- 2006 Spring Questions
2007 Spring Questions
No. 20 to
No. 16 |
No. 15 to
10. Five new Urbans
(the coaches on the verge of being superstars) ...
5. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati
Many were shocked that Kelly didn't wait for a bigger gig after
leading Central Michigan to the MAC title in his third year on the job.
He isn't just a spread offense coach; he's a young motivator who's great
with quarterbacks and getting the most out of his teams. It'll be
interesting to see where he is if he makes Cincinnati a Big East player.
4. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU
Talk about bringing back the glory, Mendenhall turned BYU back into
a powerhouse. While the offense makes the most noise, Mendenhall is a
defensive coach who gets creative around the personnel.
3. Gary Patterson, TCU
With four double-digit win seasons in the last five years along with
three bowl wins and a stunning victory over Oklahoma two years ago,
Patterson is one of the nation's most successful unknown head coaches.
He hasn't gotten a sniff of an offer from one of the bigger job openings
even though he's a winner, gets the most out of his players, and has the
talent to make anyone a winner. He's done more than Dennis Franchione,
who left TCU for Alabama six years ago.
2. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
There's a reason Barry Alvarez locked up Bielema a year early. He
came up with a whale of a first season at the helm going 12-1 with a
Capital One Bowl win over Arkansas. With a few more big years, he could
do the impossible and be even better than his mentor.
1. Les Miles, LSU
Is it finally time to give Miles his due? While he's been able to
accomplish some big things with Nick Saban's recruits, he's been even
more successful than his predecessor with two straight 11-win seasons;
Saban only had one double-digit year in Baton Rouge. Navigating his way
through the brutal SEC, the early concerns about his ability, and a
massive hurricane, Miles is now on the verge of becoming a household
college football name.
Five more on the verge of superstardom: Mark Dantonio,
Michigan State; Todd Graham, Rice; Chris Petersen, Boise State; Ron
Prince, Kansas State; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
9. Everyone will be complaining about ...
The BCS ... again.
The Florida win over Ohio State raised more questions than answers.
Have there been other national champions college football has missed out
on because of incorrect voting? Now, the system will undergo even more
scrutiny and everyone will be clamoring for a playoff even more even if
two top teams finish unbeaten. Maybe there's a Florida out there who has
one loss thanks to a killer schedule, while someone else might be
overrated playing an overblown slate. That's why people will get more
into the ...
The BCS formulas don't take them into account like they should. Sure,
Boise State proved to be fantastic last year, but the schedule, compared
to those in some of the top conferences, wasn't even remotely close. The
Broncos rocked in one really, really big game, while teams in the SEC,
Big 12, Big East and Pac 10 had to deal with weekly landmines. Expect
the fans of teams with one or two losses against a tough slate to be
screaming more than ever, thanks to the success of Florida and LSU last
year, while teams with great records, helped by mediocre schedules, will
be complaining about a lack of respect.
The SEC compared to the other leagues
Will everyone go overboard the other way and overrate SEC teams now
after the success of last year, or will pollsters properly judge the
teams based on their own merits? For example, if LSU has one loss,
expect Tiger fans to point out time and again how their team played
Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas. Expect a
weekly debate about how good the SEC teams are compared to the other big
teams from the big leagues.
And so the backlash begins. Everyone (but us) went overboard with
their evaluation of last year's team before the season started, got
burned, and will now go the other way and be too harsh in a rebuilding
year for the Irish. With a brutal schedule to start the season, watch
out for the "What's wrong with Notre Dame?" articles to come early and
often before the end of October.
USC and the NCAA
Who says Los Angeles doesn't have a pro team? After the alleged
Reggie Bush dealings with an agent, along with the alleged improper
recruiting issues surrounding star back Joe McKnight, the NCAA spotlight
is about to get red-hot on the best program in college football right
now. Watch how SEC fans, especially those in Alabama, go ballistic if
USC gets away with a slap on the wrist if more things are uncovered.
8. Everyone will be in love with ...
The Big East
After a brilliant year and a perfect bowl season, the gushing over the
Big East will start early ... and rightly so. This is a loaded league
from top to near bottom, unless Syracuse improves, and with the east
coast media, the great stories, the better coaches, and Heisman caliber
players like Steve Slaton, Pat White, Ray Rice and Brian Brohm, expect
even more attention than ever.
