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June 30, 2009

McCOY: PAGE 301 TO THE COVER

It's pretty amazing when you think about it. Colt McCoy. A tall, scrawny kid from a town that no one outside a 40 mile radius could find on a map, goes from prospect, to blue chip, to last resort, to the top QB in the country.

And to symbolize his rise to the summit of the high school and college football peak? He's on the cover...no...his face is on the cover of the 50th edition of Dave Campbell's, the most respected and read football magazine in the state.

Colt's former team, the Jim Ned Indians, is written up this year on page 301. Imagine going from being a wide-eyed, knee-knocking kid at a 2A school, deep inside Dave Campbell's behind the college section, NFL section and most of the high school section, to having a close up of your face on the cover.

It's just about every Texas high school football player's dream to be mentioned in Dave Campbell's. Every June when the magazine is distributed across the state, millions of football players rush to a gas station or book store near by and frantically flip through the pages to find their team...using their index finger to read the text, desperately hoping to see their name permanently materialize before their eyes. I'm sorry to say that was one of the saddest moments of my life. It was 1998. My name never appeared. 

Even fewer athletes (the REALLY special ones) have their pictures inserted near the team's write up.

Colt doesn't have to flip through any pages this year to look for his name or his picture. All he has to do is look at the magazine sitting closed and untouched on the coffee table or in the rack at the super market.

Colt's story is unique and inspiring, but he didn't come from absolutely nowhere. Granted, he played at a very small school against inferior competition, but he still ranks 4th all time in the state of Texas in career TD passes and 8th all-time in career passing yards.

But, remember, he was the Longhorns' second choice at QB in the fall of 2005. Ryan Perilloux, the #1 ranked prep QB at the time, was committed to Texas. Colt was seen as sort of a PR move. A small-town kid getting a chance in Austin, but he'd never see the field.

Especially not after Vince Young just brought a National Title to Texas and left college as maybe the best college football player in history.

That's how Colt was mainly viewed by the public - not the Longhorns' staff. They knew Colt had the talent to compete at the FBS level and had as good a chance as any other highly rated QB to lead the Texas football team.

Good thing for Longhorn fans, Perilloux ended up at LSU and never saw significant time because of off-field issues. The exact opposite of Colt McCoy, the poster-child for how to behave off the field when you're a public figure.

So when that happened, in stepped true freshman Jevan Snead, the highly touted QB from Stephenville who had originally committed to Florida.

The proven, dual-threat athlete would be the one to step in and take over for Vince Young.

But Colt ignored the speculation and criticism and ultimately forced Snead to transfer. UT fans were "stuck" with Colt McCoy.

I can't tell you how many people I talked to during Colt's senior year in HS and redshirt freshman year at UT that said he didn't have what it took to be the Longhorns QB.

I can't tell you how many people I openly disagreed with (at the risk of being called a "homer").

In August of 2006, just months before Colt would start his first game as a Longhorn, I wrote the following:

"If given the fair and proper chance, McCoy will be a great quarterback. He will bring the Longhorns conference championships and maybe even a national title. He will rewrite the record books and become a beloved figure in Texas lore...

...I will guarantee that McCoy can handle adversity. I've watched him play in big games and seen him perform in pressure situations.

Expect the mistakes, let him grow into a great college quarterback and McCoy will put Tuscola on the national map. He just needs the chance."

Well, he got the chance. And has a chance to leave UT as one of the most decorated and recognized figures in UT history...all he needs is a national title.

Easier said than done.

But you know what else is easier said than done? A tall, scrawny kid on page 301 from a town that no one outside a 40 mile radius could find on a map, going from prospect, to blue chip, to last resort, to the top QB in the country immortalized on the cover of Dave Campbell's.

He's already done the unthinkable and conquered unimaginable heights. His background and story make me believe that he has a few more unattainable accomplishments to achieve.


June 22, 2009

2009 HEISMAN PREDICTION...KEENUM??

It's time.

Time to predict the award I personally hold above all other sports awards.

Not because I think it is the most prestigious award or that it goes to the best athlete in all other sports...but simply because college football is, by far, my favorite sport in the world.

