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Posts tagged ‘College Football’

Why you should love college football

Above is the ending of the Auburn-Georgia game in 2013 that helped keep Auburn undefeated. At the time, it seemed like it might be the craziest thing that happened in the SEC last year.

Nope.

If you’re a dude, you invariably get into a lot of bar conversations across your 20s and 30s (and logically beyond) about whether you’re an NCAA guy, an NFL guy, or something else. When the fall comes around, this is a much bigger topic; I’ve been in two of these discussions just today. There are arguments on all sides and ultimately it’s a personal decision, but I’m an NCAA guy. Read more

The Alabama-Auburn trolling has really hit a fever pitch

There are 37 days until college football is back, which is exciting. Although far more people get excited by the eventual return of the NFL, I personally think college football is the greatest thing on the American sporting landscape. I’m definitely not alone in that.

As you probably know if you follow college football, last season it seemed like potentially Alabama was headed for another national championship game — and Alabama vs. FSU would have been interesting — but then this happened:

As a result of that situation (which literally seemed to crash my Facebook at the time), the long-standing Alabama vs. Auburn rivalry (detailed well in the 30 for 30 embedded at the top) has reached some epic trolling places, such as this:

Then there’s this whole thing, whereby Alabama and Auburn are fighting about HTML code.

And while this isn’t about Alabama or Auburn, the SEC trolling has reached another new low with this story:

Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger was the victim of a sucker punch during an incident over the weekend at a popular Nashville nightspot, according to its owner.

Steve Ford, owner of Losers Most Wanted Bar & Grill, said Mettenberger did nothing to provoke another bar patron, but the 6-5, 224-pound quarterback ended up getting punched in the face. He did not require medical attention.

“Here’s the truth: The guy said something about ‘Roll Tide!’ to Zach, and Zach turned around and said ‘Good luck with that,’ ” Ford said on Monday. “And the guy’s buddy then sucker-punched Zach.

If you’ve never been to Nashville (I haven’t), here’s a quick review of Losers:

It’s a bar. It’s in Midtown. It’s lots of college kids. It’s perfectly fine if you just want to sit and drink. Nice patio. Can’t really see anything that differentiates it from Winner’s or Rebar. The 1 toilet bathroom is a little ridiculous. The “security” guy was kind of a dick when it was time to close. He just came over and told us we have to get out. Not nicely at all. Just “get out.” Umm, whatever dude.

Makes sense.

Trolling in the SEC is a time-honored tradition — you can say it’s a cliche, but football is a damn sacred passion down there — and there’s a post here that attempts to explain why:

But why is hating on Alabama such good business? There’s a good reason why Clay Travis and Tim Brando love to pick on the Tide, other than Tennessee and LSU love respectively.  Alabama is the Yankees, Alabama is the Patriots, Alabama is the Heat, Alabama is the (insert dominate dynasty hockey team here.)  Nick Saban has turned Alabama into a dominate program.  Even on Alabama’s down years they are playing for BCS bowls.  Even when they lose their BCS bowl and have a brand new quarterback they get ranked in the top 5.  Fans of other teams hate dynasties.

The trolls of college football know that if you want to get the highest number of people fired up you knock the big guy down a few pegs.  It’s human nature to want to see Goliath toppled from his pedestal.  To confirm this all you have to do is look at how social media lights up when Alabama loses a game.

Yep. Concur. College football fandom is about as base a study in human psychology as you can find. It’s all about in-group/out-group (often defined by the region you live in or where you went to school, or something to do with your family) and David/Goliath, which is in turn about knocking down the big, bad man at the end of the block.

I can’t wait for this to get started again. I’m actually living near Texas A&M — vaguely — for this season, so I may try to check out a game.

Oh, and by the by … Auburn and Alabama are both looking like top-five preseason teams again, so … be ready.

 

 

Munchie Legaux has another year of eligibility at Cincinnati. What now for the endless carnival that is Gunner Kiel’s college life?

