Archive for the ‘College Football’ Category

A rivalry tradition renewed

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Pete Carroll and new UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel have reportedly reached an agreement that will allow the Bruins and Trojans to renew the old tradition of both wearing their home jerseys when they play each other.

Sweet.

The Daily Bruin and Bruins Nation have more. (Hat tip: Doc and Chris Newbury.)

Notre Dame finally beats USC in football

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Well, in football recruiting, anyway. Today was National Signing Day, and the Irish recruiting class is ranked #2 by both Rivals and Scout. USC is #10 and #13, respectively, their lowest rankings since 2002 (and behind UCLA, according to Scout… ugh!).

Yet another top QB commits to ‘SC

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

USC has had an awfully impressive track record on the recruiting trail in recent years, especially in the area of quarterbacks. John David Booty was the top QB recruit of the Class of 2003; Mark Sanchez was the top QB recruit of the Class of 2005; Mitch Mustain was the top QB recruit of the Class of 2006. All three went to USC (after a brief sojourn at Arkansas, in Mustain’s case).

Well, the embarrassment of riches continues: the Class of 2009‘s top quarterback recruit, Matt Barkley, announced yesterday that he will go to USC. (Hat tip: Andrew Leyden.)

Sweet.

Norm Chow returns to southern California

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Looks like Norm Chow is headed back to southern California to assume the role of Offensive Coordinator.

For UCLA.

That is all.

Carroll mum on NFL rumors

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Pete Carroll isn’t talking about the ongoing speculation concerning his possible return to the NFL with either the Atlanta Falcons or the Washington Redskins. But the Associated Press asserts that the Falcons’ hiring of Tom Dimitroff as general manager last weekend "likely will end [owner Arthur] Blank’s possible interest in Southern Cal coach Pete
Carroll. Carroll has said he would have interest in an NFL job only if
given the authority in personnel decisions."

Meanwhile, USC linebakers coach Ken Norton will remain at Troy instead of defecting to his alma mater, UCLA, which had tried to woo him across town. "I’m flattered," he said of the Bruins’ interest. "They’ll always be a team in my heart . I feel real good about Rick Neuheisel and what he’s going to
do there. … The
timing just wasn’t right. I’m really appreciative of what Pete Carroll
has done for me over here, and my business is not finished."

UB boosts Gill’s salary, extends contract

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Buffalo’s Turner Gill gets a contract extension: “Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but Gill’s new salary is expected to put him in the top tier of MAC coaches.”

Slap thyself, John L. Smith: Hawaii says no

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, I dreamed the impossible dream, but alas, it looks like that dream — of former Michigan State coach John L. Smith "doing crazy s**t while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a lei" — will not happen. It appears Hawaii is going to keep things in-house, hiring defensive coordinator Greg McMackin as June Jones’s successor.

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You, too, can apply to be Hawaii’s coach

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Heh: In the wake of June Jones’s departure as Hawaii’s head football coach, state-employee union rules have forced the university to post the job on the Internets, available for anyone to apply. "By mutual agreement with the Hawai’i Government Employees Association, the position must be advertised for at least five working days." It was posted on Tuesday, so you have until at least Saturday to apply:

Head Football Coach, position number 80110, UHM Athletics, (Manoa), Duties:
Under administrative direction, Coach is responsible for planning,
administering, and evaluating the overall operation of the
intercollegiate football program to include, but not limited to,
academic achievement of student-athletes, recruitment of qualified
prospects, supervision of assistant coaches and other staff assigned to
the program, compliance, program management (eligibility, scheduling,
travel, budget, equipment), and student-athlete welfare. The head coach
assumes full responsibility for ensuring that team performance is
competitive in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) with the goal of
achieving post-season competition.

And so on, and so forth. Applicants must submit a cover letter, a resume, three references, and UH Form 64. (God bless bureaucracy.) "Review of applications will begin on Jan-15-2008 and will continue until the position is filled." They’ve received 30 applications so far — including, apparently, one from former Michigan State coach John L. Smith.

