Tag:Oklahoma State
Posted on: February 28, 2012 12:41 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2012 11:29 pm
 

Top 10: The spring's most significant QB battles

Last year at this time, one of the more intriguing quarterback battles in college football was seeing which QB at Alabama would take over for the departing Greg McElroy. Turns out, the guy who won the job, A.J. McCarron, would help his team to the BCS title. It's probably a stretch to think that another first-year starting, scrapping to win some QB derby this spring will be able to lead his team to a national title, but you never know. This week's Top 10: the most significant QB battles of the spring in college football.

1-Oregon - Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota: Darron Thomas' surprising decision to jump to the NFL left a lot of folks scratching their heads. Some speculated that Thomas' move was prompted because he feared he might get overtaken in the spring by Bennett, who was impressive in his time playing while the Ducks starter was sidelined by injury. Thomas dismissed those rumors when I spoke to him a few days ago in Indy, saying there was no truth to them, and that he left because he was ready for competition at the next level. Thomas leaves behind an explosive offense with a dynamic group of backs and receivers, led by Kenjon Barner and budding star De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas praised both young QBs for their arms and their feet, saying both are good fits in Chip Kelly's system. Both are faster than Thomas and sources around the Duck program say both are more accurate than Thomas too. However, it's the experience and decision-making in this warp-speed attack that is hard to get a read on. Bennett, who completed 54 percent of his passes with a 6-0 TD-INT ratio and ran for 200 yards in a few games at midseason, is the favorite, but don't write off the 6-4 Mariota, a late-bloomer as a recruit, who has generated a lot of buzz among his teammates. He's seen as a guy who'll look to throw more than Bennett, we're told. This should be a legit BCS title contender if Bennett and/or Mariota are as advertised.

2-Boise State - Joe Southwick vs. Grant Hedrick vs. Nick Patti vs. Jimmy Laughrea: All Kellen Moore did was win more than any starting QB in college football history. But this program has proven to be bigger than one coach or one assistant or any player, but no doubt the four-year starter will be really missed. The guy was an all-time great. Southwick, a junior, who is about the same size as Moore, has been tabbed as the frontrunner by new OC Robert Prince. Hedrick is coming off knee surgery and also has been in the program for a while. The wildcard in this race is Patti, a shorter kid from Orlando with a very good arm and outstanding feet. Lots of coaches were impressed by his skills but just were turned off by his 5-11ish frame. He enrolled early and will be a factor here.

3-Notre Dame - Tommy Rees vs. Andrew Hendrix vs. Everett Golson vs. Gunner Kiel: The Irish should have their best front seven in years but how much more efficient can their offense be, especially without go-to receiver Mike Floyd? Rees has the most experience, but has struggled quite a bit and looks like he'll get overtaken this year. Hendrix saw some action last year as more of a change up because of his running ability. He also has a much stronger arm than Rees. As I've said a few times this off-season, Brian Kelly is sky high on Golson, a shorter QB from South Carolina, who redshirted in 2011. The 5-11 Golson, a dual-threat QB, could bring that much-needed spark to the ND offense. Kiel, an early enrollee, comes to South Bend with the biggest recruiting hype of the bunch, but several QB coaches who worked with the Indiana native last summer came away skeptical about how competitive he is and whether he has the moxie to be an elite QB.

4-Stanford - Brett Nottingham vs. Josh Nunes vs. Robbie Picazo vs. Kevin Hogan vs. Evan Crower:Andrew Luck arrived at Stanford while the program was among the worst in major college football. In his last two seasons, the Cardinal won 23 games. He was special. It'll be impossible to replace him. Stanford has a long list of guys vying for the job. Nottingham, a redshirt soph, is the frontrunner. I'm told he has the best arm of the bunch. He played in six games in 2011, although only threw eight passes. Nunes and Picazo are juniors while Hogan and Crower are freshmen. Coach David Shaw said at his pre-spring press conference he will try and divide reps in the first part of Stanford's spring session equally.

5-Wisconsin - Jon Budmayr vs. Joe Brennan vs. Curt Phillips vs. Joel Stave: Russell Wilson transferred in from NC State and had a terrific season for the Badgers. Whoever wins this job will have the luxury of a superb running game, led by Montee Ball. There will also be a new OC running the show with Matt Canada coming back to the Big Ten from NIU to replace Paul Chryst. Budmayr sat out last season with an elbow injury. If he's healthy, he'll have a good shot to win this job. Many figured he'd have been the starter had Wilson not transferred in and if Budmayr stayed healthy. Phillips, a former blue-chip recruit, has been plagued by knee injuries, offers good size and mobility despite two ACL injuries. There are two other names to remember for this vacancy come the fall: Bart Houston, a touted prospect from California who arrives in the summer and Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien, who is considering Wisconsin among several schools.

