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Tag:Gus Malzahn
Posted on: February 14, 2012 5:14 pm
 

Roundtable: College football valentines

Posted by Eye on College Football



Occasionally the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron-style to answer a pressing question in the world of college football. Today's query:

It's Valentine's Day, so pick someone or something from college football--person, team, conference, whatever. Who should they be sending a valentine to today, and what does that valentine say?

Bryan FischerI think the athletic directors at Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington and Washington State should be sending a Valentine to Larry Scott this year. The Pac-12 commissioner unveiled his Pac-12 Network studios just yesterday, and that's appropriate considering the media deals he negotiated were the biggest reason those schools were able to off the sweetheart deals that landed their new coaches. Do you think the Bruins or Huskies could have afforded the assistant salaries before that money started flowing? Or that Wazzu was able to land a coach like Mike Leach? I don't think they do.

I'm guessing their valentine says something to the affect of, "Thank$ Larry for everything, hope you'll be our Valentine for several more years."

Tom Fornelli:  I'm going to say TCU and West Virginia owe Missouri and Texas A&M a valentine this year, one with some expensively-licensed cartoon character saying "Thanks for the sloppy seconds!" If not for those two leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, then both TCU and WVU are stuck in the Big East for 2012 at least--a Big East that's without a clear future at the moment, and seems en route to becoming Conference USA version 2.0.

Instead the Frogs and Mountaineers have joined the Big 12, which is in much better shape than the Big East and will provide far more money for both schools in the long run.

Jerry Hinnen: If I'm Mike Slive, I'm sending out a valentine to Dana Holgorsen -- or maybe Gus Malzahn, or Mike Leach, or Todd Monken -- saying "WILL YOU BE MINE?" festooned with as many hearts (and dollar signs) as it takes to convince them to try their hand (again, in Malzahn's case) in the SEC. There's no doubting the SEC's dominance on the defensive side of the ball or its overall array of talent, but the 2011 season also showed a league in dire need of an infusion of offensive ingenuity, preferably (for variety's sake) out of the spread school. Alabama's yawn-inducing strangulation of LSU in the BCS title game is Exhibit A for the conference's current cloud-of-dust tendencies, but the overall statistical picture is even more damning: six different SEC teams finished in the bottom 25 in the FBS in total offense, with zero finishing in the FBS top 25. (Arkansas ranked highest at 29th.) 

Some of that is good defense; an awful lot of it is terrible offense, too. And it may get worse before it gets better--look at the likes of former offensive juggernauts Florida and Auburn, currently undergoing dramatic offensive regime changes after regressing badly in 2011.

Defense may win championships, but offense often wins TV ratings, as the BCS championship Nielsens will tell you. The SEC's current regular season ratings are fine, of course, but Slive is about to go back to the negotiating table to try and keep his TV contract up with the Joneses of the Big Ten and Pac-12, a table to which he'll want to bring every single positive for his league he can gets his hands on. The SEC will be a-OK with or without the Big 12's reputation for high-flying offensive theatrics, but that doesn't mean Slive -- and a league full of fans likely tiring of watching Tennessee and South Carolina combine for 17 points and barely more than 500 yards in nationally televised prime-time -- wouldn't welcome someone who could shake up the conference's burgeoning reputation for Slugfest-with-a-capital-S football. Kevin Sumlin gets first crack, but we're guessing Slive would prefer he had some high-profile help sooner rather than later.

Chip Patterson: If I'm Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, I'm sending roses, candy, banners, and thankful notes to new head coach Urban Meyer.  Even with an ill-timed bowl ban from the NCAA Committee on Infractions, Meyer has cooled much of the heat on Smith after the fallout surrounding Jim Tressel's departure.  Winning cures all, but hiring a two-time national champion to supposedly guide your program out of the darkness will certainly hold the Buckeye fans over until the bowl ban is lifted.  Meyer hit the recruiting trail hard after his hire, pulling in a top-5 recruiting class despite the sanctions from the NCAA.  

