Mark Sanchez is No Dummy

January 15, 2009

sanchez

I can promise right now that this will not turn into an NFL draft blog but I thought this was interesting. Mark Sanchez will be leaving Southern Cal for the NFL after his junior year. And why the hell not? No Tebow, no Bradford and no McCoy to contend with in early rounds. Only Matt Stafford will be in competition with Sanchez as the first quarterback to be selected and the reality is that with the cannon of an arm he has, Stafford was going to be ahead anyway. So Sanchez goes from being at best the fourth or fifth QB taken in this draft to probably the second. Smart move. Especially since there seems to be no way, outside of an undefeated season, for Southern Cal to be in the national title picture next year. With power teams coming back in the SEC and Big 12, the PAC 10 will be viewed as too soft (rightly or wrongly).

Anyway, like I said, there won’t be too much more on the NFL draft here but I thought it worth mentioning.

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Easy on the Accolades

January 15, 2009

Over the past week or so the mainstream media has fallen in love with the idea that it’s cool to stay in college again now that Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow have all announced their intention to forgo the NFL draft for at least one more season. There have been dozens of articles circulating lauding these guys, Tebow and Bradford in particular (for obvious reasons), for their decision and suggesting, or at the very least wondering if it will start a new trend of guys sticking around. That coupled with Myron Rolle’s decision to fulfill his Rhodes Scholarship and spend a year at Oxford has set the sports media world on fire.

Well I hate to break it to you all but it’s not a trend. Tebow is not going because he has been advised that he wouldn’t be a particularly high draft pick this season. Colt McCoy, same thing. And Bradford was only a sophomore and he really wants to win a national title. Each of these guys had a committee put together to research draft possibilities and contact representatives from NFL teams. So it’s not that innocent and simple a decision and just wanting to stay in school. They all want to stay AT school, but that’s a big difference.

What’s getting a little bit lost in the shuffle is the fact that there are plenty of underclassmen declaring themselves eligible for the draft, including Texas Tech sophomore Michael Crabtree, the now likely top pick (it is the Lions after all). See if you recognize any of these names: Glen Coffee (Alabama), Josh Freeman (Kansas St.), Shonn Greene (Iowa), P.J. Hill (Wisconsin), Ricky Jean-Francois (LSU), LeSean McCoy (Pitt), Knowshon Moreno (Georgia), Matthew Stafford (Georgia), Andre Smith (Alabama), Beanie Wells (Ohio State). Yeah, all of them or at least most of them were premier names in college football this season. And there are at least 31 more underclassmen in this draft. So I wouldn’t say that the trend is swinging toward staying in school. With a lot of non-qualifiers spending an extra year in prep school or guys getting redshirted, there are more sophomores coming out than ever, too.

It is safe to say that any kind words written on behalf of Myron Rolle are probably not enough to describe how great a move he’s making. We always hear the term student-athlete but Rolle was probably more heavy on the front end of that, despite his great talents on the field. He graduated early from high school and finished early at Florida State as well. He’s clearly brilliant and now we know his decision making abilities are just as strong. His story should be the focus of the staying in school articles, not the three quarterbacks.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see those three guys come back. It’s good for the game and obviously good for their respective schools. It’s amazing to have a returning Heisman winner come back to school for the second year in a row and it’s possible that either Bradford or Tebow could win the coveted second trophy. But even that sub-plot aside, I’m glad to see at least some guys stick around. I just wish the mainstream media would quit salivating over guys for doing the right thing. I know it happens rarely these days but let’s not anoint kids as saints because they’re the exception not the rule. The exception is to be a normal, reasonable person. To laud these guys for being good kids is overdoing it a little bit. It’s fine to recognize the good guys but just being a good guy should not be seen a extra special. Though I guess these days, sadly, it is the extreme exception.


Carolina Flop

January 1, 2009

carolina

I know I haven’t spent as much time in the latter months of this year as I did earlier on focusing on South Carolina football. So let me go ahead and finish off the season with a quick post. They suck. The end.

