Tag:Tennessee
Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 5:08 pm
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Mailbag: Urban's smooth transition to the Big Ten

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS. 

From @Feldyman15 Urban Meyer is a proven winner, however does his style of offense translate to the B1G? Will it be a smooth transition?

Nice to see a question from my favorite former FCS star football player. Meyer's had success everywhere he's been. He's proven he's willing--and capable--of tweaking his offense to suit the personnel he inherits. He's not rigid.


The key thing about him taking over in Columbus is the most important component to his system that he inherited (the dual-threat triggerman) happens to be an ideal fit for what Meyer loves to do. As I wrote a while back when Meyer got hired, he's been sky high on Braxton Miller since long before he took the job. That said, Miller's still a young QB and there are bound to be growing pains. A bigger challenge will be that OSU has to replace three very good O-linemen and there are no proven wideouts to rely on. There will be some rocky moments, but I expect this to be a top 25 team, in part because of Miller's talent, in part because of some playmakers on a seasoned defense and because Meyer's a great, not good, coach.

From @NYWolverine2 Do you think Urban Meyer's spread will work in the B1G since RR failed?

First off, RichRod's problems in the Big Ten weren't because of his offense. In his final season in Ann Arbor, when he finally had many of the pieces in place to run his system, the Wolverines were eighth in the nation in total offense (and first in the Big Ten). Rodriguez isn't still in Ann Arbor because he never got the right defensive coordinator.

If Meyer's system worked in the SEC, it can work anywhere. And if anyone's going to suggest that because of the challenges a program's defense faces on a daily basis at practice because you own offense, like Rodriguez hinders a D's development, keep in mind that Meyer's former defensive coordinator at Florida was Greg Mattison, the guy who has made the biggest difference in Brady Hoke's success at UM.

On top of that, Meyer is riding such a wave of good energy right now since he was hired. He is killing it in recruiting and finished the 2012 class with a flurry. And that heat is only intensifying. Earlier this week, OSU got a commitment from one of the top O-line prospects in the midwest, Evan Lisle, who picked the Buckeyes over, among others, Alabama and OU. Meyer already snagged a five-star guy in Cameron Burrows and Jalin Marshall was another Ohio kid who virtually everyone was after.

From @BrianTrageser What offense are you most excited to watch in 2012?

There are so many intriguing dynamics to look forward to this fall. The ones that most jump out at me as I went through a list of schools alphabetically via conference:

Clemson: Year Two for Tajh Boyd, Chad Morris and Sammy Watkins.
FSU: Can E.J. Manuel and an impressive group of young receivers live up to expectations.
Kansas: Curious how Dayne Crist and Charlie Weis will do reuniting in Lawrence after dismal 2011s.
Texas A&M: Kliff Kingsbury's system is very different from what Mike Sherman ran and the Aggies do have the luxury of an excellent O-line.
WVU: Similar to the Clemson team they destroyed in the Orange Bowl, this could be an even more explosive attack with an off-season of added reps and improved timing.
Ohio State: Urban Meyer loves Braxton Miller and probably has some wrinkles ready to break out on the rest of the Big Ten.
Penn State: Bill O'Brien had a lot of success with the Pats offense (then again, who doesn't?) and now gets a chance to fix the shaky Penn State QB situation.
Boise State: Life after Kellen Moore?
Arizona: RichRod inherits a QB (Matt Scott) who is a pretty good fit for his system.
Oregon: Because Chip Kelly's still there and he's got a gobs of speed.
Stanford: Life after Luck?
USC: Matt Barkley's back for his fourth year as a starter with most of the line in tact to go with two superb WRs and a 1.000-yard runner.
Washington State: Leach's offenses have always produced and there might be some Pistol flavor to spice up the Air-Raid. He inherits two capable QBs, one outstanding WR and a very suspect O-line.
Tennessee: They have a lot of thee-year starters and should throw for a bunch of yards.
FIU: Cristobal hired a Chip Kelly disciple from New Hampshire.
Hawaii: Norm Chow goes home to run his own show.

From @eric_hise Will Mack's reach into JUCO ranks pay off?...side note, look forward to seeing u n the ATX for SXSW!

From what I heard via coaches who tried to recruit those JC linemen, those guys should help boost what has been an underwhelming group over the past few years and provide depth on the D assuming they can grasp Bryan Harsin's system and Manny Diaz' scheme. That's one of the big mysteries with bringing in JC guys.

