Monday, January 31, 2011

Bama Recruiting Overload: Uncommitted Hype

With less than 48 hours remaining until Signing Day, the year-long recruiting hype train is, really, just getting warmed up. The next 3 days are going to be filled with a non-stop barrage of rumors and innuendos, never letting up until every last teenager has done something silly with a baseball cap and every last LOI is faxed. And as has been the case every year since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is expected to be at the forefront of it all on February 2nd, for better or for worse (but mostly better). Will Bama fans be feeling triumphant when it's all said and done, as they were in 2008 and 2009 when the Tide reeled in #1 rated signing classes? Or will we be left feeling melancholic and strangely disappointed after missing out on several high-profile prospects late in the game like last year (though still finishing with a consensus Top 5 class, mind you)?

As regular readers may have picked up on by now, I'm a little bit jaded to the whole recruiting phenomenon. But don't get me wrong: I have no doubt that recruiting is the lifeblood of a college football team. It's a fact. The teams that do it the best consistently tend to be the best teams on the field in the fall. And I want Alabama to be one of those teams. I think I'm mainly just turned off to the industry of recruiting and the culture of general insanity that's grown up around it (and really exploded over the last 5 years or so). As Pat Forde said in regards to the Cam Newton situation, and I think generalizes to the broader state of the recruiting industry, we've all gotten a little too far into the sausage factory.

All that said, this here's a college football blog, and recruiting is going to be THE story in college football this week. So I'm gonna do my duty to add to the insanity by giving you the best coverage of Alabama's 2011 recruiting class that I'm capable of (which may not be much).

Much like last recruiting cycle (and likely every cycle from here on out as long as Saban is around), Bama hoarded commitments early in the process and will be spending most of the end of the cycle protecting their current commits from poachers and chasing after a select few elite prospects. This way of doing things led to somewhat of a sleepy Signing Day in 2010, but that doesn't look to be the case this year. The Tide is still a legit player for several big-time recruits capable of making an instant impact on campus. So today, I'm kicking things off with a look at the top uncommitted prospects that Alabama is still actively recruiting and has a realistic shot at signing.

Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End (South Carolina)
Rivals: 5* Scout: 5*
The Competition: South Carolina

This guy needs no introduction. He's #1 on everybody's board, but his recruitment has essentially been a two-horse race between Bama and his home state Gamecocks since this past summer. At one point, there was even a status update on his Facebook page saying that he had chosen the Tide, but that turned out to be a false alarm. Actually, I'm still not sure what that was about. If all things were equal, I think he'd be a lock to Alabama. He projects as a prototypical Jack linebacker (pass rush specialist) in Saban's scheme. However, distance from home is a big concern for his family, particularly his mother and she seems to be the identified "decision maker" in his recruitment. She recently accompanied her son on an official visit to Tuscaloosa (her first trip to T-town), and word is Mrs. Saban worked Mama Clowney hard. But was it too little too late? No one knows since Clowney has reportedly shut down all communication in the lead up to his announced signing date of February 14th. But the Gamecocks have developed an improbably strong pull amongst in-state recruits over the past few years, and I'd have to consider them the slight betting favorite.

My Best Guess: South Carolina

Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle (Maryland)
Rivals: 5* Scout: 5*
The Competition: Auburn, Iowa, New Mexico

If Clowney is the top guy on Bama's board, Cyrus isn't far behind. He's 6'7", 322 lbs, and has an incredibly well-developed physique for a high school OL. He looks chisled out of stone. More to the point, he looks like a 4-year starter at left tackle. His older brother, Arie, signed with the Tide last year and redshirted this past season. Needless to say, Nick Saban and his coaching staff have a long-standing relationship with the family and have to be considered the heavy favorites to land the big guy. But you shouldn't assume this is a "lay down" either. Cyrus is on the record regarding his reservations about competing against his brother for playing time (reportedly allayed by the coaching staff laying out their plans for Arie at RT or guard only) and has repeatedly declined to name a leader and has taken every one of his official visits, including back to back trips to Iowa and Auburn. Auburn is a late addition to Cyrus' Top 5 and mainly got there by virtue of Miami falling off his list after the sacking of Randy Shannon. There was some talk that Auburn would make a logical alternative to Bama if his concerns about competing with his brother won out (due to being an easier trip for his parents to visit both), but it's really difficult for me to believe Auburn could pull him from Bama after getting into the game so late. If that were to happen, I'm sorry, but something smells funny on the Plains, as usual.

My Best Guess: Alabama

Isaiah Crowell, Running Back (Georgia)
Rivals: 5* Scout: 5*
The Competition: Georgia

At one point, Crowell was the Tide's #1 running back target in this class. Maybe he still is (if so, it didn't stop Bama from taking the commitment of fellow 5* RB Dee Hart and get him enrolled this spring). Crowell's commitment has been a bit of a roller coaster. Early in the process, he was basically a lock for Bama. Georgia made some significant strides with him over the summer to make it a 50/50 race. But then the Dawgs went on that horrible losing streak early in the season and lost momentum. Since the season ended, Georgia has put an all-out blitz on Crowell, sending small armies of coaches to visit him at once and offering a scholarship to his previously no-scholarship-offer-having friend. So they worked it back to something close to 50/50 again, with maybe a slight edge to UGA. I think the tipping point for his decision was the commitment of Hart, though. You just DON'T get two backs of that caliber in the same class. Not enough carries to go around. Bama is still fighting for him, but ultimately I think this plays out like Auburn's pursuit of Marcus Lattimore after already taking Michael Dyer last year. It's one or the other, never both.

My Best Guess: Georgia

Nickolas Brassell, Wide Receiver (Mississippi)
Rivals: 4* Scout: 4*
The Competition: Ole Miss

The one-time Mississippi State commit now seems to no longer even be considering the Bulldogs. After his decommitment (what a word), it was widely assumed Brassell would quickly follow his good friend Tobias Singleton to Ole Miss, but that was not the case. Brassell kept his options open which left the door cracked for the Tide to get in as a serious player for his signature. In fact, Bama was able to score his last official visit this past weekend. And while Bama isn't exactly hurting for receivers in this class (already holding commitments from 4 pure wideouts), Saban is leaving no stone unturned as he attempts to find his next #1 receiver after the departure of Julio Jones. There is also some scuttlebutt that Saban may have talked to Brassell about making a move to defensive back (which IS a position the Tide could use a little help with in this class) on his visit. His openness to this possibility will probably go a long way towards influencing his decision. Right now, this one is too close to call.

My Best Guess: 50/50

Jeoffery Pagan, Defensive End (North Carolina)
Rivals: 4* Scout: 4*
The Competition: Georgia

Much like Brassell, Bama got serious about Pagan (one-time Florida commit turned Clemson commit turned uncommitted) late in the process. On the surface, it bodes well for Bama that Pagan decided to part ways with Clemson following his official visit in Tuscaloosa. The Tide had a tremendous amount of momentum at the time, but that was quickly derailed when Ray Drew committed to Georgia. Pagan has a good relationship with Drew, and the general consensus was that Pagan was going to end up wherever Drew did as long as it wasn't Auburn. Well, it wasn't Auburn. Bama is going to keep working on him, but it would be a major surprise if he inks anywhere other than Georgia.

My Best Guess: Georgia

So there you have it. Of the top uncommitted guys, I say we get Kouandjio, maybe Brassell, and that's it. Not a very inspiring projection for Signing Day, I know, but you have to keep in mind Alabama already has Rivals' #1 ranked recruiting class WITHOUT any of these guys. While they likely wouldn't hold onto that spot (who cares?) with strong finishes from the likes of FSU or Georgia, the fact is it's an incredibly strong class as it stands right now. It only gets better with the addition of any of these guys, not worse without them.

So that's that.

I plan to be back tomorow to look at which current Bama commitments might end up elsewhere come Signing Day and which other schools' commitments may end up in Crimson when it's all said and done.

Missouri Tigers: 2010 Exit Survey

2010 CFBZ Prediction: 2nd Place in Big 12 North 
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 1st place in the Big 12 North (10-3, 6-2)

Missouri started out the season sky high by winning their first seven games including a huge victory over then Oklahoma. After knocking off the Sooners, the Tigers took the #6 spot in the Nation into Lincoln Nebraska but fell 31 to 17 after falling behind by 24 points in the very first quarter. The loss to Nebraska hurt but it was the lost the very next week against Texas Tech that would keep them out of the Big 12 Championship game. Missouri closed the season by winning 3 straight against Big 12 North foes before falling to an underachieving Iowa team at the Insight Bowl to finish the year 10-3. From 2009 to 2010 the Missouri defense decreased their points allowed from 25.4 all the way down to just 16.1 per game which ranked them 6th in the Nation in scoring defense. Missouri also had a turnover margin of +11. When you think of Missouri you think of offense but it was an improved defense that helped them to their 10-3 mark this year. We caught up with the SB Nation Missouri Blog Rock M Nation to get their take on the 2010 Tigers and get a sneak peak into 2011. 

1. Missouri finished 10-3 and 6-2 in the Big 12. It was pretty much where you had predicted them to finish in our Pre-Season Preview. What were your favorite memories from the 2010 season?

I don't think there's any doubt that one game/weekend will stand out above all else when Tiger fans look back at 2010. The date 10/23/10 is now forever etched in Mizzou lore as perhaps the best homecoming weekend ever for the school that is recognized as the birthplace of homecoming. The win against Oklahoma, and everything that surrounded it, wasn't just the win of the year, it's been called by many a "once in a generation" type of weekend. College GameDay made its first appearance in Columbia and Mizzou fans promptly rewrote the GameDay attendance record by packing 18,000 people onto the quad. They packed Faurot Field that night and helped every step of the way as Gary Pinkel got the "Oklahoma monkey" off of his back. From the moment Gahn McGaffie – an up-man, no less – ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, Mizzou knew something special could happen that night. And it did.

