It was another solid day of watching games–I counted 23 games in all where I watched at least significant portions. Not sure if my eyes can keep it up. And the bar food does take its toll.
—It’s clear to me at this point that Michigan’s Denard Robinson is–and will likely remain–the story in this year’s Heisman race. I’m not sure how ESPN’s Heisman Predictor is coming up with Mark Ingram as its leader, especially after a 47-yard effort against Florida that has Ingram solidly ensconced in second on his own team in total rushing yards. No. 22 is more likely to stay in that spot than he is to get back to New York. Anyway, on to Robinson, who has a pretty good chance of hitting some impressive milestones before the season is through. First, I think it’s realistic that he will produce the first 300 rushing/300 passing game in NCAA history. There was a point against Indiana where he looked like he could do just that before missing a series due to a re-aggravation of his sore knee. He may also be en route to 2,000 yards rushing/2,000 yards passing on the season, which of course has never been done. I’ve heard some tutting about Michigan not being very good (probably true) and the resulting speculation is that a couple losses or more could hurt Robinson’s chances at the Heisman. But if Robinson achieves these record-breaking numbers, he will win no matter how many times the horrid Michigan defense blows a game. Voters won’t blame Robinson for the shortcomings of Jonas Mouton and Co. When a player redefines a position, he tends to reap the rewards.
—Ted Miller asks if Oregon is the new USC and I am inclined to say…yesmaybeso. When you look at all the ‘regional’ programs that are out there, Oregon might be the only one with the ability to make that jump to the next level to become a ‘national’ program. How are they doing it? Well, having a close association with Nike helps give the school an element of ‘cool’ that belies its humdrum location. Fantastic facilities and a commitment to winning helps. Having a relatively young coach who runs perhaps the sexiest–and most potent–offense in college football helps. Being known as ‘Track Town USA’ and having a great track program helps create a climate dedicated to speed. It helps to have had some level of success in the past 15 years building up to this point. And then when you take a look at the Ducks’ recruiting lists and see top players committed from places like Arizona and Florida (just a year after getting top players from Texas), you realize that they aren’t just bringing in and coaching up local talent anymore. Incidentally, if you think Dixon, Masoli and now Thomas are good, wait until you get a load of this guy coming in for Oregon next year. With USC down and the other Pac-10 schools stalemating each other, this might be Oregon’s time to become a national power.
—Well, I think the first five weeks have made quick work of the notion that the SEC is head-and-shoulders above all the other conferences this year (just think of all the wasted hyperbole we’ve seen in print and heard on air). Outside of the three As: Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn, there’s not a whole lot for the league to rave about. Florida is still finding its way, Georgia is a major disappointment, LSU is a mess, Tennessee and Kentucky might as well merge. For some reason, South Carolina is considered to be good even though its signature win is over Southern Miss. And things are pretty much the same down Mississippi way. The SEC title game will likely be Florida vs. Alabama, unless Auburn can spring an upset. Is anyone going to be especially impressed by the Tide beating these Gators twice? Should an undefeated Boise State team go to the title game over a one-loss team from this year’s SEC? Heck yeah.
—No one wanted to believe me when I warned about the dangers of hiring Lane Kiffin. I warned Tennessee and we saw what happened there. I warned USC and we see what is happening. There are some coaches who you just can’t quite picture lifting up a trophy to celebrate a championship. Kiffin is one of those guys. The notion is being peddled (mostly by Kiffin) that USC is bereft of talent when, in fact, its roster is far and away the most loaded in the Pac-10 and still in the top five nationally. There are a lot of guys there who will end up playing on Sunday who just aren’t being taught how to play very well on Saturday. USC is headed for 6-7 or 7-6 this year and will be rid of Kiffin within a couple seasons. It would do well to find a coach with no previous ties to the school who has actually proven himself to be a winner in college football.
—Bruce Feldman made a good point recently about the great job Bob Palcic is doing as the UCLA line coach this year. I’ve never seen a more ragtag group of linemen somehow come together and dominate as these guys are doing . Their transformation reminds me of the climactic scenes from Meatballs. Anyway, if you looked around the country at who is in the running for the Broyles Award (given to the top assistant) Palcic would have to be near the top. Other contenders based on what’s been happening on the field: Dana Holgorsen, offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State, Rod Smith, quarterbacks coach for Michigan, Burton Burns, running backs coach for Alabama and, as usual, Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator for Auburn.