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Posted on: July 4, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Declaring some football independents on July 4

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Happy Independence Day everyone. It's been a remarkable 235 years but America is still going strong despite plenty of ups and downs. On the gridiron, it seems like Notre Dame, Navy and others have been independent of conference overlords for just as long. With BYU joining their ranks last week and in honor of the holiday, it's a perfect time to look at what programs could follow their lead and go out on their own.

While it's doubtful that any of these programs will actually pursue going independence in the near future, perhaps they could/would/should on second thought. Feel free to bring up some other programs that could go out on their own in the comments below.

Boise State

The Broncos have made quite the run the past few years, winning two BCS bowls and posting a remarkable three undefeated seasons. Boise State was originally a junior college who has, rather quickly, risen in the ranks from an independent in Division II to their current place in the Mountain West. Their wide-open style of play and ability to beat more talented teams has certainly earned them a national reputation and with that comes eyeballs. For example, last season's game against Virginia Tech earned a 6.8 overnight rating, making it the highest rated Labor Day night game since 1990.

From the Blue Turf to the trick plays, a lot of what has made Boise State football a national brand is due to the exposure they get on ESPN. For years they had several featured games on the network and, even if they were on late at night on the East Coast, people were at least able to see the games. Boise State is losing a lot of that exposure with the move to the Mountain West (with games on The Mtn. and Versus) in exchange for an increase in television revenue, which is expected to be around $800,000 a year based on the current conference agreements. If Boise State gets unhappy with the arrangement and decides to go independent, they could follow the lead of BYU. The Cougars recently signed a deal with ESPN to televise several football games with estimates putting the value of the deal at between $800,000 and $1.2 million per home game. As a program with a love-them-or-hate-them reputation that causes people to tune in, going independent might make sense down the road.

Florida State

If there's one team on this list that is actually familiar with football independence, it's Florida State. The Seminoles were conference-less from 1951-1991 prior to joining the ACC. In a curious twist of fate, the school was invited by the ACC to join their conference but were rejected by the SEC. Regardless, Florida State is aware of what it takes to be an independent and what challenges and benefits come with it. While most believe their relationship with the ACC is a good one, one never knows what will happen if another wave of conference realignment hits. The ACC is, mostly, a basketball-centric league and as winners of two somewhat recent national titles, Florida State is much more of a football school than the conference's other members.

Scheduling always gets tricky but Florida State has a long history of playing both Miami and Florida. Both games are usually big ratings winners so, like Boise State, the program would likely do well financially getting a majority of the television money versus splitting it with fellow conference members. Throw in nearby UCF and USF and the Seminoles could have nearly half a schedule from in-state programs alone. Add in a big name program, such as the one against Oklahoma this year, and Florida State could get back to being a much bigger draw nationally like they were in the 1990's. Of course, as with most Florida teams, they'd also have to win to stay relevant.

Oregon

The way things are going with the NCAA investigation into Oregon's football and basketball programs, it's likely more than a few Ducks fans have thought about leaving the NCAA altogether, much less the Pac-12. While the program itself hasn't seen much success on the gridiron outside of the past decade, there's one thing that lands Oregon on this list: Nike. The Beaverton, Ore., based company has already made the Ducks their featured program by ensuring they have the latest Nike gear and well over 160 uniform combinations (feel free to mix and match your own Duck uniform here).

The school already has an affiliate network of television and radio stations and it wouldn't be all that surprising if they teamed with Nike to get an actual cable channel going. Given what Nike has already done in the marketing sphere, the idea of "their" team crisscrossing the country might raise as many eyebrows in Indianapolis as it does in Eugene. At the same time, it's hard not to see the idea floated in Phil Knight's office at some point, is it?

Texas

Go ahead and insert your own Big 12-Texas joke here. If there was one lesson to be learned from last summer's realignment saga, it was that Texas is the major player in college athletics - and for good reason. The football program brought in the most revenue in the country last year with a staggering $94 million take and a nearly $69 million profit. If there's any program that could afford any initial financial hit from going independent, it's the Longhorns.

The program is also uniquely positioned (perhaps more so than anybody on this list) to head out on their own. The Longhorn Network will launch in late August and, with ESPN's backing, figures to expand the Texas brand into households across the country. Like BYU with BYUtv, having their own network already up and running would be a huge advantage over others that would be pondering a similar move. Schedule-wise, they would have no problem scheduling games based on the teams nearby and their draw nationally. Add in the fact that Texas is a large public school with plenty of alumni and fans across the country, and it's possible that football independence actually makes a lot of sense if administrators don't find the arrangement with the Big 12 to be working out.

USC

If you're making a list of things that a school should have if they're considering going independent, USC would have a lot of check marks next to their name. Lots of alumni all over the country? Check. Nationally recognized brand? Check. Traditional college football power? Check. Given the school's connections to Hollywood and Silicon Valley, it wouldn't be all that surprising if they were able to quickly move onto some unique and intriguing media options if they decided to pursue football independence.

The recent NCAA sanctions have certainly hurt the reputation of the school and the football program which might actually be one reason why the school decides to make the jump from the Pac-12 to join the ranks of rival Notre Dame as an independent. Plenty of alumni are not happy with the Pac-10's lack of support in their infractions case (unlike, say the Big Ten with Ohio State) and that cuts into some of the good will Larry Scott has brought with a new media rights package. The Trojans have plenty of history of going around the country and playing teams, why not a little more of that as an independent? The Pac-10 was known as USC and nine others during the run under Pete Carroll, so maybe the idea of separating from the bunch isn't too far-fetched.



