Monday, November 30, 2009

Weis’ Dismissal A Matter Of Wins & Losses

By Mark J. Zavodnyik

When Charlie Weis arrived at Notre Dame, he found a program severely lacking in talent, facilities, and direction.

The university and its fans expected the team to compete for national championships, but there was no infrastructure in place to accomplish that goal.

Under Weis, the talent level at Notre Dame has been significantly upgraded. Weis brought a cache that resonated with recruits and made the school a factor in the decision-making process of many of the country’s top players. Weis’ recruiting classes were consistently rated among the top ten by national recruiting services.

Today, the Notre Dame football program is a well-run, modern machine. The talent and facilities have been upgraded. The administration, admissions department and the football program are now on the same page and communicate effectively.

Weis was able to accomplish all of this while running a clean program that finished first in graduation success rate this year.

But in the end, it’s about wins and losses. And nobody knows this more than Weis.

Weis’ first two seasons at Notre Dame were successful. The Irish went 19-6 during that period and played in BCS games following the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Since that time, however, Weis has guided Notre Dame to paltry 16-21 record.

The numbers get worse. Weis was 1-25 against teams finishing in the top 25 of any major poll. In 2007 Weis became the first Notre Dame coach to lose to Navy since 1961. He did not once, but twice.

His 10-15 record from 2007-2008 is the worst two-year period in Notre Dame football history. And the most significant stat: Weis’ record against Southern Cal: 0-5.

After weeks of speculation, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced on Monday that Weis had been fired.

"We have great expectations for our football program, and we have not been able to meet those expectations," Swarbrick said. "As an alumnus, Charlie understands those goals and expectations better than most, and he's as disappointed as anyone that we have not achieved the desired results."

With that, a nation of fans begins to continuously refresh message boards, blogs and websites hoping that a kernel of news will spill out of the rumor mill indicating that the next Notre Dame head coach will bring inspiration to the masses. Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Bruce Springsteen.

As the next days unfold, and F5 buttons are worn down, a multitude of candidates will be whispered as the savior of Notre Dame football.

“So-and-So just bought a house in South Bend.” Or, “I just heard from my cousin that the Notre Dame plane was spotted on a runway a few miles from Gainesville.”

Whether the next coach is Stoops, Brian Kelly, or Mike Ditka, he will be expected to win quickly. The pieces are in place. Weis put them there.

At his introductory news conference in 2004, Weis said: "You are what you are, folks…and right now you're a 6-5 football team. And guess what? That's just not good enough. That's not good enough for you, and it's certainly not going to be good enough for me."

The record of 6-5 was not good enough when he arrived, and 6-6 is not good enough as he leaves.

Photos Courtesy of Notre Dame Sports Information

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giants End Losing Streak

The New York Giants won a game they had to win as Eli Manning had a career day at home—something he seldom does. That’s the short version. Manning threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns (two to Kevin Boss) and their young receivers put on a show in front of the home crowd. Mario Manningham, Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks combined for 15 receptions and 275 yards. That’s a passing attack, and it doesn’t even include the Big Boss Man’s five for 76 yards. So why was this game in overtime? One reason was the Giants’ inability to run the ball against Atlanta. Twenty-six carries for a measly 88 yards? Really? Against an Atlanta team ranked 24th in the league against the run? Against an Atlanta team which yielded 185 yards to Carolina on 34 totes (5.4 ypc) a week ago? The passing game bailed them out in this game…but will that passing game be as effective in the weeks ahead? I’m a bit skeptical considering the Giants will play half of their remaining games in potential bad weather locations in prime time. Cold, windy, not fun…that’s how’d I’d describe at Denver, Philly at home and at Washington for night games.

This Giants team is going nowhere if they aren’t able to run the ball…and we know they can. They’ve done it as recently as the Philadelphia loss. But the inconsistency of Manning is now matched by a similar lack of reliability in the rushing attack. Woe is the team who cannot perform with consistency on offense. Defensively, everyone knew what was coming in the fourth quarter, didn’t we? The Giants went up 31-17 when the adult film-named Madison Hedgecock hauled in a three-yard Manning pass…but the end was not near. In typical Giants fashion, the defense let the opposition right back into the game, giving up a touchdown on the ensuing Falcons’ drive. It can be argued that the home team’s D played a solid first half…what cannot be argued is this: In the second half, the Falcons had the ball four times and scored four times. That’s not a playoff defense and it’s certainly not what Giant fans expected against a Michael Turner-less Atlanta team which was forced to come from behind. Good—not even great—defenses tend to tee off on the opposition once their offense has established a lead. Not the Giants. They let Matt Ryan throw all over them and allowed Turner’s understudy—the immortal Jason Snelling—to find the end zone twice.

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to see Atlanta kick that extra point to tie the score instead of going for two. Mike Smith should have rolled the dice. I know, I know—after the Bill Belichick call on fourth down, no one wants to get into another debate, but think about it. The Falcons’ defense couldn’t stop Manning. The Giants defense had given up four scores on four second-half possessions. The Big Blue D was melting. The Atlanta D was a no-show. Why not try to end the game there? Instead, Smith’s defenseless Birds lost the coin flip and the game was over right there. Coaches are afraid of risk taking, even when it makes sense…even when their gut tells them to do it. There’s no way Smith had any confidence in his defense at that point, but (unlike Belichick) he feared the second-guessers. As a result, he played it safe and his team will now have to rely on others to make the playoffs. The Giants won the game, and at this point in the season, that’s all that really matters. But the red flags still exist. With a short week and a Thanksgiving game against a reeling Denver team coming up, followed by home games against Dallas and Philly, their season will be determined over the next three games. In my mind, if they go 3-0 or even 2-1 they’ll make the playoffs. Anything less and they’ll be watching the post-season with the rest of us, wondering what happened to their 5-0 start.

Friday, November 20, 2009

CFI Preview: Connecticut @ Notre Dame

By Mark J. Zavodnyik

An era will likely end when Notre Dame hosts Connecticut on Saturday afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.

It is senior day for Notre Dame and Irish fans will cheer on its fourth and fifth year players for the final time in their home stadium. It is also likely the final home game for quarterback Jimmy Clausen. The junior from Westlake Village, CA is one of the nation’s top signal-callers and a likely first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Not only that, embattled Irish head coach Charlie Weis could be coaching his last game on the sidelines at Notre Dame Stadium. After suffering the season’s fourth defeat last week against Pittsburgh, the cat calls screaming for Weis’ departure have reached a fever pitch.

On the other side of the field, Connecticut continues to press on through a season that was altered when junior cornerback Jasper Howard was stabbed to death on October 18.

The Huskies have been heroic in their ability to continue to play games while such intense pain and sadness surrounds the program. UConn has played well since Howard’s death, but has just one victory to show for their efforts.

In fact, it has been a season of close calls for head coach Randy Edsall and the Huskies. All five of Connecticut’s losses have come by a combined 15 points.

Keys for a Connecticut Victory

1) Establish the Husky running duo: Edsall’s vision for UConn to be a physical, power running attack came to fruition last year in Donald Brown, who led the nation with more than 2000 rushing yards. Brown went on to be selected in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2009 NFL draft.

This season UConn has two highly effective running backs in sophomore Jordan Todman and redshirt senior Andre Dixon. The Husky rushing duo has been the driving force behind the UConn offense this year. Together they have combined for 1,556 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.

Todman had his best game of the season two weeks ago against Cincinnati. The sophomore from North Dartmouth, MA rushed for 162 yards on 26 carries and four touchdowns.

UConn will look to utilize Todman and Dixon early in this game in an effort to establish momentum and take pressure off quarterback Zach Frazer. It is important for the Huskies to establish a solid running attack because…

2) Edsall does not want to rely on Frazer: The passing game is merely a secondary option in the Husky offensive attack. UConn does not have the firepower to score a lot of points through the air, so it is important for them to establish a ground game. In their recent offensive shootout against Cincinnati, four of the Huskies’ five touchdowns came via the run game.

