The powers that be must have read my complaint about last year’s Week 1 schedule because there are a lot of big games kicking off the 2018 campaign. Here’s what you should know about each one going in:
I love college football just as much as the next guy. Saturdays aren’t for the boys so much as they are for the boys to gather around a big screen, drinking as many 96-calorie Miller Lite’s as they’d like. We’ve yet to find anything that comes anywhere near college football’s ability to help us justify that weekly decision.
We owe a lot to college football Saturdays. When I pick through the Week 1 schedule we have lined up for Labor Day weekend, though, it feels like college football owes us a little more.
Stanford is beginning its season with a game in Sydney, Australia. That’s cool. The fact that the Rice Owls are the opposition is not cool. There’s a Florida rivalry game right off the bat. Unfortunately, it’s between Florida International and Central Florida. University Alabama-Birmingham makes its glorious return to football after a two-year hiatus, against Alabama A&M. How have we possibly contained our excitement all summer?
In all seriousness, there are some things worth looking forward to. P.J. Fleck, Lane Kiffin, and Tom Herman take the field with their new teams for the first time. Ohio State opens on the road, on a Thursday night, against a conference opponent for the first time in… probably ever. Florida State and Alabama collide in a top-five matchup in Atlanta. Michigan and Florida head for Jerry World and a top-15ish meeting. West Virginia and Virginia Tech will likely both be ranked for their opening contest in Landover, Maryland.
If you’re not a fan of those programs, you’ll probably be forced to watch your team playing in a glorified scrimmage. Whether your team is the one laying the beat down or getting its ass kicked makes no difference, really. Nobody wins if the boys had to finish the Miller Lite by halftime just to make it interesting.
At what point do we stop flooding to football just because it’s back? At what point do we demand more as consumers, as opposed to blindly accepting whatever we’re given? My guess is that will never happen. Until it does, we’ll continue to receive a mediocre slate of games on opening weekend, with the only ones truly worth watching happening hundreds of miles off campus, in NFL stadiums.
This is big business we’re talking about and there’s a ton of money involved in these neutral-site games. I understand that. Still, it pisses me off. These are essentially bowl games. Actually, these games are more important because the whole season is still ahead. If money grabbing is what we’re doing now, and it most certainly is, then why not take it to the extreme?
What Can We Do?
Let’s schedule bowl game rematches for the first week of the season. Think for just a second about the storylines. Would Clemson be able to pull off another upset of Alabama eight months after their instant classic? Could USC and Penn State replicate the craziness of last year’s Rose Bowl Game? Is Lamar Jackson really that containable, or did LSU’s defense just do everything right that day?
Wouldn’t it be fun if the two semifinal losers got a crack at each other to start the new season? Imagine the hype that would surround a Washington-Ohio State clash in a couple weeks. Automatically, one of the top contenders to reach the playoff would have an impressive feather tucked into its cap. The four-letter network could have a field day with that buildup.
If your team was not invited to participate in a bowl game the previous year, it can do whatever it would like. Honestly, nobody outside of the school gives a damn about your five-win team. I’m only concerned with the primetime programs here. And in tying them all up in these bowl game rematches, I am, in turn, saving a lot of you from an opening week embarrassment anyway. It’s a win-win, even for the losers. You should be thanking me for ignoring your meaningless team.
Is this grand idea ever going to materialize? No, it won’t. Like so many things in the world of college football, it makes too much sense to become a reality. Still, it doesn’t hurt to dream, especially when the boys still have two weeks to save up their beer money.
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It was a nice run but it’s over.
Michigan State had a fun time in the limelight but now it’s time to go. The premier programs in the Mitten State are now the University of Michigan and Western Michigan. So long Spartans, have fun battling it out with Rutgers to not be in the last place in the East.
I’m sure you might think that I’m overreacting just a touch. I am known to do that from time to time but this time, not so much. Sometimes I do know what I’m talking about and this is one of those time.