Posted on: June 29, 2011 12:51 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 2:14 pm
 

Report: medical issue could cost Criner season

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's far too soon to panic, but Arizona could be staring down the barrel of a major, major blow to its 2011 hopes.

That's if you listen to Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen, who dropped this little bombshell into a piece about Canyon Del Oro High School's Pac-12 recruits (emphasis added):
[Wildcat running back signee Ka'Deem] Carey's availability somewhat offsets concerns that All-Pac-10 receiver Juron Criner might not be available for training camp in August. Criner's status for the 2011 season remains uncertain because of undisclosed medical reasons.
To reiterate how big a deal this might be (and how surprised we are to see a lead like this buried), Criner isn't just your average All-Pac-12 wideout, if there are such things. We're talking about the nation's seventh-leading receiver a year ago with 1,244 yards, a CBSSports.com second-team All-American, a first-round lock in next year's NFL Draft and the Wildcats' leading receiver a year ago by more than 30 receptions and 700 yards.

If Criner really does miss the entire 2011 season, this is a hammer blow for a team that's already struggling mightily with injuries. (How mightily? Try four different ACL tears.)

As for the likelihood of that scenario, as we said, the time for the wailing and gnashing of teeth from Wildcat fans isn't at hand just yet. But it doesn't look good. The Mercury News's Jon Wilner reports (in response to Hansen) that Criner withdrew from a recent ESPN "publicity tour" over what was termed a "family matter." He added this:
I heard last night that it’s not an injury, but it’s serious.
If it is, so are the offensive issues suddenly confronting Mike Stoops' football team.


Posted on: June 27, 2011 3:04 pm
 

iPac? Pac-12 Network could be all digital

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott topped the CBSSports.com Top 100 this year in large part because of his forward-thinking ability and business savvy. While people always assumed that he was a visionary, perhaps we were underestimating his ability to actually see into the future.

According to the always on top of things Jon Wilner of The San Jose Mercury News, one of the options for the soon to come Pac-12 Network is actually a "whopper" (his term, not mine, but accurate) of an idea that would skip a traditional TV network in favor of a non-subscriber based approach that would see the conference partner with tech giants Apple or Google instead of cable distributors like Time Warner, Comcast or Cox.

iPac anyone? GoogleTV-12? It's all on the table for Scott according to Wilner:

"Instead of turning on your TV to watch the Pac-12 Network, you’d turn on your computer (or tablet or mobile phone).

The drawback to this approach is that in the short term, the conference would give up the revenue that comes from subscription fees — it would rely on advertising alone for revenue.

But because of the $250 million flowing in annually from the Fox/ESPN, the league has financial flexibility — it can select the network structure that best fits its philosophy and long-term needs, even if that’s not the most lucrative near-term option."

Wilner also presents two other options for the Pac-12 Network and they are pretty standard: 1. Take an existing channel and rebrand it; 2. Start a new channel from scratch. Both options would take several million dollars in start up capital which might make the school presidents pause a bit.

In talking with several people in the industry and at the conference office, the most likely option is a combination of all three. This would involve taking an existing channel (such as league partner Fox Sports's Los Angeles-based Prime Ticket channel) and rebranding it, with new offices and studios in either Los Angeles or San Francisco and adding a large digital network component to complement it.

Regardless what form the Pac-12 Network takes upon launch next year, chances are it ends up being bold, bleeding edge and forward-thinking.

In other wards, expect Larry Scott's fingerprints all over it.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:42 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 10-3

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun.

We're now down to the nitty-gritty: Nos. 10-3 below, No. 2 tomorrow and our No. 1 unveiled Friday. Stay tuned.


10. JOHN MARINATTO, commissioner, Big East. Marinatto joined the Big East executive staff as senior associate commissioner in 2002, just in time to see the biggest shakeup in membership since the conference began football competition in 1991. Now, as the Big Ten and Pac-12 have shaken up the conference landscape with the expansion to 12 teams -- as well the ACC and Pac-12 recently negotiating lucrative multi-network media deals - the onus falls on Marinatto to bring the Big East up to par with the new standards of major conference football.

In his discussion with CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy, Marinatto made no mistaking that the primary driver of Big East expansion is the expiration of their current television deal with ESPN at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Beginning in September 2012, the Big East will have a 60-day exclusive negotiation period with the network. At that point Marinatto hopes to have expansion completed, and be holding all the attractive chips for a bidding war that will pay out the way it did for the Pac-12. TCU's arrival next season obviously holds the greatest national intrigue, as well as reaching a very un-Big East audience in the Southwest. But where will expansion stop? With the right moves, the league cound finally abandon its role as college football's BCS-conference punchline.

For now Marinatto insists that there is no model, and all options are still on the table. The only driving factor in the eyes of the conference is how will the addition of a certain team add value to television contract negotiations. College football is a big money business that networks will pay for, and after seeing the deal that Larry Scott got for the Pac-12 everyone will one a piece. But we'll get to Scott soon enough ... -- CP

9. LANDRY JONES, quarterback, Oklahoma. With Oklahoma being the popular pick to start 2011 on top of the polls, there's no arguing that quarterback Landry Jones won't begin the season as a Heisman favorite. But it's not just the visibility of being under center for the nation's No. 1 team: the junior-to-be has thrown for 7,916 yards and 64 touchdowns in his first two seasons in Norman. The formula will be pretty simple--the more games that Oklahoma wins, the more talk you'll hear of Landry Jones.