If Smith had whiffed on his hire to replace Tressel, he would find himself under further scrutiny with the additional sanctions.  Meyer is exactly the home run hire Ohio State -- and Gene Smith -- needed.  In fact, a valentine might not be enough.  Maybe Smith should get a tattoo. 

What? Too soon? 

Posted on: January 23, 2012 5:15 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 5:17 pm
 

SEC West coordinator hires: thumbs up or down?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With all 28 positions now filled, here's one team-by-team assessment of where the SEC stands at the two most important assistant coaching positions. First, the West:

ALABAMA

2011: Jim McElwain offensive coordinator, Kirby Smart defensive.
Departures: McElwain accepted the job as Colorado State head coach.
2012: McElwain has been replaced by Washington OC Doug Nussmaier.

Thumbs up/down? Firmly up. Some of that is the hire of Nussmaier, who -- once freed from trying to turn Jake Locker into the efficient college QB he was never going to be -- coaxed Keith Price into becoming one of 2011's breakout stars and the Huskies to a 24th-place finish in yards-per-play. (It doesn't hurt that Nussmaier cut his coordinating teeth in the same Fresno State program McElwain did.) But even bigger was that the Tide retained the services of Smart for another year, despite his having overseen a 2011 'Bama defense that merely ranked among the best the game has ever seen.

ARKANSAS

2011: Garrick McGee offensive, Willy Robinson defensive.
Departures: McGee took the UAB head coaching positionRobinson resigned after four up-and-down years in Fayetteville.
2012: Paul Petrino returns to his brother's staff as OC after two seasons at Illinois; Paul Haynes arrives as DC after seven years at Ohio State.

Thumbs up/down? Up. It's hard to imagine a snugger fit for the offense than the same person who ran it for two successful seasons in 2008 and 2009. Haynes is unproven as a defensive play-caller -- Jim Heacock handled those duties for the Buckeyes -- but there's no arguing with the overall defensive success OSU experienced during Haynes' stay in Columbus. Anything approaching a Buckeye-esque D in 2012 will be a big improvement on the Robinson era.

AUBURN

2011: Gus Malzahn offensive, Ted Roof defensive.
Departures: Malzahn is now the head coach at Arkansas State; Roof avoided a potential dismissal by first taking the UCF DC's job, then rejoining old Duke colleague Bill O'Brien at Penn State.
2012: Temple OC and longtime Michigan/Florida QB coach Scot Loeffler will run the offenseAtlanta Falcons DC Brian VanGorder the defense.

Thumbs up/down? Up. VanGorder is a smash hire with a successful track record both in the NFL and the SECthe sort of coach who should return the Tigers' defense to respectability in a hurry. Loeffler is a young, highly respected up-and-comer who's been due for an OC gig like Auburn's, but his pro-style leanings and early talk about "helping our defense and special teams" signals a wrenching shift in philosophy from Malzahn's no-huddle spread. Is he sharp enough to overcome what could be some serious transitional hiccups?

LSU

2011: Steve Kragthorpe and Greg Studrawa offensive, John Chavis defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Up. Despite the horrorshow put on by the Tigers in the BCS national title game, after a 13-0 regular season (and 17th-place finish in scoring offense) Les Miles is entirely justified in looking to tweak the LSU play-calling rather than overhaul it. And Chavis, of course, continues to quietly roll along as one of the college game's most productive assistants.

OLE MISS

2011: David Lee offensive, Tyrone Nix defensive.
Departures: Both Lee and Nix, swept out along with Houston Nutt.
2012: Hugh Freeze brought Arkansas State DC Dave Wommack with him while hiring former Rebel OC Dan Werner out of college-coaching retirement.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively down, which is not to say there aren't positives. Freeze will have a heavy hand in running the Rebel offense, so Werner's time away from the game won't hurt much, and the veteran is highly familiar with both the Mississippi recruiting trails and the Rebel program. Wommack, meanwhile, enjoyed an excellent 2011 season overseeing a resurgent Red Wolves defense. But both coaches' resumes are more solid than spectacular; for a head coach (and a program) with plenty of question marks of his (and its) own to answer, a legitimate needle-moving hire would have been helpful.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

2011: Les Koenning offensive, Chris Wilson defensive.
Departures: None.