Frazer began the season as the starting quarterback but injured his knee against North Carolina. Redshirt sophomore Cody Endres was playing very well in relief of Frazer until he was injured in UConn’s loss to Rutgers on October 31. After the Rutgers game, Endres underwent season-ending surgery on his non-throwing shoulder.

The Huskies do not want to put the game into the hands of Frazer. The redshirt junior from Mechanicsburg, PA has struggled with his accuracy this season, throwing four touchdown passes against seven interceptions in just four games.

Ideally, UConn will establish Todman and Dixon and then allow Frazer to make simple reads on short to intermediate throws.

If Frazer can find some rhythm in the passing game, he will look to the Huskies’ leading receiver Marcus Easley. The senior from Stratford, Conn. has 26 catches for 559 yards and five touchdowns on the season.

Keys for a Notre Dame Victory

1) Remember how to tackle: Notre Dame’s once reliable run defense has vanished.

During the first part of the season, the Irish rush defense did well, holding a number of effective running teams to well below their season average. Nevada is the best rushing team in college football at 353.1 yards per game. Notre Dame held them to just 153 yards on the ground.

A week after Montel Harris of Boston College torched NC State for 264 yards and five touchdowns, the Irish defense held him to just 38 yards.

However, all that has changed in recent weeks. In their last two games to Navy and Pittsburgh, Notre Dame has allowed a combined 584 rushing yards.

The Irish defense has become a cautionary tale of poor tackling. The erratic unit is now allowing its opponents a generous average of 153.2 yards per game on the ground.

It is very difficult to win or even get a lead in a game when the opponent can so easily dictate the tempo on the ground.

If the Notre Dame defense plays like it did against Boston College, they will come close to making UConn one dimensional. Notre Dame has a great chance to win the game if UConn is forced to heavily rely on Frazer.

2) Expose Connecticut’s cornerbacks: The Husky defense is led by a trio of seasoned linebackers: captain Scott Lutrus, Greg Lloyd, and Lawrence Wilson. Wilson and Lloyd are the UConn’s leading tacklers.

However, after the men in the middle, UConn is highly inexperienced defensively. This lack of experience is particularly evident in the secondary.

The Huskies frequently employ a nickel defensive package, utilizing three cornerbacks.
Since the devastating loss of Howard, UConn has been forced to start two freshmen at cornerback.

With such inexperience in the secondary, Notre Dame will look to exploit the mismatch and get the ball as much as possible into the hands of its top-flight receivers Golden Tate & Michael Floyd.

The duo is arguably the best receiving combination in all of college football. Floyd is second on the team in receiving yards despite missing five games with a broken collarbone. Tate has been all-world this season, leading Notre Dame in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. The junior from Hendersonville, TN is averaging 117.2 receiving yards per game, the fourth best average in the nation.


Connecticut is arguably the best 4-5 team in the country. The Huskies play physical football and they get solid production from their two running backs. When facing a talented opponent on the road, a power running game is a great weapon to have in one’s arsenal. (See: UConn @ Cincinnati two weeks ago) The Huskies will rush for more than 150 yards as a team.

However, Notre Dame’s skill players on offense will provide match-up problems that the Huskies will be unable to overcome.

The Irish will build a lead in the third quarter and Frazer’s inconsistency will not allow UConn to mount a comeback. The fact that Frazer returns to the school from which he transferred means he will likely be throwing from a mental state that is never good for a quarterback: He will try to do too much.

Score: Notre Dame 30, Connecticut, 23

Photos Courtesy of UConn Athletic Communications, Notre Dame Sports Information

Heisman Ballot: Week 12

This Week’s Heisman Ballot is our determination of the five best players in college football. Here is the Heisman Trophy ballot we would submit if the season ended today.

1. C.J. Spiller, Running Back, Clemson Tigers

Last Game:
18 rushes for 97 yards, one touchdown; 3 receptions for 48 yards, one touchdown; 1-of-1 passing, 17 yards, 1 touchdown in a 43-22 victory over NC State.

Analysis: Spiller showcased his versatility against the Wolfpack on Saturday. He found the end zone in three different ways: rushing, receiving, and even throwing a touchdown pass in the second quarter. Spiller is the most dynamic running back college football has seen since Reggie Bush.

2. Case Keenum, Quarterback, Houston Cougars

Last Game:
33-of-56 passing, 377 yards, three touchdowns, one interception in a 37-32 loss to UCF.

Analysis: Keenum’s Heisman chances took a big hit on Saturday when the Cougars fell to Central Florida. Houston had a 17-3 lead in the second quarter, but Central Florida rallied, building a 37-20 lead in the fourth quarter. If not for two late touchdown throws by Keenum, the game wouldn’t have been close. Despite his incredible statistics, Keenum will likely have to settle for an invitation to New York without actually winning the trophy.

3. Mark Ingram, Running Back, Alabama Crimson Tide

Last Game:
19 rushes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-3 victory over Mississippi State

Analysis: Ingram continues to put up great numbers in the country’s best defensive conference. The SEC’s leading rusher is the most consistent and potent offensive weapon on the nation’s second ranked team. Ingram’s 70-yard touchdown run on Saturday was his longest of the season.

4. Toby Gerhart, Running Back, Stanford Cardinal

Last Game:
29 rushes for 178 yards and three touchdowns in Stanford’s 55-21 victory over USC.

Analysis: The newest entry to the ballot could very well be the eventual winner. Gerhart had quietly put together a very solid season before Saturday’s victory over Southern Cal. However Gerhart will no longer lurk behind the scenes. Stanford’s big, physical rusher played a huge role in Stanford’s dominant performance over USC. The Cardinal finished with 55 points, more than any opponent has ever scored on the Trojans in the history of USC football. Gerhart is third in the nation in rushing with 1395 yards.

5. Golden Tate, Receiver, Notre Dame

Last Game:
Nine receptions for 113 yards, one touchdown, two punt returns for 101 yards, one touchdown in a 27-22 loss to Pittsburgh.

Analysis: Tate will likely not be a Heisman finalist. Regardless he is one of the nation’s most electrifying and impressive players. Tate continued a season of clutch performances with two fourth quarter touchdowns that almost single-handedly allowed Notre Dame to earn a comback victory over Pittsburgh.

Outside Looking In: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Colt McCoy (Texas), Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame)

Photo Courtesy of Clemson SID

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bowl Projections

Breaking Down the Bowl Game schedule, and some potential match-ups


1.7.10 - Citi BCS Championship Game (BCS #1 vs. BCS #2) Texas vs. Alabama -
A very satisfying Championship: Two coaches with rings and 13-0 squads. What’s not to love?


1.1.10 - Rose Bowl presented by Citi (BCS/Big Ten Champ If Available vs. BCS/Pac-10 Champ If Available) Ohio State vs. Oregon - Only thing you’d need is Keith Jackson to make it complete.

1.1.10 - Allstate Sugar Bowl (BCS/SEC Champ If Available vs. BCS) Florida vs. Cincinnati - An undefeated Bearcats team could prove themselves to all the Big East haters out there by knocking off the SEC runner-up.

1.4.10 - Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (BCS/Big 12 Champ If Available vs. BCS) Boise State vs. Iowa - Some other candidates for this bowl game would be…Oklahoma State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Stanford or USC.

1.5.10 - FedEx Orange Bowl (BCS/ACC Champ If Available vs. BCS) Georgia Tech vs. TCU - Perhaps one of the most entertaining potential match-ups of any of the BCS games, it features pass rushers, quirky offenses and a galore of speedsters.


12.19.09 - New Mexico Bowl (WAC vs. Mountain West) Nevada vs. Ohio - These are the glory years for Wolf Pack football…this would be their fourth consecutive bowl game.

12.20.09 - R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (C-USA vs. Sun Belt) Southern Miss vs. Troy - The Troy Trojans have been sort of a dynasty in the Sun Belt.

12.19.09 - St. Petersburg Bowl (Big East vs. C-USA) South Florida vs. Central Florida - The winner will take home a trophy and an edge in the recruiting battle. Not to mention the right to talk smack all off-season.