2. If you could have a "re-do" for one game which would it be?

We'll ignore the Iowa loss and take it for what it is: a tough bowl loss against a solid team. That leaves Mizzou's only other two losses up for deliberation. The Nebraska loss was crippling not just because of its ramifications, but primarily because of how it happened. Mizzou could not have looked more helpless in the first quarter, as the Huskers rolled up and down the field with no resistance and Blaine Gabbert was already under siege and taking fire. Mizzou did fight back to make the score semi-respectable for those that didn't watch the game, but for those who did, it was an ugly loss by nearly any qualifier you choose. That leaves the other loss, a road loss to Texas Tech, which I think would be my personal "re-do" game simply because it was one Missouri should have won. Two 70-yard touchdown runs in the first quarter made it look like Missouri was going to waltz through with a win, but the Mizzou offense disappeared and Taylor Potts replaced Steven Sheffield and re-energized Tech. The Nebraska loss was the one that could have meant a Big 12 North title for Missouri, but it was the Tech loss that really sticks in the sides of Mizzou fans because it was one that the Tigers really should have been able to close out.

3. Blaine Gabbert has thrown for over 3,000 yards in each of the last two years but has declared for the NFL draft. Who is waiting in the wings to replace him?

The presumptive starter at this point will be sophomore James Franklin, who saw minimal time in 2010 as the No. 2 behind Gabbert. Franklin is going to be a bit of a different look from Gabbert, as he lacks the cannon Gabbert had but also possesses a few other skills Gabbert didn't. He is considered a "mobile" or "dual-threat" quarterback, but those labels can often unintentionally degrade a quarterback's ability as a passer. Franklin throws with good touch and throws an extremely catchable ball, much like Chase Daniel did, though we're still unsure about his ability as a downfield passer simply because he was never given the chance to air it out. Additionally, if Franklin gets the nod, it should mean a bit of an overhaul for the Missouri running game, as his inclusion in the offense means Missouri can insert the zone read as a staple in the running game. He'll have a bit of a battle for the job in camp, as Tyler Gabbert (Blaine's younger brother) came on strong during bowl practices, but at the moment, it's Franklin's job to lose.

4. Who were the most surprising players this season?

Offensively, you could pick from any one of the trio of tailback Henry Josey, receiver T.J. Moe or tight end Michael Egnew. All were outstanding in 2010 despite having contributed almost nothing in prior years (Josey was a true freshman, and Moe and Egnew entered the season with nine combined career receptions). All three played instrumental roles in Mizzou's offensive success, as Moe wrote himself into Mizzou lore with the "Moe Miracle" late in Mizzou's improbable comeback against San Diego State and Egnew became next in line as another All-American tight end at Missouri. But I think the two most surprising players on Missouri's team this season were on defense. Safety Jarrell Harrison was considered by some to be the team's most unheralded player and perhaps the defensive MVP. He was third on the team in tackles with 69 and picked up two interceptions, and while his numbers aren't mind-boggling, he was a steadying presence in the Missouri defensive backfield, especially once he was asked to lead even more upon the suspension of safety Jasper Simmons. Harrison even played at linebacker against Iowa State – the first time he had done so since grade school – to help defensive coordinator Dave Steckel deal with attrition at the position. The other surprise defensively was end Brad Madison, who led Mizzou with 7.5 sacks, including 3.0 against Texas A&M while filling in for an injured Aldon Smith. His play in 2010 is why fans aren't jumping off ledges with Smith's declaration for the NFL.

5. What does Missouri need to do to improve this off-season so it can challenge for the Big 12 (or whatever they will be calling it) Title?

Mizzou's chances at the Bevo Ten Championship (see what I did there?) aren't necessarily going to be based on what they can improve but rather what they can replace. Mizzou only lost four senior starters total on both sides of the ball and then lost its two NFL-bound players. The quarterback situation will receive the multitude of the spotlight, and for obvious reasons. Missouri should feel largely confident in its ability to replace Aldon Smith at defensive end, but the really pressing need Missouri will find itself with is the defensive backfield. After being the team's weak link in 2008 and 2009, the defensive backfield was outstanding in 2010, but it now loses two seniors at cornerback with six combined years of starting experience in Carl Gettis and Kevin Rutland, as well as Harrison, mentioned above. Mizzou coaches and reporters say they've been recruiting much better athletes at defensive back, and now it's time to prove it. Cornerbacks Kip Edwards and E.J. Gaines both looked very solid during their appearances in 2010, and Missouri's shot at the conference may rest on their ability to assume starting roles with minimal trouble.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Week In College Football: Iowa, Recruiting, Paul Johnson, Muschamp and Herschel

Iowa Hawkeyes Hospitalized

Thirteen Iowa football players were hospitalized this week with rhabdomyolysis as a result of winter workouts. Rhabdomyolysis is defined as a rare, but serious, medical condition in which skeletal muscle fibers rapidly breakdown and release proteins into the bloodstream. It's characterized by profound muscle weakness and tenderness, and brown-colored urine.The condition could lead to kidney failure, arrthymias, and death if not treated quickly. So needless to say, this was a pretty big deal. Thirteen kids in the hospital on one team, with no real commonalities in class or position. The Head Coach is out on the road recruiting and you have a lot of pissed off parents demanding answers. Not a pretty site and a mess for the Hawkeyes program which has been dealing with a lot of adversity lately. There were a lot of questions and there still remains many. Tox screens have reportedly came back negative. As of Friday, five of the players were out of the hospital. Most teams go through very strenuous work outs in the off-season and that will continue but hopefully teams will learn about the dangers of having too strenuous of work-outs after extended lay-offs. This is a story we will continue to watch and hopefully everything will work out for those afflicted in the Iowa program. 

Recruiting Update

NSD (National Signing Day) is February 2nd. For those of you that are calendar challenged that's this coming Wednesday! You can simply flip on the 4-letter network on that day at any time and I'm sure you will get your fill of recruiting. One team that is really coming on strong, much to my delight, is the Georgia Bulldogs. They were the big winner last week when they landed TE Jay Rome (ESPNU #18) and WR/DB Malcolm Mitchell (ESPNU #45). It was more good news this week when DE Ray Drew (ESPNU #13) made his verbal commitment to Georgia on Friday. Drew is a 6'5, 253 lb 5-star prospect that looks like he can make an immediate impact (not that he's going to be a starter Day 1 but he should get some burn). He will be wearing #47, which was worn by Georgia legend David Pollock. Drew looks to play OLB like Justin Houston did and could also play some DE in the 3-4. Earlier in the week Georgia had also gotten a commitment from the top OL in the state, Xzavier Ward. He's ranked as a 4-star guy from ESPN (and 3-stars from Rivals and Scout) and is listed as #9 on the AJC Fab 50 (basically a list of the top 50 recruits in the state of Georgia). Georgia currently has 7 of the top 12 players in the Fab 50 and could get an 8th on NSD. Georgia has also come out of nowhere to be in the running for DE Jeffrey Pagan, ESPNU #53, who recently de-committed from Clemson (he also previously de-committed from Florida so you might not want to get too excited about him until he signs his name on the line) and ESPNU #150 OL Antonio Richardson. Between those guys and NT John Jenkins and RB Isaiah Crowell it will be a very interested Wed for Georgia fans. The MVP of this recruiting run for Georgia has been Mike Bobo. He is winning South Georgia against some very good recruiters.

ESPNU#28 RB Savon Huggins made his decision on Friday and he picked Rutgers over North Carolina. Huggins becomes the first top-rated New Jersey recruit landed by Rutgers in the Greg Schiano era. After a very disappointing 2010 for Rutgers this could be a spark that they need. Rutgers is currently listed as #30 on the rivals list of top teams but they are second behind only Charlie Strong and Louisville in the Big East.

Paul Johnson's Double Standard

While we are on recruiting let's talk a little Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson. Before I get into this let me say that I think Paul Johnson is a great offensive coach but I just don't understand him on this point. On Thursday Paul Johnson rescinded his scholarship offer from DT Tre Jackson. He did this because Jackson, who committed to Tech in October, has started to heat up and has gotten some calls from schools such as FSU and was going to take a visit to see what they offered (no not in the Cecil Newton sense). Well, Paul did not like this as he has a rule that once you verbally commit to Tech that you are not allowed to visit other schools or your scholarship offer will be rescinded. I have a couple of issues with this. The biggest issue I have is that Paul has no problem talking to kids that are verbally committed to other schools and having them take visits to Tech because if they are willing to come on a visit then he doesn't consider them committed to that school. So he has no problem taking a kid who breaks his commitment from one school to accept his but he doesn't want to be rejected by someone who might be thinking of changing his commitment. I was able to listen to 790theZone a bit on Friday and all of the Tech fans that called in did not like way Johnson was handling this. In my eyes, Johnson needs to realize that he coaches at Georgia Tech- not Alabama or USC or Florida or Texas (a school that basically recruits itself). Johnson needs all the players he can get, especially on defense where Tech has not been good at all in the last two years, and in this era of college football and recruiting coaches have to re-recruit guys that have already committed. Paul Johnson needs to wake up and spend some time re-recruiting instead of giving up due to fear of rejection. You coach at Georgia Tech, the last time I checked it's not exactly recruiting itself and while some players go to the NFL it's not a pipeline to the NFL. Re-recruiting is part of the game now and if you aren't willing to do it then you aren't a good recruiter and will suffer on the field.

