Tag:Jerrod Johnson
Posted on: September 25, 2011 1:00 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 1:01 am
 

What I learned from the Big 12 (Sep 24)



Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. It's deja vu all over again. You can change the location of the game. You can change the Texas A&M starting quarterback. Hell, you can even change Texas A&M's conference affiliation, but it seems you can't change the Aggies' ability to implode against Oklahoma State. Last year in Stillwater, Texas A&M had a 21-7 lead over the Cowboys heading into halftime, but the second half was a barrage of Jerrod Johnson interceptions that quickly turned into 28 unanswered points by Oklahoma State. A&M would battle back to tie the game, but a last second field goal by Dan Bailey gave OSU the 38-35 win.

On Saturday Texas A&M again dominated the first half taking a 20-3 lead into the locker room. Then the second half came, and so did the barrage of turnovers and the 27 unanswered points from Oklahoma State. The only difference was that this time around the Aggies never completed the comeback, and the last second points were given to A&M by Justin Blackmon on a safety. All of which means that Texas A&M won't get the ultimate last laugh of leaving the Big 12 for the SEC as the defending conference champions.

2. Oklahoma State is a legit threat to win the Big 12. There's no guarantee that the Cowboys are going to run the table for the rest of the regular season, as their history has proved to us time and again. Still, the chance remains that when Oklahoma comes to Stillwater on December 3rd, both teams will be 11-0 and the winner might not only be playing for the Big 12 title, but for a berth in the BCS championship game as well. Do you remember Bedlam last season? Yeah, now just picture that game with all of that on the line. Sounds pretty fun, no?

3. Justin Blackmon is mortal. Seriously, Justin, I do nothing but talk about how amazing you are to anybody that asks. Critics respond by saying that "he's not a polished route-runner" and I just laugh it off. So you're not the best route-runner, you're still the best everything else in the land. But then you go and do something like this on Saturday, and I can't defend that, man. Come on, help a guy out.

4. Oklahoma isn't at its best yet, but it's above average is still pretty good. The closest that Oklahoma has looked to perfection was in its opener against Tulsa, and that was a somewhat rusty season-opening performance. Since then we've seen the offense struggle against Florida State, and the defense not have the best of nights against Missouri. Through all of this, though, the Sooners are 3-0 and still on course to win the Big 12. If Landry Jones stops turning the ball over, and the defense plays up to its ability, then this team could be downright scary. At the moment, however, I would put both LSU and Alabama above the Sooners on my ballot.

5. Robert Griffin is the truth. I'm running out of superlatives for this kid, seriously. Just another night of RG3 completing 88% of his passes and accounting for 389 yards and 6 touchdowns in three quarters of work. Yaaaaawn. (I know, I know, let's see what happens when Baylor has to face Oklahoma and company.)

6. Who needs Bryce Brown? Coming into the year I thought Kansas State would surprise people thanks to Bryce Brown replacing Daniel Thomas at running back. Well, I was half right. Kansas State is surprising people thanks to a 28-24 win over Miami on the road this week -- does this mean Kansas State is better than Ohio State? -- but it's John Hubert doing the work. Hubert had 166 yards on 18 carries for the Wildcats against the Hurricanes on Saturday while Bryce Brown never touched the ball. If Hubert keeps playing like that, Brown won't be touching the ball any time soon either.
Posted on: September 1, 2011 11:58 am
 

Jerrod Johnson thanks Texas A&M through song

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Jerrod Johnson's career at Texas A&M probably didn't go quite how he was hoping it would. After a stellar season in 2009 that saw Johnson throw for 3,579 yards, 30 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions, he appeared poised for stardom going into 2010. Stardom that never quite materialized after Johnson and the Aggies offense struggled through the first half of the season and Johnson was replaced by Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.

Well, Johnson holds no grudges against his old school. In fact, he wanted to make sure to thank Texas A&M for all it had done for him, and what better way to do that then through a song?



You know, normally I would post a song written by a player on this blog in order to make fun of them. I can't do that here. Johnson's song isn't exactly the type of music I normally find myself listening to -- JUSTIN BIEBER FOREVER!!1!! -- but I was able to listen to the whole thing and admit that it isn't terrible at all.
Posted on: August 4, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 1:28 pm
 

Preseason Coaches Poll Reactions: Big 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The preseason coaches poll was released on Thursday morning, and while I'm not a big fan of polls in the preseason, at the moment I'm thrilled to see them. It's just a reminder of how close we are to the beginning of the season and now fans across the country finally have a reason to put a chip on their shoulder -- "My school gets no respect!" -- or feel an unearned sense of entitlement.