12.22.09 - Las Vegas Bowl (Mountain West vs. Pac-10) Utah vs. Arizona - Could the Wildcats make it back-to-back Vegas Bowl wins?

12.23.09 - San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Mountain West vs. Pac-10 or WAC) BYU vs. California - Could feature two pre-season Heisman candidates in Max Hall and Jahvid Best. Get your scoreboard ready!

12.24.09 - Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (WAC vs. C-USA) Fresno State vs. East Carolina - Christmas Eve football is always fun.

12.26.09 - Meineke Car Care Bowl (Big East vs. ACC) North Carolina vs. Pittsburgh - Head Coaches Dave Wannstedt and Butch Davis once hooked up in the NFL when the Dolphins defeated in the Browns. One of the two will get their first bowl victory at their current school.

12.26.09 - Little Caesars Bowl (MAC vs. Big Ten) Central Michigan vs. Iowa State -
There’s a chance a Big Ten team would be in this one, imagine Michigan? We can’t either…

12.26.09 - Emerald Bowl (Pac-10 vs. ACC) Boston College vs. Stanford -
Two of the more surprising teams of the year.

12.27.09- Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (ACC vs. SEC) Clemson vs. Auburn - Getting your money’s worth. These two teams could be ranked coming in.

12.28.09 - AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl (SEC vs. Big 12) South Carolina vs. Kansas State - Two coaches who’ve seen better days (Steve Spurrier and Bill Snyder).

12.29.09 - EagleBank Bowl (ACC vs. Army/Conference USA) Duke vs. Marshall -
The Blue Devils are one win away from becoming eligible, an amazing turn around from 1-11 in 2007.

12.29.09 - Champs Sports Bowl - (ACC vs. Big Ten) Florida State vs. Michigan State - Could be Head Coach Bobby Bowden’s final game.

12.30.09 - Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl (WAC vs. Mountain West) Idaho vs. Middle Tennessee State - Idaho A.D. Rob Spear refused to fly on Horizon airlines because their planes featured Boise State colors (and logo), now his team is likely to play on the Smurf Turf. Can anyone offer him a ride?

12.30.09 - Texas Bowl (Big XII vs. Navy) Texas Tech vs. Navy –
Would Coach Mike Leach be more likely to twitter on the sidelines or run Navy’s triple-option?

12.30.09 - Pacific Life Holiday Bowl (Pac-10 vs. Big XII) USC vs. Oklahoma - Pete Carroll vs. Bob Stoops.

12.31.09 - Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (Mountain West vs. C-USA) Air Force vs. Southern Methodist – Classic contrast: Run and Shoot vs. Triple Option.

12.31.09 - Burt Sun Bowl (Pac-10 vs. Big 12/Big East/Notre Dame) Oregon State vs. Notre Dame - A Notre Dame coach once got fired right before a bowl game facing Oregon State. Tyrone Willingham right before the 2004 Insight Bowl.

12.31.09 - Insight Bowl (Big 12 vs. Big Ten) Missouri vs. Minnesota - Gophers looking to end their Insight Bowl woes – lost in both 2006 and 2008.

12.31.09 - Chick-Fil-A Bowl (SEC vs. ACC) Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech – Expect bigger things in 2011…

1.1.10 - Outback Bowl (Big Ten vs. SEC) Wisconsin vs. Georgia - Two underrated teams, two hardnosed running games.

1.1.10 - Capital One Bowl (SEC vs. Big Ten) LSU vs. Penn State -
Daunting defenses and classic jerseys, however a potential one-sided match-up.

1.1.10 - Konica Minolta Gator Bowl (ACC vs. Big 12/Big East/Notre Dame) Nebraska vs. Miami (FL) - 1984, 2001, 2010?

1.2.10 - International Bowl (Big East vs. MAC) Rutgers vs. Temple - It used to be a battle for the basement in the Big East, now is a contest between programs on the rise.

1.2.10 - Papa Bowl (Big East vs. SEC) West Virginia vs. Kentucky - Sounds more like this year’s Elite Eight in the NCAAs.

1.2.10 - AT&T Cotton Bowl (Big 12 - SEC) Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss - Features two exciting quarterbacks in Jevan Snead and Zac Robinson. Remember, in the pre-season these two teams were considered to be national title sleepers…

1.2.10 - AutoZone Liberty Bowl (C-USA vs. SEC) Houston vs. Arkansas - Over/Under around 83?

1.2.10 - Valero Alamo Bowl (Big Ten vs. Big 12) Northwestern vs. Texas A&M -
For only the second time in school history Northwestern will be heading to back-to-back Bowl games. Now can they get their first post-season win since 1948?

1.6.10 - GMAC Bowl (ACC or WAC) Northern Illinois vs. Wyoming -
The Wyoming Cowboys are just one win away from being bowl eligible.

Photos Courtesy of SEC Sports Media, Jaren Wilkey/BYU, FSU Sports Information, Dave

Draft Watch: Oklahoma State Cowboys

We have a Big 12 game tonight on Thursday Night College Football, players to watch for the 2010 NFL Draft are the following.

QB Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State - Robinson plays in a spread offense that so much of college football is going to, which makes it hard for NFL personal to really get a true evaluation off what a quarterback can do at the next level. Robinson is a good athlete and can move in the pocket to give himself time to get the ball down field and he does have a strong arm. He hasn’t had the season that many people thought he would, some of which is due to the NCAA suspension of his top receiver Dez Bryant. He is completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,922 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Colorado native has also rushed for 302 yards and four touchdowns. Right now looks, the Poke's signal caller looks like a 6th or 7th round pick, someone a team will want to develop for down the road.

RB Keith Toston, Oklahoma State – Toston has really improved his draft stock this season, with the loss of Bryant the Cowboys have become more of a running team and with Kendall Hunter injured for much of the season, Toston he been the focal point of the ground game. The senior has good size at 6' 0" and 214 pouds, with some good numbers as well (958 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns, 5.4 yards per carry). Toston has also caught 22 passes for 211 yards. The biggest question mark is going to be his straight line speed, which is why he will go somewhere around the 5th round.

OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State – As the season winds down, Okung, appears to be a sure fire top 10 pick and could be the first offensive tackle drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft. Okung is a durable player having started since he was a true freshman. He is a good athlete, with good lateral mobility which allows him to be a very good pass protector (read: left tackle). He has quick feet and fluid movement, and also possesses a mean streak that scouts look for in offensive linemen. Coming from the spread offense that Oklahoma State runs, Okung will need to improve as a run blocker. He also needs to get stronger in the weight room.

OG Andrew Lewis, Oklahoma State – Lewis has the ability to play both guard and center and has decent size at 6' 4" and 295 pounds. The interior lineman does a good job in pass blocking, but needs to get a little stronger in run blocking and that will come in time. He has good feet and is a good overall athlete. Expect Lewis to get drafted towards the end of the draft.

OLB Patrick Lavine, Oklahoma State – Lavine has been a constant for OSU over the last three seasons, he finished second on the team in tackles as a freshman and sophomore, dropping to fourth last season as a junior. This season, his final in Stillwater, the linebacker has recorded 59 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack and an impressive five interceptions. Lavine was a safety in high school and still has good coverage skills for an outside linebacker. He is a bit undersized 6' 2" and 226 pounds, so he will need to add some weight to play at the next level. Right now, Lavine looks like a late round draft pick or an priority undrafted rookie free-agent.

CB Perrish Cox , Oklahoma State - Cox has good size a 6' 0" and 200 pounds. He is not only a good cover cornerback, but a willing tackler. Cox possesses good speed and shows that off on special teams, as he is one of the top returners in the Big XII. He has the ability to play both man to man and zone coverage as a cornerback. He has 29 total tackles this season with four interceptions and 15 pass break-ups, adding 543 kick return yards on 24 returns (22.6 yards per return) to his resume. Cox also has returned 12 punts for 106 yards. Cox is the top rated defender for Mike Gundy's squad and should go in the 2nd round draft of the 2010 NFL Draft.

