Tag:Rose Bowl
Posted on: February 9, 2012 3:18 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 3:38 pm
 

Roundtable: Backing the Big Ten plus-one

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:

What are the chances of the BCS adopting the Big Ten's home-field semifinals playoff proposal? And if they do, how much of a good thing (if at all) is that for college football? 

Tom Fornelli: I think it's clear at this point that the playoff is coming. Whether or not it's going to be the Big Ten's proposal of the top two seeds hosting semifinal games, I'm not sure.

I do think that's the best way of going about things for the schools and fans, though. It would minimize travel costs for the schools, and it's the only way to make things fair. Hosting the games at places like the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Rose Bowl wouldn't be. Right now, if you're a Big Ten or Big 12 team and you land in the top two, you're not only traveling outside your home state but your entire conference footprint to play in those locations.

Plus, how exciting would it be to see a school like Florida possibly having to travel up north to play Wisconsin in Madison during December? We already know what happens to the Big Ten when it has to head south for the winter. With this proposal we'd get to see what happens to the SEC when it's forced to head north.

As for whether or not this would be a good thing for college football, I don't see how it would be a bad thing. You take a lot of the money that you've been giving to bowl games and put that cash into the schools. Plus, as long as you keep the playoff to the top four teams, get rid of the BCS AQ statuses and everything else, you can restore the bowl traditions that are so important to everybody.

Chip Patterson: I'm with Tom: I don't see how this could be a bad thing. I certainly understand there are plenty of concerns along the way, but any step in this direction is one I support.  

Allowing the top two seeds to host the semi-final games also keeps the integrity of the BCS system intact.  At its core, the system is meant only to determine the two best teams in college football.  Now those two teams will have the advantage of getting to play the gridiron's version of the Final 4 round on their home turf.    Those who are calling for a large-scale playoff would likely be appeased with this one step forward, and the bowl experience that means so much to the fans and players can continue as it has for years.  There is no rich tradition for the BCS National Championship Game itself, so altering the process at the top does not hinder the game of college football. 

Jerry Hinnen: I'm afraid I can see how this proposal could be, if not a bad thing, a worse thing than it should be. 

There's two downsides to the Big Ten's plan as presented. The first is that it proposes to yoink those top four teams out of the bowl pool entirely, meaning that the two semifinal losers wouldn't get the bowl experience at all, despite having the kind of season that would have put them in the BCS top four to begin with. If you're, say, Stanford and your postseason experience is traveling to Columbus to watch your season end in front of 100,000 Buckeye fans in 25-degree weather, I'm not sure at all that's going to feel like much of a reward. I'd much prefer the semifinals be played in mid-December, with the losers still eligible for BCS selection; it's better for the teams (who get their deserved week of bowl festivities) and better for the bowls (who get better matchups). 

The other downside is an unavoidable one: that this could be the first step down that slippery slope to the sort of eight- or 12- or 16-team playoff that sees the college football equivalent of the New York Giants ride a single hot streak past more deserving teams to a national championship. This is another reason the Big Ten proposal should do more to placate the major bowls--they've collectively taken a lot of heat for their role in preserving the BCS's current status quo, but their money and influence are also a key line of defense in ensuring the "plus-one" doesn't become a "plus-six."

But whatever downsides you come up with are always going to pale in comparison to the upside. The biggest flaw of the BCS has always been the No. 3 team that deserved its shot as much as either (or both) of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams and didn't get it, the team that -- as Phil Steele has called it -- needs to be in the playoff. The squabbles over No. 4 vs. No. 5 are going to continue, yes, but that's a small price to pay for giving 2001 Miami, 2003 USC, 2004 Auburn, 2010 TCU, or 2011 Oklahoma State their shot. Giving them that shot in an electric on-campus atmosphere -- be it in the Midwest, on the West Coast, the Southeast, wherever -- makes a huge triumph for college football that much more, well, huge.

Bryan Fischer: We're moving toward change, but what form it takes certainly remains to be seen. Let's be clear that there were something like 50 proposals presented at the last BCS meeting, so what's notable is not this specific Big Ten proposal but the fact that the conference has changed its tune and is open to some sort of playoff.


Jim Delany has two things he is looking to accomplish no matter what happens with the BCS: keep the Big Ten in a seat of power and protect the Rose Bowl. This proposal does both and seems to be a win-win for just about everybody. I think we're moving in the right direction and Delany is finally going with the flow instead of obstructing it.

Having seen how well things worked out for the Pac-12 with an on-campus championship game, I'm in favor of including a home field advantage tie-in no matter what proposal surfaces. The detractors are always worried about the regular season and keeping the bowl system and a plus-one/four-team playoff would make things meaningful during the year and keep the current structure (more Alamo Bowls!) in place. The most interesting thing, to me, will be how long we'll be stuck with the system. It could be a 10-plus year deal--which is interesting if tweaks need to be made in order to ensure a better playoff system.

