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Tag:Vic Koenning
Posted on: January 3, 2012 11:33 am
Edited on: January 3, 2012 1:58 pm
 

Illinois' Mercilus to enter NFL Draft

Posted by Tom Fornelli

In the wake of Ron Zook's dismissal and the hiring of Tim Beckman, Illinois had already lost defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Koenning was the man who helped build one of the best defenses in not only the Big Ten, but the entire country. Now the Illini are on the verge of losing the most devastating force on that defense.

Defensive end Whitney Mercilus announced on Tuesday that he would be entering the NFL Draft.

"After a lot of prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided the time is right for me to forgo my senior year and enter the 2012 NFL draft," said Mercilus in a statement.

Mercilus was an absolute beat for Illinois on the defensive line in 2011. Mercilus was named a first-team All-American this season, and deservedly so. He finished his junior season tying the school record for sacks in a season with 16, and he set a Big Ten record with 9 forced fumbles on the year. A mark that is the second-highest of all-time in college football. Tack on his 22 1/2 tackles for loss, which also led the Big Ten, and you get a lot of quarterbacks around the Big Ten high-fiving each other on Tuesday morning.

They can all breath a bit easier now.

Mercilus is ranked third amongst defensive ends by CBSSports.com behind USC's Nick Perry and LSU's Sam Montgomery, both of whom are underclassmen as well. Neither have declared for the draft as of yet, which would leave Mercilus at the top of the list for now.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 1:05 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Paul Petrino leaves Illinois for Arkansas

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Illinois has already fired Ron Zook and will be coached by defensive coordinator Vic Koenning during the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA. Still, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino was expected to stick around and run the offense for the bowl game, but that's no longer the case.

Petrino has left Illinois to join his brother Bobby Petrino's staff at Arkansas

While it has not been specified what role Paul Petrino will fill with the Razorbacks as of yet, it's assumed he'll be serving as offensive coordinator. Arkansas' former offensive coordinator Garrick McGee recently accepted the head coaching job at UAB.

Illinois' quarterbacks coach Jeff Brohm will take over play-calling duties for the Illini.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 1:58 pm
 

Surveying the Field: End of the season edition



Posted by Bryan Fischer


It's hard to believe, but the college football regular season is over.

Over.

If the finality hasn't hit you, it's ok. Hold on to it, savor it, try not to let it go.

Though things off the field in the sport - realignment, arrests, suspensions, infractions and on and on - may never have been worse, the product on the field was pretty good. There were hail mary's and punt returns, one-handed catches and devastating sacks. There was a Honey Badger, All Russell Wilson Everything and some epic comebacks.

With that in mind, in the final Surveying the Field of 2011, a look back at just about every bowl team and a few lines about them looking forward.

National Championship Game

Looking back: It wasn't pretty at times but the Tigers rolled to the national title game in impressive fashion, dispatching Pac-12 champion Oregon by 13 at a neutral site to open the season, Big East champion West Virginia by 26 on the road, beat their title game foe Alabama at home and rolled over SEC East winner Georgia by 32 in what amounted to their home crowd. Tyrann Mathieu was the ball-hawking fire starter for the team but, gasp, the best player might have been punter Brad Wing who was crucial in establishing good field position every time.

Looking ahead: How much is there left to prove? The rematch in New Orleans can be Les Miles chance to end any doubt as to who was far and away the best team in 2011 by turning the national championship game into a coronation with a convincing win. Lose and an AP National Title likely awaits. The Tigers are in a can't lose situation.

Looking back: Before the season, many in Tuscaloosa said this could be Nick Saban's best defense. It's hard to argue if you look at the numbers, first in rush, pass, total and scoring defense. The most points they gave up the entire year was 21. The offense wasn't too shabby either, not with Heisman candidate Trent Richardson delivering electrifying runs.

Looking ahead: LSU came into their house and won, now it's time for them to do the same for the crystal ball. They might not have won their division but they can win the national title.

Orange Bowl

Looking back: Early on, it seemed like they were going to struggle. A close win against Wofford? Then it seemed like Sammy Watkins started to heat up and the Tigers moved to 8-0 and people were talking titles. But there was also talk of Clemson being Clemson - and it happened at Georgia Tech. And again at N.C. State. And at South Carolina. But the slide ended in Charlotte with another win over Virginia Tech to win the first ACC title since 1991.

Looking ahead: Dabo Swinney said it best after winning the conference championships, saying he's taking his, "Clemson talents to South Beach." The defense shut down the Hokies once again but they are taking a much bigger step up facing Dana Holgorsen with a month to prepare.

Looking back: A 9-3 season, Big East title and BCS bowl berth is not to shabby debut for Dana Holgorsen as a head coach. The offense was as advertised, jumping from 67th last year to 17th at 459.6 yards per game. They were blown out against LSU thanks to turnovers and that was a theme in their losses. The Mountaineers won several close games and that could pay off down the road.

Looking ahead: Given how mediocre the conference was, perhaps this BCS bowl berth should count for the Big 12, the league the school is departing for in 2012. Nothing would be better than for athletic director Oliver Luck to say thanks for the memories like a trophy full of oranges (which he might throw at the Big East offices).