S Andre Sexton, Oklahoma State – Sexton has played both linebacker and safety at Oklahoma State. He has good size at 6' 0" and 224 pounds, projecting as a safety at the next level. Sexton is a good overall athlete, but needs to improve his coverage skills. He's a good tackler and this season has wracked up 53 total tackles, three tackles for loss, one interception and four pass break-ups. Right now looks like a late round draft pick or an undrafted rookie free-agent.

S Lucien Antoine, Oklahoma State – Antoine is a physical safety who will come up and hit you. He has good size at 6' 1" and 215 pounds, but needs to improve his coverage skills. This season, the senior safety has 53 total tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception. He will be an "in the box" type safety at the next level. Like Sexton, Antoine projects as a late round draft pick or an undrafted rookie free-agent.

Colorado really doesn’t have any seniors for the 2010 NFL Draft.

For more NFL, NFL Draft news, you can follow me on Twitter at

Photos Courtesy of Oklahoma State Athletics Media Relation

Big East Power Rankings & Preview Week 12


1. Cincinnati Bearcats 10-0, (6-0): Last week: Won vs. West Virginia 24-21 - Survive and advance. It wasn’t exactly the most impressive victory, but the Bearcats found away to shake off two early turnovers by running the football successfully, and the defense stepping up when it counted. Big days for sophomore running back Isaiah Pead and Andre Revels. Pead rushed for a career-high 175 yards averaging an outstanding 9.7 yards a carry, meanwhile senior linebacker Revels continues to be one of the fiercest tacklers in the conference, he recorded 13 total in the game.

Up next: Idle - Decisions, decisions, decisions. Certainly the offensive playbook can be more diverse with quarterback Zach Collaros in the game because his running ability adds a different dimension. Plus, his threat alone has contributed to recent big games by Bearcat tailbacks. However, Tony Pike looks as if he will be healthy and ready to play in the final two contests. With a week off to think about it, the question remains will head coach Brian Kelly go with the strong-armed Pike, choose Collaros’ duel threat ability or will he dance with the devil and use the two-quarterback system?

2. Pittsburgh 9-1, (5-0): Last Week: Won vs. Notre Dame 27-22 -
You may not realize it by looking at the score but Pittsburgh was in control of this game from the start. The defense played a fantastic first half holding Jimmy Clausen and the Irish offense to just field goal. And offensively the stars shined on primetime once again, freshman Dion Lewis rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown and receiver Jonathon Baldwin earned himself Big East Player of the Week honors for his five-catch, 142-yard performance.

Up Next: Idle - Why on a critical third down with timeouts remaining and up only five, is Bill Stull rushing to snap the ball before the play clock runs out rather than using a TO? With a week off it’s not just the players that have to practice, because if they don’t have things all together they can say good-bye to the BCS.

3. West Virginia 7-3, (3-2): Last week: Lost at Cincinnati 24-21 - It was a real tough loss to swallow, a call here, a caught pass there and WVU easily they could have come out victorious. Quarterback Jarrett Brown was efficient completing 68 percent of his passes, and it was great to see a glimpse of what could be a future into Mountaineer football when freshman Ryan Clarke busted loose for a big 37-yard touchdown run. But it’s tough for this team to win when Noel Devine is not 100 percent.

Up next: Idle - An opportunity to get Devine healthy. If he does the junior could add on to his legacy when the Panthers come into town.

4. Rutgers 7-2, (2-2): Last week: Won vs. South Florida 31-0 - Talk about domination. It may be hard to believe but this score could have been worse, the Scarlet Knights could have dropped a 50-spot on the Bulls. The Rutgers defensive line is what anchored the blowout. They recorded seven sacks and six quarterback hurries. Big nights for defensive ends George Johnson and Antonio Lowery. Johnson, who is quietly having a superb senior season, had three tackles for losses and Lowery forced a fumble to go with his three tackles for a loss.

Up Next: at Syracuse - Expect more the same. This young Rutgers team is rolling and there’s not much a dismantled Syracuse squad can do about it. The mismatch lies when the Orange offense is on the field: they’ve given up 25 sacks this season and that number is sure to grow after facing this pass rush. Look for Rutgers' wide outs Mohamed Sanu and Tim Brown to break free once or twice for big scores and solidify the road win. Prediction: Rutgers 29, Syracuse 14

5. South Florida Bulls 6-3, (2-3): Last week: Lost at Rutgers 31-0 - B.J Daniels
had his worst game of the season. He only completed 7-of-17 passes, threw two dreadful interceptions and was held to 11 yards rushing. An understandable game from the freshman considering how badly his offensive line protected him. Add three more turnovers and this game got out of reach early.

Up Next: At Louisville - When the Bulls are clicking they look like they could be a serious conference contender, but in their two blowout losses to Pittsburgh and Rutgers they’re offense staggered so badly they played as if they didn’t even deserve to play in a bowl game. Nevertheless, this week has blowout written all over it. The one thing they do consistently well is rush the quarterback, and against a team that has already given up a remarkable 32 sacks a shutout could be in the works. Prediction: South Florida 30, Louisville 10

6.Connecticut 4-5, (1-4): Last week: Idle - The Huskies are still two wins away from becoming bowl eligible, considering they finish the season at home against Syracuse, a win over Notre Dame on the road won’t only be a memorable moment for the program but a leap closer to another post-season.

Up Next: at Notre Dame - It’s not a secret that the Irish like to throw the ball, and Connecticut's pass defense has struggled giving up an average of 232 yards a game through the air. What they can do successfully this week is pound the football. Their line has proved they can win the battle up front and with Jordan Todman running the football the ground game surely can keep the game close. If they win the turnover battle and prevent Golden Tate from making any big plays they should be in it with a chance to come out on top in the fourth quarter. Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Connecticut 17

7. Louisville 4-6, (1-4): Last week: Won vs. Syracuse 10-9 - Trent Guy is the MVP of this football team. Not only did his punt returns give the Cardinals good field possession numerous times during the game but his 36-yard catch was the key play made on the game-winning touchdown drive. It was Josh Chichester who caught the 15-yard touchdown delivered from Adam Froman. The 6-8 sophomore Chichester has size that’s for sure, and is a guy that could be major part of a bounce back Louisville team next year.

Up Next: vs. South Florida - This is not a good match-up for Louisville. Speed is their biggest disadvantage and it just so happens South Florida is one of the fastest teams in the Big East. Keep an eye on freshman Darius Ashley. The Bulls haven’t had a good history facing off against physical running backs. Prediction: South Florida 30, Louisville 10

8. Syracuse 3-7, (0-5): Last week: Lost at Louisville 10-9 - It may be unfair to be too harsh on a team who’s not that good to begin with and is now having to deal with injuries, stars quitting and suspensions. But there’s only one thing this team really knows how to do well...and that’s lose. It seems on a weekly basis only one player has a positive game on offense and that’s running back Delone Carter who rushed for 129 yards. If you watch the Orange then you’d know his numbers would be a whole lot better if he were breaking tackles down field rather then behind the line of scrimmage.

Up Next: vs. Rutgers - This team makes way too many unforced errors for anyone to be confident in them to get a win. Prediction: Rutgers 29, Syracuse 14

Check out all the latest and get updates on the College Football Insider page on Facebook.

Photos Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh, Tom Ciszak Rutgers Athletics, UConn Athletic Communications

BCS Buster: Week 12 Preview


Game of the Week - Northern Illinois @ Ohio

This game is a big one as far as the MAC standings are concerned. The loser will virtually be ousted from MAC championship contention as both teams sit at 5-1 in conference play. Ohio is in second place behind Temple (6-0) in the East standings and Northern Illinois is behind Central Michigan (6-0) in the West. Ohio must win this game and their season finale against Temple to make it to the MAC championship, while Northern Illinois must win this game and their finale against Central Michigan to make a MAC championship appearance.

