Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sloppiness doesn't pay with the NCAA (until they let it)

We may have the biggest NCAA football scandal since SMU got the death penalty unfolding in Chapel Hill. Terrific work by Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports establishes that there were unquestionably links between not only Gary Wichard's agency and John Blake while Blake was coaching at UNC but also that Wichard's agency was involved in paying for Marvin Austin's trips to California. Blake supposedly had a credit card from Wichard's agency in his name. That's incomprehensible, and it's probably going to lead to penalties that make USC's look tame. The Trojans got slammed in large part because the NCAA concluded a coach knew Reggie Bush was ineligible and did nothing. Here the accusations are that a coach was personally involved with the agency that made one of the school's players ineligible two seasons ago. I don't see any way Butch Davis can survive this, even if he had no personal role in it. It will be quite a while before the NCAA tells us what they're going to do to UNC, but when they take action it will be devastating.

The past few days on the air here in Columbia have been interesting. There's a segment of the South Carolina fanbase that's already throwing the towel in on their season in the wake of their loss to Auburn last weekend. The idea that a 3-1 record (with the loss coming on the road at night against a team that's currently unbeaten and in the top ten) is a letdown seems silly to me, but there seems to be a race amongst the negative folks to see who can proclaim impending doom first. If the Gamecocks can take care of business on imminently winnable road trips to Vandy/Kentucky and home games with Tennessee/Troy, that alone would give them seven wins and a decent bowl trip. Get just one of the Bama/Ark home games or at UF/Clemson and it's progress, and two would be among the best seasons the school's ever had. I thought the bitter fans were being ridiculous until I saw Jeff Elliott's blog on the Florida Times-Union's website. According to Elliott, only Florida has not disappointed their fans so far the way the Jaguars/Noles/Bulldogs have. However, "Florida will need a win Saturday to avoid joining the other three in the disappointment category". Apparently, according to a "professional" sportswriter, anything short of being undefeated = disappointing team. UGA being 0-3 in the SEC for the first time since the 70s, and UF potentially dropping a road game to the reigning national champs who haven't lost in the regular season since 2007 - just a couple of disappointments alright. I know people care intensely about college football, but this is just absurd. Every team can't win every game - if losing on the road to high quality programs is just too much for you to bear, you need to reevluate what's reasonable to expect as a fan and try to learn how to have fun again.

I don't agree with coaches like Randy Shannon demanding their players not have Twitter or Facebook accounts. If these guys are supposed to be capable of handling college level academic work while playing football, how can you say they aren't mature enough to handle a Twitter page? The guys who are demanding their kids stay off social networks will point to Jaz Reynolds as an example of why they're right. The Oklahoma receiver got the brillliant idea to tweet that Austin's Longhorn fans should just kill themselves. It's a dreadful decision by him, with some of the resulting fallout entirely predictable. Reynolds has been suspended indefinitely by Bob Stoops for being a dumbass, which shouldn't be a factor in this weeekend's Texas game but still has the potential to be.

Somehow the NCAA is letting Dee Bost play basketball again this season for Mississippi State. Considering Bost stayed in the draft despite there being ample evidence he knew or should have known when the date to withdraw was, that's remarkable. The claim Bost wasn't aware of the deadline seems far fetched at best, but with the rule having recently changed the NCAA's giving Bost and others who may have screwed up a pass. I normally err on the side of giving kids more chances, but this ruling seems wrong to me. Bost had ample time to learn that going undrafted meant his college career was over. If, as he claims, he didn't then that means he made no effort to read anything about himself prior to the deadline. Does that sound legit? Didn't think so either.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Only three years from Tiffany and Debbie Gibson being eligible

Jacksonville's season is already in the tank, and their move to sign Trent Edwards tells you they're in panic mode. Edwards was cut by the horrible Buffalo Bills after he not only failed to succeed as their QB but also had the entire league pass on trading even a late round choice for him. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio described the move to bring in Edwards as "like adding a draft pick", which is true if the draft pick is a stiff like Johnathan Quinn was for them in the second round. Surely this is the last season for Del Rio - eight years as coach of an NFL franchise and you've never won your division and won only one playoff game?
One of the minor issues to crop up earlier in the NFL season was Dez Bryant refusing to carry Roy Williams pads at training camp. The rookie wide receiver had to pay for that yesterday by being on the hook for a meal for his colleagues. Despite there being multiple Taco Cabana locations in the Dallas area, they instead opted for Pappas Bros. Steakhouse. The final tally on the night came to an astounding $54, 896. If every player on the roster came along and ate a 500 dollar steak, the bill still shouldn't have been that much. Guys must have been ordering shots of every liquor the bar has and then just pouring the ones they didn't like on the floor to amass a total like that. It's both impressive and nauseating at the same time.

The Big East is clearly the least impressive of the six conferences with automatic BCS bids. Even the ACC was able to win key head to head matchups between the two leagues, with NC State thumping Cincinnati, Miami dominating Pittsburgh and even UNC minus twelve guys over Rutgers. Whether it's because of fear of someone raiding them or concern that they may lose their automatic bid if they become the first conference to send an unranked team to the BCS, the New York Post claims the Big East is looking at adding TCU. The only way this makes sense is if it's for football and nothing else, because the costs of travel to Texas in nonrevenue sports will be prohibitive and it's already hard enough trying to make sense of a 16 team basketball conference.

The new list of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is out. I was glad to see Tom Waits, who should have been inducted the second he was eligible, is finally on the list. Warren Zevon should be there too, but still isn't. Looking at the list, it's clear they're running low on strong contenders overall. Just because people have heard of Donna Summer doesn't make her influential. Donovan had some hits, but is "Mellow Yellow" really up there with the best of the best? I continue to believe they need to do this every two or three years instead of as an annual thing so more high quality artists care in the eligibility pool. Not sure if Ben Folds will ever have a shot at the R&R HOF unless he has some more "chart hits", but he's a terrific musician. Check out tracks from his new album "Lonely Avenue" on his Myspace page if you have time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Get ready to ride the wave of outrage

The discussion in the aftermath of Chris Rainey being charged with aggravated stalking focused on two things: the number of arrests in the Gator program under Urban Meyer and demands that the dangerous thug Rainey be banished from UF. The inconvenient details to that narrative - Rainey had apparently never been physically aggressive toward any woman, even on the night in question - were ignored in the race to see who could bleat more about their outrage. It was over the top and unfortunate. Rainey's charges have been reduced to a misdemeanor, which seems to have been the appropriate charge based on what a friend of mine who's a prosecutor in Florida tells me. He made a bad decision, and he's missing his third game of the season this week. We don't know what process Rainey has to do to be reinstated to the team, but you'll likely see him in a Florida uniform again. Despite the reaction from hysterical people who tried to paint him as the next O.J., I don't think that'll be a terrible thing.

The NFL is going to an 18 game regular season, one way or the other. Colts GM Bill Polian became the latest to make it clear that's the case, calling it a "fait accompli" yesterday. The extra games may make the league more TV money, but I wonder how many fans who are already not buying tickets at the rate they once did in many cities will respond. I'm not sure ripping them off a little less (charging full price for just one practice game instead of two) will prompt much of a resurgence in crowd size. For players the key will be to get as much as they can to do this - multiple bye weeks, a bigger practice squad, no more missing the full year if put on IR, better long term health care - because it's clear the owners could do it without their consent under the current deal if they really wanted to but they're willing to negotiate for PR reasons. 18 games will mean earlier fantasy league drafts then ever and the Super Bowl potentially interfering with Valentine's Day, but the owners are convinced it also will mean boatloads of cash.

