Huskies. Lupoi also got long-time USC DE commit Pio Vatuvei to flip to Washington on Signing Day. If Lupoi doesn't bolt for Seattle, Cal probably reels in a Top 10 recruiting class despite the fact that it has a sub .500 record in league play the past three years. But the coach's exit torpedoed that, and yes, it was messy. Expect many more fireworks in the coming year and for U-Dub to be a player nationally on the recruiting scene as long as Lupoi is with the Huskies.
3. Michigan State retains DC Pat Narduzzi: Arguably the most underrated defensive coordinator in college football, Narduzzi was courted by Kevin Sumlin after the new Texas A&M coach arrived at the SEC program, but MSU was able to hang onto the Youngstown product. That's quite a coup for the Spartans. In 2010, Narduzzi led MSU to one of its better defensive seasons in years. But going into last season he had to replace four of the top five tacklers, including star LB Greg Jones. The result: the Spartans played even better. MSU was No. 6 in the country in total defense; No. 10 in scoring; No. 7 in sacks and No. 9 against the run. They won 11 games and finished in the Top 10 for the first time since the Nick Saban days in the late '90s.
4. UNC lands Vic Koenning as its defensive coordinator: One of the best moves Ron Zook made at Illinois was flipping the keys to Koenning to run his defense. Koenning transformed the Illini D from 91st nationally to No. 7 in one year. He also sparked a dramatic improvement in K-State's defense at his previous stop. In his last stint in the ACC, at Clemson, Koenning (pronounced "CONE-ing") did something no other Tiger DC ever could do: Each of his four defenses from 2005-2008 finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense each season.
5. Urban Meyer reunites with Mickey Marotti as Ohio State gets a new strength coach: A huge key for Meyer in his run at UF was surrounding himself with a great staff. With the possible exception of Charlie Strong, no other assistant was more vital to UF's success in that time than Marotti, who goes back with Meyer to their days in Columbus in the late 80s when both were just beginning their coaching careers. When Meyer talked about his new staff at OSU, Marotti was the one he called his "most important hire." The one-time OSU grad assistant developed 22 All-Americans and eight first-rounders during his seven years in Gainesville.
6. Jim Mora recruits his ace recruiters: The new UCLA head coach had never really worked in college and there was a lot of skepticism about how the NFL lifer would acclimate to things like recruiting. Well, Mora wasted little time getting up to speed by landing a couple of assistants with deep California connections in O-line coach Adrian Klemm and Demetrice Martin, a pair of aggressive young assistants who grew up in the L.A. area. Martin helped snag Ellis McCarthy, perhaps the top defensive lineman on the West Coast, along with touted DE Jeremy Castro, while Klemm nabbed a bunch of other blue-chippers that included CB Ishmael Adams, WR Jordan Payton and OT Lacy Westbrook.
7. Paul Chryst brings O-line coach Bob Bostad to Pitt: The Panthers were beyond brutal up front. They ranked dead last in the NCAA in sacks allowed with an eye-popping 64-- 17 more than the next worst team. You almost never see such wide gaps in the pits of the NCAA ineptitude stats. That figures to get a whole lot better under Chryst and Bostad. The former Badger O-line coach developed four all-Americans in the past two seasons alone (Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt, Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz) as Wisconsin rushed for over 3,000 yards the past two seasons en route to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances. Bostad's O-line actually allowed two few sacks in the past three seasons combined in 40 games than Pitt surrendered in 2011.
8. Rich Rodriguez finally gets Jeff Casteel back to run his defense: Rodriguez' biggest shortcoming from his time at Michigan was not being able to have his former WVU DC with him to run the Wolverines defense. Casteel has coached defenses that have finished in the top 15 in scoring D in four of the previous seven seasons. In 2010, the Mountaineers were third in the nation in scoring defense. Better still, Casteel is bringing a couple of WVU defensive assistants with him to Tucson who knew exactly what he wants and does. They will have plenty of work ahead of them in the most diverse offensive league as they inherit a team that was 107th in scoring defense and 116th in sacks.
9. Florida goes to Boise for its new OC: Charlie Weis had a very shaky season in Gainesville as the Gators stumbled in their transition season out of the Urban Meyer offense, finishing 105th in the country in total offense. Pease moves south after working with one of the most productive QBs in college history (Kellen Moore). The 47-year-old Pease also had a lot of success in his days at Montana in the 90s and had some good moments leading an undermanned Kentucky offense in the SEC before moving to Boise.