Ohio will have to deal with the two-headed backfield monster of the Huskies consisting of Chad Spann (pictured) and Me’Co Brown. The two have coined themselves “bolt and jolt”, an allusion to one being quick and elusive (Brown) and the other being a power runner (Spann). Spann has 16 touchdowns on the season to go along with an impressive 6.3 yards-per-carry average. Brown averages 4.6 yards-per-carry and can explode for a long gain at any moment. Containing both will be a tough assignment.

On the flip side, Northern Illinois will have to focus on containing receivers LaVon Brazill and Taylor Price. Neither has eye-popping numbers, but both have the talent and athleticism to beat their opponent on any given play. Price is 6’1” 212 pounds and has the ability to go get the ball if it is not on target while Brazill can beat you with his speed and agility. Since the Bobcats’ running game has been inefficient this season, expect the Huskies to key in on these receivers and force Ohio to run the ball.

Both teams excel at different aspects on offense which makes this such an intriguing match-up. If one team can stop the other’s strength on offense they should walk away victorious. But if neither is successful, it could turn into a back-and-forth slugfest. With so much at stake in this game you can expect both teams to come out fired up, ready to play as if it were the National Championship. Prediction: Northern Illinois 24; Ohio 21

Players to Watch: Northern Illinois: RB Chad Spann, RB Me’Co Brown, QB Chandler Harnish, LB Cory Hanson, DE Jake Coffman, Ohio: WR LaVon Brazill, WR Taylor Price, RB Chris Garrett, LB Noah Keller, DT Dak Notestine

Other Games to Watch

Southern Methodist @ Marshall:
With the Mustangs now controlling their own destiny in C-USA, Marshall will be their last true hurdle to claiming a spot in the conference title game. Prediction: Southern Methodist 28; Marshall 20

Air Force @ BYU: Quarterback Max Hall looks to break Ty Detmer’s record for most wins by a BYU quarterback in this match-up against the Falcons. Prediction: BYU 34; Air Force 20

UAB @ East Carolina: This is a must-win game for the Blazers if they hope to stay in the hunt for a berth in the C-USA title game. The Pirates will need a win to stay atop the East standings with an upcoming visit from West division-leading Southern Methodist in their season finale. Prediction: East Carolina 21; UAB 17

Photo Courtesy of MAC/Northern Illinois

Friday, November 13, 2009

Draft Watch: Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh

1) Notre Dame Offensive Line vs. Pittsburgh Defensive Ends: Most games are won in the trenches and this one will be no different. How the Fighting Irish offensive line holds up against the explosive unit up front for the Panthers will dictate whether or not the Golden Domers will have a chance at pulling off the upset.

Pittsburgh has recorded a whopping 39 sacks this season and most of the pressure comes from their front four led by junior Greg Romeus, who has a team-high 7.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and four passes defensed. The former basketball player is still developing as football player, with his pass rushing skills serving as the strength of his game. At 6’ 6” and 270 pounds, Romeus has prototypical size and is an exceptional athlete. He also has a tremendous wingspan, which allows him to keep offensive linemen from getting into his body, as well as knock down passes when he doesn’t get all the way to the quarterback. Senior defensive tackle Mick Williams (three sacks) leads the team with 13 tackles for a loss and is a force against the run using his quickness to knife by blockers to meet ball carries in the backfield. Those are the leaders, but they have depth as well. At defensive tackle, sophomores Myles Caragein (five sacks) and Chas Alecxih (four sacks) come off the bench to put pressure on the quarterback. Similar to Williams (6’ 1”/280 pounds), Caragein (6’ 2”/275 pounds) and Alecxih (6’ 5”/272 pounds) are undersized and will need to put on some weight if they are going to play on Sundays. At end, junior Jabaal Sheard starts opposite of Romeus and is still working on his pass rushing skills (2.5 sacks), but is coming along rather well as a run stopper (30 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss). Sophomore Bandon Lindsey who looks more like a linebacker (6’ 2”/240 pounds) has recorded four sacks and four quarterback hurries off the bench and could replace Romeus as the team’s top pass rusher in 2010 should Romeus declare for the NFL Draft.

The Irish counter with a veteran offensive line that has four seniors on the first team and averages nearly 6’ 6” and 315 pounds, however the group hasn’t had a particularly impressive 2009 campaign. Senior right tackle Sam Young is the best of the bunch, but as a true freshman it appeared he was well on his way to being a first round pick. While he is a good athlete and at 6’ 8” and 320 pounds the senior is an imposing figure, but the fact is he is not playing the left tackle and that has raised questions amongst scouts. Young has not improved his footwork or technique the way talent evaluators have hoped despite his experience. No longer a first round talent, Young could go anywhere from the second-to-fourth rounds, depending on how he finishes the season and fares in the off-season. Left tackle Paul Duncan is also a monster of a man at 6’ 7” and 315 pounds, but lacks what the pros look for in terms of mobility, which is why it is doubtful he will be asked to protect the blind side at the next level. Duncan is likely a priority free agent at this point, but should he get an opportunity to showcase what he can do at an NFL camp, he could be developmental player worth investing in. One player who may have helped his draft status this season is center Eric Olsen, who at 6’ 4” and 305 pounds brings excellent size. The New York City native is also a versatile talent, who started at guard last season before Charlie Weis decided to move him over to center. Olsen looks like a solid mid-round choice. The reason for the move was the Irish wanted to get sophomore guard Trevor Robinson (6’ 5”/305 pounds) into the starting lineup. When it’s all said and done, the young road grater could turn out to be the best pro of the group.

2) Irish Air Attack: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen throwing to wide outs Michael Floyd and Golden Tate make Notre Dame one of the most feared teams in the nation when they take to the air. Clausen, a junior, is putting together quite a statistical season—well on pace to career highs in yards (3,693), touchdown passes (27) and completion percentage (67.9 percent). Even more impressive is his three interceptions (on pace for four) after he threw the ball to the other team 17 times as a sophomore. Clausen has an NFL arm and throws one of the prettiest deep balls of any quarterback in the nation. Just as impressive has been his toughness fighting through turf toe and a bruised hand, not to mention his clutch play in the fourth quarter. Many of Notre Dame’s wins have been of the come from behind variety. Coaches will surely take note of his ability to make plays in pressure situations, as well as at less than 100 percent. Even so, the signal caller is not quite a finished product. He doesn’t always use the whole field and many of his numbers come courtesy of acrobatic catches made by his talented wide outs. Clausen will have to make a decision at the end of the season, he could be a top 10 overall pick should he declare. Tate, a fellow junior, could also make an early exit from South Bend. The pass catcher has displayed excellent hands, ability to make plays after the catch, as well as stretch the field. The Tennessee native has already topped 1,000 yards (for the second straight year) and leads Notre Dame with his 65 receptions, 1,059 yards and 10 touchdown receptions. He lacks ideal size (5’ 11” and 195 pounds), but is very strong, both his lower body and his hands. The high school tailback averages 16.3 yards per receptions and 7.5 yards per carry (two rushing touchdowns) and could see some time taking the snap when the Irish go to their version of the “wildcat”. Maybe the most talented player on Notre Dame is Michael Floyd, just a sophomore. Floyd missed five games with a broken collarbone, but returned last week and did not miss a beat catching 10 balls for 141 yards and a touchdown in the Irish’s loss to Navy. Floyd has prototypical size (6’ 3”/220 pounds) and speed, which is why he looks like a future first round pick. In four games, Floyd has five touchdowns and averages 21.7 yards per catch. Even when double teamed Floyd is almost unstoppable on deep routes, his vertical leap allows him to make catches in traffic. Notre Dame will be without talented sophomore tight end Kyle Rudolph who is out for the remainder of the regular season with a shoulder injury.

