Tag:Arizona
Posted on: June 24, 2011 4:45 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Several Pac-12 coaches are on the hot seat

Posted by Bryan Fischer

CBSSports.com Senior Writer Dennis Dodd unveiled his 2011 Hot Seat Ratings for college football and if you pull out the Pac-12 coaches, you'll find the seat is quite toasty - or could be quickly - for at least half of the conference. While Utah's Kyle Whittingham and Washington's Steve Sarkisian don't have anything to worry about, Pac-12 media days might feature a few new faces next year. It almost seems as though the conference has to move to a "hot couch" to fit everybody on it. Here's the list of coaches on the West Coast in order from 5 (brushing off for-sale signs) to 0 (buying second beach house).

Washington State's Paul Wulff: 5.0

UCLA's Rick Neuheisel:
4.0

Arizona State's Dennis Erickson
: 3.5

Arizona's Mike Stoops: 2.5

USC's Lane Kiffin: 2.0

Cal's Jeff Tedford: 2.0

Stanford's David Shaw:
1.5

Colorado's Jon Embree: 1.0

Oregon State's Mike Riley: 1.0

Washington's Steve Sarkisian: 0.5

Utah's Kyle Whittingham: 0

Oregon's Chip Kelly: 0

Wulff is the only coach in the country to receive a 5.0 from Dodd. His winning percentage is south of the Mendoza Line (.135 entering 2011) and he probably needs to get the Cougars close to a bowl game in order to get another year. He's an alum of the school and poured all his efforts into rebuilding things on the Palouse but it's hard to overlook his overall record. He's got some talent on offense, notably quarterback Jeff Tuel, so there is some hope.

The coach with the best chance to get off of the seat is Erickson, who has a team full of upperclassmen and is primed to make a run at the first ever Pac-12 South title. He is just barely over .500 in his time in Tempe and has only finished in the upper half of the conference standings once, which is why his seat is third hottest in the conference.

It seems as though Neuheisel has "been on the cusp" of breaking through after two good recruiting classes a few years ago but he'll have to combat a tough schedule to prevent the temperature from rising further. Many have speculated that the school's financial situation is the only thing keeping him around for another year.

Tedford finds himself in the middle of the pack but he knows the situation is fluid. Cal fans' expectations will likely raise next year with the re-opening of Memorial Stadium so while the quarterback guru is probably safe this year, he's not too far away from having his name move higher on the list if things don't go well in 2011. Dodd accurately pegs Kiffin as having a pretty lukewarm seat, unlike what some fans outside Southern California might think. However, like with Chip Kelly, any NCAA trouble will find him shooting up to near the top of the list.

The hot seat is crowded in the Pac-12 and it should be fun to see who gets off of it this season.

One way or another.


Posted on: June 24, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2011 4:20 pm
 

Hot Seat Ratings: Happy marriages or honeymoons?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Dennis Dodd posted his annual list of Hot Seat Ratings today, so if you haven't perused them all, do so at once. At once, I say! Right now, let's focus on some of the untouchables, the 32 coaches who scored a 0.0-0.5 rating. Suffice it to say none of them are getting fired this year (or even next) without a major, unforeseeable catastrophe befalling the program. But past that, what coaches are truly untouchable, and who's just still on a honeymoon? Here's a look at 15 of those coaches, five for each category in the schools' alphabetical order, listed with Dodd's hot seat ratings.