Thumbs up/down? Tentatively up. Wilson's first season in charge of the Bulldog D (after a promotion from coaching the defensive line) was promising, with a rapidly-improving unit holding four of their final six FBS opponents under 4 yards per-play. But the Bulldog offense was a disappointment, finishing ninth in both total yards and yards per-play in conference games; though Dan Mullen's close oversight of the offense means Koenning can't be blamed for those struggles, you could argue a switch might have given the Bulldog O a spark this offseason ... even if we won't.

TEXAS A&M

2011: Mike Sherman as his own OC, Tim DeRuyter defensive.
Departures: The fired Sherman, obviously. DeRuyter landed on his feet as the Fresno State head coach.
2012: Kevin Sumlin brought Houston co-OC Kliff Kingsbury with him as play-caller and hired Mark Snyder away from USF as DC.

Thumbs-up/down? Up. Though the Sumlin/Kingsbury tag team may miss Jason Phillips (the Cougars' other co-OC, now at SMU), it's hard to argue with Sumlin over any plan for his offense, given what he (with Kingsbury's help) accomplished at Houston. Snyder, meanwhile, bolstered an often-sloppy USF defense into the FBS top 15 in yards-per-play each of his two years in Tampa and brings head coaching experience from his time at Marshall. Barring hiring someone like VanGorder for the defense, it's hard to see how Sumlin could have done much better for the kind of program he wants to build -- in either slot -- than he did.

Tomorrow: the East. For all of Eye on CFB's SEC coverage, click here.

Thanks to TeamSpeedKills' helpful "Coaching Carousel Scorecard." 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: January 22, 2012 8:20 pm
 

Auburn hires Temple's Loeffler as new OC

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Gene Chizik has made his choice to replace Gus Malzahn--and it's a name that won't be unfamiliar to SEC fans.

Auburn has announced that it has hired away Temple offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Loeffler spent five seasons as the Michigan quarterback coach and also has stints with the Detroit Lions and Central Michigan, but is best known for having served as Florida's quarterbacks coach for two seasons--including their 2009 undefeated regular season with Tim Tebow

“Auburn is one of the special jobs and special places in college athletics with a tremendous amount of history and tradition," Loeffler said in a statement. "It’s an honor to be joining Coach Chizik’s staff and I’m very appreciative of this opportunity. I’m excited to get started and look forward to beginning recruiting, meeting the players and staff, and interacting with the Auburn family.”

"Scot is a rising star who has worked with some very good quarterbacks, and has achieved a tremendous amount of success," Chizik said. "He is a tireless worker, is an outstanding recruiter and knows the rigors of competing in this conference."

Chad Henne was one of multiple quarterbacks to have flourished under Loeffler's tutelage in Ann Arbor. 

Despite those qualifications, Loeffler, 37, remains an unproven quantity when it comes to running an SEC-level offense; his single year at Temple (having followed ex-Gator coordinator and current Owl head coach Steve Addazio) is his only one as a play-caller. The Owls finished 63rd in total offense but a much-better 35th in yards-per-play, with the ground game particularly impressive; behind Bernard Pierce's 1,481 yards, the Owls finished 7th in the FBS in rushing.

Between Loeffler's track record of quarterback coaching, his effective 2011 run-scheming, and an age and energy level that should play well on the recruiting trail, it's easy to see why Chizik would be interested. (That Loeffler may be able to install some of Urban Meyer's spread concepts along with his bread-and-butter pro-style running attack could help ease the transition from Malzahn's spread   philosophy.) But a coach with as little play-calling experience is a huge gamble all the same--and it's one that after an iffy 7-5 season, Chizik likely can't afford to lose. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: January 20, 2012 4:34 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 2:31 pm
 

A first look at 2012's returning starters

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's never, ever too early to talk about the next college football season once the previous one has passed. But it's a lot less too early once the deadline for NFL Draft declarations has passed and teams can enjoy an accurate -- or at least semi-accurate -- gauge of what their returning talent will look like next season.