This is kind of ironic, at least in the Alanis Morrisette sense, considering that Smith’s Spartans lost 41-38 at Hawaii in 2004, then spent the better part of 2006 trying to weasel their way out of a contract to play there again in 2007. They finally succeeded — though not until after Coach Slappy had already been fired — paying $250,000 for the right to not play Hawaii.

The scheduling cowardice of Smith & co. helped doom Hawaii to an abysmal SOS rating, while allowing Michigan State (under new coach Mark Dantonio) to go 4-0 in its non-conference slate against cupcakes UAB, Bowling Green, Pitt and Notre Dame. (Okay, so those last two might not have been cupcakes when they were scheduled, but still…)

And now, Smith wants to go to Hawaii. For good. He’s not shy about it, either, telling a reporter: "With 18 years of collegiate head coaching experience and over 130
wins, I would hope that would qualify me as a candidate to be the next
head coach at the University of Hawaii."

"And if they don’t hire me, I’ll slap myself," he added.

Okay, maybe he didn’t actually say that last part. But oh, John L. Smith, how I’ve missed you.

Hawaii, please, please, make this happen. It’ll be good for college football. Check that: great for college football. John L. Smith doing crazy s**t while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a lei = COMEDY GOLD.

(Hat tip: EDSBS.)

In other coaching news, it seems a Washington booster offered the school $100,000 to fire Ty Willingham.

Final pick ’em standings

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Amid all the excitement of the past few days, I never got around to posting the final standings of the 3rd annual Irish Trojan Bowl Pick ’em Contest. Of course, the final point totals are already online, but that’s without tiebreakers. Full standings, with tiebreakers, are after the jump.

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Pete Carroll to the Atlanta Falcons?

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

It’s January, which means it’s Pete-Carroll-to-the-NFL rumor season. This time, though, it sounds like there may actually be something to the rumors:

USC coach Pete Carroll is interested in the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach
opening and is expected to speak with Atlanta owner Arthur Blank via
phone Wednesday, sources at the American Football Coaches Convention in
Anaheim told ESPN’s Joe Schad.

Blank is expected to offer full control of personnel decisions to
Carroll and the sources said that is what intrigues Carroll most.

DAMN YOU, BOBBY PETRINO!!!

(Hat tip: BK.)

P.S. Reaction from around the Trojansphere:

Student Body Right: "Let’s face it, at some point the guy will jump back to the NFL, it
seems inevitable, but… Atlanta? Maybe the single worst job in the
league right now? Seems a little nutty, if you ask me."

AOL Fanhouse: "It’s… interesting to speculate why Carroll would leave a gravy job at USC for
a massive rebuilding project in Atlanta."

Conquest Chronicles: "I am a little shocked that the Falcons would even entertain going after
another college coach, regardless of [the coach’s] success, after the whole
Petrino mess. I have said before that I think Pete Carroll will end up
back in the NFL but I’m not sure this is right fit for him. … [But] I think this might the time for him to go. This is an itch he really
wants to scratch and you will only get so many opportunities to make
the move back into the NFL. Don’t get me wrong I want to keep him as
long as we can but we need to be realistic that sooner or later this
will probably happen."

TrojanWire: "Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona and Houston have all
courted the man, but so far no team has been able to woo him back over.
… [But now Atlanta] is
supposedly offering what Pete wants most: full control of all personnel
decisions for the Falcons. … Pete has been quoted saying he’ll ‘never return’ to
the NFL, but who knows…if the conditions are right, any man has his
price — even Pete."

Scott Wolf: "About two weeks ago, I  spoke to Carroll about the Falcons job and he was not bullish on it or the organization." And later, a quote from the USC sports information department: "There’s nothing going on, no reason to even talk about it." Yeah right — "Nothing going on . . . except an interview with the Atlanta Falcons today," Wolf adds.

Three plays away

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

If LenDale White gets a first down on that 4th-and-2 against Texas, if John David Booty doesn’t throw an interception with 1:10 left against UCLA, and if Stanford’s Tavita Pritchard doesn’t complete that 4th-and-goal prayer from the 10 (or the 4th-and-20 moments before), USC is celebrating its fifth consecutive national championship right now.