The Horns, though, have a couple of gifted, physical young backs, so I expect to see a big improvement in this running game. The thing most holding UT back from being a legit Top 10 team is a consistent passing game. My hunch is David Ash will be a lot better than he was in his first season, but this program is probably a year away.

I am also looking forward to getting to Austin for SXSW. (I tweeted earlier this week that I will be speaking there on a panel covering sports reporting and Twitter a week from Monday.)

From @Draft_Hub Top 5 exciting players for 2012

Three players immediately came to mind: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, Michigan's Denard Robinson and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu. I was torn for the last two spots between Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, Wisconsin's former walk-on phenom Jared Abbrederis and WVU's Tavon Austin.

From @JohnHanson20 Does WVU have a legit shot at a Big12 title next year?

In terms of firepower and offense? No question. They have a legit shot because their offense is going to be so explosive, but I have my doubts whether they'll be good enough on D to overtake an Oklahoma. The team lost three of its best players off of what was a very average defense that ranked No. 61 in scoring. Jeff Casteel was a well-regarded DC and he's gone, off to join Rich Rodriguez in Arizona. The new defensive staff is younger and there's more uncertainty.

From @SlickOne716 Is WVU canceling of their game at FSU really going to hurt FSU's chance at the National Championship?

No. With FSU, it's not going to be about having enough impressive opponents. If FSU won out last year, the Noles would've been playing for the title. The pollsters are just salivating at that chance to say the Noles are back, but the team, of late, has had the tendency to shoot itself in the foot a time or three. 

There's no doubt the non-conference schedule took a hit with them having to replace WVU with Savannah State, but at least UF is still on there with a road game at USF. There are a lot of top 25 teams that have a lot worse than that. FSU does need a few ACC programs to get out to fast starts and look viable (Clemson? Va. Tech? Miami?). It'd also help their cause a lot if the Gators knocked off a few top 25 SEC teams before they visited Tallahassee.

From @loubega1 how close is Notre Dame to fielding a dominant defense? Are there enough playmakers in the secondary?

It has been such a long time since the Irish have had a really good defense, much less a dominant one. I would say last season there were were only two truly dominant defenses, LSU and Alabama. Notre Dame is not close to what either of those teams had or did. Those teams were overflowing with playmakers, not just the starters by all over their two-deeps.

In 2011, the Irish made some strides, ranking 30th in total D and 24th in scoring defense. The downside was they were only 59th in sacks, 77th in tackles for loss, and worst of all, forced only 14 turnovers in 13 games. Only one team in all of the FBS that played in a bowl game forced less turnovers (Fresno State).

It has been years since ND has had the type of size and athleticism it has now in its front seven, but many of those guys are still pretty raw. Aaron Lynch, Prince Shembo, Ishaq Williams, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix need to mature fast and become more consistent. What is more a concern, as you point out, is their secondary. They had a lot of experience back there in 2011, and those guys just struggled to make plays on the ball. And many of these guys came to ND as celebrated recruits. We'll see if they can get it sorted out. Until that happens and the younger D-line guys show they can be consistent, they're still a bit away.

From @NMStefan can Illinois ever really recruit consistently good due to their geography with Northwestern and Notre Dame so close?

They should be able to but so much of that is on the new staff and the relationships they develop with the local high school coaches. Ron Zook's staffs landed more than their share of blue-chippers but many tended to be from outside the state. It's not Notre Dame and Northwestern that are the biggest thorns in the Illini's side in terms of in-state recruiting. It's Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Ohio State. And in terms of the 2012 recruiting class, it was Auburn that snagged arguably the top in-state prospect in OT Jordan Diamond.  Just in 2012, Iowa landed four of the top 10 players. That has to change with the new staff.

From @JDubs88  Would you agree that Spencer Hall and Jason Kirk need a little more sun?

I don't think so. I'm not sure tan works with corduroy. It's kinda like mixing ascots and mullets. I think I learned that in one of my classes in junior college.
Posted on: February 27, 2012 12:59 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Dontari Poe: More than just a Combine Freak?

Every year one prospect lights up the NFL combine by putting on a dazzling showing as the Freak of all freaks. Monday, Dontari Poe, a 6-4, 346-pound defensive tackle from Memphis, was That Guy. 

We've been touting Poe for a year or so now after being told about him by a Memphis staffer of his staggering athleticism. The guy squats over 700 pounds, bench presses over 500 and power cleans over 400, all jaw dropping numbers, but he's more than just weight room powerhouse. He was also a Tennessee state champion shot putter in high school, a testament to some of that explosiveness.