The Sooners offense has been an explosive one for as long as Bob Stoops has been at the wheel, and one that gives the quarterback a lot of toys to play with. Life is a lot easier when you have guys like Ryan Broyles, Kenny Stills and James Hanna to throw to. Still, Jones is the kid in charge of driving the car. He doesn't have a ton of room to improve this year, though he has thrown 26 interceptions in his career. If Jones can cut down on turnovers this season it will only boost his touchdown numbers, Oklahoma might never let go of that top spot, and Jones will be in New York this winter to pick up some hardware. -- TF

8. MIKE SLIVE, commissioner, SEC. If you thought for one red second someone other than Slive was the true ruler of the SEC, we hope you paid attention to the league's recent spring meetings. Slive proposed a "soft cap" of 25 signees per class, among other "roster management" initiatives designed to curb oversigning. The SEC's 12 head coaches voted against the proposal 12-0. But with the final decision in the hands of the league's presidents, the proposal passed anyway, the presidents voting 12-0 in favor. What Mike Slive wants, Mike Slive gets.

Well, except maybe a new television contract. The "no outs" nature of the league's current 15-year deal, signed three years ago, looks worse and worse as league after league (most notably the Pac-12) strike it rich on the open market and the Big Ten Network's revenues continue to grow. The SEC is hardly hurting for money, though, and it's Slive who has overseen the conference rise to five consecutive BCS championships -- spread across four teams, even more impressively -- even as its number of programs under probation has dwindled (pending a few open investigations, mind). The modern SEC might still be the Conference (former commish and BCS visionary) Roy Kramer Built, but Slive has done a masterful job of pressing its football advantages while pushing a handful of successful academic measures (like the oversigning legislation) to battle the league's win-at-all-costs image. If the SEC does make it six-for-six in 2011, its commissioner will no doubt get some measure of credit--and it's hard to argue he won't deserve it. -- JH

7. BILL HANCOCK AND THE BCS, Executive Director of/and championship cartel. Boo! Hiss! The BCS and Bill Hancock aren't the most popular topics amongst college football fans, but they are both incredibly influential in the world of college football. It's the BCS that helps inject more money in the BCS conferences, and is also a driving factor behind the conference realignment we've seen the last few years. After all, 2011 isn't TCU's final year in the Mountain West if they hadn't just finished two undefeated regular seasons and not gotten a chance to play for a title. Of course, while it's fun to rage against a acronym, it's also nice to have a face to go with that acronym.

Which is where Bill Hancock comes into play. No matter who you are -- a fan, a writer or the United States government -- if you present the BCS with a rational, well-thought and logical complaint about the BCS system, Hancock is the man you'll hear from. He'll be the guy telling you that you're wrong, and that the BCS is perfect. The BCS will then go about its business doing things the way it always has, and at the end of the season they'll determine who has the right to play for a national championship, and you won't. -- TF

6. JIMBO FISHER, head coach, Florida State. First Will Muschamp burned Texas to accept the job at Florida, then the recent Dana Holgorsen/Bill Stewart feud exploded at West Virginia. It seems like one of the only "coach-in-waiting" situations that has worked out recently was Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. After contractually getting the title in 2007, Fisher waited behind the legendary Bobby Bowden to take control of the powerhouse in Tallahassee. But in those last few years under Bowden, the Seminoles had slipped from being perennial national title contenders to perennially playing December bowl games. But that all seemed to change when Fisher took the reigns and delivered the Seminoles' first 10-win season since 2003.

Now Florida State returns 17 starters from that squad, and last year's backup quarterback E.J. Manuel steps in after leading the Seminoles to victory over South Carolina in the Chick Fil-A Bowl. Fisher's promotion also paid immediate dividends on the recruiting trail, with blue-chippers like defensive back Karlos Williams and running back James Wilder Jr. giving the 'Noles their strongest haul in years. (The 2012 class, incidentally, is already shaping up to draw consideration as the nation's best.) The pundits now have Fisher's team tagged as ACC favorites, and there is once again a major buzz around Tallahassee regarding Seminoles football. Fisher has demanded that his players understand what expectations mean. "Just because you're picked to win, they don't give you a trophy when the season starts," he explained recently.

The fast-talking Fisher will fill your ear with areas where his team needs to improve. He never gets complacent, and constantly asks more from his players. It was complacency that arguably played a major role in Florida State's fall from grace after the turn of the century, and now Fisher has a great chance to restore that dominance in 2011, in just his second year as head coach. College football's next true powerhouse could get its start here. -- CP

5. ANDREW LUCK, quarterback, Stanford. Luck finished runner up for the Heisman last season and many figured he'd be house shopping in the Charlotte area after dismantling Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Every NFL pundit was labeling him a surefire number-one pick and future Hall of Famer after watching him shred opposing defenses every time he dropped back. CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang called him the best quarterback and elite prospect he's ever scouted. With his head coach, Jim Harbaugh, headed to the San Francisco 49ers, many assumed he was a lock to bolt for NFL riches.