I know: if, if, if. And throw in two more "ifs," because I’m assuming the Trojans would have beaten Ohio State in the title game the last two years, if they’d made it in (though that seems like a pretty reasonable assumption). Still, it’s pretty incredible to contemplate how close ‘SC has come to a dynasty like no other.

Ah well. Next year. BEAT THE CAVALIERS!!

I for one welcome our new SEC overlords

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Well, not really. But with LSU #1 and Georgia #2 in the final AP poll (just as I predicted), it’s sort of inescapable. The drumbeat of SEC chest-beating will be unavoidable between now and next September. OMG BEST CONFERENCE EVAR!1!!

By the way, LSU was not a unanimous #1 — second-ranked Georgia got 3 first-place votes, third-ranked USC got 1, and seventh-ranked Kansas got 1 — but this wasn’t even close to being a split championship. (Again, just as I predicted.) LSU finished with 60 first-place votes and 1,620 points overall. Georgia got 1,515 points; USC, 1,500.

Of course, as David mentioned yesterday, I’m sure LSU will graciously refuse to accept the Associated Press championship trophy. ;)

After the Tigers, Bulldogs and Trojans comes a tight battle for #4, which Missouri eked out with 1,347 points — one more point than #5 Ohio
State (1,346) and five more than #6 West Virginia (1,342). A bit further behind is Kansas, one
of just two one-loss teams in the nation (the other being #19 Hawaii), with 1,303 points.

Rounding out the AP Top 15: #8 Oklahoma, #9 Virginia Tech, #10 Texas and Boston College (tied), #12 Tennessee, #13 Florida, #14 BYU and #15 Auburn. For those keeping score at home, that’s five SEC teams in the Top 15. Please shoot me now. … Of course, if you look at their records, you’ll note that Tennessee, Florida and Auburn are the only four-loss teams ranked above #18, which is further evidence of the Kreutz Theorem ("when [pollsters] rank SEC teams, they automatically subtract a loss from their record"). Heh.

Michigan, if you’re wondering, finished #18, the highest-ranked non-SEC four-loss team. Who can honestly say they saw that coming back in September? Oh, and Appalachian State got 5 votes, effectively tying them for 34th place with South Florida. HOT! HOT! HOT!

Anyway, on a more serious note: congratulations to the LSU Tigers! Whatever we may think of the BCS, the Bayou Bengals deserve credit for surviving this most turbulent of college-football seasons and earning, at last, an undisputed national championship… sort of. :) Well done, guys. Way to geaux.

P.S. This is the first time two teams from the same conference have finished the season ranked #1 and #2 in the AP poll since 1971, when the top two were #1 Nebraska and #2 Oklahoma of the Big Eight. (And it didn’t stop there. Fellow conference-mate Colorado was #3!)

UPDATE: In the final USA Today coaches poll, USC edged Geogria for the #2 spot, 1,380 points to 1,370, and Ohio State headily beat Missouri for the #4 spot, 1,287 to 1,241, with West Virginia close behind Mizzou at 1,239, and Kansas at 1,217. Unlike in 2003, there were no dissenters from the contractually obligatory coronation of LSU as the #1 team.

UPDATE 2: As long as we’re talking rankings, Stewart Mandel has posted his preseason Top 10 for 2008. Of course, much depends on various juniors’ stay-or-go-pro decisions. But provisionally, he has Georgia at #1, Ohio State #2, Oklahoma #3, USC #4 and Missouri #5. LSU, which he says "will be hit harder by graduation than any of the other top teams from 2007," is #9.

Putting the “student” back in “student athlete”?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

In yesterday’s Washington Post, there was a decent article examining the pros and cons of a playoff system for college football.  I’ve already explained my position, and I’ve heard numerous arguments from the Brendansphere.  However, with a 2-loss "champion," I need to say it again: the BCS system sucks.  If App State can figure out how to have their students take their final exams even though they have playoffs, why can’t Virginia?  (UVA purposely declined their invitation to the Champs Sports Bowl because it would have conflicted with exams).