As expected, Poe was impressive in the weight room in Indy, benching 225 pounds 44 times, more than anyone else at the combine. But it was when he dug his cleats in to run the 40-yard dash Monday morning when jaws really dropped. Poe was unofficially timed at an unheard-of 4.87 seconds. And this was as the fourth-heaviest defensive linemen to weigh in at the Ccmbine since 2000. Later, the league announced his official time was 4.98, which is still remarkable for such a mammoth athlete.

Some immediately wondered if Poe is just a "workout warrior"? After all, he only was named to the second-team All-Conference USA team in 2011 with 33 tackles, eight TFLs and one sack for the nation's No. 115 defense. The year before, he was just an honorable mention all-league pick.

In truth, it's tricky to try to read too much into the stats of an interior defensive lineman. Poe, as one college coach who faced him this year pointed out to me Monday, was not surrounded by much talent. You shaped your game plan around him, the coach said. Plus, different defensive scheme dictate how "productive" certain D-linemen can be. Steelers star nose man Casey Hampton's been to five Pro Bowls and he barely registers on the postgame stat sheet.

I spoke to a veteran O-line coach who faced Poe several times during his college career. His take: "He's probably the best talent I've seen in several years. He took plays off and wasn't a great effort guy, but he is a freakish talent."

But don't all 320-plus pound D-linemen take some plays off?

"Yeah," said the coach, "but he took off more than most. He did get better last year than he was the year before. He just was never that productive, but I heard they didn't require him to do that much. He was definitely someone I took into account with schemes. ... I'm not at all surprised to hear that he's blowing up at the combine at all. He was never on the ground in college."

That last detail may actually be just impressive as the speed Poe displayed Monday, because as the O-line coach said, it shows the guy's great balance.

"It's the first thing I look at in recruiting linemen.

"He has definite first-round talent."
Posted on: February 21, 2012 2:17 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:29 pm
 

Top 10: Best bets to put on combine freak show

The NFL combine kicks off this week, meaning it's time for the league's annual freak show. This week's Top 10: The former college players with the best shot of lighting up Indy with their testing numbers. (Note: A few guys I had considered for this list, such as Stanford TE Coby Fleener, I didn't include because it has been reported that he is not working out in Indy. In Fleener's case that is due to an ankle injury.)

1-Robert Griffin III, Baylor, QB: The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner proved over the past year he's a lot more than just a guy who happens to have world class speed as a hurdler. RG3's exploits as a college QB are now well-documented. Griffin not only blossomed as a quarterback, often doing his damage as a pocket passer but he also has filled out quite a bit since coming to Waco and is a solid 6-2, 220. However, he still has wheels like few others at any position. QBs, especially ones with arms like Griffin has, almost never run sub-4.6s in Indy, RG3 should blow that away. Earlier this week RG3 told Dan Patrick there's a possibility he will go sub-4.4. Given his track credentials, it'll be surprising if he doesn't.

2-Zach Brown, UNC, OLB:
There will be many bigger linebackers in Indy but none faster than the Tar Heel. Brown is amazing athlete. Before arriving in Chapel Hill he had a 29-0 record as a prep wrestler with 17 pins. He also ran for over 1,500 yards as a high school senior. In his first time running the 40 as a Tar Heel, he started coaches by clocking a 4.28.

Brown has spent the past six weeks in South Florida working out with trainer Tony Villiani, who says the Tar Heel "will be bigger than people think he is. He's not going to be that small weakside linebacker. The goal is for him to be low 4.4s or under. People know about his speed but normally guys who are that fast hey may not be as agile too. People who watched him at the Senior Bowl know he's both."

3-Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB: The former 'Bama star has it all: size, power, moves and sprinter's speed. Pound-for-pound Richardson, who has benched almost 500 pounds and cleaned almost 400, might just be the strongest player in Indy. Don't be too surprised if he also proves to be one of the fastest and most explosive too.