Following this bouncing ball: Gunner Kiel was, at one point, the top high school prospect in the country (or the top QB of his year, depending on how you read scouting services). Initially, he was headed to Indiana — he’s from Columbus, Indiana and pairing him with former Oklahoma OC Kevin Wilson (the new head coach at Indiana) seemed like a big deal. Eventually he backed away from Indiana and ended up settling on LSU. That didn’t work out — Les Miles even took a shot at him on his way out the door — and he ended up at Notre Dame. He was buried on that depth chart during a solid run for ND, so he decided to transfer to Cincinnati. Everett Golston had to depart ND soon after, and there was a brief window where maybe Kiel would return to the Fighting Irish, but ultimately he didn’t. He’s still at Cincinnati — if you’re scoring at home, that’s the fourth college he’s been associated with in the last couple of years — but now Munchie Legaux (great name) has an additional year of eligibility, and Kiel’s status is again kind of cloudy. You could view it through this prism:

Or this one:

Basically, we could have a situation where a once-in-a-lifetime stud prospect (OK, perhaps I over-sold that a bit) might get to a couple of years out of high school never having been the unquestioned starter at any of the four programs he’s been linked to. There are tons of stories about high school stars hopping around, but typically they do land somewhere, and it’s usually not four stops. It seems like there are two possible aspects here — either he’s a tough kid to coach (as exemplified by Miles’ comments above and his own admissions of his relationship with his QB coach at ND) or he’s just had a run of not-finding-the-right-place, which happens to all of us from time to time, be it job-wise, relationship-wise, etc. Here’s a quote from Kiel of interest:

“I just tell people I’m doing with what’s best for me. I committed to so many places but I did it all in the right way. I didn’t think I made any dumb decisions. Different places I looked at, the position coach or the coordinator isn’t there anymore. Alabama, Missouri, LSU, Indiana … the position coach isn’t there anymore or the (offensive) coordinator isn’t there anymore. People will have their opinion, but I thought it was in my best interest to not commit or de-commit for that very reason. You can look now, of the position coaches I would have had, none of them stayed.”

People sometimes throw this around in discussion or color commentary, but it really is hard to be an elite QB when your system keeps shifting all the time — look at Alex Smith in the NFL. He was en route to bust status, but after getting under Harbaugh and then Andy Reid, he looks like a top 10-12 NFL QB again. Consistency matters a lot, and it’s hard to get in the current era of football: after one-two bad seasons, a coach and most of his top staff can be suddenly scattered all over the country. That filters all the way to the recruitment of 17 year-olds, and Kiel may have been caught in that vortex.

Regardless, it’s likely that Munchie vs. Gunner might be among the most interesting QB battles of the spring/summer — remember, the Bearcats did go 9-4 last year and they are coached by a guy who’s recorded some elite seasons at other stops. With Louisville firmly on the rebound (no Bridgewater, no Strong), and a manageable 2014 schedule minus OSU, whoever wins that gig could be en route to a major bowl game — and maybe get the kind of late-career pop that Blake Bortles did too.

Super Bowl post-mortem: What can we learn from Pete Carroll, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer about winning as a college coach in the NFL?

Here’s a list of every Super Bowl winning coach. After last night, four total titles have been won by three men who share a similar distinction — winning a Super Bowl and a college national championship. Those three men? Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, and now Pete Carroll. So, an incredibly exclusive club has as many total titles as Chuck Noll (4), who has the most individually. There’s obviously a huge narrative about “college coaches” vs. “pro coaches,” as in college coaches are seen primarily as recruiters and program managers — you get the best talent and you’re going to win — whereas the idea of an NFL coach is more nuanced. These three guys proved you can win at both levels — perhaps Johnson and Carroll moreso, because Johnson was 1-15 his first season and helped build that team, whereas Switzer inherited the back-end of Johnson’s run. That’s all essentially splitting hairs. There’s something else to consider.

Johnson (and his successor, Dennis Erickson) got violations for the Miami football program; Barry Switzer’s final year at Oklahoma involved players even being arrested; and it’s widely thought that Carroll went to the Seahawks/NFL to avoid possible NCAA sanctions at USC. 