Shonn Greene and Iowa completely crushed Carolina down in Tampa at the Outback Bowl. Greene had 121 yards rushing and three touchdowns and Iowa jumped out to a 31-0 lead before Carolina scored toward the end for a 31-10 final. Not only could the Gamecocks not stop the Iowa ground game (or any other part of Iowa’s offense), quarterback Stephen Garcia was horrid. Garcia was 9-18 for 79 yards and three awful interceptions. He also lost a fumble in the first half and was eventually benched in favor of Chris Smelley. Garcia is of course from Tampa and his ‘homecoming’ certainly didn’t live up to whatever expectations Carolina might have had.

This is I suppose a fitting end for such a weird year for the Gamecocks. They had a few nice wins (at Ole Miss, Arkansas and they crushed Tennessee) but over the last three games they were outscored 118-30 in losses to Iowa today, Clemson and Florida. Not the worst losses in the world but they were by such resounding margins that it’s going to be tough this offseason to point to anything good that happened late in ’08.

The loss today leaves Carolina at 7-6. Last year they went 6-6 (after starting 6-1). It’s pretty safe to say that the Steve Spurrier era just isn’t working out here in Columbia. Even though he probably has the all-time honeymoon period, questions aren’t going to be far off here in town about whether or not it’s time to move on and change direction. Four years haven’t amounted to much so far. Mostly high expectations and missed opportunities.


Poinsettia Bowl Preview

December 23, 2008

Tonight at 8 (in the east) Boise State and Texas Christian will square off in what is clearly the best non-BCS bowl game this year. Boise comes in with a 12-0 record having been skipped over by Utah and Ohio State for a BCS game. TCU is 10-2 with losses only coming against Utah and Oklahoma, certainly two worthy opponents.

Amazingly, these two teams are each ranked at least 11th in the polls but are playing this game on December 23. But their worthiness for better bowls aside, this should be a great game. Boise will be out to prove that they did in fact deserve to play in the BCS and gets a chance to showcase its skills away from the blue field up in Idaho. That is the best thing for Boise because no one can say that they weren’t willing to play a quality opponent on a neutral field. TCU barely lost to Utah and will be out to prove that they are a program on the rise and deserve to be mentioned with the Utahs and Boises of the world.

I would love to speak with conviction about one team or the other’s chances but really I don’t know who is going to win. I’m speculatively picking Boise in Trey’s bowl pick ’em but I have no solid reasoning for that. I just hope that people will tune in, as I will, to see two teams who don’t get on tv very often. It’s a great chance for Boise and TCU to be on national, prime time tv and put on a good show. And with the game being in San Diego, there is little chance of bad weather having an effect on the outcome of the game.


The Not-so-Curious Case at Auburn

December 16, 2008

chizikWhat the hell is going on at Auburn, you ask? They fire Tommy Tuberville, a pretty damn good coach who had an off-year this year, despite going undefeated just four years ago and holding an amazing record while on the Plains. To replace him, Auburn hires Gene Chizik, the coach at Iowa State. Chizik was the defensive coordinator at Auburn when they went undefeated in 2004 and then was co-defensive coordinator at Texas when they went undefeated and won the national title in 2005, so the guy has some big game, big time experience. But then he was the head coach at Iowa State for two years and went 5-19. That’s not very good, and he was in the North so he was barely playing Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech or Oklahoma State. So what are they thinking?

I’m not even going to get into Charles Barkley’s beef with the university for not hiring Turner Gill, the young, black head coach at Buffalo. There’s probably a case to be made that a black man with a white wife was not exactly what Auburn wanted, however sad that may be in this day and age. And since the program is all but run by boosters and alumni, it’s probably not a stretch to think that played a part. But what is interesting to me is the financial side of it. Instead of going for a really big name coach, like luring Steve Spurrier from South Carolina or something along those lines, Auburn went for a relative no-name. This was not Will Muschamp or even, for that matter, Turner Gill.

Why would they go for a lower-end name in a conference that has recently seen coaches like Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier join (or re-join) their ranks? Well it’s probably for the same reason that Tennessee hired Lane Kiffin. Instead of replacing Phil Fulmer’s outrageously expensive contract with another, Kiffin signed on for several million dollars less. Still a nice chunk of change if you’re Kiffin, but a massive money saving endeavor for Tennessee. Just about the same situation at Auburn. Tuberville made quite a lot of money and Chizik will not make nearly the same amount. All of a sudden, Auburn has a few million dollars extra on its hands (though they are buying out Tuberville’s contract). Look what happened at Clemson, high-priced Tommy Bowden is replaced by low-cost Dabo Swinney.