After a disastrous 3-7 season, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio had his end of the season press conference and dropped a couple of surprise bombs on the press. The biggest surprise is that he plans to make no coaching changes and plans to make no changes in responsibilities on his staff. Look, Dantonio had a good run and is still a pretty good coach but this is a dumb decision.
Yes, this is the same coaching staff that won a Big Ten title and made an appearance in the College Football Playoff but look at the talent that was on that team. Most notably, there was an NFL-caliber quarterback in Connor Cook. A good quarterback can make an average offensive coordinator look a lot better. Cook had the ability to scramble and the accuracy to go downfield. That let him bail the Spartans out of a lot of unfortunate situations.
Now look at what offensive play caller Dave Warner did with this year’s starter, Tyler O’Connor. Less than 2000 yards with 16 scores and nine picks while losing his starting spot. Sure, he did get it back but that’s because no one was any better. Warner continued to call the same kind of plays he did with Cook and guess what? They didn’t work.
Here’s an interesting way to gauge what Warner is worth. How much do you think he’s paid? Warner makes less than $450,000 which puts him at the 129th highest paid coordinator. Lane Kiffin who just left Alabama was making $1.5 million. Michigan’s offensive coordinator makes almost double what Warner makes at $850,000. Greg Mattison coaches the defensive line at Michigan for $500,000.
So what’s it mean?
It means that Michigan State isn’t willing to pony up and get a really good coordinator. If you want to be taken seriously as a national power, you have to have an outstanding coordinator. You can’t continue to promote from within. Is it going to work sometimes? Sure, sometimes you’ve got that coach in waiting that you can seamlessly transition in. Then there are coaches like Michigan State has.
The easiest way to say it is that Michigan State has gotten complacent. This is how they’ve done it in the past and dammit, they’re going to do it that way from here on out. What worked before is going to work again because that’s how things work.
Well, college football is an evolving game. Remember when the spread offense was new and innovative? Now almost every program has run either the spread or some variation of it. Even the super traditional Alabama has a running quarterback in Jalen Hurts now.
Tying this all back to the beginning, maybe this is why Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck didn’t leave Western Michigan. Maybe he can see the same thing myself and everyone but Mark Dantonio can see. Dantonio’s contract is up in 2020 if he can make it that long. As a Michigan fan, I kind of hope we don’t see Fleck rowing his boat to East Lansing though.
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The championship games are now in the book as well as a few straggling regular season games. Army-Navy remains. That being said, let’s do some housekeeping and tidy up a few odds and ends concerning the SEC.
First, we’ll saunter back to SEC Media Days and review how the scribes’ picks turned out.
As you see in this article, Alabama was picked to win the SEC West and Tennessee was the choice to represent the SEC East in Atlanta. Alabama, obviously, held up their end of the deal but the Vols did not. The Florida Gators managed to take the division by default. The Crimson Tide steamrolled the West in dominant fashion. They won their division by three games over who? The Auburn Tigers.
Auburn was picked not second, or third, of fourth, or fifth. They were picked sixth in the West behind LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Arkansas.
Bravo for the Tigers! And they were rewarded with a trip to the Big Easy and the Sugar Bowl. They will take on Big 12 champion, Oklahoma. It could be one of the better games of the entire bowl season. More on that, and other bowls, in later columns.
What about the cellar dwellers? South Carolina was the choice to bring up the rear in the East, but the Gamecocks, modestly exceeded expectations and came in fourth. Missouri had the distinction of finishing last in the “Easy.”One of the Mississippi teams was tagged by the media to sink to the bottom in the grueling West. But it was the Bulldogs of Mississippi State that was chosen for that “honor.” Ole Miss, much to the surprise of most every football fan in the country, plummeted to the number seven spot while predicted to come in third.
Glaring discrepancies on the first team offense? Chad Kelly at quarterback, Leonard Fournette at running back, Nick Chubb at running back, Calvin Ridley at wide receiver, and O.J. Howard at tight end.
Jalen Hurts, Kamryn Pettway, Derrius Guice, ArDarius Stewart, and Evan Engram took those slots.