THE HONEYMOONERS

Gene Chizik, Auburn, 0.0: Hear me out. Chizik is absolutely a 0.0 on Dodd's scale this year, and he would be even if the NCAA somehow finds a way to make Auburn vacate the 2010 BCS Championship (though that seems extremely unlikely at this juncture). But Auburn is expected to struggle this year, and while it's easy now to say that the title has earned Chizik a five-year grace period, what happens if Gus Malzahn gets a high-major head coaching offer and Kiehl Frazier doesn't pan out? If Auburn struggles through two straight .500 seasons and Malzahn takes off, that 0.0 turns into a 2.0 pretty soon.
Will Muschamp, Florida, 0.5: Muschamp is one of the most dynamic and promising new head coaches in the last decade or so, but the fact remains that he's a 39-year-old, first-year head coach at a "win right now" program. Oh, and John Brantley is still his quarterback. If Muschamp can't get his Gators back above the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC East pecking order, his seat's going to ignite in a hurry.
Chip Kelly, Oregon, 0.0: The other coach coming off a 2010 BCS Championship berth also has two things working against him: a track record of only two seasons as head coach, and the possibility of major NCAA violations. For Kelly, the worry is more the latter than the former, and depending on where this business with Willie Lyles and Lache Seastrunk's recruitment ends up, Kelly could find himself in way more hot water than a 22-4 coach has any right to be. That's all "ifs" right now though, so for now, the honeymoon is still on.
Doug Marrone, Syracuse, 0.5: Marrone enters his third year with the Orange after guiding the once-proud program to a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Kansas State last year -- Syracuse's first bowl win since 2001. He's got a solid core of skill players back, but the overall talent level at Syracuse is still low enough that a moderate rash of injuries could be enough to plunge Syracuse back to the level of 3-5 wins in 2011, and that's a good way to snap fans back into remembering that the Pinstripe Bowl is just... the Pinstripe Bowl. Marrone's still got a lot of work to do.
Steve Sarkisian, Washington, 0.5: Like Marrone, Sarkisian has performed the rather remarkable feat of turning around a program that had been mired in sub-mediocrity for the majority of the '00s. But like Marrone, the program's talent level isn't BCS-caliber yet, and unlike Marrone, Sark has to contend with losing a first-round draft pick senior quarterback, Jake Locker. Further, Washington's road schedule is brutal this year; the Huskies'll probably have to win at least two home games between California, Arizona, and Oregon just to get back to .500.

HAPPILY MARRIED

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State, 0.5: That Bobby Bowden transition wasn't so bad after all, was it? That's because Fisher guided FSU to 10 wins in his very first year... unlike the last six years of the Bowden era. Seminole fans are going to start raising expectations to the levels of the mid-'90s, so four losses and an ACC Championship loss aren't going to cut it forever, but Fisher's recruiting well enough to restore FSU to glory quickly.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa, 0.5: How comfortably ensconced at Iowa is Ferentz? He's been coaching at Iowa for 12 years, and in seven of them, Iowa has suffered at least five losses. Ferentz runs a clean coaching staff, but there have been a couple isolated stretches of off-field embarrassments for the Hawkeyes -- and the rhabdo case certainly didn't help matters. But he's well-loved in Iowa City all the same, and the fact that he has turned down offers from Michigan and several NFL teams is not lost on Iowa fans or administrators. Moreover, his teams haven't been bad since his first two years on campus, and he's producing a double-digit win season once per three years; if he keeps that pace up, he'll be at Iowa for as long as he wants.
Charlie Strong, Louisville, 0.5: Strong has only been at Louisville for one season, but he's already got a winning season under his belt (unlike the disastrous reign of his predecessor, Steve Kragthorpe), and he's recruiting well enough (in particular, QB signee Teddy Bridgewater) to keep Louisville winning in perpetuity. If Strong leaves, it's because a powerhouse came calling; he's legit, and everybody at Louisville knows it. If he delivers a BCS win, you can move him into the last category here.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, 0.5: Dantonio has been more successful at Michigan State than Nick Saban was. Mark Dantonio is therefore a better coach than Nick Saban. QED. If Dantonio can avoid any more health scares and start routinely challenging for Big Ten (sigh) Legends division championships, he's set for life in East Lansing. Easier said than done with Nebraska coming to town and Michigan likely to rebound from the recent swoon, though.
Bo Pelini, Nebraska, 0.5: Bo Pelini has done a fine job in his first three years as Nebraska head coach, and on first glance, it appears the young coach is the perfect candidate to lead the Huskers into the Big Ten. There's been an odd sense of impermanence from Pelini's stay at Nebraska though; it's unclear whether it comes from his tempermental sideline behavior (and his brother's) or his itinerant career thus far -- this fourth season as Huskers head coach makes this the longest coaching job Pelini has ever held. Whatever it is, he seems to lack the stable, staid nature of his longer-tenured fellow coaches. That's not insignificant; if a coach can make his fans and boosters believe he's got everything under control when things go south for a year or two, his seat can stay nice and cool for longer. Pelini is respected, but he's not quite there yet.

