Lest I Forget

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Apologies, I intended to be consistent about posting the standings for conferences this bowl season, but I forgot to provide an updated table this morning. You accept my apology? Thanks! Here are the goods so far, with five bowls being played today, including the Brut Sun Bowl (Pitt vs. Oregon State):

Big East 3-0
Pac 10 3-0
MWC 2-1
CUSA 2-1
ACC 3-3
Big 12 1-1
Sun Belt 1-1
WAC 1-4
Big 10 0-2
Indies 0-2
MAC 0-3

Some observations on the above:

  1. You've got to be impressed with the PAC 10 (especially after the way Oregon dispatched of OK State last night). They're another BCS conference that is constantly berated for being a perceived slouch, but the proof is always in the pudding (as it is for the Big East), during bowl season.
  2. While watching the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl last night (good stuff, I know) ESPN displayed their updated standings (prior to Maryland winning the game). They took it off the screen pretty quickly, but I could have swore that they had the ACC at 2-2 at that point, which was wrong (should have been 2-3). Another gaffe by the research (or graphics) department at ESPN -- no surprise there. I do however, like that they lauded the Big East's 3-0 start.
  3. The WAC is wack.

While I'm here, I'll dump some more links on you:

I Smell Brut Sun Bowl Links and More

Get your fill of Brian Bennett's antics on ESPN's Big East Blog:

A trio from Scout.com:

What else?:

USF Exploits Its Pensicola Pipeline

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fresh off a bowl win in St. Petersburg Florida, Jim Leavitt and the USF Bulls are back on the recruiting trail. They get major help along the defensive line by signing defensive tackle Anthony Hill, who was previously committed to Florida State, as well as defensive end Luke Sager. Both Hill and Sager are Florida natives (Hill is from Pensicola and Sager is from Niceville), and both had been sought aggressively by other D-1 programs.

As previously mentioned, Anthony Hill signed on to Florida State's 2008 recruiting class but came to find out that the class was too large and that he would have to greyshirt. This did not sit well with Hill, who decided to reverse course and sign on with the school that recruited him earliest and often. As a bonus, Hill will now be reunited (and it feels so good) with childhood friend and current Bull, Terrell McClain. Geez, maybe USF should move its campus to Pensicola; they've now plucked Hill, McClain, AND George Selvie from the Florida panhandle town.

___________________________

Speaking of big recruits, get a load of this picture of Nassau Community College offensive tackle Andrew Tiller (I'll give you a clue; he's not #50). Tiller, who is listed at 6'6" / 200 lbs, has already received scholarship offers from Miami, NC State, and Rutgers. As previously mentioned in a Dangerfield Division posting, Tiller is now a Syracuse target because his former head coach, John Anselmo, has joined Doug Marrone's staff as a defensive backs coach. I realize the other kid in this picture is probably your run-of-the-mill junior college athlete and true D-1 defensive linemen might not make Tiller look so big, but you've got to be impressed with the sheer volume of this guy! Big East defensive linemen, take note.





Photo Credit: Rivals.com

You need some more links? Of course you do:

Still Enjoying All the Big East Bowl Wins

Here are some post-Papajohns.com Bowl links:

From The Star-Ledger:
Video:
Recapping the game
Game highlights
Photos:
Slideshow
Photo gallery
In-game coverage:
As They Played
Newspaper stories:
Healthy D'Imperio makes his mark
Special plays were the differenceOn triumphant night, Mulcahy a Knight to remember
Kirschner named interim AD
Notebook: Britt 'on the fence' about entering draft

And more links:

"It's absolutely crucial that when the Big East has the opportunity to play outside
its conference, it's got to represent itself well, and I think we have."

-Cincinnati Head Coach Brian Kelly

Rutgers Win in Papajohns.com Bowl Makes it 3-0 for Big East in 2008 Bowls

Monday, December 29, 2008

For those of you keeping score, Rutgers' 29-23 victory over NC State in the Papajohns.com Bowl today, makes the Big East Conference 3-0 in 2008 bowl games; makes Rutgers 3-0 in their last three bowl appearances; and give the Big East two wins (no losses) over ACC opponents this bowl season. Quite the statement so far if you ask me.

Mike Teel and the Scarlet Knights continued the type of hot play that vaulted them into bowl eligibility in the second half of the season, halting another hot team in the Wolfpack. The difference in this game, no question, was Mike Teel's superb play (22/37, 319 yds, 2/1), Kenny Britt's ability as a formidable target for Teel (six catches for 119 yards), and four costly turnovers for NC State.

Teel played his final game as Rutgers quarterback and Kenny Britt probably has as well (he is a junior). ESPN's Todd McShay projects Britt as a second to third round pick, as a receiver in a mold of a "poor man's Terrell Owens (not his exact words)," with considerable size, average speed, good hands, but a questionable work ethic. Although McShay dismisses Teel's chances of being an NFL product due to his seeming inconsistency, I think his play down the stretch this season will at least get him some looks as a post-draft free agent signee.