Sugar Bowl

Looking back: They were blitzed at their rival Michigan State and somehow lost to Iowa but the season was certainly a successful inaugural campaign for Brady 'Michigan Man' Hoke. Most of the credit should go to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who has turned around a unit that couldn't tackle to one that finished 7th in the country in total defense. Denard Robinson struggled at times to adapt to a new offense but still manage to deliver thrills such as one of the craziest endings of the year against Notre Dame. It paled in comparison to the final few snaps at the Big House however, as the Wolverines finally beat rival Ohio State.

Looking ahead: Sure this group might be mostly Rich Rodriguez' players but Hoke has taken them to the next level with an easy schedule and tough-love coaching. Winning their first BCS game would send a message to the rest of the country that the program was indeed back.

Looking back: Hokies fans will get upset but it seems pretty accurate to say the team was the least deserving of the at-large selections given their lackluster group of wins (not one BCS team on the non-conference slate, lost to Clemson by a combined margin of 61-13). There were positives on offense, such as Logan Thomas taking over during stretches with his arm or his legs and David Wilson was a tackle-breaking machine. The defense was at normal high standards under Bud Foster.

Looking ahead: Don't belong? Ok, so prove it, it's that easy. Winning the game after last year's bowl performance will also do wonders for Frank Beamer, who enters as the winningest active head coach.

Fiesta Bowl

Looking back: Oh what could have been, Oklahoma State was so close to playing for a national title and would have been headed to New Orleans had it not been for the upset-minded Iowa State team on the road in double overtime. The offense was the second best in the country through the air and elder statesman Brandon Weeden made things click with ease. For all the knocks they were given, the defense was actually impressive when you consider they forced 42 turnovers and allowed a lot of their points and yards when the starters were on the sidelines.

Looking ahead: While Boone Pickens might be upset and threatening to investigate the BCS with his piles of money, the Cowboys can't allow their disappointment to ruin the best season in school history with a Fiesta Bowl loss.

Looking back: It's not often you mention Stanford as a BCS contender but here we are, back-to-back games thanks to Heisman candidate Andrew Luck and despite having a first-time head coach taking over in David Shaw. Though they battled injuries all season long both sides of the ball turned in performances that were fitting of a top five team. The triple overtime thriller against USC might have been the highlight (more points scored against the Trojans than any other team) but a turnover-filled day at home against Oregon was the low-light that prevented them from the conference title. Still it was one of the most impressive seasons in school history.

Looking ahead: No better way for Luck to end his career than a victory against what everybody considers one of the three best teams in the country. In doing so, they'll help the Pac-12's reputation get off to a great start in the league's first year with 12 teams.

Rose Bowl

Looking back: Heisman campaigns were abound in this backfield with the ever efficient Russell Wilson running things at quarterback and Montee Ball finding the end zone more than entire teams did in the regular season. If the defense could have just defended hail mary's better we'd be talking about the national title game for the Badgers but ending up in the granddaddy of them all with a shot to win is the best consolation prize around.

Looking ahead: Despite the two losses on their record, this could still go down as one of the most dominant teams in Wisconsin history with a Rose Bowl win.

Looking back: Their third straight conference title might have been one of the sweetest in school history given the way the season went. The opener was tough as they failed to beat an SEC team and largely fumbled things away. Oregon did what Oregon typically has done under Chip Kelly in conference except for one night at home against USC. Things got a little bit better when the Ducks hoisted the first ever Pac-12 championship up at Autzen Stadium but the program's standards are now so high that the season is sort of considered a disappointment.

Looking ahead: If the program wants to its cement status as one of the game's elite than they're going to have to win the Rose Bowl no if's and's, or but's about it. That it would be the school's second ever win (and first since 1917) would also cement the squad as one of the best in Oregon history.

GoDaddy.com Bowl

Looking back: The MAC champions had a thrilling come-from-behind win to capture the league title thanks in large part to quarterback Chandler Harnish. Northern Illinois also ran off eight straight wins after a narrow loss to Central Michigan earlier in the year.

Looking forward: There was nothing like mid-week MACtion this year and it's up for the Huskies to end the season on a high note.


Looking back: Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze's up-tempo offense produced the school's first winning season since 1995 and a host of records. Quarterback Ryan Aplin is 11th in total offense and was a dual-threat that couldn't be stopped during Sun Belt play. Given that their only two losses were to BCS foes (including a closer than expected loss to BCS-bound Virginia Tech), this is easily the most successful year in the program's history.

Looking forward: Though Freeze will depart for Ole Miss, there will be plenty of players around that can still beat NIU.

BBVA Compass Bowl

Looking back: Things started on the wrong foot in the opener but running back Zach Line was the big star to emerge for SMU as they pulled together a seven win season. The Mustangs had a five game winning streak before coming back to reality later in the year and were actually led by a solid defensive unit.

Looking ahead: Head coach June Jones might be moving on to greener pastures but after 25 years of no bowls, the school's third straight postseason trip is something to cherish.

Looking back: It was an up and down debut season for new head coach Todd Graham as Pitt never could find consistency. They were never blown out, losing four games by 11 points, but couldn't put together back-to-back wins outside of the first two games against lackluster teams.

Looking ahead: The Panthers return to Birmingham for the second straight year trying to give Graham and staff, some of whom are headed to Arizona, momentum heading into the offseason.

Cotton Bowl

Looking back: One of Bill Snyder's best coaching jobs in a career full of them, Kansas State was left out of a BCS bowl but found their way into a de facto one after a 10 win season - the highest win total since 2003. The Wildcats started 7-0 before dropping two straight to the Oklahoma schools before puling things together. Quarterback Collin Klein leads the team in both passing and rushing and has scored an impressive 26 touchdowns. It may not have been the prettiest team in the country but they found every which way to win.