TF: I would think that the any deal has to be longer than 10 years, just because conferences are going to want to keep things from expanding to 8 teams or 16 teams for as long as possible. Because we all know that as soon as the four-team playoff begins, then so will the "Expand the playoffs!" arguments. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the opening kick of the year all the way through the offseason, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview.

Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:59 am
Edited on: January 23, 2012 1:52 pm
 

Chip Kelly jumps from Oregon to the NFL and back


Posted by Bryan Fischer

UPDATE: Oregon released an official statement from Chip Kelly on Monday, confirming both Kelly's contact with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and his plans to remain as the Ducks' head coach.

“I am flattered by the interest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ organization," Kelly explained.  "I enjoyed meeting with the Glazer family and General Manager Mark Dominik but after numerous discussions, I concluded that I have some unfinished business to complete at the University of Oregon.”

“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers asked for permission to engage in conversation with Coach Kelly, which was granted,” Oregon Athletics Director Rob Mullens said. “The University of Oregon is one of the nation's preeminent college football programs and, as such, it comes as no surprise the NFL is interested in our personnel. We are pleased with Coach Kelly’s decision to remain as our head coach. Coach Kelly has provided great leadership and remains committed to building on our position among the elite college football programs in the country.”



Two sources with direct knowledge of the talks told CBSSports.com that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly had agreed in principle to take the same position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was in the process of finalizing details of a multi-year contract but has changed is mind and will stay at Oregon. The Register-Guard first reported the news of Kelly's departure and that he would be staying in Eugene Sunday night.

"I don't know what to say... he changed his mind," one source said via text message.

News of the possible departure first surfaced during the middle of Sunday's NFC Championship Game with a report from Portland TV station KGW sports reporter Michael Berk. Tampa Bay fired head coach Raheem Morris in January after 10 straight losses to cap a 17-31 mark over three seasons.

Kelly, 48, is coming off the most successful three-year stretch in Oregon history, capped off with the program's first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years at the beginning of this year. The Ducks are 34-6 in three seasons with Kelly as head coach, including three straight BCS bowls and an appearance in the national championship game in 2011. He came to Eugene as offensive coordinator in 2007 after spending eight seasons at New Hampshire and promptly set a host of school and conference records on the offensive side of the ball.

Numerous questions surround the timing of the move to Tampa Bay, beginning with Oregon's still-open NCAA investigation into recruiting violations surrounding supposed scout Willie Lyles. Kelly is believed to be at the center of the probe regarding, among other things, a $25,000 payment to Lyles for scouting services and any improprieties surrounding former Ducks running back Lache Seastrunk. The school has retained attorney Michael Glazier, a partner in the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King with the nickname 'The Cleaner' for his expertise in dealing with NCAA cases. Oregon received a notice of inquiry in September.

There is also the issue as to whether Kelly's fast-paced spread option offense can translate to the NFL. The Ducks have finished in the top 12 in the country in scoring offense since he took over the reigns and he's terrorized Pac-12 defensive coordinators with an explosive run game and quick passing game. Kelly has zero NFL experience but has not exactly been shy about jumping up a level, telling multiple people that he's wanted to coach in the league at some point in his career. According to The Oregonian he was making around $2.8 million per year under a recently re-worked contract with a buyout in the neighborhood of $3.5 million.

Multiple reports said Kelly was pulled off the road and did not make scheduled in-home visits on Sunday as his contract was being negotiated with the Bucs.



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 13, 2012 5:15 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 5:19 pm
 

BCS headed toward plus-one, but still roadblocks

Posted by Bryan Fischer

INDIANAPOLIS -- The move toward a BCS plus-one has been gaining support following a commissioners meeting in New Orleans this week and was given a further shot in the arm with the support of NCAA president Mark Emmert on Thursday.

Still, roadblocks remain among the presidents controlling and ultimately the discussion about college football's postseason.

"I think that our position is we like the way the current system works," Oregon State president Ed Ray said. "The Rose Bowl is pretty damn special so we're pretty protective of that. I'm sure Larry (Scott) hasn't gone into considerations that there is an imperative to change. I understand the public feels that way but I don't. I think the most realistic change, if any, is the plus-one because the structure exists."

Representatives from the 11 BCS conferences met in New Orleans following the national title game to begin the process of re-working the system ahead of negotiations for a new contract that will start with the 2014 season. Although the general consensus amongst presidents and athletic directors at the annual NCAA convention is that there is likely a move to a plus-one with the new deal, there are plenty of skeptics of changing a system that, in their eyes, is working fine.