Defense? As you peruse the lists you will note that things went pretty much as expected. Good job media!
The coaches individual award winners on offense, defense, and coach went to Jalen Hurts, Jonathan Allen, and Nick Saban. As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!”But, in all fairness, who’d a thunk Jalen Hurts would walk off with the offensive player of the year? No one could have seen that coming.
In this interim, between the regular season and bowl season, and beyond, there are some questions we look forward to seeing answered.
What will the NCAA decide in the way of punishment for Ole Miss?
Will Nick Saban retire? (Wishful thinking)
What underclassmen might surprise us by succumbing to the lure of dollars and the NFL?
How hot is Butch Jones’ fanny?
Will Lane Kiffin take a head coaching position? (More wishful thinking)
How about Rhett Lashlee?
Will Jim McElwain ever find a quarterback?
Will Gus Malzahn?
Will Kirby Smart be a bust?
Will Barry Odom?
Who might be the next Jalen Hurts or Kamryn Pettway?
Is anyone capable of bridging the gap between Alabama and everybody else?
And… is the SEC still the top of the heap in the world of college football.
The bowl games are upon us and, with their conclusion, the season of 2016 will be but a memory.
What does 2017 hold for us as college football fans?
In the words of a wise man… we shall see.
E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.
Look, I’m going to go ahead and get this out of the way: I hate the University of Southern California.
I’ve hated USC for years. Even before he was Khaki Jesus, I cheered when Jim Harbaugh ran up the score and went for two. It made my day when Reggie Bush was stripped of his Heisman. It made me even happier when USC had to vacate a National Championship.
Really, I think it all goes back to when I was first exposed to Pete Carroll. That guy was so arrogant and I guess when you assemble teams like he did, you can be. But they were never “clean” teams. There was so much money flowing through that place it should have been insured by the FDIC.
Carroll fled to the NFL once he got wind of all the sanctions that were coming. USC brings in Lane Kiffin, who had never accomplished anything. His entire claim to fame is that he’s Monte Kiffin’s kid and I guess now that he’s Alabama’s offensive coordinator he has something to boast about. Quite frankly, once Pete Carroll bolted, that’s the last time USC was not only relevant, but good.
Kiffin brought in some highly-touted recruits but did nothing with them. All his teams were ranked highly but ended up flaming out, which lead to him being pulled off the team bus and being fired. I mean, that’s brutal and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like Lane Kiffin.
The post-Carroll USC program is like an older quarterback in fantasy football. Deep down, you know that this particular quarterback isn’t actually any good anymore (see, 2015 Peyton Manning) but you draft him in the early rounds anyway. That’s what USC is. They’re still getting ranked because Pete Carroll made them into a household name despite not having won more than a divisional title since Carroll’s last year in 2009. They play in a watered down Pac-12 that helps inflate their records. If they were in the SEC or the Big Ten, they wouldn’t have more than seven or eight wins a year. Oh wait, they’ve only done that twice anyway.
You know what? I’m going to take this one further.
USC is going to be the new Notre Dame.
Notre Dame won a couple titles decades ago and has been leaning on them ever since. It has been essentially irrelevant in the world of college football, well, pretty much since I was a kid. That was a while ago, in case you were wondering. Leaning on those past titles is exactly what USC is going to do.
Look no further than this season for proof.
After inexplicably trying to piss off Alabama, the 20th ranked Trojans got absolutely decimated. Like, beat so bad that it wasn’t even funny after a while. They couldn’t even muster 200 yards of offense. Then, after a bounce-back cupcake game against Utah State, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey basically beat them on his own. Against a school with actual talent, the Trojans fold quickly.
Just like Notre Dame did. Oh, excuse me. Just like Notre Dame did twice. Well, I guess we’ll find out which one folds better in the last week of the season.
I look forward to watching USC getting picked by everyone to beat Utah this weekend and then crapping the bed. USC just benched its quarterback and that always ends well. Utah can score and doesn’t give up a lot of points. It will be considered an upset even though it’s really not when the Utes deliver the Trojans their third loss.