Boise State and Chris Petersen
Boise State was one of the feel-good stories of last year, and now
everyone will expect miracles every time out. The schedule isn't going
to be all that bad, and with Boise State's history, anything other than
yet another WAC title and a run at a BCS game will be seen as a
Why did Ohio State get the preseason No. 1 spot last year? Why was
everyone in love with Notre Dame? Offense and the superior skill
players. Expect the same outpouring of hyperbole for the Michigan attack
with Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington
returning. Anything less than 35 points and 400 yards a game will be
seen as a mega-disappointment.
Want to get in on the blue-chip stock early? Start thinking about
Nebraska as a possible sleeper in the national title race. With former
Arizona State quarterback Sam Keller taking over for Zac Taylor, in what
might actually be an upgrade at the position, and with all the key
weapons returning, the Husker offense has the potential to be
unstoppable. A mid-September home date with USC will make-or-break the
BCS Championship dreams, while road trips to Missouri and Texas will
show just how good the team really is.
7. Which players, coaches and programs have to
finally start producing?
While not necessarily on a hot seat, these players, coaches and programs
have to start coming through after a few years of hype. 2007 had better
be big for these ten, or 2008 might not be a lot of fun.
10. Dan Hawkins
After the mediocre Dirk Koetter era at Arizona State, and Hawkins'
disastrous 2-10 first season in Boulder, the jury's still out on whether
or not successful Boise State head coaches can produce on a bigger
scale. Remember, for all of Colorado's problems under Gary Barnett, the
team was a regular in the Big 12 title game.
After going 6-6 last season and missing out on a bowl bid, Kansas is now
25-35 in five years under head coach Mark Mangino. After being one of
the nation's biggest hard-luck teams, losing four games by seven points
or fewer and gagging in a historic ten-point loss to Oklahoma State, the
expectations are for things to turn back around. With the other five
North teams expected to be better, improving in Lawrence might be tough.
8. Chip Kelly and the Oregon offense
Gary Crowton is off to LSU, and New Hampshire assistant Chip Kelly is in
to run the Oregon offense that's long on talent and short on consistency
and production. An argument could be made that no Pac 10 team has a
better trio of skill players than Jonathan Stewart at running back,
Jaison Williams at receiver, and the Dennis Dixon/Brady Leaf quarterback
combination, while enough experience returns on the line to give the
stars time to operate. The offense finished ninth in the nation
averaging 423 yards per game, but the points fizzled over the four-game
losing streak to end the year.
7. The South Carolina offense
In year three of the Steve Spurrier era, the offense has to start
kicking in as expected. Big games against Middle Tennessee, Florida
Atlantic and Houston made the overall stats look nice, but the attack
has to rely on more than trick plays to start scoring consistently on
the better SEC teams.
6. Penn State WR Derrick Williams
For being the much heralded, number one recruit in the nation type
of player who was going to make the Penn State offense explosive,
Williams has been remarkably average catching 62 passes for 729 yards
and two touchdowns in his first two years. He's been great on kick and
punt returns, but Nittany Lion fans are waiting for more.
5. Ron Zook
One of the nation's best recruiters, Zook has put together a
tremendous group of young prospects that every other Big Ten team would
love to have. Now the wins have to come. Illinois lost the last seven
games of last year and has lost 20 of the last 21 games against D-I
4. Tim Tebow as a starter
You wanted Tebow, and now you've got him. It's not like Chris Leak
was being pushed out the door as the Florida starting quarterback, but
it wasn't until the final two games of his four-year career that he
truly got his just due as an even-keel, steady playmaker for the
offense. Tebow, for all the hype and all the attention, and for all the
talent around him, now has to win a national title as the main man at
some point over the next three years or his career will be seen as a
3. Bobby Bowden
There's no question Bowden is among the greatest coaches to ever
walk the sidelines, and his 2005 ACC championship with the Noles didn't
get nearly enough credit, but for a place with ridiculously high
standards, created by Bowden's success, 26 losses in the five years
since the loss to Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl doesn't cut it with
the spoiled fan base. To put the recent dive into perspective, Florida
State lost 26 games from 1985 to 2000 with only one season with more
than three losses.