"I'm still not enamored with expanding the number of BCS games," said Nebraska channcellor Harvey Perlman. "I'm not in favor of a playoff, I have yet to hear a good reason why we would want one. I've spent a lot of time over the last several years as to why a playoff is bad. I'd like to hear one why it would be good and what it would accomplish. The only one I ever hear is that it would give us an undisputed national champion."

Arizona State president Michael Crow told CBSSports.com on Wednesday that he is supportive of an 8-team playoff run by the NCAA. While the position has not been formally proposed, it does appear to be on one extreme of the Spectrum where no two people are on the same page.

"I think (a playoff) would undermine the regular season or add games or undermine the bowls," Perlman said. "We don't need it. We have a regular season that is as much of a playoff as anything that could be constructed artificially. Why would you want it? Football isn't basketball."

"if there is a change, I think it will occur incrementally," Ray added. "The next incremental change would then be to make the plus-one structure to where you have two semifinals and a final. Beyond that I don't know but sometimes you get surprised."

There has been talk that the Cotton Bowl, thanks to Jerry Jones' money and the largess of Cowboys Stadium, would be in play as a fifth BCS bowl come 2014. Perlman doesn't believe that will be the case, with a more likely scenario of the BCS evolving into a #1 vs. #2 matchup and the rest of the bowls reverting back to conference tie-ins. That scenario is one that many think Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany would be supportive of.

"I don't think (Delany) is convinced yet," Perlman said of a plus-one. "We're all in conversations and I think we're going to have a teleconference soon. We'll have to see how it goes."

From the sounds of it, there could be a bumpy road to BCS change.

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.

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 9, 2012 7:09 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:11 pm
 

Coaches talking about title game at convention

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The annual American Football Coaches Association convention is going on in Texas this week and usually coincides with the BCS National Championship game. Normally the weekend offers a chance to hang out with other coaches, make a few hires, exchange a few cards and knock back a beer at the bar after a long, long season.

Such is the case again this year, with plenty of head coaches, assistants, graduate assistants and high school coaches gathering along the Riverwalk. Usually there's a buzz about the only game left, the sport's ultimate prize, but with two SEC teams in the game there's a noticable lack of interest from some coaches. Things picked up a little on Monday as kickoff drew near but there's wasn't a lot of breaking down the game over lunch as there normally was at the convention. That doesn't mean we let some of the coaches off the hook so CBSSports.com asked a few people their thoughts about the game between Alabama and LSU.

"The last two years the BCS games have been great and I can't imagine the championship game this year," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, fresh off of a Rose Bowl appearance, said. "I don't have a tie to either one of those schools but it will definitely be a good football game. Hopefully I'll get to watch some."

One SEC assistant, who played LSU this season and asked not to be identified, felt the game would come down to whoever controlled the line of scrimmage.

"The secondaries for both teams are so fast and so good, if the quarterbacks don't have time to throw it will be 9-6 or whatever again," he said. "Both sides will try and establish the run game first and take their chances with some big plays."

New Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin has yet to play in the SEC so he gave quite the diplomatic answer when asked about the matchup.

"I'm the new guy in the league, I can't give any predictions," Sumlin said with a laugh. "We play these guys next year so I'm not giving any predictions.

"This game could go either way. It was 9-6 and Alabama missed four field goals, you could be talking about a whole different ball game. I think you're going to see a more wide open football game. The quarterbacks have had more practice and coaches, with a lot of time, become more creative. That game was played pretty close to the vest in the middle of the year and I think tonight you're going to see a more wide open style of offense, from both teams."

The general consensus? It's going be a good, close game between two heavyweight SEC squads.


Posted on: January 9, 2012 4:25 pm
 

RapidReport Roundup: LSU vs. Alabama

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Rounding up all the latest from CBSSports.com Alabama and LSU Rapid Reporters Jim Dunn and Glenn Guilbeau ... and what it might mean for the big game.

  
  

Don't expect a blowout. “Every game I think we played against LSU in the last five games comes right down to the wire, some kind of way," Nick Saban said Sunday, and he's not exaggerating. Those five games -- all since Saban took over in Tuscaloosa, transforming what had been your average SEC blood feud into something even more intense between his former and current teams -- and have been decided by a total of 28 points, with two games going into overtime and none featuring a margin greater than 2009's nine. Whether or not the rematch lives up to the hype of the first meeting from an aesthetics standpoint (and there are those, of course, who will argue the first meeting already did), there's little doubt the final minutes will be as dramatic as ever.

Optioning away from the option? One of the key factors in LSU's win in the Prematch was their success with an option play featuring Jordan Jefferson and Michael Ford, a look which -- thanks to Jefferson's reduced role as Jarrett Lee started -- the Tigers had barely shown entering the game. The usually uber-prepared Tide defense seemed to be caught off guard, but Ford isn't expecting that to be the case the second time around.  "Alabama will be better against it this time," Ford said. "So we've just got to trick 'em -- act like we're going to run the option and run something different. When me, (tailback/fullback) Kenny Hilliard and Jordan Jefferson are in there, it's scary. It opens everything up. We can run between the tackles with Kenny. We can go option with me. Or we can throw it. You don't know what's coming at you."