In fact, there are just a handful of things (obviously very important things) I enjoy more...

So here we go..the 2009 Heisman prediction.

Last year I listed three players who I thought had the best chance: Florida's Tim Tebow, USC's Mark Sanchez and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen. OU's Sam Bradford ended up winning, Texas QB Colt McCoy came in a close second.

Read last year's post here: http://blogs.scripps.com/abil/bigcountryfootball/archives/2008/08/heisman-hopefuls.html

Tebow ended up in the final three (actually received the most first place votes), Sanchez would have been there if they hadn't been upset at Oregon State early in the year, and I was just way off on Clausen...maybe just a year early.

This year the possibilities and scenarios are even more interesting and endless.

My final three this year: UF's Tim Tebow, UT's Colt McCoy and Houston QB Case Keenum...and I'm not being a homer on the Keenum call, I'll explain why later...as soon as I tell you who I think WON'T win the Heisman.

Sam Bradford. He won't win because of three reasons: the OL, the wide receivers and the running backs. The OL and receiving corps lose a TON of experience. Because of that, the Sooners will be forced to throw the ball less and run the ball more. And why wouldn't they? They have the best running back duo in the nation in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown.

The emphasis will be on the running game, and there's no way Bradford will put up the ridiculous numbers from a year ago. He's out.

DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. OU's running backs are both coming off 1,000 yard seasons. Neither one will be able to separate and the Sooners won't be contenders without them both healthy. The only way one could separate would be if the other was injured, but if that happened, the Sooners would fall out of the national title hunt and the attention would be directed elsewhere.

Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter. The three-headed monster that is Oklahoma State. Two 1st Team All-Americans and a QB that would have led three other BCS conferences in nearly every passing category a year ago.

There's just too much star power. They'll cancel each other out and will take votes away from Bradford as well. Maybe not many...but enough.

Juice Williams. The dual-threat Illinois QB is an unbelievable athlete and should have his best season yet. He's got great receivers and a rocket arm. BUT. The Fighting Zookers play at Ohio State and versus Penn State in back to back weeks (Sept 23 and Oct 3). They'll lose at least one of those games which will immensely hurt his slim chances. Slim because of the part of the country he's in.

Darryl Clark and Evan Royster. Penn State's QB and RB that will both be at least All Big-10 if not All-Americans. But, like many other high profile teammates, they'll cancel each other out.

Terrelle Pryor. The Ohio State QB had a phenomenal freshman year. Look for him to struggle with the sophomore jinx. That combined with an early loss to USC and the fact that he won't put up the ridiculously flashy offensive numbers (like McCoy, Robinson, Tech's Taylor Potts and Tebow) will cost him a shot...this year.

Jahvid Best. The California RB (and nation's leading returning rusher) is really the only early contender on the West Coast. USC's QB is in his first year as the starter and they have about 17 running backs that would be starting in any other backfield in the nation. If Cal can upset USC, they'd be in the national title hunt, and it will be because of Best.

Those are the players I don't think will win.

Here are the players I think have a shot:

Jevan Snead. Ole Miss is picked by some to win their division and play in the SEC Championship this year. The only chance Snead has is if he leads the Rebels to the division title. How could that possibly happen? Home games against Bama and LSU and they don't play Florida or Georgia in the regular season. A relatively "easy" SEC schedule. Plus, they have some amazing athletes on both sides of the ball, beat Florida last year and Snead played his best football late in the year...something to build on.

Funny...Snead could play for the national championship this year, but to get there, he'll have to go through Florida (where he originally committed out of HS) and Texas (where he played as a freshman only to be beat out by Dave Campbell's cover boy, McCoy).

The main issue Snead will face is that if he is in the Heisman race, he'll have won the division and probably be facing Tebow in the SEC Championship. And if Tebow's in the championship game, he'll get more votes than Snead...period.

Snead's only chance is if Tennessee or Georgia come out of the East.

Jimmy Clausen. I picked him to be in the final three last year, but he really could be there this year. Notre Dame has a favorable schedule, and if they can upset USC in South Bend, Clausen will be in the conversation. The Irish play Michigan, Purdue, Pittsburgh and Stanford on the road. Everyone else has to go to Notre Dame stadium (except for Washington State which they're playing in San Antonio).