After persusing the poll, it's obvious that the Big 12 should puff its chest out a little bit. The last year has been filled with news of the conference losing teams, and even the last few weeks have stoked the fires of schools feeling like they're getting the short end of the stick in the Big 12 when compared to Texas, but the Big 12 has something that no other conference in the land can claim right now.

Three teams ranked in the top ten.

Let's take a look at who is ranked, who isn't, and whether or not they're in the right place.

#1 Oklahoma - I don't think it's shocking at all to find Oklahoma opening the season on top of the poll, as many predicted this is what would happen, and there's a good reason for it. Oklahoma finished 2010 ranked sixth, and unlike the five teams that were ranked ahead of them at the time, all the major players are back in Norman. Landry Jones will be getting a lot of Heisman hype as the offense should continue to put up a lot of points, and the Sooners defense should be one of the best units in the land. The real question here is whether or not Oklahoma can stay atop the polls. The preseason #1 doesn't have the greatest track record, and the Sooners have a tough schedule that includes road games against #5 Florida State and #8 Oklahoma State. Home dates against #9 Texas A&M, #21 Missouri and the annual battle with #24 Texas won't be a cakewalk either.

#8 Oklahoma State -  A top ten spot is well-deserved for the Cowboys based on what they did in 2010. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon lit the air on fire last season as Oklahoma State finished second in the nation in passing yards per game and third in points per game. Both of those gentlemen are back, so the offense will be fine. What will really determine whether or not the Cowboys are deserving of this ranking and will finish the year in the top 10 is the defense. Offense alone can get you into the top ten, but you need a strong defense to stay there. We'll find out soon enough when Oklahoma State plays an early game against Arizona, and considering that the Cowboys play #9 Texas A&M, #24 Texas and Missouri all on the road this season, holding on to this spot or moving up is not going to be easy.

#9 Texas A&M - Based on how things finished for the Aggies last season, I get the hype. I truly do. Still, that doesn't mean I'm fully convinced the Aggies are a top ten team in 2011. Ryan Tannehill was a revelation for the Aggies after taking over for Jerrod Johnson, but will he be able to match his performance again now that teams will be ready for him? Can the defense replace Von Miller without a drop off? Those are pretty big questions to answer, and when you throw in a game against #14 Arkansas to go with the conference slate, and it's not insane to think this is a team that finishes the year closer to the 15-20 range than the top ten.

#21 Missouri - Missouri loses a bit from its 2010 squad on both sides of the ball, but this placing feels right. It won't be easy to replace Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, but nobody thought it would be easy to replace Chase Daniel either, and Gary Pinkel has proven that he knows how to find quarterbacks. Can James Franklin be that guy? We'll find out early when he Tigers go on the road to face Arizona State on the second Saturday of the season, but if the defense that allowed only 16.1 points per game last season can put up an encore performance, that would be a big help. I would be worried about road games against #1 Oklahoma and #9 Texas A&M though.

#24 Texas - You're going to hear a lot of folks saying that this is a reputation spot for Texas and nothing else. Those saying it will be correct, too, because there's no way you can say that Texas earned this spot with its play last season. That being said, I think it's entirely possible that when the dust settles on 2011, Texas will be ranked higher than this. Hell, the Longhorns may be the second-highest ranked team in the conference. I'm of the opinion that 2010 was an aberration and I don't think the offense can be as detrimental in 2011 as it was in 2010. Plus this is still a fantastic defense, and one that will keep Texas in every game, so if the Longhorns can win 8 or 9 games that reputation that got them to #24 in the preseason poll will only help push them up further as the year goes on.
Posted on: June 6, 2011 2:45 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:43 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 30-21

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Posted on: May 25, 2011 12:46 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 9:57 am
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 100-91

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

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

100. THE DOOLEY RULE, new NCAA regulation.
We don’t know when; we don’t know where. But we’re betting that at some point this season, college football’s new Dooley Rule -- which punishes offenses that commit a penalty in the last minute of either half with a 10-second runoff from the game clock -- makes a major impact on the outcome of a game. If it’s the right game, the rule could make a major impact on the outcome of college football’s entire season.