4-Tommy Streeter, Miami, WR: After a few years of teasing 'Canes staff with his potential, the 6-5, 216-pound junior had a breakout season in 2011. Streeter opted to leave early after his one big year, and with his size and exceptional speed, he has the chance to shoot up draft board this week. Scouts don't expect to see a guy his height so fast, but remember he's been one of the fastest men in a very fast program from the day he arrived in Coral Gables. (Two other UM speeders, Lamar Miller and Travis Benjamin also could've made this list.) Those close to the UM program are expecting some big things this week from Streeter, who has a chance to shock scouts with just how fast he actually is. Last year's fastest man in Indy, DeMarcus VanDyke, a former Cane CB who got drafted by  the Raiders after he blazed the fastest 40-time at the Combine, told me a few weeks back that Streeter could duplicate his showing this year.

5-Janzen Jackson, McNeese State, DB: The former five-star recruit had some great moments as a Vol, but also was plagued by off-field issues at Tennessee. No one ever doubt his athleticism though. He finished his college career back in Louisiana at McNeese and will be looking to get back in scouts good graces with a big showing in Indy. Jackson's pre-combine workouts in Louisiana have impressed his trainer, former NFL player Wyatt Harris:
"I have trained some great athletes here at Sonic Boom. People like Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Tracy Porter, Jacoby Jones and Devery Henderson, and I have never had an athlete like him here," Harris told Houma Today. "He is the best athlete that's ever trained at Sonic Boom. His athleticism is freakish and his speed, quickness and ease of movement are at the very top of the athletic ladder. He applies all that athletic ability to the football field. He is just not a great athlete, but he can play a high level of football also. He is going to knock the socks off of these other safeties he tests against at the combine."

6-Mike Martin, Michigan, DT:
The former standout high school wrestler and shot putter has talked recently about besting Stephen Paea's 49 reps of 225 in the bench in Indy. Given Martin's rep in the weight room, it wouldn't be a shock if he did. Going into last season, he'd already put up impressive marks of benching 505, squatting over 700, power cleaning 430, hang cleaning 475 and run the 40 in the 4.9s.

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7-David Wilson, Va. Tech, RB: Everyone around Blacksburg has been raving about this guy's explosiveness for years. Some of that burst as well as his determination was evident in the 205-pounder breaking some 150 would-be tackles en route to rolling up almost 1000 yards after contact in regular season play in 2011. In training at Tech he's been clocked in the 40 at 4.29 and vertical jumped 40.5-inches, according to the school. Those kinds of jaw-dropping numbers often draw skepticism, but keep in mind this is also a guy who earned All-American honors in the triple jump. It's rare to see a guy broad jump over 11-feet in Indy, you'd have to think Wilson is primed to go long here.

8-Dontari Poe, Memphis, DT:
Another serious contender to put on a show when he gets on the bench press. Poe is a mammoth inside presence with surprisingly good agility, the 6-5, 350-pounder is a powerhouse in the weight room, having power cleaned over 400 pounds, benched 500 and squatted over 700 pounds.

9-(tie) Jarius Wright, Arkansas, WR:
The fastest Hog was also one of the most underrated receivers in the country. He has a good chance to create some more buzz if he can come close to the 4.27 40 time the Arkansas coaches say he clocked last spring. His times in the shuttles also could be head-turning.

9-(tie) Bruce Irvin, WVU, OLB-DE:
A pass-rushing specialist Irvin plays super fast. According to some of his teammates, he also times that way too. They swear he can run a sub-4.4 at 235 pounds. The question is how much heavier will he been in Indy and has he retained that speed?



Posted on: February 10, 2012 12:50 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: The state of Penn St recruiting

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 3, 2012 3:14 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Drama in the Big Ten

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.”


One issue Bielema would talk about—and it’s perfectly legal under current NCAA rules—is Meyer’s recruitment of players who already had given verbal commitments to other Big Ten schools. It has been a longstanding “gentlemen’s agreement” in the league that coaches wouldn’t recruit players who had publicly given commitments to schools.



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 13, 2012 1:37 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 7:55 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Mettenberger's Maserati

Time for the Friday mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @PatrickSmith45  I keep hearing how good Zach Mettenberger of LSU is. If he was that good wouldn't he have pushed for playing time this past year?

The vibe around LSU right now is really, really intriguing. The Tigers were so close to punctuating one of the great seasons by a team, but then get dominated by Alabama in their own backyard. LSU's offense was atrocious. Before the game, whenever someone asked me where LSU would rank with the all-time great teams, I tempered my answer because for as outstanding as they were on defense and special teams, their QB play was nowhere near that level, and on Monday night, it really showed.
 