Looking ahead: The team could tie the school-record for wins in a season, a remarkable accomplishment considering they were picked 8th in the preseason.

Looking back: Though they won't be going to the BCS, they can still hang their hats on the fact that their only losses came on the road to the teams ranked first and second. The Razorbacks explosive offense led behind quarterback Tyler Wilson is one reason for their success even if he's been beaten up behind his offensive line.

Looking ahead: They've played in this building before and had a furious comeback against Texas A&M so the stage shouldn't be an issue for the Hogs. They're ranked sixth and could turn in the best season under Bobby Petrino with a win.

Outback Bowl

Looking back: Michigan State fell short of a Big Ten championship but still put together a successful season that included wins over rival Michigan and a thrilling hail mary to beat Wisconsin. The offense is solid with Kirk Cousins at quarterback and Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell in the backfield but the defense is the reason for the success this year. The Spartans not only captured a 10-win season but also won the first ever Legends division title.

Looking ahead: MSU will have to play through the disappointment of their tough championship game loss and refocus for a bowl game. They remember all too well what happened last year so coming out with a win is imperative as the impressive senior group departs.

Looking back: The season started with Mark Richt on the hot seat and two losses to top teams that turned the pressure up a notch. Georgia responded, running off 10 straight thanks to the ease of the schedule and the toughness of their defense. Linebacker Jarvis Jones was a star, leading the SEC in sacks, as the Bulldogs found their way back to Atlanta by winning the East. The lack of depth hurt at times but Aaron Murray was a solid young quarterback and Isaiah Crowell lived up to his billing at running back.

Looking ahead: The Dawgs are playing in January and need a big win to end the year on a high note and make everybody forget about last year.

Gator Bowl

Looking back: A once promising season started to unravel in the offseason, with something negative happening to the program seemingly every month since it became known about the "Buckeye Five." Jim Tressel was out and Luke Fickell was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at head coach. The defense was good but the offense was pretty bad, especially the passing game. Freshman Braxton Miller was a good spark and showed flashes of being something special.

Looking ahead: The Urban Meyer Bowl is an understandable storyline but the Buckeyes won't have their opponent's former head coach on the sidelines coaching them. Showing him what he has to work with will be big for the program however.

Looking back: It was a terrible season by the lofty standards in Gainesville but more than that, it just wasn't fun to watch Florida's offense. John Brantley figured to be a good fit in Charlie Weis' system but wasn't and got hurt. It was tough to produce first downs much less big plays and the defense, though solid, didn't seem to make the stops needed to get some wins. The Gators finished below .500 in the conference, won only three games versus BCS schools and lost four straight to in the middle of a forgettable season.

Looking ahead: The bumps and bruises of the year can all be erased against Ohio State and  a small measure of revenge against their former head coach who left just a year ago.

Capital One Bowl

Looking back: A solid first effort in the Big Ten for Nebraska, which ended with nine wins but seemed to have issues being consistent. Quarterback Taylor Martinez didn't make the leap you'd expect this year and the defense wasn't as impressive as many thought they would be. Injuries played a part but don't explain losses to teams like Northwestern at home or blowouts to Wisconsin and Michigan.

Looking ahead: A rare match up against an SEC team for the Cornhuskers, a win would give them a 10 win season for the third straight year and allow them to count their Big Ten money at home in a much happier mood.

Looking back: There are wild rides and there's South Carolina under the Old Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. They looked a little shaky early but overcame adversity by managing a 10-2 season despite losing their starting quarterback and running back to suspension and injury, respectively. They almost won the division but, in retrospect, perhaps it was better that they didn't face LSU this year.

Looking ahead: The Gamecocks are looking to post their first 11 win season in more than 100 years and end a three-bowl losing streak by riding the momentum of beating rival Clemson at the end of the year.

TicketCity Bowl

Looking back: It looked like it was going to be a surprisingly good season before the Jerry Sandusky scandal showed the world the skeletons locked in Penn State's closets. Joe Paterno is out and the issues facing the program are still very much ongoing.

Looking ahead: Nittany Lions players are not happy to have fallen this far in the bowl pecking order but they're still going to need to show up if they want a 10th win and something positive to think about in the offseason.

Looking back: Oh what could have been. The dream season led by record-setting quarterback Case Keenum ended in a thud in the Conference USA championship game at home. The offense was the focal point with a slew of weapons at wide out and running back but there's no doubt that last game zapped all the positive things gong for a program that almost made the BCS.

Looking ahead: Kevin Sumlin might be at another school by the time the Cougars play but Keenum and the senior class can still go out on top by beating a marquee opponent and posting one of the best year's in school history.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Looking back: It was a successful turnaround for Mike London that had Virginia on the cusp of playing for the ACC title after several upsets along the way. Alas, a loss to the rival Hokies ended that but things are looking up in Charlottesville based on the way the team played week-in and week-out.

Looking ahead: Playing in their first bowl since 2007, the team is hungry to end the year with nine wins and plenty of positive vibes.

Looking back: Earlier this year Auburn was holding up a crystal ball. After a ton of losses on both sides of the ball, the Tigers took their lumps and struggled on offense and defense. The team was ran over in the Iron Bowl and ended the year on a sour note after surprising many with a win over South Carolina and bouncing around the top 25.

