Even in down year, USC still looks like team to beat in Pac-10
This week, we're talking USC football -- both on-field and off.
It's highly unlikely the Trojans will be as dominant as last year, when they boasted a top five NFL quarterback (
Of the three, Cal is the only one I feel reasonably certain will be improved. The Bears return the entire starting front four and secondary from the nation's 26th-ranked defense, a third-year QB (
Meanwhile, Oregon's strong finish last season has earned it a whole lot of preseason acclaim, but I'm not sure people realize just how much attrition that team has endured. In addition to a head-coaching change, the Ducks lost most of their offensive line and receiving corps and nearly every big-name defender. Oregon State is always tough to predict, but my guess is the Beavers will put up another 9-4-type season.
USC's reign atop the Pac-10 will come to an end eventually, but I learned long ago to stop doubting
No one from the NCAA, Pac-10 or any other involved party is allowed to speak about the "ongoing" investigation, but if I had to guess...
1) The investigation has shifted entirely to ex-coach
2) While it was abundantly clear to anyone who read the original Yahoo! reports
3) Therefore, when the NCAA announced in April it was combining the football and basketball probes, it was probably doing so as a convenient way to save face. At some point in the near future, the NCAA will announce its findings, and while it may well result in severe penalties for the hoops program, football will likely be scantily mentioned or affected. The football team can't lose scholarships due to the basketball team's infractions.
This will surely cause no shortage of outrage among fans nationwide, who will accuse the NCAA of playing favorites (especially since it just nailed Alabama for the oh-so heinous crime of players selling textbooks). I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I just think the NCAA's enforcement department, which carries no subpoena power, is largely powerless. Unless a case involves active players with eligibility issues, or unless a related lawsuit or criminal case exists on which it can piggy back, investigators tend to curl up in a ball.
This has got to be a Mailbag first -- a fan seeking validation that his team
I have nothing but overwhelming respect for what Snyder accomplished at K-State the first time around, but no, it's not going to happen again. Can the Wildcats return to bowl games consistently? Absolutely. Will they become a perennial top 10 program again? Highly doubtful.
For one, Snyder's signature strategy -- supplementing his roster with a sizable dose of juco recruits -- is far riskier today due to the APR implications if those recruits don't pan out academically, and far more schools are competing for the elite prospects. Secondly, Snyder recruited heavily in Texas and built his program during a period of sustained mediocrity in Austin and at Oklahoma. It's no coincidence K-State's demise (a losing season in 2004, Snyder's second-to-last) began around the same time
Ultimately, however, the embarrassing financial revelations that rocked the K-State community this offseason may affect the program more than any of that. In case you missed it, former AD
Clearly, heads will roll and things will change, and I just can't see it working out well for Snyder. It would be a shame to see him tarnish a previously impeccable legacy.
Back in December, I took it one step further than that. When SI.com asked me to list
While it's true more nationally elite teams (Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss and possibly Georgia and/or LSU) reside in the SEC, there could be a pretty steep drop-off after that. Most of the other teams in that league are in some form of transition. That's how the ACC was for many years, as the league gradually ran off a slew of underachieving coaches (
In addition to prohibitive favorite Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, Miami, NC State and Clemson could all potentially field top 25 teams. It's rare to look at a conference before the season and say, "I could see any of 11 teams reaching a bowl." (Sorry, Duke). When there's almost no dead weight, you've got a tough league.
The only time strength of schedule matters is in the national-title discussion. If Penn State were to go undefeated and its opponents (Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois) prove as weak as projected, and the Big Ten's reputation continues to stink (i.e., if USC crushes Ohio State again), then there's a realistic possibility the title game could pass on the Nittany Lions for a more credentialed team. But if all you're talking about is a BCS bowl berth, well, 10-2 is 10-2. I'm sure someone in Miami, New Orleans or Glendale would be happy to have them.
Incidentally, I realize Penn State is taking a lot of heat for its schedule this season -- to the point where its co-captains,
If I could take back two words I've written at any time in my career, they would be "mildly attractive." The many of you who e-mailed are well justified in questioning my sanity, because there's no denying Evangeline Lilly
I'm serious about this. For the most part, I sit in genuine awe of
And ... scene.
I don't have any major grievances, especially now that the play-clock rules seem to have stabilized. However, I do get annoyed from time to time at the preponderance of ticky-tack pass-interference calls that help bail out offenses on third-and-12. I realize pass interference is a judgment call, and therefore one that's hard to "revise," but it seems odd that the same, 15-yard penalty that applies to a cornerback who knows he's about to get burned down the sideline and purposefully shoves the receiver off course also applies when a safety's hand happens to graze an opposing receiver's shoulder while jostling for a jump ball.
My suggestion: adopt the NFL's more severe pass-interference penalty -- which moves the ball to the spot of the foul -- but instruct the officials to enforce it more selectively.
Plenty of programs have plummeted as badly as Louisville, which went from 12-1 in Petrino's last season to 6-6 and 5-7 the past two years under Kragthorpe. However, the Cardinals' situation may be more dire due to their less-established tradition. Over the years, whenever a longtime power like USC or Alabama experienced a few down years, one could reasonably assume it wouldn't stay down for long. With that much tradition and built-in recognition, all it takes is the right coach to come along and steer the ship back on course. Louisville, however, has invested an awful lot -- mainly $72 million on a stadium expansion -- based largely on faith and a relatively brief spurt of national prominence.
The Cardinals are less than five years removed from Conference USA, and right now they're a lot closer to that level than they are to the
Remember that question earlier about any rules changes I'd like to see? Here's one: Don't go playing the "no respect" card when your team hasn't posted a winning record in four years.