(Editor's Note: Starting Jan. 11, Ivan Maisel's 3-Point Stance will run twice a week -- Tuesdays and Thursdays.)
Thursday, February 24
1. After a season in which all 12 opponents completed at least half of their passing attempts, Minnesota coach Glen Mason has revamped his defensive coaching staff. The funny thing is, he made secondary coach David Lockwood the new defensive coordinator.
2. Boise State has ample opportunity to keep its profile high after last season's 11-1 run. The Broncos open at Georgia, at Oregon State and then play Bowling Green at home. Three nonconference games, three bowl teams.
3. Reggie Roby was the first college punter in my memory that had a noticeable effect on the outcome of a game. He was a cornerstone of the Big Ten power that Hayden Fry built from scratch two decades ago. It's awful that he won't get the chance to bask in that Hawkeye glory into his old age. He died too young.
Tuesday, February 22
1. We like to think that bringing GameDay to campus is a big deal. Many of you feel the same way. But not all. "I don't remember any of it," Florida coach Urban Meyer said of the show's trip to Utah last November. "Someone gave me a tape and I watched it the other day. So much happened over a two-month period."
2. I said on Colin Cowherd's show the other day that the NCAA instant replay isn't fair to the MAC and the Mountain West because their games aren't televised. Turns out that 89 percent of MWC games were televised last season, and the league will have its own network in 2006. That doesn't disprove my point, but I shouldn't have lumped the MWC in with the non-televised.
3. An old friend of Steve Spurrier who spent some time with the South Carolina coach recently said he hasn't seen the Ballcoach this happy in years. I bet Spurrier would be a lot happier if he had a quarterback who could throw.
On The Mend
Thursday, February 17
1. Tennessee ought to move its player lounge to the university hospital. Senior wide receiver C.J. Fayton became the eighth Volunteer to undergo surgery this offseason. The good news? All three quarterbacks -- Rick Clausen, Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer -- will be healthy when spring ball begins on March 10.
2. Departing tailback Cedric Benson told the Dallas Morning News that the Texas coaches need to gameplan the Oklahoma game to win it instead of to not lose it. Benson has never been shy about speaking his mind, and when he does, he's usually right. As in this case.
3. Rick Neuheisel has moved on to the NFL, and surely hopes that the pro experience, along with time, will make him palatable again as a collegiate head coach. But the news stories of the testimony in his suit against the University of Washington aren't helping his case.
Tuesday, February 15
1. With the departure of offensive line coach Tim Davis, USC lost more offensive coaches (three) than it did offensive starters (two). The return of Steve Sarkisian as quarterback coach softens the transition, but I can't remember that kind of transition happening.
2. Auburn released its schedule, and took pains to explain that the Sept. 24 game against I-AA Western Kentucky game is there because Southern Mississippi bailed out. Thanks for the explanation, but playing a I-AA team (The Citadel) cost the Tigers a chance at a national title last year, and it may cost them again.
3. Alabama starts spring practice next week and will finish some two weeks before the last teams, Virginia and Stanford, start. Tide coach Mike Shula wants time to heal in case of injuries, but Cavs coach Al Groh said he likes having time for last year's injured to get ready for spring. It's all in how you look at it.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Thursday, February 10
1. The NCAA Football Rules Committee recommended expanding instant replay from the Big Ten throughout Division I-A for next season. That's great if your game is televised. A call that could be reversed in one game could stand in another. So much for uniformity in the application of the rules.
2. After three years in the MAC West, Bowling Green is returning East, which is great news for the Falcons' rivalries against Miami, Kent State and Ohio. They're annual again. Northeast Ohio is so important to BGSU that it moved its 2006 home game against Wisconsin to the Browns' stadium.
3. In a matter of weeks, Major Applewhite (Syracuse), Josh Heupel (Arizona) and Darian Hagan (Colorado) have taken assistant coaching jobs. It's great to see former stars return to the college sideline. Parlor game: who's the next All-Big 12 (or Big Eight) quarterback to become an assistant?
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Tuesday, February 8
1. If Norm Chow goes to the Titans, his break with USC has a different feel than the Patriots losing Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel. Namely, Chow's could have been avoided.
2. If you miss football like I do, try this. Wake up at 6 a.m., walk outside, find a quiet spot in your yard, close your eyes and listen very closely. If you do, you'll hear football players all over America throwing up. Winter conditioning is in full swing.
3. Let's come up with an All-Don't-Touch-This-Senior backfield for spring practice. Matt Leinart's my quarterback, and DeAngelo Williams is my tailback. Leinart will be on the mend from arm surgery, but I can't imagine that Memphis coach Tommy West will allow anyone wearing a helmet to come within 10 feet of Williams.
Thursday, Feb. 3
1. Could this be the end of the USC reign? Pete Carroll and Norm Chow may be drawing up divorce papers. The Tennessee Titans are talking to Chow, who thinks NFL work would help him get a college coaching job. "An underlying tension" remains between the two coaches, according to one colleague. "Norm needs to be stroked," the source said. "I don't know if Pete strokes him."
2. The key to the Oregon State offense is replacing quarterback Derek Anderson. The leading candidate has become juco signee Matt Moore, a former UCLA starter who got hurt, got Wally Pipped, and left. He's already on campus and preparing for spring work.
3. Top 100? Seventeen players on the 2005 Senior Bowl rosters had been on Tom Lemming's top 100 list in 2000 or 2001. Just as many are already in the NFL.
No Rest For The Weary
Tuesday, Feb. 1
1. We all look forward to signing day with great anticipation. Coaches see it as a finish line -- and a starting line. A few staffs will meet Wednesday or Thursday morning to discuss this year's juniors. I mean, c'mon. Signing day is only 12 months away.