The architectural design and engineering major from Houston had other plans, however. He kept his Palo Alto address and announced he would stay at Stanford for his redshirt junior year to try and capture the inaugural Pac-12 title. He'll be gunning for the few Stanford quarterback records he hasn't already broken and look to get back to a BCS bowl as well. He's not just an accurate pocket passer, though; he can run and doesn't mind giving a shove to defenders if they end up in his way. It's good that he's mobile as two of the Cardinal's biggest challenges under new head coach David Shaw are replacing several starters along the offensive line and finding a few targets for Luck to throw to. Despite the issues on offense, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback is the prohibitive favorite to win the Heisman Trophy this year. He's got a lot riding on his heavily insured right arm in 2011, but with a manageable schedule and the fact that he's competed over 70 percent of his passes for his career, don't be surprised if the talented Luck keeps the Cardinal offense humming and the team in the national title hunt as well. -- BF

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4. NCAA COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS, punitive arm of legislative body, NCAA. The 10 members of the Committee on Infractions (COI) might be the most talked about group in sports that no one really knows anything about. Of all of the committees that make of the NCAA, the group may also be the most infamous, meeting behind closed doors and dishing out sanctions through press releases. It is this group that is tasked with being the grand jury, judge and jury for every school that comes before them and, in just about every case, has a school (and their fans) in considerable disagreement with their ruling. The members that made up the committee run the athletics gamut (three independent lawyers, three professors, three from league offices and one athletic department veteran at the moment) but all have some law or compliance background. 

The COI will be in the news a lot this year, as the off the field headlines in college sports have dictated. First up is Boise State -- battling the dreaded charge of "Lack of Institutional Control" for violations in several sports -- and Tennessee this weekend. The Volunteers' case is one many observers are looking at with a close eye due not only to the coaches involved (Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl) but to see how they treat a coach that blatantly lied to investigators ahead of their later date with Ohio State and Jim Tressel. In addition to levying scholarship reductions, bowl bans, probation and a host of other penalties, the COI has also started to hand out suspensions to coaches, such as the three-game suspension for UConn head basketball coach Jim Calhoun.

The committee is not bound by prior case precedent -- though they say they use it as a guide -- so decisions can feel arbitrary and vary from case to case. All of that simply makes predicting what they will do harder than getting the right lotto numbers. It's not a courtroom where schools have due process rights; the COI, rather, is all about finding "clear and convincing evidence" to support the NCAA enforcement staff's case against schools. The NCAA has recently tried to be more transparent with the COI, showing how things are done and opening the door into their world ever-so-slightly under new president Mark Emmert. Questions still remain, though, about what penalties will eventually come out of the room for schools such as Tennessee, Ohio State, and eventually North Carolina. The only answer at the moment is to wait. -- BF

3. NICK SABAN, head coach, Alabama. It's the year 2011, and the argument is over; Nick Saban is the most powerful college football coach in Division I. Every rival who might have challenged him for that honor is in decline, or gone entirely. Jim Tressel: resigned in disgrace. Pete Carroll: fled back to the NFL just ahead of the NCAA posse. Mack Brown: went 5-7, ceded Big 12 superiority to Bob Stoops. Stoops: has seen Saban win two rings with two different teams since he won his last. Urban Meyer: retired to punditdom (however temporarily). And when it comes to being the biggest, baddest head coach on the FBS block, are they really any other challengers?

If Les Miles can down the Tide in Tuscaloosa this season on his way to a second crystal football, or Chip Kelly can get his Oregon team over the hump of their nonconference struggles, or--most likely--Stoops can finally grab that elsuive second national title, then we can talk. But it's Saban until then, not least because he's as likely to come away with this season's ultimate prize as anyone; between what projects as the nation's clearcut No. 1 defense and what should be a punishing ground game, even a potentially up-and-down passing game (featuring a first-year quarterback and wideouts mostly more steady than spectacular) may not be enough to prevent the Tide's second BCS title in three years.

The old saying is that college football teams take on the personality of their coaches, and nowhere is that more true than at Alabama. Saban's brutally professional, clinically detail-oriented, obsessively driven approach has created a program where sloppiness and shoddy preparation--from offseason workouts to gameday routines to play execution--isn't so much "not tolerated" as nonexistent. It's not a particularly personable philosophy, which is one reason Saban has arguably become the SEC's most hated villain. But as the 2011 season grinds into motion, it's also what's made him the nation's single most successful active college football coach. -- JH

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21 and 20-11. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.
Posted on: June 8, 2011 12:02 pm
Edited on: June 8, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Inaugural Pony Express Award watch list released

Posted by Chip Patterson

The recent slew of NCAA investigations and scandal has brought the Southern Methodist narrative from the late 1970's - early 1980's back to the forefront. The dominance of Eric Dickerson and Craig James has now been re-told to a new generation of college football fans, as the many would consider the pair the greatest duo in college football.

So Dickerson and James have created a recognition to award the greatest pair in college football each year. The Pony Express Award "will look at two- and three-player tandems from across the nation, ultimately honoring the combination whose work ethic, desire, on- and off-field leadership and playmaking ability best fuel their team."

The award will be voted on by a blue ribbon panel of experts that will form the award's board of directors, and awarded at the completion of the 2011 regular season. The watch list for the inaugural award was released this week.

