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DaKCMan AP
08-28-2009, 08:44 AM
Big 12 blood brothers, Year of Gator in 25 things to watch

Aug. 27, 2009
By Dennis Dodd (http://www.cbssports.com/columns/writers/dodd)
CBSSports.com Senior Writer

This offseason proved that, well, there is no offseason anymore in college football.

The sport has made itself 24/7 round-the-clock without even trying. All those arrests weren't intentional, were they?

The point is, it's time for the annual 25 Things To Watch for 2009. This is where we mock some, salute others and, hopefully, get everyone fired up. It all starts next Thursday. Here's where we've been and where we're going.

1. The Florida Dynasty

What else are you going to call it? The Gators are on the brink of what only two other teams have accomplished -- winning three championships in four years.
With almost everything in their favor, it will almost be monumental (rhymes with "smoke") if Florida doesn't seal the deal. Coaches would give up their annuities for a setup like this.

Tim Tebow is at the top of his game. The entire defense returns. Every backup returns. The Gators don't play Alabama or Mississippi from the SEC West.
It's not a question of if Percy Harvin will be replaced, it's who will be the man (men?) to do it.

The last time a team was this dominant was USC in 2005. It was in the process of winning 34 games in a row before Texas showed up in the Rose Bowl.

Tebow was at USC's last regular-season game that year watching the Trojans destroy UCLA. Four years later, he might get a trip 15 miles up the 110 to Pasadena.

Who will be there to meet the Gators?

2. It's up to the Red River Rivalry

The Dallas streets will run red with the blood of Oct. 17's loser.

Sorry to go Quentin Tarantino on you, but Texas-Oklahoma is beyond big this season. The Sooners and 'Horns will play a loser-leave-town death match in what figures to be the No. 1 regular-season game.

Might as well call it the Blood Red River Rivalry on Oct 17. Either the Longhorns or Sooners have won the Big 12 in seven of nine years this decade. In six of those nine years, the winner of the Texas-OU game has played for the Big 12 title.

Each team has won a national championship this decade.

Each school hates the other's guts.

Add the emotional baggage from last season's three-way tiebreaker, and there are only two words left for October's meeting: extra security.

Texas won the 2008 head-to-head battle, then watched the division race come down to a tie with Texas Tech and Oklahoma. OU won because, well, we're still not quite sure. We'd like to say that the winner has the inside track to a national championship berth with Florida, but there's nothing certain about this year's meeting except more animosity.

3. So, if not Florida, Texas or Oklahoma then who?

That's the point of this season. The list of contenders is five, maybe six. Don't look too far outside the top 10 ...
Alabama because it should win the SEC West and was leading Florida last season in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game. You might have also heard, Nick Saban can coach a little.
Ohio State because it can't stay "down" forever.
USC because Pete Carroll has done everything else -- certainly he can win a national championship with a freshman quarterback.

That's about it.

4. A) Is Tim Tebow the best/greatest/most decorated player of all time?

And other questions we'd like answered this season ...
B) Can the SEC make it four national championships in a row (and five of the past seven)?
C) Is Alabama the team that won its first 12 or more like the one that lost its last two?
D) Will Heisman voters have the -- oh, what is it, guts? -- to give Tebow or Sam Bradford a second stiff-arm?
E) Is Michigan really that bad?
F) Is Boise State really that good?

Answers: A) Yes to all three if Florida wins another title and Tebow gets another Heisman; B) Probably; C) first 12; D) Yes; E) For now, yes; F) For now, yes.

5. The race to the grave

For those of you chronologically challenged, we're only kidding. There is an epic battle being played out in the all-time coaching won-loss column this season.

Imagine being able to see Connie Mack and John McGraw go head-to-head in three World Series. That actually happened. Red Auerbach vs. Phil Jackson didn't. We're somewhere in between with Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. They've coached a combined 1,022 games, only eight against each other. In the winter of their careers, Joe leads Bobby by one (383-382) for the lead in all-time major-college victories.
One of them could take that record to their grave, unless they tie, which would somehow be fitting. The record already is out of reach for mere mortals. With the money being thrown around, current coaches don't feel the competitive or financial need to coach into their 70s, much less their 80s.

So this is it, for at least one more year. A treat for fans, to watch the grand old men of the game try to retire the record. It looks like the NCAA will give us one more season of unfettered competition.