The next bowl game for the Big East will be on Wednesday, when the Pitt Panthers take on the Oregon State Beavers in the Brut Sun Bowl. If you missed today's game on the tellie, here are some pictures courtesy of Bill Perlman of the Newark Star-Ledger. Finally, the ever popular and updated conference bowl standings:

Big East 3-0
Pac 10 2-0
MWC 2-1
CUSA 1-1
Sun Belt 1-1
ACC 2-3
WAC 1-3
Big 10 0-1
Indies 0-2
MAC 0-2

Photo Credit: Bill Perlman / Newark Star-Ledger

More Before the Papajohns.com Bowl

Here are some updated conference standings during the bowl season after last night's barn burner between Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl. Congrats to the WAC for finally getting on the board with a "W":

Big East 2-0
Pac 10 2-0
MWC 2-1
ACC 2-2
CUSA 1-1
Sun Belt 1-1
WAC 1-3
Big 10 0-1
Indies 0-2
MAC 0-2

Links to Tie You Over Till 3 p.m.

If you're near a television set around 3 p.m. est today, be sure to check out the Papajohns.com Bowl on ESPN, featuring the Big East's Rutgers and the ACC's NC State. Of course, I'll be at work, but I'll make every effort to see what I can and check things out online. I'm not sure what the 3 p.m. start time deal is all about, but it could be a welcome distraction for a typical Monday. In the meantime, here are some links to check out:

Better Ingredients, Better Pizza, Better Links

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Here are all the Papajohns.com Bowl related links you can handle before tomorrow's showdown in Birmingham, AL:

A video previewing the bowl game from NJ.com:


PapaJohns.com Bowl preview: Rutgers vs. N.C. State








Gone Bowling

Fresh off three solid bowls from yesterday, I thought it might be a nice idea to go over the bowl conference records thus far:

Big East 2-0
Pac 10 2-0
ACC 2-2
MWC 2-1
CUSA 1-1
Sun Belt 1-1
Big 10 0-1
WAC 0-3
Indies 0-2

First, kudos to the Big East for obvious reasons. USF engineered a blowout in what was essentially a home game for them, against a CUSA team (Memphis) that was ill-equipped to be playing post-season college football in the first place. West Virginia was impressive on the offensive side of the ball in their narrow victory over UNC yesterday; a victory they should get tons of credit for being that they pulled it out in a hostile environment.

The PAC 10 has been impressive so far, especially considering that most college football refuse to give the conference any respect beyond USC. I think most experts felt that BYU would dispatch of Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl, but it was quite the opposite as Mike Stoops probably single-handedly earned a contract extension in that game. Cal beating Miami is less of a surprise, as that was probably a push, and the Bears were able to play this game about 30 minutes from their home field.

I would like to trash the ACC, but I'm afraid I can't (yet). Wake Forest beating a solid Navy team is a good achievement and Florida State wreaking havoc upon a woefully under-equipped Wisconsin team is impressive despite the Seminoles playing in their home state. As I mention above, one can give Miami credit for keeping the Emerald Bowl a close affair against a team that played a de-facto home game. UNC is the one black eye on the ACC bowl resume at this point, given that they played their game in Charlotte, against a team that had not been playing well offensively. Then again, who's going to stop Pat White in his final game as a West Virginia Mountaineer?

Finally, let's skip down to the 0-3 WAC. Are you kidding me? This is a conference that many considered to be just as formidable as some BCS conferences; one that some even felt should have two at-large BCS bids (Utah AND Boise State). Granted, Boise State fell by a close margin to a solid TCU team, but it says something that they did not rise to the occasion in the Poinsettia Bowl when they felt they were unceremoniously left out of the BCS picture. Hawaii had no business being pushed around by Notre Dame on their home turf. I understand that the Irish have a massive amount of talent on their side, but their quality of play over the course of the year has been suspect, and the travel schedule should have taken its toll. The Fresno State / Colorado State could have gone either way, but it's surprising that the Pat Hill led club couldn't pull out at least one win for the conference it represents.

Stay tuned for more analysis on the bowl season. The best is yet to come with the SEC having not played any bowl games yet, and of course, the BCS bowls. For now, get your fill of more Big East related links:

Scout.com:

If you're a Rutgers fan:
And:
I leave you with this video of Rutgers players getting a tour of Birmingham's Civil Rights Museum (in case you thought that bowl teams don't spend their "non football" time productively):
Scarlet Knights tour civil rights museum





Big East 1, ACC 0

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Props to linebacker Pat Lazear (incidentally a native of my hometown, Bethesda, MD), for sealing another bowl victory for the West Virginia Mountaineers by picking off T.J. Yates late in the fourth quarter. If you are a fan of defensive play, you were probably not enamoured with either team's performance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but it was a defensive play by the sophomore linebacker that allowed the Big East to go 2-0 in bowls this season, for Pat White to go 4-0 in bowl games in his career as a starting quarterback, for Bill Stewart to win his second straight bowl as a head coach, and for the 'Neers to pull out a 31-30 victory over Butch Davis' Tarheels.