Alabama - RB Trent Richardson, WR Marquise Maze
Alabama - LB Courtney Upshaw, LB Dont'a Hightower, LB Nico Johnson


Alabama - S Mark Barron, S Robert Lester
Arizona - QB Nick Foles, WR Juron Criner
Arkansas - WR Greg Childs, WR Joe Adams, WR Jarius Wright
Auburn - RB Michael Dyer, RB Ontario McCalebb
Baylor - QB Robert Griffin, WR Kendall Wright, WR Josh Gordon
Boise State - QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin
Boston College - DE Max Holloway, LB Luke Kuechly
Clemson - DE Andre Branch, DT Brandon Thompson
Florida - RB Jeff Demps, RB/WR Chris Rainey
Florida State - QB EJ Manuel, RB Jermaine Thomas, RB Lonnie Pryor
Florida State - CB Greg Reid, CB Xavier Rhodes, LB Nigel Bradham
Georgia - G Cordy Glenn, C Ben Jones
Georgia - K Blair Walsh, P Drew Butler
Iowa - DE Broderick Binns, DT Mike Daniels
Kentucky - LB Ronnie Sneed, LB Danny Trevathan


LSU - QB Jordan Jefferson, WR Russell Sheppard


Miami - LB Sean Spence, S Ray Ray Armstrong
Michigan State - QB Kirk Cousins, RB Edwin Baker, WR Keshawn Martin
Nebraska - LB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard
North Carolina - WR Dwight Jones, WR Erik Highsmith
North Carolina - DE Donte Paige-Moss, DE Quinton Coples, DT Tydreke Powell
North Carolina - LB Zach Brown, LB Kevin Reddick
Notre Dame - LB Manti Te'o, LB Darius Flemming
Ohio State - RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey
Ohio State - OT Mike Adams, OT JB Shugarts, C Mike Brewster
Oklahoma - QB Landry Jones, WR Ryan Broyles, WR Kenny Stills
Oklahoma - LB Travis Lewis, LB Tom Wort, DB Tony Jefferson
Oklahoma State - QB Brandon Weeden, WR Justin Blackmon


Oregon - QB Darron Thomas, RB LaMichael James, RB Kenjon Barner
South Carolina - QB Stephen Garcia, RB Marcus Lattimore, WR Alshon Jeffrey
South Carolina - DE Devin Taylor, DT Melving Ingram
SMU - DE Taylor Thompson, DE Margus Hunt
Stanford - QB Andrew Luck, WR Chris Owusu, TE Coby Fleener
Stanford - OT Jonathan Martin, G David DeCastro
Texas - LB Keenan Robinson, LB Emmanuel Acho, DL Kheeston Randall
Texas - S Christian Scott, S Blake Gideon
Texas A&M - QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray, WR Jeff Fuller
TCU - LB Tanner Brock, LB Tank Carder
Troy - DE Jonathan Massaquoi, LB Kanorris Davis
Tulsa - QB GJ Kinne, WR Damaris Johnson
USC - QB Matt Barkley, WR Robert Woods
Virginia Tech - QB Logan Thomas, WR Jarett Boykin, WR Dyrell Roberts
Washington - RB Chris Polk, WR Jermaine Kearse
Washington - DT Alameda Ta'amu, LB Cort Dennison
West Virginia - QB Geno Smith, WR Tavon Austin
Wisconsin - RB Montee Ball, RB James White

What are your thoughts on the list? Any early favorites? Let us know in the comments section below.
Posted on: June 6, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:43 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 30-21

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

30. LAMICHAEL JAMES, running back, Oregon. Granted, it was just Oregon's spring game. But Duck fans had to like the fact that LaMichael James had only three carries (lest he gets hurt) and that one of them went for a touchdown--your simple, run-of-the-mill, back-and-forth 67-yard "scamper" as the Oregon media described it. The run was almost par-for-the-course for the reigning Doak Walker Award winner, but that's the thing about James: when you're a threat to score just about every time you touch the ball, 67-yard touchdowns happen sometimes.

On top of setting his sights on a host of Oregon and Pac-12 rushing records this season, James hopes to help lead Oregon back to the BCS championship game and finish what the team came so close to doing last year. The Ducks have to replace several offensive linemen, but that might not be a big issue for James, who can hit the tiniest of holes in split-seconds. Speed is the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back's greatest asset, considering he moonlights on Oregon's track team and anchors the 4x100 relay team (among other things). James will leave the track behind soon though, moving on to playing a game of "catch me if you can" and blowing past defenses come fall. A second trip to New York as a Heisman finalist -- and possibly more -- seems likely. -- BF

29. LUKE KUECHLY, linebacker, Boston College. The ACC has produced several dominating defenders in the last couple of years, but few have demanded the attention from day one like Kuechly. Tapped to replace Mark Herzlich in the BC linebacking unit in 2009, Kuechly stepped in and set an NCAA freshman record with 158 tackles on the season. When the two were on the field together in 2010, Kuechly led the nation with 183 tackles and was named a unanimous All-American by pretty much anyone with a publication.