6-Oklahoma State - Clint Chelf vs. Wes Lunt vs. J.W. Walsh: Brandon Weeden leaves after the Cowboys had a fantastic season, just missing out on a shot to play for the national title. In two seasons, he went 23-3. Mike Gundy has said this thing is "wide open." The 6-1 Chelf is the only option that has played, throwing 69 passes in two seasons as Weeden's understudy. Walsh, a former blue-chip recruit, has been compared to ex-OSU standout Zac Robinson for his agility and dual-threat ability. But don't underestimate Walsh's arm. It's good too. Lunt, a lanky 6-5 early enrollee from Illinois, comes in with a strong rep as a passer. The staff wants him to bulk up, but he will get a shot to win this job.

7-Texas - David Ash vs. Case McCoy: The Horns should continue to improve after two disappointing seasons. They've had all sorts of problems trying to replace Colt McCoy since the UT great left Austin two years ago. It looks like it's Ash's job to lose. Last year, he was primarily a running threat. He was very raw as a passer, throwing four TDs and eight INTs. But he was pretty solid in UT's bowl win over Cal and that should give him some confidence to build on. Junior Case McCoy, Colt's younger brother, started five games in 2011 and will keep pushing Ash.

8-Florida - Jacoby Brissett vs. Jeff Driskel: The Gators have fallen fast since Tim Tebow left for the NFL. Charlie Weis spent one year in Gainesville trying to change UF from Urban Meyer's spread-option system. The results were not good as the Gator offense struggled mightily as an injury to upperclassman John Brantley forced the two true freshmen into action. Now new OC Brent Pease comes from Boise and inherits two big, athletic young QBs who have some game experience. Both have a lot of physical ability, but each needs quite a bit of polish and would be helped by improvement from what was a shaky O-line and inconsistent group of receivers. 

9-Auburn - Clint Moseley vs. Kiehl Frazier vs. Zeke Pike: Guz Malzahn left for the Arkansas State job and Scot Loeffler is taking over an offense that was 100th in total O in 2011. There were some rumors a while back that Frazier, who has known Malzahn since the 7th grade might be thinking of returning to his home state, but the dual-threat QB has dismissed that speculation. The sophomore is very talented. Moseley has the edge in experience and having started games at LSU and the Iron Bowl can't be overstated. This one will be curious to see how things develop under Loeffler. 

10-Texas A&M - Jameill Showers vs. Johnny Manziel vs. Matt Joeckel vs. Matt Davis: There is a lot of change going on in College Station as the Aggies make the jump into the SEC. With Kevin Sumlin bringing OC/QB coach Kliff Kingsbury, my hunch is that quarterback production is going to pick up over the next few years at A&M. What's really intriguing here is that three of these QBs are legit dual-threat talents with only Joeckel really more of a pocket guy. Showers, Ryan Tannehill's back-up, has a lot of talent. Keep an eye on Manziel though. He's only about 6-0 but something of a Texas prep legend. Manziel is a spectacular athlete who has a very live arm and is so athletic he can do 360 dunks.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 11:19 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 11:31 am
 

Friday Mailbag: Sizing up Andrew Luck

Time for the Friday Mailbag. As always, if you have questions, send them to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @nrwester anything to be said abt the fact Luck had 2 top-15-pick lineman at school? What happens when he see's pressure?

We see that the guy also has sub-4.7 speed and can run like an WILL linebacker and we'll see that he's about as savvy as any QB prospect coming out of college in a very long time.

Andrew Luck did have two very gifted O-linemen in front of him in 2011. It also should be pointed out that the other three starters were inexperienced guys. Here's a better point on Luck: He led Stanford to 23 wins in the past two seasons while his best deep threat was a tight end. Wait till Andrew Luck gets some wide receivers who can separate and make yards after the catch.

I think he is going to be outstanding in the NFL. People know he's gifted, but I'm not sure people really just how smart, accurate and athletic or big this guy is. I would never use the words "cant' miss" to describe any QB prospect, but Andrew Luck is about as close as you're going to get at making the transition to the NFL.