It's no secret that West Virginia has been the standard bearer for the Big East Conference these past few years, by winning two BCS bowls, and constantly impressing national audiences with their creative offensive schemes and ability to win big games. This season however, had been considered a disappointment by many fans in West Virginia, considering the fact that the team was returning Pat White and many members of a stout defense. The team ended the regular season 8-4, prompting many Mountaineer fans to question the hiring of Bill Stewart the day after he led the team to a victory in the Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma. Stewart has had some quirky moments over the course of the season, but he indeed vindicated himself with an exciting win over a vaunted UNC team.

I made a plea in earlier blog posts, for WVU fans to cut Bill Stewart some slack in his first season as head coach. After hearing, during the Meineke Car Care Bowl telecast, about Stewart taking a janitor job while working as a UNC Graduate Assistant to make extra money, I gained even more respect for the man. I don't think there is a more ideal coach for the Mountaineers, not only in the "football" sense, but also in the "role model" sense.

More important to Big East fans, the conference now goes to 2-0 in bowl games for 2008/09 (ACC is 1-1), and defeats a hated ACC opponent. The next bowl game for the Big East will be the Papajohns.com Bowl, featuring two hot teams: the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the North Carolina State Wolf Pack.

Photo Credit: Nell Redmond

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News discusses how both the ACC and Big East Conferences are still out for respect this bowl season. Some interesting points made in the article:

  1. "...the ACC and Big East can't shake the fact they are the only two major conferences that have never placed an at-large team into the BCS during its 11-year history."

    "At least the Big East is 6-4 in BCS bowl games. The ACC, which raided Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the Big East in 2003, is 1-9 in BCS bowl games and has dropped eight straight since Florida State won the 1999 national championship."

  2. "A major reason the ACC expanded was to create a conference championship game. This month's ACC championship game in Tampa drew 27,360 fans in actual attendance, well below the 53,927 tickets that were sold and distributed."

  3. "(Greg) Schiano said getting a second BCS berth for the Big East would be a milestone, but adds the conference is unique since it has only eight members."

  4. "The Big East is 14-9 against the ACC in the past three years."
I have to say that this is probably one of the more balanced articles written on the relevance of the Big East (and ACC) within the BCS landscape. Something that is not highlighted well enough is the fact that with eight teams in the conference, the Big East will probably never have an at-large bid in the BCS. Extraordinary circumstances would have to take place, due to the fact that all teams play each other every season in the Big East (and therefore beat up on each other), unlike the other BCS conferences, where it's possible to avoid playing highly competitive teams during certain years. The other scenario could be having two very dominant teams, while the rest of the conference is relatively weak, resulting in one undefeated team, and a one loss team (that may or may not deserve to get an at-large bid, depending on the Boise States of the world in a particular season).

The issue of an unlikely at-large BCS bid should be another reason for Big East expansion. As mentioned in a previous post on this blog, Memphis could be a viable addition to the conference. Dissenters may argue that expansion has not helped the ACC get an at-large BCS bid. I would counter that by noting that the Big East has been playing higher quality football, and with the opportunity to bring more teams into the fold, the conference could essentially do more with more teams, than the ACC. Anyway, that's a debate for another time and place, and I can assure you that I will be posting quite a bit on potential expansion of the conference. For now, check out some more links:
I know you all can't go without your daily Brian Bennett fix:

The Day After Links

Friday, December 26, 2008

Morning All,
Here are some links to get you going:

My Christmas Gift To You: Links

Thursday, December 25, 2008

And since it's Christmas, I'll throw in a vid for you too:

Mike Locksley is already paying dividends at New Mexico by snagging 3-star QB Emmanuel Yeager from Louisville. Yeager had been originally committed to Central Michigan, but Ron English lured him to the Cards. Now that Ron has flown the coop, Locksley swooped in and used his D.C. area mojo to lock up his first recruit:


This is kind of a weak post, I know, but it's Christmas and I've been hard pressed to get some time at the computer. My apologies for that and I will make every effort to pump out some more good material in the coming days. Till then, take care.

Muffler Bowl Links and More

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not that this had anything to do with the Big East, but did anyone peep the Poinsettia Bowl between TCU and Boise State last night? I know tons of people were crowing about the Broncos not having been included in the BCS bowl picture, but after last night, I think it's safe to say that it probably would not have worked out for them even if they got a crack at Alabama or something. Then again, TCU is a good team in their own right and BSU may have been deflated enough to not play as hard as they would have in a BCS game.

Oh well, after all of that, all I've got for you are some Meineke Car Care Bowl links, along with a couple of Pitt links:

Want to Go Bowling? Play Tough Teams

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I came across an interesting piece from the Wiz of Odds today. Apparently, it pays to play tough schedules in D-1A college football; it'll get you into a nice bowl. The teams with the toughest road to bowls?:

1) Florida
2) Oklahoma
3) Texas
4) Alabama
5) Boise State
6) Utah
7) USC
8) Pitt
9) Cincinnati
10) Penn State

Make your own judgement on the above list, but as far as I can tell, I can't see any ACC teams on here. PAC 10? Just lonely ole USC. Props to the Big East for not backing down from serious competition.

Meanwhile:

Take These Links...I'll Get Back to Ya

Hi folks, I'll be in transit most of today, so don't expect too many updates until later today. Till then, Happy Holidays and enjoy these:

That's all for right now, but you can bet there will be lots more to come.