Will Muschamp's First Tough Call

Florida CB Janoris Jenkins was recently charged with possession of marijuana. This was his second brush with the law in the last two years as he also was arrested in May of 2009 when he resisted arrest. During Urban Meyer's reign at Florida there were a lot of off-the-field issues. When Will Muschamp took over here's what he had to say about "The Florida Way":

“There's a certain thing that I'm going to refer to as the Florida Way, and that's the way they need to act and that's the way they need to represent our university...I'm going to demand that and I think that you'll understand in time that that's something that's very important to me...When you walk into a home and you talk about being a student-athlete at the University of Florida, I talk in terms of I want all of our student-athletes to come into our program to be a better person for having been at Florida. And I'm not just talking from a football standpoint. I'm talking about the off-the-field things.”

Sounds good, there is a new sheriff in town and Muschamp is not gonna take any ish. But wait...your best defensive player just got busted for pot and it's not the first time he's been in trouble with the law! So what do you do in your first "player issue" decision? What do you do that will make a statement to your players about the new direction of your team and "The Florida Way"? Muschamp says he will handle the situation "internally at this time." Of course, you will because that's the real Florida way. It's easy to talk the talk, but Muschamp is yet to walk the walk. You can't change a culture by ignoring it and hoping it goes away. I'm sure Florida would have really missed him for the Florida Atlantic and UAB games but I guess Muschamp really thinks they need him to win those games. Just wait until that second string LB screws up though, he's gonna pay.

Herschel Walker

So it's not technically College Football....on Saturday night Herschel Walker made his second entrance into the Octagon and just overwhelmed his opponent, Scott Carson. Herschel jumped on Carson early and took him down with a right hand and then stayed on top of him and controlled him with punches. Carson tried to get back to his feet and Walker continued his barrage until the referee stopped the fight. Let's not kid ourselves, Carson is not a "name" in MMA and is still a hand-picked opponent for Herschel but it was impressive seeing Herschel's progression since his last fight as he looked a lot more comfortable and was a lot more aggressive. It will be interesting to see what happens as Herschel continues to fight tougher guys.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Boise State Broncos: 2010 Exit Survey

Coming off of a 14-0 record the previous year, 2010 set-up as Boise State's best chance yet to make a run at the National Championship. Boise State started off with an impressive victory in the opening week against Virginia Tech. In week three Boise State beat it's other BCS non-conference opponent as it took out talented but jekyl & hyde Oregon State. Boise State then went on a run of terror against non-BCS Conference foes where their closest margin of victory was 29 points against Louisiana Tech. After destroying Fresno State by the tune of 51-0, the Broncos fell to a ranked Nevada team 34-31 in OT by a missed FG. Did Boise's run of easy targets set them up for the loss? It's tough to be in a position like Boise is in. You play in a conference where their isn't anybody else on your level so you basically play 8 easy "gimme" games a year. You try to schedule up but a lot of the bigger name teams don't have anything to gain by playing Boise (and have much more to lose) so Boise ends up only getting big match-ups here and there and it's almost always at their opponents stadium or near their opponents lair. While it's much easier for Boise to run the table than say LSU or Alabama there is also the argument that maybe they aren't as battle tested as they could be if they played in a better conference. Led by 2011 Heisman Candidate Kellen Moore and talented WRs Austin Pettis and Titus Young, Boise State had another great season in 2010 and I think that Boise can play with any team in the country on any given day. The question that we will never know (at least not right now) is how Boise would do if they played big-time talent week in and week out and had to face the grind of a conference schedule that teams in the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten face instead of having borderline scrimmages every week instead of conference games. Would the attrition of playing against tougher teams and better coaches wear on the team mentally and physically or would it keep them sharper because they know they have to be on their A game every week? That's one of the questions that keeps Boise on the outside looking in when a lot of pollsters make their ballots and I can't say that I blame them. I would love to see Boise get a chance to step up into a bigger pond and play a tougher schedule and see how they could do. Next year Boise again looks like it has a two-team schedule as they open up against a talented Georgia team that severely under-achieved in 2010 and they end it against a tough TCU team that will be starting a new QB this year. In 2010, even if Boise had gone undefeated they would not have played for the National Championship because of a combination of their schedule and the fact that two teams from BCS Conferences went undefeated. In 2011, Boise State's National Championship hopes again rest on them winning out and having other teams fall by the way-side. We caught up with Kevan Lee of the SB Nation Boise State Blog One Bronco Nation Under God (OBNUG) to get his take on the 2010 Broncos and get a quick peak into 2011.

1. Expectations ran high for the Broncos this year. Do you feel that this team met expectations this year?

Boise State fans had some pretty high expectations - like winning a national championship. So no, Boise State did not meet expectations. Now, whether or not those expectations were reasonable or fair is an entirely different question and one that I'm glad you didn't ask. I don't have the answer to that one.

Thing is, this was perhaps the greatest football team in Boise State history. Obviously, there's room for debate about that since the "greatest team" couldn't do what so many previous ones had - go undefeated. Football's a weird game like that, where anything can happen and on-paper greatness can be undone by a series of bounces or a pair of short uprights. What? Was that out loud? My apologies. I do not mean to hijack this Q&A into a discussion about WAC officiating, which is terrible. Just saying.

2. Which player were the biggest surprise of the season?

DE Shea McClellin had the outstanding season that many expected DE Ryan Winterswyk to have. It helped that Winterswyk was double teamed all the time in order to avoid said outstanding season. But still, McClellin made at least one play per game where you thought, "Wow, this kid is really good at football," or "Wow, toeheads can excel in organized sports." (As a toehead myself, I can understand the poignancy of the latter.)

A lot of other players could fall into the "surprise" category, too, but I'd like to point out one really obvious one: Titus Young. He surprised me with the way he became Boise State's clear-cut No. 1 receiving threat despite the presence of Austin Pettis. That, my friend, is not easy to do.

3. Which player are you most excited about for next season?

The combination of Kellen Moore / Doug Martin is going to keep Bronco hearts warmed all offseason long. BSU has college football's best quarterback (blah blah Andrew Luck, yeah I get it) and one of its most dynamic running backs. The returning starters aren't nearly as many as last year, but that fact seems a little easier to swallow with Moore and Martin returning to the backfield.

4. Boise State had a great duo of senior receivers (Austin Pettis and TItus Young). Who steps up to replace them next year?

The players who are most likely to fill in for Pettis and Young will probably come from this group: Tyler Shoemaker, Mitch Burroughs, Chris Potter, Geraldo Hiwat, Aaron Burks, and Kirby Moore.

My money is on Shoemaker to play the Pettis role next year. His style of play is similar to Pettis in that he is a big body with strong hands who can make plays on key downs and distances. Whether he has the route-running and separation skills needed to survive as Boise State's WR1 remains to be seen.

Opposite Shoemaker, I think Hiwat gets the call. If the Broncos are serious about filling in for Pettis and Young as closely as possible, they'll need a burner and a deep threat outside. Hiwat would be the obvious choice in that role based on his cameos in-season.

Moore is my pick for the starting slot receiver, although I wouldn't be surprised if he pushes either Shoemaker or Hiwat for playing time at the X or Y spots.

5. How big is the Georgia game to start off the year? Boise will be coming in as the higher ranked team and the favorite but Georgia will have a chip on it's shoulder after having two consecutive disappointing seasons.

This game is just as big as the VT one was last year. If Boise State wins, it has a good road to a BCS berth. If it loses, season over. #collegefootballsigh

The difference will be that not as many people will talk about this one since Georgia may not be a preseason Top 25 team. Psychologically, the remnants of the 2005 disaster still remain for Bronco fans, but as far as the players are concerned, none of them played back then and it won't matter. The more important factors will be how quickly Boise State's new starters gel in the starting lineup. This Bronco team could be very good by November but still a little shaky in September.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ohio State Buckeyes: 2010 Exit Survey

2010 CFBZ Prediction: 1st place in the Big Ten
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 1st place in the Big Ten (12-1, 7-1)

Ohio State had another very good year in 2010 as Jim Tressel led the Buckeyes to their 6th straight double digit win total. It was also the 6th straight year that Ohio State lost no more than one conference game. Now that is an impressive stat. Ohio State's lone slip up this year was at Wisconsin where they fell by 13 when they were ranked as the #1 team in the country in the AP Poll. 2011 will be a very interesting year for the Buckeyes as they will start off their first five games without four offensive starters QB (Terrelle Pryor), RB (Dan Herren), OL Mike Adams, WR DeVier Posey. For my money the most interesting games for the Buckeyes next year will be the Sept 17th game at Miami (Fl) where Al Golden and gang will look for a signature win and the first game that the suspended players are back- which is at new Big Ten school Nebraska. Will the suspended players be ready to compete at mid-season form or will they be rusty? To talk Ohio State football we summoned HD Handshoe of BlockONation to get the answers to some of our questions about the 2010 season and get a quick peak at 2011.

1. Ohio State had a very strong year going 12-1 and beating Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. What were your favorite memories from the 2010/2011 season?

I have a couple. Beating Michigan is always great so that stands out. Tressel is now 9-1 and OSU has not lost to UM in 7 years, and then of course the Sugar Bowl win and finally ending the 0-for-forever (0-9) steak vs. SEC opponents in the postseason is a huge weight lifted off of the fans, Tressel, and the program as a whole.