YOU'LL HAVE TO PRY THEM FROM OUR COLD DEAD HANDS

Nick Saban, Alabama, 0.0: Saban delivered a national championship to Tuscaloosa in his second year there, and his Crimson Tide have finished with three straight AP Top 10 finishes. He's the highest-paid coach in college football for a reason: he earns it.
Chris Peterson, Boise State, 0.5: Peterson basically ruined the WAC for everybody else, going 61-5 as Boise's head man. Sure, you can wonder where he'd be without Kellen Moore, but Peterson did beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl with Jared Zabransky behind center. Now that Utah and TCU are both running off to BCS conferences, expect Boise to dominate the Mountain West for as long as Peterson's there.
Chris Ault, Nevada, 0.0: If this scale could go into negative numbers, Ault would be at least a -10. He's a College Football Hall of Famer who has overseen Nevada's rise from Division II to the upper echelon of the FBS mid-majors. Ault is a true Nevada lifer: he played QB for the Wolfpack in the '60s, and he's on his 26th year as a head coach with the program (his 39th overall in some facet with the Nevada athletic department). He is never, ever, ever getting fired. 
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern, 0.0: Fitzgerald just signed a contract extension that has 10 years on it, but is a de facto lifetime contract. He'll probably be in Evanston for at least the next 20 years. Seems crazy to say something like that about Northwestern football, doesn't it? But here it is and here we are.
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 0.0: The Hokies owe as much to Beamer as just about any program and current coach in the country (other than the aforementioned Nevada and Ault or Penn State and Joe Paterno, who might as well get the school named after him upon retirement). When the ACC realigned in 2005 to include a championship game, the divisions were set up to ensure the possibility of Miami and FSU meeting every season. Instead, it's been Virginia Tech dominating the conference, appearing in four of six championship games and winning three. The ACC is Frank Beamer's conference, so the very notion of a hot seat for Beamer is essentially unimaginable.
Posted on: June 10, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Mike Riley 'encouraged' by Rodgers' progress

Posted by Tom Fornelli

There are a lot of questions about Oregon State heading into 2011, but perhaps none asked more than what the status for wide receiver/returner James Rodgers is. Rodgers tore ligaments in his left knee during an Oregon State win over Arizona on October 9th when he was pulled down from behind after scoring a touchdown. He's had two surgeries on the knee since, and his status for 2011 has been up in the air.

However, in a recent talk with The Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley did give Beaver fans a reason to be somewhat optimistic. While Riley himself isn't sure what Rodgers' availability will be this year, he is encouraged by what he's seen lately.

“James is on a treadmill, jogging, walking without a limp," Riley told Eggers. "He can jog out on the field. I’m encouraged, although conservatively. I don’t want to put any unreasonable or unknowledgeable expectations. The doctor thinks he’ll be ready to play football this season. He thought James might be a little late getting into camp, but he didn’t put any more restrictions on it than that.” 

If the doctors feel that Rodgers should be able to play this season, that's always a good sign. Though it should be noticed that Riley did not go into detail as to when this season Rodgers would be ready. All we can speculate with a fair amount of certainty at this point is that Rodgers won't be able to participate in camps before the season. 

Posted on: May 23, 2011 6:07 pm
 

Arizona's Mobley tears his ACL

Posted by Tom Fornelli

As of this moment, the A in ACL stands for anterior. I propose we change it to Arizona.