Syracuse Stiff Arms JUCO Recruit

Monday, December 22, 2008

Photo Credit: Joe Lewnard, Daily Herald

It's currently 13 degrees and snowing in Syracuse, NY. Harper College (IL) head football coach Dragan Teonic (Ivan Drago anyone?) might be thinking it's just a cold day in hell. That's pretty much what he thinks of Syracuse, its university, and its new football coaching staff after he learned his two-time JUCO All-American quarterback had his scholarship rescinded this week.

It was mentioned in an earlier posting on the Dangerfield Division, that Garrett Barnas (the QB in question) did in fact commit to Syracuse, even though a new head coach had not been named yet. Barnas, recruited heavily by fired head coach Greg Robinson's staff was undeterred by the coaching uncertainty, having said:
"Syracuse is one of the top schools there is so that in itself made me lean
toward them, even though I knew the coaching staff probably wouldn't be there."


Defensive Line Coach Derrick Jackson, who was retained from the Robinson staff apparently kept recruiting Barnas during the coaching uncertainty. It was also Jackson who had to call Barnas to inform him of the bad news.

No reaction yet from Barnas himself, but his aforementioned coach is furious at best. You can see the quotes from the article yourself, and you'll see just what I mean. I have to say, I think the reaction is harsher than it needs to be, but the complaint that Marrone should have made the call himself is warranted. The excuse for rescinding the scholarship is also legitimate (5 QBs already on scholarship), but again, it would have been nice for Marrone to convey this himself.

I don't think too much bad will come of this. A mistake was certainly made, but mistakes can be expected in the confusion and fast pace of a coaching change. Good news for Syracuse? They're coming along further in their quest to fill out a staff.

Potential Big East Addition: Memphis?

In regards to football, the Big East Conference is too small. It would be ideal to expand by at least one and have a ninth team take the field for the conference. Could the Memphis Tigers be that team? Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson seems to think so as revealed in an interview by Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal (h/t to Brian Bennett at ESPN for this find).

Here are some primary nuggets in the interview that should get everyone's attention:

GC: To the BCS point, where do you think Memphis is right now? What are the
chances that Memphis will be in a BCS conference in, say, 10 years?
RC: I
really believe we will be. I really do. I think there will be some shakeup
...
GC: When you say, "I really believe we will be," put a number on it. What
are the chances?
RC: I think 80 percent. I think it's a strong
possibility.

80%?! Fairly presumptuous if you ask me, but hey, I'm not sitting in on meetings between the school and Big East officials, so this may almost be in the bag for all I know!


RC: See, I think we're still seeing the evolving of changes. Lou Holtz said
the other day that we ought to do away with all this. Everybody should be in the
BCS. Every conference should add two teams. I know that sounds way out there.
But if you and I were talking six years years ago and we said Cincinnati and
Louisville were going to be in the Big East, we would have said that's way out
there.
The thing that we've got going for us is how well our programs are
doing, Central time zone, airport is easy to get in and out of. Now, people
don't all buy it but the truth is location did hurt us last go-round. That is a
factor. The ultimate thing for us, we should be in the SEC.
GC: But that's
not going to happen.
RC: Yeah. So you look around at the leagues, at our
opportunities, and I've contacted every league, from the Pac-10 to the Big Ten,
I've contacted them all. And the truth is that the only realistic opportunity
for us right now would be the Big East because the SEC isn't going to happen.
You keep hearing about Colorado going back to the Pac-10, Arkansas going back to
the Big 12, yada yada yada. Missouri may be going to the Big Ten so they can get
an even number. All those conversations. Every time I'm at an NCAA meeting those
conversations come up but I don't see it happening. I think the most realistic
opportunity for us is the Big East.
So what we're doing, we're going to make
ourselves the best we can possibly be in Conference USA. We have to make sure
our academics are online, we have to make sure our high-profile sports are doing
well and that our other sports are showing. That's why what baseball is doing
for us is really good. Back-to-back soccer championships is really good. I visit
with athletic directors of other leagues on a regular basis. I make a point of
doing that to try to always position ourselves.

There's a lot of stuff in there, but R.C. makes some valid points and it sounds pretty cut-and-dry that he wants to get Memphis into the Big East.

My thoughts:

  1. Basketball is the primary obstacle to this equation working. Memphis has a quality high profile hoops program, but the Big East is overloaded at this point (a curse of having been a "basketball first" conference at its inception). One of two things needs to happen: either the Big East needs to cut ties with some or all of its basketball only program, or it needs to create a "basketball only" division of the conference. Given the history of some of the rivalries in the conference(read Syracuse/Georgetown), the first option is pretty much off the table. The second option is actually kind of intriguing and very doable. As a matter of fact, it could become a model for other conferences. Couldn't you see the PAC 10 wanting to add Gonzaga for bball? Or the SEC adding Creighton, ACC adding Dickinson, etc.? Not bad eh?

  2. I like the location. Despite all the banter about Memphis being too far West to be in the "Big EAST," it's still East of the Mississippi River (good enough for me). And when you see schools like DePaul and Marquette in the conference, who cares anymore? Memphis is a solid-sized market with an appreciation for sports. I think fans in the area would welcome the possibility of their Tigers making a BCS bowl every year.