10. Mike Locksley is back at Maryland: No doubt Locksley had a disastrous run as New Mexico's head coach, going 2-26 and being at the center of a few off-field scandals. He signs on with second-year coach Randy Edsall, who had a disastrous beginning with the Terps going 2-10 with only one win over an FBS opponent. But never underestimate the recruiting juice Locksley has, especially in that part of the country. He will get kids who would never get within sniffing distance of Edsall's program to give the Terps a long, hard look now. And the school made sure to sweeter Locksley's deal on that front. According to the Washington Post, if Maryland is ranked in the top 40 by either Rivals.com or Scout.com's recruiting rankings on National Signing Day, Locksley will earn $25,000. He'll also get an additional $20,000 if the Terrapins place in the top four of ACC teams in the Rivals.com or Scout.com's rankings on National Signing Day.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 3:14 pm
Here is the Friday Mailbag. As always, if you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.
From @ShawnMoritz Do you think Bielema has a legit argument against Urban and his recruiting tactics?
Well, I'd love to know exactly what Bret Bielema is talking about in regards to Meyer's tactics. During his Signing Day press conference, the Wisconsin coach made reference to Meyer using "illegal" recruiting tactics. What rules specifically was the new OSU coach breaking? Bielema spoke to the Sporting News on Thursday:
“I called Urban and we spoke about it,” Bielema said. “We talked about it, and he said it would stop and it did. I’ll let our commissioner deal with anything else. That’s not who we are (in the Big Ten). We settle things among ourselves as coaches.”
On top of that, there were also some folks at Michigan State who weren't thrilled with Meyer either apparently. In reality, rival coaches never seem to mind when a program is losing out on coveted recruits or not winning games, but when it's the opposite that's when coaches get chaffed.
IF it all stems from one program going after another program's commitments, and this isn't the first time we've heard some carping about this within the Big Ten, I'm shrugging my shoulders on it. Welcome to the 21st Century, Big Ten. To paraphrase Dan Hawkins, it's D1 football. They're all competing for Rose Bowls and BCS bowls (at least theoretically), and even if Big Ten coaches are trying to be demure in their explanations, it all ends up reduced to he said/he said, gossipy semantics.
This all feels a lot like the laments about negative recruiting and how coaches spin that they really don't do it, when they essentially all do. The upshot: it only adds to the intrigue when we actually get back into the games.
A final point about this: One thing that has happened in the aftermath of signing day is there really has been a lot of muddled reaction/grousing in comments made by coaches to both the media and/or booster groups that has gotten picked up and parsed around via social media, and in that process has created quite a combustible brew that has gotten lumped together. It's a big mess and been hard to keep straight about who said what about whom?
From @hogeandrew What were the most shocking announcements on LOI day?
Seeing five-star WR Deontay Greenberry, a long-time Notre Dame commit, flip to Houston on Signing Day. Just getting Greenberry to visit UH was something of a stunner considering how many bigger programs tried to sway this kid. But for Tony Levine's program to actually reel him in was THE shocker of the day. It wasn't even like this was a local kid UH was keeping home. It was a California guy, but the track record of the Cougars offense and the fact that they have to replace four prolific wideouts only sweetened UH's sales pitch.
From @bsu90 Do you think signing day has gotten out of hand?
You're talking to someone who just did eight-hours straight of live signing day coverage. I also spent two years of my life detailing the inner workings of the recruiting process a few years ago, and the whole thing has only gotten crazier in the five years since.
Out of hand? Yep, it is. And I, along with my brethren in the media would be kidding myself if I didn't own up to the fact that we contribute to the madness by covering it, and yes, hyping it. Often times, it seems like one big farce. Truth is, it is a huge business and because so many people are addicted to it, things only get more out of hand each year.
From @jeffriesj78 with Iowa's good recruiting class this year, multiple 4* and nice group of 3*, how high can we go next season?
From the coaches I've talked to over the past few months, the Hawkeyes landed a few really coveted guys with the athleticism to come in and contribute right away: RB Greg Garmon and D-lineman Faith Ekakitie, who one rival recruiter told me was one of the most gifted line prospects in the entire country. He and fellow DL Jaleel Johnson may be too talented not to get into the rotation, especially for a program that has lost five outstanding D-linemen in the past two seasons to the NFL.
