Posted on: January 2, 2012 7:40 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
A look at the matchup that could determine the TicketCity Bowl
Penn State's RBs, led by Silas Redd, vs. Houston's LBs, led by Marcus McGraw
Penn State's starting quarterback for the TicketCity Bowl is Rob Bolden, which is to say Penn State's passing game will be in a world of hurt. As such, there's no question that interim head coach Tom Bradley is going to have to get the most out of his rushing attack if Penn State's going to be able to dictate any aspect of the game.
Sophomore Silas Redd, who has rushed for 99 yards per game in 2011, is Penn State's unquestioned workhorse at tailback, but the Nittany Lions can go four deep at tailback without much dropoff. Speedy senior Stephfon Green has had the biggest workload in relief of Redd, but sophomore Curtis Dukes and senior Brandon Beachum have combined for 75 carries and 371 yards of their own on the year. In addition, fullbacks Michael Zordich and Joe Suhey have been been effective in short-yardage situations, though PSU has been so bad on offense all year that neither fullback has more than 15 catches on the year.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, rush defense has been the biggest point of concern all year, and it's not hard to see why. In Southern Miss' season-ending 49-26 win over Houston, the Golden Eagles rushed for 207 yards... and of the five times Houston gave up at least 34 pounts, USM's rushing total was the lowest allowed by the Cougars. Altogether, in those five games, Houston gave up over 260 yards per game on the ground, which dwarfs the 170+ Houston gives up on the whole. LB Marcus McGraw is a tackling machine, ranking in the Top 20 nationally, but good defenses get that way because of group effort, not just superstars, and Houston's going to need a big day from its defensive unit as a whole.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 6:56 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
PENN STATE WILL WIN IF: Rob Bolden is a different quarterback when he's not looking over his shoulder. Rob Bolden was a highly touted quarterback recruit for Penn State, and when he became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for Penn State in the 2010 season, the primary reaction was one of excitement and not, say, the revulsion that Penn State fans have felt whenever Bolden has come into a game this season as part of the QB rotation. Bolden has completed under half of his 107 passes and has only one touchdown to his name on the year, so we're talking about a level of (non-) production that few quarterbacks who have attempted over 100 passes in a season can match. And now, Bolden is the unquestioned starter, as starting QB Matt McGloin has been ruled out as he continues to recover from the concussion he suffered when WR Curtis Drake knocked him out in a December fight. Perhaps Bolden just needs to get into a groove and not stand on the sidelines for 2/3 of a game. Perhaps he's got a big game dialed up. Perhaps.
HOUSTON WILL WIN IF: Case Keenum can stay upright for 90% of his pass plays. Case Keenum, the NCAA's leading passer in all of history, is obviously very good at throwing the football, and he's got a host of talented wideouts. What he's also got in the TicketCity Bowl is an opposing defense that ranked fifth nationally (and first in a stingy Big Ten) in pass efficiency defense, and that fact stems from Penn State having both an outstanding secondary and a top-notch defensive line. Houston's offensive line needs to keep the Nittany Lion pass rush as far away from Keenum as possible, because a pass offense as predicated on timing as Houston's is can ill afford to have its QB flushed from the pocket or taking sacks. The cleaner Keenum's jersey stays, the better a chance Houston has of winning this thing.
X-FACTOR: Both teams are working with an interim head coach right now; Penn State has been using defensive coordinator Tom Bradley ever since Joe Paterno was fired mid-season, and Houston's special teams coordinator Tony Levine has been heading the Cougars since Kevin Sumlin was hired by Texas A&M. Penn State's approach has been largely similar to Joe Paterno's tendencies, though the quarterback rotation was quickly scrapped, and it'll be interesting to see if there's any substantial difference between a Kevin Sumlin offense and a Tony Levine offense. Regardless, both Bradley and Levine are basically auditioning as head coaches, as both men are potential candidates for the job, and there should be no shortage of motivation for either of them to put together a winning gameplan.
Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:06 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
WHY BYU WON: Because Tulsa just couldn't keep their boot on the Cougars' throat. BYU was just this side of gawdawful in the first half, with Nelson erratic, the defense up-and-down, and the run game ineffective. When the Cougars punted the ball back to the Golden Hurricane with less than a minute left in the first half -- their fifth punt in seven possessions, with one of the others ending in a Nelson pick -- it appeared they would head into the half down 11 and with Tulsa in firm control. But punt returner J.D. Ratliff fumbled the punt under pressure, and the Cougars cashed in with a one-play, 17-yard touchdown "drive."
Thanks to G.J. Kinne executing a clinical 58-yard TD drive of his own early in the fourth, the Golden Hurricane were again in position to put the victory securely in their grasp when a BYU running-into-the-kicker call gave them the ball with a 21-17 lead and under 6 minutes to play. Instead they went a meek three-and-out (just as they had before the penalty), the next time they got the ball bask it was with a three-point deficit and only 11 seconds left. BYU was the better team on the stat sheet (with a 343-268 total yardage advantage), but the Cougars still never would have won this game without Tulsa's willingness to help them out at exactly the moments BYU needed that help the most.
WHEN BYU WON: When Nelson's fake spike threw the Golden Hurricane defense off just enough for Hoffman to come open in the front corner of the end zone. With so little time remaining, Tulsa's only hope was a crazy last-second lateral play that didn't make it past midfield.
WHAT BYU WON: Their first bowl game as an independent, a final 10-3 record that cements the program's continued relevance without a conference affiliation, and a bundle of optimism entering Nelson's senior year. It wasn't always pretty, but Bronco Mendenhall will surely take it.
WHAT TULSA LOST: Their fifth game of the season, which isn't so bad considering the first three came to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State. But if the 2011 Golden Hurricane were ever going to be anything other than just another pdecent Conference USA team, they needed to stay beat (or at least stay competitive with) Houston or win this very winnable bowl game. That they didn't do either means that it's been a nice enough debut season for Bill Blankenship, but not one anyone's going to remember as ultimately "special."
FINAL GRADE: The two teams combined for 611 yards of offense, or some 160 fewer than Baylor managed last night alone. Though the ending offered plenty of drama, the first 59 minutes offered far more in the way of punts, turnovers, and generally disorganized, sloppy offensive play. Kudos to a pair of defenses that showed up to play, but from an aesthetic standpoint -- especially in the immediate wake of the all-timer at the Alamo Bowl -- this was a snooze. C+.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:54 am
Edited on: December 28, 2011 11:30 am
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The only head coaching job in the country that hasn't been filled yet is the one at Penn State. Understandably, given the reasons behind the firing of Joe Paterno at the school, Penn State is taking its time finding a replacement. Though according to some reports, the search may be coming to an end soon.
And it's looking more and more like the school's top choice will be former Penn State player and current Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak.
The Patriot News reported on Tuesday that many high-level donors to the school were already talking about Munchak as if it were a "done deal" though that doesn't necessarily mean it is. For his part Munchak has denied any interest in the Penn State job when asked about it, saying "nothing is going on, people like to speculate."
Which hasn't done much to stop the speculation, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also reported on Tuesday that Munchak is the top choice of Penn State's search committee ahead of Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements.
Whatever the case is, nobody will know for sure until after Penn State's bowl game, as Tom Bradley recently said in an interview that the school wouldn't name a new head coach until after it played Houston in the TicketCity Bowl on January 2nd. Coincidentally, that's a day after the NFL regular season will come to an end and Munchak will know whether or not his Titans have made the playoffs.
UPDATE: It seems Penn State may need to move on to its second choice as Munchak told Titans beat reporter Jim Wyatt on Wednesday "I love my alma mater, but I have no interest in being the head coach at Penn State. I never want to leave Tennessee." That's pretty much as "thanks, but no thanks" as it can get.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 2:55 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We're now less than a week away from arguably the single biggest date on the 2011 college football calendar (even if it comes in 2012). That day is Jan. 2, home to four intriguing non-BCS bowls in addition to the Rose and Fiesta Bowls.
