C.O.W., Part 2 - How To Fix Georgia
Georgia QB Aaron Murray
How to fix Georgia, Florida, and other struggling aspects of the college football world.
Cavalcade of Whimsy
Oct. 5 - Week Five, Part 2
28, Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part One. Oh, that
wacky Les Miles
The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
Ten things that need fixing, and. of course, because I know better than the people who actually know how to do these things, here how to go forward …
The Problem: The WAC has enjoyed some nice moments with Fresno State doing some good things in non-conference play, Nevada's offense lighting up the stat sheet, Hawaii getting to the Sugar Bowl, and, of course, Boise State's phenomenal run of success with two BCS wins and a shot at the national championship this season. But Fresno State, Nevada, and Boise State are bolting to the Mountain West, leaving a shell of a conference behind, and Louisiana Tech is likely going to be gone in the near future if courted by Conference USA or the Mountain West. WAC commissioner Karl Benson is leading the way to try to keep the conference viable, but these are rough times.
The Solution: It's not UT-San Antonio and Texas State. The WAC needs to become a true national conference and partner up in some way with the Sun Belt to generate a bit more of a buzz. Fine, take on UTSA and Texas State and be an eight team league forming one division, the nine-team Sun Belt can be another division, and the two can come up with a conference championship game that would be at least as interesting as the Conference USA yearly clash. There's not much the WAC can do at this point, unless it can somehow give BYU a sweetheart of a deal to be the anchor, so Benson and the boys will have to get extremely creative.
9. Texas Tech
The Problem: Mike Leach took an already decent Texas Tech program to another level with is high-flying, innovative offense that gave the school a national identity and led to an extremely successful nine seasons. Before getting canned following the infamous Adam James incident, Leach went 84-43 and won share of the Big 12 South title in 2008, and a large portion of the Red Raider faithful weren't too happy to see him go. Tommy Tuberville was hired in a cloud of malaise after his time at Auburn went south, and he's 2-2 so far with a home loss to Texas and a stunning 52-38 blowout at Iowa State last week.
The Solution: First of all, it's not like Texas Tech won anything under Leach. Yeah, there was a share of one division title, but that only led to a Cotton Bowl appearance and a loss to Ole Miss. Like all new head coaches, Tuberville deserves a full year and at least two recruiting cycles to show what he can do with the tools and facilities he has to work with. Losing to Iowa State in blowout fashion isn't a plus, but this was hardly new as the Red Raiders were erased by Texas A&M last year in a 22-point loss, got blasted by Missouri in 2007, and lost 30-6 to a 2006 Colorado team that finished with just two wins on the year. For now, Tuberville has to be allowed to scrap the old offense and run a more balanced offense. The fans still want to chuck it around the yard, and Tuberville wanted to get more through the air when he was at Auburn, but the offense will never be the high-flying fun ride it was under Leach. Remember, Tuberville was able to succeed at a second-fiddle school that had to battle Alabama, LSU, and the rest of the SEC teams for talent and he won his share. He'll know how to recruit against Texas, Oklahoma, and the rest of the conference if he's allowed time and room to do it.
8. Coaches' Poll
The Problem: Until the Harris Poll comes out, this poll means everything, and it's flawed. The coaches who supposedly rank the teams don't have the time to do the necessary research required to do a proper job, considering they're determining the national championship pairing, and inherent biases and beliefs tend to overshadow critical and informed thinking. The poll is getting called out more and more for its problems and its all-important role in the championship process.
The Solution: Make everyone accountable. There's not going to be a major change in the way the polls are done, but there's no excuse for each coach who votes in the polls, as well as each Harris voter, to not have to write at least one sentence on each choice detailing why he made each pick was slotted just so. If a coach doesn't have time to do this, or fesses up and admits that he can't name anyone on Boise State other than Kellen Moore, then he doesn't have to vote. Come out with the poll in the middle of the week and give the coaches time to do some research and give some serious thought to the all-important selections.
The Problem: After going a bit stale from 2002 to 2005, BYU came back roaring with head coach Bronco Mendenhall doing a phenomenal job of restoring the traditions and the success of the program's glory days. With three 11-win seasons and one ten-win campaign in the last four, along with three bowl victories and a win over Oklahoma, BYU has been a Mountain West force. However, after being spurned by the Pac 10, the school announced it's going to become an independent rather than be one of the anchors of the improving league, and the timing couldn't be worse with an ugly 1-4 start with four straight blowout losses and an epic run of poor offensive play. Defensive coordinator Jaime Hill was fired, and after one bad month, the wheels appear to be coming off.