Thanks to data-cruncher Phil Steele, we can enjoy that same semi-accurate gauge. As he does every January -- among the teams predicted for big things at this time last year were Michigan, Alabama and Vanderbilt -- Steele has released a comprehensive list of FBS returning starters for 2012, ranking each team 1-123. Yes, 123, thanks to the arrivals of UT-San Antonio, Texas State and UMass; Larry Coker's UTSA Roadrunners even top the list with 23 total returning starters (11 offensive, 10 defensive, and both specialists) as they ready for their first WAC season.

But of course, UTSA has its work cut out for it to make an impact, no matter how experienced its players might be. Among programs college football fans are more familiar with, here's the numbers and teams from Steele's data that stand out:

  • Sharing the lead amongst all BCS programs are Texas Tech and Tennessee with 20 starters each, including quarterbacks Seth Doege and Tyler Bray, respectively. If Red Raider and Volunteer third-year coaches Tommy Tuberville and Derek Dooley can't turn that kind of experience into a better year 3 than their collective Year 2's, neither one should be surprised if they don't receive a Year 4.
  • Never say never with Chris Petersen still around, but this looks like the season Boise State's incredible run of dominance and top-10 finishes comes to a halt. The Broncos rank dead-last, rock-bottom, with just 6 starters coming back--3 offensive 2 defensive, and (infamous) kicker Dan Goodale. (Then again, in the newly TCU-less Mountain West, will anyone stop them regardless? The league leader in returning starters is Colorado State, with no other MWC program ranked higher than Fresno State at 29th.)
  • It's possible Badger fans will rue their back-to-back failures at the Rose Bowl even more than they do already; with just 10 returning starters, Wisconsin ranks at the bottom of the Big Ten and 116th overall. Big Ten fans should instead gear up now for an even-more-critical Ohio State-Michigan game than usual; the Buckeyes are second in the league behind Indiana with 18 starters, and the Wolverines are tied with Nebraska for third with 16.
  • The Vols, Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt top the SEC list -- with 18 starters or more, all rank among the nation's 19 most experienced teams -- which means the league could see a more topsy-turvy season than usual; despite their cavalcade of young talent LSU returns just 5 defensive starters, national champions Alabama just 4. Despite major losses on the offensive line, Georgia looks poised to field the conference's best defense, with nine starters coming back for a unit already ranked fifth in the FBS.
  • Why is USC getting so much early preseason love? Pretty simple: of the 10 teams listed in Bruce Feldman's early-bird top 10, the Trojans are one of just two to have as many as 17 returning starters. The other is Oklahoma, and since the Sooners finished the year getting chewed up and spit out by Oklahoma State while the Trojans were busy upsetting Oregon in Eugene and annihilating UCLA, it's not hard to see why voters might go for the former.
  • Poor Al Golden: not only is his Miami team still laboring under the weight of the Nevin Shapiro allegations, not only do they rank 96th nationally and tie for next-to-last in the ACC with 12 returning starters, but according to Steele's data the Hurricanes are -- amazingly -- the only ACC team to not return its starting quarterback for next season. 
  • Gus Malzahn is going to be one of the FBS's most closely watched mid-major head coaches after his move from Auburn, and with six returning starters including QB Ryan Aplin on offense, the Red Wolves should be fine on that side of the ball. But with just three starters back on defense, ASU ranks 116th overall and last in the Sun Belt in total starters returning. Opposite Malzahn's punishing up-tempo attack, we'd like to place an early wager on the Red Wolves as one the nation's statistically weakest D's in 2012 ... and on Malzahn needing at least two years to return ASU to last year's championship perch.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 2:13 pm
 

Illinois FB Jay Prosch to transfer to Auburn

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We mentioned in the wake of Barrett Trotter's departure from the Auburn football program that Gene Chizik appeared to be looking to move in a pro-style direction with his new offensive coordinator hire--a decision that looks even more likely with the delay in replacing Gus Malzahn rumored to be due to Chizik interviewing candidates still involved in the NFL playoffs. But the arrival of a new transfer from Illinois now makes that philosophical shift look more likely than ever.