That’s not necessarily likely, of course. Until namesake Derek Dooley’s Tennessee team lost last year’s Music City Bowl when North Carolina stopped the clock with its own penalty, the situation hadn’t yet seemed to occur in a high-profile college football game. (There’s a reason it took until 2011 for the rule to be put into place.) But now that it’s there, we think the odds are good that we’ll see it put into practice this fall … and that the losing coach will be sure to let us know about it. -- JH

99. JARED HASSIN, running back, Army. For the last nine years, Army has fallen short of toppling their Navy counterparts. Could 2011 be the year that the Black Knights finally get over the hump? If they do, it will likely be thanks to the efforts of Hassin. He broke out in a big way his sophomore season, racking up 1,013 yards and 9 touchdowns, helping lead Army to their first postseason appearance since 1996 and first bowl win since 1985.

Hassin was originally enrolled in the Air Force Academy before transferring back to Army (his original commitment) and sitting out 2009. It was an odd recruitment, especially for the son of an Army graduate. But regardless of the process, the lifelong Army football fan is now playing for the team he grew up loving. He is undisputedly one of the most important players on the Black Knights, and fans hope the 6-3, 235-pound back can flash the historic rivalry back to the late 80's and early 90's, when Army took 9 of 11 from the Midshipmen. -- CP

98. GUNNER KIEL, quarterback, Columbus (Ind.) East High School. The nation's top quarterback in the class of 2012 and number two overall prospect according to MaxPreps analyst Tom Lemming, Kiel holds a scholarship offer from just about every program in the country. The 6-foot-4, 210 pound signal-caller is ideal for just about any kind of system and has a good arm, throws the ball accurately and is a natural born leader on the field.

Kiel comes from a long line of quarterbacks - his uncle Blair played at Notre Dame and in the NFL and both of his brothers play the position in college - and the next in line might be the most talented out of all of them. His recruitment, as one would expect from a top prospect, is not being played out in the public as he is trying to keep things close to the vest. Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Alabama are a few of the schools making a strong push for his services but it will be well into the season (or after it) before he ends up making a decision; expect to hear plenty about it as 2011 progresses. -- BF

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97. RYAN TANNEHILL, quarterback, Texas A&M. The Aggies had two different seasons in 2010: one B.T. (Before Tannehill) and one A.T. (After Tannehill). With Jerrod Johnson at quarterback, the Aggies were 3-3 on the season, and 0-3 in Big 12 play. Then Tannehill took over the reins against Kansas on Oct. 23 and Texas A&M didn't look back. The Aggies reeled off six straight wins, including games over Oklahoma, Nebraska and (the coup de gras) Texas. They wouldn't know defeat under Tannehill until the Cotton Bowl, where LSU won 41-24.

Still, Tannehill was a revelation. Not only was he able to run a rather potent Aggies offense, but he did so without the crippling turnovers that became a trademark of Texas A&M under Johnson. This season will be different for Tannehill, however. No longer is he the former tight end-turned-savior, but the quarterback who is supposed to make sure Texas A&M takes the next step--its first league title since 1998, and just their second Big 12 title ever. -- TF

96. GREG MATTISON, defensive coordinator, Michigan. One could certainly make the argument that it was the continuing ineptitude of former defensive coordinator Greg Robinson that cost former head coach Rich Rodriguez his job in Ann Arbor. After all, Robinson's latter year spearheading the Wolverine defense was, by far, the worst in points allowed in Michigan history; the former was the third-worst (and just for good measure, the second-worst season came in Rich-Rod's first season, with one-and-done Scott Shafer as DC). Yes, Michigan has an unusually stingy history of defense, but that's just the thing: Michigan fans have every reason to expect that stingy defense. That's just how it's done at Michigan.

It'll be up to Mattison, then, to keep Brady Hoke's seat cool, and he's got the pedigree to do it. Mattison is entering his 35th year of assistant coaching defense and his 16th as a defensive coordinator, and he's been a part of some very successful defenses (Florida's '06 BCS Championship team, for one). Fans shouldn't expect miracles and shutouts on Day 1 or even in Year 1, but they're going to need to see some sense this year that Michigan's old way of football is coming back. Getting the points per game allowed back under 27.5 for the first time since 2007 would be a good start. -- AJ

95. TYLER BRAY, quarterback, Tennessee. Give the sophomore gunslinger from California this: he doesn't lack for confidence. From the moment he stepped into Tennessee's starting lineup as a true freshman in midseason 2010, Bray carried himself with a swagger that paid big dividends in the Volunteers' season-ending, bowl-salvaging four-game winning streak--a streak in which Bray threw for 12 touchdowns and better than 1,200 yards. Behind four more Bray scoring strikes, the Vols nearly upset UNC in their bowl game (see above), raising expectations for even bigger things in 2011.