2. More and more southern schools are pushing spring ball up so that they finish in March. Some want to finish before spring break. More do so for the reason that coaches do a lot of things: fear. If a player gets hurt, he has more time to rehab and get ready for the opener.
3. Fresno State, USC and Auburn were all looking to fill holes on their schedule for this fall. Funny thing, though. Fresno State couldn't get USC interested, and neither USC nor Auburn has the slightest interest in one another. Fans would love it. The coaches wouldn't.
Tuesday, Jan. 26
1. Mississippi State coach Sly Croom, coming off a 3-8 season, has already told his players he "expects" to go to a bowl game next fall. The issue, Croom says, is whether they expect to go, too.
2. The Road Not Taken: a year ago, Washington defensive coordinator Phil Snow had the chance to leave and turned it down because he didn't want to move his kids one year after moving to Seattle. So Snow got fired, and now he's trolling for an NFL job at the Senior Bowl. That's the part of coaching that stinks.
3. Indiana will no longer play Oregon next fall. The Ducks will instead play Houston, which needed a game after Nebraska bailed out on the Cougars. The guess here is that the Hoosiers won't schedule an Oregon. From here, it looks as if new coach Terry Hoeppner is already 1-0.
Thursday, Jan. 20
1. Elbow surgery or no, Matt Leinart will be making room during USC spring football for redshirt sophomore John David Booty. Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow says that Booty needs snaps. "Any kind of snaps, spring ball snaps, game snaps," Chow said. "His arm is his real strength. The ball comes spinning. He's got to learn who the heck to throw it to."
2. Welcome to the SEC, Les Miles. Georgia swiped Kirby Smart, a former Bulldog star, off the LSU staff, then convinced Dawg assistant Rodney Garner not to leave Athens to interview for a job with Miles.
3. Four of the top five, and six of the top 10 teams in men's hoops had losing records in football. Only three of the top five in women's hoops had losing records in football. Draw your own conclusions.
The Price Of Success
Tuesday, Jan. 18
1. Auburn gets dissed in the polls, and then defensive coordinator Gene Chizik makes a lateral move to share the same job at Texas, replacing Greg Robinson. Success is supposed to be more rewarding for Auburn than this.
2. Robinson hires Major Applewhite as quarterback coach at Syracuse, which just confirms that the former Longhorn quarterback, 26, is odds-on to be a head coach before he's 35.
3. The more the Division I-A commissioners discuss how to create a new method of picking two teams for the championship game, the more nervous the BCS bowls get. Bowl officials always want more control over which teams play in their games. The last 12 months -- adding a fifth BCS bowl, the Utah-Pittsburgh mismatch in the Fiesta Bowl -- have made them antsy.
Thursday, Jan. 13
1. Auburn juniors Anthony Mix and Marcus McNeill both decided to come back for their senior seasons in part because they saw how much teammates Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown and Carlos Rogers gained by not leaving early for the NFL. And I don't mean just financial gain.
2. If you had been hanging out at the SAE house at Pacific thirty-odd years ago, you would have been friends with Pete Carroll, Greg Robinson and Ron Turner from the football team, and a baseball player named Scott Boras. You think he was the treasurer?
3. The coaches brought their annual meeting to a close without taking a position on whether they should make their poll votes public, which means their credibility remains a 30-point underdog in the public arena.
Tuesday, Jan. 11
1. Eight of Mark Richt's nine assistants have been with him at Georgia all four years. That's why it's such a surprise that he lost defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder (to the NFL) and running backs coach Ken Rucker (to Texas) on the same day. No worries -- their same-day departure is a coincidence. Richt emphasized the stability by promoting secondary coach Willie Martinez to replace VanGorder. I should know how many Hispanic coordinators there are, but I don't.
2. Speaking of Texas, with much fanfare a year ago Mack Brown hired Greg Robinson and Dick Tomey to revamp his defense. They performed too well -- Brown will have to replace them. Tomey has taken over at San Jose State, and Robinson is being introduced today as the new Syracuse head coach.
3. As the recruiting stretch drive begins this week, one of the biggest surprise names among the top is Iowa. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz has quietly built a power in the Big Ten. It appears the news has reached high school seniors.
Final Orange Bowl Thoughts
Wednesday, Jan. 5
1. The most shocking thing I saw Tuesday night was how USC turned Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson into a dancer who ran east-west, instead of the powerful rusher who plowed through tacklers throughout his freshman year. In 25 carries, Peterson had a long gain of nine yards.
2. Bob Stoops' confidence will remain unshaken, and rightfully so. But he's beginning to discover what Bobby Bowden and Tom Osborne did before him. Getting to the door is a lot easier than getting through it.
3. Someone will strain mightily to come up with a team other than USC to be a preseason No. 1 in order to be different. But it's painfully obvious that the Trojans will begin 2005 as the team to beat. Enjoy them while they last, because teams come along only every so often.
Tuesday, Jan. 4
1. The best testimony to the USC-Oklahoma matchup I've heard came Sunday from USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu: "You're not upset when either team has the ball. I'll watch a game to watch a linebacker. Last night, I watched Derrick Johnson (of Texas), and when he wasn't on, I shot pool. You can't turn your head in this game."
2. Had Auburn maintained that 16-0 lead, the Tigers might have snuck ahead of the Orange Bowl winner for one recognized national title. That last 80-yard Virginia Tech touchdown wrote the Tigers in ink at No. 2.
3. Cal's Aaron Rodgers immediately becomes the most talented quarterback in the NFL draft pool. That may help convince Matt Leinart to stay for his senior year. He's looking for reasons to stay, and USC coach Pete Carroll has given them to him. Carroll said Monday that Leinart "could use another year of strength and development."