Looking ahead: Back to back lopsided losses in the final two SEC games will be a motivating factor for a young team that is looking to move back into contention for a West title next year.

Liberty Bowl

Looking back: Cincinnati surprised many with six straight wins in the middle of the season and appeared to be on their way to a BCS bowl until quarterback Zach Collaros got hurt.

Looking ahead: The Bearcats have a chance at 10 wins and are playing in a bowl after missing one last season.

Looking back: James Franklin had one of the best coaching jobs in the country by taking a team that had gone 4-20 over the past to years to the school's fifth ever bowl game.

Looking ahead: It's all about building up the momentum for the Commodores under Franklin, who just signed a nice new contract. The senior class will be the only one in school history to play in two bowl and want to make sure they are also the first two win two.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

Looking back: UCLA represented the Pac-12 South in the championship game thanks to crosstown rival USC's ineligibility but back-to-back bad losses left the Bruins with some lumps on the field and no head coach off it. There were some bright spots in Rick Neuheisel's final season but some bad losses as both sides of the ball struggled.

Looking ahead: The Interim Head Coach Bowl is all about history for UCLA, who received a waiver to play in the game at 6-7. The team is looking to avoid going 6-8 for the first time in NCAA history.

Looking back: A promising 6-0 start was soon undone by a stretch of six straight losses. Things reached a low point after losing to lowly Minnesota to end the season, sealing the fate of head coach Ron Zook after seven seasons.

Looking ahead: Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning will lead the program and no doubt wants to leave a good impression, as do the Illini with the chance to go across the country and wind up with a winning season.

Sun Bowl

Looking back: Six straight wins to open the season had many thinking Georgia Tech as a team to watch out for with their option offense. Things hit a rough patch as they lost four of their next six but the Yellow Jackets still managed to upset Clemson and reach their 15th straight bowl game.

Looking ahead: This is the first time they'll head to El Paso and should be excited trying to reach the nine win plateau.

Looking back: It wasn't quite the way Utah wanted their first ever Pac-12 season to go but they still managed to pull out seven wins despite a rash of injuries. The defense wasn't bad at all but the offense struggled to score all year long.

Looking ahead: The Utes hope to enter the offseason healthy, wealthy and with a win.

Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl

Looking back: It started out as one of the most promising seasons in recent memory for Texas A&M but ended with quite a thud. There was the move to the SEC that dominated much of the conversation about the Aggies before they turned second half collapses into their trademark. As a result of the fall from grace, head coach Mike Sherman found himself looking for a new job.

Looking ahead: The Aggies are close to home and need a win to provide some sort of momentum as they look to head into the nation's toughest conference.

Looking back: The year began with a Heisman push for quarterback Dan Persa in the form of billboards and barbels touting "Persa Strong." He wasn't however, failing to recover from an Achilles injury soon enough leading to struggles early on. Things got turned around and the Wildcats even pulled off a huge upset against Nebraska.

Looking ahead: The program hasn't won a bowl game since 1948 so ending that streak seems like a good stepping stone into 2012.

Insight Bowl

Looking back: Remember when Oklahoma was the top team in the country? Yeah… Injuries to the Sooners' leading receiver and running back set the offense back a few steps and the defense never lived up to expectations. The trashing in Bedlam was rock bottom for a team that started with aspirations of a national title.

Looking ahead: The team doesn't want to be here and has rarely seen a non-BCS bowl under Bob Stoops so finding motivation will be a challenge. A loss will punctuate one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory so the still-talented Sooners will want to get that important 10th win.

Looking back: Not sure there is a team that could be as average this year as Iowa was. The offense and defense were just about in the middle of FBS and alternated wins and losses down the stretch to finish a game above .500. A win over Michigan was a season highlight but other than that, there wasn't much to get excited about.

Looking ahead: The Hawkeyes are a young team so they could use the trip out West as a building block for 2012.

Music City Bowl

Looking back: Wake Forest finished .500 on the year but managed to pull off some surprises, such as a win against Florida State and some closer than expected losses to Clemson and Notre Dame. The offense and defense were fairly nondescript this season.

Looking ahead: A third place finish in the division was a better than expected result for the regular season but dropping below the .500 mark would diminish things.

Looking back: After last season's banner year, many expected Mississippi State to keep things going under Dan Mullen. Inconsistency on offense, quarterback in particular, was part of the reason why the Bulldogs finished just .500 and had just two wins over BCS teams.

Looking ahead: An Egg Bowl win and second consecutive bowl game are a good thing to note when Mullen hits the recruiting trail.

Pinstripe Bowl

Looking back: Iowa State's season didn't really come down to one game but it's pretty clear that the upset of Oklahoma State at home was the thing the Cyclones held their hats on. Beating Iowa earlier in the year in overtime also made it a successful season despite finishing 6-6.

Looking ahead: Paul Rhodes is building something up in Ames and a bowl win would be a nice capper to the season with such a young team.

Looking back: Hardly anybody gave Rutgers a chance to be more than average this year but they rode a strong defense to an 8-4 year. Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was the bright spot, toping 1,110 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.

Looking ahead: Some said that Greg Schiano was on the hot seat but he's moved off of it and can firmly put the talk to bed with a ninth win.

Armed Forces Bowl

Looking back: BYU's first season as an independent didn't quite turn out like they wanted with a narrow loss to Texas and blowout loss to Utah on the schedule. The Cougars still finished up 9-3 and on a three game winning streak.