Garmon and another RB signee Barkley Hill will get really long looks in camp because tailback is a big need for the Hawkeyes given the departures of Marcus Coker and Mika'il McCall.
In terms of Iowa's prospects in 2012, it sure helps that James Vandenberg is back. He's one of the more talented QBs in the country and had a strong first season as a starter, although he did tail off some in the final two games of the year.
Overall, I feel like this program may have lost too many key guys (on the O-line, Marvin McNutt) to be a top 15 team, but this is always gonna be a well-coached group and there is still plenty of talent to crack the top 25 IF the young guys can step into significant roles.
From @CarlBleich for Florida's big 3...was there a bigger recruiting get than Miami getting Tracy Howard?
FSU, UF and Miami each landed more than their share of gems on Wednesday. DT Eddie Goldman was cause for big celebration in the Noles war room, and Florida snagging Dante Fowler surely elicited similar in Gainesville, but I doubt either tops the significance of the nation's top CB, Tracy Howard opting to stay home and play at Miami. The two biggest reasons: First, Miami has been depleted at corner for the past two years. Second, it makes a huge statement for a program that has the cloud of an NCAA investigation hanging over it that appeared like it was going to scare off most local blue-chippers (outside of RB Duke Johnson) but in the end, that didn't happen. And Howard, a guy who sounded like a long-shot for Miami just a few weeks earlier, is major proof of the belief recruits have in Al Golden's program. Howard's statement is very big for the Class of 2013 as well, much as I would say Dorial Green-Beckham signing with Mizzou is for the Tigers in big picture sense because it tells future blue-chippers, Mizzou is "big-time."
From olemissking1977 How do you think Miss States class did, I live The Dline Mullen put together
It was a very impressive group. State landed arguably the top JC player in the nation in DE Denico Autry, who was chased after by half the SEC. Autry is a small-town kid and just loved the fit there. Starkville is the biggest place he's ever lived. DT Quay Evans, who's already at MSU was one of the top interior guys in the South. Evans is the typical, explosive D-tackle that has helped spark the SEC into the elite college football conference. One other coup was beating Tennessee, Stanford and arch-rival Ole Miss for Richie Brown, the top linebacker in the state of Mississippi and four-star talent Beniquez Brown, who was another hot commodity.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 2:20 pm
Since this is the first Tuesday Top 10 list of 2012, I figured I'd start with the topic that'll get broached the most between now and September: my preseason top 10. My colleague Brett McMurphy wrote about his too-early rankings last week, but some things have cleared up with more top underclassmen announcing their NFL draft intentions since then. Anyhow, here goes:
1. USC: The Trojans finished 2011 with a bang, ending Oregon's long home-winning streak and thumping rival UCLA. Better still, they were the biggest winner in the NFL underclassmen derby with star QB Matt Barkley opting to remain for his senior season. Yes, they lost stud LT Matt Kalil, but the rest of the O-line, which was pretty young last year, is back and now it's a pretty deep group. Barkley also has the best 1-2 receiving tandem in college football: rising junior Robert Woods is an All-American, and there are some inside the Trojan program who think rising sophomore Marqise Lee is already surpassing him. Curtis McNeal, a 1000-yard rusher, returns, so does the entire back seven, including standout DBs T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey and their top two tacklers Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, both freshmen in 2011. The D-line has some guys to replace, but does return three players with starting experience and a bunch of blue-chippers who redshirted. The schedule also breaks well: Oregon and Notre Dame, the two most talented teams they'll face, both have to visit the Coliseum. I realize that it probably seems foolish to list anyone other than an SEC team in the No. 1 spot, but if there's any college QB up for such an undertaking, it's Barkley, and he's got the weapons to pull it off.
2. LSU: I was tempted to have Alabama in this slot after the way the Tide dominated the BCS title game and especially after seeing how sharp A.J. McCarron was last week, but the Tigers were younger and have more key guys back. They also get 'Bama in Baton Rouge in 2012. As I wrote the other day, there is a lot of enthusiasm about Zach Mettenberger taking over the team, spurring the staff to open things up more. They're going to be loaded at RB, and despite the loss of DT Michael Brockers and CB Mo Claiborne, the Tigers are still stacked at both positions. The youngsters to keep an eye on: DT Anthony Johnson and redshirt freshman CB Jalen Collins.