Monday, Jan. 3
1. The stunning, last-play loss that ended Nick Saban's career at LSU was uncharacteristic of his Tiger defenses. Leaving receiver Warren Holloway unguarded for a 56-yard touchdown? Most coaches don't have one loss like that in their careers. Saban had two. Arkansas took the SEC West title away from LSU in 2002 on a 31-yard touchdown pass with :09 to play.
2. Vince Young had a career game Saturday for Texas in that Rose Bowl to remember, but Michigan played as if it wasn't aware that quarterbacks are allowed to run the ball. Now that I think about it, the Wolverines played that way against Brad Banks of Iowa in 2002 as well.
3. With Les Miles going to LSU, Oklahoma State likely will promote assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Gundy to replace him. Gundy, an outstanding quarterback for the Cowboys during the Barry Sanders years in the late 1980s, wanted the job four years ago when the school hired Miles. However, he was only 33 at the time and was deemed too young.
Friday, Dec. 31
1. Navy finishes 10-2 three years after going 0-10, and Midshipmen coach Paul Johnson doesn't get a sniff from another school. One theory is that athletic directors are scared of option football. Syracuse has thrived on option football, and the Orange need a head coach. Hmmmm ...
2. California is this year's poster child for the importance of motivation in getting ready for a bowl game, although I'm still trying to figure out whether Miami or Florida will want to play in the Peach Bowl tonight. I don't buy the in-state thing. The 'Canes are disappointed, and the Gators are between coaches.
3. Ed Orgeron is assembling an impressive staff at Ole Miss, among them, offensive line coach George DeLeone, who had been Paul Pasqualoni's right-hand man in Syracuse forever, except for one season with the San Diego Chargers.
Thursday, Dec. 30
1. New Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross will have a tough time convincing his colleague at USC, Trojans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, to go across the country to coach Syracuse. If the alums have a say in it, Gross will talk to former Orange quarterback Randy Edsall, who has built UConn from a I-AA team into a bowl winner in six seasons.
2. Jordan Palmer led UTEP to a 28-16 lead over Colorado, then completed only two of his final 12 passes. The Buffaloes came back to win the EV1.net Houston Bowl, 33-28, and the Miner offense has a memory that will push them hard through winter workouts and spring practice.
3. I have a dream: Ted Ginn, Jr. of Ohio State and Reggie Bush of USC on the same field in the Rose Bowl, Jan. 2006. That swing pass that Ginn caught late in the first half in Oklahoma State and took across the field was better with every replay.
Wednesday, Dec. 29
1. Colorado played some bafflingly ugly football at times this season. But the Buffs are young -- only 10 seniors will play Wednesday against UTEP in the EV1.net Houston Bowl -- and should be of championship caliber next season. That's as opposed to this season, when they won the Big 12 North while going 7-5.
2. If Vernand Morency sticks to his word and spurns the NFL to return to Oklahoma State next fall, then eight of the top 10 rushers in Division I-A will be back. Only five of the last season's top 12 came back, and the 2003 leader, Patrick Cobbs of North Texas, didn't play because of injury.
3. Notre Dame gave up 14 touchdown passes in its last three games. Granted, Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh (five), Matt Leinart of USC (five) and Derek Anderson of Oregon State (four) are good passers in difficult schemes, but new Irish coach Charlie Weis had better make pass defense priority one -- and two.
Where's the D?
Tuesday, Dec. 28
1. Gee, I miss defense. Eight bowl games, and seven of the winners have scored at least 31 points. Maybe it's playing an unfamiliar opponent. Maybe it's the layoff. Or maybe it's that bowl teams that have 6-5 records aren't very good on defense.
2. Notre Dame's players are saying all the right things about wanting to win for the fired coach Ty Willingham, but when only 70 percent of the seniors vote to play in the Insight Bowl, you have to wonder about their motivation to beat Oregon State.
3. O.K., it's been a week, and in the middle of the holiday season, I'm behind on thank-you notes. Thank you, Oklahoma defensive tackle Larry Burdine, for spouting off that USC's offense only has one-and-a-half players. You couldn't have said anything dumber, but it gave us writers something to chew on for a few days.
Should I stay or should I go?
Monday, Dec. 27
1. California quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a tough decision. He could use another year of playing and another year in the weight room. But he could also be the top quarterback prospect in a down year at the position. Rodgers is leaning toward staying, but ...
2. Butch Davis may listen to LSU, but if he listens to his agent, Marvin Demoff, he's not going anywhere. Demoff is at the head of the line of people telling Davis to take off a year.
3. Virginia coach Al Groh helped Charlie Weis get his start in coaching, but Groh hasn't taken kindly to his former protégé's attempts to raid his staff for Notre Dame. From what I hear, those two shouldn't be seated at the same table at the next Parcells coaching family reunion.
LSU keeps a big one
Friday, Dec. 24
1. LSU almost lost him to a better job, but in the end he stayed. Of course, I meant Dan Radakovich, the No. 2 guy in the athletic department. Auburn considered him for its athletic director's job, but instead promoted fund-raiser Jay Jacobs. Meanwhile, it's the day before Christmas, and no one in Bayou Country knows whether St. Nick's sleigh ride will be a round trip.
2. Hey NFL draftniks, while you're wrapping presents tonight, stop and take a look at UAB wide receiver Roddy White in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. You'll be hearing his name a lot come combine time.
3. The Big Ten recommended that the NCAA adopt instant replay throughout Division I-A. It's inherently unfair, because not every game is televised. What if the NCAA adopted a new definition of clipping for some games but not all?
The next Pete Carroll?
Thursday, Dec. 23
1. Pittsburgh fans may be hopeful that the Panthers hire Dave Wannstedt and find the next Pete Carroll, a two-and-done NFL coach who will find his niche in the college game. On the other hand, they may just find a coach with a record of 82-87.