From @AHBick who's your pick to win the Big 12? Full disclosure, I'm wearing crimson shades

With both Landry Jones and Mike Stoops returning to Norman this year, Oklahoma is my pick to win the Big 12. I think Mike Stoops will provide a spark to a defense that hasn't been quite as salty as what it was during his first stint at OU. There is plenty of talent for him to take advantage of in the back seven. This is also a team that got rocked by injuries last year to not only a bunch of gifted players, but guys who were also leaders (Ryan Broyles and Travis Lewis for starters). That adversity may help them in the coming year with how the young players were tested.

I expect Oklahoma State to take a step back this year given the losses of their stars on offense. Plus Bedlam is in Norman this season. Baylor is likely to take an even bigger drop without RG3 and Kendall Wright. I'm not sure if K-State can be as successful just because the Wildcats won so many close games in 2011. It's hard to do that kind of thing two years in a row.

On the other hand, Texas will be improved. UT was so shaky on offense last year. There is a lot of good young talent there, but I'm skeptical they can be good enough at QB in 2012 to go from being a fringe Top 25 team to a legit Top 10 team.

The toughest competition for OU in the Big 12 race this year may come from the two newcomers. And the Sooners have to visit both WVU and TCU in 2012. Both have talented returning starters at QB with dynamic receiving corps. The Mountaineers probably will have the most explosive offense in the league and playing up there especially in mid-November is never easy. I still see OU as the most complete team in the conference though.

From @IceCoLD53 Ohio and ND are spread teams now. Is that helping UM recruiting for Hoke?

I actually think that has little to do with Michigan's recruiting success right now. The only real position where Urban Meyer's scheme would affect Michigan as it relates to recruiting needs is at QB, and the Wolverines got a commitment from Shane Morris long before the Buckeyes hired the former UF coach. Notre Dame just signed a QB, Gunner Kiel, who is no running quarterback. In terms of skill set, Kiel isn't much different from what Michigan is looking for now.

The big reason why UM is hot in recruiting has to do with the vibe of the program: The perception is the Wolverines are on the rise. They just won the Sugar Bowl. Everyone around the place has bought in that Brady Hoke is exactly what Michigan needs and he "gets" Michigan. The fact that they finally beat Ohio State only hammered that point home even harder. Kids and their high school coaches are excited about Michigan.

From @ChrisMonti Rutgers '12 outlook, one step back, then forward?

I'm not overly optimistic about that because the Big East is going to be so watered down, the perception is the conference is gonna be even less relevant. My hunch is it'll be that much harder for RU to compete with schools from the Big Ten and others when they go head-to-head on top talent around the Northeast. Can Kyle Flood do much more than Greg Schiano did? We'll see. It has become a tougher spot because of the conference's situation.

From @jlwdiggs does gunner Kiel already have the starting qb spot locked down for the irish?

I doubt it. As I said a few weeks back, Brian Kelly is sky high on redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who just seems to have that mythical "IT" quality, something this program has been lacking for a while.

It's never easy for a true freshman to come in and take over at QB. The issue with Kiel is, how does he cope with grinding away and competing for this job? If you heard California-based QB coach George Whitfield (the guy who trained Cam Newton before the draft and is working with Andrew Luck now) on our Signing Day Central show, he voiced some concerns about that after working with Kiel and other touted QB prospects at last summer's Elite 11 competition.

From @donniejonesjr What are the State of Alabama chances of keeping the BCS title for a fourth year in a row?

I'd categorized it as decent. Expect Bama to open the year in the preseason top four. The Tide's number of returning starters on both sides of the ball is relatively low, but they have some key guys back in emerging QB A.J. McCarron, coming off his strong performance in the BCS title game, the nucleus of the O-line and a quality big back in Eddie Lacy. Plus, you can never underestimate Nick Saban. He is that good of a coach. But I'm skeptical because they did lose a lot of proven playmakers on defense; they have to visit both LSU and Arkansas, and because it is just so hard to repeat in college football, the odds are really against them.

Auburn's chances, given all the staff turnover and inexperience, makes them too much of a long shot.

From @shockjay Who will have more wins next year: Kansas (Big 12) or Missouri (SEC)? 

Considering how awful KU was in 2011, I don't see the Jayhawks making that big of a jump in Charlie Weis' first season, although ND transfer Dayne Crist will give the offense a needed spark. Anything more than four wins is overly optimistic, though because the defense is brutal.

Meanwhile, their archrival does go into a much tougher league, but Mizzou returns a good, young QB in James Franklin and brings in the best WR recruit in the country in Dorial Green-Beckham. They should be even better on offense than they were in 2011, and they were pretty formidable on O, ranking 12th in total offense and 30th in scoring. We'll get a much truer gage on how the Tigers fit with the transition on Sept. 8 when Georgia comes to Columbia. The Dawgs have a strong defense and an experienced QB.