Florida State won't go in front of the NCAA appeals committee until Nov. 15. A final decision might not come until early next year. For now, Bowden will keep his 14 victories. For now, we get to watch two Hall of Famers, two heads of state, actually, still winning at a high rate. Bowden, 79, has Florida State back in the rankings and competing for an ACC title. JoePa, 82, is still playing in Rose Bowls and chasing national championships.

While their last head-to-head meeting was more than three years ago in the Orange Bowl, the battle rages on. Check the NCAA records book

1. Joe Paterno 383-127-3
2. Bobby Bowden 382-123-4
3. Bear Bryant 323-85-17
Amazing.

6. Team of the decade

It will be decided this season. Three teams have won two titles (USC, LSU and Florida). The other championships have been won by Oklahoma, Miami and Ohio State and Texas. If any those four win it all, they'll be in the running with the Trojans, Tigers and Gators.

Only one thing is certain: Florida can grab the distinction outright by winning.

7. The Heisman winner

Colt McCoy. The game's most accurate single-season passer already is Texas' leader in career passing touchdowns.

The Longhorns still don't have a serviceable running game, so look for McCoy to be quarterback/tailback/water boy/equipment manager. Again.

After finishing second to Sam Bradford last year and Texas finishing behind Oklahoma, something tells us McCoy has a Texas-sized chip on his shoulder.

8. Player most likely to join Tebow, Bradford and McCoy in New York

Assuming the Heisman Trust folks have enough money for the airfare and/or he finishes high enough in the voting, watch for Cal's Jahvid Best to make the journey east.

The nation's second-leading returning rusher went for 1,580 yards in 2008. If he has a hand in upsetting USC and/or goes for 2,000 yards, voters will have no choice but to consider giving the hardware to a running back for only the second time since 1999.

9. The player most likely to be overlooked

Kansas' Todd Reesing needs 14 touchdown passes to surpass a former Heisman Trophy winner (Oklahoma's Jason White), a Super Bowl winner (Ole Miss' Eli Manning) and the NFL passing leader (Drew Brees) in career touchdown passes.

Reesing has 68. White, Manning and Brees are tied with 81.

10. Three yards and a warm desert breeze The conference that gave us Elway, Aikman and Leinart, is now (or at least this year) the home of the best running backs in the nation.

For the first time, the Pac-10 returns five 1,000 rushers -- Cal's Jahvid Best, Arizona's Nic Grigsby, Oregon's LeGarrette Blount, Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and Stanford's Toby Gerhart.

"A more physical conference has evolved in the Pac-10," Stanford's Jim Harbaugh said. "Maybe that's why the conference is having so much success."

Yes and no. The league's recent success has been defined by USC, although it did go undefeated in bowls last season (5-0).

11. Notes on a decade of offense

It ends with some truly astounding numbers already in place.
The NCAA tracks 14 offensive categories it calls "trends." For example, average total offense per team has increased from 198.4 yards in 1937 (the first year such stats were compiled) to a record 392.8 in 2007.

Not surprising because of the explosion of offensive strategy and talent as well as rules changes to help offenses. More detail:

Records in nine of those 14 categories have been set in the past two seasons. We're talking all-time highs in average yards per rush, average pass attempts/completions, completion percentage, total offense ...

The top eight seasons for average passes per game have come this decade.

The top three seasons for average completions per team have come since 2005.

It took 44 years for the average team to complete 50 percent of its passes (50.2 percent in 1981). In 2008, only 27 years later, the average nudged up toward 60 percent (59.03 percent).

In 2007, the average passing yards record was set (233.1 per team). That represented a 3.33 percent increase from the previous record set in 2005. That represented the highest leap in that category since 1989, when the average went up 7.95 percent over the previous record.

12. Ole Miss

The line in college football's sand is drawn in Oxford. The Rebels are either the flavor of the week or the team of the year.

The Rebels have been picked as high as No. 5 in the country and as low as fourth in the SEC West. The problem in any assessment is the division. Ole Miss is constantly looking up at Alabama and LSU, at the least.

Part of the optimism flows from 'Bama and LSU coming to Oxford. Sure, Ole Miss beat Florida and won the Cotton Bowl last season, but the Rebels will have to reverse recent trends against their division rivals.

They have lost five in a row to the Tide (13 of the past 15) and five of the past six to LSU.