Broadly speaking, then … if you’re an NFL owner/GM eyeing up college coaching talent, the only model for success at the highest level is basically this: find a coach who’s had a scandal or needs to otherwise be airlifted out of his current situation and toss him into the NFL ring. That’s not exactly how Johnson went from Miami to Dallas, but the broader theme holds.

Obviously the interesting repercussion of all this would be Chip Kelly; he never won a national title at Oregon, although he came close. In his first year in the NFL, his team made the playoffs. The Redskins seem like a bit of a wreck, and the Giants/Cowboys may be a few pieces away, so it’s possible he could put together a little run of playoff appearances in Philadelphia (it’s also possible that he could be fired before making another playoff game; that’s how the NFL rolls sometimes). Could he end up being a good hire for the same broad reason that Johnson, Switzer and Carroll were?

Bill O’Brien might be another example — he was clearly looking to escape Penn State and sanctions connected to his predecessor (also a name that’s impossible to follow in that area of the country). And right now, he has a decently-talented but underperforming team — and the No. 1 pick in the draft. He could make a move too, theoretically. In the AFC South right now, you basically just need to be better than the Colts.

Some of the best college coaches of our time — Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, et al — head to the pros and don’t get it done. But the three that have headed there and won it all at the next level do have that one thing in common: maybe their ethics weren’t completely elite when they were back in college. So maybe that’s the formula owners should be looking at: save a guy and he’ll save your franchise at the same time.

By the way, Carroll vs. Kelly — Eagles vs. Seahawks — will be played in Philly next year; we just don’t know the date.

Where Signing Day and the Super Bowl intersect: Peyton Manning and Randy Moss could have been something at Tennessee

Quick story of import here: on Sunday, Peyton Manning will go for his second Super Bowl ring. If he gets it, people think maybe he walks into the sunset (but he probably doesn’t). Regardless, it’s been an insanely productive professional career — now he’s seemed to get over the Brady/Patriots thing fully — and he’ll go down as one of the best all-time, win or not this week (I personally would have about three or four guys ahead of him, but my opinion doesn’t matter so much on these broader topics).

Now, National Signing Day is coming up this Wednesday — if you really think about it, that’s why Jack Del Rio is a defensive coordinator in the Super Bowl and not the head coach of USC right now – and it made me think back to Peyton Manning’s recruitment (it seemed ultimately to be a race between LSU, Tennessee, and Ole Miss) and his time at Tennessee. He has a ton of records there, but two things jump out: he never beat Florida (it cost him dearly most years), and the Vols actually won their lone BCS Championship the year after he left, with Tee Martin at the helm. (Tee Martin is currently the WR coach for USC, FYI.)

Now, there’s a way this all could have been different: one of the most-hyped high school football players of all-time, Mr. Randy Moss, almost went to Tennessee:

Some kid named Peyton Manning drove back to campus during a weekend away just to host the visiting hot-shot recruit. “Peyton was in Virginia, and he came back to take me to a basketball game,” Moss said. “I don’t know how long the drive was, but I know it wasn’t 15 or 30 minutes.”

Moss never forgot that moment even though he also passed on Tennessee and wouldn’t reconnect with Manning until a few years later.

“We ended up in the same draft class, at the Heisman Trophy (ceremony) together,” Moss said. “That was shocking to me. It was like, ‘Man, you tried to recruit me, now we’re at the Heisman.’ It was pretty cool.”

This is a big “what if” situation — and “what if” situations are the fuel of sports debate, honestly — because, as you probably know if you’re reading this far, Moss ultimately chose Notre Dame, then didn’t play a single down there. He ended up playing at Marshall, setting records like whoa, becoming a seven-time Pro Bowl WR in the NFL, and missing the Super Bowl a handful of times. There’s also this clip, which might be my favorite thing on YouTube.