  3. The facilities are lacking, but that should not be a sticking point. According to the article, strides are already being made in this department by the renovation of locker rooms and gym facilities. Yes, the Liberty Bowl is old, but I like the idea that this stadium has traditional value. The Liberty Bowl game is one of the more traditional and celebrated non-BCS bowls, and the facility it's played on has at least some of the cache of stadiums such as the Rose and Orange Bowl. If you pour money into this place, it can be a solid place to play football for years to come.

All things considered, I support this move if it ever happens. The Memphis area market, the quality of the program along with other sports (namely basketball), and the prospect of being able to revolutionize the way conferences are organized are all positive factors in this potential scenario. Most importantly, it would also add another quality Barbecue destination to the Big East docket (Syracuse--Dinosaur BBQ and Louisville). Either way, I'd stay tuned now that this is all out in the open.

Better Bloggers Than I Debate the ACC vs. Big East

Pseudo-professional bloggers Brian Bennett (Big East) and Heather Dinich (ACC) at ESPN renew their ever-popular debate over which conference deserves to have its integrity called into question.

Now, we all know girls know nothing about sports, so Brian's got this one pretty much in the bag. In debating the bowl match ups between the two conferences, Brian concedes that West Virginia will have its hands full with UNC, especially given the fact that this game is being played all-to-close to Chapel Hill. Mountaineer fans travel well though, so I think Bill Stewart's crew will feel as "at home" as they can in a hostile environment. I'm rating this game as more of a "push." If WVU can rev up their offense enough to demoralize an inexperienced (when it comes to bowls) team, they may be able to pull this one out.

The debate over the Papajohns.com Bowl between Rutgers and NC State gets a little feisty. This essentially comes down to which team is hotter than the other going into the bowl. In looking at the two teams' schedules, Rutgers made a considerably longer and harder slog to the end than the Wolfpack. In looking at common opponents, Rutgers got crushed by UNC early in the season, and NC State dominated the Tar Heels toward the end of their schedule. On the other hand, NC State got taken behind the wood shed by USF, and Rutgers did just that to the Bulls later in the season. Again, another "push" in my mind, but I give the edge to Rutgers just because they finished the season slightly more impressively than NC State.

The Orange Bowl will go to Cincinnati according to both bloggers. Ah, it feels good to know that everyone is in agreement here. I see Brian Kelly's passing attack being too much for a Tech defense that is far too predicated on the run. Moreover, the Hokies have been downright terrible in their own passing game and have found it difficult to score. Notch another loss for ACC teams, and another win for Big East teams, in BCS bowls.

You thought I forgot your links? Not by a long shot pal:

Three Links For Ya

Post St. Petersburg Bowl Links

Sunday, December 21, 2008

If There Was Ever a Reason for Better Big East Bowl Tie-Ins

Note to incoming Big East Commissioner John Marinatto: negotiating new and better bowl tie-ins for the conference should be your number one priority. The USF Bulls took the Memphis Tigers behind the wood shed yesterday in the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl, but you'd hardly know it because not a lot of people really cared.

Greg Auman drives the point point by noting that the St. Pete Bowl was the least attended inaugural bowl since 1997. If you take a look at the list he provides, you'll also see that the International Bowl and Papajohns.com Bowl in 2006 were also lightly attended inaugural bowl season events that involved Big East teams (USF and Cincinnati).

This is simply unacceptable for a BCS conference, let alone, a BCS conference that I feel is of a higher caliber than at least the ACC. I'm not saying that the Big East should never be involved in first time bowls, but the conference can't make a habit out of it. I noted yesterday in my review of the St. Pete Bowl, that the result of the game demonstrates that the Memphis Tigers didn't even belong on the same field as the Bulls. It's embarrassing for a mediocre CUSA team to have to travel several miles to compete in what is essentially a home game for the opposing team; a team that is bigger, faster, stronger, and better coached.

Despite the low attendance to the St. Pete Bowl, organizers felt it was a "great start..." Well, I guess it can't get that much worse going forward.

Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me hook you up with a few links:

Syracuse WR commit Alec Lemon (MD) is still solid with the Orange after the recent coaching change:

“I feel like with a new coaching staff coming in, we can start the program up
again, start all over. From what I heard, we’re supposed to run a spread
no-huddle and that’s good for me.”

Reports: Louisville Defensive Coordinator Ron English to Become Head Coach at Eastern Michigan

Reports indicate that Louisville Defensive Coordinator Ron English will inherit an Eastern Michigan football team that went 3-9 this season and 16-42 overall under former head coach Jeff Genyk.


English, who was in his first season in Louisville under Steve Kragthorpe, previously headed a defense under Lloyd Carr at Michigan and was promptly relieved of his duties there by Rich Rodriguez when Rodriguez was hired to lead the Wolverines. He was then hired by Kragthorpe who was desperate to upgrade a defense that ranked 84th in the country in 2007. Unfortunately however, English led only marginal gains in the Cardinal defense, as the team ranked 69th in overall defense this season, although the team experienced in an inordinate amount of injuries on the defensive side of the ball.