3. Alabama: Nick Saban will have a legit shot to win his third BCS title in four seasons because he'll still have a stellar O-line and a proven QB (McCarron). Eddie Lacy is also ready to be a feature back. They will have to replace most of the defense, but there is plenty of talent ready to break out in the front seven, led by powerhouse DE Jesse Williams, who is still raw but an offseason of polish should make him a nightmare for SEC offenses. LB Xzavier Dickson is also a guy that has Tide coaches buzzing after a nice freshman year. They'll have a nice test in the opener in Texas against a good Michigan team. The bad news is they do have to go on the road to face the other two heavyweights in the conference: LSU and at Arkansas.
4. Oklahoma: Landry Jones is back after what had to be a disappointing season given expectations going into 2011. It certainly didn't help that OU lost its leading rusher (Dom Whaley) and star WR (Ryan Broyles) to injury near midseason. Jones has a good group of WRs led by Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds. They do have some sizable holes in the front seven to fill, but defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is back and that is a very good thing for the defense. The younger Stoops also has a lot of talent to work with in the secondary.
5. Oregon: Even though it was a stunner that QB Darron Thomas bolted for the NFL, his understudy Bryan Bennett is even a bit faster and a more accurate passer, and he showed some of those skills in midseason when he was forced into action. Bennett still doesn't have the seasoning in this system, but that should come, although don't rule out redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, a raw 6-foot-4 QB who may have even better tools for this scheme. LaMichael James also is gone, but with De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner, Chip Kelly still has so much speed at his disposal, you still feel sorry for rival defenses. The interior of the O-line returns intact, which is key, and safety John Boyett is back, along with LB Kiko Alonso, one of the stars of the Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin, to anchor the D. Interesting opener against Gus Malzahn's Ark State squad, but the real game to circle is when the Ducks visit USC Nov. 3.
6. West Virginia: After a tumultuous year, the Mountaineers kicked off 2012 in grand fashion, obliterating Clemson in the Orange Bowl by hanging 70 on the Tigers. The scarier thought is that QB Geno Smith and the bulk of those skill guys are not only back, but now they'll have added reps to get even better at the timing of Dana Holgorsen's scheme. Most of the O-line returns, and that includes standout Josh Jenkins, a three-year starter on the line who had to redshirt the 2011 season. Look out Big 12 (assuming WVU is cleared for take off in time). If not, brace yourself Big East because an ornery bunch of Mountaineers probably will be trying to hang 100 on everybody in that league on the way out the door. The thing keeping this group from being top-five caliber: WVU's D has some very good players to replace and respected DC Jeff Casteel also is gone, off to re-join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Still, the offense is so explosive they should be able to outscore almost everyone they face. Almost.
7. Georgia: The Dawgs won the SEC East thanks to an improved defense but still really didn't beat anyone of the caliber that you have to beat to show they're ready to overtake the powers of the SEC West. Losing to Michigan State in the bowl game didn't help either. However, there is still a lot of reason for optimism here. The defense returns almost everyone; QB Aaron Murray is very good; young WR Malcolm Mitchell is a budding star. Isaiah Crowell looks like he could be too if he can mature. The kicking game does have to be overhauled though. Maybe the best news of all is that Mark Richt's team has about as manageable a schedule as an SEC team can have, avoiding the top three teams of the SEC West and opening with four of its first five at home.
8. Arkansas: Bobby Petrino gets back star RB Knile Davis to go with Tyler Wilson, his gifted QB coming off a terrific first season. The defense, which has been shaky for awhile, has some very good players it must replace. And there is a new DC running the show. I do like that the Hogs get both Bama and LSU at home this year, but it's the D that still has me skeptical.
9. TCU: The Horned Frogs make another conference move. This one is their biggest yet, over to the Big 12 to rejoin some old friends. No doubt it is a step up in competition. Do they have enough quality depth to handle the attrition that figures to come with that? Well see, but I think Gary Patterson's program is ready for the move. In 2011, the Horned Frogs had as many key freshmen and sophomores contributing as just about anyone. QB Casey Pachall had a very good first season replacing Andy Dalton. Now, the question is, can Pachall take the next step as a leader to elevate this team even higher and do all of the detail stuff in preparation that Dalton was so good at? The physical tools are certainly there. He also has a good supporting cast led by standout WR Josh Boyce and a deep group of RBs. LB Tanner Brock is back from injury to anchor the defense along with big-play DE Stansly Maponga and a more mature secondary.