It’s impossible to know whether Randy Moss, had he committed to Tennessee, would have ended up playing there — but it’s fun to speculate on, no? Manning to Moss in college would have been absolutely insane to watch. This is how Moss was thought of in high school, FYI:

Moss is sure of this because he has sports’ trump card: talent. Better, Moss has the kind of breathtaking athletic gifts seen once in a generation. At 6’5″, with a 39-inch vertical leap and 4.25 speed in the 40, he established himself as West Virginia’s greatest high school athlete since Jerry West. Irish coach Lou Holtz declared him one of the best high school football players he’d ever seen. Moss was twice named West Virginia’s Player of the Year—in basketball. “He does things you’ve never seen anyone else do,” says Jim Fout, Moss’s basketball coach at DuPont High in the town of Belle. Moss also ran track for a while. As a sophomore he was the state champ in the 100 and 200 meters.

Nearly every college wanted him, troubled or not. During Moss’s trial for the stomping incident, Kanawha County prosecutor Bill Forbes received a half-dozen calls from football coaches around the country assuring him they could make Moss a better citizen if he was released to their care. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden ultimately got Moss and quickly understood his colleagues’ hunger. Early in the fall of 1995, during an impromptu late-night footrace among the Seminoles’ fastest players, Moss came in second. When he went through practice the following spring as a redshirt freshman, the defense couldn’t stop him from scoring. “He was as good as Deion Sanders,” Bowden says. “Deion’s my measuring stick for athletic ability, and this kid was just a bigger Deion.”

If you’re wondering, the highest-ranked WR for this class (2014) signed with Florida State, but the No. 2 guy — Malachi Dupre, who looks like Russell Westbrook with the specs — hasn’t announced yet, and is apparently down to Alabama, LSU, UCLA, and FSU (maybe Ole Miss too). He’s 6-4, 175. Moss 2.0? Probably not, but you never know.

Tennessee, who’s been on hard times since about ’07 it seems, currently has the No. 4 class by some measure.

Goodnight, BCS: remembering perhaps the biggest debacle of them all (2001 with Miami, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas et al)

The BCS said goodbye last night with a doozy of a game — 24 points were scored in the final 5:15 — and actually, with a doozy of a BCS season overall (MSU-Stanford was great, UCF over Baylor was interesting and made Blake B. a household name, Oklahoma over Alabama was surprising, Clemson-OSU was a knuckle-up, and the title game delivered). That said, no one is going to truly miss it (except the people who made tons of money from it, who will continue to make money from the new system). There were a couple of different things I wanted to write off the game, notably about Tre Mason’s draft stock (short answer: people think he’s a system back, apparently) and about how Gus Malzahn even being in that game represents the idea that your career is a marathon, not a sprint (eight years ago he was a high school football coach), but ultimately I thought the best bow to put on the BCS would be to look back at one of its biggest travesties. Now, which travesty would I choose?

The one that usually pops is 2004 Auburn (undefeated, didn’t play for it all). The other one people bring up in the more modern sense is the year Bama didn’t win the SEC West but won the national title. Both are good cases, but I wanted to talk about 2001 for a second. The title game that year ended up being Nebraska vs. Miami; Miami routed ‘em (the game was 34-0 at the half), which isn’t surprising given that 38 members of the team were drafted into the NFL, accounting for 41 total Pro Bowl trips. (Some of the bigger names are Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork, etc.) But the controversy of who got to play Miami actually started the previous year with what happened with Miami and FSU in 2000 — that year, Oklahoma was the clear No. 1, but there was confusion about No. 2 between Miami and FSU.

So… prior to the 2001 campaign, the system shifted:

The BCS changed the formula in an effort to come up with something that would eliminate the scenario that led to Florida State finishing ahead of Miami despite a better ranking and head-to-head win by the Canes in 2000. There were three changes. In an effort to minimize margin of victory, some of the computer rankings were replaced. The Dunkel Index and New York Times rankings were removed and replaced by the Colley Matrix and Peter Wolfe’s rankings. Also, Richard Billingsley changed his formula to remove margin of victory, and Ken Massey created a new, non-MOV version of his rankings for the BCS to use. As a result, the eight computer rankings were now split, with four considering MOV and four ignoring it.