13. Check your Dome More from the love-'em-or-hate-'em file.

When it comes to Notre Dame, you're either smoking whatever it is Lou Holtz is sucking into his lungs or you're sane. In the space of eight months the Irish have gone from 7-6 to BCS bowl contender. Go figure.

The call here is that the Irish will make a bowl, just not the big one. Will it be enough to save Charlie Weis' job?

That's why you love 'em or hate 'em.

14. Swine flu

OK, this is getting scary.

Outbreaks of the H1N1 virus have occurred at Duke, Tulane and, yes, Arkansas. Officials have said the swine flu could affect 30 to 50 percent of the American population this fall. Vegas bookmakers have said an outbreak could affect a line to the point they could take a game(s) off the board.

You're way ahead of us on the irony meter if you've determined that the Hogs have been dealing with swine flu.

15. Why the SEC needs to get over itself

The fact that Tim Tebow wasn't a unanimous pick to the coaches' preseason All-SEC team was a minor -- no, major controversy.

Coaches were eliminated like suspects in Clue during the SEC media days. Finally, Steve Spurrier copped to being the one who left Tebow off his ballot. You can imagine that held a bit of weight since Spurrier is the patron saint of Florida football.

Anyway, the crisis was averted when Spurrier blamed his football operations guy (who filled out the ballot). Spurrier was allowed to change "his" vote by the SEC.

Crisis averted, no one was injured. Mr. and Mrs. Dixie can go on with their lives.

16. Streaking

Longest current winning streaks
14: Utah -- Most likely to end: Sept. 19 at Oregon.
10: Florida -- Oct. 10 at LSU.
10: USC -- Sept. 12 at Ohio State.
7: Rice -- Sept. 12 at Texas Tech.
7: Rutgers -- Sept. 7 vs. Cincinnati.

Longest current losing streaks
14: Washington -- Most likely to end: Sept. 12. vs. Idaho.
10: SMU -- Sept. 5 vs. Stephen F. Austin.
10: Iowa State -- Sept. 5 vs. North Dakota State.
8: Tulane -- Sept. 26 vs. McNeese State.
7: New Mexico State -- Sept. 12 vs. Prairie View A&M.

17. In and Out Trends come and go. These are the latest ...

In: Lane Kiffin's mouth
Out: Decorum in the South

In: Duke point guards
Out: Stud right guards

In: Vacation of victories
Out: Vacation at the beach

In: Jahvid Best
Out: Doing your best

In: Georgia Tech
Out: Texas Tech

In: BYU
Out: Utah

In: Florida
Out: Everyone else

In: Spring games
Out: Spring break

In: BCS suits unhappy on Capitol Hill
Out: BCS suits' happy hour at Capital Grille

In: Tim Tebow
Out: Jim Thorpe

In: Having the football operations guy fill out a coaches poll ballot
Out: Transparency

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/story/12120998

DaKCMan AP
08-28-2009, 08:46 AM
18. Hollywood recruiting opportunity

When a studio green-lighted a movie version (http://www.wolfereports.com/?p=3159SEC%20coaches) of The Blind Side, both current and former coaches stumbled all over themselves to get on film.

Or at least that's how it seemed. Nick Saban, Phil Fulmer, Houston Nutt, Tommy Tuberville and Ed Orgeron appear in the film that tells the story of former Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher. The movie could turn out to be a commentary on the coaching profession.

Saban, now at Alabama, had to don an LSU shirt to portray himself as the Tigers' coach. That's two jobs ago. Nutt, the current Ole Miss coach, recruited Oher while he was at Arkansas. Fulmer and Tuberville lost their jobs at Tennessee and Auburn. Orgeron, who originally landed Oher at Ole Miss as its head coach, is now an assistant at Tennessee.

The film is scheduled to be released Nov. 20, the day before Ole Miss' game against LSU. Oher? A first-round draft choice with the Baltimore Ravens.

19. From first to worst: The Greg Paulus Story

Duke's point guard hasn't played football for four years. Paulus then went through nine practices and won the starting job for the Orange. Not sure if that says more about Paulus or Syracuse.

After exhausting his eligibility with the Blue Devils, Paulus called around to see if anyone needed a quarterback for a season. Syracuse did. Paulus' arrival was less about finding a winning football program and more about finding a place, any place, to play. Just watch him on the triple option. The kid knows how to drop a dime, er, pitch out.

20. 0-4 and out the door?