That player is Illini fullback Jay Prosch, a Mobile (Ala.) native who will be transferring to Auburn in order to be closer to his ailing mother, who is battling cancer. New Illinois head coach Tim Beckman announced Prosch's decision in a statement Wednesday.

"Jay Prosch has decided to transfer to Auburn and will be there for the current semester," Beckman said. "He will have an opportunity to be much closer to his mother, who continues to face health issues. We wish Jay the best as he makes this move."

Prosch could be available for the Tigers as soon as the 2012 season, if the NCAA approves a hardship waiver due to his mother's health; if not, he will redshirt during his transfer year and return with two years of eligibility remaining in 2013.

Though the transfer of few fullbacks would make headlines, Prosch isn't any ordinary fullback. He was named a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weeklyan honor that essentially amounts to the publication naming the sophomore the FBS's top pro prospect at the position. Prosch became the Illini's starting lead blocker as a true freshman and helped the team to an 11th-place finish in rushing in 2010, thanks in large part to his workout-warrior strength and devotion to the weight room.

Prosch recently admitted to the Mobile Press-Register that he may have considered staying in Champaign if not for the Illini's head coaching change, which will see the team move to a spread system that doesn't utilize fullbacks; Beckman reportedly told Prosch he would be used as either an H-back or tight end, and with Prosch claiming he's "never been trained in running pass routes," a diminishing role appeared to be a certainty.

But this begs the question: why transfer to Auburn, whose offense under Malzahn also rarely (if ever) used a traditional fullback? Prosch said he had been cleared to talk to 11 of the 12 SEC schools (the Illini prohibited him from following ex-Illini assistant and newly-hired coordinator Paul Petrino to Arkansas), many of which already employ pro-style offenses and use Prosch-like fullbacks far more regularly than the Tigers.

The answer is very, very likely to be that Auburn is about to become the sort of team that regularly uses a fullback. And fortunately for Chizik, his team stands poised to start by using one of the nation's best.

For daily real-time updates on Auburn or Illinois football, follow our Tiger CBSSports.com RapidReports by Jay Tate here or Cody Westerlund's Illini RapidReports here. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.

Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:22 pm
 

1-to-35: Ranking the 2011 bowl games



Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Each December, there's plenty of rankings out there as to how good each bowl should be. But if that's the "before," what about the "after"? Here's the Eye on CFB's (highly subjective) ranking of all 35 bowls from the 2011-2012 college football postseason, best game to worst.

1. Rose. Unlike certain other bowls we could name (who happen to rhyme with "Schmalamo"), the Rose's outburst of offense came despite the presence of legitimate championship-level defenses--making the punch and counter-punch between Russell Wilson and Montee Ball on one side and LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas on the other like haymakers in a heavyweight prizefight. Add in college football's greatest venue, a down-to-the-wire ending, and even the aesthetic battle between the Badgers' understated uniforms and the Ducks' glitter factory helmets, and you've got the best bowl-watching experience of the year.

2. Fiesta. Andrew Luck vs. Justin Blackmon at the top of their powers -- at the top of the powers of anyone at their positions in college football -- would be worth a top-five placement alone. Luck vs. Blackmon and 79 points and overtime drama? That's worth top-two.

3. Alamo Bowl. To call the defenses in this game abominably porous would be an insult to pores (and abominations). But the Alamo is a random weeknight bowl game--just as no one wants to watch an Oscar-baiting 17th-century literary adaptation on their Guys' Night Out, so no one tuned into the Alamo for rugged defense and awesome punting. Thankfully, what Baylor and Washington gave us was the college football equivalent of four hours of Jason Statham shooting explosions.