That's not wrong, and both Jefferson's ascension and Hilliard's late-season charge are two reasons that the Tigers can hope for more offensive success than they saw on Nov. 5. But with the Tide knowing that LSU knows they might have to move away from the option, we might encourage the Tigers to stick with it--big plays against the Tide defense are precious, and proper execution might give them one against a defense that's looking for the change-up away from it.

First opponent: the layoff. Saban has never lacked for confidence in his coaching approach (and why would he, given the results), so it was somewhat surprising to hear him admit Sunday -- even after taking his Tide to the BCS national championship game in 2009-10 -- he isn't entirely sure how to handle the lengthy span between the end of the regular season and the title game. “When you have this much time between games, obviously you're always wondering as a coach. 'Are we practicing enough? Are we practicing too much?'" Saban said.

One could argue that uncertainty has played itself out in Saban's bowl record--his 6-3 mark is well above-average, but it's included a couple of clunkers, like the 2008 Tide's inexplicable blowout loss to Utah. (Miles, meanwhile, is 5-1 at LSU.) That's probably too small a sample size to make any firm conclusions, and it's not like the Tide haven't had several impressive bowl wins under Saban, too--last year's utter demolition of Michigan State being Exhibit A. But if we had to pick a team that might come out a little less certain than the other, especially in New Orleans, we'd lean towards Alabama.

Other tidbits. Miles says his team is ready. "They're a team that loves to play. The lights come on, and they want it. This will be a game that will be very representative of that" ... Saban said win or lose, there's one change coming Monday. “Every time we play LSU, I've got to change my phone number because people blow up my phone,” he joked ... Judging from the reaction to games like the Alamo Bowl and Rose Bowl, we're not sure fans are really clamoring for another field goal-decided slugfest. But Ford disagrees. "I don't think that's a game," he said of the pinball bowl games. "I think people get tired of seeing all those points on the board. They want to see a hard-fought game" ... LSU isn't a bigger rival for Alabama than Auburn, but Mark Barron says the gap is shrinking. “This is a rivalry that's grown over the years here recently due to the level of competition. I wouldn't say it's bigger than the Auburn rivalry, but it's growing slowly." After two No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups in the space of three months, here's wondering if by the end of the night, it's moved far past growing "slowly."

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Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:27 am
 

Michigan St. DC Pat Narduzzi turns down Texas A&M

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Mark Dantonio did  this past season despite having lost one of his coordinators (offensive overseer Don Treadwell, now Miami (Ohio) head coach) to another coaching position. All the same, there's no doubt he's delighted not to have to prove he could do it again.

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi officially announced Friday he would be remaining with Dantonio and the Spartans, turning down an offer to join Kevin Sumlin's staff at Texas A&M in the same coordinator's role.

“With the success we’ve had as a football program, especially the last two years, people around the country have taken notice. So when provided a professional opportunity like Texas A&M, I owed it to my family to investigate it because my first obligation is to take care of my wife and children," Narduzzi said in a statement released by Michigan State. 

"The bottom line remains, however, that I’m very comfortable working for Mark Dantonio and Michigan State," he said. "I share the same feelings that our players and coaches have that there’s some unfinished business to take care of here. We’re all driven to win the Big Ten Championship and win a Rose Bowl.

Narduzzi didn't reach his decision solely out of loyalty to his employer, however; Dantonio pushed for across-the-board raises for his staff in the wake of the Spartans Legends division title and Outback Bowl championship, and got them.

“Prior to Texas A&M aggressively pursuing Pat Narduzzi, (MSU Athletics Director) Mark Hollis had already identified the financial resources to make sure that not only Pat, but all of our assistant coaches, had salaries that are competitive in the Big Ten," Dantonio said in the statement. "We understand that our continued success will provide professional opportunities for our student-athletes and coaches alike."

Narduzzi's defenses have taken gigantic leaps forward over the past three seasons, improving from 73rd in 2009 to 43rd in 2010 to a stunning 6th -- tops in the Big Ten -- in 2011. The Spartans also ranked 10th in scoring defense.

All of which makes Narduzzi's decision a serious blow for Sumlin, whose expertise as an offensive coach means the selection of a top-notch defensive mastermind is a must in the defense-driven SEC West. Sumlin's hires have been impressive elsewhere -- snatching recruiting coordinator and special teams coach Bill Polian away from Stanfordbringing over quarterbacks coach and Case Keenum tutor Kliff Kingsbury from Houston -- but without a quality DC, questions are still going to be asked.

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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