One of the things that fascinates me about football is how certain coaches constantly get jobs despite there being considerable evidence they are not good at what they are being asked to do. Jimmy Raye was bad as the offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay in the mid-80s and has continued to perform poorly at multiple stops around the NFL since then, yet he was still employed as an offensive coordinator until San Francisco cut him loose yesterday. Raye must be a great interview, because there's been a quarter century of evidence he's bad at calling plays for NFL teams and somehow he keeps getting chances to do it. I suspect this will be the end for Raye, but then I thought Bill Curry having the nation's top passing recruit QB Tim Couch try to run the option while making his first college start against the defending national champs in the Swamp would be the end of him too. Who knows, Gerry DiNardo may still get another head coaching gig again someday.

News that Southwest Airlines is purchasing AirTran has me extremely curious to see where this will go. Living in South Carolina now, I can't emphasize enough how much I miss the easy access I had to Southwest in Florida. They don't fly to any city in the state - neither does AirTran. As a result of this merger it appears SWA will now get into Charlotte which would be a good thing for me, but I have real questions about how this is going to work. Southwest's success has been built around their particular culture, and I'm not sure it's easy to mesh another good sized airline into that. Things like using just one style of plane to simplify maintenance and not charging a hundred bucks to use the funds from a ticket you wind up having to cancel are at the core of Southwest's success. Hopefully they're smart enough to remember that and not change it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Wish I could have seen Richt's reaction

Interesting Saturday in college football, with a few significant upsets and some excellent games. I enjoyed my first trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium as a media member rather than a ticket holder. It's a really good place to see a game, although the PA system operator's fixation with 80s rock is a little puzzling (multiple crowd sing-a-longs with Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" in the same night? Seriously?). South Carolina lost a game they easily could and probably should have won. Florida put the kind of beating on Kentucky that they should have put on Tennessee the week before. Lots of different things stand out from the weekend for me - here's some quick hits on a variety of topics...

1. Trey Burton's six touchdown night understandably got most of the attention after Florida's win over Kentucky, but there were other noteworthy developments. Andre Debose began to emerge as a factor in the offense, although I doubt having Frankie Hammond set picks on the guy covering Debose is going to reliably get him open against Bama. Robert Clark is someone who needs to see more opportunities with the ball going forward. He's shown the ability to make some tough catches. Beating the Crimson Tide is going to require being unpredictable - maybe UF won't actually have Brantley try to run option plays next week?

2. Imagine if Cam Newton was still at UF as a two headed QB with John Brantley. South Carolina knew Newton was going to take the ball right up the middle repeatedly, but they weren't able to control him with any consistency. Newton lacks accuracy down the field, but Auburn was so happy running the ball with him and throwing shorter stuff that they never bothered to do that. The Gamecocks have a good defense - if Newton could do that to them, he's got a shot against anybody.

3. Nothing sums up this nightmare of a season for Mark Richt better than the arrest of a freshman linebacker for DUI just hours after Georgia lost to Mississippi State. Richt's already kicked the kid off the team, presumably because he must be too dumb to boil water to do that after everything that's gone on in Athens. The Bulldogs get A.J. Green back this week, which will help them. They also get to play Colorado, which will really help. I still don't think Richt is in danger after this season, but there's legit anger out there among UGA fans right now. At minimum OC Mike Bobo may have to go after the season to cool some people down.

4. The guy a lot of Georgia fans would probably like to hire is Texas DC Will Muschamp. It's safe to say their demolition at the hands of UCLA wouldn't be a featured moment on his resume tape. The Longhorns have been overhyped based on what they did last season, but I never thought UCLA was going to be the one to expose them for what they really are. Nebraska's going to wreck them in mid-October.

5. UAB should have beaten Tennessee. The Blazer kicker missed five field goals, which proved to be the difference in the game, but UAB was the better overall team for 60 plus minutes in Knoxville. The Vols were 2-15 on third down at home against a midlevel Conference-USA team. Without any turnovers and with two overtimes to play in, they still mustered just 287 yards of offense. They're going to have a losing season unless they beat Georgia, because they aren't beating LSU, Bama or SC and there won't be much left to play the soft November once they try.

6 . Most people I know who are sports fans root for their teams to win. If the incessant commercials for one national sports bar chain are to be believed, the fans who watch games there don't actually cheer for teams but rather for games to go on forever so they don't have to leave the bar and go back to their pathetic lives. Seems like an odd way to try and convince people to come to your place.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Should be a fun weekend

I'm headed to Auburn this weekend to cover South Carolina's game with them. Should be one of the better matchups of the weekend, and especially given the sad circumstances of Kenny McKinley's suicide earlier this week it's a hard one to get a handle on. Will his former teammates be distracted or inspired? One thing that really stood out to me in watching Auburn's win over Clemson was how effective stuff on the perimeter was for Clemson. A lot of the Gamecocks running has been up the middle with Marcus Lattimore, but this week they may need to mix in more wide receiver screens and some Wildcat stuff to help open it up for him.

Florida gets Kentucky in Gainesville, a game that's got potential to be dangerous but is another one they should be able to handle. At some point the Gators have got to show an ability to put points on the board early in the action, and they clearly have better athletes on offense than Kentucky does on defense. If they let Kentucky get confidence after being roadkill against UF the past two seasons, that's a significant breakthrough for the Wildcats and then there's the chance a guy like Randall Cobb or Derrick Locke does does something special.

A few other games that have my attention:

Alabama should be able to take care of business against Arkansas. Ryan Mallett is more effective at home and has a stable of quality WRs against an inexperienced Bama secondary, but to be effective against the Crimson Tide you have to be able to run the ball as well. There's nothing to indicate the Razorbacks are capable of that. Alabama's actually not favored by much, but I think they win by double digits.

Boise State is going to kill Oregon State. Their victory over a team with a 1-2 record that only beat a bad Louisville team 35-28 will then be proclaimed as further evidence of them "doing everything you can ask them to do" and being worthy of playing for the national title. Alabama's win will be proclaimed a "good division win" and the start of a tough SEC stretch by the same people, who will be oblivious to how ridiculous the combination of the two sounds.

Stanford has punted less than any other team in college football this season. They head to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. My buddy Chris Fallica, ESPN's college research guru, believes there may be a trap here for them and I respect him too much to completely dismiss that possibility. If ND gets worked over, the possibility of a really rough start for Brian Kelly looms large. Harbaugh's going to be an NFL coach soon unless Michigan calls with a boatload of money.

In a normal week it would be hard to have a worse coaching matchup than Les Miles against Bill Stewart, but thanks to last night's Miami/Pittsburgh slopfest there actually was one. Some people are starting to raise the question about what could happen if WVU wins this game, because they would head into Big East play undefeated and as the clear favorite because the conference's performance has been horrid overall. My worst nightmare: Boise versus a mediocre WVU for the national title, with the win "proof" of their greatness. It's not often I'd say this, but let's go Les Miles.