If it was any other program, USC would be forgotten in a few years. But when it comes to college football, the media has strangely long memories. We’re due to watch USC be overrated for at least four or five more years before it finally fades into oblivion.
E-mail Tim at [email protected].
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After scouring Twitter and Google throughout the off-season for something to satiate my college football appetite, last weekend finally arrived. If the anticipation you went into that weekend with was anything like mine, it didn’t happen a moment too soon. And, like me, I’m sure you woke up Tuesday morning mesmerized by what you had witnessed all weekend long.
The season began with an overtime thriller between Appalachian State and Tennessee. Joshua Dobbs? Never stop being you.
We had the chance to watch Wisconsin turn Les Miles’ and LSU’s world upside down. Can Leonard Fournette save Miles’ job?
There was that beat down that Alabama put on USC. Hey, look. Kiffin just dialed up another 4th down touchdown and Saban just hired another former head coach.
Texas may or may not be back on top of the college football world after beating a highly-ranked Notre Dame team. Was that Bobby Boucher quarterbacking the Longhorns? Ah, it was Bouchele.
And to top it all off, Florida State staged a furious comeback as the Seminoles beat Ole Miss behind a halftime pep talk from Jameis Winston that will rank right up there with that Gipper speech.
What. An. Opening. Weekend.
And now we come to Week 2. I’m sorry, but after that epic first weekend, I really thought my college football life would be different. Surely we’d find a few games that we’d not only circle but also plan our Saturday around.
You know what I’m talking about. Hit Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond, but only if there was time to squeeze it into our college football viewing schedule.
Week 2? You suck.
There isn’t a single game being played between two ranked teams. At least in the Week 1 matchups of ranked vs. unranked teams we had what I would describe as solid matchups. You know, games like LSU vs. Wisconsin or UCLA vs. Texas A&M.
Week 2 is setting up to be a big pile of disappointment.
Week 2 gives us the battle of the A&Ms as Texas A&M takes on Prairie View A&M. Sorry, but do the alumni of these two schools even care about this one? I didn’t think so.
There is some excitement behind the Virginia Tech vs Tennessee game, but it’s really a game based on fabricated fluff. All that can really be said about this game is that it’s being played at Bristol Motor Speedway. Terrific! A made for TV game.
I don’t watch college basketball games on aircraft carriers and I don’t care if I ever see another football game played in Yankee Stadium. So having a football game at a race track just doesn’t do it for me.
Here’s what you can expect my Saturday to look like. I’ll wake up, have my coffee and get my oil changed. I may even hit Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Who really knows? If there’s time, I’ll tune in to that Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee game. Why that game? Easy. Because I want to see the statistical masterpiece that Dobbs will create as his encore to his performance against Appalachian State.
E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom
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This is one of those rare moments when I swallow my Gator and Vol pride to give credit where credit is due. The Alabama Crimson Tide is getting all the credit I can get myself to give to it today. I will make this clear: I loathe Alabama football and I obviously cannot stand Lane Kiffin. But that does not mean I will not show them some respect when it comes to what they manage to do season after season. The Tide is consistently excelling in the hardest division of the strongest conference in all of college football. That alone is absolutely incredible.
I will be the first to admit that I tend to underestimate Alabama every single year. I always think they lost too much talent so they may need to rebuild. What I seem to forget is that they are pulling in phenomenal recruits year after year. Last year, I even went so far as to say that Nick Saban was about to be in Urban Meyer’s shadow. I am eating those words at the moment. I take it back. I take it all back. As my penance for that terrible thing I said, this year I will not underestimate Alabama football. This year I am finally ready to put aside my pride and give them the credit they clearly deserve.
Their spring game was admittedly a bit underwhelming, with a whopping ten points scored overall. When you are an Alabama fan though, I doubt you really care about what happens in the spring game. You just know deep down that your team will perform when it counts. That feeling must be nice.