Looking ahead: Pointing at 10 wins in their first season on their own would be a nice way to end a tumultuous year.

Looking back: Despite changing head coaches, Tulsa had a great run through Conference USA and finished 8-4 with an iffy defense. Their only losses were to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Boise State and Houston, whose records aren't too shabby.

Looking ahead: The Golden Hurricanes have won seven of eight and no doubt want to make it eight of nine.

Alamo Bowl

Looking back: Robert Griffin III took a team with a defense ranked 110th in the country and led them to nine wins, including the first in school history over Oklahoma and another over Texas.

Looking ahead: You figure there's a good chance that RGIII wins or comes close to winning the Heisman and this game could be his final swan song if he moves on to the NFL.

Looking back: Everybody though it would be tough for Washington to get back to a bowl game after they lost quarterback Jake Locker but Keith Price took over and actually outperformed everybody's expectations. The defense was shaky and they couldn't come close to the conference's elite but still a nice season in Seattle.

Looking ahead: Steve Sarkisian is building a program up so their second straight bowl win is a great sign of progress but nothing like what a second straight bowl win would be like.

Champs Sports Bowl

Looking back: There was talk of a BCS bowl game this year for Notre Dame but expectations have a habit of being inflated for the Irish. They had a great win (in retrospect) over Michigan State but the season seemed to turn following the loss to USC with the team running off four straight and wind up 8-4.

Looking ahead: In a year considered a disappointment by their own high standards, a win over a team like Florida State will be a nice way to end the season.

Looking back: One of the biggest disappointments in college football, Florida State started in the top five but wind up 8-4 after losses to teams like Wake Forest. Injuries and youth played a part, sure, but it just wasn't the season Jimbo Fisher had hoped for when talking up this team earlier in the year.

Looking ahead: No one is recruiting like the Seminoles are and a big win in their home state while rivals are struggling would go a long ways.

Holiday Bowl

Looking back: Jeff Tedford was likely going to get another year but how California did this season would determine just how hot the seat was. A nice win over Arizona State to end the season and a close than expected loss to Stanford in the Big Game mean it's not too bad for Tedford.

Looking ahead: This is for a little revenge, as Cal no doubt wants to beat Texas after the Longhorns advocated for a BCS bid over them a few years ago.

Looking back: It was a brief hiatus from the postseason for Texas and though they couldn't find a good option at quarterback, the defense was good and they ended the rivalry with Texas A&M with a last second win.

Looking ahead: An eight win season is something most programs would take in a heart beat but it's almost required of Mack Brown this year.

Military Bowl

Looking back: Air Force comes in to the aptly named Military Bowl with the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy and option attack that was second in the country in rushing. The defense wasn't up to standards but a solid football team this year.

Looking ahead: They can't lose the Military Bowl, can they?

Looking back: Toledo seemed to go through the ringer this season with a close loss to Ohio State and the fiasco in the Syracuse finish. They ended the season winning seven of eight and have a high-powered offense people have to keep track of.

Looking ahead: They didn't win the MAC but a nine win season and bowl win are a nice thing to have for the Rockets.

Belk Bowl

Looking back: Not much was expected of Louisville this season, especially after losing to FIU at home, but Charlie Strong put together one of the best coaching jobs in the country as the Cardinals won five of their last six and beat champ West Virginia.

Looking ahead: Finishing strong and giving developing freshman Teddy Bridgewater are two things the program can take into the offseason.

Looking back: Despite the record, N.C. State didn't really put together a strong season when you consider they had just four wins over a BCS AQ team, one of whom didn't even go to a bowl game.

Looking ahead: Tom O'Brien is on the hot seat but he's 8-1 in bowl games and hopes an eight win season will cool things off for next year.

Independence Bowl

Looking back: James Franklin was solid in his first season as a starter and Missouri managed to pull out wins against all of the Texas schools except Baylor. The Tigers couldn't beat one of the Big 12's elite teams but it was a good effort for a team that had to replace several pieces on both sides of the ball.

Looking ahead: The school departs to the SEC and would like to have a bowl win on their resume (who knows, it might be awhile before they get back).

Looking back: Given that their coach was fired right after media days, a 7-5 campaign might be considered a success. The offense was surprisingly good with quarterback Bryn Renner, Dwight Jones at wide receiver and Giovani Bernard at running back.

Looking ahead: Who knows what NCAA sanctions might be for the program but a bowl win over an "SEC" team is a nice way to cap an up-and-down year in Chapel Hill.

Hawaii Bowl

Looking back: It's last year's successful campaign but it was a solid one nevertheless that included a five game winning streak led by new quarterback Cody Fajardo.

Looking ahead: They're going to the Hawaii Bowl so plenty of things to look forward to on the islands.

Looking back: Southern Miss had one of the most successful seasons in school history, finishing with 11 wins and the Conference USA championship. They had two puzzling losses, to Marshall and UAB, but upset Houston to throw a wrench into the BCS plans of their conference rival.

Looking ahead: They might be without their head coach but plenty to like about a trip out West.

Maaco Las Vegas Bowl

Looking back: What does it take for Boise State to get a good kicker? The Broncos lost a heartbreaker to TCU at home and that ended what could have been their chance to finally play for the national championship. It was still a very successful season with a big win over an SEC team but that one game against the Horned Frogs seemed to take a lot away.

Looking ahead: Kellen Moore is the winning starting quarterback in FBS history and would like one more to go out in style.