>I could see Mizzou 4-2 by the time Bama visits, but then the schedule gets thicker. My hunch is they can win seven games, but beyond that it's a stretch.

From @crsegar What would it take for Edsall to be fired after this season?

I've always thought that it's crazy to hire a guy and then fire him after just two or three seasons. You're just not giving the guy a chance to recruit to his system and establish his program. It does take time, and in some cases more than others. Now, if there is a scandal or NCAA issues, it's a different story in regards to how much room a new coach merits. And, for as bad as the Danny O'Brien transfer saga looks, it's nothing that some wins can't remedy from the Terps standpoint. 

You almost have no choice but to ride this out for another two seasons if you're Maryland. Randy Edsall's far from a first-time head coach. Maryland knew, or at least should've known what it was getting. Short of another 2-10 season, I don't see how they'd fire him, and even then, I'm not sure they'd pull the plug. Financially, it'd be such a hit for the school, but obviously thus far it's been disastrous but they're on the hook now and they have to give him a chance to turn things around.

From @Brad_Freeman What did you think of your trip to College Station, and your impressions of the new coaching staff?

It was a good day there. Kevin Sumlin's staff is one of the biggest reasons why I think he was such a good hire for A&M. My story from College Station will run on the site in a week or so.
Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:31 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:38 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Big Ten ready to flex muscle?


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: December 13, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 11:58 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Most intriguing bowl matchups

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



Posted on: November 14, 2011 12:37 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2011 12:54 pm
 

Is the competition for Keenum really that soft?

The question was aimed at the notion that Houston's prolific Case Keenum's staggering stats should not vault him over other top players in Heisman consideration. I have Keenum fourth, but things have bunched up considerably in the top six in the past two weeks with Trent Richardson and Andrew Luck both not producing grand performances on their big stages of the season. Meanwhile, the Cougars QB keeps producing jaw-dropping statlines, as does fast-rising Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden.

So I decided to do a little number-crunching in hopes of better sorting things out by seeing who is playing the weakest competition and who isn't. As expected, the Cougars' slate is quite tasty. They're averaging a nation's-best 55 ppg, but what is holding Keenum's Heisman candidacy back some is this: UH has played 10 games. The toughest defense they've faced was La. Tech, which is ranked 57th in scoring D. Seven of the 10 defenses were ranked 90th or worse. Yikes.

However, when you look at the other elite QBs it doesn't get much better. Boise State's Kellen Moore, whose Heisman hopes took a hit when BSU lost at home last weekend to TCU, has faced one defense in the top 40. That would be Georgia, which is 12th in the country. Six of the nine defenses Moore has faced are 70th or worse. Again, that sounds bad, but just how bad is it really?

Going up to the bigger school QBs, it actually doesn't get that much better. In fact, Weeden's competition, at least defensively, appears softer than what Moore has dealt with. Oklahoma State has only faced one defense in the top 40 (No. 28 Texas). Seven of the 10 defenses Weeden has faced are 70th or worse. Of course, you could argue, as I'm sure fans of from the bigger programs would, that since the teams in the Big 12 are facing better talent on a regular basis, their numbers would and do suffer since it's relative.

Andrew Luck also has only been up against one top-40 defense, and that just came last Saturday when his team got beat by Oregon (No. 33 in scoring defense). Eight of Stanford's 10 opponents are 83rd or worse statistically.

Despite the fact that he plays in the same conference, and has been lost a little in the shadow of Luck and NCAA sanctions, USC's Matt Barkley, whose numbers rival the Cardinal star, actually stacks up pretty well statswise: he's played four top-40 defenses (No. 17 Utah; No. 39 Cal; No. 27 Notre Dame and No. 25 Stanford). Barkley, though, has also had the luxury of facing four defenses ranked 102nd or worse.

Similarly, another QB of a two-loss team who seems to have drifted off the radar some is Wisconsin's Russell Wilson. Two recent losses by his team are the reason for that. Still, Wilson is on pace to shatter the NCAA record for passing efficiency at 201.6. (The record is by Hawaii's Colt Brennan at 186.0.) Wilson has faced three top 40 defenses, including two in the top 20. He's faced four defenses ranked 100th or worse, although let's say it's really five since he also beat South Dakota, a 6-4 FCS team.