Last year Alabama had a quarterback battle that lasted into the season. This year it still has quite the quarterback competition going on in Tuscaloosa. This one might last into the season as well. If last year is any indication of who will be the starting quarterback, then you can bet Cooper Bateman will get his chance to go from second-string to first-string. With other athletic contenders in the mix, namely Blake Barnett and Jalen Hurts, I would definitely not give Bateman the starting job quite yet. Replacing last year’s quarterback may not be their biggest concern heading into next season though.
The Tide lost key starters on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the biggest concern for Alabama right now is the offensive line. I know we have to take spring games with a grain of salt, but let it be known that the offensive line allowed eleven sacks in that game. Now, it is definitely worth nothing that a sack in a spring game is not as physically involved as one during a real game. It is also worth noting that Alabama probably has a top ten defense again so, of course, the defense is going to get some sacks. That kind of smothering defense is just something we have come to expect from them. Still, the number stands, and eleven sacks are just too many to completely overlook. Knowing Alabama football, though, I am sure the Tide will have it figured out in time for the College Football Playoff next year. Just maybe not in time for the Ole Miss game.
So what else is there to think about? Worried about them replacing Derrick Henry? No need to be. Bo Scarbrough seems to be more than ready to pick up right where Henry left off and there is some pretty good depth at running back behind him. So what about the defensive talent they lost? I said it once and I will say it again: Alabama probably has a top ten defense again. Okay, they lost Kirby Smart as their defensive coordinator. Never fear. We all know Nick Saban is the one who really calls the shots in Tuscaloosa anyway. Here’s the thing: every single potential problem I propose already has a clear solution. And that is their secret. That right there is how Alabama does it, folks.
Nick Saban at the helm and good recruits from years passed make almost every personnel (and coaching) loss a non-issue for the Crimson Tide. That is exactly the thing I failed to understand when I was quick to say Alabama could not win a title last year. I mean is there ever really a year when Alabama does not have the potential to win a National Championship? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a strong “no.” Love them, hate them, envy them, doubt them…do whatever you want. At the end of the day the haters will continue hating while the Crimson Tide keeps dominating. As Birdman might say, put some “respek” on their name!
Now please excuse me while I go thoroughly wash out my mouth with soap for saying all this. I am truly sorry to all my other SEC friends for writing this article. And to my dear father who taught me everything I know about football, I hope you are not too disappointed in your little girl right now. But, if you guys want to see how much I really do dislike Alabama then make sure to follow me (@OGKristenB) on Twitter. I assure you that I definitely do not usually sing their praises.
Photo of Bryant-Denny Stadium courtesy of Latics.
Former Auburn football head coach, and College Football Hall of Fame honoree, Pat Dye once stated, “It all starts at quarterback.” It does. The quarterback is the the leader of the offense and, often, the face of the football team. He usually receives an over-abundance of praise if the team is doing well, and he gets more than his share of the blame if his team is performing poorly.
A quarterback needs to take command of the huddle, gain the confidence of his teammates, and inspire his fellow warriors to have confidence in themselves. He needs to know not just what his assignments are, but also the particulars of those who surround him.
If the quarterback works as hard, or harder, than anyone else on the team by staying after practice to throw with his receivers or just do a little extra work on the details of his job, then that could make the difference as to how the team finishes the season in terms of wins and losses. It could determine whether that teams wins a championship or finishes lower in it’s conference standings.
In short, the quarterback is the man.
Spring practice has, for all intents and purposes, wrapped up across SEC country, and the burning question in the minds of fans is who will serve as the signal-caller for their beloved squad.
Let’s take a look at how some of the crucial races for field generals are shaping up in the SEC.
We will first turn our eyes to the best division in all of college football, the SEC West. Let’s begin with SEC and national Champion, Alabama.
It appears that Nick Saban and his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, have their hands full in deciding who will be at the helm of the Crimson Tide offense. They have strong candidates but there is not an abundance of experience at the position. Kiffin worked magic with Blake Sims in 2014 and also with Jake Coker in 2015. I don’t have any idea who will emerge from what looks like a four-man pack, but I do think Kiffin will find the right guy. His track record points to that scenario.