The formula was also changed to calculate the computer average by throwing out both the best and worst ranking for each team and averaging the other six. That is the one change that made sense.

The most significant (and ridiculous) change was the addition of a quality win component (QW). After calculating the basic formula, a bonus reduction was given to any team that had a win over a team in the top 15 of the basic formula. If a team had beaten the No. 1 team, its BCS score would be reduced by 1.5 points. If it had beaten the No. 2 team, the bonus reduction was 1.4 points, and so on down to a bonus of 0.1 for a win over No. 15. One particularly illogical piece of this component was that a team could only earn one bonus if it beat the same team twice during the year. For example, if a team had beaten the No. 15 team twice, it would only get 0.1 for a bonus instead of 0.2.

Had all these changes been in place in 2000, Miami would have finished ahead of Florida State, and, again, that was the goal.

Miami was a relatively clear No. 1 in 2001. They didn’t lose, and they mostly routed opponents. Their only really close game was VT on December 1st, where they only won by two:

Now, it got confusing in the middle of the country, though. During the regular season, Colorado had beaten Nebraska — in fact, ’twas a massacre, 62-36. (Musburger and Gary Danielson, working together!)

Because of that result, Nebraska didn’t even play for the Big 12 title — despite being No. 2 in the BCS. Colorado played Texas, and that one was a nailbiter:

Colorado won, so they had a claim to No. 2, right? They had beaten Nebraska and won the Big 12 Championship. OK. We’ll come back to that in a second.

Meanwhile, Oregon — nearing the end of its time with Joey Harrington — was 10-1 that year. Just like in the modern era, the Ducks’ problem was not beating Stanford — they had lost 49-42 to them during the regular season. Check out Keith Jackson saying “abandon” at the beginning of this one:

So now you have Miami as an unquestioned No. 1, with Colorado, Nebraska and Oregon all laying claim. It should be Colorado or Oregon, right? Nope. It was Nebraska. But why?

Here’s Jerry Palm again:

Despite two regular-season losses, the Buffaloes finished third, 0.05 BCS points behind the Huskers in the closest race for second of the low-score-wins part of the BCS era. Oregon, which was 10-1 and No. 2 in the polls, finished fourth in the BCS primarily because of poor MOV-based computer rankings. The Ducks were ahead of Colorado in the basic BCS rankings, but the Buffs moved past based on a whopping 2.3 QW bonus. Nebraska actually finished fourth in the human polls but overcame that due to strong computer rankings and one fewer loss than Colorado.

Colorado actually lost their opener that year, 24-22, to Fresno State. Had they won this game, then –

– they might have played for a title.

Meanwhile, the Pac-10 in 2001 wasn’t elite, which cost Oregon its shot.

While many people consider the 2001 Hurricanes essentially unbeatable due to the NFL talent they had assembled, many also think Oregon could have given them a much better (and more interesting) game than Nebraska ultimately did. Hell, the 2001 Longhorns — a fairly dominant team aside from losing to Oklahoma — could have beaten Colorado in the Big 12 title game and probably given Miami a better game than Nebraska did. It was a ridiculous series of late-season upsets, timing and luck that propelled us to arguably the worst BCS Title Game in its history (OK, Oklahoma-USC was pretty bad too).

Under the four-team system coming in next year, Miami-Nebraska would have been a semifinal (1 vs. 4) and Oregon-Colorado would have been the other semifinal (2 vs. 3).

Final interesting thing about all this: we’re talking about 12 years ago. In college sports, that is a long time, because it’s three turnovers or so (assuming people are staying 3-4 years), but Oregon is still a top-10 program consistently, and Miami (while they swooned late) had a stay in the top 10 this year (and have racked up a couple of good recruiting classes, although Al Golden as an on-field coach might be a question). Nebraska has never achieved the Osborne glory in recent years (this year they had some lumps, but won their bowl game), but those three programs are still typically in the top 25-30 and nationally-relevant. Meanwhile, what the hell happened to Colorado football? They’ve won a national championship, produced a Heisman winner, and were ranked every year between 1988 and 2003. And now… damn. Hopefully they turn it around.