In a hiring season marred by racial tension, especially in regards the potential hiring of Buffalo Head Coach Turner Gill at many schools, Ron English becomes only the fifth head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Steve Kragthorpe can't be pleased with the progression of his team's defense, and although Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich has publicly backed his much maligned head coach, Kragthorpe knows that next season could very well be "make or break" for him. Louisville's offense was certainly more of a problem for the Cardinals this season, but the departure of Ron English will also allow Kragthorpe to make a serious upgrade.

Look for Kragthorpe to pursue TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas, who has led a Horned Frog defense that has ranked no less than 25th nationally over the past four years (including a number 2 ranking this season, and two years ago). Another option could be Northern Illinois Defensive Coordinator Tracy Claeys.

On a less serious note, maybe U of L should consider hiring recently fired Syracuse Head Coach Greg Robinson. Out of Robinson's 10 wins in four seasons as Orange Head Coach, two of them were against the Cardinals. GROB, as he is affectionately known amongst the Syracuse faithful was a career defensive coordinator with stints in the NFL and more recently at the University of Texas prior to becoming head coach at Syracuse. You know what they say: "If you can't beat em', hire em'." Why the heck not, right?

Photo Credit: Scout.com

No Contest: USF Downs Memphis to Make Big East 1-0 in 2008 Bowls

The Magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl in Florida was not one of the more anticipated bowls for college football fans this season. For the University of South Florida Bulls however, it was an opportunity to go out on a high note after a season that produced many disappointments. Go out on a high note they did, as USF trounced the Memphis Tigers 41-14 in front of an announced crowd of just over 25,000 at Tropicana Field.

USF quarterback Matt Grothe was unquestionably the player of the game going 17/24 for 236 yards and three touchdowns (no interceptions). Grothe also put up numbers on the ground by rushing for 83 yards on 15 carries, including a 32 yard scamper. For his troubles, Grothe was named "most outstanding player" for the game.

ESPN this evening incorrectly reported that "The Bulls have made a bowl game the last four seasons, which is every year they've been in the Big East, but this is their first win." In fact, USF is now 2-2 in bowl games since 2005. They defeated East Carolina in Papajohns.com Bowl in 2006.

This win starts the Big East Conference on an auspicious note for this year's bowl season. The next bowl involving a Big East team comes next Saturday in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, when West Virginia takes on North Carolina.

Notes:

  • USF rocked some white helmets this evening; a look they had not previously donned. I liked it and think the white helmet/green uniform combo should become a USF staple.
  • I think this bowl was a first step in what I feel will be a larger point that Big East teams will make this season: that the conference needs to negotiate better bowl tie ins. Memphis did not deserve to be on the same field as the Bulls this evening and it showed from the opening drive when Matt Grothe hit Taurus Johnson for a quick fade rout to begin what would be a USF rout of the Tigers.

Photo credit: AP

The Big East Can Get Off Its Knees for Notre Dame in Ten Years

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Paul Zeise kindly took reader questions about the Pitt football program in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The first question focuses Notre Dame's affiliation with the Big East Conference:

Q: Do you think it's time for the Big East to give Notre Dame an ultimatum to either join the conference in football or get out completely?
G. Simon, Houston, Texas

ZEISE: No, there are far more benefits to being aligned with Notre Dame than the other way around and frankly the Big East doesn't have enough brand name teams to stand on its own and start making demands. Maybe ten years from now, but not quite yet. And don't forget Notre Dame is playing against Pitt, against Connecticut, against Syracuse (and they wanted to play Rutgers but of course, Rutgers being Rutgers declined an eight-year deal to play four at Notre Dame and four at the new Giants Stadium because Rutgers wanted the games on campus, which is ridiculous. The amount of money and exposure and the guaranteed national television appearance which would have come from playing at Giants Stadium against Notre Dame would have been far more than any home game against Army or Morgan State or whatever rent-a-win opponent Rutgers wants to bring to its campus) -- so those teams are benefiting from being aligned with Notre Dame (you don't think Pitt's entire strategy for selling season ticket packages next year is going to be built around the Notre Dame ticket? And you don't think there is at least one guaranteed national television appearance on the schedule because it is Pitt-Notre Dame). The one or two bowl games every so often the Big East might lose to Notre Dame is well worth the negotiating power being aligned with Notre Dame has given them. Again, at some point, perhaps the Big East can stand on its own, but that time is not right now.

All in all, I tend to agree with Zeise's assessment, although I think it's a little harsh. I do think the Big East is well within its rights to "make demands" regardless of the brand name quality of the schools that make up the conference.

Notre Dame is 2-3 against the reconstituted Big East since 2004. Granted, all five of those games are against Pittsburgh and Syracuse, but it serves to prove the point that Notre Dame doesn't light up the Big East on a consistent basis, and is in fact comparable to the conference teams.

Regarding the Rutgers scheduling situation, I think the right call was made. Rutgers has poured a significant amount of money into their athletic facilities and they should be utilized accordingly, especially for "big game" events such as a match-up with the Fighting Irish. It's understandable that Notre Dame would want to to face off at the meadowlands, and out of four trips to New Jersey, I could see possibly two games being played there. But for Notre Dame to walk away from the agreement unless all the games were played at the home of the New York Giants/Jets is arrogant at best.