Bama, more often than not, winds up with someone who can manage the offense. They don’t tend to find an all-world type of guy like Johnny Manziel or Cam Newton. History tells us that Bama will be just fine at the position.
Across the state, Auburn is also, desperately, in search of the player to lead the Tigers’ offense. Jeremy Johnson did not become the quarterback that he was highly-hyped to be. Sean White was serviceable but certainly not dynamic. John Franklin III, a JUCO transfer, has the skill set to become the dual-threat type of player that has succeeded in Gus Malzahn’s system at Auburn, but he needs a great deal of development to step into the role. He has a great arm and blazing speed but needs to really work on his accuracy. As much as I want Franklin to succeed, I don’t see him taking the SEC by storm and leading Auburn back to, or near, the pinnacle of the West… in 2016… 2017, maybe?
Les Miles and LSU fans are hoping Brandon Harris will finally emerge as the answer down on The Bayou. Harris has the tools to do this and his friend, former Mississippi State star, Dak Prescott, thinks the third year will be the charm for Brandon. I tend to agree with Dak on this matter. Harris will have a big year and LSU will be very much in the thick of it in November.
Speaking of Dak. What’s going on in Starkville? Mississippi State is in the unenviable position of replacing, arguably, the most outstanding player in Bulldog history. That will not be an easy task. When you throw in the factor of State’s residence in the West, then one finds little reason to believe that it will be a contender in the West. In my initial SEC column I picked the Bulldogs to finish last, and basically, having to sort through four inexperienced hopefuls at quarterback will make that a reality.
Let’s make the obvious transition to the hated in-state rival of the Bulldogs, Ole Miss. Up in Oxford things are much less complicated when it comes to quarterback. They have one. His name is Chad Kelly. Kelly had a great year in 2015 and, barring injury, he could find himself the the top quarterback in the SEC and beyond. The sky is the limit for him and Ole Miss. They will be in hot pursuit of the University of Alabama for the West crown.
Bret Bielema has an Allen returning to lead the Razorbacks in 2016. The problem is, it’s not Brandon Allen. Over the course of his career, Brandon Allen became the player and leader that everyone hoped he would be and had a very good senior campaign in Fayetteville. It’s his brother, Austin, who will now be given the reigns to help Bielema continue to build the type of program he envisions for Hawg fans. The younger Allen may be the chosen one but it will take a year of getting a true feel in the starter role before Arkansas can make a move upward.
College Station, TX will be our last stop on this tour of quarterbacks in the SEC West. Kevin Sumlin’s fanny is definitely getting warm out there in Aggieland and he needs a great signal-caller to relieve that pressure. Trevor Knight, a transfer from Oklahoma, is the man Sumlin has chosen to lead the Aggies. He had his ups and downs throughout his career in Norman and he needs his upside to assist in cooling his head coach’s backside. I don’t think it will happen. There is too much turmoil in College Station.
So, will there be an known comodity to emerge from the West and lead his team to the SEC promised land? Could another Newton or Manziel come out of nowhere and shock the football world? Or will the SEC East produce a quarterback?
That will wrap it up for this week. Next week we take a gander at the SEC East and the interesting battles that are in progress for starting quarterbacks in that division.
Family is important to most people in society because it provides stability, warmth, and a loving atmosphere. However, does it provide perspective? In Los Angeles where you have to keep perspective on most things USC is sticking with what is familiar and comfortable for them by choosing Lynn Swann as its new athletic director. This choice for the Trojans is being criticized by many and I am no different.
I thought the USC hierarchy would finally go outside the box and hire somebody that actually had some experience running an athletic department, but they settled on yet another Trojan with no experience to run one of the most glamourized athletic departments in all of college sports.
USC failed its fans with this hire. Trojan fans want somebody to restore order for them and to put the Trojan football team back at the top of the college football world. Lynn Swann does not do that in the least. Usually people with previous work qualifications for the job end up getting a huge gig like this. Nope. Not at USC because the only thing that they apparently look at is if you played for USC at some point in the past.