Looking back: It was such a promising year for Arizona State but a stretch run to forget. The offense exceeded expectations but had issues with turnovers and the defense didn't live up to their billing.

Looking ahead: Without a head coach, the Sun Devils don't have much to play for but their fans to get a trip to Vegas out of it.

Poinsettia Bowl

Looking back: Had they not lost to SMU at home, TCU likely would have made the BCS. Instead, they wind up in San Diego but leave the Mountain West in style with conference title in hand and another double-digit win total.

Looking ahead: 11 wins and a top 15 ranking are a nice thing to have when joining the Big 12 next year.

Looking back: Louisiana Tech won the WAC with a 6-1 conference record and seven straight wins to end the season. They almost beat Houston earlier in the year as well.

Looking ahead: A marquee win is something the Bulldogs don't have this year but one over TCU would certainly qualify.

Stat of the week

Via Rivals' David Fox, Landry Jones is 110-of-200 with no touchdowns and seven interceptions in four games since receiver Ryan Broyles got hurt.

Stats of the week

- Wisconsin's Montee Ball led the country in scoring and rushing. He had 38 total touchdowns, which was more than 52 teams.

- Oklahoma State wins a conference title and trip to a major bowl for the first time since 1945.

- The final numbers for Case Keenum: 69% completion, 152 touchdowns-46 interceptions, 18,685 yards passing.

- Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are tied for 7th on the active list with 80 touchdown passes. Luck has been more efficient and has a chance to pass Barkley in the bowl game.

- LaMichael James still lead the country in rushing yards per game. He finished fourth in total yards despite playing fewer games than everybody else.

- Robert Griffin III (192.31) narrowly edged out Russell Wilson (191.60) for the top passing efficiency title. Both marks top the NCAA single season record by a considerable margin. Wilson set an NCAA record with a touchdown pass in 37 straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly finished the year with 191 tackles, 44 more than anybody else.

- Stanford failed to score just once in the red zone (63/64 trips) and had 50 touchdowns and just 13 field goals.

- 46% of Trent Richardson's rushing yards came against North Texas, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Auburn.

- First time Texas has finished below .500 in conference in back-to-back years since 1937-38.

Tweets of the week

"Bra we would <s class="hash" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; opacity: 0.7; text-decoration: none; display: inline-block;">#</s>smash OKST......they coach better calm down."

- LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard.

"I have no time for Mike Gundy. Dude just claimed Ok state would score 35 points on LSU..pass me what your drankin coach."

- Alabama tight end Brad Smelley.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. USC

7. Oregon

8. Wisconsin

9. Arkansas

10. Kansas State

Leaning this way

National championship game: LSU

Rose Bowl: Oregon

Fiesta Bowl: Stanford

Sugar Bowl: Michigan

Orange Bowl: West Virginia

Category: NCAAF
Tags: 2011, Aaron Murray, ACC, Air Force, Alabama, Alamo Bowl, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Armed Forces Bowl, Auburn, Autzen Stadium, BBVA Compass Bowl, BCS, Belk Bowl, Big 12, Big East, Big House, Big Ten, Bill Snyder, Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Boone Pickens, Boston College, Brad Smelly, Brad Wing, Brady Hoke, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Bryn Renner, Buckeye Five, Bud Foster, BYU, Cal, California, Capital One Bowl, Case Keenum, Central Michigan, Champs Sports Bowl, Chandler Harnish, Charlie Strong, Charlie Weis, Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Chip Kelly, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cody Fajardo, Collin Klein, Conference USA, Cotton Bowl, Dabo Swinney, Dan Mullen, Dan Persa, Dana Holgorsen, David Shaw, David Wilson, Denard Robinson, Dwight Jones, Edwin Baker, Egg Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, FIU, Florida, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Gator Bowl, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech, Giovani Bernard, GoDaddy.com Bowl, Greg Mattison, Greg Schiano, Hawaii Bowl, Heisman, Heisman Trophy, Holiday Bowl, Honey Badger, Hugh Freeze, Independence Bowl, Insight Bowl, Iowa, Iowa, Iowa State, Iron Bowl, Isaiah Crowell, Jake Locker, James Franklin, James Franklin, Jarvis Jones, Jeff Tedford, Jerry Sandusky, Jim Tressel, Jimbo Fisher, Joe Paterno, John Brantley, June Jones, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kevin Sumlin, Kirk Cousins, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, LaMichael James, Landry Jones, Le'Veon Bell, Les Miles, Liberty Bowl, Logan Thomas, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, Luke Fickell, Luke Kuechly, Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, Mack Brown, MACtion, Mark Richt, Marshall, Matt Barkley, Meineke Car Care Bowl, Michigan State, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike London, Mike Sherman, Military Bowl, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Mohamed Sanu, Montee Ball, Mountain West, Music City Bowl, N.C. State, N.C. State, National Championship Game, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, North Carolina, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oliver Luck, Orange Bowl, Oregon, Outback Bowl, Pac-12, Paul Rhodes, Pinstripe Bowl, Pitt, Poinsettia Bowl, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, Rose Bowl, Russell Shepard, Russell Wilson, Rutgers, Ryan Aplin, Ryan Broyles, Sammy Watkins, SEC, SMU, South Carolina, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Steve Sarkisian, Steve Spurrier, Sugar Bowl, Sun Belt, Sun Bowl, Surveying the Field, Syracuse, Taylor Martinez, Teddy Bridgewater, Texas, Texas A&M, TicketCity Bowl, Todd Graham, Toledo, Tom O'Brien, Trent Richardson, Tulsa, Tyrann Mathieu, UAB, UCLA, Urban Meyer, USC, Utah, Vic Koenning, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, WAC, Washington, West Virginia, Wofford, Zach Collaros, Zach Line
 
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:06 pm
 

Illinois fires Ron Zook

Posted by Tom Fornelli

After starting the 2011 season with six straight victories and being ranked, Illinois lost its final six games of the season to finish at 6-6 and it seems the collapse has cost head coach Ron Zook his job.