That said, almost everyone I talked to last week sounded convinced the Tigers were in the midst of a great run considering that they have so many key guys in the program who are freshmen and sophomores. They had 16 players on the two-deep, including seven starters who were sophs or younger. People knew they'd likely lose Mo Claiborne, their superb CB, early to the NFL. Both QBs were playing their last game Monday as well, but you have to wonder if that's such a bad thing given how the showing in the BCS title game. Jordan Jefferson looked completely lost and his back-up Jarrett Lee didn't even inspire enough confidence in his coaches to bail them out when things looked so bleak.

No one has ever questioned one-time Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger's arm, and after a season at Butler County CC in Kansas, where he had a 32-4 TD-INT ratio, the expectations around the 6-6, 230-pounder only grew. Many of the people inside the program are sold. 

I spoke to Mettenberger and his teammates a lot a few days ago about how LSU goes forward after the BCS game.  Mettenberger said he'd hoped he could've getting a shot at the starting QB job in 2011, but "Coach Miles didn't see it that way," he said. "It was tough at first but I couldn't get upset as long you're winning."

Mettenberger said he could hardly wait for Tuesday (the day after the BCS title game) because "that's when it's my team.

It's gonna be like getting a Maserati when you turn 16. I really think our offense can be special."

Obviously, the Tigers offense looked anything but special against Alabama the other night. Give a lot of credit to the Tide for that, but also there has been plenty of finger-pointing going on in the state of Louisiana. And, if you follow (former?) LSU WR Russell Shepard on Twitter, you see it's not just fans and media (and parents of Tiger players) doing it. Maybe Mettenberger will instill enough faith in his coaches to change that.

Listening to WR Odell Beckham Jr., one of those gifted young players in the program, that is the hope. "Me and Zach always talk about next year," Beckham said last Friday. "Zach wants to break a lot of records. 
 

"One of the things I really about him is he's not afraid to take a risk. He also really does have a cannon for an arm."

Mettenberger said he's learned to become more of a passer than just a thrower. "I used to 'juice' everything." He also said he's realized he has to be quicker with his decisions thanks to his time on the Tigers practice field this year. "If you're a split-second too late on a timing route, (Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu) are gonna jump it."
 
As for the off-field issues Mettenberger had at Georgia, he said he's "changed my ways of life. You gotta learn to grow up."

We'll see if he is the answer for LSU in 2012. If not, there's dual-threat redshirt freshman Jerrard Randall, who Beckham says has an even stronger arm than Mettenberger, and blue-chip recruit Gunnar Kiel, arguably the No. 1 QB prospect in the country.

From @BruCam87 What can we expect out of Mora and UCLA next year? The talent level seems to be higher than any PAC 12 South team except SC. 

That's been the problem with the Bruins over the past two, three, 10 years or so. The talent "seems" pretty high. They have loaded up on guys who look the part, but they've gotten bogged down by landing too many guys who simply don't love football and aren't as competitive as you need to have an elite program. 

When I visited with Jim Mora a few weeks back he told me he was determined to make this a tougher team. If that's Mission No. 1, that will help right away, but a lot of that also will come back to recruiting and bringing in tougher, hungrier kids. 

What you had in 2011 was a team that was really mediocre on both sides of the ball. I suspect new OC Noel Mazzone will improve the offense because his scheme will be a better fit to the talent than the pistol has been. It'll also help getting back stud LT Xavier Su'a-Filo from the LDS mission after two years away. This program has been so thin on quality O-linemen and Big X is the best that has been on that campus in a decade. And I do agree with you that, given all of the transition in the Pac-12 South, you won't have to be a top 25 team to finish second in that division.

From @hanleyf6 Sal Sunseri has accepted DC job at TN. Why leave Bama? Lots of uncertainty with Dooley's status and major rebuilding job. 

Sunseri's already won BCS titles as an assistant at Bama, and while he's well-regarded as a recruiter, if he can help spark the Vols' resurgence after a dreadful 2011 at a time when that program seems in disarray, his stock will sky-rocket. Even though, there is increasing speculation that if Derek Dooley has another season like he did in 2011 or even close to as bad, he won't be the coach at UT in 2013, keep in mind that Sunseri is getting a reported three-year deal that'll be worth almost $2.5 million. There is stability in that.

On the back side of Sunseri's decision is this: if he stays at Bama, Nick Saban gets most of the credit and Tide DC Kirby Smart gets basically what's left over. By leaving, Sunseri is positioning himself for a much larger spotlight.

From Irishsox05 Is college football ever going to move in the hash marks to match the NFL?  