And now I need to stop and look at what I wrote.  I’m a teacher, for chrissake … A teacher who sometimes resents ploys arguments like this from athletic departments.  Somefeel the stress is too much … maybe.

Some of the Appalachian State football players felt that way, crammed into the ballroom some 48 hours before playing the most important game of their season. Afterward, though, they also agreed the stress was worthwhile. Years from now, unlike whichever team wins tonight [OSU. or LSU -ed], the merits of their national championship will not be questioned.

I was a student athlete in high school (though not in college, I’ll admit).  Classwork comes first.  If there was a conflict, I went to the teacher and worked something out.  Period.  Almost every teacher I know would be willing to give students other opportunities to make up work (or an exam) if they had a legitimate reason for missing class–and I think playoffs would qualify.  True, it might be tough, but isn’t that what being a student athlete is about?

Go Buckeyes! Go Obama! Go McCain!

Monday, January 7th, 2008

My two favorite sports, college football and presidential politics, converge tonight. The BCS national-title game is underway (LSU is up 17-10), and the first New Hampshire primary results will be available in less than three hours, as the polls open — and close — in Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location. I don’t know how many people will be flipping between Fox and C-SPAN around midnight, but I know I will be!

UPDATE: LSU was up 34-10, but Ohio State just scored a crucial touchdown to cut the Tigers’ lead to 34-17 late in the third quarter.

UPDATE 2: Still 31-17 with 5:43 left, and after two straight interceptions by LSU, it’s pretty much over.

Meanwhile, back on the political front, here is some corroboration of what Matt Drudge was reporting earlier today.

UPDATE 3: LSU 38, Ohio State 24, final. (It was 38-17, then tOSU got a garbage-time touchdown with 1:13 left.)

So, um, yeah, nevermind. ;)

The Fox analyst says Ohio State “could very well be back in this game next year.” Oh good lord.

Now, over to C-SPAN…

UPDATE 4: WTF?? C-SPAN does not appear to be showing Dixville Notch live!! Why does C-SPAN exist, if not to allow political nerds to watch live coverage of ridiculous, nonsensical, meaningless political traditions?

UPDATE 5: Phew, CNN is live from Dixville Notch!

UPDATE 6: It’s midnight, and the New Hampshire primary is underway! Four of the 17 residents of Dixville Notch have already voted absentee, and the other 13 just dropped their ballots into the ballot box. … And the polls are closed!

UPDATE 7: This is riveting.

UPDATE 8: Duncan Hunter is there. In Dixville Notch. Heh.

And they’re about to announce the results!

UPDATE 9: McCain 4, Romney 2, Giuliani 1. No love for Hunter!

UPDATE 10: Obama 7, Edwards 2, Richardson 1. w00t!

Ohio State will win tonight

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Back on December 3, the day after the BCS pairings were announced, the always eloquent Sunday Morning Quarterback had an excellent post about LSU and SEC fan hubris in anticipation of the Mythical Championship Game showdown between the Buckeyes and the Tigers. I meant to blog about it earlier, but never got around to it. Now, with the game mere hours away, seems like the perfect time to finally do so. Quoth SMQ:

The worst result of last year’s mythical championship game was the growth and perpetuation of this absurd notion of superior "SEC speed," based not on the collective 40 times and shuttle drills of hundreds of players on a couple dozen teams that make up the SEC and Big Ten, but on a handful of plays in a single game that was decidedly outside the season-long patterns of both participants, and not demonstrably decided by "speed" (unless you’re willing to suggest Tennessee and Arkansas were done in a week earlier by "speed," too, which was at least as plausible). …