The Solution: Don't panic and start firing people because of one bad stretch and a "gut" decision. The Cougars never had their best running back from the start this year with Harvey Unga out of the mix right away. The O line wasn't that good last year and it isn't exactly rocking so far, and there isn't a next-level tight end in Dennis Pitta and Andrew George to count on. Starting a true freshman at quarterback, even one as talented as Jake Heaps, is going to lead to inconsistencies. BYU hasn't gotten to the quarterback on a regular basis in years, and that's part of the reason Hill, who did a great job last year, is a former defensive coordinator. Mendenhall hasn't known anything but success since taking over and now he's staring a miserable season in the face before going out into the independent wilderness. With Wyoming, UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico still to play, there's still time to get into bowl contention, but it's going to take a year before Heaps can be the playmaker needed to carry the offense and it's going to take a while to figure out who's in the mix again from all the church missions.
6. Notre Dame
The Problem: After going from BCS games to a 3-9 season to the firing of Charlie Weis, Notre Dame was hoping for some instant magic from new head coach Brian Kelly, who succeed right away everywhere he has been. Despite an impressive win at Boston College last week, the Irish are still at 2-3 to start the season with no real hope of being a major player on a national scale any time soon. Instead of it being a reloading job, Notre Dame appears to be as far away now as it was during the end of the Weis era when the fan base wants to be among the elite of the elite again. Just treading along and going to decent bowl games won't cut it anymore.
The Solution: Let the man do his job. Notre Dame could just as easily be 4-1 right now instead of 2-3, with the Michigan and Michigan State games barely going the other way. Of course, close losses were a problem under Weis, too, but Kelly needs time to get his players in place to do everything he wants to. The offense could use a more explosive running back, a more mobile quarterback, and a more athletic line. The defense needs more playmakers and more attention to that side of the ball, after getting ignored far too much by the old regime. Kelly started out saying all the right things to pander to the crowd, but he also made it clear that there was a reason the program was undergoing a coaching change. Kelly has made chicken salad out of chicken spit before, and now he gets a full year to recruit with a Notre Dame business card. For now, though, the Irish need to fight through the early part of the season and keep improving week after week. The Kelly offense needs a little time to get the timing down, and October will likely be far crisper than September was.
5. The Big East
The Problem: A punching bag for all those who hate the idea of BCS leagues and automatic qualifiers for the big money games, the Big East hasn't done anything to stop the criticism. The conference hasn't recovered after losing Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, and while there have been some good teams here and there, and some near-misses in the national title chase, the league is way, way down with no apparent hope of bouncing back any time soon. Cincinnati is 1-3 with losses to Fresno State, NC State and Oklahoma; Connecticut got rolled by Michigan and Temple; Louisville lost to Kentucky; Pitt got embarrassed at home by Miami; Rutgers has been awful and lost at home to Tulane; USF got blown out by Florida; Syracuse got blown away by a mediocre Washington team; and West Virginia lost at LSU and almost gagged against a miserable Marshall squad. Outside of the Mountaineers' win over Maryland and UConn's win over Vanderbilt, there's nothing to be excited about.
The Solution: Get proactive in the realignment game in a big hurry or risk being raided very, very soon. The Big Ten isn't done, and it's going to want to take a look at expanding east to hit some of the bigger TV markets. Connecticut, Rutgers, and Pittsburgh are possibilities, and Syracuse could be a sleeper in the hunt. The ACC might want to try to own a bigger part of Florida by snagging South Florida, and West Virginia is always on the radar. Forget about getting Notre Dame, that just isn't going to happen, but adding four teams from Conference USA to become a 12-team league, taking on UCF (to create a natural rivalry with USF), East Carolina, Southern Miss and Memphis would provide a nice boost and bring in more TV revenue. For now, from a PR standpoint, it would be a plus if the conference champion went to the BCS with just one loss. That won't be Syracuse, but West Virginia or South Florida could make a run.
The Problem: Three 13-win seasons in four years. Two national titles. 43 regular season wins from 2006 to 2009. Florida had become one of the elite of the elite programs again under head coach Urban Meyer, but a 32-13 blowout to Alabama in last year's SEC title game, the graduation of Tim Tebow, Meyer's health issues, and a slew of new players in key spots has led to a rocky beginning. The Gators are 4-1, but they're 84th in the nation in total offense and showed how far they are from being at the top of the mountain after getting blasted 31-6 by the Tide on Saturday night.