2. Joe Lee Dunn's defenses at Mississippi State in the late 1990s led the Bulldogs to annually contend in the SEC West. But his last three years in Starkville were a washout. In Dunn's two years at Memphis, the points allowed per game have gone from 17.9 to 31.3. To quote another Memphian, the thrill is gone.
3. It just hit me: If there's no BCS formula, when will I ever get to type the word "tweak" again?
Wednesday, Dec. 22
1. The two best players no one has seen -- Memphis tailback DeAngelo Williams and Bowling Green quarterback Omar Jacobs -- will light up the GMAC Bowl tonight. The Tigers' best shot at winning is to give the ball to Williams and play keep away from Jacobs, because the Memphis defense can't stop the pass.
2. The Associated Press, in pulling its poll from the BCS, said its copyright had been violated. It took seven years to figure this out? Just say, "We're done," and move on. Spare us the lawyers.
3. The I-A commissioners considered appointing a nine-person committee last spring to name the BCS participants. One problem: if three teams are involved, and those conference reps recuse themselves, there could be a three-three tie among the remaining committee members. Then what?
Tuesday, Dec. 21
1. You may know that only eight schools made a bowl game for an eighth consecutive season. You may not know that Georgia Tech is one of them. In his third season, coach Chan Gailey has the chance to do tonight against Syracuse in the Champs Sports Bowl what he hasn't done yet: finish two games above .500. Let the cheering begin.
2. The Pittsburgh job is open, but the more interesting job is Miami (Ohio). The Redhawks may be in the Mid-American Conference, but they expect to win, because of a legacy that goes from Dick Crum to Ara Parseghian to Woody Hayes to Paul Brown.
Now that Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith has been suspended for the Alamo Bowl, Justin Zwick will get all the snaps, and he'll play better than he did all year. Why? Ted Ginn Jr. is more integrated into the offense with every practice.
Defending Your Life
Monday, Dec. 20
1. Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni has survived calls for his head the last two seasons, but now that the university has settled on Daryl Gross as its new athletic director, Pasqualoni must feel like a butcher in a vegan grocery. Gross, the force behind hiring Pete Carroll at USC, didn't come across the country to maintain the status quo.
2. Is it me, or has everyone at LSU already said goodbye to Nick Saban? A friend of Saban, defending him a few weeks ago regarding the Cleveland Browns opening, said, "After 11 seasons, how many times does the guy have to say he's not going anywhere?" Well, just one more.
3. The state of Crimson Tide football: Alabama is playing its 52nd bowl game, tops in college football, yet only seven players have been to a bowl. If it weren't for commercials, the Music City Bowl would be over in two hours. Minnesota doesn't want to pass, and Alabama doesn't know how.
Friday, Dec. 17
1. In remarks to the Notre Dame Faculty Senate on Wednesday, The Rev. John I. Jenkins, the incoming president, explained why he directed the firing of coach Ty Willingham. He was responding to concerns from "a number of high-level administrators" at Notre Dame. That means either fundraising was being affected, or Willingham ticked off some really powerful English professors.
2. Ed Orgeron is leaving USC to become head coach at Ole Miss, and his ability as a recruiter will be missed. But where Orgeron will really be missed is as a guy who fosters camaraderie in the locker room and the football office. If he were any more enthusiastic, he'd be certifiable.
3. Coaches say turnover margin is the most accurate bellwether of team success. Try telling that to the Mid-American Conference. Ball State (2-9) finished plus-five. Miami (8-4) finished minus-nine. Raise your eyebrows here: Iowa State, the Redhawks' opponent in the Independence Bowl, is plus-nine.
Hold that Tiger?
Thursday, Dec. 16
1. I'm sure LSU fans don't want coach Nick Saban to leave for the Miami Dolphins, with whom he spoke this week. But who ever thought he would stay there five years? He's fourth in the SEC in longevity.
2. Former Nebraska coach Frank Solich has interviewed twice at Ohio University. Solich inquired about the opening at Indiana. Remember a year ago, when Solich said no to Army and its athletic director, Rick Greenspan? Take a guess who's the new AD at Indiana. We all know what payback is.
3. The only thing the South Carolina-Clemson brawl was missing was fan interaction, a la the Pistons-Pacers brawl. Thus the SEC's new policy of establishing fines ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 for member schools if fans enter the field or the basketball court. Those goalposts just got a lot more expensive to replace.
Wednesday, Dec. 15
1. Oklahoma officials were hopeful but skeptical that the NCAA would grant defensive lineman Dusty Dvoracek a medical redshirt after his midseason dismissal by coach Bob Stoops. Dvoracek has received counseling regarding alcohol and anger management, but given the disciplinary reasons for his dismissal, the Big 12 Conference denied the redshirt year on a 6-6 vote. Maybe the NCAA has a heart after all.
2. Stocking stuffer: my former colleague Lars Anderson's book The All Americans, about the Army-Navy game of 1941 and the war that awaited the players, is a fascinating marriage two of my favorite subjects, the greatest generation and college football.
3. While we're keeping score, new New Mexico State athletic director McKinley Boston makes it black athletic directors 8, black coaches 3.
Tuesday, Dec. 14
1. I know Notre Dame went through a lot of candidates, and I was busy over the weekend with the Heisman, but I was stunned to see the press conference Monday and discover that the new leader of the Fighting Irish was the late Rodney Dangerfield.
2. Hey Oklahoma fans, check out the New Orleans Bowl tonight. If Adrian Peterson had decided not to come to Norman, the Sooners would have offered Jamario Thomas of North Texas. All he has done is lead Division I-A in rushing.