Did Alabama's Nick Saban pressure non-productive players to accept a medical scholarship, thus ending their college careers and freeing up extra scholarships for the Crimson Tide to use in recruiting? Of course he did, and everyone who's been paying attention knows he has. The Wall Street Journal actually got some guys to acknowledge it on the record though, which is somewhat newsworthy. Coaches used to just tell these guys their scholarship wasn't renewed and to go away, but thanks to the APR that could have negative consequences now. As a result, more schools will go to a kid and inform him he has a "health problem" and suggest he quit football. If it's a choice between completing your education and being a former "fill in the blank" who caught a tough break or transferring down to a school like North Alabama and still playing, a lot of guys will take the deal. Saban's just been more obvious in his use of the loophole than most coaches are.

I'll be busy this weekend between covering the South Carolina at Auburn game and then the final round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta Sunday. I'm not sure how much time there will be for me to put stuff out on Twitter along the way, but I will when I can. Follow along at heathradio if you're so inclined. Have a great weekend and i'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It just wouldn't be the holidays without the Eaglebank Bowl

The NCAA is acknowledging the reality that this may be the year of the Bowlpocalypse. With 35 bowls approved to be played, there have to be seventy eligible teams at the end of the season to fill all the slots. This year, thanks to things like USC being ineligible, that may well not happen. What to do about it? How's letting teams with losing records play in bowls sound? Even though the NCAA has vowed for years it wouldn't let that happen, it's now in play as a possibility rather than have a scheduled bowl wind up cancelled for lack of participants. The idea is ridiculous. This isn't some unexpected development or fluke season - it was already close to happening multiple times before they chose to add another bowl. Either there are standards, or there aren't. If 5-7 teams are now bowl worthy, then just abandon all pretense of the regular season being relevant and allow whoever wants to put together a game to make it happen if their wallet's big enough. If somebody thinks a 4-8 Ole Miss versus a 3-9 UCLA team in the Gateway Bowl in St. Louis three days before Christmas would make money, let them do it. At least it would be a clear cash grab and we wouldn't have to hear any more happy talk about "rewarding teams for a great season" with a trip to Detroit at Christmas.

What had been a surprising start for Tampa Bay took a turn for the worse with the news safety Tanard Jackson is suspended for the rest of the season as a result of violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. It's the second year in a row he's been suspended for this type of issue, and Jackson has acknowledged his problems existed before he was chosen by the Bucs. I've noted before here that I believe bringing in this kind of guy is a big part of why the team has gotten off track in recent years. Players like Jackson can't be counted on despite being talented, as Tampa Bay just learned again. Meanwhile, if this means the return of Sabby Piscitelli to a meaningful role on the Buc defense then they're completely screwed. Piscitelli couldn't cover a dead body with a sheet - he's as bad a player as I saw in any regular capacity in the NFL last season.

The good news for UNC football is that the status of two more of their players got resolved yesterday. The bad news is there are ten more with issues still lingering out there. One player received a six game suspension, the other four. In a remarkable coincidence, the same Chris Hawkins who just happened to purchase A.J. Green's jersey turns out to have been linked to Tar Heels cornerback Kendric Burney's trips to Las Vegas and Atlanta. Maybe they were looking at jerseys to buy? (Just like the Green situation and his felony cocaine trafficking charges, Hawkins says this is all a big misunderstanding. Of course it is.) UNC says it will appeal the penalties, because they can't count on that losing teams get to go to bowls thing happening yet.

It is entirely possible that the Big Ten this week is playing the worst slate of games in the history of any conference for a single week. The Chicago Tribune points out it is so awful that the game ABC selected for its 3:30 network slot features Ohio State as more than a six touchdown favorite. The best game anyone is playing appears to actually be Penn State hosting Temple. The folks on the Big Ten Network are going to earn their money trying to polish this turd of a Saturday.

Interesting game in college football tonight, with Miami at Pittsburgh. Neither team has actually beaten a D-1 opponent yet, but they're both supposedly favorites in their respective pathetic conferences. The Hurricanes have had twelve days to regroup after their dreadful offensive performance in Columbus, and now that Randy Shannon made all players get off Twitter they're claiming to be "more focused". Pittsburgh is the perpetually underachieving squad they always seem to be under the Wannstache. Someone has to win, although history tells us with these two coaching masterminds at work it'll be more like "losing less".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The beginning of the end for Andy Reid in Philly

The Philadelphia Eagles will start Michael Vick at quarterback for the forseeable future. The decision by Andy Reid to pull an about face on what he's said throughout the season and as recently as Monday is to me a bad one. You traded Donovan McNabb because you said Kevin Kolb was ready to be your guy. Then, after one poor half against a really good Packers team that included a concussion you change your mind? What kind of leadership is that? Vick played terrific against Detroit in week 2, and appears to have made major strides with a full year under his belt. We'll see if he can replicate that success against better teams who are preparing for him. There may have been a time during the season to make this move, but I think the way Reid handled it was incredibly poor. If you're a player in that locker room, how can you trust anything the guy says now? Beyond that, Vick's a free agent after this year. How exactly can you turn around and say "Kolb's really ready now" if he leaves? This has the potential to be a major mess.

Had a few drinks while you're out? You have a decision to make: line up a ride, or potentially lose big money and go to jail. Sounds simple, but it's a choice lots of people make incorrectly every day. Braylon Edwards of the New York Jets took it even further as he picked up his DUI though. Despite Edwards and his two teammates riding with him all having been given a number by the Jets to call which would have brought trained security people to get them and their vehicles home, he decided it wasn't worth the time to call. The stupidity of not just hailing one of the umpteen easily accessible NYC cabs boggles the mind as well. The point here is not that DUIs are bad, which I suspect you'd already figured out. It's that these guys have a "nothing's going to touch me" arrogance that overrides any effort at rational analysis. Even with people bending over backward to help them, they refuse to accept it's a bad idea to get in the car with a buddy whose BAC is more than double the legal limit. People regularly wonder how so many guys wind up broke after their playing days - this kind of thinking is why.

Even when an athlete is trying to advocate for responsible driving behavior it can sometimes turn out less than ideal. Dexter McCluster of the Chiefs has a deal with a cel phone company, which had him do an anti-texting while driving PSA. Unfortunately, they decided to have him dance and rap his way through it. Think the rookie will be catching a little grief for this in his locker room? Tupac he's not.

It's no secret radio personalities sometimes display poor taste in their attempts at humor. When you're live working without a net, occasionally an ad lib that doesn't work will happen. Some shows intentionally try and push the boundaries of good taste and go too far. I can understand how that happens. What I can't understand is how someone can be stupid enough to script out a routine (for a filmed video appearing on his radio station's website) making jokes about someone who's still in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. The "joke" was that God was punishing Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio for beating Notre Dame on an overtime field goal by giving him a heart attack. HOHOHO, isn't that hilarious? There are some things which should be left alone, and someone dealing with a serious health issue would be one of them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kenny McKinley (1987-2010)

Incredibly sad news out of Denver last night, with word coming of the death of Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley. McKinley is South Carolina's all time leader in receptions, and was a terrific player for the Gamecocks. He'd been drafted by Denver in 2009 but hadn't been able to play much yet due to injury issues, including a knee problem that had him on IR for this season. Having covered McKinley his senior year, it's inconceivable to imagine he's gone. Indications are that his death was a suicide, which is hard to understand considering what an upbeat and positive guy he was. McKinley was just in Columbia ten days ago for the Georgia game. My wife talked to him and said he seemed the same as ever. It's just another reminder that you never know what's really going on with anyone but yourself.