Perhaps this is really a sign of changes in college football, at least during this economic downturn. Public colleges and universities are taking huge hits and massive budget cuts. If they can save several million dollars and hire a younger, less-accomplished coach, so be it. For several years now, the SEC in particular have hired huge name coaches at ridiculous cost. Maybe the cycle is such that now schools are willing to give younger coaches a chance to establish themselves at the major programs as they used to. Steve Spurrier didn’t arrive at Florida as the Steve Spurrier we know today, he created that as a young coach at a big time program. The same can be said for Fulmer, regardless of the Volunteer nation’s opinions of him now. In 1992 he was just a former player and assistant coach. Lloyd Carr was like that at Michigan and the same can be said for many other coaches.

And really, it helps the schools if their young coaches fall flat on their faces because the financial investment and expectations won’t be quite as bloated as they might be if a really big name coach came in. We’ll see what happens at Auburn but honestly, it makes sense to me. Keep expectations low and build from there. 5-7 isn’t the worst record in the world and if you watched Auburn at all, you know they really couldn’t have been much worse.


Sam Bradford, Heisman Trophy Winner

December 13, 2008

bradford

It’s one of the few accomplishments that will stick with you for literally the rest of your life. Sam Bradford, Heisman Trophy winner in 2008. And he definitely deserved it. And perhaps more importantly, I called it.

What really surprised me was that Tim Tebow wasn’t second, Colt McCoy was. That makes me think even more that they should’ve had Graham Harrell there in New York with those guys. I thought it would be a run away with Bradford and Tebow going neck-in-neck and leaving everyone else far behind. I didn’t like Harrell not being there (he had to have been fourth, right?) but now it really irks me.

But the important thing is that the Heisman was awarded and Bradford benefitted from Tebow winning last year. Firstly, Tebow opened the door for a sophomore to win the award. It had never been done before last year and now it’s happened twice in a row. How often does that happen in sports? Like when Kwame Brown went first overall in the NBA draft straight out of high school and then LeBron and Dwight Howard came just two and three years later. So that helped. Plus, the whole Archie Griffin thing meant that Tebow’s chances of winning, regardless of the season he had, were diminished.

So thank Tim Tebow, Sam, he helped you out a lot. But to be fair, Bradford was just plain awesome this season. We’ll see if they’re good enough to beat Florida in a month but either way, it’s pretty tough to argue with the season Bradford had in Norman this year.


Heisman Finalists

December 11, 2008

heisman

The three Heisman Trophy finalists have been announced and I guess it’s safe to say there’s no surprise. Well, maybe one. I thought that Graham Harrell of Texas Tech would at least get the courtesy invite. You know, the guy we all know isn’t going to win but gets invited because he had an amazing year. But instead, Harrell was left out and the three finalists who will go to New York are: Tim Tebow (Florida), Colt McCoy (Texas) and Sam Bradford (Oklahoma).

This really is an interesting list. In my opinion, Bradford is the favorite but only with the help of Tebow, in two ways. Tebow won the Heisman last year as a sophomore, which was the first time that had ever happened. Bradford is a sophomore this year but without the precedent from just last year, he likely wouldn’t be the favorite. The other reason he’s the favorite, at least in my opinion, is that the chances of someone, even of Tebow’s stature and national prominence, winning the award two years in a row is extremely unlikely. It’s only been done once before with Archie Griffin of Ohio State in the mid-70s. Tebow is unarguably a better college player than Griffin ever was but for some reason that back-to-back scenario has been more or less off limits for the past thirty years. All that is to say that even though Tebow is probably worthy of strong consideration, he probably won’t win it simply because he did last year.

I think Colt McCoy has had a really good season but I think he ends up third. Maybe if the Big 12 South tiebreakers were different and it was Texas that destroyed Missouri in the Big 12 title game and McCoy going on to the national championship game, he’d have a much better chance. But since that didn’t happen, he’s resigned to third place.