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5 Thoughts - Miles to Michigan?
LSU head coach Les Miles
LSU head coach Les Miles
Posted Nov 19, 2007

Is Les Miles really going to go to Michigan when Lloyd Carr steps down? There's already one 2,000-yard rusher this year and another on the way ... can you name them? Clemson, unsung players, and more in the latest 5 Thoughts.

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But if you're looking for the anti-Lloyd Carr ...

By Pete Fiutak   

1. For all you LSU fans worrying about the distractions with the Michigan head coaching job opening up, let me help you sleep well tonight.

Les Miles absolutely, positively will NOT be the next head football coach at the University of Michigan.

We’re talking about IBM here. We’re talking about North Carolina basketball. We’re talking about a football program that’s the equivalent of a dish of vanilla ice cream topped off with a vanilla wafer while being cheered on by 111,941 fans about as boisterous as a glass of warm milk. Miles would be a double dose of rainbow sprinkles, and that's not Michigan football.

Michigan basketball changed the way the college game looked and acted with the Fab Five, but again, that’s not Michigan football. Miles speaks his mind in a fun, harmless way and is never afraid to stir the pot a little bit. While that might be what Michigan needs, it’s not really what it wants. Unless Miles can prove he can be a bit more button-down, like 1992 David Letterman moving from late night to 11:30, he’ll be keeping his Baton Rouge address.

I’m a Miles fan. He stepped into a nearly impossible situation at LSU and took what Nick Saban did and made it better. I don’t care if Saban left behind the New England Patriots; if you’re 32-5 with (what will be) two BCS appearances and two SEC Championship games in three years, you’re doing just fine. However, it seems like he should be doing more.

As good as LSU has been this season, should it have needed a miracle late play to beat Auburn? Shouldn’t it have blasted Kentucky? Do you really trust this team in a huge road game under Miles after struggling so much with Alabama, getting a fight from Ole Miss, and losing two of the four road tests last year? With all the NFL speed and athleticism, and all the experience, shouldn’t this be an epic juggernaut of a team rather than the default BCS No. 1?

It might sound harsh, but we might be talking about Dale Brown here; a superior gatherer of talent who’d probably get his coaching doors blown off by a Bobby Knight. Put it this way; if Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban were coaching this LSU team, and Miles was coaching this year’s South Carolina or Alabama teams, what do you think would happen? Would the games be as close as they were? Remember, whoever takes over at Michigan will be judged by what he does against Jim Tressel, who has turned into the Florida version of Spurrier.

Raise your hand if you had heard of Tressel seven years ago? Remember, at the time, Glen Mason was a main man in the running for the Ohio State job before it went to a (gasp) D-IAA coach, and don’t be shocked if Michigan goes for a star-in-waiting who doesn’t have the big-time name recognition. No, it’s not going to be Les Miles wearing a Maize and Blue mock turtleneck, but it’ll be someone else who's really, really good losing to the Buckeyes every year while LSU is hanging out in the Sugar Bowl.

Just like clockwork

By Richard Cirminiello

2. The next time I naively hop on the Clemson bandwagon, no matter how much talent the school’s housing, don’t hold back in reminding me that the program is never getting over the top under Tommy Bowden.  Ever.  After nine seasons with Bowden on the sidelines, the Tigers are still waiting for an ACC championship that’s eluded them since 1991.  Oh, they’ve been good over the last decade, twice winning nine games, but never quite good enough when it matters most.  Bowden’s teams have become known for their patented inconsistency and inability to deliver sustained excellence.  Pulling the rug out from under fans and observers is now a part of the Clemson playbook.  In 2004 and 2005, the Tigers couldn’t overcome three-game losing streaks, while last year, the school finished 1-4 after raising expectations with a 7-1 start.  And then there’s this fall, one more disappointment to add to the resume.  Clemson came into Saturday’s game with Boston College smoking hot.  The Eagles were reeling and hurting on defense.  Death Valley at night.  A sea of orange.  The Atlantic Division at stake.  No way the Tigers lose this game, right?  Wrong.  Two blown leads in the fourth quarter, and a horribly blown coverage with 1:46 to go sealed their fate once again. 

Clemson figures to be loaded next season with a ton of returning starters on both sides of the ball.  It could be the year that the Tigers put it all together.  It could be, but I refuse to make that suggestion until the final vote is counted.  I’ve seen the script when Tommy Bowden is in the director’s chair, and it too often includes a disappointing ending.             

Yes, they're playing this year

By Pete Fiutak   

3. You’re a die-hard college football fan, right? After all, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t. Okay, now name the two running backs that’ll hit the 2,000-yard mark this year.

What’s that? Yes, really, one FBS/D-I running back has already gotten there, one is a mortal lock to do it this week, and you’ve never heard of them. The ESPNers have yet to acknowledge their presence, we haven’t done a good enough job on CFN of pumping them up, and they’ve managed to fly completely under the radar all season long.

They’re joining an exclusive club of Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, Troy Davis (twice), J.J. Arrington, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mike Rozier, Larry Johnson, Ricky Williams, Byron Hanspard, and Rashaan Salaam. That’s five Heisman winners, four finalists, Hanspard, who finished sixth, and Arrington, who wasn't close to getting any Heisman love, yet you’ve probably never seen these two stars of 2007 play, and they’re not going to come within sniffing distance of the Heisman in a year when there isn’t anyone other than Tim Tebow who’s making any claim to the prize.