Even though McKinley last played for the Gamecocks in 2008, he's got tons of friends in that locker room. With a roadtrip to Auburn next on their schedule, Steve Spurrier will have a major challenge getting them focused and ready for a big game. He dealt with a death at Florida in 2001 with Eraste Autin, but that came in July so there was more time to regroup. Autin was also a true freshman, and while that certainly hit Spurrier and his team hard it's not the same impact as the death of a guy you spent years with. Mckinley was a quarterback in high school and developed into a terrific college player under the tutelage of Spurrier and his son Steve JR. as WR coach. Here's a signature McKinley moment against Kentucky a few years ago.

There's other stuff going on worth blogging about on an ordinary day, but I don't think this entry should have anything else on it. This has to be incredibly hard on McKinley's family and friends, and I hope they eventually find peace about it. R.I.P.

Monday, September 20, 2010

College stuff today, pros tomorrow - crazy that the Bucs are 2-0 though

Interesting weekend in college football, even though we didn't see many upsets. Florida continues to figure out who they are on offense, with the line having just gotten its first game together this season. Young talent at the skill spots are still sorting out their roles. The unit will continue to get better, but that doesn't mean the playcalling will. John Brantley is not Tim Tebow, and calling Tebow era red zone plays like a short side option/shovel pass look (going to the left!) with him is stupid. Steve Addazio excels as a line coach and is a terrific motivator, but there's no evidence to this point that he's a brilliant offensive mind. I keep waiting for a creative game plan that impresses me, and it just hasn't happened. Meyer loves Addazio for having stayed loyal rather than accepting a couple of opportunities to be HC at schools like Holy Cross, but if the performance does not improve he is doing himself and his team a disservice if he refuses to consider a change in the OC role after the year. Other stuff from UF/Tennessee...

1. Matt Simms is delusional about his skill level and that of his team. He threw two picks, and easily could have been intercepted three other times. Tennessee's only two touchdowns came on busted secondary assignments that led to long passes to wide open receivers for the score. The Vols showed little ability to put together a clock chewing touchdown drive, which is what they'll desperately need in the coming weeks of SEC play to keep their defense from getting worn down to nothing. They'll have to be extremely lucky to have a .500 season.

2. Justin Hunter is a seriously impressive physical specimen at wide receiver. Tennessee has got to figure out a way to get him more involved going forward.

3. Gary Danielson is an intelligent analyst most of the time, but him repeatedly asserting there's no such thing as momentum in a game makes about as much sense as asserting there's no such thing as gravity. Having momentum doesn't mean you'll win, but it's impossible to deny the obvious surge of confidence a team like Auburn got in the second half of their game once they got a field goal to finally get on the board at the end of the first.

Other college football thoughts:

1. Michigan's Denard Robinson has justifiably gotten a ton of attention, but Nebraska's Taylor Martinez is the more impressive and relevant QB right now. Robinson's a sophomore, Martinez is a freshman. The Cornhuskers have a terrific shot at playing for the national title if Martinez can maintain this level of performance.

2. Best wishes for a quick recovery to Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, who suffered a heart attack just a little bit after calling for a game winning fake field goal on 4th and 14 in overtime. To say it was a daring call would be a gigantic understatement. If Notre Dame is in a safe defense against the fake, Dantonio's being called the biggest idiot in coaching today.

3. Worst weekend of any program goes to Houston. The Cougars went to UCLA as a ranked team with a theoretical Heisman candidate at quarterback in Case Keenum. They then lost Keenum and his backup for the year, as well as the game.

4. Lane Kiffin's stunt of going for two points for no reason is going to burn him if he tries it against better teams than Hawaii and Minnesota. As it is, USC beat the Gophers 32-21 after Lane's guys missed three 2-pt tries (now 2 of 7 for year). The spread on the game was 11.5 points. Think a few alums who lost their bets were ticked off about that?

5. Al Golden has Temple 3-0 headed to Penn State this week. They soundly beat UConn over the weekend. Having brought the Owls program back from the dead may be the single biggest accomplishment of any coach this decade if judged by degree of difficulty. Golden may be Joe Paterno's successor, but if he's not he's going to be a fantastic hire for some big school soon.

6. There's only one team from a BCS conference that's played three games and hasn't had a single one shown on TV other than via pay per view. Considering Texas A&M almost found a way to lose to FIU Saturday, that's probably been a good thing for the Aggies and for viewers.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Florida 45, Tennessee 21

Sorry for no post yesterday - occasionally the personal life gets in the way. Expectations for this weekend in college football won't be anywhere close to what they were last week, but sometimes it's those kind of weekends that turn out terrific. Instead of a few five star games, we've got a lot of three star ones that have some potential. While the Furman - South Carolina matchup I'm scheduled to cover isn't one of them, Florida - Tennessee may be although it shouldn't. If Florida plays as they are capable, they should gut Tennessee like a fish.

The Vols likely won't have their starting center who's part of a line that isn't very good to begin with. Their quarterback is mediocre at best, and they lack proven performers at receiver. Other than Tauren Poole at tailback and Luke Stocker at tight end (who Matt Simms has thus far ignored) it's hard to find guys who qualify as special talents on offense. The Gators should be able to blow them off the line when UF has the ball - the Vol DTs and MLB are absurdly undersized. It's all up to UF. They can play sloppy and make things interesting, or they can play average and crush Tennessee. The Vols got a pep talk from Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, so they do have that going for them. Not sure how well that makes up for the NCAA knowing former UT assistant coach David Reaves committed a major violation by not reporting the Vol hostesses visit to Byrnes High after he was informed of it though.

Other games I'll have my eye on...

Arkansas at Georgia - Ryan Mallett's performance on the road has been garbage. Will that change? How much more will Georgia be willing to let Aaron Murray do now that they're desperate to avoid falling to 0-2 in the SEC?

Texas at Texas Tech - Texas hasn't impressed me at all with their performance in their first two games, and this is Garrett Gilbert's first road start. I was already thinking Tech had a decent shot at an upset before my buddy Chris Fallica, ESPN's college research guru, told me he believes it's coming too. Wish I had a better idea exactly how Tommy Tuberville will approach this one, but the Red Raiders definitely have a good shot.

Nebraska at Washington - What will Jake Locker do against a defense much better than most he normally sees? Will I still get a Heisman Trophy campaign postcard from UW even if his team falls to 1-2? Freshman QB Taylor Martinez is the guy I really want to see in this one. If he can produce on the road against a legit BCS team, Nebraska becomes a legit national title contender because their schedule's a joke from here on out other than the Texas game.

Clemson at Auburn - No one has any idea if Clemson can play, because they've opened with two junk teams. I expect an Auburn win, but I'm curious to see how they look while getting it after slowing their tempo last week against Miss State.

Sunday I'll be in Charlotte for what may be my only in person look at the Bucs this year as they take on the Carolina Panthers. My expectations aren't very high, but it will be good to get to check them out. If you're an NFL fan, you need to read this column with statistical analysis for this week from the Washington Post. It's very good stuff from the people at Football Outsiders.