And now for my final three.

Colt McCoy. The Texas QB only set a national record for completion percentage last year and will leave Texas with every passing record and a legacy that will live forever in the hearts and minds of Longhorns past, present and future.

He brings back a great group of receivers including Jordan Shipley, who was granted a 6th year of eligibility, and has the best OL the Longhorns have had in more than a decade. Plus he's not sharing the backfield with a household name (like Bradford, Clark and Robinson).

Texas will have to beat OU, but the Longhorns' strengths (OL and WR) are the Sooners' weaknesses.

Colt will have another record-breaking year.

Tim Tebow. The only player in college football history to get a second chance to repeat as a Heisman trophy winner. The scary thing here is that the Gators return EVERY starter on defense and just about every key offensive player from a team that was crowned the best in the land a year ago.

Florida is ridiculously good and it will take an epic and monumental upset to knock them off the pedestal. He'll leave the college ranks as, arguably, the greatest college football player in history...seriously.

Case Keenum. The former Wylie Bulldog and Houston QB threw for more than 5,000 yards last year. He had a 44 to 11 TD:INT ratio and completed 67.4% of his passes. The Cougars are picked by many to win Conference USA.

IF...and it's a big IF...Keenum can lead his team to early season upsets at Oklahoma State and versus Texas Tech, he'll be the front-runner.

The only other way he could make a trip to the DAC is if Florida is upset early and Texas loses to OU or OSU. Crazier things have happened.

If Keenum puts up the kind of numbers he did a year ago...and he probably will...and if he gets some help from some other Heisman favorites, he has a great chance to be in the conversation at the end of the year.

Oh yeah, and he'll have to lead UH to a conference title. Houston plays at OSU, vs. Texas Tech, at UTEP (another Conf USA contender) and at Mississippi State in four straight games.

If UH comes out of that 3-1 or 4-0? Keenum's right there in it.

So there's my three favorites. McCoy, Keenum and Tebow.

Other dark horses? USC QB Aaron Corp, V Tech RB Darren Evans, Tech QB Taylor Potts and BYU QB Max Hall. If anyone wins the award that I haven't listed in this post...I won't know what to do with myself.

Thoughts?

 


June 15, 2009

LONGHORNS WILL SURVIVE THE SOUTH

You could make a strong argument that the Big 12 South is the toughest division in football. The other contender in that discussion is the SEC West.

The Big 12 South includes Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas A&M.

The SEC West? Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Comparing those two divisions outright will be the topic of a completely different post. This one here? We're just talking Big 12 South.

Texas A&M: they might actually be a bowl team in any other division or conference, but in the Big 12 South? They're terrible and will finish last.

Baylor: I'm calling for the Bears to make it to their first bowl since 1994. Why? Because they have one of the most talented, young QBs in the country in Robert Griffin. They've got a lot coming back on both sides of the ball and have an extremely talented and athletic defense. They will not be an automatic win for anyone this year. I actually believe they'll beat either Oklahoma State or Texas Tech.

Texas Tech: The Raiders are coming off their first ever 11-win season and were ranked as high as #2 late in the year before laying three eggs to end the season (a blowout loss at OU, a come-from-behind win at home against Baylor and a loss to Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl).

But the Raiders have a decent chance at winning 10 games this year (including a bowl win) because they have most of their defense back and will once again be one of the nation's most prolific offenses. Taylor Potts (Abilene High) is stepping into the bright lights and will have a fantastic year at QB. The only problem early on is that Tech plays at Texas on September 19, and I have a hard time believing the Raiders have a chance in that game. Tech does have a decent chance at being 8-1 heading into their final three games against the Oklahomas and Baylor and could be ranked in the top 10 heading into that stretch (especially if they play Texas close and win at Nebraska).

Oklahoma State: Ah, yes. The team everyone likes to forget about. The team that would easily, EASILY win the Big East and ACC and would have a great chance to win the Big 10 and every other non-BCS conference in America. But, alas, they're in the meat-grinder Big 12 South. This is a team that returns about 15 starters including what could be the best form of "The Triplets" in the nation in QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant.