In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, our Adam Aizer and Chip Patterson run down those four "other" bowls: Can Michigan State get over the SEC hump vs. Georgia in the Outback? Can Penn State shut down Case Keenum and Houston in the TicketCity? Is there any way the two lo-fi offenses on display in the Ohio State-Florida Gator Bowl can overshadow the Urban Meyer storyline? And what might South Carolina have learned in Nebraska's losses that could prove decisive in the Capital One Bowl?
To listen, click below, download the mp3, or pop out the player in a new browser window by clicking here. And remember that all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 4:18 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The numbers at the CBSSports.com Coaching Changes One-Stop Shop don't lie about the speed (or lack thereof) of the Penn State coaching search; 24 of this year's 25 coaching vacancies have been filled, and despite the Nittany Lions accepting the resignation of Joe Paterno with multiple games still remaining in the 2011 season, PSU is the only FBS program still without a permanent head coach.
Perhaps responding to that factoid (and the wave of hirings in the past 48 hours at places like Hawaii, Houston, Akron, and Pitt), Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner issued a statement Thursdayaddressing the progress of the search. Unfortunately for Nittany Lions fans, the statement won't do much to calm fears the new coach won't be in place anytime soon:
"As we head into the holidays, I wanted to share an update on the search for the next head football coach at Penn State. We are continuing to talk with individuals that we're interested in and work through the interview process. As I'm sure all can appreciate, this is a very important hire for Penn State and, as a result, the search committee is taking a very deliberate and measured approach to the process in order to identify the coach that best fits the requirements of the position."Working through the interview process" while "taking a very deliberate and measured approach" to hiring the next Nittany Lion head coach "at the appropriate time" certainly doesn't sound like the words of an administrator who feels confident he's going to have his new coach signed in the next few days.
Perhaps even more worrying for Penn State supporters is that even the rumor mill has slowed to a crawl where the Nittany Lions are concerned. After the flurry of initial (and apparently wayward) reports connecting Dan Mullen to Happy Valley, few serious names have emerged or been discussed as anything other than longshots. Patriot-News beat writer David Jones wrote earlier this week that in the course of covering the search, he's "learning more about guys who I believe won't be in the mix in the end than those who will be." With latest candidate du jour Bo Pelini denying any connection with the PSU job, Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements may be the de facto front-runner.
Hiring Clements, of course, might mean waiting until after the Packers play the Super Bowl to fill the Lion head coaching office. Joyner is right that the school's decision can't be rushed, and if the right choice is Clements or any other coach who either isn't available or who they haven't found yet, then it'll be worth the wait. (And there's little doubt that Joyner has difficulties facing him that aren't facing your typical coaching search.) But with Signing Day starting to peek over the horizon and the search looking more and more desperate as well as "deliberate", that introductory press conference still can't come soon enough for the Lions.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 9:49 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Houston did not have to look far to find Kevin Sumlin's replacement, as the school announced on Wednesday night that it was removing the "interim" from interim head coach Tony Levine's title.
“I’m so pleased to be able to announce Tony Levine as our new head coach,” Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades said in a release. “Before we began this process we talked about the characteristics we wanted in the leader of our football program and Tony embodies each of those qualities. We spoke with former players, current student-athletes and interviewed some of the top football coaches in the country, and all of our talks led us right back to Tony."
“I’m both humbled and excited to have this opportunity to lead the Houston Football program and continue my work with our student-athletes and staff,” Levine said. “This is a dream come true for me and my family. We love Houston and I’m proud to say that Houston is our home. When you have the opportunity to lead a program, it has to be more than a job. Houston is a destination spot. Continuing to build this program is a personal challenge because this placemeans so much to us. We have new facilities on the horizon, we are heading into an AQ (Automatic Qualifying) conference, we have the vision and leadership of Mack Rhoades and President Khator and we have the best fans and student support in America. That’s why Houston is so special.”
