Thursday, August 30, 2012

College Football Opener Tonight

If you enjoy splash, tonight’s college football opener features the ‘ole ball coach against Vanderbilt.

The ‘ole ball coach is Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks are in Nashville to battle the Commodores. Not only is it the season opener, but the first Southeastern Conference (SEC) as well.

South Carolina should win the game, but hopefully Vandy makes things interesting. I would like to see the Commodores dressed in all gold for the special occasion.

But most eyes will be on Spurrier. He seems to command the attention whatever the situation. The ‘ole ball coach should have another competitive team this season. Last year, the Gamecocks went 11-2 and in any other league that would be impressive. But this is the SEC where championship always trumps competitive. Can South Carolina rise to that level this season? It’s doubtful. Phil Steele predicts the Gamecocks will finish third in the SEC East.

Although South Carolina shouldn’t contend for the top prize in the conference or nationally, that doesn’t mean the Gamecocks won’t make any noise.

Remember the ‘ole ball coach has a way of stirring up the pot. That could happen already tonight.

Monday, August 27, 2012

College Football 2012 Style

The college football season officially starts this weekend. You have your usual one or two monster matchups (try Michigan-Alabama) and your usual cupcake games complete with the frosting.

Here’s hoping your favorite team doesn’t put you asleep with its opening opponent.

I have mixed emotions about the college football season starting up again. Some years I’m ready, set and charge. But this year, the St. Louis Cardinals are again in the playoff chase so I have my eyes firmly placed yet on baseball. It’s difficult when the seasons overlap.

But I figure I will be in the football spirit by the time Iowa State and Iowa play Sept. 8. That’s always a big game in this state and this year’s edition should be competitive.

Of course, one of the big stories of the season will be Penn State. How will the Lions respond to all the turmoil in the last several months?

USC begins the season as the team to defeat. Florida State is also receiving some love.

It all shapes up to promise another exciting year of college football.

Bring on the tailgating, the bands and the cheerleaders.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Poster Competition

One great thing of college football that has escaped the technology craze is the wall poster schedule. You know that thing that lists the opponent, date and possibly time of your favorite team’s schedule?

I enjoy those color posters and they look attractive hanging in a den or office cubicle.

Bleacher Report ( recently listed the top 50 posters. Another list, I know. But this one is fun. There are some creative marketing departments out there.

And the winner is…a school just 70 miles down the road from me. The Iowa State Cyclones garnered the top spot with a schedule poster depicting their big win over than No. 2 Oklahoma State last season. The photo portion shows a sea of people on the field after the upset. The poster is both attractive and classy.

Don’t look for the Cyclones to grab the No. 1 ranking on the field, but any No.1 ranking is worth talking about. According to Phil Steele’s preview book, Iowa State has the third toughest 2012 schedule in the country. Last season, the Cyclones played the toughest schedule. Another No. 1 ranking.

Where did your favorite school rank on the 2012 poster schedule list?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Russell Wilson Still Dazzles

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Russell Wilson play quarterback at North Carolina State and Wisconsin.

The guy was a dual threat with his arms and his legs. You always believed Wilson’s team had a chance to win a game even if it was down. Wilson was a magical college player and could create plays out of nothing.

It was too bad that North Carolina State coach Tom O’Brien and Wilson had a falling out about Wilson playing professional baseball. It would have been great to see Wilson finish his college career with the Wolfpack.

But as they say, “It wasn’t meant to be.” Wilson took his talents to Wisconsin and put together one solid season there.

Wilson wanted to take his talents to the NFL and the rap on him was his lack of size. Well, brains and ability can make up for size even in the NFL.

Seattle drafted the playmaker and Wilson continues to impress people. Wilson even gets the starter nod in this week’s Seahawks preseason game. He has an excellent chance to seize the top quarterback spot for Seattle’s season opener in early September.

Wilson just may become one of the new style quarterbacks in the NFL. Cam Newton became the first card-carrying member last season that could run and throw. Wilson and a guy named Robert Griffin III may not be far behind.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tough Schedule

The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) football team puts together a competitive team almost every season as a Football Champion Series (FCS) school. The Panthers are often near the top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings—a strong league. Plus, UNI is a regular participant in the FCS playoffs.

But this season, the Panthers have a non-conference schedule that would make most FCS teams sweat profusely. UNI plays at Wisconsin in week one and then travels to Iowa in week three. That is two BCS (Bowl Championship Series) teams in one season. Many FCS teams play one BCS school every season, but playing two is hardly the norm.

UNI is playing two higher division schools for one reason—money. The Panthers need the paychecks to keep their athletic department afloat. UNI had depended upon state monies to fund it athletic program in the past, but state told UNI to wean itself from the funding.

Frankly, UNI is having trouble paying the bills. In recent years, the Panthers have dropped sports including baseball. Apparently, their only self-supporting program is men’s basketball.

UNI hopes to be competitive in these two games, but the main things are to collect the checks and stay relative healthy. Then even with a couple non-conference losses, the Panthers can use the tough start to build toughness for a conference title run and an appearance in playoffs.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Lightening Rod Moves to the Desert

Rich Rodriquez is one of those college coaches that seem to receive the tag of lighting rod.

It all started when Rodriquez left his alma mater West Virginia in a messy divorce. Things didn’t improve at Michigan where the national spotlight of a national program magnified the losing. So, Rodriquez departed one program voluntarily and was shown the door with the other.

To say the guy received some heat and backlash over those two jobs is like someone telling you it becomes hot in Dallas, Texas in July.

Rodriquez took a year off from coaching and broke down some football as a TV as a commentator. But now the lighting rod is back at the University of Arizona.