Robinson is the only one of that group that WASN'T a 1st Team All-American and he just threw for 3,000 yards, 25 TDs, completed 65% of his passes and had a 166.8 rating. Pedestrian numbers when compared with fellow Big 12 South QBs Sam Bradford (50 TDs, 4,720 yds, 180.8 rating - national record, and 67.9 completion %) and Colt McCoy (34 TDs, 3,859 yds, 173.8 rating, 76.7 completion % - national record).

Robinson would have led the Big 10, ACC, Big East and Pac 10 in QB rating, and he would have led the Big 10, ACC and Big East in TDs and completion percentage. Ridiculous that he's in the "middle of the pack" in his division.

Needless to say that Hunter and Bryant are complete studs and LB Patrick Lavine and CB Perrish Cox will be drafted on day one next spring.

Oklahoma: I've already listed Bradford's Playstation-esque numbers. Then the Sooners return the best RB position in the country in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. I'll stand by that ranking. They're the best two RBs on any team...period. Jermaine Gresham is the best tight end in the country and they have nine starters back on defense including all four linemen, which is also the best unit in the country.

The only question mark is the offensive line which just returns one starter. That could play a role in whether or not Bradford puts up the kind of numbers he did a year ago in his Heisman campaign. The receivers are also less experienced. I expect Offensive Coordinators Kevin Wilson and Jay Norvell to rely more on the running game this year which will cause a decline in Bradford's numbers (a reason I don't think Bradford will repeat as Heisman winner).

And finally...Texas: Again, I already listed McCoy's numbers which included a new all-time record for completion percentage in a season...76.7%...unheard of. They also bring back a four-headed RB monster in Vondrell McGee, Foswhitt Whittaker, bruiser Cody Johnson and incoming freshman Chris Whaley.

The reason I think they'll beat OU this year? Simple. Their strengths are the Sooners' weaknesses: offensive line and receiver. Texas returns four O-linemen and the one "non-returning" starter actually started three games last year and played in 13 games as a true freshman in 2006. The receiving corps is basically intact with the addition of former QB John Chiles who is the fastest player on the team.

The defense will be even better than last year with big-time experience and talent.

But the reason I decided Texas would win the South was after looking at and comparing the schedules. Texas' schedule is slightly easier than the other members of the division. And keep in mind that the term "easier" is very, VERY relative here.

They open with Louisiana Monroe, then play Wyoming, UTEP and Central Florida in the non-conference games. Plus they miss out on Nebraska (picked to win North) and get Colorado, Kansas and Tech at home. They key games will be OU in Dallas and Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

OU opens with a strong BYU team, plays at Miami, and in conference goes to Nebraska and plays in Lubbock and Lawrence. The only home Big 12 teams the Sooners will host are Baylor, Kansas State, A&M and Oklahoma State.

OSU's schedule is even more brutal. They open with Georgia and Houston, and at the beginning of the season, both of those are games the Cowboys could very easily lose if they're not careful. They do get Texas and Missouri at home and miss out on Nebraska and the Kansas schools. The kicker is the fact they end with Texas Tech, Colorado and at Oklahoma, a stretch which could derail their season especially since they only get five days off between Tech and Colorado (which is on a Thursday).

So there you have it. Texas will win the South, will win the conference and play Florida in the national championship.

Sounds a lot like 2005 when Texas and USC where ranked #1 and #2 heading into the season and played in the Rose Bowl. This year it will be Florida #1, Texas #2 and that's how it will most likely stay throughout the season.

The fun part (or frustrating part) of it all is that OU or OSU could just as easily win the South. Nebraska could get hot and win the conference and we could see 47 changes in the top 5 like we've seen the past few years.

But that's my prediction and I'm sticking to it.

  • mark rogers
  • June 15, 2009 5:34 AM

June 13, 2009

14 GAME STREAKS

The 2009 College Football season has officially begun, and the only question now is which 14 game streak will end first? It's a question that will dominate the weeks and months until kickoff on that first Thursday night of action.