This whole Black Monday coach-firing stuff has insane repercussions; remember January 2010?

There’s a chance that 10 NFL head coaches could get fired tomorrow (or sometime tonight); apparently Rod Chudzinski (Browns) and Jim Schwartz (Lions) have already been fired, per various Internet reports. Then there’s this…

Last year, eight coaches and five GMs got the ax. This year, it’ll probably be roughly that, if not more.

We love speculation, and we love new hope. We love thinking that someone is going to come in, take the reins of a team we love, and lead it to new heights. We love the guessing game and trying to figure out what the moves are before they happen. This is all human nature. But the insane thing about Black Monday is how deep the repercussions can run, from colleges to pros and back again — especially because coaches develop relationships over time and carry “their people” with them.

Let’s look back at January 2010, because it’s fairly relevant now — it seems like the Seattle Seahawks are going to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs, and will likely be considered the prohibitive favorite in the entire playoffs (maybe Denver could stake a claim there, but not even). They got Pete Carroll from USC in January 2010 (some claim he jumped ship because of impending sanctions), which led to Lane Kiffin leaving Tennessee for USC, which led to Derek Dooley leaving Louisiana Tech for Tennessee, which led to Sonny Dykes leaving Arizona (he was OC) for Louisiana Tech, which led to co-offensive coordinators in Tucson, and so on. Consider the multiple levels of crazy here, though:

1. Because the Seattle Seahawks owner had an interest in a candidate (Carroll), suddenly within 72-96 hours a college program in Tucson, Arizona is looking for a new offensive coordinator.

2. A 17 year-old kid somewhere who had been recruited extensively by someone like Dykes to Arizona now is thinking about living in Ruston, Louisiana in order to play for him.

3. Out of all those guys linked above, only Carroll still has the same job — and this was only about four years ago! Kiffin is unemployed. Dooley is back in the NFL working with the Dallas Cowboys. Sonny Dykes is the head coach at Cal. Even one of the co-offensive coordinators at Arizona is now working at Oklahoma.

People love to talk about how we don’t live in a “work at the same place for 40 years and get the gold watch” world anymore, and that’s true — people like to jump around a lot, within reason (ultimately it looks bad on your resume in the real world if you do this too much). But the rules of the football coaching world are unlike anything else out there — years later, seemingly no one is in the same place. Some aren’t even at the same level (college/pro). And all this happens within hours, like dominoes.

Think about this year: everyone wants to assume Bill O’Brien is about to be the head coach of the Houston Texans. Let’s say that’s true. Now PSU has an opening. There are rumors that guys like Greg Schiano and James Franklin might want it. If one of them gets it, suddenly Tampa Bay (NFL) or Vanderbilt has an opening, provided Schiano wasn’t fired by Tampa Bay already. If Al Golden of Miami becomes a candidate at PSU, now Miami has an opening. Whoever fills it has an opening — and so on down the line. Because of the first-mover (the Texans, in this case), literally hundreds of lives are changed (recruits, their parents, boosters, other coaching staff members, the athletic departments of the schools involved, the staff of the NFL teams involved, etc.) And this happens within hours.

I realize this isn’t breaking news, per se, but think about the drastic contrast between how this works and how “the real world” works — in the latter, you tend to stay at jobs for a few years, if not longer, for “consistency.” It’s much harder for someone to fire you after one year (i.e. Chudzinski in Cleveland). And when you do choose to leave, or you are fired, it’s a long, drawn-out process that usually involves about three months or more of work from start to finish. Relevant people have time to prepare. Not so here. Someone could be moving from Miami to western PA, or California to Nashville, or wherever to wherever, around New Year’s Day — and all because of how things shake out beginning tomorrow.

I wrote this entire thing without even mentioning the Texas Longhorns search, too.

Also to note: when and if Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz get fired, none — zero – of the 2009 hires will still have jobs, a scant five years later. Crazy.

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