3. Amid the concern that Ty Willingham of, yes, Washington, raised the number of I-A African-American coaches to only three, new Army hire Kevin Anderson is the seventh black I-A athletic director. That's less visible but more important.
Monday, Dec. 13
1. So how much of a transition period will the Notre Dame suits who dumped Ty Willingham allow Charlie Weis? The guy knows his Xs from his Os, but he hasn't recruited in years and hasn't been a head coach above the high school level. Weis may try to steal away Virginia defensive coordinator Al Golden, a top coach and recruiter and a fellow branch of the Bill Parcells coaching tree.
2. Of the three Heisman finalists who talked about winning the 2005 trophy, Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson is the favorite, at least until USC's Matt Leinart decides once and for all whether he will return for his senior year. Reggie Bush? Tell me who the Trojans' quarterback is first.
3. The Pittsburgh job is tailor-made for Steelers' quarterback coach Mark Whipple. He won a I-AA national championship at UMass, so he knows the Big East area. I hear the Steelers' quarterback has done a nice job this year, too.
Mr. Smith goes to the NFL?
Friday, Dec. 10
1. The Stanford job has come down to USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, and Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris. Chow visited Stanford on Wednesday, and hasn't gotten an offer. Harris has an old-boy-network edge: Stanford athletic director Ted Leland hired him as head coach at Pacific in 1989.
2. Utah junior quarterback Alex Smith, on the promotion of defensive coordinator Kyle Whittingham to replace head coach Urban Meyer: "I look forward to the possibility of playing for him again. We're going to have a ton of success." Translation: Smith is 20-1 as a starter and has already graduated. If he's going to play for a new offensive staff, it could be in the NFL instead of Utah.
3. The biggest surprise of the College Football Awards Show on Thursday night? Auburn's Carlos Rogers winning the Jim Thorpe Award over Antrel Rolle of Miami and Ernest Shazor of Michigan. I voted for Rogers, but thought Rolle was a lock. That's a good consolation prize for the Tigers.
Thursday, Dec. 9
1. Outgoing Notre Dame president Monk Malloy's statement that he had been embarrassed by the firing of coach Tyrone Willingham is more devastating to the university than a hundred condemnations by columnists. As in the Catholic Church itself, they rarely break ranks at Notre Dame.
2. In Orlando for the College Football Awards Show, I asked Doak Walker finalist J.J. Arrington of California how the Golden Bears would get psyched for Texas Tech after the Rose Bowl disappointment. "We're playing a team from Texas," Arrington said, "so we're going to pretend they're Texas." Good answer.
3. Someone asked me in an ESPN.com chat yesterday to point out bowl mismatches, which I hadn't thought about. Here's three, Boston College over North Carolina in the Continental Tire, Purdue over Arizona State (without Andrew Walter) in the Sun, and, yes, Cal over Texas Tech in the Holiday.
My Heisman Ballot
Wednesday, Dec. 8
1. With Heisman ballots due today at 5 p.m., I can't procrastinate about this decision any longer. So here's my ballot: 1. Matt Leinart, USC. 2. Alex Smith, Utah. 3. Jason White, Oklahoma. And I may change my mind about White in favor of USC's Reggie Bush or Cal's Aaron Rodgers.
2. Navy's Paul Johnson felt compelled to put out a statement saying that he wasn't interested in the Ole Miss job. Why hasn't Notre Dame called him? He won a I-AA national championship at Georgia Southern, and he resurrected the Midshipmen.
3. The National Football Foundation held its annual Hall of Fame dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York last night. The sport gathers at season's end and slaps each other on the back. I called Barry Alvarez yesterday. He answers his phone in Manhattan and says, "I'm having lunch with Bobby Stoops and a couple of other guys." I'd like to have been a fly on that wall.
Tuesday, Dec. 7
1. What is it with former Utah coaches and Notre Dame? Urban Meyer spurned the Irish for Florida. Jim Fassel pulled himself out of the running. That leaves Notre Dame with either Kentucky assistant Ron McBride or the late Cactus Jack Curtice.
2. Tommy Bowden fired both coordinators and another assistant Monday, meaning the Clemson coach will be hiring his fourth offensive coordinator in seven seasons. Meanwhile, Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech hires an assistant coach at roughly every lunar eclipse. Guess which team won the Atlantic Coast Conference.
3. The Senior Bowl considered inviting former USC wide receiver Mike Williams to play in the Jan. 29 show-pony game for the NFL, but decided not to, in part because it didn't want to open the door to former Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett as well.
Monday, Dec. 6
1. There is internet chatter of California players boycotting the Holiday Bowl, which would be about three first downs past stupid. The most effective statement would be to go out and destroy Texas Tech.
2. USC quarterback Matt Leinart, on the possibility that offensive coordinator and mentor Norm Chow might leave for Stanford: "I hope he stays. I have a good feeling that he might," Leinart said, with a sneaky grin. Sounds like he knows something.
3. Give me a couple of more days, and I'll get pumped up about USC-Oklahoma. Great history, great tradition, great teams in 2004. But the facials that Auburn and Cal received Sunday put a damper on the whole thing.
Walk this way
Friday, Dec. 3
1. If Urban Meyer had his druthers, he would remain at Utah through the Fiesta Bowl, then make an announcement about his future. But there are some things out of even a coach's control.
2. You know, if I were the Tennessee players, I wouldn't have picked this week, the week of the SEC Championship Game, to get into a 2 a.m. bar brawl. Maybe I'm just getting old.
3. There are Tiger Walks, and Vol Walks, and Hokie Walks, but I'd still rather see the cadets at Army and the midshipmen at Navy march into the stadium for their annual rivalry than any other pre-game walk. After all, they were doing it first.