Arizona defensive lineman Willie Mobley has suffered a torn ACL while playing basketball in the student rec center and will have to undergo surgery on it. Arizona confirmed the injury on Monday. Mobley is the fourth Wildcat to tear an ACL this spring, joining starting safety Adam Hall, starting linebacker Jake Fischer and reserve running back Greg Nwoko. Throw in a couple of torn ACLs over at rival Arizona State, and it suddenly seems that the dry heat of Arizona is murder on knee ligaments.

If there is any silver lining in this for Arizona it's that Mobley was not expected to be a starter for the Wildcats this season, so at least Mike Stoops' defense isn't down three starters. Mobley did play in 10 games last season, though, racking up 7 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and half a sack. He was projected to backup Justin Washington this year.

Still, this does take away depth on the defensive line, and if I were Mike Stoops right now, I'd probably institute a rule mandating all my players wear knee braces at all times. Also, no more basketball at the rec center. 

Posted on: May 20, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: May 20, 2011 11:24 am
 

Tyler Gabbert visiting Louisville

By Brett McMurphy
CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Former Missouri quarterback Tyler Gabbert is visiting Louisville today, sources told CBSSports.com

Out of Parkway West High School, Gabbert initially committed to Nebraska where he was recruited by Huskers offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. Gabbert later de-committed and signed with Missouri.

Watson is now the quarterbacks coach at Louisville.

Other schools that Gabbert reportedly is interested in include Iowa, Clemson, Wake Forest and Arizona.

Gabbert left Missouri because he wanted an opportunity to compete for a starting position, his father Chuck told reporters. Gabbert was beaten out for Missouri’s starting position by James Franklin.

Gabbert’s older brother, Blaine, was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by Jacksonville.

Posted on: May 17, 2011 6:11 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Tommie Frazier's snub highlights poor HOF policy

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The College Football Hall of Fame announced its class of 2011 today, electing 16 former players and coaches to the ranks of gridiron immortality. Of the six players we had tabbed in March as the most deserving of induction, three (Deion Sanders, Russell Maryland, and Eddie George) were elected today, so we don't have quite the gripe we did earlier.

And yet, there are still dozens upon dozens of clearly deserving players who haven't been granted induction into the Hall, had to wait an unreasonably long time to be inducted, or for whatever reason, aren't even on the ballot yet. Eric Dickerson has been out of college football for nearly 30 years, and he's not in yet. He was out of the NFL for all of five years before being named a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. Deion Sanders was elected a full 22 seasons after he last played a down for Florida State. Of the 16 inductees in this class, the youngest player is Arizona DT Rob Waldrop, who last played in 1993. Others, like Oklahoma running back Clendon Thomas, played upwards of 50 years ago. There's no real telling why they were just now elected. 

On that note, this is Tommie Frazier's first time on the ballot, and his collegiate career ended sixteen years ago, in 1994. Sixteen years! What, exactly, was going to change about Frazier's resume between 1999 (granting him the same five-year post-career moratorium on voting that the pros use) and today? And being that nothing changed about that resume, why on earth wasn't he elected on this ballot?

Let's go back over the facts. Frazier went 33-3 as a starting quarterback for Nebraska -- an absurd .917 career winning percentage. His Huskers went to three title games in that span, winning two national championships and coming within one (badly) missed field goal of a third. Frazier rushed for 2,286 yards and 36 touchdowns in his career, and threw for over 4,000 yards and 47 more TDs to just 18 interceptions. He is unquestionably one of the best option quarterbacks in college football history. And he capped that incredible career with this famous run in the National Championship against Florida, which just so happens to be one of the best plays in college football history.