2. Which players surprised you the most with their play?

Well, we always have high expectations of all of our players, especially our starters, so I was not overly surprised during the season by anyone's play, although I will say that Dane Sanzenbacher certainly exceeded all expectations, leading the Buckeyes in both receptions (55), receiving yards (948), and touchdown catches (11).

3. Which players are you most looking forward to watching play next year?

With the looming suspensions, it's going to be very interesting to see what happens this Spring as the Buckeyes prepare to replace QB Terrelle Pryor, RB Dan Herron, and WR DeVier Posey for the first 4-5 games.

Coach Tressel will do what's best for the team but I am hoping to see either Kenny Guiton or Taylor Graham at QB, but 5th year senior Joe Bauserman could get the call, or top recruit and early-enrollee Braxton Miller could burn what we all believed would be a redshirt season if he outshines the others.

At running back, it's hard to say who will emerge. The Bucks are loaded with young talented guys all looking for their shot. Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde, or Roderick Smith will get that chance. We may also see more than one of them get a lot of touches in the first 4-5 games, and perhaps beyond that if they are tearing it up. Herron may end up wishing he had declared for the NFL...

With Posey suspended, and Sanzenbacher graduating, the big shoes to fill are obviously at WR. It's too early to call but my gut says Corey Brown, James Jackson, TY Williams, James Louis, and Chris Fields could all potentially see significant time. All these guys were 4 or 5 star recruits, but Brown is the only one who has any real experience this far, so it is a concern due to that lack of experience.

4. Five Buckeyes are suspended for the first five games of next season. The two games to watch during this stretch are Miami (Fl) and Michigan State. Who do you think is going to step up in their absence and how difficult will it be filling the void these guys leave for 5 games?

I kind of touched on this already but I will also say Miami and Michigan State are good teams so there are no guarantees in those games, but if Tressel limits the risks for our young QBs and inexperienced WRs and leans on the slew of talented RBs and what should again be one of the best defensive units in the country, I'm pretty confident both games are winnable and 5-0 is still a very real and attainable possibility for OSU even without Pryor and company.

5. Heading into the 2011/2012 season, what are the major things that the Buckeyes need to improve in order to get back to the Rose Bowl or a BCS Championship Game?

They have to replace studs Chmidi Chekwa and Cam Heyward on defense, and the WR position is obviously the biggest concern based on the lack of game experience, but they are Ohio State - they have players and they always reload.

I can't help but think of the big kick/punt returns by Miami and Wisconsin against the Buckeyes last season, so Special Teams, specifically the kick and punt coverage units must be better. If Wisconsin didn't get the huge touchdown return they did against Ohio State, the Buckeyes just might have won that game and they would have likely played for the BCS title last year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kentucky Wildcats: 2010 Exit Survey

2010 CFBZ Prediction: 4th in the SEC East 
2010 Actual Finish: 5th in the SEC East (6-7, 2-6)

Rich Brooks finished the last of his seven seasons at Kentucky in 2009, leading Kentucky to four straight winning seasons and four straight bowl berths at the end of his run. Joker Phillips took over the helm this year and is tasked with trying to get Kentucky over the hump in the SEC East and turn them into a contender. In Joker's debut season their were some good moments for the Wildcats (opening the season with a win over Louisville and beating SEC Champ South Carolina top that list) and there were some struggles (going 2-6 in the SEC and 1-5 on the road). After only one year on the job the jury is still out on Joker but we do know that he has some big shoes to fill on offense with Mike Hartline and Randall Cobb departing. We caught up with the Kentucky based SB Nation blog A Sea of Blue to get their take on 2010 and a sneak peak into 2011.

1. Kentucky finished the year 6-7 and 2-6 in the SEC. Do you consider Joker Phillips inaugural season a success, a failure or somewhere in the middle?

Somewhere in between, I would say. It's impossible to call a losing season overall a success, and 2-6 in the SEC just not good.

I think mostly that Phillips earns a pass on this season because most people understand that it was his first season as head coach, and head coach is not the same as offensive coordinator. Short of failure, perhaps, but certainly a disappointment. The defense was just plain incompetent, and the offense was too hot and cold.

2. What were your favorite moments of the year?

Number one would have to be defeating South Carolina in Lexington. Kentucky has suffered long at the hands of Steve Spurrier, and that long losing streak against the Gamecocks has been one of the major targets of UK football fans. It was especially satisfying to come back from down 18 at the half to win in the game's closing minutes.

Number two would be defeating Louisville for the fourth straight time. Louisville is a huge rival, and they had a 4-game streak against Kentucky between 2003 and 2006. It was really nice to get revenge for that.

Finally, seeing Randall Cobb break the single-season all-purpose yards record at UK. Cobb has been a Godsend for Kentucky football, and that feat just cemented his well-deserved legend here at UK.

3. If you could have a "re-do" for one game, which would it be?

Ole Miss in Oxford. Kentucky had every chance to win that football game, and blew it. That would have possibly put the Wildcats on a great trajectory for a special season, and we allowed it to slip away with turnovers.

4. Which players surprised you the most with their performance last year?

That's easy -- Mike Hartline. Hartline went from a player who couldn't throw a spiral one time out of 10 to the SEC's second-leading passer. It was a transformation that almost nobody in the Big Blue Nation expected, but it made the difference between a bowl season and maybe a four-win season.

5. Star receiver Randall Cobb and QB Mike Hartline must be replaced next season. Who will step up to take their place?

Good question. Morgan Newton would seem to be the odds-on favorite to take Hartline's spot, but many, including me, fear that Joker Phillips is going to give short shrift to the talented Ryan Mossakowski, who is a better pure passer and the more highly rated of the two coming out of high school. At least we do have options at quarterback, but Newton failed to impress in the loss to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass bowl.

For Cobb, there are no clear successors at the spot. La'Rod King showed great promise as our #3 receiver this year, but it seems a stretch for him to replace the multidimensional Cobb. Brian Adams and Matt Roark both made a few plays this year, but most Wildcat fans are skeptical about them as starters. Highly touted Aaron Boyd has been a disappointment, and hardly ever saw the field this year. It's hard to imagine him stepping up, but he has the talent if he ever gets the work ethic right.

Incoming freshman Demarco Robinson is an intriguing and overlooked prospect, and he has the kind of skills that could make him an impact player somewhat in the mold of Randall Cobb. He isn't a QB like Cobb was in high school, but he is an explosive athlete who can catch, run, and play the return game.

The player I really hope does well is junior wideout Gene McCaskill, who suffered an injury last year. He showed great promise before he was hurt, and if he comes back 100%, he could be a big playmaker at the wideout spot.

Toledo Rockets: 2010 Exit Survey

Coming off four straight losing seasons the Toledo Rockets took a big step forward this year under second year coach Tim Beckman. In 2010 the Rockets 8-4 in the regular season and garnered itself it's first bowl invite since 2005. Toledo finished an impressive 7-1 in the MAC, with the lone loss being to the MAC West Champs Northern Illinois. Out of conference Toledo ran into a couple of brick walls in the form of Arizona and Boise State but they did collect a good out-of-conference win against Big ten foe Purdue. We caught up with the Toledo Blog Let's Go Rockets to get some of our questions answered about the Rockets 2010 season.

1. Toledo went from 5-7 in 2009 to 8-5 and in a bowl game in 2010. How satisfied are you with the season and what were the major reasons for the turnaround?

Before the season began, we predicted a solid 8-4 season with a possible bowl game for Toledo this year. Realistically, we envisioned losses to Arizona, Purdue, Boise, and a MAC loss along the way. Toledo dropped one to Wyoming after a great win at Purdue but other than those two games, we were close in our prediction. Returning to the post season is a big step in getting Toledo back where it needs to be to contend in the MAC every year. Getting 8 wins makes this a satisfying season for us but the goal of a MAC Championship and bowl victory are still pressing for next season.

Factors contributing to the turnaround at Toledo have been the improved facilities, embedding competition in everything (Beckman is keen on competing), great recruiting by Beckman and staff, and the renewed hardwork and dedication that the staff and players have put in this year. Next year should be even better!

2. What were your favorite moments of the season?

We have several favorite moments this season. Winning against Ohio, early in the season, helped the Rockets and their fans to realize this team could be pretty good, if not better than expected. Defeating Purdue was a big step in showing the team that we could compete with opponents, regardless of conference and gave the MAC a needed reputation bump. The whooping the Rockets laid on the Falcons is a favorite, because, well... BGSUcks.

3. Which players surprised you the most this season?

Although Eric Page earned multiple awards this season, we feel that the biggest surprise was the balance on offense. Eric Page could have received a lot more looks than he did, but the balance in the running game kept defenses guessing. While Morgan Williams appeared to be the back that would carry the load in the ground game this year, Adonis Thomas really stepped up as an effective and capable running threat. While battling injury, David Fluellen also played a key role in the running game.

4. Who are you most looking forward to watching play next year?

We are really looking forward to seeing what Eric Page can do in his Junior season as well as watching Thomas and Fluellen carry the load in the backfield. Fluellen has a chance to be a star. Toledo is fortunate to have a strong group of incoming players - freshmen, JUCOs, and transfers - who should make an impact right away and we’re anxious to see their positive impact on both sides of the ball.

5. What does Toledo need to do in the off-season to keep their momentum going forward and challenge for a MAC Championship?