Down on the Farm
Thursday, Dec. 2
1. Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris, USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow, and Boise State coach Dan Hawkins are in the Stanford mix. Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, a member of Bill Walsh's staff on the Farm in the late 1970s, has discussed the opening with Walsh as well but would like to return to the NFL.
2. Tennessee's last win in the Georgia Dome came in 1998, during its run to the national championship. Since then, the Vols have lost one SEC Championship Game and two Peach Bowls. No, I don't like their chances to end the streak Saturday against Auburn.
3. UConn senior Dan Orlovsky began the season projected as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. He ended it without making the All-Big East first or second team. An average ratio of 18 touchdowns to 12 interceptions tells the tale.
Wednesday, Dec. 1
1. You think Indiana planned to fire Gerry DiNardo on Tuesday? Conspiracy theory: the university saw the nation turn toward Notre Dame and figured the story could slip under the radar.
2. Not to diminish anything any Auburn player has done this season, but if you're looking for an MVP, look at strength coach Kevin Yoxall. The Tigers have sailed through the season nearly injury-free.
3. I assumed the Capital One Bowl would take a higher-ranked Georgia over LSU. But the Bulldogs went to Orlando last season, and the Tigers haven't been there since 1979.
The perfect match
Tuesday, Nov. 30
1. With his imaginative offense and his Zen-like philosophy, Boise State coach Dan Hawkins would fit well at Stanford.
2. Boston College, in a no-man's-land between the Big East it spurned and the ACC it's about to join, wants the Big East bid to the Continental Tire Bowl. However, it needs the ACC, which has the game's other bid, to lobby for it. The Big East isn't exactly breaking its neck for the Eagles.
3. Three teams for two BCS bids; three backs for two All-American slots. Who do you leave out among Adrian Peterson, Cedric Benson and J.J. Arrington. Frankly, I'm leaning toward benching Peterson. The other two had great seasons without the best offensive line in the nation.
Now batting ...
Monday, Nov. 29
1. Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart hit a top-of-the-ninth grand slam in the Heisman playoffs. Jason White and Adrian Peterson have one more at-bat.
2. While we're dealing in baseball metaphors, Syracuse's upset of Boston College and Iowa State's heartbreak against Missouri decided postseason spots, but it reminded me of getting me excited about the Cubs and the Giants fighting for the NL wild card. USC, Oklahoma and Auburn -- the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals -- cruise along unaffected.
3. Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville has asked SEC commissioner Mike Slive to look into matching the Tigers with Utah in the Sugar Bowl, unbeaten against unbeaten. The commissioners have the power to make matchups but have been reluctant to use it and incur the wrath of the bowls. I don't think they would take Utah away from the Fiesta Bowl and leave it with two eastern teams.
Giving thanks for satellite radio
Friday, Nov. 27
1. Remind me again, especially on a holiday weekend, what it was like for traveling college football fans before satellite radio. On second thought, I don't care to remember.
2. Somehow, Houston Nutt has maneuvered Arkansas into a bowl game in each of his first six seasons. Number seven is on the line Friday against No. 12 LSU. Can you really bet against him?
3. LenDale White needs a total of only 141 yards in USC's final two games to reach 1,000 yards. What's amazing is that he would be the Trojans' first 1,000-yard rusher since Sultan McCullough in 2000, the pre-Pete Carroll days.
Wednesday, Nov. 24
1. Here's what I don't get about leaving Aaron Rodgers off the finalist list for the Davey O'Brien Award: Yes, Cal lost a game, but in that loss, to the number one team in the nation, Rodgers completed 29-of-34 passes for 267 yards. What else is he supposed to do?
2. Less than two minutes into his press conference at South Carolina on Tuesday, Steve Spurrier said how much he enjoyed being at a school where the presidents pursued him. Just a departing bouquet from the Ol' Ballcoach to his alma mater.
3. The decisions by South Carolina and Clemson to not play a bowl may be a gold mine for the Mid-American Conference. After getting only two bowl invitations last season, the MAC has three in hand before beginning to fill the vacancies left by the SEC, Pac-10, and maybe the Big Ten.
Did you hear the one about ...
Tuesday, Nov. 23
1. I didn't think of this, but I couldn't pass up stealing it: What do Lloyd Carr and John Kerry have in common? Neither could win in Ohio.
2. Six months ago, the University of Colorado's independent commission castigated athletics director Dick Tharp for lack of leadership. He didn't resign until Monday. That it took him so long to recognize the obvious proved it all over again.
3. The curse of 2001: Oregon, Nebraska and Colorado battled to get the second berth in the national championship game. Illinois won the Big Ten. Has a group of champions even fallen so far, so fast?
Monday, Nov. 22
1. Gary Crowton shouldn't get the ax at BYU. Yes, he's been there four years, and the Cougars are 14-21 over the last three. But because of the two-year LDS missions that his players interrupt their careers to take, Crowton is just beginning to coach players he recruited.
2. If Texas A&M upsets Texas in Austin, Boise State could move into the top six of the BCS and knock California out of the Rose Bowl (Utah and Boise State would get the two at-large bids). The bowls and the networks would scream, but I think it's great for college football.
3. Let's say the All-American quarterback is Matt Leinart of USC. The tailback is Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma. I'll take the guys who fell out of contention because of injuries but are healthy again -- QB Kyle Orton of Purdue and TB Ryan Moats of Louisiana Tech -- and feel good about my team.
Friday, Nov. 18
1. Virginia Tech's 55-6 rout of Maryland means two things: after several years of November slumps, Frank Beamer's team is getting better as the season progresses, and USC's 24-13 victory over the Hokies in August is looking pretty good right now.
2. I'm guessing that Arizona will need a new tights tends coach next season. The current one is named Steve Spurrier, Jr.