10. FSU: After the underwhelming season the Noles had following all of the hype they had entering 2011, I swore I wouldn't give in and allow myself to rank them in the top 10, so I had them at 11. Yet, here they are. This is something we in the media need to realize: The Noles are your preseason dirty addiction. They are that ex-girlfriend who still can put it together and show up at the other side of the bar and catch your eye. And then you give in, and not long after you feel foolish for it. Anyhow. Jimbo Fisher should have a nasty defense, led by a ferocious D-line. The O-line will be better with much-needed experience. Same for QB E.J. Manuel and a young group of receivers. They do have to go to Va. Tech this year and get WVU at home. Just Missed the Cut: Michigan, South Carolina, Ohio State, K-State, Michigan State.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 5:27 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 9:13 pm
Time for the last Friday mailbag of 2011. As always, send questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.
From @FormerlyAGuest Why are people down on Brian Kelly? Don't they remember ND getting boatraced by every good team in the Davie/Ty/Weis years?
It's the expectations that come with the place and also with the fact that he was a "proven" head coach, not a guy growing into the job. On top of that, there was a lot of hype that this team was ready to get to 10 wins (more than even the normal ND overhype that tends to come for the Irish) and get into a BCS bowl especially since Kelly cleared star WR Michael Floyd for the season. But aside from a big win over a good Michigan State team in mid-September, it was a frustration year for the Irish with them going 3-4 against teams with winning records. Quite frankly, it's hard to look at this team and say they are close to being a powerhouse. They're a far leap from where LSU and a few others are at this point. They have some gifted players. Just nowhere near the number they need to be a real elite team.
I still am convinced Kelly is a significant upgrade over Charlie Weis and feel like he will get the Irish back to being a legit Top 20 team consistently, but I would've thought they'd been further along at this stage. I figured, at worst, they'd win nine this season. Instead, they went 8-5, getting pushed around at home vs. arch-rival USC; weren't really close to Stanford and finished with a loss to an FSU team with a patch-work O-line loaded with freshmen.
I suspect some of the digs at Kelly stem from his sideline demeanor, framed by the cameras showing him berating players and getting so red-faced. Truth be told, he's far from the only coach who has ripped a player on the sideline. It's just now the spotlight on him is brighter and more cameras are on him. It also doesn't help his cause that his team had a maddening penchant for turnovers and Red Zone problems.
The upshot coming out of the 2011 season is that you don't the sense the Irish staff feel great about the quarterback situation going into Year Three. Tommy Rees didn't seem to make much progress. The jury's still out on Andrew Hendrix, and now they lose their best weapon in WR Michael Floyd and maybe TE Tyler Eifert. You'd think they should be better with the QBs with another year more seasoning (including strong-armed redshirt Everett Golson into that mix as well), but we'll see. They missed out on five-star QB recruit Gunnar Kiel, who had ND ties so it seems that Kelly's future for ND in the next three years is tied to Rees/Hendrix/Golson. We know this: Floyd won't be easily replaced. There are reportedly some talented recruits coming to South Bend, but we'll hold off getting too fired up on that front too since we hear that every year with them.
The bright side: I do like what I see from the defense, especially in DE Aaron Lynch and the young linemen, but on the other side of the ball, it's shaky. Worse still, it seems like their two arch-rivals, USC and Michigan, are surging upward and primed for big years in 2012.
From @abellwillring EJ (Manuel) didn't perform at the level we hoped this yr but looked very good in the clutch last night. Do you think he'll build off it?
I do expect him and the Noles to build off that come-from-behind win over Notre Dame Thursday. I was impressed by the way Manuel kept battling after taking a pounding in the first half. The young FSU O-line looked really shaky but settled down in the second half. The other thing to really like about the outlook for the Noles offense is that two of Manuel's best targets are freshmen, WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary.
Still, I suspect expectations will be kept in check somewhat because in recent years there's been so much hype about the Noles being back, and time and again, they've underwhelmed for one reason or another. Pollsters will be gunshy to buy them, I think. They'd have to be, no? No!?? I mean they seemed good on paper going into this year and still lost games to Wake Forest and UVa, among others.