Overall, I'm not sure any of this should torpedo Keenum's chances. As I said the other day, I think he at the very least deserves to be in New York for the Heisman ceremony. He and Moore have always seemed like default candidates: great college players, who will put up the big numbers but get pushed aside when the more high-profile players get their chances on the bigger stages. Usually, those big stars shine and make the decision easier for Heisman voters but in the past two weeks that hasn't happened.
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 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.
Posted on: September 14, 2011 1:05 am
 

Tuesday Top 10: Most exciting players in college

For those of you who had read my old blog, you probably remember some of the staples. One of them was the weekly Top 10 list. This week's version: The 10 most exciting players in college football.


1-Denard Robinson, Michigan, QB: He was spectacular last year, shouldering a staggering amount of the Wolverines offense in 2010. The offense has been revamped with the coaching change in Ann Arbor, but Robinson he proved, once again, how spectacular he is when he sparked Michigan's dramatic comeback against Notre Dame last week. In that frenetic rally, Robinson accounted for a mind-boggling 226 of his team's 229 yards in the fourth quarter. As amazing as that was, we have come to expect the spectacular from him. And this is why he is 'Must-See' TV no matter who the Wolverines play.


2-T.Y. Hilton, FIU, WR-KR: No longer the best-kept secret in college football, Hilton, who almost signed with WVU, promised that he'd 'take one to the house' the first time he touched a ball in a college game (he did) and he's been making big plays for the Panthers ever since. Just ask Louisville or anyone watching their Friday night game about this guy's burst. Hilton made a team from a much bigger conference look like they were high schoolers as he blew past them.


3-De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon, RB: Chip Kelly's big get out of Southern California has been a big name in L.A. football for years on the prep scene. Thomas had a rocky debut against LSU, but bounced back in remarkable fashion, burning Nevada for two plays of 60-plus yards in Week 2. I know that LaMichael James and Cliff Harris have done more, but it's Thomas and his blazing speed and dizzying moves who is generating some buzz as we just begin to get a sense of what he is capable of and how he'll be used there. He is going to be a scary weapon in Kelly's offense for the next few seasons.


4-David Wilson, Va. Tech, RB-KR: An NCAA All-American in track as a triple jumper, Wilson isn't just a little speed back. He's a 205-pound headache for rival defenses, having broken, by VT coaches account, 29 tackles in two games while rolling up 300 rushing yards. (I'll have much more on Wilson and Tech in the blog on Wednesday.)


5-Vontaze Burfict, ASU, LB: Arguably the hardest-hitter in college football, Burfict's battle to straddle the edge has been fascinating the past few years. He and his teammates have been prone to being self-destructive, but there have been some signs of maturation. Thus far this season, he already has four sacks in two games.


6-Justin Blackmon, OK State, WR: Not the fastest receiver, the 6-1, 215-pound Blackmon plays even bigger than his frame would indicate. A former high school basketball star, he is in the mold of Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant and just makes plays and big catches and looks unstoppable, toying with smaller DBs. His numbers in 2010 were fantastic: 111 catches, 1,782 yards and 20 TDs.


7-Lamar Miller, Miami, RB-KR: A decorated prep sprinter, Miller doesn't look like he's slowed down since muscling up to 216 pounds this offseason. He was a blur when he bolted through the Maryland defense for a 41-yard touchdown run in UM's opener. In the past year, Miller has learned to be more than just a speed back, becoming more patient as a runner since he now knows he'll get plenty of carries and doesn't feel like he has to hit a home run every time he touches the ball. He's also a dangerous kick returner and is #3 in the nation in all-purpose yards per game at 222.


8-Greg Reid, FSU, CB: A little guy who packs a wallop, as South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore learned in the bowl game last year when the 5-8, 186-pound DB blasted the 235-pound back. Reid picked off three passes last season and was one of the ACC's best return guys too.


9-Kendall Wright, Baylor, WR: Robert Griffin is Baylor's Heisman contender, but Wright is his go-to guy and quite a spark. The 5-10, 190-pounder who has the frame of a tailback and sports a 42-inch vertical, ate up Gary Patterson's TCU D in the opener for 12 catches and 189 yards and two TDs. The former Bears basketball player, a high school QB, also connected on 2-2 for 55 yards as a passer with one TD throw.


10-Chris Rainey, Florida, RB: I was tempted to go with Tennessee's freakish young 6-5 wideout Justin Hunter here, but I'll go with Charlie Weis' new toy. Rainey and his buddy Jeff Demps give the new Gator OC more speed than he's ever had to work with. In two weeks against a pair of overmatched opponents, Rainey is averaging over 7.3 ypc and 99 rush yards per game.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com