I'll be active over the weekend on Twitter reacting to games and other stuff that catches my attention. Follow along @heathradio if you're so inclined. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The guy holding press conferences dressed like a clown wants to question others behavior? Please

When Bruce Pearl confessed to lying to the NCAA Friday, the thing everyone wanted to know was why he'd done it. What had prompted the Tennessee basketball coach to try and BS his way out of a tight spot, and how had he gotten busted doing so? Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has that answer: Pearl violated rules by welcoming a recruit at his house while he was a high school junior, then denied he'd done so. Unfortunately for Pearl, the NCAA already had a photo of the player with him in his house. The cuts in salary and time recruiting for the Vols announced the other day were Tennessee's bid to keep Pearl, but make no mistake the NCAA is not done with this subject. Pearl could easily be gone right around the time UT starts conference play, or he could be there for years. It's too bad, because he's been great for that program and a real asset for the conference. When you do something stupid though, a price must be paid.

I wasn't planning to weigh in on the Ines Sainz/New York Jets controversy, because her situation is a strange one to get a handle on. The standards for appropriate on air behavior and dress are different for someone in her role with Mexican TV than they would be in the USA. It's not clear just how bad the Jets harassment of her was or whether she made it known to them it was bothering her. With that much grey area, I intended to steer clear of the topic. Then Clinton Portis decided to pop off about it yesterday, with the Redskins running back making the idiotic claim that woman reporters "get to go and look at 53 packages" in the locker room. Actually, they don't. Most players are dressed when media is allowed in the locker room during the week. Postgame only some players walk around without clothes, and the stench of sweaty shoulder pads doesn't exactly set a sexy mood. Portis has since "apologized" with zero sincerity, since it's clearly forced. It's kind of amazing to me we're having to even discuss this topic in 2010. Women who are covering the NFL have every right to be anywhere a male reporter can go, and the idea they've spent their entire careers struggling to reach the pinnacle with the hope of someday seeing the Buffalo Bills kicker nude is beyond stupid.

Reggie Bush finally made a savvy PR move, although by waiting until the last possible minute to give up his Heisman Trophy he limited the value of that move. No one knows whether Bush was given a warning that the Heisman Trust was going to strip him of the award or whether he came to that conclusion on his own. Either way, it sounds better to have given the trophy back than it would have for them to demand it be returned. Bush still didn't actually apologize for anything, but this is probably as close as he's going to get to doing that. Kudos to Vince Young for making the decision not to seek to be awarded the Heisman retroactively - you don't take things like that out of the trash once someone has thrown them away.

LeBron James could have used some good PR guidance this offseason, but instead he went with whatever his crew suggested. It was known that he'd done damage to his reputation with the general public, but now we have specific info on just how bad it really is. Only five other sports figures are more disliked than James, a fairly extraordinary number considering he was liked by 24 percent of sports fans earlier this year. James seems determined to drive that number down even further based on his behavior on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's not that good to be Chris Rainey today

Before Florida's last critical SEC game, the championship with Alabama, they had to deal with a key player getting arrested for doing something stupid after Monday's practice. That didn't work out so well, so Chris Rainey apparently wanted to give them a chance to handle dealing with the scenario a second time. The Gator wide receiver was arrested for aggravated stalking, and has apparently admitted to sending the woman in question a text saying "time to die". Florida needs Rainey against Tennessee a lot less than they needed Carlos Dunlap against Alabama, but this still can't be anything but a huge distraction. Rainey's never had arrest issues before that I know of, so if nothing comes out indicating he's been violent with a woman he may survive with a suspension. Otherwise, I suspect this is the end of his Gainesville run.

The National Football Post reports the NFLPA is expecting a report on the NCAA agent investigation to reach them within the next week. The report adds that "several agents, runners, and financial advisors" will be named in the document. This may mean we're closer to getting a final answer on the consequences for all the players potentially tied into this mess. The NFLPA can and will discipline the guys who have ties with the league already, but there's nothing they can do to punish the uncertified ones who are trying to buy a player or two to begin their agent career.

Season ticket sales have become an issue for lots of teams that have never had them before, both college and pro. Darren Rovell of CNBC explores the reasons why, and it's really not that hard if you pay attention to what's been going on. People are tighter with their finances than ever, plus TV technology has improved to the point watching at home can give you a vastly superior view to being there. You don't have to deal with traffic and five dollar sodas, either. Every college football fan I know with season tickets is stuck paying for at least two dog games per season like Presbyterian at Clemson. By not spending all the money for booster contributions and tickets to those games, you can easily have enough to scalp for every other game on the schedule with room left over. Unless you're obsessive about being in the same seats every game, what is the point of having season tickets now?

The loathsome Jay Mariotti will be charged with seven misdemeanor counts, including four of domestic violence, as a result of the episode which led to his arrest a few weeks ago. This will put Mariotti on the shelf until there's either a plea deal (career suicide) or his legal proceedings conclude without any convictions. Somehow Mariotti's avoided his mugshot being released, which is a minor miracle since every prominent sports blogger in the country has been trying to get it. As I noted, Jay has the right not to be judged before his trial but the decision to charge him this way strikes me as unlikely if the prosecutors did not feel they had solid evidence.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Anyone want a CP7 for Heisman notepad?

The anticipated big college football Saturday was a little bit of a letdown in that some of the expected great matchups failed to live up to their billing, but it was a fascinating one nonetheless. Week one of the NFL's not done, but there was some interesting stuff to work with there too. Here are some quick hits on a variety of topics.

Florida pulling away from USF in the second half seemed to convince some that they've "found themselves" on offense. I'm not so sure. They still don't seem to have any receiving personnel they trust except for Carl Moore and potentially Deonte Thompson. The OL got better with the return of Carl Johnson and the end of snap chaos, but it needs Xavier Nixon back badly. John Brantley's looked fine to me - his throws are accurate, although he stared down a receiver and threw a pass down in the red zone that would have been a pick six if USF's DB wasn't playing with a cast on his hand. Some plays from the past, like the return of the "Percy counter", make sense. Brantley trying to execute a shovel pass look when he's not a running threat does not. Defensively, UF should be able to focus on stopping Tauren Poole this week and do alright because Matt Simms is mediocre at best as UT's QB. Many Vols pass plays have only two reads because the players don't know the offense well enough yet - think Janoris Jenkins and Ahmad Black can have some fun with that?

The ACC is officially a punchline for the rest of the year now that all of their five preseason ranked teams have suffered a loss by two weeks into the season. I didn't think FSU was ready for a test like Oklahoma on the road, and they clearly weren't. The Seminoles defense is being coached by different people, but it's the same group of guys that have been a mess for multiple seasons now. BYU's coming into Tallahassee off a loss of their own this week - it will be interesting to see how that one turns out. Miami seemed to have a decent chance in Columbus, but it serves me right for thinking a group of guys who managed to lose a bowl to Wisconsin had come far enough to beat a good Buckeye squad in the Horseshoe.

While those two losses were bad for the conference, they were by underdogs. There's no explaining Georgia Tech losing to a Kansas squad that lost to North Dakota State a week earlier. The absolute stunner was Virginia Tech falling at home to James Madison. FSU almost fell into the same trap as the Hokies several times - the Noles were pushed to the brink by overmatched opponents like Troy on the Saturday after their Labor Day night games, which is part of why they aren't playing them anymore. As I noted last week, VT is notorious for poor early season performances, which is why it was a brilliant move for Boise State to schedule them as their potential "good" win. Does VT losing to JMU make Boise any less legit of a national championship contender? It shouldn't, because they shouldn't have been one in the first place. If however you're one of those Pat Forde types who've been making a show of pretending Boise's the best just to be cute, this shouldn't change your annoying little poser routine one bit.