3) Panther Air Attack: Bill Stull
, yes Bill Stull may have played himself into a draftable grade with his play as a senior. Watching the Pittsburgh offense this season, it is hard believe this is the same group that lost the Sun Bowl to Oregon State 3-0 last season. Stull was 7-of-24 passing (29.2 percent) for 52 yards versus the Beavers. His junior numbers were nothing to right home about—57 percent completion rate, nine touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and 25 sacks. At certain points they would strike up the band for first downs and no one had Stull on their draft board. Oh what a difference a year can make. Stull is completing 67.6 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions (eight sacks). He is making better decisions, quicker, with improved accuracy. The senior is also connecting on big plays averaging 8.58 yards per pass compared to 7.14 last season. However, the hometown boy isn’t going to be the first Pitt quarterback to be drafted in the first round since Dan Marino (Joe Flacco doesn’t count), but could have played himself into being a late round selection, at the very least a priority free agent. A big reason for Stull’s success is the emergence of sophomore receiver Jonathan Baldwin and senior tight end Dorin Dickerson. Baldwin showed flashes as a freshman and is truly flourishing in his second season—leading the team with 35 receptions for 698 yards (four touchdowns). He has great size at 6’ 5” and 225 pounds, which allows him to go up and get the football, a mismatch for most college corners. Baldwin lacks prototypical speed, but still manages to be a big play threat (19.9 yards per receptions). In one-on-one coverage he is extremely hard to contain. As much as Stull has elevated his game, Dickerson has been a true revelation as a senior. He came in highly touted and rivals anyone on the roster as the most impressive athlete on the team. Seeing time at linebacker and wide receiver earlier in his career, Dickson has finally found a home at tight end, although he may not stay there as some view him as an H-Back or even a fullback at the next level. Dickerson is a touchdown maker with 10 scoring grabs on the season among his 39 receptions (450 yards). Against Syracuse last week, Dickerson caught seven passes for a career-high 118 yards. At 230 pounds, he is undersized for a tight end, but he can stretch the field and is dangerous after the catch.

Photos Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh, Notre Dame Sports Information

Draft Watch: Iowa @ Ohio State

1) In the Trenches: Iowa’s top two prospects on the offensive side of the ball are their tackles, junior Bryan Bulaga (25 career starts) and senior Kyle Calloway (34 career starts). Bulaga is the crown jewel and could be next in the line of Big Ten top-ten picks at offensive tackle. The conference has produced three in the last three years—Wisconsin’s Joe Thomas (third pick in 2007), Penn State’s Levi Brown (fifth pick in 2007) and Michigan’s Jake Long (first pick in 2008). Iowa is no stranger to the top of the draft—Robert Gallery was the second overall pick in 2004. Heading into the season Bulaga appeared well on his way, coming off an outstanding sophomore campaign which he capped off with a dominant performance against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. However, his junior season did not start off the way he expected as he missed significant time early on with an undisclosed illness. Still, no one doubts his first round talent—at 6’ 6” and 315 pounds he has the size, feet and athleticism to man the all-important left tackle position. On the right side, Calloway has started the last nine games and has improved his stock this season. Not as talented as Bulaga, Calloway has proved more agile than many expected and at 6’ 7” and 315 pounds, size is not an issue. Taking on the stellar Buckeye defense is an opportunity for both of these big uglies to make an impression in front of the talent scouts in attendance.

Putting the Iowa blocking bookends to the test will be one of the fiercest defensive end duos in the nation—Ohio State juniors Thaddeus Gibson and Cameron Heyward. While they are equally dangerous, their styles of play are very distinct, as are their dimensions. Heyward, the son of Ironhead, checks in at 6’ 6” and 287 pounds, while Gibson is 6’ 2” and 240 pounds. When speaking to College Football Insiders Radio in an interview earlier this season, Heyward discussed his attributes, “I have a lot of power. It works to my advantage. I can play defensive end and it gives us a chance to be versatile. We have guys like Thad [Gibson]…we can be strong sometimes and we can be quick.” Gibson will likely shift to outside linebacker at the next level—and hopefully achieve better results than former Buckeye Vernon Gholston—while Heyward will continue to play with his hand on the ground. That is not to say the powerful Heyward lacks explosiveness, just ask Penn State. The junior is coming off his top game of the season against the Nittany Lions: 11 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks. Heyward now leads the team with his five sacks and tops the defensive line with 36 tackles. Gibson (33 tackles) has four sacks among his team-high 10.5 tackles for loss. “He’s one of the best pass-rushers on the team and he’s so versatile—he can go up and under, come off the edge…but he also has a lot of power. Thad’s one of the strongest guys on our team,” Heyward said of his fellow end. It will be fun to watch how these two disruptive ends fare against the blocking duo of Bulaga and Calloway.

2) Pryor Progress: If the play in the trenches isn’t sexy enough for you, let’s talk some TP. When he arrived at Ohio State, Terrelle Pryor brought with him the reputation as a can’t-miss prospect—he’s 6’ 6”, 235 pounds and runs like the wind. He is physically gifted, but his development at quarterback hasn’t been as smooth of a ride as anticipated. Pryor is getting opportunities to air it out—averaging 22.4 pass attempts per game—but those chances have yielded inconsistent results. His completion percentage is down from 60.6 percent as a freshman to 54 percent this season and while his touchdowns are up from 12 to 15, so are his interceptions from four to nine. Pryor still struggles to read defenses, find the open receivers, and connect with them even when he makes the right decision. He has thrown three touchdowns with no interceptions in the Buckeyes’ last two games, but he also failed to complete half of his passes against both New Mexico State and Penn State. Pryor is still a long way from being a pro passer, but has two years of eligibility remaining after this season to make some progress.

3) Iowa Defense:
While most people have focused on Iowa’s lack of an explosive offense, the Hawkeyes have won so many close games because their defense has been so stout. They are in every game because of that defense and that should be no different this week. Iowa is ranked third in scoring defense (15.9 points per game), pass defense (173 yards per game) and total defense (291.7 yards per game), while leading the conference in pass efficiency defense and turnovers created with 26.

Coming into the season everyone knew about senior MIKE Pat Angerer and he has done nothing to hurt his draft stock. Angerer, whose name suits a middle linebacker perfectly, is second in the Big Ten with his 106 stops. He is a bit undersized at 6’ 1” and 235 pounds, but has underrated game speed and is a very instinctive defender. In addition to being a fierce hitter, Angerer is also solid in coverage, which makes him a three-down player. Senior SAM A.J. Edds is solid linebacking prospect in his own right, bringing more in terms of size at 6’ 4” and 244 pounds. Edds is not the tackling the machine that Angerer is, but is a good athlete with three interceptions to his credit. Neither gets after the quarterback, which has a lot to do with Iowa’s scheme—they don’t blitz very often. Their leading sacker is junior end Adrian Clayborn who, at 6’ 3” and 282 pounds, has both the size and athleticism to be an impact player. He leads Iowa with his 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Coming off the edge on the other side is sophomore Broderick Binns (five sacks) who is even more athletic and ready to blossom as a pass rusher. On the inside, juniors Karl Klug (6’ 4”/258 pounds) and Christian Ballard (6’ 5”/285 pounds) make things happen with their quickness. Each has three sacks, with Klug second on the team with his 10 tackles for loss. Ballard can also play defensive end. Their top defensive back is junior Amari Spievey (6’ 0”/190 pounds), who is among the top cover men in the nation. Spievey is not a risk taker, as he plays with sound technique and rarely gives up the big play. Look for him to match-up with Ohio State’s big play wide out, sophomore DeVier Posey (45 receptions, 672 yards, 7 touchdowns), often on Saturday.

Photos Courtesy of Iowa Sports Information, The Ohio State Department of Athletics

2010 NFL Draft: Cornerback Rankings

1. Trevard Lindley, Kentucky – In Lindley you have a corner who is one of the most polished cornerbacks in the college game, who has the ability to take away half the field. Not only does he have great speed, and anticipation skills but he also has the size to go with it, standing right around six feet tall. Last season, Lindley was a second team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation. He is not as thick as Malcolm Jenkins (Lindley is only around 180 pounds) who was the first cornerback drafted and went #14 overall to the Saints in the 2009 draft, but he has better, speed, agility and ball skills than Jenkins. This season Lindley has missed time with a high ankle sprain.