Toledo absolutely cannot let up on the momentum they’ve built this season. Beckman has built a culture of competition at Toledo that has starters and non-starters alike vying for playing time every week. This keeps everyone pushing to be better and working hard every week and we’ve seen the dramatic results of this effort on the field. Beckman has another talented class of recruits headed to the program and the integration of their talents with an established system of play will be important in allowing the largest possible impact of these talents on the program. The Rockets have to continue to hone their offensives weapons to take pressure off Eric Page and allow for more varied looks on offense. Also, the Rockets have to clean up their special teams play to avoid giving up big plays and help the defense in field position. These are all realistic goals for the off-season that Toledo can use to strengthen the chances of playing for a MAC Championship in 2011.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Week In College Football: Coaching, Recruiting and Transfers

Each week during the off-season I will be doing this feature that will simply be called "This Week In College Football". We will cover the biggest news and stories of the past week and give some opinions and analysis.

Coaching Changes

Most of the interest this off-season in coaching has been in Head Coaching positions. We've covered some of these like Brady Hoke, Will Muschamp, Steve Adazzio and Kevin Wilson. But now that the Head Coaching dust is settling maybe just as interesting a topic is assistant coaches. Having the right assistant coach that is the yin to your yang can be vital for a coach. Just ask Gene Chizik how much he values Gus Malzahn and what he did with the Auburn offense and Cam Newton this year. We've touch on some of these assistant coaching changes in our "Exit Surveys" already like Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State. Did I mention that I really like the addition of Dana Holgerson to the West Virginia staff? I don't know how great it will work in the first year with Bill Stewart still in charge but watch out for West Virginia in the next few years. With one exception I really like what Mack Brown and Texas has done with his staff. Of course, Mack has the advantage of being Texas which is a destination job. Mack went out and got Boise State's offensive coordinator (Bryan Harsin) and also got Mississippi State's defensive coordinator (Manny Diaz). Let's take a look at Diaz really quickly. Mississippi State's defense reduced it's points allowed by 7 points in his only year in Starkvegas, had 10 more sacks than last year, 29 more tackles for loss, and decreased opponents red zone performance by nearly 10%. I think Diaz will be a very capable replacement for Will Muschamp. The hire I question, as a biased Georgia fan and alum, is why Mack Brown would hire Stacy Searles as his OL coach. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Georgia gets a fresh start without him but this was strictly a "reputation" hire and nothing more. The last two years the Georgia offensive line has been pitiful. In my opinion it was the most under-performing unit in all of college football. Georgia QB Aaron Murray was running for his life and RBs Caleb King and Washaun Ealey grew accustomed to getting blown up by the defense immediately after receiving the hand-off (which often times resulted in disaster for Georgia). Good luck with that Texas, but I think Harsin and Diaz should more than compensate for the Searles hire.

Another very interesting hire is Steve Kragthorpe at LSU as Offensive Coordinator. Les Miles already has a great defensive coach in John Chavis so now he just needs to figure out the offensive side of the football. Kragthorpe is probably most well known for his tenure at Louisville, where he only won 5 Big East games in 3 years. He has NFL experience as a QB Coach and college experience as an OC but it's been a while since he's been in that position. The main reason that it looks like Kragthorpe was the guy hired is that Miles valued someone who could develop QBs. It is going to get really interesting in Baton Rouge to see if Jordan Jefferson can fend off exiled Bulldog Zach Mettenburger for QB1. In our "Way To Early" Top 10 for 2011 we've got LSU at #4 (don't tell anybody though because we haven't posted it yet. This is just a secret between me and you). If the LSU offense gets it going this year they will contend for the National Title. Even though this could be the pivotal coordinator hire of the year I still wish Les Miles would have hire Mike Leach to run the offense. Could you imagine the hijinks that would have ensued? It would have been reality TV worthy and I think it probably would have worked on the field too.

Recruiting and Oversigning

With NSD (National Signing Day) fast approaching recruiting is really heating up. The big news this week was former Texas commitment, 5-Star OL Christian Westerman, flipping his verbal commitment to the National Champion Auburn Tigers. Another big winner this week was Mark Richt and Georgia gaining commitments from teammates (and 4-Star prospects) TE Jay Rome and WR Malcolm Mitchell. We also had some indecision from ESPNU 150 (#90) DE Stephon Tuitt who flipped his commitment from Notre Dame to Georgia Tech and then back to Notre Dame. I'm sure he won't be the last guy to flip a commitment before NSD.

While recruiting is a crap shoot, there are still uncommitted guys that can come in and make an immediate impact for their teams and some fans made some noise this weekend to let these guys know that they are wanted. The first is ESPNU 150 #1 prospect DE Jadeveon Clowney. He's 6'6", 240 and looks like a monster on film. His list of finalists is Miami (Fl), Alabama, South Carolina, FSU and LSU. Clowney was at the South Carolina basketball game this weekend and the fans there treated him to some "We Want Clowney! We Want Clowney!" chants. Another uncommitted prospect is RB Isaiah Crowell. Crowell is down to Alabama and Georgia. Georgia just recently beat out Bama for Rome and Mitchell so it would really be an upset for Georgia to win out on 3 straight prospects from them (although Bama did land DE Xzavier Dickson, who was also considering Georgia, earlier this month). Crowell took his official visit to Georgia this weekend and he watched the Dawgs romp the Mississippi State Bulldogs in basketball and was treated to some chants of "I...sai ... ah!!" Some of my blog mates will tell you that recruiting is way too hyped and while I agree with them I also think that there are impact guys out there who can turn a program (just ask Auburn). I was born and raised in the south so college football is a 365 day sport here and we need something to talk about!

While we are on the subject of recruiting let's talk for a minute about oversigning. Teams are allowed to have 85 scholarship athletes on their team, with no more than 25 scholarship players enrolled per season (teams are allowed to have early-enrollees count against the previous year if the team was under 25 for that year). Despite these limits teams still over-sign and find ways to get themselves under the limit. Some athletes don't make the grades, some might flip their commitments at the last minute (see also: Da'Rick Rogers) and some are gray-shirted (which means that the recruit waits to enroll until December and then counts against the next year). Yet some teams are already over the limit of 25. Right now South Carolina is at 30 commitments and Arkansas is at 28. Others, like Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU are currently scheduled to be over their 85 scholarships by around 10. I will use an example to illustrate the big problem I have with oversigning. Last year OL Elliot Porter committed to LSU only to be told, WHEN HE ARRIVED ON CAMPUS, that they did not have a scholarship for him and they asked him to gray-shirt. Porter had committed to LSU in July and then didn't find out that they didn't have room until August of the next year. It's situations like this that make oversigning a big issue. The NCAA already has a limit of 25 so what they should do is just simply enforce that rule. Any team that signs over 25 recruits will have that number subtracted from the next years total. So if they sign 28 then that means that they only get 22 next year. Each team would also have the ability to "petition" the NCAA if something unforeseen happened (ex: coaching change, excessive injuries) that opened up extra scholarships and they could get an exemption to go over the 25. Those are just my thoughts on the issue.

A Farewell to Michigan

We found out this week that former starting QB for Michigan Tate Forcier will indeed transfer. You guys remember him, right? He was the starting QB for RichRod in 2009 (threw for over 2,000 yards as a freshman) before being passed by Denard Robinson. He was declared academically ineligible and missed Michigan's bowl game, but I don't think he was the reason the Wolverines got utterly destroyed by Mississippi State. Then there was a tug-of-war with whether he was going to transfer or not. Well, this week Tate tweeted his intentions saying that he wanted to stay but it was clear Michigan gave up on him. So now the questions are how quickly he can get back in good academic standing and where he will transfer to. In 2010 he was rated by ESPNU as #144 on their ESPNU 150. Ole Miss pops up in my head immediately. Houston Nutt loves him some transfer QB (see also: Jeremiah Masoli) so that could be a possibility (Ole Miss is +10 in oversigning right now but that doesn't seem to matter to Mr. Nutt). Stories are popping up that Montana is a potential landing spot for him but I'd prefer he stay in D-1 (Montana flirted with moving up to the FBS but decided not to do so) to see what he is capable of and if he can become a good starting QB for someone. He's from San Diego so somewhere on the left coast would be the most likely option (his brother Chris previously transferred from UCLA to Furman and before that his brother Jason transferred from Michigan to Stanford). If I was a coach in the WAC or the MWC I would seriously be looking at this kid.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nebraska Cornhuskers: 2010 Exit Survey

2010 CFBZ Prediction: 1st Place in Big 12 North and Big 12 Champion
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 1st Place in Big 12 North and Big 12 Runner-Up (10-4, 6-2)

Nebraska came really close to having a special season but it came apart in the last four games for them. The Cornhuskers got off to a 9-1 start including wins over Okie State and Missouri (who was ranked #6 at the time). On November 20th Nebraska fell to Texas A&M 9-6 in a game where they set school records for penalties and penalty yards. After beating Colorado to get their record to 10-2 they lost a close one in the Big 12 Championship Game to rival Oklahoma 23-20. Probably the most disappointing moment of the season came when Nebraska fell flat in it's bowl game against Washington (a team it had previously beaten this year 56-21). We were able to talk our Nebraska blogger, Brandon, down off of his ledge long enough for him to answer some questions for us about the 2010 season and get a quick look into the 2011 season. You can also follow him on twitter @bigstad24, he should be an interesting guy to follow next college football season as it will be Nebraska's first in the Big Ten.

1. Nebraska finished 10-4 losing 3 of their last 4. Looking back on the season was it a success, a failure or somewhere in between?