So if Tommie Frazier is not an immediate, unquestionable first-ballot Hall of Famer in this sport, then what is the point of having a College Football Hall of Fame? Why is the Hall of Fame not even bothering to induct anybody who played fewer than 17 years ago? Are they backed up? Understaffed? Unable to properly address his candidacy for whatever reason? Perhaps the Hall should go all-out next year and elect about 90 players and coaches next year, because between the players who weren't voted in and the ones who aren't 40 years old or older yet, there is no shortage of great college football players who aren't being given their due praise on a timely basis. Look at the ballot voters had to deal with this year. It's filled with guys who deserve recognition, and it's comically outdated. It's a list that -- barring the rare late-'90s player like Matt Stinchcomb or Joe Hamilton -- should have been in front of the voters 20 years ago, not today.

If there's some political reason that Frazier's not in the Hall yet -- didn't glad-hand enough or give off the impression that he wanted to be in or whatever -- then that's unbearable, because that's not what a Hall of Fame should be about. The fact of the matter is that a College Football Hall of Fame that does not include Tommie Frazier is an incomplete Hall of Fame, and the voters owe it to Frazier, Nebraska, and college football as a whole to fix this mistake as soon as possible. Anything else is a plain travesty. 

Posted on: May 17, 2011 12:22 pm
 

College Football Hall of Fame inductees announced

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We already knew Lloyd Carr and Eddie George had made it. But the National Football Foundation today announced the other 13 players and one coach that have also been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame for the 2011 class.

Here they are, listed alphabetically with a short bio from the original 2011 Hall of Fame ballot:

Carlos Alvarez, wide receiver, Florida

1969 consensus First Team All-America and ranks as Florida’s all-time career leader with 2,563 receiving yards. . . Two-time All-SEC, setting eight conference records in 1969. . . First Team Academic All-American.

Fisher DeBerry, coach, Air Force

Coached 1984-2006 ... Winningest coach in Air Force history, leading Falcons to three conference championships. . . Led Air Force to 12 post-season berths and three-time conference Coach of the Year. . . Named National Coach of the Year in 1985, coaching 16 All-Americans, 127 All-Conference players and 11 Academic All-Americans.

Doug English, defensive tackle, Texas

Member of three bowl teams, including 1973 Cotton Bowl championship team. . . Two-time All-SWC selection. . . Member of two Southwest Conference championship teams (1972, 73). . . Averaged 10 tackles per game.

Bill Enyart, fullback, Oregon State

Named First Team All-America in 1968. . .Set school record with 1,304 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 1968. . .1968 Hula Bowl MVP and two-time First Team All-Conference selection (1967-68).

Marty Lyons, defensive tackle, Alabama

1978 consensus First Team All-America who led team to 1978 National Championship at Sugar Bowl. . .Helped team to four consecutive bowl wins and three conference championships. . .1978 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Russell Maryland, defensive tackle, Miami

1990 unanimous First Team All-America selection and Outland Trophy winner. . .Led Miami to four consecutive bowl berths and national championships in 1987 and 1989. . .Registered 45-3-0 record during career.

Deion Sanders, cornerback, Florida State

Two-time unanimous First Team All-America in 1987 and 1988. . . 1988 Jim Thorpe Award winner. . . Returned four interceptions for touchdowns in career. . . Holds school records for most punt return yards in a season and in a career.

Jake Scott, defensive back, Georgia

Named consensus First Team All-America in 1968. . . 1968 SEC Most Valuable Player. . . Twice led the SEC in interceptions and still holds the SEC record with two interceptions returned for a touchdown in a single game.

Will Shields, offensive guard, Nebraska

1992 unanimous First Team All-America and 1992 Outland Trophy winner. . .Key to three Huskers’ NCAA rushing titles (1989, ’91, ’92). . .Led team to four bowl berths and back-to-back Big Eight titles in 1991 and 1992.

Sandy Stephens, quarterback, Minnesota

1961 consensus First Team All-America who led team to 1960 National Championship and back-to-back Rose Bowl berths. . . Nation’s first African-American All-America QB and 1961 Big Ten MVP. . . Fourth in 1961 Heisman voting.