Levine began coaching in 1996 on the high school level and has had numerous jobs on the college level and NFL level since. Most recently he was serving as the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator at Houston under Sumlin.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 7:10 pm
Posted by Eye On College Football
Occasionally the Eye on CFB team gathers, Voltron-style, to answer a pressing question from the world of college football. Today's question is:
What changes, if any, would you make to the current bowl schedule and/or bowl eligibility requirements?
Bryan Fischer: Any time you have a team like UCLA playing in a game at 6-7, I think it underscores that there needs to be a new rule that you not only be 6-6, but 7-5 at the very minimum. I get that the bowl games are a treat for the players but shouldn't we be rewarding winners and not the mediocre? The entire bowl system seems to have turned into the college football equivalent of a participation trophy. This, of course, ties-in with the line of reasoning that there are too many bowl games. At some point we'll get to the point where there's a good number of games for good teams but right now the excess causes mediocrity. For every crazy New Orleans Bowl finish we get, there's just as many Beef O'Brady Bowl duds it seems.
Tom Fornelli: I tend to agree with Bryan in that I'm not a big fan of 6-6 teams being rewarded for mediocrity, and I usually fall in line with the "there are too many bowl games" crowd, but then a funny thing happens every year. The games start, and they feature a couple of 6-6 teams, and I love them.
Yeah, there are some duds, but there are plenty of duds every Saturday during the regular season. So I think my personal criticisms from the current bowl system come from the fact that I'd like to see some type of playoff. A plus-one being the minimum of what I'd like to see. So while I get extremely annoyed when I see that 6-6 Florida is playing 6-6 Ohio State in the Gator Bowl, I'm sorry, the TAXSLAYER.COM (bangs head, SIGN OF THE BEAST!!!) Gator Bowl, I'll probably still watch the game. I'm just a college football junkie, there's no way around it.
Jerry Hinnen: There's an easier fix for getting the UCLA-like riffraff out of the postseason than scuttling existing bowls: re-institute the discarded NCAA mandate that bowls must take teams with winning records ahead of teams with .500 (or sub-.500, in the Bruins' case) marks. "Too many bowls" is going to be a hard sell for the folks at places like Temple -- who unfairly sat at home after going 8-4 in Al Golden's final season last year -- or Western Kentucky, who should have gotten their first-ever FBS bowl bid after 2011's second-place Sun Belt finish and 7-5 record.
Cases like Temple's and WKU's are why, personally speaking, I'm fine-n'-dandy with the Participation Trophy Bowl circuit; not every game is going to be riveting theater (and matchups like UCLA-Illinois or Louisville-N.C. State promise to be quite the opposite), but it's not like anyone's required to watch. Should the seniors on that UL-Lafayette team we saw celebrating like they'd collectively won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes Saturday night have been denied that once-in-not-even-most-people's-lifetimes experience just because a few college football diehards don't want to risk being bored?
Is the long-since-antiquated notion that bowl berths are for no one but mid-major champions and the top handful of major-conference programs worth brilliant Hilltoppers' running back Bobby Rainey ending his career without a bowl appearance? Not if you ask me--if the players want to play them, the the local organizers want to host them, it's not my place (or any fan's) to say they shouldn't. The number of bowls is fine; the way the teams are selected could just use a little pro-winning-record tweaking. Besides, give it another month and there won't be any college football at all. I'll take whatever I can get at this stage, Belk Bowl included.
(That said, it would be outstanding if the NCAA also prohibited the exorbitant ticket guarantees that have turned bowl trips into a financial sinkhole for so many smaller schools, but that's a separate issue from the scheduling/eligibility question.)
Chip Patterson: I too would like to see limping 6-6 BCS conference team taken out of the bowl equation, particularly when there are dangerous Non-BCS teams that have been left out of postseason play in recent years. One way could be to change the requirements to 7-5, but this season I thought of another wrinkle.