But wait, you say, the first game isn't until September 3...how can the season have officially begun??

Easy.

The preview magazines are on newstands. If you want solid and comprehensive preview magazines, you have nine choices: Athlon, Lindy's, Sporting News, Street and Smith, Sports Illustrated, Gameplan, Preview Sports, Jim Feist's and Phil Steele's.

My annual Phil Steele's came in the mail on Thursday. That's the only one I believe anyone needs.

So what 14 game streaks are we talking about?

Utah's 14 game win streak and Washington's 14 game losing streak.

OK, so maybe it won't be THAT fervently discussed, but I'm going to discuss it now.

Utah went 13-0 during the 2008 regular season and beat SEC runner-up Alabama in the  Sugar Bowl.

Washington hasn't won since they beat California at home towards the end of the 2007 season.

The Huskies should be much better this year with 18 starters returning, but they open the season at home against LSU.

Their streak will hit 15. But that's as far as it goes because Jake Locker and company will find the win column on September 12 at home against Idaho.

I doubt they'll be able to string a couple of wins together because they host USC the next week.

The Utes' streak may last a little longer into the season. Utah has a great shot at running the table again during the regular season.

They play Utah State at home on opening night (Thursday, September 3), then will beat San Jose State and Oregon on the road, have a great shot at beating Louisville at home, then play at Colorado State, at UNLV, Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico, at TCU, San Diego State and at BYU.

I don't think Utah will be challenged until they play TCU in Fort Worth on November 14. If they keep winning up to that point, the win streak will be at 23.

So the answer to the question is Washington. They will win before Utah loses.

Oh, the number of pre-season topics to discuss.....

Next up? Toughest schedules, who's coming out of the Big 12 South, SEC West, does Notre Dame have a shot at a National Title??? Heisman Trophy? Most improved teams? Teams to keep an eye on....

The possibilities are endless.

My favorite time of year is officially upon us.


June 7, 2009

BAYLOR TURNING THINGS AROUND?

Yeah, as crazy as it sounds...it just might be happening.

And there's a big, BIG difference in "turning things around" and being a contender or winning championships.

If you'll remember, back in November I predicted that Baylor would upset Texas Tech and gave some reasons why

(http://blogs.scripps.com/abil/bigcountryfootball/archives/2008/11/baylor-danger.html)

Baylor was leading that game late and nearly pulled it off.

They ended the season 4-8 but really had a pretty good year. It was made even brighter by the emergence of shining star Robert Griffin, a true freshman QB who threw for more than 2,000 yards, 15 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, completed 60% of his passes, rushed for 843 and 13 more touchdowns and had a 142.00 rating...pretty good numbers for a true freshman playing against Wake Forest, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech.

Last year was former Stephenville HS and University of Houston head coach Art Briles first as the head coach at Baylor, and he is turning the tide in Waco.

Turning the tide doesn't begin with winning championships, installing more discipline, getting stronger or having a huge stadium (although all that helps in the long run).

Turning the tide begins with recruiting.

Period.

And a few weeks ago, Baylor may have just pulled the stunner of the 2010 recruiting class by getting 5-star Safety prospect Ahmad Dixon (Waco Midway) to de-commit from Texas and commit to Baylor.

That move is the equivalent of a 9-year-old taking Mariano Rivera deep the opposite way with two men on and two outs in an important game.

It's like Tom Cruise doing something completely normal.

Or Terrell Owens playing in a Super Bowl...all absurdly out of the question.

Dixon is a local kid, whose dad is a preacher so staying home and being close to family is something very important to him.

It also doesn't help that Texas is probably the deepest team in the country at Dixon's position, and he would play immediately under Briles at Waco.

Dixon's commitment isn't going to bring a national championship to Waco anytime soon, but it could go a long way in changing the culture at Baylor from a dismal, gloomy quagmire to a division contender in a few years.

I think the Bears have a legitimate shot at going 6-6 this year and becoming bowl eligible.

And if THAT happens, count on even more big-time recruits choosing to spend their collegiate years in Waco.

  • mark rogers
  • June 7, 2009 7:30 PM