I, personally, have to label this season as a failure. I never really bought into the hype of Nebraska being a National Championship contender but you could definitely see that the talent was there to do so. Unfortunately, there were too many holes to prevent it from happening. I admit that I was snowed after the Washington and Kansas State games when the offense looked like the Nebraska of old with its domination of the run game and a defense that could shut down pretty much any offense. Then…the Texas game occurred and from that point forward they didn’t look like the same team. Taylor Martinez was exposed as not having the confidence that he should, the defense was shown prone to being beaten by the run, and the coaching staff was exposed as having little creativity offensively (save for a few Rex Burkhead plays in the last few games…) to get scores. So it became a failure when in three of the last four games you lose 9-6 to Texas A&M taking you out of a potential (albeit…small) chance at a National Title. You lose in heartbreaking fashion to Oklahoma, going back to your Quarterback who had been stopped repeatedly and not sticking with what was working and losing your last game on the way out of the Big 12 Conference. Then finally you lose to a team which you had dominated earlier in the season, and while you may have taken a lot of money away from their Quarterback, you still couldn’t get anything going offensively. If this seems like a successful season to you then by all means take it, but for it was a failure.

2. If you could have one game to "do over" which one would it be?

As much as people would probably expect me to say that I would like to redo the Texas A&M or Oklahoma game, I would rather redo the Holiday Bowl game against Washington. I think that you have to win a game of that magnitude after the prior month going so awry. I don’t think it hurt recruiting too much, but it seemed as if the team just lost focus and seemed badly distracted going into and during that game. As I said before you NEED to win that game so that you can prove the naysayers wrong, and regain some of the luster you lost with two of the losses which you suffered late. It also shows that you may have not been as good as you were touted to be EARLY in the season when you had already beaten that team. You need people to perceive that your team is dominant even if they actually aren’t that way you can keep the intimidation factor. With this loss? You lose that factor, and you also lose the idea of, “A couple of bad breaks…” being the difference in your season.

3. Which player were the most surprising to you this year?

The player that most surprised me this year was Lavonte David. I understand that he was a decent prospect coming out of JUCO last year, but for him to play that hybrid safety/linebacker position and in a dominant manner was something to behold. I don’t think he has much of a future at the next level as a linebacker, but with his ability to cover and run and his tackling ability he will make whatever team drafts him very happy as a Strong Saftey.

4. Which players are you most looking forward to watching in 2011?

Jared Crick because I think he has a chance to be another awesome defensive tackle; I don’t think he will ever get to a Suh-type level, but I certainly think he could be an awesome force on the inside of a defense for years to come. The aforementioned Lavonte David. Alfonso Dennard is also one to watch because of how well he played with Prince Amukamara on the other side of him. I am anxious to see if he can be the same type of corner when he is the focal point of the secondary, and see if he can shut down one side of the field like Amukamara did this entire year. I am also very pumped to see Rex Burkhead as the main running back and see if he can keep up what he did at the end of this year as a do everything style back, and be able to shoulder the load of the carries with no Roy Helu there to help him out.

5. Nebraska is in the same Big Ten division as Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. How do you like Nebraska's chances in this division and what do they need to do this off-season to compete for a Big Ten Championship in their first year?

I like Nebraska’s chances in this division for sure because of how different every other team in it will look next season. Michigan is going to be rebuilding again, Michigan State was greatly exposed by Alabama and I don’t think they can do the same thing they did this past season. Minnesota is going to have a new coach to go along with the same players from a very poor season. Then there is Northwestern whom I think is a sleeper in this division and could win it, but they have never proven to win the big game yet, and I don’t have much faith that you can just learn that over an off-season. What does Nebraska need to do this off-season? I think that a change must be made with the offensive coordinator. I know that Bo Pellini has given him a “vote of confidence” but to me you can’t expect any different result on offense with the same person in charge. Where they would turn? I have no clue, but I know it probably can’t be with current Oregon Wide Receiver’s coach Scott Frost as this was his first year as a coach on the offensive side of the ball. I also don’t think Joe Ganz (a current Graduate Assistant) can just jump up to Quarterback’s coach, but I think that this is what needs to change the most because the defense is always going to be there to stop people. All that you need is one more point than the defense allows, and right now I don’t think that this offensive staff can get that done on a consistent basis.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Syracuse Orange: 2010 Exit Survey

2010 CFBZ Prediction: 8th Place in Big East
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 4th Place in Big East (8-5, 4-3)

The Syracuse Orange were one of the best stories of 2010. Pretty much everybody who covers college football in any format, or for that matter watches college football, picked the Orange to finish dead last in the Big East this past season. A funny thing happened along the way, the Big East was down and Syracuse was a lot more competitive than expected under second year coach Doug Marrone. Syracuse started off their season 4-1 as they beat 3 of the easiest teams to beat in college football but we aren't judging them (when you haven't been very good lately you should schedule down and that's what they did) and they did also schedule Boston College and Washington so it wasn't all cupcakes on the non-conference slate. October 9th was the first statement of the season when Syracuse went to South Florida and won 13-9. Syracuse then fell to Pitt but quickly bounced back with a shocking win over Big East favorite West Virginia and then a win over Cincinnati. West Virginia fans look back to that loss as the reason they didn't win the conference and go to a BCS game instead of UConn. Syracuse came back to earth a little at the end of the season going 1-3 including losses to Big East Champ UConn but they bounced back with a controversial bowl game win over Kansas State to finish 8-5. This season marked Syracuse's first winning season since 2001, when they went 10-3, and their first bowl game since 2004 where they lost to Georgia Tech. It has been a long road back to relevance for the Orange and it will be very interesting to see if Doug Marrone and his staff can maintain this level of success in the years to come. Picked to come in dead last in the Big East the Orange actually finished only 1 game behind UConn, Pitt and West Virginia in the final standings. To help us re-cap the 2010 season for the Orange we caught up with Brian Harrison of the Syracuse based blog Orange 44 for a little Q&A.

1. Syracuse exceeded everybody's expectations this year by finishing 8-5 and winning a bowl game. At what point did you know this was going to be a break-through season for the Orange?

The defining moment has to be when Syracuse went down to Morgantown and beat the then #20 West Virginia Mountaineers. Syracuse had not beaten WVU since 2001 and doing it at Morgantown was a huge plus and a major turning point for Syracuse. With a lot of fans still not on board after a big homecoming loss to Pittsburgh the week before a lot of fans truly didn’t believe in this year’s squad until they had that huge road win and proved that this wasn’t a squad that just got lucky. This was a hard nosed defense that could stop some of the best offenses in the country.

2. What were some of your favorite moments of this season?

During Syracuse’s match with USF Syracuse put together a 98 yard drive. It was pretty magical to watch as Syracuse methodically moved the ball down the field. This was one of the first moments of the season that was a true test against a good team that showed massive improvement in the offensive ability for Syracuse. Also the ending moments of both the games Syracuse played against West Virginia and Rutgers. In both Syracuse was forced to stop the opposing team’s offense to win the game and both times Syracuse ended up with sacks on the quarterbacks on fourth down to win the game.

3. Which players were the biggest surprises of the season?

Tight ends Nick Provo and Jose Cruz were surprisingly reliable targets throughout the season and were very valuable on third downs. But the biggest surprise was the dependability of freshman K Ross Krautman. He was 18/19 on the season, his longest was 48 yards (made outdoors), and was one of the most dependable elements of a special teams unit that ended up firing their coordinator before the end of the season.

4. Which player are you most excited about for next season?

Antwon Bailey was the backup RB for Delone Carter and he found success in both running the ball, but was as equally dependable a receiver. He will get a lot more reps next season as he should be the primary back on the depth chart coming out of the spring. I look forward to seeing what he can do next year. Additionally, Marcus sales had one touchdown catch all season, but had three TDs in the Pinstripe Bowl, including massive home run catches. He will be a major target next season.

In terms of freshmen coming in, besides the potential commitment of DE Ishaq Williams (deciding between Syracuse, Penn State, and Notre Dame [both his parents attended Syracuse]), it would be TE Louie Addazio. He is the son of now Temple Head Coach Steve Addazio, former Florida Offensive Coordinator and Syracuse alumnus. He is a blocking TE, who will obviously get looks from Ryan Nassib to catch the ball, especially in the Red Zone. But really, he will instantly firm up an already vastly improved offensive line.

5. What does Syracuse need to improve on this off-season to keep its positive momentum and possible challenge for the Big East Title?

Syracuse still desperately needs to improve its passing defense. For the last five plus years the way you beat Syracuse was to pass the ball as Syracuse could rarely stop any passing attack. They got better this past year, but they need to improve even more so they can cover receivers tighter and not play such soft zone coverage. Additionally the receivers will need to improve. Several would have a good game here or there, but there were too many games with big drops that would have been huge plays and they would have changed the outcome of the game. Everything else should still remain pretty solid and only get better.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Big Recruiting Day For Georgia

It was just about a week and a half ago when Georgia landed their first three verbal commitments since August in the form of DB Damian Swann, LB Ramik Wilson and WR Sanford Seay. With National Signing Day quickly coming up on us two Georgia targets chose Wednesday to make their verbal commitments. TE Jay Rome, #18 on the ESPNU 150, and teammate WR/DB Malcolm Michell, #45 on the ESPNU 150, both announced their college intentions today but did it at different locations (which caused me to think they might be going separate ways). Jay Rome went first and announced on ESPNU that he would be attending Georgia over Alabama. I was expecting this as Rome has been rumored as a heavy lean towards Georgia for the last several weeks. And why not, Georgia has a really good recent history with TEs making it to the NFL (Leonard Pope, Ben Watson, Randy McMichael, Jermaine Wiggins). I'm not sure what kind of immediate impact Rome will have on the field as Georgia has Orson Charles and Aron White ahead of him but I think he will see the field this year and could set up some good mis-matches if on the field at the same time as Charles.