The Wildcats aren’t exactly a hotbed of college football. You don’t read or see much attention placed on the program. But Rodriquez wanted and probably need the opportunity to show the college football world he can still successfully coach.

Rodriquez brings a 75-48 career record to Tucson. He’s known as an “offensive mind” and the Pac-12 Conference is a great league to display that. Translation: the conference doesn’t play much defense. Contrary to belief, there isn’t a rule in the league declaring the first team to score 70 points as winner. The goal in the Pac-12 is to literally and figuratively outscore your opponent.

I have no doubt Rodriquez will accomplish that task. The question becomes can he do it consistently and in the meantime quiet the lighting rod tag.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

An Interesting Football Marriage

I said at the time Kansas announced its hiring of football coach Charlie Weis that it was an interesting hire. As Weis prepares his first Jayhawk team for the season, I still believe it is an interesting hire.

But I better define the word “interesting.”

Interesting could mean bad or good.

But in this case, my definition means strange. Why did Kansas really hire Weis? Was it for his average 35-27 overall college record? Was it because he is known as an offensive guru? Was it because he had notable success as New England’s offensive coordinator with a guy named Tom Brady as quarterback? Was it because of Weis’ name recognition?

I think it was the last one.

And why did Weis take the job? Was it for love he received from Kansas? Did he realize this job was coaching football at Kansas not basketball? Did he realize Kansas is a tough job in itself and made tougher in the rugged Big 12 Conference? Is he trying to remake his coach reputation after his difficult time at Notre Dame?

Again, I choose the last option.

The bottom line is we don’t know if Weis can become a successful college head football coach. One thing is sure: his Kansas experience will go a long way in determining the answer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Can Anyone Defeat the SEC?

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) has been the dominating league in college football for numerous seasons. It seems when the national championship games comes around, the team opposite the SEC opponent is playing for second place.

The SEC has won the national championship game for an amazing six straight years. The last time the SEC didn’t win it was 2005. The reason: the league didn’t have a school playing in the game.

Since 2005, Florida and Alabama have each won two titles. LSU and Alabama have claimed one apiece.

But the real question is can anybody unseat the SEC in 2013?

USC is receiving No. 1 ranking love in various preseason polls. The Trojans return nine starters on offense from last season and seven on defense. USC boasts one of my talented players in all of college football this season: quarterback Matt Barkley. Its schedule seems favorable with probably the toughest games at home against Oregon and Notre Dame. But do the Trojans have enough depth still reeling a bit from sanctions? Also, what about their tendency to slip up against a lesser team?

I am a willing to cheer for any team including USC that will defeat a SEC squad in the national championship game. There is a real need in the college game to bring back some competitive balance.

What school do you think has a chance to dethrone a SEC team in the 2013 National Championship Game?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Big Ten Conference Race

If you are looking for the cream in the Big Ten Conference this football season, look no farther than the Legends Division.

The Legends could have the Big Ten’s best teams. College football preview guru Phil Steele predicts Nebraska will win the division with Michigan and Michigan State in the two and three positions respectively. Steele believes both Michigan schools could contend for a divisional championship. That’s how evenly matched the three teams look.

The Leaders division is a different story. Wisconsin should win the division easily. In a regular year, Ohio State would challenge but the Buckeyes are ineligible for the title in 2012. That leaves the challengers as Illinois, Purdue, Penn State and Indiana. Can you say weak division? The most excitement could become the battle for fifth place between Penn State and Indiana. With all the problems at Penn State with conflict and player departures, the Hoosiers may have an opportunity to escape last place.

I think the Big Ten has two teams that could make noise on the national stage.

Nebraska finished just 9-4 last season, but the Huskers return seven players each on offense and defense. Nebraska has four difficult conference games with two of those at home. Wisconsin and Michigan come to Lincoln, but the Huskers must travel to Ohio State and Michigan.

Michigan will not contend for a national title, but could place a roadblock in another team’s quest. The Wolverines oppose Alabama in the opener in Arlington, Texas. Michigan has a brutal schedule including true road games at Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. Its in-state battle with Michigan State is at home.

Who do you like in the Big Ten Conference this season?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Coach Moves Up

Matt Murken must enjoy the North Dakota cold weather. The basketball coach landed his first ever head job at Jamestown College. And now Murken is moving to another North Dakota school.

The Iowa native was name head coach at Minot State University last week. Murken will guide the Beavers into their first season of Division II basketball in the Northern Sun Conference.

Murken has risen in the coaching profession quickly. He coached at Jamestown College—an NAIA school—only two years. He led the Jimmies to a 46-16 overall mark. Murken helped Jamestown to a NAIA national tournament appearance last season and was named Dakota Athletic Conference Coach-of-the-Year.

I had the privilege of serving with Murken on an Athletes in Action basketball project to East Africa in 2010. He is a good guy that cares about his players. Murken will do an excellent job with the Beavers.

Just keep the parka and snow boots handy, Matt. You never know when you will need them in North Dakota.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Joe Paterno Statue

Penn State carried off Joe Paterno’s statue last week. It will no longer grace the grounds near Penn State’s football stadium.

Apparently, the statue is now in storage. But will storage be its final resting place? Will Paterno’s family eventually get the likeness?

Even after death, Paterno continues to take his lumps. The latest Paterno fallout occurred when the former Penn State football coach was cited for failing to properly inform authorities about former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s activities in the sex case scandal.

Probably worst than the statue removal was the NCAA taking over 100 wins from Paterno. He is no longer the top winner in career wins.

Paterno and his family may not be done taking hits. I wonder what Penn State will do about his name on the library. Then what about the plain blue and white uniforms made famous in the Paterno era? Will they go too? Will officials perform a major housecleaning?

Answers will follow in this continuing saga.