One would think the false sense of inevitability that followed Ohio State prior to last year’s championship (or USC the year before that, or that very, very fast Miami team in 2002, or, I don’t know, LSU, Ohio State, West Virginia, USC, Oregon, Michigan, Oklahoma, California, Florida or LSU again prior to stunning upsets over the last three months) would demonstrate the virtues of humility to fans everywhere, and lead them to stop for a second to recognize – last year’s anomalous championship beatdown is a great example of this – that anything can happen in one game, on one night, and "anything" will not necessarily reconcile itself with the accumulation of disparate performances that precedes it. It only adds to the accumulation; it doesn’t define it. Based on everything we know from the dozen "samples" on both sides leading up to last January, that Florida team couldn’t beat that Ohio State team by 27 points again in a whole season of trying. There’s a reason the Gators were underdogs, and it’s not because they kept the fast guys under wraps when squeaking out wins against South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Based on everything we know from both teams’ performances this season, Ohio State and LSU should be a close, hard-hitting game between two of the few teams that still operate largely from traditional two-back sets on offense and do not hesitate to run old-fashioned isos, counters and traps into the line. It’s an interesting collision of style and persona between loose cannon Les Miles and icy, understated mercenary Jim Tressel, and their emphases on emotion, "poise" (as Miles likes to repeat to his oft-flagged charges) and discipline. But it will be decided by the side that executes and catches the right breaks under the specific set of circumstances that unfold on Jan. 7, at which point, of course, that team will be instantly refashioned into gold-drenched superheroes with inherent abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Naturally: We are the champions! These are the myths we make.

But the athletes, the speed, all of that is a given. LSU and Ohio State have both turned in top ten recrutiting classes each of the last four seasons. They’ve all got the athletes. They’ve all got the speed. The differences in raw talent on this level are nil. This championship, like all championships, will be about combining management, strategy and execution in the moment, and probably a bounce or timely flag or two. Not as catchy as "SEC Speed," but anything more precise than wrongheaded, bumper sticker hubris rarely is.

Indeed.

Anyway, you may notice that in the title of this post, I’m going out on a limb, aligning myself with the 27 out of 90 Bowl Pick ’em contestants and 25.3 percent of ESPN readers who believe the Buckeyes will prevail. I am predicting this not because I’m pro-OSU but because I’m anti-CW (conventional wisdom, that is), and I see no particular reason to believe that Ohio State can’t win this game. This isn’t an SEC-Big Ten Challenge (which the former would certainly win), it’s a game between two specific teams from those conferences, and while I won’t be particularly surprised if either one wins — such is the chaotic nature of college football, especially this season — I think a Buckeye blowout would be the perfect conclusion to the season, in the sense that it would turn conventional wisdom on its head one last time. And the Buckeyes certainly have plenty of motivation, while the homestanding Bayou Bengals could easily fall into the trap of reading their press clippings a bit too much. Also, for the love of God, I don’t think I can handle the SEC chest-thumping if the Tigers win. So: Ohio State 27, LSU 10.

Oh, and the talk about a split national championship? Forget about it. This is, as I keep saying, a Mythical Championship Game in the sense that there’s no particularly compelling reason to believe that these are actually the two best teams in the country, but at the same time, nobody else stands out as being worthy, either. The problem this year, unlike in all past BCS controversies, isn’t that there are too many championship-worthy teams, it’s that there are too few. My USC Trojans, for one, really and truly should not be in this discussion at all, and it’s frankly an embarrassment that they are. Yes, they’d probably win a playoff, but who cares? We don’t have a playoff system, we have a system where you’re judged on your body of work, and USC lost to Stanford and beat next to nobody. As for the others — Georgia, Kansas, West Virginia, Missouri (!) — they all, like USC, are nice teams, but none of them scream "national champion" and all have glaring flaws. So will the LSU-OSU winner, of course, particularly if it’s the two-loss Tigers. But in this strangest of all seasons, sheer inertia should result in the Mythical Championship Game winner being recognized by both polls. If Hawaii had beaten Georgia, it would have been a different story, but of course, that rather emphatically did not happen. So tonight’s game is for all the marbles: BCS and AP. That said, the phrase "undisputed champion" would not be proper. There’s plenty of cause to dispute the result. It’s just that no single alternative stands out, so tonight’s winner gets the consensus title by default.

Go Buckeyes.