Miami coach Randy Shannon is in one of more unique binds of 2009. He has one quarterback (Jacory Harris) who has taken a snap in a game. He has to guide the 'Canes through one of the most brutal schedules in the country.

He has only two years left on his contract. Recruits, Shannon says, are starting to ask if he is going to be around when they graduate. Shannon isn't sure. The administration (AD Kirby Hocutt) has refused to extend Shannon after the third-year coach won 12 games in his first two seasons.

Hocutt is probably waiting to see how Shannon negotiates a brutal opening stretch -- at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. Miami could go 1-3 and be significantly improved from last season and its coach could be in trouble.

21. All-Name Team

(A special welcome to a certain Nebraska defensive tackle who is a multi-time honoree on our annual combination of tongue trippers)

Offense
QB: (tie) Ju-Ju Clayton, Virginia Tech/Kale Pick, Kansas
RB-LeGarrette Blount, Oregon
RB: Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
WR: Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
WR: Kito Poblah, Central Michigan
OL: Caleb Schlauderaff, Utah
OL: Sampson Genus, South Florida
OL: Selvish Capers, West Virginia
OL: Pontus Bondeson, Duke
OL: Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech
TE: Michael Hoomanawanui, Illinois

Defense
DL: Cordarrow Thompson, Virginia Tech
DL: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
DL: Oscar Ponce de Leon, Tulane
DL: Jerzy Siewierski, UCLA
LB: Quillie Odom, Virginia Tech
LB: Ovid Goulbourne, West Virginia
LB: Bear Woods, Troy
DB: Ochuko Jenije, Florida State
DB: Guesly Dervil, West Virginia
DB: Knowledge Timmons, Penn State
DB: Boubacar Cissoko, Michigan

Special teams
K: San San Te, Rutgers
P: Kase Whitehead, Marshall
R: Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State

22. Four non-BCS schools in top 25

That might be a sign of parity. Actually, it's a sign of parity in the Mountain West.
Boise State is coming off its second undefeated regular season in three years.

TCU last won a conference title in 2005, but Gary Patterson might be the nation's best defensive mind. After Florida, TCU allowed Oklahoma the fewest points last season (35).

The Horned Frogs are favored to win the Mountain West after finishing No. 1 nationally in defense in '08.

BYU has won 38 games the past four years and has an 18-game home winning streak. Heisman candidate Max Hall and a loaded offense take on Oklahoma in the opener.
Utah will dip a bit after completing its second undefeated season in five years.

23. The evil coaches poll

Remember this the next time you get upset about the clandestine way the coaches arrange the national championship race.

It's easier to request someone's military records than to find out who is voting for whom in the coaches poll. In other words, you can find out who went AWOL but not who will step up in coaching profession.

This is not meant to paint with too broad a brush. As of Thursday, Air Force's Troy Calhoun and South Florida's Jim Leavitt had released their preseason ballots.

24. Twitter

If we're lucky, in six months this Miley Cyrus-meets-Silicon Valley trend will be deader than Justin Feagin's career. (http://freep.com/article/20090809/SPORTS06/90809032/Cocaine-deal-led-to-Feagin-s-fall-at-U-M)

The 140-character update became all the rage among coaches who used it to ... let's face it, stay in touch with recruits. It's hard to imagine anyone being interested in a 50-year-old man's lunch, but it's America and we're weird that way.

25. It's not like he's Justin Feagin or something

If Xavier Hicks can navigate the pitfalls of a big-time college career, well, anyone can.
The fact that the Washington State fifth-year senior will line up as a starter against Stanford on opening day is a bit of miracle. And stunning.

While driving home last summer, Hicks was pulled over and found to have a suspended license. Wait, did we leave out he was driving home from jail? Hicks had just served a 45-day sentence resulting from convictions for credit-card theft and intent to commit assault.

Hicks already had violated the terms of his work-release agreement by blowing off his grocery-store job in order to lift weights at Washington State. The assault charge came after Hicks put rubbing alcohol in teammate Grady Maxwell's contact-lens case. Maxwell never put on his contacts, thank God.

Naturally, coach Paul Wulff came down with a hammer, suspending Hicks for the first three games of the 2008 season. His career is alive, which leads one to believe that Mr. Hicks can play a little football too.

To sum up, the X Man has been stopped twice for driving with a suspended license, arrested in 2005 and 2007 and knows his way around cleaning chemicals.
If this season is all about Florida, call Xavier Hicks the anti-Tebow.