Next up was Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell announced his intentions at a local restaurant and on a radio show. Jay Rome made it back from his ESPNU trip, which was filmed in Tallahassee, in time to be decked out in Georgia gear for the announcement. Mitchell started off by announcing that Florida was still in the mix and he thanked Georgia coaches (which is the recruiting kiss of death). But in the end Mitchell, who himself said that Alabama had led the whole way in his recruiting, chose Georgia. Mitchell is very interesting because he can go both ways on the field and Rivals has him listed as the #1 CB prospect in the Nation and #30 overall. Recruiting rankings are so subjective but it still feels good when you read that Georgia has Rivals #1 and #3 CB recruits from this years class. But will Mitchell play CB or will he play WR at Georgia? Obviously WR is a little more wide open in the immediate future with the departure of AJ Green and Kris Durham and CB is in decent hands with 3 returning players (Boykin, Commings and Smith). Mitchell caught 77 passes for 1,419 yards and 13 TDs in his senior season. His coach called him "the best athlete I've ever coached."

Also this week, Georgia scored a commitment from DB Quintavious Harrow, who just happens to be a friend and teammate of Isaiah Crowell. Harrow did not have any previous offers but did take a visit to Alabama on January 14th according to Harrow is undersized at DB but could be an asset in the kick game and on special teams with his 4.4 speed. Some have said that he didn't get any offers because his academic standing was in question until recently. Scout has him listed as a 2-star prospect. Harrow is not somebody who looks to contribute immediately but could be a Tim Jennings or Tyson Browning type down the road (although both of them were rated higher by recruiting services).

These two kids (Rome and Mitchell) haven't even stepped on campus and we don't know if they will be all they are cracked up to be but it was a feel good moment that Georgia needed. After a dismal season things are starting to look up with the latest flurry of verbal commitments and Texas poaching our OL coach (yes I think this is a positive, the Georgia OL has been awful the last two years and this past season was one of...if not THE...most underperforming units in all of college football). Now we await word on RB Isaiah Crowell, DE Ray Drew and NT John Jenkins. If Georgia lands 2 of those guys then this really might be the "Dream Team" that the Georgia coaches are touting.

Alabama Bric-A-Brac is Back

Well, the offseason has thoroughly settled in on us, so it's time for the return of my completely irregular updates on what's happening with Alabama football, or just whatever I think is pertinent to talk about at any given moment. I figured now would be a good time to tie up some loose ends from the past couple of weeks as we get ready for the inevitably wild conclusion of the 2011 recruiting season that will no doubt be fueling the blog for the next week or so.

Let's get this started...

The NFL Draft: No Surprises

Last time I checked in, we speculated on which Bama juniors would be declaring for the Draft. Three were absolute no-brainers to leave school early, and they did as expected. Marcell Dareus, Julio Jones, and Mark Ingram will all be 1st round picks (probably in that order), so congrats to them. However, there was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the decisions of Dont'a Hightower, Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw, and Marquis Maze.

Hightower announced his intentions to return to Alabama for his senior(?) season alongside Dareus, Jones, and Ingram, ending that press conference on a somewhat happy note. A week later, Barron held his own presser and also stated he would be returning to school. Neither Upshaw nor Maze made public decisions, but the deadline to declare came and went without either filing their draft papers. I was a bit taken off guard by Maze's decision, as most of the information I was getting said that his mind had been made up to turn pro for some time.

All in all, I think everyone made the right decision for their respective careers.

I'm really excited about Mark Barron coming back. Due to graduation, attrition, and suspension, the Tide began the 2010 season with only one safety with any significant playing experience (that being Barron). When the Tide begins the 2011 season, the Tide will have FOUR safeties with that experience once Robbie Green returns from his NCAA suspension. The secondary will go from being a major weakness to a major strength next season.

Another Coaching Change: Nick Saban Is Never Surprised

In yet another "blink and you'll miss it" shakeup of the coaching staff, offensive line coach Joe Pendry retired and was quickly replaced by Miami (FL) OL coach Jeff Stoutland.

Pendry actually came out of retirement to join Nick Saban on his first staff at Alabama. There was a good deal of skepticism surrouding that hire in 2007, but he ultimately silenced his critics when he forged two of the most dominating offensive lines I've ever seen in 2008 and 2009. In addition to being the OL coach, Pendry also served as what you might call an unofficial "co-offensive coordinator" during his time at Bama. It's unclear if Stoutland will serve in a similar capacity, but it's doubtful.

I'm not terribly familiar with Stoutland's work, so I don't have much of an opinion on the hire. I will say I wasn't impressed by much of anything that happened at Miami over the past few seasons, but who knows how much of that was top-down incompetence stemming from Sleepyhead Shannon himself. (I'd guess a lot.) All I know is that he was Pendry's recommendation to take over and Saban doesn't miss on hiring assistants too often.

So we'll see how it goes. He certainly has big shoes to fill, and I hear Pendry intends to remain in Tuscaloosa in some sort of "advisory role" for the team.

Army High School All-American Game Madness

With the lack of any major surprises coming in the form of Draft departures, the biggest tremors felt in the Bama fanbase came at the Army All-American game. The broadcast began with long-time Alabama commit Brent Calloway (then a 5* prospect according to Rivals) publicly decommitted from the Tide and then said he would choose a new college destination later in the game. Which he did...and it was Auburn.

So that was weird and just plain sucked. In a later interview concerning his decision, Calloway basically came out and said he had been scared off by Alabama's depth chart. A tweener athlete who played running back and linebacker in high school, Calloway projects very highly as an LB in college and not very highly at all at running back. Bama was offering him the opportunity to at least attempt to play RB first, but Calloway noted Bama's 6 scholarship RBs on the roster and didn't like his odds of getting playing time there. Bama is likewise stacked at linebacker, and, as Calloway noted, they're generally much bigger than him.

And with all that in mind, as well as the encouragement of friend and Auburn commit Jonathan Rose, Calloway elected to take his talents to Auburn, where the paths to playing time at running back and linebacker are much clearer.

You always hate to lose a great athlete like Calloway, but I have no problem with his decision. I do have an issue with the way he did it, attempting to humiliate Bama on national TV, know...he's a high school kid. They do dumb things. And I have no doubt he was encouraged to do it by some of the sleazebags on the AU staff. Good luck to him.

But it wasn't all bad news!

After the Calloway business was said and done, the Tide FINALLY nailed down a public commitment from 5* RB and the Army Player of the Year, Dee Hart. Hart has wanted to be at Alabama all along but various issues have always gotten in the way, most recently Hart's desire to be an early enrollee which Bama didn't have room for. But apparently they got that ironed out, and Hart donned the crimson cap, at last. Or rather...he pulled out a Bama hat...said he was going to Bama...and then put the hat on the head of his friend, teammate, fellow 5* prospect, and long-time Bama commit Hasean Clinton-Dix.

Quite the bromance those two have.

Good Journey, BJ Scott

It's official.

And now for the mea culpa...

Okay, last summer I wrote this glowing mini-biography on him: Alabama's X-Factor: BJ Scott.

And then a funny thing or two happened on the way to his breakout game. Or two.

First and foremost, JUCO transfer Dequan Menzie, once thought lost for the season with an Achilles injury, made a miraculous recovery over the summer and earned one of Bama's 3 primary cornerback spots in fall camp. Saban doesn't sign JUCO players not to play, so it was no surprise a (mostly) healthy Menzie locked up a spot in the playing rotation.

At the same time, true freshman Demarcus Milliner had a mental breakthrough and started picking up the defensive schemes quickly. Reportedly, this was the aspect of the game that Scott struggled with the most. And Saban will ALWAYS favor the player who does a better job handling the mental aspect of his scheme. (See also: Milliner's fellow true freshman CJ Mosely leapfrogging several guys at linebacker by displaying a "Rolando-like" grasp of the defense.)

And just like that...Scott lost his starting job. By the time fall camp was over, he had even been passed over as (what I would call) the "emergency" corner by LSU-transfer Phelon Jones. He saw extremely limited playing time during the season and ultimately suffered an ankle injury that shut him down at the end. The one bright spot for Scott in 2010, and perhaps in his entire Bama career, was his garbage time interception in the Tennessee game that caused a minor earthquake of jubilation on the Tide sideline.

So, I'll just admit it...I was wrong on this one. Horribly wrong. And I'm really disappointed for BJ, who, by all accounts, is a good guy and teammate. Hopefully, he'll have a great two years at South Alabama.

Oh, and don't let anyone tell you that he was cast off to make room for new recruits. Completely unfounded. In fact, as recently as a week ago, Saban had met with Scott to try to convince him to stay. Even if he was never going to play a meaningful down at Alabama, you don't get rid of guys with his work ethic and attitude who are as popular with the team as BJ was/is.

That said, I think BJ's story serves as a cautionary tale during the Silly Season that is recruiting in January and February. He himself was once a 5* propect on his way to star at one of the most storied programs in college football...Today, he leaves having accomplished nothing individually and will finish his career on an unclassified team that didn't even EXIST when he graduated high school. The moral of the story? Chill OUT, people. I'm as interested in recruiting as the next guy, but keep stuff in perspective. These are kids, and nobody REALLY knows how they're going to turn out in 3 or 4 years time.

It's not worth freaking out over if your coveted 5* offensive tackle signs with your hated rival. (Foreshadowing?) It's definitely not worth stalking a kid's Facebook page and posting insults about him. Or whatever.