4. Outback. Come for Kirk Cousins leading the most unlikely comeback this side of the whooping crane, stay for Mark Richt nominating himself for the (dis)honor of "World's Fraidiest-Cat Football Coach." Oh, and triple overtime.

5. New Orleans. We'd ask if you could remember this thriller between Louisiana-Lafayette and San Diego State from the bowl season's opening night, but we don't think anyone who watched could forget Ragin' Cajun kicker Brett Baer deliriously celebrating his last-second game-winner if they tried.

6. Military. One word: #MACtion. And two numbers: 42-41. And, all right, eight more words to help do this game justice: last-minute do-or-die failed fake extra point holder-kicker option.

7. Sun. We're suckers for any game featuring the triple-option (see the Air Force game ranked one spot above), and Utah's 4th-and-14 touchdown conversion to send the game into OT was one of the more dramatic single plays of the entire bowl season. That 3-0 anti-classic between Pitt and Oregon State was a particularly distant memory in El Paso this year.

8. Belk. A matchup of Utterly Average ACC team vs. Utterly Average Big East team -- in a bowl sponsored by a department store that thinks Macy's is way too wild and edgy -- should have been one of the snoozers of the year. Instead, Mike Glennon caught fire, Louisville mounted a spirited comeback, and this wound up one of the better games of the postseason.

9. Little Caesars. The quality of play in this game at times was like ... well, have you ever actually eaten the pizza of the sponsor? But Western Michigan receiver Jordan White put on a spectacular show (13 catches, 249 yards), the teams combined for 69 points, and the Boilers special teams pulled off two onsides kicks and a kick return for TD. Tasty!

10. Famous Idaho Potato. OK, OK: we're giving this game (which was less-than-must-see-viewing for much of the first 55 minutes) a slight bonus for its killer logo. But we're giving it a much bigger bonus for the pulse-pounding final drive from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats for the first bowl win in program history.

11. Armed Forces. If you're going to be a sorta-dull game between two sorta-unmemorable teams, better come up with a memorable play and/or a big finish. Riley Nelson's game-winning fake spike touchdown to become college football's answer to Dan Marino just about did the trick.

12. Sugar. Another for the "ugly game, fascinating ending" file, but this was Michigan doing their damnedest to be Michigan again and Virginia Tech doing their damnedest to avoid the rabbit's feet and horseshoes and four-leaf clovers falling out of the Wolverines' pockets -- Danny Coale most especially -- and it was in New Orleans. You didn't quit watching, did you?

13. Poinsettia. Not a classic, but three-and-a-half back-and-forth hours with a feisty Louisiana Tech team and an underrated TCU squad most definitely qualified as "serviceable." Think of this year's Poinsettia as the quality burger-and-fries plate from the local joint down the street--not mind-blowing, but spend a few weeks in Peru, where they don't have burgers or college football, and you'll crave a Poinsettia Bowl so badly you could scream.

14. Orange. In the space of about an hour, Dana Holgorsen's evisceration of Clemson went from thrilling to discomfiting to boring to morbidly fascinating to -- once we all realized the Mountaineers weren't going to hit triple digits -- back to boring again. Not every game that hits 100 points is one for the DVD vaults, as it turns out.

15. Liberty. Give me Cincinnati defeating Vanderbilt in surprisingly convincing, mildly entertaining fashion or give me death! (Actually, we've got that first thing already, so no need to worry about providing the second, thanks.)

16. Chick-Fil-A. For 2.5 quarters, this was a delightful shootout with all the requisite trickery you'd hope for from a game involving Gus Malzahn. Then Virginia remembered that it was not only Virginia, but proud ACC member Virginia, and the fun was over.

17. Meineke Car Care. Seriously, Texas A&M, we didn't tune in to see you only flirt with blowing a huge lead against a team that hasn't won a bowl game since approximately the Grover Cleveland administration.