3. It's hard to find a more impressive statistic than Louisville's two interceptions thrown in 251 attempts, especially when you consider that the freshman, Brian Brohm, has 76 of the attempts. Brohm has thrown one pick, and senior Stefan LeFors has thrown one in 171 attempts.
Thursday, Nov. 18
1. One SEC coach's comment on the possible return of Steve Spurrier to the league: "We're all gunning for him. We can't wait to get him, as much as he ran it up."
2. Texas fans are complaining because Cal and Utah may squeeze the Longhorns out of a BCS at-large bid. Texas is one win away from becoming only the second school in Division I-A to win 10 games for a fourth consecutive season. The other school, Oklahoma, is also the reason the Longhorns can't get a BCS bid.
3. So why didn't the NCAA wait a week, until after the Michigan game, Ohio State's biggest rival, to return to Columbus in the Maurice Clarett case? An NCAA spokesman said, "Our investigators will look into situations when they find they need to look into them."
Show me the money
Wednesday, Nov. 17
1. No pressure, Utah, but if the Utes make the BCS, the other Mountain West teams will make $1.75 million if they are in a bowl, and $1 million if they are not. If the Utes don't make the BCS, those numbers shrink to $300,000 and zilch.
2. Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers snuffed out Georgia's best chance to score with an end zone interception of David Greene. Here's what's impressive: the Bulldogs had never run that play, and that wasn't Rogers' man. He came off his coverage to help.
3. Not enough schools are adopting the pro teams' attempt to branch out from hamburgers and hot dogs into more enticing stadium food. Three exceptions: smoked turkey legs at Virginia Tech, eye-watering spicy sausage at USC and Italian roasted pork on Artisan bread at Auburn.
What's twice as good as a visit to the dentist?
Tuesday, Nov. 16
1. A I-A commissioner defends the BCS by reminding us that without it, the regular season wouldn't have the meaning that it does. Would anyone really care about Oklahoma-Baylor?
2. An assistant I-A commissioner defends the BCS by pointing out that under the old system, USC, Oklahoma and Auburn would be committed to the Rose, Fiesta and Sugar Bowls, respectively, and unable to play one another.
3. I get it now. It's good for us. In other words, the BCS is twice as good as going to the dentist. You only have the endure the BCS once a year.
Monday, Nov. 15
1. The Big 12 has given Kansas until Tuesday to determine what punishment it will mete out to coach Mark Mangino for going nuclear on the integrity of the game after the 27-23 loss to Texas. I say fine Mangino $10,000 -- and two months after the season, give him a $20,000 raise. I'm a sucker for anyone who speaks his mind, and the players know, if they didn't before, that their coach will lay out for them the way he expects them to lay out.
2. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden fretted last week that his players, one week after shocking Miami, wouldn't be up for Duke because of the funereal silence of playing in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke 16, Clemson 13. Has any team climbed so high and fallen so far on consecutive Saturdays?
3. I thought the Florida Gators were emotionally wrung out after the firing of Ron Zook and the loss to Georgia and would go through the motions against South Carolina. Boy, I nailed that one. Win or lose, and the Gators won big, 48-14, Zook has handled his firing and lame-duck status with more class than any coach I can recall.
Packing it in
Friday, Nov. 12
1. It's hard to believe that a team that stopped Florida State like North Carolina State did won't go to a bowl, and a team from the Big 12 North will. You think there's a bowl out there that will invite the Wolfpack defense? Naah.
2. On the other hand, there's the North Carolina State offense. Two turnovers last night makes for 28 this season. Miami and Virginia, fighting for the ACC championship, have 15 between them.
3. UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer is improving because the coaches have limited the decisions he makes at the line. That's the same thing that Norm Chow did for Jordan's brother at USC. Once Carson Palmer understood the offense, he won the Heisman Trophy. Hmmmm?.
Warts are showing in Fort Worth
Thursday, Nov. 11
1. It's as if someone flipped a switch at TCU. A year ago tonight, the Horned Frogs were 10-0 and making the BCS bowl officials sweat. TCU went into Southern Mississippi, got whipped 40-28, and since then the Horned Frogs have gone 5-6, with two of those victories against SMU and a third against Army.
2. I've been surprised, as the coaching hot stove talk heats up, by the lack of speculation regarding top assistants ready to move up. The stakes in college football have gotten so high that athletic directors at the top schools are less willing to give an untested coach a chance. That doesn't bode well for African-American coaches.
3. Shaun Cody made the Lombardi Award finalist list, and I didn't have him on my ballot. That's either East Coast bias, or it means I haven't seen the Trojans play since August.
What can Brown do for you?
Wednesday, Nov. 10
1. Here's how you can tell Oklahoma senior right tackle Jammal Brown has gotten better. Last season, he gave up one sack. This season, not only has he not allowed one sack, he hasn't even given up a pressure. You get the feeling that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will be shaking Brown's hand early in the day.
2. USC's Dwayne Jarrett has the highest profile, and Austin Collie of BYU has the best stats, but if I'm picking freshmen wideouts, I'll take Ernie Wheelwright of Minnesota, Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech and Todd Blythe of Iowa State, and their 22 touchdown catches.
3. Speaking of which, Dan McCarney's Big 12 North-leading Cyclones haven't figured out this is a rebuilding year. Ten of Iowa State's 22 starters are freshmen and sophomores, which means they weren't around for the Cyclones' last two visits to Kansas State: losses of 58-7 (2002) and 56-10 (2000).
With one precinct reporting ...
Tuesday, Nov. 9
I cast three ballots Monday. Here they are:
1. Four finalists for the Lombardi Award (linemen, linebackers): 1. Erasmus James, Wisconsin. 2. Jammal Brown, Oklahoma. 3. David Pollack, Georgia. 4. Derrick Johnson, Texas.