According to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Cody Westerlund, Zook was reportedly fired on Sunday morning. The school made it official with a release on Sunday afternoon.

"I assessed the entire program and felt that it was time for a change in leadership," said Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas in a release. "It is imperative that our program shows some consistency and competes for championships, and I think a change in coaches can help us get there sooner. I wasn't here seven years ago when Ron Zook took over as coach, but it's clear the program is in better shape than what he inherited. I believe we need new leadership to take the program to the level to compete for championships on a consistent basis. This is an extremely competitive conference, and we are determined to go head-to-head with the very best."

Current Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has been named as the team's interim head coach.

Zook spent seven seasons with Illinois, going 34-51 in that span. The high point of his time in Champaign came in 2007 when the Illini finished the season 9-4 and went to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC. Illinois' only other bowl appearance under Zook came last season when it beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 8:35 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 4

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Illinois

The fighting Zookers are 24th in the AP Poll and unranked in the coaches this week after beating a solid Arizona State team that was ranked last week. The Illini have a very favorable schedule, perhaps the easiest in the Big Ten and plenty of solid young players on both sides of the ball. They have two good coaches in offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning who have made a world of difference and should be higher based on what they showed against a good team last Saturday.

Overrated: Texas, Florida

Let's face it, there are a lot of voters who want Texas and Florida to be good. They're national powers with big fan bases, they've been very good in the past and it is much easier to rank teams knowing the Longhorns and Gators are somewhere in the top 10. When it comes to Florida, they've really only played one game - a win against a shaky Tennessee team - and have never left the cozy confines of The Swamp. They have a whole new staff and a team full of players we're really not sure of outside of Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey. They're ranked 15th right now which is just ok but for the 10 voters who had them in your top 12, shame on you. And Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer? 8th, really? A Florida team who blew out FAU and beat Tennessee is the 8th best in the country?

Finally, Texas. Kudos for Andy Staples of SI.com for leaving the Longhorns off his ballot completely and justifying it. Of their wins, UCLA is terrible, BYU got killed at home by Utah and Rice is, well, Rice. And that game was on The Longhorn Network so you know something was up. If you look at the ballots you'll also find a familiar name with Texas higher than anyone at 13th: Doug Lesmerises. I know it's not fun to cover Ohio State nowadays but don't punish the rest of the teams around the country by keeping UT and UF ranked high.

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

My man Wilner finds himself in this space once again as Wolf must be doing just enough to have been the only one of the trio to not make an appearance. He has both USC's ranked higher than anyone with the eastern version fifth and the western version 14th. Georgia and Mississippi State are somehow still on his ballot ahead of Virginia Tech, Baylor and Arkansas. Yes, really. I swear Jon has been working too hard on the realignment mess to actually watch any games. Actually, I hope that's the case because he's a nice guy but a terrible, terrible voter.

What were you thinking? Ohio State

On Saturday, I witnessed first hand how terrible Ohio State was when they played Miami. The Buckeyes looked a step slower than the Hurricanes, turned the ball over, couldn't complete a pass to save their life and never did find a quarterback. Not a bad performance, an awful one. Yet somehow, seven voters decided to put Ohio State ahead of Miami on their ballots despite the head-to-head match up. I understand Ira Schoffel works in Tallahassee but come on.

Team bias

Our tech team at CBSSports.com is pretty awesome and came up with this neat tool to take a look at team and region bias in the AP Poll. Check it out below, it's a fun thing to play around with.




Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:16 pm
 

Ron Zook loses a supporter in Champaign

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The University of Illinois announced on Monday that longtime athletic director Ron Guenther would be stepping down from the position on June 30 after 19 years on the job. While there are plenty of people in Champaign who are likely to miss Guenther, I don't think anybody will miss him more than Illinois' head football coach Ron Zook. Guenther was not only the man who hired Zook in 2004, but he may be the only reason that Zook is still employed at the school.

After Illinois floundered in the two seasons following a Rose Bowl appearance in 2007, there were many Illinois fans and boosters who wanted Zook gone. Still, Guenther kept him around and even spent the money to bring in two top assistants like Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning. Guenther also gave Zook and his assistants raises after a 7-6 season in 2010.

Make no mistake, there is always a lot of pressure on you when you're the head coach of a BCS football program. Now that Guenther is gone, there's even more pressure on Zook's shoulders. First of all, it's always optimal to work for the man that hired you, no matter what line of work you're in. When a new guy comes in you have to prove yourself all over again, or risk being replaced. There's also the chance that the new athletic director will want to bring in his own coach.

Guenther will be involved in the search for his replacement, which is good news for Zook, but just because Guenther helps choose the new AD, that doesn't mean whomever it ends up being will be as supportive. Even though Illinois has long been considered a basketball school, Guenther put a lot of money into the football program. He renovated Memorial Stadium and built an indoor football facility on the team. In other words, he put a lot of money into the program and hasn't gotten the type of results you'd want for the money spent.