The Solution: Just floor it through the storm. It might not seem like it after last week's loss, but the Gators are still in the national title hunt and will almost certainly get the nod if they win out and beat Bama in the SEC Championship. First things first, the offense has to get better. It's not time to scrap John Brantley yet, he's way too talented to bench, but Meyer has to be true to his heart and incorporate more of the spread with a regular rotation of quarterbacks. The defense is playing at a high level and the special teams are terrific, and for all the offensive struggles, the Gators have put up 30 points or more in four of the first five games. This is going to be a dogfight of a season, but the schedule isn't that bad with all the tough SEC games at home, Georgia appearing to be a layup. The team is very young, very athletic, and very talented, and it should get better week after week. Better than everyone else on the schedule, the Gators have to win the turnover battle, play tough defense, and take advantage of every opportunity.
3. Penn State
The Problem: With four losing seasons in five years from 2000 to 2004, it was over. Joe Paterno couldn't coach anymore, the program was a dinosaur, and speculation ran rampant about what was going to happen next. The Nittany Lions went 11-1 in 2005, and everything went back to normal with five nice bowl appearances in a row, including the Rose Bowl in 2008 and the Orange in 2005. After an 11-2 season, finished off with a win over LSU in the Capital One Bowl, Penn State has struggled to start the year with a 3-2 start with blowout 24-3 losses to Alabama and Iowa and without any real hope of being a major factor in the Big Ten title chase.
The Solution: Take a few more shots down the field. The defense has been rock-solid considering the offense didn't do anything against Alabama and Iowa, and the offensive line has provided decent protection for Robert Bolden. However, the running game isn't going anywhere because no one thinks the passing game can make anything happen deep. With a true freshman under center, the plan has been to keep the mistakes to a minimum and not put Bolden in any tough situations, but it's time to start letting him air it out some more and accept that the interceptions are going to come. The defense is good enough to pick up the slack, but Bolden has only thrown one touchdown pass in the last four games and has to be allowed to grow up in time to kickstart the season. The 2010 Nittany Lions aren't going to go anywhere, and there won't be any hope of beating Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern or Michigan State, and Illinois and Indiana will be a struggle, unless the offense starts to produce.
The Problem: Texas has played in two of the last five national title games, and it probably should've been in a third. The run of nine straight double-digit win seasons is as good as any in college football history, the pipeline of talent continues to flow in with one of the best recruiting classes in the country signing on in February, and the full-court press put on by various conferences showed just how big the program is on a national scale. But the Longhorns have been mediocre, at best, so far starting 3-2 with an ugly home loss to UCLA and a loss to Oklahoma that was shocking only because it wasn't shocking. With a trip to Nebraska up next, they're in danger of going on their first three game losing streak since the end of the 1999 season, and the first three game losing streak in the regular season since 1997. The Horns are 74th in the nation in total offense, 93rd in passing efficiency, and 101st in turnover margin.
The Solution: Commit to the running game and stop giving the ball away. The Longhorns don't have a Ricky Williams or a Cedric Benson to use as a workhorse, but there's enough beef up front to pound away and wear down most defenses in the second half. There might not be anything pretty about it, but there doesn't have to be as long as the chains are moving and Garrett Gilbert doesn't have to carry the offense. The biggest problem, though, has been turnovers with 11 in the last three games; Texas doesn't lose to UCLA without giving the ball away five times. This is a holding pattern season with so much young talent waiting in the wings, and with Gilbert still maturing, but there's still time to win the Big 12 title. Oklahoma is extremely shaky and still has road games at Missouri, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State to play. If the Longhorns can pull off the upset in Lincoln, then they're right back in the Big 12 title fun.
The Problem: 1980. Thirty years ago. That's the last time Georgia won the national title, and outside of a decent run in 2002, it hasn't been close to the grand prize since losing to Penn State in the 1983 Sugar Bowl. Mark Richt was supposed to change all of that.
91-31 overall, 50-25 in SEC play (with 11 of those losses by seven points or fewer), and with two SEC championships, Richt has done a fantastic job over his nine year, five game run. However, Florida and LSU have won two national titles each during that time, Alabama has won once, and Auburn was close to getting one of its own in 2004. Georgia, to use Richt's words, has never been able to "finish the drill" despite having the No. 1 team in the country in 2008 and being strong enough to be close in 2002, 2004, and 2005.
This year's team was supposed to be good. We might have been nuts to put the Dawgs No. 3 in our preseason rankings, and while we were wrong, there was a reason we went so overboard. Based on the talent coming into the season (and assuming A.J. Green would be there from the start), there was just enough on both sides of the ball to come up with a special year if the offensive backfield was solid. The offensive backfield has been a bowl of pudding, and 2010 has been special in a much different way starting out 1-4 with an 0-3 start in SEC play and with an unforgivable loss to a mediocre Colorado team. Meanwhile, Alabama is once again front and center in the national title chase, LSU is 5-0, and Florida, for all its problems, appears to be the lead dog in the SEC East race.