Other quick CFB thoughts:

1. Tim Brewster's a dead man coaching. He was a terrible choice when Minnesota hired him, and losing to a South Dakota team UCF destroyed is the finishing blow.

2. Denard Robinson's off to an amazing start for Michigan and is a blast to watch, but being able to outrun UConn and Notre Dame's defenses is a little different than some he'll see down the line.

3. I'm really surprised just how awful UCLA is at this point. Rick Neuheisel's had some tough luck with injuries, but between him and Norm Chow it's hard to understand how they're so bad on offense.

4. ESPN's SEC Network crew is miles better than Raycom/J-P was, but Andre Ware kills me sometimes. B.J. Daniels lobs a pick six to Justin Trattou on a ball that never should have been thrown, and Ware starts in about how that's not on the quarterback. Say what? Also, if you go back and look at the starting lineup graphics it was apparently Deonte Thompson's first start at defensive tackle.

5. Keep your eye on Texas this week. They're starting their third running back in as many games, and they just don't look very good to me right now. Texas Tech has a shot there.

Tampa Bay winning their first game was nice, although I fully expect a 4-5 win year still. The Jaguars won as they usually do if they get a western team in the Florida heat in September. Why people are trying to make the experimental use of Tim Tebow for two plays into something more, I have no idea. Their plan is clearly to get him on the field for some snaps here and there and try to use his skills, but that's Orton's team in 2010. Miami winning against the Bills tells us very little, other than that the Bills are still not good. The NFL story of the day was the Calvin Johnson "catch" that wasn't under NFL rules. Not sure why people are surprised by this - it's come up several other times and they refuse to change the rule to something that actually makes sense. You have to feel for Detroit fans though. Their first road win in three years was stolen away under brutal circumstances, Matthew Stafford's injured, and their season is screwed before the first week's even over.

Friday, September 10, 2010

As a compromise, I suggest burning A.J. Green's jersey

It's been bizarre the past couple of weeks hearing about this imbecile with his pseudo-church who's somehow made Gainesville the center of the storm for possible retaliation if he burns a Quran on 9/11. There's a chance the nonsense has now ended, but attention whores like this guy don't tend to stop once they get a taste of it. Hopefully everyone will be able to go to the USF-UF game and enjoy themselves without the circus impeding their ability to do that. I'll be covering Georgia at South Carolina at the same time, so I'll have to see how the Gators looked on the field later on. With the bodies they're getting back this week and last week's dose of humility that was served up, I anticipate a strong performance.

There are so many terrific games this weekend - it's the best one I can remember in years. Miami at Ohio State's the best pure matchup, and one I think the Canes are ready to win. I'd feel even better if their QB didn't think this was a stylish outfit to wear to class. Penn State at Alabama won't be that great of a game, not when the Nittany Lions start a true freshman QB against a Nick Saban defense. You should still read this column from Jay Paterno about the connection between Bear Bryant and his father. FSU at Oklahoma should tell us a lot about both teams - seems like the Seminoles have gotten an inordinate amount of hype for having put a bunch of points against Samford. One game that could easily get ugly is Oregon at Tennessee. It's never good when the head coach of an SEC squad is lamenting his team's lack of shower discipline to the general public.

The guy who bought A.J. Green's jersey for a thousand dollars says he he isn't an agent. Sure he set up interviews for multiple UNC players with agents, but where would you ever get the idea he's an agent himself? The south Florida party that unleashed a cloud of NCAA issues across the south has now led to South Carolina receiving an official letter of inquiry. Hard to say just yet what this means, but given a choice between operating under an NCAA cloud indefinitely or taking their medicine now most people would prefer getting it over with.

One time when I was working at WRUF in my student days, I was solo hosting an evening sports show when I saw former Pixies lead singer Frank Black walking down the hall with a guitar. Apparently he played a couple of songs on Rock 104 to promote his gig in town later that evening. By the time I was done with the show, he was already gone - a seriously disappointing missed opportunity. Frank and the rest of the Pixies tore it up last night in Charlotte. I may be deaf in my left ear today, but I can cross another band off my all time "musical acts I have to see play live someday" list. If you like the band and haven't checked out some of Black's post-Pixies work you should. A couple of personal favorites of mine are "I Don't Want to Hurt You" and "I'm Not Dead (I'm in Pittsburgh)". Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday - follow me on Twitter @heathradio for college football thoughts and other stuff between now and then.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Georgia will never play in the Independence Bowl again - it's a collector's item!

If Georgia did believe that A.J. Green was going to be back for this week's game (and there were several indications that they did) they greatly misread the NCAA's thoughts on the matter. Green was suspended for the Bulldogs next three games, all of which are SEC affairs and two of which are on the road. Green being punished for selling his own jersey when Georgia and Nike are selling thousands of them is extremely ironic, but some people are choosing to ignore the real issue here. Green got a thousand dollars for his Independence Bowl jersey from someone the NCAA considers an agent. We don't if it's an actual agent or a runner, but either way a sizable amount of money changed hands from an "agent" to a current college player. Whether they got a jersey in the deal or not, that scenario is always going to lead to big trouble if the NCAA finds out about it. This doesn't doom the Bulldogs, but they have no one with proven high level SEC skill left to catch passes right now. Orson Charles is a nice weapon at tight end and maybe they get Branden Smith's speed more involved on the offensive side of the ball, but right now for Georgia to win these next few games their new 3-4 scheme is going to have to work very well right away. I wouldn't want to have to count on that if I was Mark Richt.

The NFL season's about to start, and who knows just how much we'll see of Tim Tebow from this point forward. He's going to be the Broncos number two QB, and there's a chance he may be used on short yardage or goal line situations as soon as this week in Jacksonville. Tebow is apparently planning to keep his presence in the public eye more prominent though, as he's launched his web and social media pages. Not sure what to expect from this - if Tebow shares things like pictures from his day to day activities and an occasional funny thought or bible verse it'll just blend in with the rest of the web. If he begins advocating for political causes or aggressively promoting his faith, it may rub some people in his locker room the wrong way. We'll see what Tebow has in mind.

Monday afternoon I happened to see the final couple of minutes of a high school game football on ESPN that was airing prior to Navy/Maryland. It featured West Palm Beach's Dwyer High against Glenville High from Cleveland, and was played at Ohio State's Stadium as part of a yearly event called "The Kirk Herbstreit Challenge". I saw the most obvious example of referees apparently intentionally stealing a game I have ever witnessed. Dwyer scored what should have been the game winning TD three separate times, and the officials refused to call any of them scores. The first call was a spectacular catch, and with no replay I could see how they missed it. When Dwyer appeared to get the ball across the goal line later on the drive it seemed clear enough that it was a puzzle how they missed it. The final play was simply inexcusable - it was a touchdown by a full yard at least, and still the refs said no and allowed the clock to expire. The announcers were baffled, as anyone watching had to be. Herbstreit had nothing to do with what happened of course, but to his credit still apologized to Dwyer for the fiasco. The Ohio high school association should do that and end the officiating careers of everyone involved. It was a disgrace - they're either completely incompetent or willfully cheated but either way it's unacceptable.