Coming into this job Lynn Swann’s only previous work experience in college athletics would be that he was a sideline reporter for ABC Sports/ESPN over 10 years ago. That’s it. That’s all she wrote folks. Come July 1, Lynn Swann will be in charge of arguably the premier sports department on the West Coast with no more than a microphone worth of experience in college athletics.
Does this make you feel good Trojan fans? I hope not because you deserve better than this. The history behind hires like this for Trojan family does not exactly ring like a sound endorsement for the school.
They hired former running back Mike Garrett to run the athletic department and his gross oversight of the Trojan athletic department led to bowl bans and sanctions for both football and men’s basketball. Garrett, in all his smugness, when he was asked about the troubles in the athletic program at USC merely said that other schools were “envious” of the Trojans. Really? Yeah, I am sure they were jealous of the USC predicament of being kept out of bowl games and not going to NCAA Tournament. The loss of revenue was probably a minor detail as well for these other “envious” schools. Garrett’s last act was to hire former Trojan assistant coach Lane Kiffin. How did that work out?
Pat Haden was supposed to rescue USC, but he did not rescue anything or anybody. He had no more experience than Lynn Swann has. Haden fires Lane Kiffin on the tarmac at LAX after a big defeat at Arizona State, hires Steve Sarkisian and says he didn’t know about Sark’s drinking issue. That was about as big of a denial as Steve Sarkisian thinking he didn’t have a drinking problem. Haden comes out of the press box to defend his coach at Stanford which was a negative for the program. He eventually fires Sark over the drinking issue and that brings us to this week.
Everybody knows that the resources at USC are world class. So, you would think that an institution like USC, given two months to look for a qualified candidate, would be able to come up with somebody that would have the experience to lead the Trojan athletic department for the next 10 plus years. Guess again. This was the best they could come up with.
Lynn Swann. Just let it sink in Trojan fans.
Maybe he provides some out of the box thinking that the athletic department sorely needs. However, it may just be some of the same at USC. I don’t see anything, but the same old stuff for Trojans. They are trying to recreate the Pete Carroll era and it’s not working at all. It’s tough to strike lightening twice, even at USC.
USC needed to go outside the box and it didn’t. USC needs perspective and by staying in the family, it lost that perspective.
E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.
*Featured image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
The UCLA Bruins have had a ton of expectations placed upon them every year since the beginning of time in the Pac-12. They are one of the premier programs in the Pac-12 and one of the premier destinations for many athletes. If the Bruins come knocking on your door you listen to them. Playing in Pasadena would be an amazing thing for any athlete, but in the recent past the Bruins haven’t won anything of consequence and are looking to change that outlook with their 2016 squad.
Expectations are always high at UCLA and with a returning quarterback that is pretty good in Josh Rosen, the replacement at offensive coordinator will scrutinized in a big way. Noel Mazzone is gone and nobody that is a fan of the Bruins is sorry to see him go. He had good offenses, but not great and only had one year out of the four ranked in the top 20 of college football in offense. Mazzone went to coach the offense with his long time friend Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. Who takes his place?
Running backs coach, Kennedy Polamalu, who many consider the best coach on staff, takes over the offense. He had one year as OC while he was at USC but many people thought he was having Lane Kiffin make the calls. Polamalu is known as a “tough” coach and wants to put his stamp of toughness on the Bruins. How quickly can he do that will be something that people will be looking at as the Bruins get to spring and summer practices.
The other big change for the Bruins on the offensive side of the ball is that they think they finally have a quality quarterback’s coach. Marques Tuiasosopo gets to mold his star pupil in Josh Rosen. Rosen will be looking to stay away from the dreaded “sophomore slump” in 2016 and Tuiasosopo will be a big part of whether or not that happens. The other big part of Marques is that he does very well as a big time recruiter, not that it’s tough to sell a big time recruit on the benefits of coming to play in Pasadena. His talent in recruiting will be a welcomed addition to the program.