2. Three finalists for the Butkus Award (linebackers) 1. Derrick Johnson, Texas. 2. Matt Grootegoed, USC. 3. Ernie Sims, Florida State.
3. Twelve semifinalists for the O'Brien Award (quarterbacks, in alphabetical order): Jason Campbell, Auburn; David Greene, Georgia; Marques Hagans, Virginia; Chris Leak, Florida; Stefan LeFors, Louisville; Matt Leinart, USC; Dan Orlovsky, Connecticut; Aaron Rodgers, California; Alex Smith, Utah; Andrew Walter, Arizona State; Jason White, Oklahoma; Jared Zabransky, Boise State.
Utah in danger of being left out
Monday, Nov. 8
1. Watch the BCS Standings closely, for if Utah finishes in the top six, bowl relations could get ugly. The Utes would take one at-large berth. If USC slips to No. 2, and the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl gets the first pick, it could take a 10-1 Texas or a 10-1 Big Ten runner-up and make Pac-10 runner-up California unavailable to the Rose Bowl.
2. Normally, it's not good news for your run defense when your free safety leads the team in tackles. But Texas A&M free safety Jaxson Appel led the Aggies with 12 tackles, 10 of them taking down Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson, and the Ags held Peterson to 101 yards.
3. Virginia Tech lost to USC, and then lost an early conference game. Bowling Green lost to Oklahoma, and ditto. Both got written off. Both have run off winning streaks (five and six games, respectively). Both have proved, as they say on Wall Street, that past performance doesn't predict future results.
No figuring the Ol' Ballcoach out
Friday, Nov. 5
1. The logical decision for Steve Spurrr to make was to leave his legacy alone and not go back to Florida and try to match his own record, which is why it came as a surprise when he decided not to take the job. Spurrier hasn't always acted according to the same logic as the rest of us. That's what made him so tough to beat.
2. Joe Lee Dunn has made a reputation for aggressive defenses at plenty of schools before he arrived at Memphis at 2003. But if he doesn't have exactly the right players, his defenses are sieves. Last year, the Tigers allowed 19.2 points per game. This year, after last night's 56-49 loss to Louisville, the fourth game in which Memphis has allowed at least 35 points, the Tigers have allowed 30.9.
3. The GMAC Bowl in Mobile has a deal that allows it to choose a team from the WAC if it so desires. One WAC team that has already qualified for a bowl isn't interested. The coach of 6-2 UTEP, Mike Price, isn't interested in returning to the state of Alabama any time soon.
Receivers, tiebreakers and homecomings
Thursday, Nov. 4
1. If Cal falls this week to Oregon, it will be because the offense sputters. Three top receivers are injured. The Bears are deep at wideout, but no one is that deep. There's a reason that Aaron Rodgers' numbers slumped in the 27-0 victory over Arizona State on Saturday. He has fewer targets to throw to.
2. A reader with not enough to do e-mailed me and explained how the Big 12 North could end in a six-way tie at 3-5. You probably knew that if that happens, Kansas would win the tiebreaker.
3. Mississippi State coach Sly Croom, a former Alabama All-American, has been gone from his hometown of Tuscaloosa a long time. In discussing the Bulldogs' game Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Croom said, "Very few people have gone in to that stadium and come out with a victory." The Tide is 6-8 in home conference games from 2001 to date.
Key stretch for coaches
Wednesday, Nov. 3
1. I don't know about you, but this morning feels like one team is standing in front of its fans, singing the fight song and holding helmets high. The other team is still staring at the scoreboard, hoping the review official will change it.
2. Florida will announce Wednesday whether linebacker Channing Crowder's sprained arch will keep him out for the season. And maybe for good -- Crowder is only a true sophomore, but he graduated from high school in 2002 (he delayed entry in school to rehab a knee). That means he's draft-eligible.
3. Huge win over Miami for North Carolina coach John Bunting, but I have a hunch he's still in the same boat as other 4-4 coaches fighting for their jobs: Gary Barnett at Colorado, Paul Pasqualoni at Syracuse and Buddy Teevens at Stanford. Could be a bowl game. Could be goodbye.
And The Winner Is. . .
Tuesday, Nov. 2
1. When all three Florida schools lose on the Saturday before a presidential election, that means the winner is ... check with me Wednesday. Going back to 1948, Florida State's second year of football, all three Florida schools had never lost on the Saturday before a presidential election until this year.
2. Several Washington fans mocked my suggestion that their university should consider replacing Keith Gilbertson, who resigned Monday, with UTEP coach Mike Price. Hey Huskies, don't "stoop" to hire a former Cougar, and enjoy your 1-7 record.
3. Utah fans should start rooting for Auburn. Tennessee and Georgia are closing fast on the Utes in the BCS Standings. If Utah's computer rating starts to drop because of its remaining opponents (Colorado State, Wyoming and BYU), the Tigers could pick off the Bulldogs and the Vols and protect the Utes' back.
BCS doomsday scenario
Monday, Nov. 1
1. My favorite BCS doomsday scenario I've heard so far: Oklahoma and Auburn lose, California finishes second to USC, and the two have a rematch in the Orange Bowl, 2,500 miles away. The kicker: Wisconsin and Michigan, Big Ten co-champs, meet in the Rose Bowl. It won't happen -- but it could.
2. Washington is tied for last in I-A in fumbles lost (14) and next to last in passes had intercepted (16). Thirty turnovers in eight games -- I bet that is Rick Neuheisel's fault, too.
3. Michigan fans are braying that wide receiver Braylon Edwards should be in the Heisman race. After he caught touchdowns of 36, 21 and 24 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime against Michigan State, they have a point. Edwards's problem is that all teams ranked ahead of him have candidates, too.