Darryl Talley, linebacker, West Virginia

Named unanimous First Team All-America in 1982. . .Considered the most prolific tackler in school history holding the school’s record for career tackles (484). . .Member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

Clendon Thomas, running back, Oklahoma

Led Sooners in scoring during two seasons (1956-1957) as part of 47-game winning streak ... Won two national titles under Bud Wilkinson ... in 1957 was named consensus All-American, finished ninth in Heisman Trophy balloting

Rob Waldrop, defensive lineman, Arizona

Two-time First Team All-America, garnering consensus honors in ’92 and unanimous laurels in ’93. . . Winner of Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland awards and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year (1993). . .Led Cats to three bowl berths.

Gene Washington, wide receiver, Michigan State

First Team All-America who led State to back-to-back national championship seasons (1965-66) and undefeated season in ‘66. . . Led MSU to consecutive Big Ten titles. . . Led team in receptions for three-straight seasons.

Posted on: May 12, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: preseason top 25

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

We've already talked about No. 1, but the end of spring has also meant a revision of the rest of the preseason top 25, like our colleague Dennis Dodd's. What teams do you feel like might deserve a better ranking at this stage (or one at all)? What teams do you feel like might be ranked too highly?

Jerry Hinnen: There always seems to be one team from the SEC that comes from outside the preseason polls and surprises--think Mississippi State last year, Ole Miss in 2008, etc. But Dennis's 25 already includes every SEC team but Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and I'm not sold on any of those teams as poll material. (There's a case to be made for the Vols, but only if Tyler Bray takes a major step forward, and his 5-for-30 spring game suggests that step may not be imminent.)

So I'll look elsewhere for a sleeper and mention how much I like San Diego State. The Aztecs have absorbed some heavy losses in their pair of NFL-bound wideouts and, of course, the head coach-offensive coordinator pairing of Brady Hoke and Al Borges. But Ronnie Hillman is an All-American running back waiting to happen, and senior Ryan Lindley is easily the best MWC quarterback this side of Kellen Moore. Together, they're one of the nation's best RB-QB combos, and new OC Andy Ludwig (the man behind Utah's undefeated 2008 attack) should know how to get the most out of them.

Defensively, the Aztecs should be much more comfortable in the second year of Rocky Long's unorthodox 3-3-5 scheme, and the schedule also offers the opportunity for two huge statement wins since TCU and Boise State travel to San Diego. Put it all together, and I don't think the departures of Hoke and Borges will be nearly enough to stop the program's momentum towards the polls.

Bryan Fischer: One team I think is a bit under the radar is Georgia. The Dawgs get the other division favorite, South Carolina, early in the schedule--that could be key if the Gamecocks are breaking in Connor Shaw, who has all of 33 passes to his name. I'm concerned about Georgia's running game but they have a good quarterback and the defense should be markedly improved in year two under Todd Grantham.

West Virginia is another team that can really make a move. They lose a lot from last year on defense but should be solid nevertheless. They might have one of the best offenses in the country with Geno Smith running the show and get their big non-conference game against LSU at home.

Chip Patterson: I agree with Bryan that West Virginia is a team that could cause some problems this fall. Dana Holgorsen might have done the coaching job of the year in 2010 with Oklahoma State's offense; the Cowboys did not return a single offensive lineman and his scheme resulted in the third-most productive offense in the nation anyway. Now he gets a stable full of athletes that, in many people's opinions, have been underperforming under Bill Stewart. Smith is the type of quarterback who can be a threat in Holgorsen's spread, especially once he gets familiar with the reads and changing plays at the line of scrimmage. The toughest challenge on the Mountaineers' slate is an early-season battle with LSU in Morgantown (as Bryan mentioned). I think that game is winnable, and could give them confidence headed into the back-loaded conference schedule.