There's no way of knowing whether the new athletic director will be as willing to give as much money to the football program. And if that turns out to be the case, then Zook will have to do even more with less. Zook's current contract runs through 2013, but odds are he's going to need to start winning a lot more often than he has been if he wants to be around through the end of his deal.

Posted on: February 16, 2011 7:49 pm
 

Illinois gives Ron Zook a raise

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Illinois finished its season with a 7-6 mark thanks to a win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, which wouldn't ordinarily be something to be incredibly proud of. Sure, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but winning one more game than you lose, and taking home a December bowl game isn't exactly the type of performance you build your program on.

However, this is Illinois. The Texas Bowl victory was the school's first bowl win since the MicronPC Bowl in 1999, and only it's third bowl victory since 1991. So in Champaign, when you pick up a bowl win, that means that Ron Zook and a couple of assistants are getting raises.
Illini Athletic Director Ron Guenther said Wednesday that Zook's annual salary will be increased from $1.5 million to $1.75 million once approved by university trustees.
Guenther said Zook's staff will get raises, too. That includes offensive coordinator Paul Petrino and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Petrino will get a $50,000 raise to $525,000 a year and Koenning will be paid $342,000, a $17,000 bump. 
Guenther also said that Illinois' bowl win over Baylor is the school's first step towards regular bowl appearances, though I'm sure he felt the same way after Zook and the Illini went to the Rose Bowl 2008. After being trounced by USC in that game, the Illini only won eight games over the next two seasons. Which led to the staff overhaul that saw Petrino and Koenning come to town.

So while there may be reasons to be optimistic about the direction the Illinois football team is taking, I'm just saying that if I were running things, I think I might wait until I made back-to-back postseason appearances before proclaiming things have been turned around.
Posted on: December 29, 2010 10:08 pm
 

Bowl Grades: Texas Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ron Zook got the first bowl victory of his career as Illinois handed Baylor a 38-14 loss in Houston.

Illinois


Offense: This was likely Illinois' best all-around performance of the season since it beat Penn State, as both the offense and defense performed extremely well.  We already knew that Illinois could get the job done on the ground, but Nathan Scheelhaase showed everybody why he has such a bright future on Wednesday night.  The freshman completed 18-of-23 passes for 242 yards, while contributing 53 yards and a touchdown rushing.  Of course, 55 of those yards came on one play in the closing seconds as he kept the ball on a bootleg and nobody from Baylor followed him.  Still, as good as Scheelhaase was, Mikel LeShoure was the star of the show.  LeShoure rushed for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns to set the Illinois single season marks for yards in a season and touchdowns.  The Illini just had their way with Baylor all night long, racking up 533 total yards.  Grade: A

Defense: Illinois' defense hasn't gotten as much respect as it probably deserved this season thanks to some rough games against Michigan and Minnesota, but this unit isn't nearly as mediocre as most people think.  Case in point: On Wednesday night the Illini held a Baylor team that had averaged 32.6 points per game and 478.5 yards per game to 14 points.  Corey Liuget and the defensive line were in Robert Griffin's face all night, and most importantly, got off the field on third down, allowing Baylor to convert only two of ten third downs.  Grade: A

Coaching: After last season Ron Zook decided that if he wanted to keep his job and turn the Illinois program around he was going to have to start over.  So he overhauled his coaching staff and brought on Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning to run the offense and the defense.  Well, it paid off.  Zook has the first bowl win of his career thanks to the game plans his coordinators drew up to stop Baylor, and suddenly things are looking good in Champaign again.  Grade: A

Baylor


Offense: Robert Griffin is a remarkable kid. I feel the need to make this point because I'm sure a lot of college football fans don't get the chance to see Baylor play all that often, but I assure you, the Robert Griffin you saw tonight was not the Robert Griffin the Big 12 saw most of the season.  I'm not sure whether Baylor was nervous playing in its first bowl game in so long, but the Bears just didn't have it out of the gate on Wednesday night.  They showed some flashes on offense in the second half, but they were few and far between, and just not in time.  Any rhythm the team did pick up was quickly thrown off by penalties or bad decisions, and the Baylor offense that had shown up all season just never made its way to Houston.  Some of this has to be attributed to Illinois' defense, but Baylor didn't do itself any favors.  Grade: D

Defense: Was there that kid in your grade school that liked to beat up on younger, smaller kids during recess?  You know, the fifth grader with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove to the second grader?  Well, Illinois' offense was the fifth grader on Wednesday, and Baylor's defense was the second grader just lying on the ground hoping that a teacher would show up to break up the fight before he was dead.  You got the feeling that Illinois could have let Baylor know what it was going to do before every play and Baylor still couldn't have stopped it.  Grade: F

Coaching: There Baylor coaching staff isn't going to find much on the game film to be happy about when they get back to Waco.  It was just a bad night and the coaching staff deserves some of the blame for the Bears coming out so flat to start the game.  Still, considering what Art Briles has done at Baylor during his three years, and where this program could be going, it's hard for me to give Briles and company a terrible grade.  Grade: C

Final Grade


I was hoping this game would be a shootout that would come down to who had the ball last, or at least the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.  Instead it was a game that was pretty easy to figure out early, and felt more like a three and a half hour Illinois coronation ceremony.  Which is nice for Illinois fans, but for the impartial observer, it's rather boring.  Grade: D
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com