I've mentioned before that no one from the national media or the northeast should be allowed to discuss or write about college football unless they pass a test given by me. It's fair to say Phil Mushnick of the New York Post wouldn't pass. Mushnick writes primarily about media and fan issues, and seems to flog the same topics to death on a regular basis. In looking for something else to bash ESPN about, he decided to focus on their use of college football stats. Mushnick objected to the network pointing out Steve Spurrier was now 19-1 in first games of the season and that South Carolina has won their last eleven openers, a longer streak than anyone but the Gators in the SEC. According to Phil, this is a meaningless stat because SEC openers are "cakewalks". Mushnick managed to:

1. Apparently not realize Spurrier won some of those openers at Duke
2. Incorrectly state the Gamecocks played New Mexico State for an opener
3. Fail to know that under Spurrier their openers have actually included a home and home with North Carolina State, Mississippi State on the road, and a Southern Miss team that was in a bowl last year
4. Write this on the weekend SEC teams were playing games with "respectable" teams from the ACC, Big Ten, Big East and C-USA
5. Write it the weekend Ole Miss showed anyone can find a way to lose even as a heavy favorite

But hey, other than that he nailed it.

Normally tonight's games would be must see TV for me. I'm really intrigued by Auburn at Mississippi State, and Minnesota's visit to New Orleans to kick off the NFL season should be an excellent matchup. Instead of being at a sports bar, I'll be in Charlotte catching the Pixies in concert. The last time I missed a sports event of significance for a concert like this was the Chicago Cubs "Bartman" game. That was for Robert Cray and John Hiatt in Jacksonville. If something amazing happens tonight, I'll have to invest in a phone with video streaming.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Even Mike's got standards, apparently

Chuck Oliver of 680 the Fan in Atlanta reports A.J. Green's NCAA issue is over the sale of a jersey for a thousand dollars. This had been one of the popular rumors, but Chuck is the first media person to actually report that it's the reason Green hasn't been cleared to play yet. He's got excellent Georgia sources, and wouldn't go with this if he wasn't sure of it. No one can be sure what the NCAA will do, although Chuck says UGA believes Green will be cleared by Thursday with the one game he's sat out considered sufficient punishment. The Gamecocks can beat Georgia with him in the lineup, but it would be a lot easier if he's not.

Derek Dooley's attitude toward transfers is a mistake. The Tennessee coach has been spiteful and classless in refusing to release players who want to transfer out of his program, seemingly just because he can. Having said that, the much hyped and unspectacular "number one recruit" Bryce Brown handled his decision to leave Knoxville this summer about as poorly as he could have. Now his dad is threatening to sue Dooley and Tennessee for not releasing Brown to Kansas State. I'm no attorney, but I'm pretty sure "I'm pissed" is not an acceptable legal argument. What this would do though is further focus attention on how Dooley's handling things, which is not to his or the school's benefit. Compare the way Urban Meyer allowed two of his signees to transfer out before ever even completing their first preseason camp to the way Dooley's handled kids who in some cases signed based on promises made two coaching staffs ago. That will be an issue on the recruiting trail, whether Dooley grasps it yet or not. The wiser move would have been to release Brown and make this crap go away.

Kentucky basketball has another "insta-team" full of stars coming in to try and repeat the success of year one under John Calipari. It's not anticipated that they'll do as well, in part because there's not a Patrick Patterson to be the steady veteran on the roster and also because this just isn't considered as strong a year for talent. One guy who was expected to be a huge factor may have a major problem that can't be overcome, as the New York Times reports the GM of a Turkish pro team claims they paid Enes Kanter between 100-150 thousand dollars over three years. There is a chance he's lying, because the team could benefit financially from an NBA team paying his transfer fee, but there's no question the kid got money. How the NCAA sorts out this high profile mess will be the key to overseas recruiting in the future. On the other hand, when your overseas recruiting brings in Christian Drejer and Nimrod Tishman the idea of signing foreign players being impossible might sound appealing.

ESPN has done great work with its "30 for 30" series of documentaries, but last night's "One Night in Vegas" didn't really do much for me. The piece was about Tupac Shakur being shot (and dying a few days later as a result) the night of Mike Tyson's victory over Bruce Seldon (in what turned out to be the final heavyweight title bout he ever won). Unlike my 107.5 the Game colleague Duce Staley, I'm just not that into Tupac's music so I probably just wasn't the right audience for the film. Tyson said something hilarious in his interview with ABC News to promote the piece, though. His biggest regret about his friendship with Tupac? They never got to smoke weed together. Mike didn't want word to get out that he was a marijuana user. Tyson's rape conviction, his frequent psychotic behavior, the suicide attempt in his Bentley - those things and so much more were all okay to have out there, but if word got out Tyson liked to get high THEN his image would be shot?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Only Oregon State can save us now

Exactly the scenario I was afraid of played out last night at Fedex Field, as Boise State got their latest "this will be our resume for the entire season" opening day win against Virginia Tech. Give the Broncos credit for the victory. They're a good, solid team. What they are not is one of the top three teams in the country, but thanks to yet another Hokie gag job in their opener they will be touted as such all season long. Boise State did a brilliant job of picking this game, because VT has perpetually been overhyped (3-5 vs. ranked teams the last two years, yet billed as a top ten team again) and unprepared to start the season. This is the fourth loss in their last six openers against Division 1 teams, and their third in a row. Among those giants they've managed to lose an opener to since 2004 is East Carolina. Last night VT was down 17-0 after a disastrously sloppy first quarter (botched snap leading to field goal, blocked punt for short TD drive, missed FG) and STILL should have won. The decision to throw deep on third down with Boise out of timeouts and 2 minutes remaining on the clock was so idiotic I thought Les Miles had hacked into the VT headsets to make it. Even with a kneel down, VT's best case scenario is getting the ball back with about 1:10 to go and considerably more pressure. A running play, which they should have done, would have made that closer to a minute if it didn't get a first down. Instead, the incomplete pass left Boise plenty of time to comfortably execute their offense and win the game. Thanks to a backloaded ACC schedule VT won't play another ranked team until November 4th at the earliest, meaning the value of this win will be artificially inflated deep into the season as the Hokies move back up in the rankings by beating teams like James Madison, Central Michigan, Wake Forest and Duke. How delightful.

One of the NCAA's limitations in investigating potential violations is that it has no true authority over anyone who's not either a current athlete or employee. It's not a governmental body, and has no subpoena power. The state of North Carolina does have those powers, and once their Secretary of State decided to use them on Marvin Austin in her investigation Friday then things got interesting. If Austin decides to lie to her and gets caught, he can face perjury charges with jail time involved. Suddenly defensive line coach John Blake, the guy who once worked for the agent who's been most closely linked to the current scandal in reports, has resigned from the Tar Heel football staff. That is a really interesting coincidence of timing. Also noteworthy is that his attorney, when asked if Blake got money from any agents while he was coaching, does not deny it but instead calls it "a complicated question". Doesn't sound that complicated to me, which speaks volumes.

Tennessee has suffered their first noteworthy injury of the season, as wide receiver Gerald Jones will likely miss at least the Oregon and Florida games with a broken hand. This will only get worse now that the Vols are playing teams capable of competing in a way their opening week FCS opponent could not hope to do so. It's going to be a long year in Knoxville.