2. Dave Wannstedt and Pitt
Yeah the Big East is better and yeah the overall athleticism wasn't
up-to-snuff when Dave Wannstedt arrived, but two straight mediocre
seasons and no bowl games wasn't exactly what the program signed on for.
Remember, Pitt won the Big East and went to the BCS in 2004; the final
year under Walt Harris.
Charlie Weis and Notre Dame against the top teams
By any standard, it's hard to argue with 19 wins and two BCS
appearances in the first two years under Charlie Weis, but the Irish is
0-5 against teams that finished with ten wins or more. With that said,
Notre Dame is sort of getting an unfair rap by many after getting
blasted by USC, Michigan and LSU by a combined score of 132 to 59. The
Irish beat Georgia Tech, Penn State, and UCLA, who all represented
themselves well by the end of the season, and also beat Purdue and Navy
teams that went to bowl games. However, Irish fans want their team to be
back among the elite of the elite, and to do that, a win has to come
over a truly big-name powerhouse.
6. The relatively unknown
players you'll care about by the end of 2007 are ...
10. Damion Fletcher, RB Southern Miss
The freshman was the star of a middling USM offense tearing off
1,388 yards and 11 touchdowns while also showing steady hands as a
receiver. He's a workhorse back who's always cranking out yards in
chunks and is a 100-yard game waiting to happen.
9. Keenan Burton, WR Kentucky
Someone has to catch all of Andre Woodson's throws. His big play
ability and talent were never a question, but he had a hard time
staying healthy over the first two years of his career. After
finally playing a full year, he busted out with 77 catches for 1,036
yards and 12 touchdowns including a stretch nine scoring grabs in
four SEC games.
8. Donald Brown, RB Connecticut
It's next to impossible to get any publicity if you're a running
back in a league with Steve Slaton and Ray Rice, but Brown should
make a big name for himself this year. UConn has always run the ball
well, and Brown showed why he might be the league's next big thing
after rushing for 673 yards over the final five games of last year
including a 199-yard outing against Rutgers and a 205-yard day
7. Ian Campbell, DE Kansas State
The tall, thin former walk-on went from being a nice player in
the rotation to one of the Big 12's most productive defensive
linemen with 67 tackles 11.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. As
steady as they come, the junior-to-be had a sack in six straight Big
6. J. Leman, LB Illinois
He'd have been an All-American had he played for Michigan or
Ohio State, but it's hard to get noticed when you make 152 tackles
and four sacks for a team that goes 2-10. He might not be the
quickest or most athletic linebacker in the Big Ten, but he never,
ever misses a stop.
5. Albert McClellan, DE Marshall
McClellan was the best defensive player in Conference USA last
year, and soon the All-America honors will flowing in. He's an
unblockable flash of lightning when he gets a half-step on a lineman
and is fantastic at closing with 11.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and
77 stops last season.
4. Aqib Talib, CB Kansas
He's a safety-sized player at corner. The All-Big 12 talent is a
sure tackler with a nose for the ball picking off four passes last
season while getting in on 96 stops over the last two seasons.
3. Calais Campbell, DE Miami
And with the eight pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, the Cleveland
Browns select .... Campbell was a bright spot in a dismal season
made worse by the tragic death of linemate Bryan Pata. He's 6-8, 255
pounds and quick cranking out 10.5 sacks, 55 tackles and a whopping
20.5 tackles for loss.
2. Alex Brink, QB
You'd think a quarterback in a BCS conference with 50 career touchdown
passes, 7,095 yards, and only 28 interceptions would be a household name
among college football fans. Brink is just starting to get a little bit
of recognition in his own conference. Winning a big game or two is a
must before he starts to get his just due.
1. Chase Holbrook, QB & Chris Williams, WR New Mexico State
Who led the nation in passing last year? Colt Brennan? Troy Smith?
Brady Quinn? No, nope and nyuh-uh. Holbrook completed 70% of his passes
for 4,619 yards and 34 touchdowns with only nine interceptions. With
just about everyone returning on offense, the numbers should only
improve. Someone had to catch all those passes, and the diminutive
Williams was the prime target leading the nation in receiving yards
catching 92 passes for 1,415 yards and 12 scores.