From @NakedShort11 Can Weis turn KU around?
It's never smart to speak in absolutes when it comes to these things, but I don't like his chances to turn Kansas into a top 20 football program consistently. Or even close to that. He takes over a very bad team that was so far away from being competitive, that just getting them to a mediocre bowl game is going to be an uphill battle.
Weis' rep for developing QBs will help, and it's obviously helped him land former ND quarterback Dayne Crist and ex-BYU quarterback Jake Heaps (both were top recruits but had struggled before losing their starting jobs.) I expect them to get better on offense, but it's the defense where they've been spectacularly inept, and Weis never was able to get a defense going in South Bend. And I just don't see him having the recruiting cache to get enough playmakers on that side of the ball to contend with OU, OK State, Texas and now TCU and WVU. His staff recruited well at Notre Dame, but that was ND, not Kansas, and his profile doesn't carry as much juice as it did when he arrived in South Bend. Kansas football doesn't have the appeal that Notre Dame does and Weis was more of a big deal 5-6 years ago then he is after fizzling out at ND and having a mediocre season in Florida. I suspect his pitch will play well to QBs and tight ends, but won't get blue-chippers at other spots that fired up, compared to some of those other Big 12 schools.
Mark Mangino did a really good job at KU. He left there with a 50-48 record and won three bowl games, including a BCS bowl. I'll be very surprised if Weis leaves there with as good a winning percentage.
From @melesse Wondering where you stand on Dooley's decision to not give freshman WR Arnett his full release?
First, some background on what has become a messy story involving a former four-star prospect in last year's recruiting class at Tennessee: A UT spokesman says Arnett, a Michigan native who wants to transfer closer to home, is not being denied the opportunity to play at the FBS level. The school also has a policy of not releasing players to schools the Vols play against or "recruit against". O.K., that last part is interesting because you could say that would stop them from any school in the country if the want to stretch it that way. After all, guys like Arnett are "national" recruits and therefore the Vols had to beat virtually everyone to land him. Anyhow, Arnett says he wants to transfer closer to home to be near his ailing father, but some of the schools he's intrigued by--Michigan and Michigan State--Dooley won't release him to. Just MAC schools.
[If Arnett enrolls at a school Dooley won't release him to, he has to foot the bill for a year, which the kid says he and his family cannot afford.]
This is just the latest Dooley goof after a dud of a 2011 season. It's a PR nightmare. To say this isn't going to play well for Dooley is an understatement. By all accounts, Dooley is playing hardball with Arnett. The kid is clearly unhappy about something there. The guy who recruited Arnett to Knoxville, Charlie Baggett, the Vols receivers coach, retired after the 5-7 season.
If a guy doesn't really want to be somewhere or part of something, do you want that person around? I'd say no, especially if he's gone to the levels of this that Arnett and his family have. Then again, Dooley's got to be feeling the pressure after a dismal 2011. Fact is, stuff like this isn't going to make landing blue-chippers any easier for him. The kid is a talented receiver and would be a significant blow if he opts to leave. The Vols WR depth chart is already pretty thin. Dooley needs to show marked improvement in 2012.
Word is Arnett will make his decision by Monday. You have to wonder if the perception of Arnett going to a mid-major program closer to his home will compel the Michigan native to stick it out in Knoxville. I imagine that is what Dooley is hoping. I don't see Dooley relenting and releasing him to the big Michigan schools. Dooley's taking the PR hit already. I'm sure rival recruiters will remind prospects of this story a lot as long as Dooley is coaching at UT. Then again, with the moves Dooley has made, you chave to wonder if that'll be more than another year or two.
From @erik_gillespie Does Keith Price have any sort of NFL future? Or will the "not tall enough, arm strength not good enough" catch up to him?
He just finished his sophomore year and ended on an impressive note. Price has a good arm and very good feet. His size isn't good at about 6-feet, 195 pounds, but he'll get stronger and he is a guy who throws well on the move. He's as tall as Drew Brees, Mike Vick, Chase Daniel and a bunch of other QBs. Price also plays in a very good pro-style system right now. Sarkisian's staff knows how to develop a QB in terms of an NFL game. I'll be very surprised if in 2014, Keith Price isn't on an NFL roster as a back-up QB.