Virginia Tech, though, is a huge question mark in my opinion. While I'm not sure whether they will end up higher or lower than 17, there's as much of a chance of them finishing the season unranked as getting to 10 wins. Their schedule does set up extremely well, with Clemson, Miami and North Carolina coming to Blacksburg and Florida State, Maryland and N.C. State avoided completely. But Logan Thomas needs to prove himself in a game situation, and running back David Wilson will have to work without Darren Evans or Ryan Williams to compliment him. Even if the Hokies finish the season strong, the eye test does not have them as "Top 20 good" just yet.

Adam Jacobi: After the first, oh, eight teams, I've got some major concerns about nearly every team on the list. Spring is the season for questions, of course, but it's like, "Michigan State at 11? Really? Wisconsin at 12? Really? Arkansas at 13? Really?" But you look at that list, and yeah, that's about right.

The one team that stands out to me is Notre Dame, who sort of creeps in under the radar at 19. I don't expect that sterling recruiting class to make much of an impact in Year 1, but there's a lot of talent coming back for Brian Kelly to build on. They have options at quarterback with Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees, the passing game basically only lost tight end Kyle Rudolph (who was injured for the second half of the season anyway), and four of five starting linemen return. The defense, meanwhile, is still led by Manti Te'o and returns its top eight tacklers. There's some retooling to do up the middle of the front seven, but the leadership and experience are there for the D to take a big step forward this year.

Lastly, I really like the Irish's schedule. The only truly worrisome game is the season finale at Stanford; the rest of the games are winnable. That's not to say the Irish are definitely going 11-1 in the regular season -- that's not happening without a ton of luck -- but it's a nice very-best-case scenario.

BF: I think the top 10 is pretty much standard for everyone. Sure, you can change the order and move teams around, but you can't argue with those 10 teams much.

After that, I have an issue with Auburn at 15. I know they're the defending champions, but they lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and the Tigers have a very tough schedule where they could take some losses. I'm also not sold on Utah after watching them collapse down the stretch last year, and they've had a ton of guys sit out this spring with injuries. I'd swap them in the rankings with USC -- who has depth issues but also has Matt Barkley and Robert Woods throwing the ball around -- or UCF.

AJ: Here's something I want to know -- what do you do about Ohio State if you're a voter? Do you ding them since the Buckeye Five are suspended for five games? Do you un-ding them when they come back? How many spots does Jim Tressel's situation cost them? What's the protocol here?

Tom Fornelli: I would have them lower on my rankings, personally. Losing some of your best players and your head coach for five games is a big deal, even if those games are against MACifices that shouldn't prove much of a test to the Buckeyes. Either way, those players and Tressel aren't there to start the season, so we should treat Ohio State as if they're not there. And do you see Ohio State being a top-25 team with Joe Bauserman?

JH: Disagree. I don't think there's a "protocol" on how to deal with the Buckeyes' current (unprecedented) situation as it relates to preseason polls; your guess is as good as mine is as good as anyone else's. But I don't think dropping them out of the top 25 all together is fair. Until we hear otherwise from the NCAA, the Buckeye Five and Tressel won't miss any more than the first (mostly winnable) five games. Dropping them entirely -- under the mere assumption Tressel, Pryor, et al are a dead team walking -- seems to put the cart before the horse.

TF: Seriously, though, I need somebody to explain to me why Arizona State is suddenly the cool team to vote for. Do people just really like their new uniforms? Is Vontaze Burfict sitting over their shoulders as they fill out their brackets? This is a team that won six games last year, with those six wins coming against Portland State, Northern Arizona, Washington, Washington State, UCLA and Arizona. Arizona is the only impressive win on that list, and it was a one-point victory in double overtime. This is a team that may have a lot of returning starters this year, but they're returning starters from a team that wasn't exactly a world-beater last season. Also, after losing quarterback Steven Threet to injury, the guy who has to lead that returning-starter-filled offense is still new.

JH: You didn't even mention their plague of torn ACLs this spring. I wish I could disagree -- the Sun Devils have had a ton of bad luck the last couple of seasons -- but they strike me, too, as a prime candidate to disappoint.




 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com