Interesting question. Never really thought about it. The differing hash marks affect so much of the game in terms of scheming and the kinds of plays people run (wide-side versus boundary). It's also a big consideration for defensive "landmarks" for things such as plotting out coverage areas with the Cover-2, etc. 
  My hunch is the NCAA sticks with what they have because they'd like to keep things as unique for college and traditional as they can, rather than make another stop just to be more like the pros.

From @PaulPabst If we moved to a plus-one or playoff, best case scenario ... which season would it start?


It would start in the 2014 season with the Plus-One (playoff) games taking place in January of 2015.

From @RedKirby What's your prediction for Tx Tech next year? 

My guess is the Red Raiders will make a bowl game in 2012 after missing out this past season. Seth Doege is back at QB. He had an inconsistent year as a first-time starter, but he figures to be better with another year of seasoning. Getting RB Eric Stephens back after missing half the season with a knee injury also will help a bunch. It'll also be interesting to see what they can get from a crew of WRs who didn't play in 2011: Derek Edwards, Tyson Williams and UF transfer Javares McRoy. The O-line did lose some solid players and will see how new coach Sam Pitman can bring them together.

The biggest question is on defense, where the Red Raiders have been among the nation's worst on D for the past two years. They don't lose much to graduation and Tommy Tuberville reshuffled his staff with some more experienced coaches. I expect things to be better on that side of the ball. 

Big picture, this team should get at least seven wins since they have one of the better QBs in the conference and more experience in their top 44.
 

From @rbode17 Which of Florida's big 3 will have the best 2012 season? 


I'll go with FSU. They finished 2011 with the most momentum, have the QB who is furthest along (E.J. Manuel) and have the best defense. They also have the most stability of the staffs among the Big Three.


From @Kentuckyclem how come the national media does not cover or do an exposé on over signing in the SEC? Seems to be the common denominator...


The national media has covered that topic. A lot. You can Google it and all the times we've talked about it in print. Not to mention all of the times many of us have been asked about it on the radio or on national TV shows.


From @DavidAnderson89 how come u didn't choose the CBS hat off the table when u made "the decision"?

That hat stuff is so 2008. Tweeting it made more sense. ... Better question, how come a man of your stature, didn't do something creative with your decision, like picking a Colorado State ski hat over a Boise State ski hat and a Stanford beret? 
Posted on: December 30, 2011 5:27 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 9:13 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Getting a read on Kelly's ND

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 27, 2011 12:36 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 7:52 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: Year's best/worst predictions

Time to revisit some of our best and worst predictions over the past year, which will serve as a double-barrel Tuesday Top 10 list.

The Worst

1. Oklahoma to win it all: The Sooners did sustain some big blows to injury, losing standout LB Travis Lewis before the season and then top receiver (Ryan Broyles) and top rusher (Dom Whaley) later. Still, the Sooners lost at home to a four-TD underdog (Texas Tech) that didn't even get to a bowl game and then finished the season losing by 34 to rival Oklahoma State. OU ended up the season tied with Baylor for third in the Big 12.

2. FSU is back and ready to play in a BCS bowl: The AP poll went all in on FSU putting the Noles sixth in the preseason poll. I was even more optimistic last April, placing them third in a poll I turned in. Instead, FSU, went 8-4 and just 5-3 in the ACC.

3. Maryland could go 8-4: I saw the ACC's top young QB (Danny O'Brien), a quality RB (Davin Meggett) and four returning starters on the O-line and said that 8-4 "seems viable." Um, not exactly. The Terps were a disaster, going 2-10 with one win over an FBS opponent, and that team Miami was a shell of itself due to NCAA player suspensions.

4. Texas A&M is a top 15 team: I bought into the hype around the Aggies with Ryan Tannehill, some gifted receivers and backs and a more mature O-line. Things fizzled in College Station so bad that Mike Sherman lost his job as A&M fell apart in the second half of games and finished 6-6.

5. Gus Malzahn - the hottest assistant in college football: It wasn't a surprise that the Auburn OC saw the Tigers struggle mightily without Cam Newton and most of the AU O-line from 2010, but you had to figure he could've gotten in on UNC or even the Kansas coaching vacancies, no? No? A video of an interview his wife gave certainly didn't help his cause. Regardless, from here it looks like Arkansas State was very fortunate to scoop him up.