18. Capital One. This game featured an abundance of must-watch plays -- Alshon Jeffery catching a  bomb, Alshon Jeffery hauling in a half-ending Hail Mary, Alshon Jeffery getting ejected for fighting -- but aside from, well, Alshon Jeffery, there wasn't much to it.

19. Cotton Bowl. The 15 seconds of Joe Adams' punt return, the 10 seconds of Jarius Wright's touchdown, and the 5 minutes when it looked like Kansas State might mount yet another smashing comeback were riveting stuff. The other 54:35? Not so much.

20. BCS National Championship. A great game, if you're the sort of fan who enjoys watching nature shows where a pride of lions tear a wildebeest to pieces because the wildebeest can't complete a downfield pass to save its life.

21. TicketCity. If he'd stuggled, he'd have been called a fraud; because he ripped Penn State's D into tiny shreds, no one paid attention. Which is why we're working on a sitcom pilot right now called Case Keenum Can't Win.

22. Gator. When one team's special teams scores just one fewer touchdown than the two offenses combined (as Florida's did), it's safe to say you're not watching a classic.

23. GoDaddy.com. Thanks to a 31-0 run from Northern Illinois, what was expected to be a nailbiting shootout ended up the biggest disappointment since that "unrated web content" we checked out.

24. Champs Sports. It wasn't pretty, but at least the Seminoles and Irish were trying their best ... to make us wish they'd just aired a repeat of the 1993 meeting instead.

25. Las Vegas. College football produces a lot of emotions, but from the neutral perspective, it's rare that one of them is outright legitimate anger. Seeing Kellen Moore forced to end his career slumming it against an Arizona State team that checked out in early November sure turned the trick, though.

26. Independence. The Tar Heels came out so flat, and were finished off so quickly, that we're pretty sure the only lovely parting gift they walked away with was "Independence Bowl: the Board Game."

27. Music City. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times, and Wake Forest averaged 2.9 yards per-play. If Hank Williams or some other old-time country artist had come to Nashville to write a sad song about a sad bowl game, this is the game they'd use for inspiration.

28. Insight. Sadly, the only "insight" we got from this game was that Vegas oddsmakers -- who had the Sooners installed as the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season -- know what they're talking about. And who didn't know that already?

29. Holiday. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Tedford's Cal and Mack Brown's Texas squaring off would have been appointment television. This game was, too, though in the sense that it was the sort of game you made an appointment somewhere else to avoid viewing.

30. Hawaii. Nevada and Southern Mississippi were collectively as sharp as your average butter knife, but let's see you spend a week chilling in Hawaii and then play a quality football game. The best players the NFL has to offer try it every single year and haven't succeeded yet.

31. Pinstripe. The only thing we remember from this game was our wish to travel back to, say, 1998, and explain to a random college football fan that in 2011, Rutgers would win a bowl game in Yankee Stadium that would give them the nation's longest postseason winning streak. (We're still not sure it's actually happening.)

32. Beef 'O' Brady's. Newton's Second Law of Bowl Aesthetics: Whensoever a Game Produces Fewer Offensive Touchdowns Than the Game Has Apostrophes in its Title, That Game Shall Be, Verily, Entirely Terrible.

33. New Mexico. We'd waited so long to be able to sit down and watch a college bowl game, and by halftime we were sort of wishing we'd gotten to wait a little bit longer.

34. BBVA Compass. For two straight years, Pitt has been forced to play in Legion Field on a January weekday afternoon in front of no one under an interim coach against a nondescript opponent. Vs. SMU the Panthers looked like they'd much rather be off somewhere doing something much more fun, like peeling potatoes with their teeth--and we don't blame them a bit.

35. Kraft Fight Hunger. Comedian Patton Oswalt once called a certain famous KFC product a "failure pile in a sadness bowl." Capitalize that B, and we can't think of a better way to describe 2011 Illinois "battling" 2011 UCLA.

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Posted on: January 9, 2012 1:07 am
 

QUICK HITS: N. Illinois 38 Arkansas State 20



Posted by Tom Fornelli


NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Things looked to be going Arkansas State's way early after the Red Wolves jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, but it was all Northern Illinois from that point on. The Huskies scored 31 consecutive points after that and cruised to victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl to finish the season 11-3.