Entering his junior year the expectations are as high as ever for Kuechly. He is widely considered a first-round draft pick in 2012, but will need another impressive season to cement that status. The good news for Eagles fans is that head coach Frank Spaziani and the rest of the staff believe that Kuechly has done nothing but improve. But with a much younger defense alongside him in the huddle in 2011, Kuechly will need to provide more than individual statistics to help Boston College get back to the postseason. The good news is the mere presence of the 6-foot-3, 235-pound playmaker on the field is a tactical advantage, with the opposition always having to keep an eye on No. 40. Considering the potential for Kuechly in 2011, it won't just be the opposition--we'll all have our eyes on No. 40 this fall. -- CP

28. BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, title tilt, Indianapolis. For years and years, the Big Ten stood apart from the rest of FBS college football in one very unfortunate aspect: it was the only conference that did not employ either a full round-robin conference schedule or a conference championship game. In other words, only in the Big Ten could two teams potentially go undefeated in conference play (or otherwise tie for the conference championship) and have no way to break the tie on the field. In fact, that's not just a pointless what-if; it actually happened in 2002, when Iowa and Ohio State both ran the table in Big Ten play. Iowa had one blemish on its non-conference record and OSU didn't, so the Buckeyes went to the BCS Title Game and won. But Big Ten fans had (and still have) the right to feel cheated out of what would have been an excellent conference championship game.

No more, no more, as the Big Ten is going to be invading Indianapolis and the Lucas Oil Dome every December from now until 2015, settling the age-old controversy on whether being a Legend or Leader is better (more on that in a little bit). Purists are understandably chafed that the Big Ten--the conference that couldn't get more arctic or physical without literally employing polar bears as offensive linemen--is deciding its conference championship in a dome, but watching a game in horrible weather is miserable, and misery in the name of purity is still misery. It's good to see Jim Delany's still got something of a heart. -- AJ

27. THE SMURF TURF, home field, Boise State. It's rare for the actual field to be a school's most recognizable feature, but that's certainly the case for the love-it-or-hate-it blue turf at Boise State's Bronco Stadium. The only blue artificial turf in the world, it's rumored (though not confirmed, alas) that migrating birds sometimes mistake it for a giant lake and try to land on it. Like the birds that may or may not land flat on their face, opposing teams seem to nose-dive when they play on the turf, going 2-77 against the Broncos there since 1999.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the home team is perfect in conference games, going 40-0 on the Smurf Turf during WAC play. This is Boise State's first year in the Mountain West and they aim to keep that mark going, but it won't be easy. Looming large on the schedule is a game against departing MWC power TCU in the middle of November. The Horned Frogs aren't expected to be quite as good as they were last year (or in the teams' 2009 Fiesta Bowl meeting) but they do figure to be the Broncos' biggest road block to another BCS game -- and possibly even the national title game -- if they get by Georgia in their opener. With plenty of returning starters back from last year's 12-1 squad, don't be surprised if Boise proves unbeatable on the blue turf once again. -- BF

26. MIKE SHERMAN, head coach, Texas A&M. When Sherman was hired at College Station before the 2008 season, replacing Dennis Franchione, it wasn't exactly the kind of move that had Aggie fans celebrating impending national championships. A 10-15 mark through his first two seasons didn't help matters, and Sherman found himself on the hot seat even after signing a seven-year deal. That seat only got warmer when the Aggies started off the 2010 season 3-3 ... and then a funny thing happened. Sherman finally pulled the plug on Jerrod Johnson and went with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, and after that all Texas A&M could do was win. The team finished the year 9-4 after losing to LSU in the Cotton Bowl, but by then the Aggies had already picked up their first share of the Big 12 South title since 1998.

So it's safe to say that Sherman's seat has cooled considerably in 2011. Of course, while he may not have come to College Station with the highest of expectations, now that Aggie fans have a taste for winning again, Sherman's biggest task will be to keep that momentum going. To do that he's going to have to make sure his defense continues to improve. After finishing dead last in 2008 and 2009 in the Big 12 in points-against, the Aggies rocketed up to second in the conference last season, allowing only 20.3 points per-game. If Sherman can continue leading the Aggies to improvement on both sides of the ball, as he did last season, the Longhorns won't be the only team from Texas to worry about in the Big 12 championship race. -- TF

25. MANTI TE'O, linebacker, Notre Dame. During his time in South Bend, Charlie Weis seemed to have a lot of success recruiting offensive players. On the defensive side of the ball, while Weis brought in some solid players, the game-changing playmakers you need to win were never seemed to be among them. That is, until Weis went to Hawai'i and landed Manti Te'o. Weis may be gone, but the "Hawaiian Hitman" remains and Brian Kelly is thrilled to have him. The biggest factor in Notre Dame's strong finish in 2010 was a defense that shut down opposing offenses, and Te'o was the driving force in that unit.

Through his first two seasons Te'o has racked up 192 tackles (129 of them in 2010) and 14 tackles-for-loss. Te'o can be counted on to fly to the ball on every play, and while he's not as polished in pass coverage, he can stuff the run with the best linebackers in the country. What should scare offensive coordinators this year is that with the stockpile of talent Notre Dame has built on its defensive line the last few years, Te'o should be free to seek and destroy all season long. And if that's the case, it may not be long until Notre Dame is back on a BCS stage -- with Te'o the face of its success -- and college football fans are forced to hate the Irish again instead of just laughing at them. -- TF

24. LES MILES'S COJONES, coaching decision-makers, LSU. Since Les Miles took over for Nick Saban at the Bayou Bengal helm in 2005, it's no secret that LSU has won its fair share of thrillers. But it's not just the selective memory of the charmed 2007 run talking; over Miles's six seasons, LSU has gone a stunning 22-9 in games decided by seven points or less. Since we're talking about games potentially decided by a single bounce of the ball, most teams' records in these situations naturally yo-yo back and forth year-to-year--look at Iowa's rise-and-fall over the past few seasons, for instance. But not LSU. Aside from a 2-2 mark in 2008, Miles has finished above .500 in this category ever year of his Baton Rouge tenure.