One of the big changes that the Bruins will have to contend with is player personnel on the offensive line. They have lost three starters off the O-line from 2015 and that means replacing all that experience. They lost four-year starter Jake Brendel, three-year starter Caleb Benenoch, and another three-year starter Alex Redmond. With the departures on the O-line, do the Bruins have an idea of what the line will look like? They do have an idea.
The biggest returning offensive line player is Conor McDermott. McDermott had a good 2015 season and did stay pretty healthy for UCLA, so they are expecting the same in 2016. If Conor has a similar season to his 2015 season then he may be one of the top O-line prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Bruins are getting University of Texas graduate transfer Jake Raulerson after he graduates from Texas in May. He won’t be there for spring practice but most Bruin sources think that he will take the center position from current Bruin center, Scott Quessenberry once summer/fall camp starts. If that happens, Jim Mora will probably move Quessenberry over to guard where he has experience playing in the past.
The other position that is interesting is running back. All-American Paul Perkins is gone, so the Bruins have to figure out who will take the pressure off the passing game with Josh Rosen. UCLA has three players to choose from to replace Paul Perkins. They will pick from Soso Jamabo, who had four touchdowns and 6.1 yards per carry in 2015, and has a very smooth running style which makes people think he may be as fast as he actually his. The second guy is Nate Starks who has slightly better stats than Jamabo. He had five touchdowns, a 6.4 yards per carry average, and showed great potential in the offense for the Bruins in 2015. The next guy who will get a chance is Bolu Olorunfunmi who didn’t have as many carries or as much playing time as Starks and Jamabo, but still showed some solid stats when he did get his chance. He racked up 200 yards with a 5.9 yards per carry average.
With all these changes on the offensive side of the ball, from the coaches to the players, UCLA has some challenges in front of it that it has to start getting squared away when spring practice gets underway this week.
The schedule for the Bruins does not include two pretty good teams in Oregon and Washington, which is certainly a benefit for them. Still, the rest of the tough Pac-12 schedule is right in front of them for 2016.
The three non-conference games that they have are Texas A&M (away), UNLV(home), and BYU(away) which are not all that bad. They should beat UNLV, but the other two games will be fun, challenging games to watch the Bruins in. Coming out of the non-conference part of the schedule 2-1 or even 3-0 would obviously be optimum for UCLA because the next five games will be tough for them. They open Pac-12 play with a home game with Stanford on September 24, then they get the Arizona Wildcats at home, followed by a road trip to Arizona State, then a roadie to Washington State, then they come back home to play Utah to end this five game stretch.
The positive aspect for the Bruins with this stretch of games is that three out of the five games are at home. This stretch of games will determine what kind of season the Bruins end up having. The Stanford and Washington State game will be the toughest out of the bunch because of the talent that they will have coming back, but that doesn’t mean the other games are cupcakes for them. Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah just have more questions about them than the other two teams. Obviously, coming out of that stretch undefeated would be amazing, but reality says, it may be more of a 3-2 type of record for them.
UCLA is like many other Pac-12 teams in that they are going to be battling changes in player and coaching personnel in 2016. When you have a lot of turnover in personnel it may take a while for everybody to come together and that’s not something that fans like to hear because they tend to think it should all come together after only a few practices. Reality dictates that it takes a while for a team to gel, but here’s the thing that UCLA has going for them, Jim Mora and Josh Rosen. Mora provides the stability for the program and gives them their identity and Rosen gives them the ability to be in most games with his talent. Rosen will be better than he was in 2015 and that will be nothing, but a positive for the Bruins. He’s learning what he is comfortable with and Mora is learning that same thing from his star player. Is UCLA going to the College Football Playoff? No, but I don’t think there is a playoff team in the Pac-12 this upcoming year. Will they have a winning season? Yes, I think they end up 8-4. It’s always for tough for fans and coaches to view anything but a National Championship at UCLA as a success though. Welcome to UCLA.