But Bray might have taken a little too much self-belief into spring, where he finished an up-and-down camp with a miserable 5-for-30 performance in the Orange-White Game. If he can harness his confidence and continue building on last year's impressive debut, the Vols could be major spoilers in a logjammed SEC East. If not, one of the nation's proudest programs could slip below .500 for the third time in four years. -- JH

94. JON EMBREE, head coach, Colorado. After a disastrous experience with an outsider as head coach in Dan Hawkins, Colorado turned to someone with a strong connection to the program in Embree, a former tight end and assistant coach for the Buffs. He's never been a head coach before but his fiery attitude and pledge to bring back several school traditions have already gotten players and alumni fired up for the upcoming season.

Embree has his work cut out for him though, with Colorado coming off a 5-7 season and transitioning to a new league, the Pac-12. He installed a pro-style offense during the spring and has his staff hitting the recruiting trail hard over the past few months to get word out about the program. The schedule is tough, hosting Oregon and going to both Ohio State and Stanford, but Embree has a senior quarterback in Tyler Hansen and a few solid pieces to build around. Expectations are rising in Boulder and while it might be too much to ask of Embree to turn everything around in his first year, he sure will make things more interesting up in the mountains. -- BF

93. SAVON HUGGINS, running back, Rutgers. Huggins enters his true freshman season with the Scarlet Knights with high expectations from the Rutgers fan base. At their spring game in April, Huggins drew about as much fanfare in his street clothes as the boys in pads. Huggins was one of the few big signing day steals for head coach Greg Schiano, and the Maxpreps No. 1-ranked running back should be an immediate upgrade for the Big East's worst rushing offense in 2010.

Fans are not the only ones anxiously awaiting Huggins' arrival. The coaching staff failed to identify any kind of order for the position in the post-spring depth chart. When Huggins suits up for fall camp, he will have as much of a chance to play as the three current backs on the chart. Hailing from nearby Jersey City, NJ, Huggins is the new face of Rutgers football. If he doesn't pan out into the star Schiano is hoping for, the 2006 Coach of the Year might find himself suddenly on a warmer seat in Piscataway. -- CP

92. QUALCOMM STADIUM, home field, San Diego State. Thanks to years of incompetence from its regular Aztec tenants, the former Jack Murphy Stadium's most prominent ties to college football have been the Holiday Bowl and (more recently) the Poinsettia Bowl. And those aren't insiginificant, particularly considering some of the classics that have been played in the Holiday.

But that should change this year. SDSU is poised for potentially their biggest season in school history, with senior quarterback Ryan Lindley and sophomore running back Ronnie Hillman forming the most dynamic QB-RB combo in the Mountain West. To win the conference the Aztecs will have to go through both TCU and Boise State, but wouldn't you know it--both MWC frontunners must visit Qualcomm this year, the Frogs Oct. 8 and Broncos Nov. 19. With two chances for the Aztecs, don't be surprised if "the Q" plays host to this year's version of Nevada-Boise, the upset that turns the non-AQ BCS chase on its head. -- JH

91. PAUL RHOADS, head coach, Iowa State. When Paul Rhoads took over as head coach at Iowa State in 2009, replacing Gene Chizik -- whatever happened to that guy? -- he was walking into a tough situation. The Cyclones had only won five games in the previous two seasons, but the man who grew up 20 miles outside Ames led the team to seven wins in 2009, including a win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. Iowa State took a step back in 2010, but did get a huge win over Texas and narrowly lost to Nebraska in overtime.

In 2011, however, the time for moral victories has passed. While the Cyclones have won 12 games under Rhoads in his first two seasons, only six have come against conference opponents, four of them coming against former Big 12 North teams. Now the Cyclones will no longer have seasons in which they don't have to play Texas and Oklahoma, so winning in the conference won't be easy. Of course, it's not like anybody is expecting Iowa State to compete for the conference title every season, but if Iowa State wants to be better than a program that makes the occasional bowl appearance, Rhoads is going to have to do more than pull off the occasional shocker. -- TF

Check back tomorrow at Eye on College Football for Nos. 90-81 on the countdown, and follow us on Twitter.