Instead of changing the bowl eligibility record/win total, add a stipulation that requires a team to finish .500 or better in league play. Many times, the 6-6 team that fails to show up for a bowl game has struggled down the stretch and enters the postseason with little-to-no momentum. If schools are going to benefit from conference tie-ins, make them perform in conference play to earn that right. A 6-6 team with a 3-5 conference record likely is not playing their best football at the end of the season, and might be a part of one of the dud bowl games we have seen recently.
I would also prefer to move the "gutter" bowl games back before the BCS and traditional New Years Day games. That stretch of bowls leading up to the National Championship Game is one of the places where we find unattractive matchups and lose college football excitement after the blitz of New Years Day. If those games were moved back before the New Year and the title game was pushed back to Jan 4-5, it would arguably be a better spot for college football to capitalize on the nation's interest. Not only does the average fan have to wait, but they have to be teased with games that would be better consumed in pieces during a Dec. 28 doubleheader.
Adam Jacobi: It's important to keep in mind that most of these lowest-tier bowls are media-owned entities, which were created and staged every year because from a media perspective, live televised FBS college football is more lucrative than anything else that could be aired in the middle of a December week. As such, if you want to get rid of these bowls, you had better come up with something that produces higher ratings for that network instead, otherwise, no amount of hand-wringing about the quality of the teams playing in bowls is going to result in any meaningful change. This is not a scandal or anything that should not be, mind you, because it does not negatively affect fairness of play or anything else of vital importance. It's merely the entity that stands to gain most from lowest-tier bowls being played, making sure that the lowest-tier bowls get played by owning and organizing them. That's just good business.
Moreover, if by some chance these lowest-tier bowls happen to disappear, as much as we're tired of seeing a 6-6 (3-5) BCS-conference team get into the postseason, let's not pretend that that team's going to be the first against the wall. It's going to be the also-rans of the MAC, WAC, C-USA, and every other non-AQ conference, because 90% of the time, those non-AQ schools draw lower ratings than their BCS-level counterparts. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between UCLA and Illinois is going to suck, but if we're being honest about what bowl organizers really want out of a team that they invite, UCLA and Illinois are going to keep getting bowl invitations over even 8-win teams like Tulsa, Toledo, or Louisiana Tech.
So if you're asking me what I would change about the bowl system, I wouldn't possibly know where or how to begin. The bowl system is a product of media desires and inequality in FBS football, so if you want the bowl system to be any different, you'd better figure out a way to fix either the media landscape or the college football landscape first, and well... good luck with that.
Tom Fornelli: What if we replace the mid-week December games with gladiator like competitions? In which players from each school battle each other to the death. The loser, obviously, dies and frees up a scholarship for the school. The winner gets extra credit in any class of his choosing!
WHO WOULDN'T WATCH?
Adam Jacobi: Well, that would certainly be heartbreaking for everyone involved.
I wouldn't mind it if the sponsors (or bowl organizers or the stadium) had a little bit of leeway in ground rules for these games. These are silly games anyway (unless I'm supposed to take something called the Beef O'Brady's Bowl completely seriously all of a sudden), so why shouldn't the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl be played with literally a giant potato for a football? Field goals in the Holiday Bowl worth 4 points if they're from more than 45 yards out? Fine by me! Special uniforms in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl designed to look like boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? OF COURSE we should be doing that.
So yeah, as long as we're going to have ultimately trivial exhibitions end the seasons of so many teams, we might as well make said trivial exhibitions unique in ways that go beyond mere branding.
Tom Fornelli: These ideas have my full support. Can you imagine how much better the Orange Bowl would be if they were using an orange instead of a football?
Chip Patterson: Did they change tires on car at half time of the Meineke Car Care Bowl? If not they should. Same goes for the Belk Bowl. I think instead of a coin toss there should be a Dockers shopping spree to determine who gets the ball first.
Adam Jacobi: And if Hooters got involved, there would be... lots of wings available for attending fans to eat. And that is all.
To chime in on the bowl schedule debate, or offer your own changes; "Like" us on Facebook and let us know what you think.
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