Chandler Harnish finished a strong career with the Huskies by throwing for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns, and receiver Martel Moore was easily his favorite target on the night. Moore finished the game with 8 receptions for 225 yards and a touchdown. For Arkansas State, quarterback Ryan Aplin had a tough night, throwing for 352 yards, but also throwing 3 interceptions.

WHY NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Simply put, after falling down 13-0 in the first quarter, the Northern Illinois defense just put the Arkansas State offense on lockdown. The Huskies outscored the Red Wolves 38-7 from then on. Mix in 3 interceptions by Ryan Aplin and 5 turnovers from Arkansas State, and you get a relatively easy victory for Northern Illinois

WHEN NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. Arkansas State showed signs of life in the fourth quarter with a touchdown to cut NIU's lead to 31-20, but with 8:19 to play Aplin threw his third interception of the game and Dechane Durante took it 36 yards to the house to make it 38-20. Everything from that point on was just cosmetic.

WHAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS WON. The Huskies put a nice cap on a season that saw the school win its first MAC title, and also a nice end to a great career from quarterback Chandler Harnish. The Huskies also showed that they didn't lose a step under Dave Doeren took over for Jerry Kill following last season, and Northern Illinois looks like a school that will be a force in the MAC for the next few seasons.

WHAT ARKANSAS STATE LOST. This was a very good season for Arkansas State, going 8-0 in the Sun Belt to win the conference, but this wasn't the way the Red Wolves wanted the season to end. Still, with Gus Malzahn coming from Auburn to take over for Hugh Freeze -- and possibly bringing Michael Dyer with him -- the future still looks bright for the Red Wolves.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Giving your right arm for Gus Malzahn.



BOWL GRADE: C. I had high hopes for this one, as two fast-paced, high-scoring offenses were going to battle in Mobile, but there was never much doubt in the outcome. After Northern Illinois erased a 13-0 deficit with 31 straight points, even when Arkansas State got back into it in the fourth quarter, you never really got the sense that the Red Wolves would climb all the way back. So because of that lack of drama, it's hard to justify giving this one anything higher than a "C." 

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune 
Posted on: January 4, 2012 7:00 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:23 am
 

Report: Michael Dyer seeking transfer from Auburn

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It's not official just yet. But it looks more and more like All-SEC running back and 2011 BCS title game MVP Michael Dyer has played his last game for Auburn.

CBSSports.com RapidReporter Jay Tate reported Wednesday that Dyer has asked for his release from the Auburn program and plans to transfer. The hotly-rumored destination for his services is Arkansas State, where former Tiger offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was recently named the Red Wolves' head coach.

According to one Internet report, Dyer has already filed enrollment paperwork at the Jonesboro, Ark., school, but that report has been disputed by spokespersons at both Auburn and Arkansas State as well as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. An Arkansas native whose family still lives in the Natural State, Dyer could conceivably apply for a hardship waiver in order to play for the Red Wolves without sitting out the standard transfer penalty. (Whether such a waiver would be granted remains highly debatable.)

In Mobile, Ala. for the GoDaddy.com Bowl, both Arkansas State athletic director Dean Lee and ASU interim head coach David Gunn told the local Press-Register they had no information on any plans by Dyer to transfer to their program.

"There's nothing I can confirm or deny," Lee said. "I have no knowledge of anything in that regard."

Whether he lands with Malzahn at ASU or not, however, at this stage it seems unlikely Dyer will ever return to Auburn. Transfer rumors have dogged him ever since he was suspended for the Tigers' Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over Virginia, and with their volume reaching fever pitch Wednesday, it seems only a matter of time before Dyer, Gene Chizik or both make some kind of official announcement of their parting of ways. 

A former five-star recruit out of Little Rock, Dyer ran for 1,242 yards as a sophomore in 2011, his second straight 1,000-yard season.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com