The majority of observers (including many within his own LSU fanbase) have chalked this up to blind luck, and sometimes--as in Tennessee's 13-players-on-the-field penalty that saved the Tigers from themselves last season--they're right. But Miles also hasn't gotten nearly enough credit for the ballsy, go-for-broke, correct decisions that have often turned the tide in such games. While it's easy to note how fortunate Miles was when last year's botched fake field goal pitch against Florida bounced straight into his kicker's arms, it overlooks the fact that playing for a game-winning touchdown is by far the superior choice to settling for a long-distance field goal that would only tie the game even if good. If Miles ignores the criticism and continues to let his cojones do his thinking for him, expect another year of success for the Tigers in the dying minutes--and given how much talent his team will wield, potentially another run at a crystal football. -- JH

23. TODD MONKEN, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State. Last season the Cowboy offense averaged 44.9 points and 537.6 yards per game. That, to keep the superlatives to a minimum, is rather good. Then Dana Holgorsen left Stillwater to become the head coach-in-waiting at West Virginia, and Monken was hired to replace him. Those are some high-octane shoes for Monken to fill, especially considering he hasn't been a play-caller since 2004, when he was working a previous stint in Stillwater for Les Miles. Since then, Monken followed Miles to LSU for a couple of years and then went on to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

So there's going to be an adjustment period, but the good news is that Oklahoma State still plans to run the same system it ran under Holgorsen. Unfortunately Monken won't have the same command of the playbook right off the bat that Holgorsen did, but he does at least have Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon to help cover him. Still, if Monken doesn't get the handle of things quick enough, Oklahoma State's top-10 season could already be "over" (and the immense potential of another year of the Weeden-Blackmon connection "wasted") by the time things are firing on all cylinders.-- TF

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22. "LEGENDS" AND "LEADERS," division names, Big Ten. One of the most dramatic changes in college football this year is the realignment of the Big Ten to a 12-team, two-division conference. Not only does that bring the aforementioned Big Ten Championship Game into existence, but it also introduces new and different conference tensions into play. Michigan and Nebraska as hated rivals? It sure could happen. Ohio State being more concerned with Wisconsin than the Wolverines? If a division title's on the line, absolutely.

But good lord, those names. It's one thing to deal with them over the course of an off-season, when they only come up once a month or so or whatever. Imagine what happens when they become part of the daily conversation. The derision will be deafening. Newscasters won't want to use them. Every time there's a slow moment in a football game, odds are pretty good that some bored color commentator is going to roll his eyes and casually call the division names stupid, and fans will laugh along with them. The Big Ten should be celebrating a brand new era and all of everything else that goes along with Nebraska's entry into the conference, and now instead it's going to have to defend the indefensible "LEGENDS" and "LEADERS" constantly. It's not too late to scrap them and just go with an admittedly imperfect-but-close-enough East-West nomenclature, right? Yeah, it's boring, but boring is good. It lets the on-field product speak for itself, and Big Ten football certainly can do that, right, Mr. Delany? Right? -- AJ

21. URBAN MEYER, television analyst/coaching free agent, ESPN. As we knew already and as Meyer spelled out for us just a few days ago, the most successful head coach of college football's previous decade won't be coaching anywhere in 2011. He'll be living the good life as a talking head at the "Worldwide Leader," offering what we hope will be pointed analysis and sharp X's-and-O's from one of the sport's shrewdest coaches.

But the shadow he'll cast over the college football coaching market will reach far longer than anything he does as a TV analyst. By specifically saying he won't be coaching "this fall," Meyer has all but announced he'll be looking for a new gig for next fall--meaning his name will be dropped into every conversation about currently vacant jobs (ahem), jobs that become vacant during the season, and even jobs that seem like they might become vacant if Meyer would show an interest. Like a prized NBA free agent, Meyer's influence is sure to be felt keenly in the narrative of the 2011 season ... even if he's not on the sidelines for a minute of it. -- JH

The 100 will continue here on Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51, 50-41 and 40-31. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: May 27, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Howard says Denard Robinson 'ain't won nothing'

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

This just in: former Michigan players who played under coaches Lloyd Carr and Bo Schembechler did not care for the Rich Rodriguez regime. Really, really, really did not care for it.

Exhibit Q (since we've long since blown past exhibits A through P) arrived yesterday at the Black Coaches and Administrators convention in Tampa, as former Wolverine great and current ESPN analyst Desmond Howard couldn't resist taking a dig when discussing current players' "sense of entitlement":
"The way these coaches recruit these kids, they make them feel like they're the cat's meow, that the program can't move forward without them at the school," Howard said. "When you recruit them that hard, then you gas them up on who they are. You give that guy a sense of entitlement.

"I was told by a giant, Bo Schembechler, that no one man is bigger than the program. Not even (Schembechler). He was larger than life. For me to sit there and this guy tells me nobody's bigger than Michigan, that's all he had to say..."