Tulane senior Matt Forte ran for 194 and five touchdowns against Rice to get to 2,007 yards on the year with 22 touchdowns. A picture of consistency, he has rushed for more than 200 yards in three games, more than 300 yards in two games, and more than 100 yards in his last seven outings.  He wasn’t bad against LSU with 73 yards on 16 carries, but the Green Wave had to start throwing after getting behind.

Ironically, Forte might have a hand in the second player getting to 2,000 as he goes against East Carolina this week. UCF will clinch the East with a win over UTEP, or will get to play for the Conference USA title with a Green Wave win over the Pirates, giving Knight junior Kevin Smith an extra shot to hit two bills if he doesn’t gain 55 yards against a Miner team that’s 100th in the nation in run defense.

One of the league’s best backs over the last two seasons, Smith has rushed for over 100 yards in every game but one this year, the 64-12 loss to South Florida, but he was great against the big teams he faced with 217 yards and two scores against NC State and 149 yards and two scores against Texas.

So among the greats, you now have to include Forte and Smith. Watch for the adulations to finally come over the next few weeks, but it’ll be too late. You missed their steady excellence.

And on the topic of great players flying under the radar ...

By John Harris

4. As the season grows to a close, postseason awards are due to be handed out to many deserving candidates.  But, as with any other season, there are names you won’t hear that deserve some sort of recognition.  You’ll hear Tim Tebow’s name, what a few thousand times; you won’t hear Matt Forte’s name once, a guy who just hit the 2,000 yard rushing mark – one of only eleven guys who have hit that mark in college football history.  Here are some other names you may not hear this December who have had strong seasons.

Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith has thrown for 3,886 yards and 34 touchdowns with a game left to play.  No one has said a thing about Boise State quarterback Taylor Tharp, who has thrown for 2,839 yards, 27 touchdowns and is seventh in the nation in passing efficiency.  LSU safety Craig Steltz has been tremendous all season long and is tied for fourth in the nation with six picks.  Most people have seen the light on Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, but how about senior receiver Danny Amendola who has 103 catches for 1,177 yards (not to mention conference mate Jordy Nelson from Kansas State who has 107 receptions and 1,441 yards)?  Wake Forest’s Kenneth Moore played tailback in 2006 when every single Wake running back was injured and this year has 78 receptions at receiver.  Missouri freshman Jeremy Maclin has 2,309 yards of total offense, but we’ll be talking about him in the future, so he may not count on this list.  This list should be much longer, but it’s time people recognize a few standouts, even if the award circuit won’t.

One unknown player, one huge play

By Matthew Zemek

Okay, college football fans (and SEC fans in particular): we, the media, spill gobs of ink, use forests worth of newsprint, spend hours gabbing on the radio, and strain mightily to produce preseason publications with all their attendant items--picks, rankings lists, player profiles, and everything else you can think of.
Long story short, a lot of time and resources are devoted to the coverage of this industry. You spend a lot of energy reading up on college football, and your school (assuming it's in a BCS conference) invests a great deal of capital in this enterprise as well.
Yet, after all the tumult and the shouting, the difference between a great season and a mediocre one can often be found in one play involving the unheralded actions of one young man who improbably rises to the occasion.
SEC fans, as you greet the new week, do you know who Dennis Rogan is?
Don't look up the answer just yet. Think. Reflect. Rack your brain.
Okay, here's the revelation (if you immediately knew this answer, you really care about college football): Dennis Rogan is a freshman defensive back assigned to the Tennessee Volunteers' kickoff coverage unit. It was Rogan who stood alone in the face of two Vanderbilt blockers while Commodore return man D.J. Moore ran downfield with the pigskin in the final minutes of Saturday's intrastate rivalry game in Knoxville. Outnumbered and outweighed, Rogan faced long odds in his attempt to prevent Moore from getting a touchdown or, at the very least, reaching the UT 25 for a makeable field goal. With Vandy down by a single point, Rogan was placed in his own personal version of "Mission Impossible": fend off two blockers to tackle an onward-rushing ballcarrier, or face the prospect of another disappointing loss that would significantly affect the trajectory of Tennessee's entire season.
While Vandy's two blockers slowed down and lost focus, Rogan continued to play at full speed. He knifed through a gap and steered the hesitant Moore to the sideline, shoving him out of bounds at the Tennessee 42. Accounts of this play didn't make the standard-issue game stories cranked out by the Associated Press. Even the Knoxville News-Sentinel didn't mention the episode in its initial report on the contest.
But at the end of the day, the main reason why Phil Fulmer isn't getting buried in the press can be summed up in two words: Dennis Rogan. The reason why Tennessee is still alive in the race for the SEC East title and a spot in the prestigious SEC Championship Game against LSU? Dennis Rogan. The reason why a football season still matters in Knoxville? Dennis Rogan.
Sometimes, football analysis doesn't require hours of talk or large sections of cyberspace. Sometimes, a season is defined by people like Dennis Rogan. These quiet and obscure young men need to be given the credit and praise they deserve.
At your own school, find the unsung heroes who toil for your enjoyment on Saturdays. Be sure the Dennis Rogans on your team receive due recognition and gratitude.