Posted on: March 23, 2011 2:48 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Texas A&M

Posted by Tom Fornelli

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Texas A&M, who started spring practice on Tuesday. 

Spring Practice Question: How exactly does a team go about replacing Von Miller?

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about 2011 in College Station. After starting the season with a pedestrian record of 3-3, the Aggies reeled off six straight victories before falling to LSU in the Cotton Bowl. Those wins weren't over pushovers, either, as they included victories against Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. The Aggies were also a team that could win in a multitude of ways.

If they had to outscore an opponent, they did, as in a 42-30 win over Baylor. Then there were the defensive struggles like the 9-6 barnburner against Nebraska.

What's even better for the Aggies? Seventeen returning starters -- nine on offense, eight on defense -- which is more than anybody else in the Big 12 can lay claim to. All of which means that 2011 should be a good season for Texas A&M, but even though seventeen players return, there is one glaring absence in the Aggies defense that ranked second in the Big 12 with points allowed last year.

How exactly does a team replace a player like Von Miller?

Many eyes will be on Ryan Tannehill this spring as he enters practice as the team's starting quarterback after supplanting Jerrod Johnson last season, but I don't see any possibility of Johnson taking the job back barring injury this year. To me, the big thing to watch with the Aggies this spring will be on the defensive side of the ball where the team looks to maintain the momentum it regained last season.

Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter did an excellent job of re-establishing the Wrecking Crew in 2010, and ignored flirtatious advances from Tulsa during the offseason. Still, this year will prove to be a tougher task since he no longer has a talent like Miller around.

Miller was one of those talents that doesn't come around very often. Playing the Joker position, Miller could sometimes be found at defensive end or outside linebacker. He probably could have kicked extra points if the team had asked him to. The truth was, no matter where he lined up, all you had to do to find Miller was follow the football. He'd be there sooner rather than later.

Spring Practice Primers
The key for Texas A&M will be to make sure it realizes it can't just plug somebody in Miller's place and expect them to produce the same type of results. Which is what Damontre Moore, Miller's likely replacement, will have to tell himself as well.

Of course, there's the possibility that Moore will be used exclusively as a defensive end. Entering his sophomore season, Moore is already 6'4 and 248 pounds. Should he continue to grow into his frame, he may end up too big to play linebacker.

Which is where guys like Dominique Patterson and Kyle Mangan will come in to play as well. Mangan didn't play all that well during the Cotton Bowl when he was forced into duty, but with an entire spring to work and months to prepare for the season, he may grow into the role.

As for Patterson, like Moore, he'll be a sophomore in 2011. Is he ready to make an impact this quickly? He may have to. After all, Miller isn't the only linebacker that the Aggies lose, as Michael Hodges has moved on as well.

Odds are that in order to replace Miller, it's not going to take one player. Instead the entire Aggies defense will have to step up its game to replace its leader.

Whether it can do that will likely go a long way in determining whether the Aggies are bound for another nine-win season, or if they'll be hoisting up a Big 12 Championship trophy come the end of the year.

College Station starts to learn the answers to these questions this week.
Posted on: January 7, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: January 7, 2011 7:22 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Cotton Bowl

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Basics: Texas A&M (9-3) vs. LSU (10-2), Jan 7., 8:00 ET

Why You Should Watch: If you're going to the game, you can enjoy the spectacle and experience that is Jerry Jones' masterpiece, Cowboys Stadium. Of course, if you're going, you don't need to be told why to watch, so you can probably click to another article now. EVERYBODY ELSE: Watch this game. Not only is it the only college football game of the day, but its bookends are Thursday's Miami University - Middle Tennessee State pillow fight and tomorrow's clash of the titans between Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Two 6-6 teams facing two teams replacing their coaches. Yeah, you'll want to watch A&M-LSU.

But past all that, LSU has been one of the most must-see teams of the season, with head coach Les Miles turning his endgames into odd exhibitions of anarchy and chaos that end up working out 60% of the time. Imagine this: one-possession game in either favor, ball at either 40-yard line, and 3:45 left on the clock. Are you turning this game off? Of course you're not.