6. Nebraska is going to win the Big Ten: The Huskers beat two top top 15 teams - No. 11 and No. 12 Penn State (those were the rankings when they met), but still only finished third in the Legends Division and were also blown out twice, once by Wisconsin, 48-17 and once at Michigan, 45-17.

7. Notre Dame will win 10 games and make the BCS: Once Brian Kelly signed off on embattled star WR Michael Floyd not missing any games, I figured the Irish had more than enough firepower to roll through their schedule. Trouble was, the team was far too mistake prone, committing 26 turnovers and had an underwhelming 8-4, going 2-3 against teams that finished with winning records this season.

8. At worst, Tennessee will go 7-5: Of course, it didn't help that the Vols lost QB Tyler Bray for half of the season and their best weapon, WR Justin Hunter for most of the season, but losing to that bad Kentucky team playing with a WR at QB to miss even becoming bowl eligible was indicative of a miserable season in Knoxville for the 5-7 Vols.

9. Clemson will struggle again and Dabo Swinney may be forced out: I figured new OC Chad Morris would help a lot but ultimately the Tigers would stumble too many times. Oh, they did have some problems in the second half of the season, losing three of their last five games but still thumped Va. Tech to win the ACC.

10. UCF would be a borderline Top 25 team: After watching the Knights win 11 games last season and beat Georgia in a bowl, I thought they'd have another strong season. So strong in fact that I had them as my No. 4 BCS bowl buster candidate behind Boise State, Houston and TCU. The Knights didn't even finish .500 in C-USA play, going 3-5 and 5-7 overall. They played six road games and lost all six.


The Best

1. Michigan will be a top 25 team this year: Brady Hoke inherited a team with 20 starters back and one of the top playmakers in the sport in Denard Robinson. Hoke was also smart enough to bring in Greg Mattison to shore up the defense.

2. Florida will not be ranked: I was surprised to see the Gators ranked in the top 25 given the fact that they had a dramatic transition in schemes and so much uncertainty on both sides of the ball. They also had to deal with back-to-back games against the best two defenses in college football, against Alabama and LSU. End result: 6-6, winning just one game in their final seven against FBS opponents.

3. Arkansas State will make a lot of noise in the Sun Belt: Well, I didn't buy that the Red Wolves were going to win the Sun Belt as ASU D-line coach Chris Kiffin told me they would before the season, but I bought in that first-year coach Hugh Freeze would lead the program to its first winning season since 1995. They ended up doing a lot more than that, winning the league and going 10-2.

4. Tony Levine -- fast-rising assistant coach: The former Minnesota wideout may never have been an offensive or defensive coordinator, but he's long been regarded as one of the top special teams coordinators in college football. He also had been a huge help for Kevin Sumlin in a variety of roles, so when A&M hired Sumlin, it shouldn't have been that big of a surprise that UH would turn to Levine, who has always been well-respected by those inside the Cougars athletic offices.

5. Mississippi State isn't a top 20 team: The Bulldogs lost a bunch of key pieces to their defense, in addition to DC Manny Diaz and that would be too much to overcome in the loaded SEC West. End result: 2-6 in SEC play.

6. Mike Locksley will be the first head coach fired this season: A brutal mix of on and off-field issues led to New Mexico canning Locksley before the end of September.

7. Georgia will win the SEC East: I wasn't sold that South Carolina, preseason No. 12, should've been the favorite in the lesser division of the SEC. I was sold that the Dawgs had the best QB, a good mix of young and old and the most manageable schedule (no LSU, Alabama or Arkansas) to emerge from the East. Of course, things got even harder for Carolina after standout RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury.

8. WVU to a BCS bowl: Despite all of the drama for this program in the off-season, I was pretty convinced Dana Holgorsen would spark a dramatic improvement for this team offensively. And, he did. They went from 78th in scoring last season to No. 19 this year en route to making it to the Orange Bowl.

9. Texas will be better, but not that much better: After going 5-7, Mack Brown made significant changes to the Texas coaching staff. I expected the moves to help but still was skeptical UT would be better than the fourth best team in the Big 12. They weren't. They went 7-5 and finished sixth in the conference but at least they were able to beat arch-rival Texas A&M. Then again, UT finished off the regular season with a loss to Baylor.

10. Urban Meyer to get the Ohio State job: Truth is, this one was pretty obvious. I floated that Meyer could be the next OSU head man at the end of 2010 before Jim Tressel was really in hot water. Then, once Tressel was forced out, Meyer became just about everyone's frontrunner for the Buckeye vacancy.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com