2. Pat Robinson, Florida State - As a sophomore, Robinson recorded a team and career-high six interceptions including a five game streak to tie the school record for consecutive games with at least one interception. Unfortunately, Robinson was one of the players involved in the infamous Florida State cheating scandal, and that will raise some question marks with NFL teams. Last season he had 26 tackles despite playing in only eight games and had four pass break-ups, due in part to opposing quarterback staying away from him. He has good size at 5' 1"1, 194 pounds and can both cover and support the run. He should run in the low 4.4 in the 40 when he is tested. This season hasn’t lived up to expectations for Robinson as he only has 23 tackles, with no interceptions (seven pass break-ups).

3. Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest – Ghee is the next player off of the Wake Forest defense to be headed towards the NFL. A 5' 11", the 190-pound cornerback has the ability to come up and make tackles on wide receivers as well as the willingness to stick his nose in the backfield and take on running backs. He has good hips and shows the ability to play man to man. So far this season has 40 total tackles and six pass break-ups. Ghee doesn’t have an interceptions and he needs to show improvement with his ball skills.

4. Syd'Quan Thompson, California – Thompson isn’t the biggest cornerback in the land, but some how always finds away to make plays. The question is going to be, does he make up his lack of size with true recovery speed? Many people beleive he is a 4.4 guy, but we won’t know for sure until we get a stop watch on him. Thompson is a ball hawk and is better in man to man coverage than he is in zone, but the Golden Bear does have the ability to play in either defensive scheme. This season Thompson has 31 tackles, one interception and six pass break-ups.

5. Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State – Cox has good size a 6' 0" and 200 pounds; he is not only a good cover cornerback, but a willing tackler. He has good speed and shows that off in the return game. He has the ability to play both man to man and zone as a cornerback. As a senior, he has 24 total tackles with one interception and an impressive 12 pass break-ups. The Poke as has 455 kick return yards on 19 returns averaging 23.9 yards a kick return. Cox has also returned eight punts for 78 yards.

6. Jerome Murphy, South Florida - Murphy is one of the biggest hitter on the USF team, not very common for cornerbacks. He also has very good speed for his size, checking in at 6' 1" and 185 pounds. Some have him rated with a similar grade as former South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins, who was a first round pick of the Dallas Cowboys two years ago. This season the USF Bull has 40 total tackles, two interceptions and six pass break-ups.

7. Kyle Wilson, Boise State – Last season Wilson was named first team All-WAC cornerback and second team all-conference punt returner. He lead the team with five interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 15 passes defended, to go along with those stats he had 35 total tackles and five tackles for loss. He had 33 punt returns for 470 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson is 5-10 184 and runs in the 4.4, he is good both in man to man and zone coverage and when he gets his hands on the ball, this Bronco can make plays. He isn’t just a cover cornerback but will come up and support the run. This season has 23 total tackles and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.

8. Javier Arenas, Alabama – Arenas is not only a good cornerback, but he is a great returner and last season he returned three punts for touchdowns. He has the ability to score every time he touches the ball with great speed and elusiveness as a returner. As a cornerback he has good ball skills, but is short standing in 5' 9". Arenas does have good size weighing almost 200 pounds. He isn’t a shutdown corner but he can cover man to man and also is good in zone coverage. He is effective supporting the run, and come off the edge on the blitz. But what makes Arenas so special is his ability as a game changer in the return game. This season so far on defense has 45 total tackles 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and one interception. In the return game he has 19 punt returns for 320 yards (16.8 average per return) and 10 kick off returns for 278 yards (27.8 average per return).

9. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (PA) - Owusu-Ansah has great size at 6' 1" and 205 pounds for a cornerback, combined with his speed, it makes him a tough shut down cover corner. He is a great on special teams as both a kick and punt returner, which will help his stock come draft day. This season on defense he has 21 total tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, four pass break-ups and six passes defended. In the return game he has 16 kick-off returns for 462 returns (28.9 average per return) and two touchdowns; with 21 punt returns for 271 yards (12.9 average per return) and three touchdowns.

10. Devin McCourty, Rutgers – McCourty is a good overall cornerback at 5' 10" and 190 pounds, who broke out last season with 57 tackles and seven pass break-ups. McCourty is a reliable tackler with fluid hips, a good leaper, who can be physical and aggressive. He has good instincts and awareness, with a strong work ethic. This season so far has 47 tackles which leads the team, 2.5 tackles for loss, one interception and five pass break-ups. He is also one of the nation's top special teams players, which should make him a valuable edition as a rookie.

Photos Courtesy of SEC Sports Media, University of California, Media Relations Boise St. University

Thursday, November 12, 2009

College Football Insiders Radio - Week 11

The voice of college football is here as CFI Founder Daniel Mogollon brings you coast-to-coast coverage of all the football action from across the nation, every Thursday at 5:00pm ET. 60 min.

Special Guests:

* HC Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern -
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald is one of the best young head coach in the country. He is 25-22 overall and 6-4 this season coming off an impressive 17-10 upset over BCS #4 Iowa last Saturday in Iowa City. With the win, the Wildcats are now bowl eligible for a third straight season under Coach Fitzgerald.

* CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama - A key player to the number two team in the BCS, Jackson talks about Alabama's big win over LSU, in addition to opening up about himself off the field. He loves shopping and is the class clown of the 'Bama locker room. Even Coach Saban isn't off limits!!

* RB Noel Devine, West Virginia - West Virginia's junior tailback has already topped 1,000 yards and reached 10 touchdowns as he leads the #25 BCS ranked Mountaineers. Devine talks about his big runs, maturing as player and a leader, as well as penchant for having big games under the lights.

* RB John Clay, Wisconsin - This bruising runner joins College Football Insiders radio to talk about the long line of Wisconsin running backs, his running style and why he wears number 32.'s for a running back, but not from Wisconsin.

* Those topics and more in this week's edition of College Football Insiders Radio.


Call-in Number: (347) 945-6275

Photo Courtesy of Alabama Media Relations

College Football Insiders Newsletter 3.10

Inside College Football Insiders 3.10:

* Inside the Nation:
Welcome to the "House of Spears" & Week 10 Opportunities Lost

* Between the Hashes: Roll Tide Roll (Plus Bayou Bengals Bite)

* On Location: From the Big House

* One On One with Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald

* Player Spotlight on John Clay of Wisconsin

* Game of the Week: Iowa @ Ohio State in the Battle for the Big Ten Title

* Conference Focus on the Big East - Mardy Gilyard, Noel Devine & USF DBs

* Plus...the Top 25, BCS Busters, Fans Weekend Guide & Football Fans Four-Pack


Photo Courtesy of Northwestern: Stephen J. Carrera

CFI Heisman Ballot: Week 11

By Mark Zavodnyik

This Week’s Heisman Ballot is our determination of the five best players in college football. Here is the Heisman Trophy ballot we would submit if the season ended today.

1. Case Keenum, Quarterback, Houston Cougars

Last Game:
40-of-60 passing, 522 yards, and three touchdowns in a 46-45 victory over Tulsa.

Analysis: The nation’s leader in completions, yards, and touchdown passes led a miraculous fourth quarter comeback victory over Tulsa. The Cougars appeared finished when they failed on a two-point conversion with 21 seconds remaining in the game. However, a successful on-side kick and a 51-yard field goal later, the Cougars emerged with an amazing victory. Keenum had his second consecutive game with more than 500 passing yards.

2. C.J. Spiller, Running Back, Clemson Tigers

Last Game:
22 rushes for 165 yards, one touchdown; three receptions for 68 yards, one touchdown in a 40-24 victory over Florida State.

Analysis: Spiller remains one of the most electric players in college football. His 312 all-purpose yards against Florida State broke the school record of 310 he set two weeks ago. Spiller is fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game with 199.33. This week’s performance included a 45-yard run, a 58-yard touchdown reception and a mini-Heisman pose after his five-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

3. Mark Ingram, Running Back, Alabama Crimson Tide

Last Game:
22 rushes for 144 yards; five receptions for 30 yards in a 24-15 victory over LSU.