UCONN took a different tact with Notre Dame by scheduling a 10 game home and "sort of home" series between the two institutions. The Huskies, with the support of the Connecticut state legislature, ultimately decided to play their "home" games against the Irish at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA and the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The concern for the state legislature was that UCONN's home stadium, Rentschler Field, is a tax payer funded facility that should be utilized to draw fans to the state and surrounding areas in an effort to spur economic activity. The upshot though, still has UCONN playing six homes games at Rentschler under the agreement with the state legislature, paving the way for the Notre Dame agreement.

I can't disagree with either school's approach to negotiating with Notre Dame. Rutgers did not feel it was appropriate to play Notre Dame anywhere else beside their home field, and UCONN felt otherwise.

There is no question that Notre Dame is on excellent footing by being an unaffiliated football program. It stings to know that they call the Big East Conference home for all sports besides football, but one can't fault the Irish program for capitalizing independently off of their brand name. The recent quality of Fighting Irish football has called into question the validity of not being affiliated with a conference, and the Big East's resilience in the face of teams departing for the ACC, has opened up the idea of Notre Dame potentially joining the likes of traditional programs such as Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, and others. It will be interesting to see what transpires at the conclusion of next season, when Notre Dame's television contract with NBC expires. Will the Big East make the potential ultimatum that the reader (above) makes reference to?

I'm Back and I Come Bearing Links

Apologies to everyone for being MIA since yesterday afternoon. As you can imagine, there are a ton of links to pass your way. As I sit here writing this, I'm witnessing the conclusion of the Eagle Bank Bowl, where Wake Forest has gone on to defeat Navy. Much to many Big East fans' disappointment, the ACC will begin their bowl campaign 1-0. The Big East will attempt to start out in much the same fashion when USF takes on Memphis in the Magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl. I think I speak for everyone when I say "Go Bulls!" On to the links:

Want more? Well, I've got a pair of videos for you too:

ESPN's Todd McShay gives us a Papajohns.com Bowl preview (as you can see, ESPN is on top of their game by having the Pitt logo in the preview, instead of Rutgers):


Hat tip to Brian of reelsportsfan.com for passing along this interview of legendary Syracuse QB Don McPherson:

TGIF Links

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Friday:

From Olin Buchanan's mailbag on rivals.com -- Addressing Notre Dame's conference affiliation issue (Big East mentioned):

From: David in Canton, Ohio: What is keeping Notre Dame from joining the Big Ten?

In 1999, Notre Dame had serious discussions with the Big Ten about joining, but ultimately chose to remain independent in football.

Why? Several reasons, but the bottom line is money. You'd be thrilled if you made $1 million. But what if you made $1 million, then had to share it with 11 others?

By remaining independent, Notre Dame keeps all the revenue it generates in football, while conferences share revenue.

I don't know if Notre Dame ever will change its stance. If the Irish football program remains stuck in mediocrity for another decade, loses some of its national appeal and loses its TV deal with NBC, then maybe it would look into conference affiliation.
Maybe.

Even then, there would be no guarantee the Irish would join the Big Ten. Perhaps in that scenario, they would join the Big East because Notre Dame already is a member in other sports.

Syracuse Is Racist For Not Hiring Turner Gill...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yeah, I can see why Dr. Gross would hate Turner Gill


...So says Gerald Ball on the Bleacher Report. I've got to tell you, I've read a lot of nonsensical garbage in my day, but this one takes the cake. Frankly, it was painful to read the whole thing. It read like a communist manifesto. In fact, I feel dumber for having volunteered 10 minutes of my day to devote to this rag piece. I won't go into detail here on what this guy's logic is for saying Syracuse is racist for not having hired Buffalo's Turner Gill; I'll let you peruse this on your own. Syracuse fans: let the hate mail flow.

On to bigger and better things:

Get your fill of ESPN's Brian Bennett:

I leave you with this video of the USF Beef Studs -- look out for these guys at the St. Pete Bowl on December 20th (HT: Brian at Reelsportsfan.com):


Rivals.com Says Rob Spence for 'Cuse O-Coordinator Is Probably a Done Deal

According to Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com, "Rob Spence is in negotiations to become the offensive coordinator at Syracuse under new coach Doug Marrone". Most recently, the 50 year old Spence, served as Offensive Coordinator at Clemson under Tommy Bowden. Shortly after Dabo Swinney was named interim head coach for the Tigers, Spence was let go.


Spence has also been an offensive coordinator at Toledo, and has held other offensive coaching roles at schools such as Louisiana Tech, Hofstra, and the University of Maryland.

His reputation is one of utilizing a multi-pronged offensive system; not adhering to one offensive play-calling philosophy. His schemes have served him well in that statistically, they have been highly ranked (top 13 in total offense nationally with Toledo and top 4 in the ACC 4 years running with Clemson).