The Solution: Cut bait. 2008 was the real hot seat season for Richt with a heater of a team led by Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, and A.J. Green, and it didn't happen. If that team couldn't win the national title, it'll never happen under Richt. That was the Dawgs' chance.
Richt is a great guy and the type of coach you'd love to have leading your program, but Georgia has been lapped by Florida, Alabama, and LSU, and there's no sign of that changing soon with the emergence of Auburn and Arkansas as powers, too. It's time to make a decision right now on what Georgia's real goals are. If so, then keep Richt, go to bowls every year, and be a solid eight-to-ten win team after this storm passes. Otherwise, if it's national title-or-bust, you realize that the rest of this season doesn't matter, you fire Richt, and you find your new coach as soon as possible to get a jump on recruiting. Make the change after the season and you're dead come early February and you're a year behind in the process.
Take a look at Temple's Al Golden before Penn State does. Try to gauge Jim Harbaugh's interest to see if he's looking to make his next jump to the NFL or to a bigger name program. Fine-tooth the contract of Texas-head-man-in-waiting, Will Muschamp, think about Illinois offensive coordinator, Paul Petrino, and see if Brady Hoke might have any interest in leaving San Diego for Athens.
Georgia, it's time to become a national title contender. It would be nice if Richt could be the one to make that happen, but he won't be.
Random Acts of Nutty … Provocative musings and tidbits to make every woman want you and every man want to be you (or vice versa) a.k.a. things I didn't feel like writing bigger blurbs for.
- Enough with the Oregon Duck doing pushups. He's not really doing pushups as much as he's dry humping the ground.
- Florida State is No. 1 in the nation in sacks. Miami is No. 2. Miami's O line isn't bad in pass protection, and Florida State's is mediocre. It's this simple; under pressure, if Jacory Harris throws two or fewer interceptions, the Canes will win.
- Try to put the Baylor 55-7 win in perspective. This was Baylor's 14th Big 12 win since the league was formed in 1997. That's as many as Kansas, not exactly a juggernaut, has won since 2006. To compare to the other BCS league lightweights, Vanderbilt's 28-14 win at Ole Miss two weeks ago (which looks even more bizarre after losing to UConn 40-21 last week) was the 14th win since 1999, while Duke, since going 5-3 in the ACC in 1994, has won just 13 conference games.
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: Jacory Harris Interceptions … Underrated: Jerrod Johnson interceptions
2) Overrated: Ryder Cup … Underrated: Air Force's win over Navy
3) Overrated: Denard Robinson vs. Indiana ... Underrated: Ben Chappell vs. Michigan
4) Overrated: Taking any tweet seriously ... Underrated: Suspending Jaz Reynolds
5) Overrated: TCU QB Andy Dalton ... Underrated: Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz completing 42-of-58 passes for 532 yards and four touchdowns
"Tracy did mention we shouldn't let him gamble. Or drink too much."… I go back to my normal 1-2 record that you've all come to count on like a sunrise, but I almost pulled off my Five-Star Lock of the Century of the Week with Northwestern's Ben Johnson could've taken a late pick to the house against Minnesota, but apparently didn't care about the spread, or my needs, and sat down to seal the win. … Week 4 Results: 1) Florida +9.5 over Alabama (L Bama 31-6), 2) Indiana +10.5 over Michigan (W, UM 42-35), 3) Northwestern -5 over Minnesota (L, NU 29-28) …
This week's picks: 1) Michigan State +5 over
Michigan, 2) LSU +7.5 over Florida, 3) South Florida
-7.5 over Syracuse ... Record So Far ATS: 8-4
If the college football season ended right now, this would be my Heisman ballot cast for the Most Outstanding College Football Player in the United States for 2010. … 1) Denard Robinson, QB Michigan, 2) Cam Newton, QB Auburn, 3) LaMichael James, RB Oregon
Sorry this column sucked, it wasn't my fault … I thought I wrote a great column and celebrated wildly amid the chaos, only to see Stevan Ridley score a few seconds later to ruin my joy. I threw my headset down, walked off the field, barely acknowledging Les Miles' attempt to console me, and then I blamed the officials while saying it was my fault it sucked.
28, Cavalcade of Whimsy, Part One. Oh, that
wacky Les Miles