Analysis: Ingram was stymied by LSU’s defense in the first half and gained just 36 yards. However he came to life in the second half with 106 yards to lead the Crimson Tide to victory in a tough, physical contest in Tuscaloosa. Ingram is sixth in the nation in yards per game at 127.6; pretty impressive considering he plays in the country’s best defensive conference.

4. Colt McCoy, Quarterback, Texas Longhorns

Last Game:
33-of-42 passing, 470 yards, two touchdowns, one interception in a 35-3 victory over Central Florida.

McCoy’s production is improving at the right time. While he may have been forcing throws earlier in the season, McCoy has settled in and appears ready for a November Heisman push. With Baylor, Kansas, and Texas A&M left on the schedule, McCoy has ample opportunities to keep putting up big numbers.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Quarterback, Notre Dame.

Last Game:
37-of-51 passing, 452 yards, two touchdowns, one interception in a 23-21 loss to Navy.

Analysis: Clausen’s Heisman hopes faded with the disastrous loss to the Midshipmen. Clausen played another great game, setting a school record for completions in a game. However, his fumble on the goal-line at the end of the third quarter was a costly error.

Outside Looking In: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Golden Tate (Notre Dame), Tim Tebow (Florida)

Photo Courtesy of University of Houston, University of Texas Athletics

CFI Preview: Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh

Heinz Field, Saturday, 8:00PM ET, ABC


Charlie Weis returns to the site of his first college coaching victory when Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh Saturday night to take on the Panthers at Heinz Field.

Much has changed for Notre Dame and Pittsburgh over the past five seasons. Weis and the Fighting Irish got off to a flying start, reaching a BCS game in each of his first two seasons at the helm.

The next three years have not been as kind. Notre Dame finished 3-9 in 2007 and 7-6 in 2008. The Irish had high hopes coming into this season but have fallen to 6-3 after last week’s 23-21 defeat to Navy. It was the first time Notre Dame has lost consecutive home games to the Midshipmen since 1961 and 1963.

Dave Wannstedt made his college head coaching career against Weis and Notre Dame in 2005. Unlike the Fighting Irish, Pittsburgh struggled initially under their new coach. After going 16-19 through Wannstedt’s first three years, the Panthers are 17-5 since.

The university’s patience with Wannstedt has paid off: The Panthers are ranked in the top ten of a national poll (#8 in the AP) for the first time since 1982, Dan Marino’s senior season.

This year’s game will feature plenty of offensive firepower for both teams. Pittsburgh is led by quarterback Bill Stull, freshman running back Dion Lewis, tight end Dorin Dickerson and receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

Notre Dame has quarterback Jimmy Clausen and two of the best receivers in college football: Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.

With so many offensive weapons for both teams, this primetime match-up could very well be a shoot-out.

Keys for a Pittsburgh Victory

1) Win the First Quarter:
Pittsburgh’s home crowd will be fired-up when the ball is finally kicked-off shortly after 8pm on Saturday night. The Panthers can put themselves in a great position to win the game if they can feed off the crowd’s energy and get off to a fast start.

The Panthers have done a great job in the first quarter this season, outscoring their opponents 71-38 in the opening period.

Pittsburgh will be able to dictate the game’s rhythm if they can get off to quick lead. Early points by the Panther offense will allow the Pitt coaching staff to give the Notre Dame defense a heavy dose of Lewis and the running attack. Defensively, Pittsburgh can speed rush Clausen because they know Notre Dame will abandon the run game once they fall behind.

Most importantly, an early lead for the Panthers will be a psychological challenge to the Irish. Under Weis, Notre Dame has struggled to recover after disappointing losses. In the wake of a four-overtime defeat to Pittsburgh a year ago, the Irish were never the same, limping through the rest of the regular season with losses to Boston College, Syracuse and USC.

Last week’s loss to Navy may be the toughest yet. Should Pittsburgh build an early first quarter lead, the Irish may not have the mental fortitude to stay in the game.

2) Maintain Efficiency: Pittsburgh has been an incredibly consistent team on both sides of the ball this season. Offensively, the Panthers are well-balanced, rushing for 18 touchdowns and passing for 19. Stull leads a much improved Panther passing attack and has surprised everyone this season with his play. The senior from Pittsburgh is fifth in the nation in passing efficiency.

The Panthers also maximize their scoring chances. Pittsburgh is 17th in the nation in red zone efficiency. The Panthers have scored 37 times in 41 red zone opportunities; 27 of those scores were touchdowns.

Leadership and consistency along the offensive and defensive lines have been vital to Pittsburgh’s success. Both lines are filled with juniors and seniors. Their starting offensive linemen have played well and stayed healthy—all five have started every game.

Defensively, the Panthers get after opposing quarterbacks and do not make a lot of mistakes. Pittsburgh is 19th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 17.1 points per game.

Pittsburgh’s efficiency is a great asset when matched-up against a Notre Dame team that is inconsistent and undisciplined.

Keys for a Notre Dame Victory

1) Protect Clausen:
The Notre Dame offensive line must do a better job of protecting Clausen. Against an undersized and less talented Navy defensive unit a week ago, the Irish gave up two sacks, one of which occurred in the end zone giving Navy a safety and two critical points with just over a minute remaining in the game.

This week the Irish face one of the most productive defensive lines in the country. Pittsburgh leads in the nation in sacks with 38. The Panthers are able to get consistent pressure up front without blitzing much. This allows their linebackers to fall back into pass coverage.

Up front, the Panthers are led by a group of experienced and highly productive players. Senior defensive tackle Mick Williams leads the team with 13 tackles for loss. Defensive end Greg Romeus has 7.5 sacks on the year. The junior from Coral Springs, Florida has made 22 consecutive starts.

Pittsburgh is not the first team that Notre Dame will face this season that gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback without blitzing its linebackers. USC is also highly disruptive without blitzing and the Notre Dame offensive line struggled mightily against the Trojans, allowing USC to sack Clausen five teams. Luckily the Irish were able to rely on their highly talented junior quarterback to lead them back into that game and almost pull out the victory.

Notre Dame needs a great game from one of its most experienced units if they’re going to steal one from the Panthers. Clausen’s effectiveness is directly related to the amount of protection he gets from his offensive line.

2) Slow Down Dion Lewis: The freshman running back has been a revelation for Pittsburgh this season. Not highly recruited out of prep school in New Jersey, Lewis has exploded on the scene, already rushing for 1,176 yards. Lewis has gone over 100 rushing yards in six of Pittsburgh’s nine games.

The Irish have struggled defending the rush this season, allowing the opposition to average 148.8 yards per game on the ground.

Notre Dame defensive tackles Ethan Johnson and Ian Williams will play the key roles in defending the run. At times this season, they and the Irish defense have been very good against the run. Notre Dame held two effective running teams, USC and Boston College, to more than 75 yards below their season averages.

However just last week, the Irish gave up 348 yards on the ground to Navy.

Notre Dame cannot allow Lewis to gash them for huge chunks of yards. Pittsburgh is very balanced on offense and once the Panthers establish Lewis, they will utilize Stull and the physical Pittsburgh receivers in play-action passes.

Notre Dame needs to implement a game plan similar to the one they used against Boston College: neutralize the Panther running attack and try to make Pittsburgh one-dimensional.


Pitt’s doubters say the Panthers haven’t beaten anybody. Ironically, their biggest victory to this point is probably over a Navy team that beat Notre Dame last week. The Panthers will be motivated, in primetime, to show the nation that they are for real.

Notre Dame seems to be at yet another crossroads. Will the Irish recover from a disappointing loss? Will Charlie Weis be the Notre Dame coach next season?

Regardless of Weis’ job security, Clausen is too good of a quarterback to allow the game to get beyond Notre Dame’s reach. Pittsburgh’s balance and consistency will win out, but Clausen will make the game close. The Panthers will score a touchdown in the final minutes to earn a dramatic victory.

Score: Pittsburgh 42, Notre Dame 41

Photos Courtesy of Notre Dame Sports Information, University of Pittsburgh