While Syracuse fans may laud Rob Spence's credentials as a play caller, they may come to feel uneasy about his recruiting acumen. According to Rivals, Spence has not been responsible for recruiting ANY of Clemson's recruits over the past four years. Having been at Clemson, Maryland, and Louisiana Tech, one might think Spence would have a reach in the southeast. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case. In fact, part of the reason Dabo Swinney was hired as Clemson head coach was his incredible reputation as a tireless recruiter. It's entirely possible that Swinney parted with Spence due to his lack of recruiting success on the Tigers' behalf.

The anticipated Offensive Coordinator of the Orange played college football for Iona College in New Rochelle, NY, possibly giving him a connection to New York state high school recruiting bases. Others that were rumored to be in the running for the Syracuse Offensive Coordinator post were New England Patriots Wide Receivers Coach Bill O'Brien and former Auburn Offensive Coordinator Al Borges.
Photo courtesy of Scout.com

ESPN's Pat Forde Takes a Page From the Dennis Dodd School of Journalism

Add Pat Forde as another national sports writer who thinks Syracuse made a bad move by hiring Doug Marrone. The criticism, as it's been for all naysayers of this move, is that:

...athletic director Darryl Gross goes out and hires an NFL assistant with no
head-coaching experience. Where have we seen that before? Oh yeah, with
freshly fired Greg Robinson, whose four-year tenure was an absolute train
wreck.

I'll at least give him credit for ripping other major college football hires equally, and ranking Auburn's hiring of Gene Chizik as the worst (take notes Dodd).

Other links for your Thursday enjoyment:

Donovan McNabb on Doug Marrone

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Courtesy of Fox Sports:


I look forward to learning more about new Syracuse head football coach Doug Marrone. I like the fact that the Saints allowed him to leave and get a head start on recruiting. He's ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

Hey Rutgers and Pitt! Syracuse is Gunning for Your Recruits!

Donnie Webb of the Syracuse Post-Standard points out that Doug Marrone's NYC area consigliare and new Secondary Coach John Anselmo, plans on heading down to the Big Apple and surrounding areas to talk to committed Big East recruits. I would think Oday Aboushi of Brooklyn's Xaverian High School will almost certainly get a knock on the door from Anselmo being that he is currently uncommitted.

Big East schools with commits in the tri-state area, namely Rutgers and Pittsburgh, should expect the Syracuse staff to at least attempt to steal away a recruit or two. If you ask me, I say all's fair in love and war. Syracuse has noticeably suffered in the recruiting arena due to the instability of their coaching staff throughout the season. Now that Doug Marrone is firmly in place and hired one new recruiter (and retained two others), he can evaluate the recruiting landscape and talk to kids who made their decisions when Greg Robinson was in charge at Syracuse.

I'll bet that bloggers and fans alike get up in arms over the move by Orange coaches to poach their school's athletes. One must remember though, that after a coach leaves a school (whether by choice or by firing), commits often jump ship and look at their other options. If that's the case, why can't a player who decided he'd rather play football for Greg Schiano than Greg Robinson back in October, go back and make the same comparison between Schiano and Marrone in January? Makes sense doesn't it? I knew you'd see it my way.

Regardless, stay tuned for recruiting updates for all Big East teams as signing day approaches.

Buffalo to the Big East? A Load of Bull If You Ask Me

The ever-popular "Big East expansion" conversation is always in full effect. On the Bleacher Report today, Jeff Kalafa notes that Buffalo could be a viable expansion target for the conference. Admittedly, there are some features about the school that make it an attractive potential piece to the Big East puzzle:

  1. Geographic location
  2. Enrollment size
  3. Public institution with solid academic credentials
  4. A football program that has found recent success

The trumping factor for Buffalo unfortunately, is the fact that it has virtually no presence in any other college sport. Until the Bulls break out solid basketball, hockey, or women's sports programs, I can't see the Big East so much as sniffing in their direction.

B-Squared @ ESPN:
More:

I leave you with the Higher Ed Watch Academic BCS Rankings:



A Pair of 'Neer Links

Enjoy...

Links to Tuck You In

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UCONN's Donald Brown (the nation's leading rusher) has been snubbed again. He's nowhere to be found on AP's All-America First Team. The Big East's consolation prize? Brown is on the second team and Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber made the first team. The conference is represented by a total of eight players spread throughout the first, second, and third teams.

In other news:

Digest These Post-Lunch Links

Patriots Coach O'Brien in the Mix for 'Cuse O-Coordinator?

I'm hearing whispers among sources that current New England Patriots wide receivers coach Bill O'Brien is being considered by new Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone to be the school's offensive coordinator.


O'Brien served under then coach George O'Leary at Georgia Tech (along with Marrone) from 1995-2002 as an offensive assistant, and as offensive coordinator in his final two years with the Yellow Jackets. He then moved on to short stints at the University of Maryland (running backs coach) and Duke (offensive coordinator / qb's).

The ACC coaching veteran joined the New England Patriots prior to the 2007 season as an offensive assistant. He took on the role of receivers coach this year. He is a native of Andover, MA, having attended Brown University.

If the Bill O'Brien hiring comes to fruition, one can assume two things about Doug Marrone's new staff:
  1. He holds the George O'Leary coaching tree in high regard

  2. He values the northeast roots and exposure of his coaching staff (O'Brien - New England / Anselmo - Long Island)