Tony Dungy and Rich McKay showed the way to build a successful team in Tampa Bay. They drafted talented players also known for good character, while taking passes on guys who might have more pure talent but who were also sketchy personalities. In recent years, that philosophy has changed as the team spent draft choices on guys like Aqib Talib. Apparently they're so thrilled with Talib's behavior - getting into a fight at the rookie symposium, about to serve a league suspension for punching a cab driver, etc. - that they thought he needed a sparring partner. Welcome the newest Buccaneer, LeGarrette Blount. The guy's a proven trouble maker in both collge and pro situations. Why do the Bucs think this is a good idea? It's going to be a long season.

Friday, September 3, 2010

No more ads with Bergwood the Allstate tool! This season's already gotten better

Not a lot of stunners on day one of college football. South Carolina shredded Southern Miss and made a statement that Spurrier's offense does have legit playmaking talent now. The Wannstache lost a non-conference game in the first two weeks of the season, as he always does. Tim Brewster isn't fired effective immediately as Minnesota's coach after narrowly avoiding losing to Middle Tennessee State without their primary offensive weapon. Now it's on to the weekend, and things should be fun although it's not a great slate of games. I'm going to be in Atlanta for LSU versus whatever's left of UNC, and I'm looking forward to seeing a bunch of the action with buddies during the afternoon. Here's a list of the ESPN games with announcers.

The NCAA finally gave someone a ruling on their part of the agent situation, with Alabama's Marcell Dareus getting two games. They also said it should have been four, but they reduced the suspension for "mitigating circumstances". Naturally Nick Saban says they'll appeal, because he doesn't want to not have Dareus against Penn State and thinks he should get whatever he wants. That's not what he actually said, but it is what he meant. We'll see what other rulings come down before the weekend, if any.

I'm writing this from the Williams-Brice Stadium press box, and since it's been a pretty full day i'm not planning on adding anything else to today's post. If something big does happen between now and the weekend, I'll add it in. Otherwise, enjoy your three day weekend and I will see you back here Tuesday. I'm sure I'll be sharing some thoughts on Twitter as we go - follow along @heathradio if you're interested.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Let's go Hawaii!

The college football season opens tonight. While Presbyterian at Wake Forest is technically the very first game of the season, I'll be at the game that is for all practical purposes the opener as South Carolina hosts Southern Miss. This is one the Gamecocks should win, but they've staggered through their last few openers so there's always the chance of an upset. I previewed it for my friend Chuck Oliver's site should you wish to read some extended thoughts on the game.

Also in action tonight will be Utah and Pittsburgh, with the Panthers heading west for the game, and Marshall at Ohio State. One matchup that was supposed to be a featured game on Saturday has now turned into a debacle, with UNC's agent/academic messes expected to cost them use of as many as sixteen players. I'll be at that game with a friend who typically likes to try and leave early if things are decided. If this many guys are missing, I'll have to make sure he's still even going. Back to tonight, Lane Kiffin and USC are at Hawaii beginning at eleven eastern meaning there's at least two games worth of action easily available in the night. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of as much as possible.

Nike unveiled their latest ridiculous alternate uniforms for ten schools yesterday, with Florida among those jumping through hoops for them. The Gators didn't do nearly as poorly as some teams, but I'm not a big fan of the scaly pattern on the helmet. What I don't get is why these programs are willing to feature these uniforms in key games. Boise State and Virginia Tech will go at it Labor Day in prime time with tons on the line, yet the Hokies will be wearing a ridiculously ugly black getup and Boise will be in helmets that look like something out of a bad movie football scene. I've talked to guys after these "alternate uniform" games, and more than one has told me something about their outfit took some getting used to. Why have players adjusting to their uniforms as a game's being played if you don't have to? Can these schools really sell that much extra merchandise with these outfits?

There's a difference between being willing to speak unpopular truths and saying really stupid things you happen to believe. Former Reds reliever Rob Dibble has always been closer to the second part of that than the first throughout his broadcast career, but he's always found someone else to employ him after he gets bounced from another venue. Now he's looking for work again after his bonehead "suck it up" routine about Stephen Strasburg got him fired as Washington Nationals color analyst. Curt Schilling, a pitcher who certainly has the ability to be a polarizing figure like Dibble, was able to explain on ESPN before the word on Strasburg's injury came down that the rookie almost certainly would need Tommy John surgery. He used his experience as a pitcher to explain why that was and what to look for, as opposed to trying to brag how much tougher he was than anyone else. There's a lesson to be learned from this episode (not by Dibble, it's too late for him) by other jocks about how to handle stuff like this going forward if they become a broadcaster.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Big "Ten" with twelve making dollars, but not sense

It appears the Big Ten will be announcing its future football divisional setup sometime today, possibly in a special on its own network. It makes some sense to do it now rather than have it be an issue during the season, although considering the conference has made vague claims of potential further expansion this seems kind of premature. It seems likely they will separate Michigan and Ohio State in the hopes of creating an annual rematch for the league title. If so, it's a horrible decision and one they will live to regret. You don't screw with the tradition that's built up around that game, yet they seem eager to do so in pursuit of a little more cash for championship game rights. When the Pac-10 announces divisions, it won't split the Oregon teams or the L.A. teams and move their rivalry games to September. It would be stupid, and their fans would go crazy. How are the OSU and Michigan leaders dumb enough to sit back and let this happen?

It's hilarious that Houston Nutt's last second free agent ploy to grab Jeremiah Masoli has blown up in his face without the kid even doing anything stupid. The NCAA acknowledged the obvious - Masoli is not transferring because he's an aspiring grad student looking for a hard to find major, he's a bad guy who got booted out of school for his criminal actions - and refused to grant his request for a rules exception. It appears to have never occurred to Nutt this might happen, because his response of "what they ought to do is change the rule" ignores the fact they DID change the rule in 2006 to allow athletes who'd graduated to transfer without sitting out. Coaches pitched a fit, and after less than a year the NCAA changed the rule back to requiring a grad student to get a waiver if he wanted not to have to sit out a year. Should've fought for the rule when you had a chance, Houston. Good luck keeping Masoli out of trouble for eighteen months instead of five.

BYU has decided to say so long to the MWC after all, making their move to the WCC for basketball and all their other sports. That means the Cougars not only are an independent in football, they're an independent with a deal for ESPN to hook them up with games. Hopefully this will lead to some interesting matchups in the future - I know South Carolina fans would be more intrigued by BYU than the Southern Miss game tomorrow that was set up by ESPN as their opener. This puts another nail in the WAC's coffin. If that league falls apart, having more independents may help schools set up more nonconference games at reasonable prices as opposed to the million dollar amount that seems to be becoming standard for a D-1 team now.

There was a rumor going around the last couple of days a Brandon Spikes sex video of some sort that had been up on Chatroulette. Turns out the rumor was true. How many more athletes are going to get burned on crap like this before they stop doing it? If some random guy who works as a plumber wants to get freaky on the internet, no one cares. When you're a star athlete, everything you do can become news. Spikes will be hearing crap about this for a long time, and for what? Can't say that I've ever seen Chatroulette in action but I'll take the Ben Folds version of it over Brandon's, thank you very much.