Keys to Victory for LSU: For all the disorder that has characterized the 2010 season, one immutable constant has been LSU's stingy defense. When the Tigers haven't been facing the T-1000 Cam Newton Cyborg, they've been shutting down opponents at prodigious rates; on the entire season, LSU is tenth in the nation in scoring defense and eighth in overall defense, while ranking in the top 20 in passing efficiency defense, rushing defense, sacks, and tackles for loss. This team does not have systemic deficiencies on defense.

That's good, because the Tigers will be tested on defense by a physically talented but inconsistent Aggie offense. Texas A&M has achieved more offensive balance with Ryan Tannehill at QB than when Jerrod Johnson was healthy, but while that's usually just a euphemism for "he's a worse quarterback," Tannehill is actually competent under center, and it's no surprise that A&M has gone on a six-game winning streak (including wins against four bowl teams) with him back there. If the LSU secondary can force mistakes and turnovers, the Tigers will be in good shape, but that's easier said than done; Tannehill hasn't thrown a pick in over 100 straight attempts. That streak may come to an end tonight, but it's not like 13-30 with 4 INTs is a plausible final line.

Keys to Victory for Texas A&M: For all the struggling the Aggies did against Nebraska 's defense in that 9-6 atrocity, they did manage 19 first downs in the affair, and odds are that if the Aggies replicate that effort in moving the chains, they'll score enough to stay in the game for four quarters. And, again, that's when the fun begins when Les Miles is on the other sideline.

The real challenge, then, is going to be getting the ground game going with Cyrus Gray against elite front-level defenders like Drake Nevis and Kelvin Sheppard -- two guys who have made running between the tackles a nightmare for opponents all season long. The Aggies aren't exactly a spread-and-shred type of team, so they'll have to get their yards by grinding and breaking tackles, or anything else in their repertoire to keep LSU from sitting back and taking away the passing game. Want to see how this game goes for Texas A&M? Just watch where the point of attack moves during the first quarter; if Nevis and company are in the backfield with any regularity, it's going to be a long day for the Aggies.

The Cotton Bowl is like: the senior prom. Prom isn't the apex of one's high school arc, and neither is the Cotton Bowl for the bowl season. But they're awfully close, calendar-wise, and this is one of the last chances to see something magical happen. Everyone's getting all dressed up, they're headed to one of the fanciest places in town, and they're going to have one crazy night while they can. Further, if you've ever seen the way a typical high school senior talks to girls, it's remarkably similar to how Les Miles coaches at the end of the game: it's desperate, astonishing, and far more successful than it has any right to be.


Posted on: November 13, 2010 11:40 pm
 

What I learned from the Big 12 (Nov. 13)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Texas A&M might actually be good.   Which is insane to contemplate considering the way the Aggies' season started, and the roller coaster interception ride that was Jerrod Johnson at the start of the season.  But since Mike Sherman finally decided to replace Johnson with Ryan Tannehill, the Aggies have won four in a row -- averaging 41.25 points a game while doing so -- and now sit in second place in the Big 12 South.  It's possible that if the Aggies can beat Nebraska at home next week, and then a Texas team that does nothing but lose in Austin on Thanksgiving, they could end up playing for the conference title.

2. Of course, Oklahoma State will have to lose twice for that to happen.   Something that doesn't seem all that likely considering the way the Cowboys have been rolling through the Big 12 this season.  Aside from the loss to Nebraska last month, not much has gotten in the Cowboys way this season, as they became the latest team to beat Texas in Austin on Saturday night.  If they can beat Kansas next week -- and something tells me they will -- they'll be hosting Oklahoma on the 27th with the Big 12 South on the line.  Well, assuming that Oklahoma beats Baylor next week, and considering how the Sooners struggle on the road, that's not a sure thing.

3. Missouri is still alive. The Tigers ended their two-game skid with an impressive 38-28 win over Kansas State on Saturday, which means they still have a chance to get to Dallas, even if it is a remote one. Not only would the Tigers have to beat both Iowa State and Kansas the next two weeks, but they'd need Nebraska to lose to Texas A&M and Colorado too.

4. Colorado should fire Dan Hawkins every week.
  Seriously, hire him on Sunday and then fire him on Monday, because it seemed to work out very well for the Buffaloes this week.  The Buffs had their best game since beating Georgia back on October 2nd, which coincidentally, was the last time they actually won a game.  Even Cody Hawkins seemed to be celebrating his new independence from his father, throwing for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com