"I'll give you a perfect example: Michigan fires coach Rich Rodriguez," said Howard, who starred at Michigan from 1989-91. "All the noise in Ann Arbor is, 'Is Denard Robinson going to stay or leave?' I'm like, 'Hey, if the kid wants to go, don't let the door hit you on the way out. You looked fantastic for five games against nobody. That's what you did.' I'm not going to deny his talents, but, 'You ain't won nothing in Ann Arbor, son! Not so much we need to worry about if you're going to be here next year or not.'"
Not surprisingly, Howard's calling-out of Michigan's best player caused something of a stir back in Ann Arbor, so much so that Howard took to Twitter to defend himself:



If we're giving Howard the benefit of the doubt here, you can almost see what he meant with his statements: that the panic amongst Michigan fans and media over whether Robinson would transfer or not is the kind of player-bigger-than-the-program attitude that could lead to "entitlement." (Howard of course specifically blamed coaches and their recruiting efforts for this problem in his statements, rather than the "fans/media," but remember that we're trying to give him the benefit of the doubt for a moment.)

But even if we assume that's the understandable thing Howard meant, that's not what he said. What he said was that Robinson "looked fantastic for five games against nobody," "ain't won nothing," and shouldn't have "let the door hit [him] on the way out" if he'd wanted a transfer. Which are some ... curious ... things to say, for any number of reasons:
  • No, Michigan did not win a championship last season. But that was hardly Robinson's fault, what with the him racking up the nation's second-most total offense, more rushing yards than any other quarterback in FBS history, and the Big Ten offensive Player of the Year Award. It seems a safe assumption that if Michigan's defense hadn't been a neverending black hole of incompetence from which no hope could escape, the Wolverines would have won more than "nothing."
  • We're not Michigan fans, but we're dubious nevertheless that defeating Notre Dame in South Bend counts as defeating "nobody" and winning "nothing" in Ann Arbor. (Andohbytheway: Robinson generated a school-record 502 yards of offense in that game and scored the winning touchdown with 27 seconds left.)
  • Hoke might not believe Robinson is bigger than the program, but that didn't stop him from effusively praising Robinson in his introductory press conference or openly campaigning for him to remain in the program. There's little doubt Hoke felt the "need to worry" over Robinson's return.
We don't begrudge Howard at all his criticism of athlete "entitlement," which has no doubt caused problems here and there at all manner of college football programs. But Robinson strikes us as just about the furthest thing from a "perfect example" of the problem. If Howard wants to chastise the fans and media for worshipping the Michigan quarterback, instead of rattling off the alleged failures of that quarterback he should probably -- we're thinking -- chastise the fans and media.


Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 12:32 pm
 

How the Pac-12 mega-deal went down

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott figured that the conference's new television negotiations would last well into the summer. With all the major players making their pitch, the process did not appear to be moving rapidly at all. That all changed when ESPN's John Skipper reached out to Fox's Randy Freer about a partnership to win the Pac-12 television rights away from NBC/Comcast. Until late April, Comcast appeared to be the leader in the race - offering the Pac-12 a package that would pay $225 million annually and broadcast on Versus and NBC. The Sports Business Journal detailed how the unlikely partnership came about.
However, Skipper, ESPN's executive vice president of content, was intrigued. Not only would a joint effort increase the bid, it would keep Comcast from picking up rights to a BCS conference. It had just bid $187 million per year to win the NHL rights and wanted to add to that with a Pac-10 acquisition. ESPN and Fox wanted to stop that momentum.

So Skipper called Freer to talk about a joint bid. Freer, Fox Sports' co-president, was interested. Other than CBS's deal with the SEC, Fox and ESPN control the football rights to every BCS conference, and a familiarity was there.

"We have historically worked with ESPN on sublicensing games and events to them and from them," Freer said. "This was done at the conference's request to see if more value could be created for the conference."

They agreed to meet on April 28, when Skipper and John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, flew across the country to meet at the Fox lot in Los Angeles. The ESPN duo met with Freer, Fox Sports COO Larry Jones and Karen Brodkin, senior vice president at Fox Cable Networks.

"Neither side looked at this as a way to try and do a land grab," Wildhack said. "Fairly quickly, both of us found that we had a lot more in common than not."

Over a seven-hour meeting that day, they came up with a bid that would split the rights — 22 football games each — and pay the Pac-10 a whopping $3 billion over 12 years, or $250 million a year. The deal would blow past Comcast's best effort, which eventually rose to $235 million. Last week, Comcast's Brian Roberts told CNBC that his company did not land rights to the Pac-10's TV package because it was "financially disciplined."

The two media giants moved quickly to get the deal done, and Larry Scott freed up some time in his schedule this summer. The interesting take here is the value of the Pac-12, which previously was earning $54 million annually as opposed to the $250 million in the new deal. Clearly the demand for the conference's athletics, particularly football, has grown beyond the West Coast.

As the gap between time zones continues to shrink due to interactivity, the "East Coast Media Bias" will slowly diminish as well. Seeing the moves made by two huge media organizations in order to secure this growing audience is an alert that the Pac-12 plans to continue their rising growth in popularity. College football may not have the lengthy past on the West Coast, but they are making up for it in the present.
 
 
 
 
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