With that in mind, I'll be back some time soon to fuel that insanity with a check-up on Alabama's 2011 recruiting class! Who's coming!? Who's going!? I HAVE THE ANSWERS.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft Version 1

This is my first offering to this blog and I would like to thank Kevin for the opportunity to post here. I have been posting mocks at various places for the last 7 years so it's always nice to have somewhere new to share my thoughts. This is my first mock post the deadline for underclassmen to declare and I haven't done any descriptions for the picks but they will be coming in the next one after the Super Bowl.

1. Carolina Panthers = Nick Fairley DT Auburn (Jr)
2. Denver Broncos = Da'Quan Bowers CB Clemson (Jr)
3. Buffalo Bills = Blaine Gabbert QB Missouri (Jr)
4. Cincinnati Bengals = Robert Quinn DE North Carolina
5. Arizona Cardinals = Patrick Peterson CB LSU (Jr)
6. Cleveland Browns = A.J. Green WR Georgia (Jr)
7. San Francisco 49ers = Prince Amukamara CB Nebraska
8. Tennessee Titans = Ryan Mallett QB Arkansas (Jr)
9. Dallas Cowboys = Marcel Dareus DE Alabama (Jr)
10. Washington Redskins = Cameron Newton QB Auburn (Jr)
11. Houston Texans = Cameron Heyward DE Ohio State
12. Minnesota Vikings = Adrian Clayborn DE Iowa
13. Detroit Lions = Akeem Ayers OLB UCLA
14. St. Louis Rams = Julio Jones WR Alabama (Jr)
15. Miami Dolphins = Mikel LeShoure HB Illinois (Jr)
16. Jacksonville Jaguars = Cameron Jordan DE California
17. New England Patriots (through Oakland) = Aldon Smith OLB Missouri (Jr)
18. San Diego Chargers = J.J. Watt DE Wisconsin (Jr)
19. New York Giants = Derek Sherrod OT Mississippi State
20. Tampa Bay Bucs = Ryan Kerrigan DE Purdue
21. Kansas City Chiefs = Von Miller OLB Texas A&M
22. Indianapolis Colts = Tyron Smith OT USC (Jr)
23. Philadelphia Eagles = Jimmy Smith CB Colorado
24. New Orleans Saints = Mark Ingram HB Alabama (Jr)
25. Seattle Seahawks = Corey Liuget DT Illinois (Jr)
26. Baltimore Ravens = Gabe Carimi OT Wisconsin
27. Atlanta Falcons = Justin Houston DE Georgia (Jr)
28. New England Patriots = Anthony Castonzo OT Boston College
29. Chicago Bears = Jonathan Baldwin WR Pittsburgh (Jr)
30. New York Jets = Torrey Smith WR Maryland (Jr)
31. Green Bay Packers = Mike Pouncey OG Florida
32. Pittsburgh Steelers = Marcus Cannon OT TCU

Top 5 available on my big board

Kyle Rudolph TE Notre Dame
Martez Wilson MLB Illinois
Stephen Paea DT Oregon State
Stefen Wisniewski OC Penn State
Rahim Moore FS UCLA

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Northwestern Wildcats: 2010 Exit Survey

2010 CFBZ Prediction: 6th Place in Big Ten
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 7th Place in Big Ten (7-6, 3-5)

Northwestern finished just about where we thought they would this year. They beat up on some inferior opponents to start the season 5-0. Then they lost a game at home to a Purdue team that would finish 4-8. The Purdue loss was definitely their worst loss and stands out when looking at their season. After going 5-0 to start, Northwestern finished up 2-6 in their last 8. The high point of the season was beating Iowa, then ranked #13, 21-17.  However, the win was bittersweet as the Wildcats also lost their dynamic QB Dan Persa in that game and without him finished the season 0-3 including losses in very winnable games against Illinois and Texas Tech. To find out more about the 2010 Northwestern Wildcats we reached out to the Northwestern blog Lake The Posts.

1. In our Pre-Season Preview you said 8-4 would be a very successful season and anything less than 7-5 would be a major disappointment. Northwestern finished 7-5 in the regular season (7-6 after the bowl). How do you feel now that the season is over? Was this season a success, a failure or somewhere in between?
Somewhere in between. Overall, a disappointment as we continued the nation's current longest bowl losing streak. I'm always one to not use injuries as an excuse as they are part of the game. I think NU's inability to still have the "put teams away" demeanor is the most disheartening. Clearly the emergence of Dan Persa was THE storyline of the season as 'Cats fans believe we have a legitimate Heisman candidate in 2011. Without Persa I shudder to think how far we would've fallen after 2009.

If I had to fairly go back in time and assess expectations for the 2010 season it would go something like this:

1) Confident at QB and skill position players b/c we've proven we can reload at both in our spread system. Fitz was very confident in Persa and we believed.

2010 post analysis - spot on and even bested expectations.

2) OL should be a strength as we return everyone and RB game has to be better since Fitz put it as a point of emphasis and he believed it was much improved.

2010 post analysis - pretty big disappointment. The OL struggled in pass protection and our run game, while OK by committee and overall stats really was a trial and error experiment.

3) Defense - some pretty big question marks as our secondary is the most suspect and replacing Corey Wootton at DE will be a tall task. LB should be good though.

2010 post analysis - biggest disappointment. NU gave up 550+ yards in total offense in last three games - all post-Persa and all losses. We ranked 97th in total defense and simply lacked the ability to do some very basic fundamentals like wrap guys up when we had them. Our pass rush was God-awful.

4) Special Teams - Our punting is pretty bad and kick coverage has been an Achilles heel but hopefully Stefan Demos will recover from the Outback Bowl and have a bang-up year.

2010 post analysis: aside from placekicking where Demos played injured all year and struggled on FGs and PATs, it was a night-and-day improvement. Brandon Williams was an unsung hero as a punter and our return game, ignited by Venric Mark shows huge promise for the future, while our kick coverage teams might be the most improved unit on the field.

2. What were your favorite memories from this season?

In no particular order, yet another "upset" against Iowa in a classic performance by Dan Persa, being up 21-0 at Penn State and having Sean McDonough gushing about the level of athleticism at NU.

3. Which players surprised you the most this season?

In general, I'm going to go with the true freshmen on this one. Fitz is a vocal proponent of redshirting so for him to play a true freshman it takes a lot. Fitz unleashed many frosh this season and they were impact players like WR Rashad Lawrence, WR Tony Jones, KR/PR/WR Venric Mark, RB Adonis Smith and DT Will Hampton. Its great to visibly see so much improved talent on the field and really bodes well for the future.

4. Who are you looking most forward to watching next season?

Obviously all eyes are on the recovery of Dan Persa which is reportedly ahead of schedule. I'm looking forward to Adonis Smith making a big jump at RB next year with a full off-season to really dive deep in to the system. We're all sitting back arms crossed waiting for someone, anyone to step up and lead this team on defense.

5. Northwestern has been placed in a division with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Nebraska. Where do you think Northwestern fits in and what do they need to do this off-season to move up the ladder in their division?

I think most objective fans would look at the end of 2010 and say the projected order of finish for 2011 would be:

However, I'm not objective. With Persa returning as a senior captain, this has the makings of one of those once every 3-4 year jump years where NU actually competes for the top of the pack in Big Ten play. MSU and Iowa are both realistic to overtake in 2011 and a 2nd place finish isn't unrealistic. However, that will rely on us converting all of our productive offense into 7 points instead of 3 points on drives and of course a defense that can prove it can make a few stops in key spots. I put the bar of success season at 9-3 in the regular season and that includes a couple of non-conference gut check road games at Boston College and Army - both bowl teams in 2010. NU catches a schedule break in 2011 with no Ohio State, no Wisconsin (we also unfortunately lose Purdue) with 3 of the 8 opponents experiencing year one coaching changes (Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana). You can't ask for a better schedule.

Final 2010/2011 CFBZ Top 25 Poll

W-L Final Game PR
1 Auburn 14-0 beat #3 Oregon 22-19 1
2 TCU 13-0 beat #6 Wisconsin 21-19 3
3 Oregon 12-1 lost to #1 Auburn 22-19 2
4 Stanford 12-1 beat #15 VT 40-12 5
5 Ohio State 12-1 beat #12 Arkansas 31-26 6
6 Wisconsin 11-2 lost to #2 TCU 21-19 4
7 Oklahoma 12-2 beat Uconn 48-20 9
8 LSU 11-2 beat #18 Texas A&M 41-24 11
9 Alabama 10-3 beat #14 Mich State 49-7 10
10 Nevada 13-1 beat Boston College 20-13 12
11 Boise State 12-1 beat #25 Utah 26-3 13
12 Arkansas 10-3 lost to #5 Ohio St 31-26 7
13 Oklahoma St 11-2 beat Arizona 36-10 16
14 Mich State 11-2 lost to #9 Alabama 49-7 8
15 Virginia Tech 11-3 lost to #4 Stanford 40-12 14
16 FSU 10-4 beat #19 South Carolina 26-17 23
17 Miss State 9-4 beat Michigan 52-14 21
18 Texas A&M 9-4 lost to #8 LSU 41-24 18
19 South Carolina 9-5 lost to #16 FSU 26-17 19
20 Nebraska 10-4 lost to Washington 19-7 15
21 Missouri 10-3 lost to Iowa 27-24 17
22 UCF 11-3 beat Georgia 10-6 24
23 Maryland 9-4 beat East Carolina 51-20 -
24 NC State 9-4 beat West Virginia 23-7 -
25 Utah 10-3 lost to #11 Boise St 26-3 22

Dropped Out: West Virginia, Hawaii

Also Receiving Votes: Miami (Oh), Air Force, Tulsa, Iowa, West Virginia

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