From @steakNstiffarms Ducks struggle when opp has >1wk to prepare, Wisc struggles w/ great teams away from Camp Randall. Which holds true on Monday?
Well said. For both of these staffs, as much as they don't want to acknowledge outside skepticism, you want to quash it as soon as you can because all of the questions that keep coming (about both issues you point out) can become distractions and push their way into people's minds. My hunch is Oregon will win. Part of that is because the Badgers are dealing with some coaching staff transition with Chryst getting the Pitt job, and things like that, always make life a little harder even if Wisconsin had to deal with it last year when Dave Doeren took the NIU job.
From @felimalipe RG III is a better college FB player than Cam Newton was?
I think both are fantastic QBs and franchise guys. Robert Griffin III changed the way people think about Baylor. He is awe-inspiring, on and off the field. He deserved the Heisman. Keep in mind, Baylor has one of the six worst defenses in college football this season. Four of those inept defenses were on teams that didn't win more than two games this season. The other team, Texas Tech, went 5-7. Baylor won 10 games. Baylor. 10 games.
That said, for one season, Cam Newton is the best college QB I've ever covered. What he did for Auburn and how he did it, when all of that scrutiny mounted, unlike anything any other top college football player has faced in the spotlight, was truly remarkable.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 11:58 am
We're just a few days away from the official start of bowl season and I'm pretty fired up about that. This week's Tuesday Top 10: the match-ups I'm most intrigued by:
1- BCS National Championship Game, Jan. 9: LSU vs. Bama: I realize many of you don't want to see a rematch of a game that didn't have a single TD the first time out. To me, Les Miles is always Must-See TV and I'm very curious to see how Trent Richardson does against the LSU D the second-time around. Also, curious what the Honey Badger does on a stage this big. Pregame
2-Rose Bowl, Jan. 2: Oregon vs. Wisconsin: Chip Kelly's team will try and end its little two-game BCS bowl skip against a physical Badger team. The Ducks have had a hard time against top teams who have had plenty of time to prepare for their scheme. Wisconsin comes into the the game with the nation's No. 6 scoring defense. Pregame
3- Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford: So, you're looking for a BCS bowl where you'll see plenty of offense? This is your game. OSU is No. 2 in scoring nationally. Stanford is No. 5. I'm very curious to see how Andrew Luck handles the country's most opportunistic defense (42 turnovers forced this season.) Pregame
4-Outback Bowl, Jan 2. Michigan State vs. Georgia: The Spartans got embarrassed by Alabama last year in the bowl after a strong regular-season and come into this riding a four-game bowl losing streak under Mark Dantonio. Are they good enough to make a statement for the Big Ten this time around? Pregame
5-Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29: Baylor vs Washington: If RG3 is playing, I'm watching. . . . Oh, and if you're looking for defense, this really ain't it. Washington ranks 99th in scoring defense. Baylor is 109th. Pregame
6-Orange Bowl, Jan. 4: Clemson vs. WVU: A pair of cutting-edge offensive minds in Clemson's Chad Morris and WVU's Dana Holgorsen. Both have QBs primed to get a jump on some 2012 Heisman hype, especially since each is working with gifted receiving crews. Pregame
7-Sugar Bowl, Jan. 3: Va. Tech vs. Michigan: I know both of these programs looked brutal in January bowl games a year ago, but I'm curious because of the match-ups: Bud Foster's D against Denard Robinson sounds like fun. Same for Greg Mattison's improved Wolverines defense against David Wilson. Pregame
8-TicketCity Bowl, Jan. 2: Houston vs. Penn State: Kevin Sumlin is already at A&M leaving his righthand man Tony Levine to get the Cougars ready for a very tough Penn State D, by far the best defense Case Keenum has seen all year. The Nittany Lions are No. 5 in the country in scoring defense and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency D. Pregame
9-Gator Bowl: Jan. 2: Florida vs. Ohio State: Hard to get excited about two 6-6 teams that have had such down years? Normally, that'd be the case, but given the Urban Meyer factor hanging over this game, you'd think there's a lot more pressure on Will Muschamp than on the OSU sidelines. Then again, how about the Buckeyes looking to impress their new boss? I'm in. Pregame
10-Champs Sports, Dec. 29: Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Two programs with rich histories who had duds of seasons amid a lot of lofty speculation. Winner can make the claim that they finished strong and were really "just a year away." Pregame