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The Power Shift In Texas Continues At BreakNeck Speed

Desert SkullOn Saturday, the eyes of the college football world will turn to Kyle Field and College Station.  ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew will be on hand for pre- and postgame coverage of #1 Alabama’s visit to #6 Texas A&M.  It’ll be America’s best coach (Nick Saban) against college football’s best and most controversial player (Johnny Manziel).  A Dynasty versus a Heisman-winner.

Meanwhile, Texas will be breaking in just-promoted defensive coordinator Greg Robinson as the Longhorns attempt to lick their wounds following a 40-21 loss to BYU in which they gave up 550 yards rushing to the unranked Cougars.  Giving up 679 yards overall cost Manny Diaz his job as he was reassigned on Sunday.

Could Texas A&M’s move to the Southeastern Conference have gone any more smoothly?

When the Aggies and the SEC ambled up to the altar together, we wrote — heck, we wrote it long before — that the school and the conference would be a perfect match for one another; each providing what the other desires.  The SEC would help A&M to climb out of Texas’ long shadow in the Lone Star State.  The school’s new league would also provide a massive chunk of cash to help get the Ags out of the red and into the stadium-upgrade club.  Meanwhile, A&M would provide the SEC a recruiting foothold in Texas as well as several million cable households, enough to launch its own ambitious plan for a profitable-at-start-up television channel.

But who would’ve thought the power shift Deep-In-The-Hearta would’ve been so sudden and so obvious?

While many A&M fans defend him and many fans from across the country loathe him, Manziel has been the accelerant no one saw coming.  His dynamic play — coupled with the flashy offense of second-year coach Kevin Sumlin — catapulted the Aggies to an 11-win season and into the national top 10 last season.  Now he’s got the 12th Man geared up for a showcase battle on Saturday.

If everything’s great in College Station, it’s worst of everything in Austin.  Longhorn coach Mack Brown’s precipitous decline has seen him go from hero to hot seat in less than a decade.

In 2005, Texas won the national championship with a perfect 13-0 record and a superstar quarterback of its own in Vince Young.  As recently as 2009, the Horns played in the BCS national title game (eventually falling to Alabama of the SEC).  Since then, it’s been a downhill slide.  A seven-loss season in 2010.  Nine losses in 2011 and 2012 combined (which isn’t good enough for a program that had been so close to the mountain top just a few years prior).

Now Texas sits at 1-1.  After a horrific performance from his troops last season, D-coordinator Diaz (hired from Mississippi State of the SEC) has been 86′d.  Now his replacement will be charged with making enough improvements over the squad’s BYU performance to stave off an attack from 25th-ranked Ole Miss and its up-tempo offense.

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Just 3 SEC Schools On The “Party Schools” List?

bluto-whiskeyThe Princeton Review has published the 2013 versions of its annual “party schools” and “sober schools” lists.  Interestingly, there are only three SEC schools in the 20-member “party school” club.  (Apparently there are no bonus points awarded for butt-chugging.)

 

1.  Iowa

2.  UC-Santa Barbara

3.  Illinois

4.  West Virginia

5.  Syracuse

6.  Florida

7.  Ohio

8.  Wisconsin

9.  Penn State

10.  Lehigh

11.  Georgia

12.  Florida State

13.  DePauw (not DePaul, but DePauw)

14.  Mississippi

15.  Texas

16.  Miami (OH)

17.  Maryland

18.  Tulane

19.  Vermont

20.  Oregon

 

Thirteen of those schools deal with Northern weather which might lead more students to stay indoors at a campus watering hole.  The Big Ten has five schools on the list, two more than the SEC.  Here’s guessing this is one ranking Jim Delany didn’t want his league to dominate.

As for the 20 “sober schools,” well, why even bother showing them?  BYU (#1), Army and Navy are the only schools on the list that play Division I football.

You can find both lists right here.  The Princeton Review website has apparently been crushed by traffic, but you can check it out right here.

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Big Bang Theories: The Countdown To Super-Conferences (Part 2)

Last month, what looked to be a quiet holiday season went boom when the Big Ten surprisingly swiped Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East.  The Big East responded by inviting Tulane into the family.  At that point most of the Big East’s biggest basketball schools said, “That’s enough,” and announced just days ago that they would be breaking away from their football-playin’ brothers to create a new hoops-first conference of their own.

Instead of a season of peace, presidents, commissioners, coaches and fans are back to nervously holding their breath as they wait for the next big move.  Silent nights will be replaced with anxious nights for many.

With expansion and realignment in the air once more, we’re taking a numbers-based look at how things might shake out.  Yesterday, we showed you the total revenue numbers — gross not net — for each school currently scheduled to be playing FBS football by 2015.  Follow the money and it becomes clear that about 76 FBS schools — those not in the Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC — might be willing to flip-flop conferences if it meant more cash in their coffers.

Meanwhile, the biggest conferences are keeping their eyes on the ACC, the Big East, Notre Dame, and a select number of schools that might actually be worth nabbing.  That’s what we’ll examine today:

 

1.  Which schools would be appealing to the biggest leagues thanks to the number of cable households they can influence/provide?  With several leagues launching their own networks, the more cable households gained, the higher the subscriber fees those conferences can try to charge.

2.  Which schools have “big brand” appeal?  Location isn’t everything.  East Carolina — for example — might be located in the Tarheel State, but ECU doesn’t draw North Carolina-type ratings on television.  Just grabbing San Diego State in California wouldn’t allow a league to claim it has drawing power across the entire Golden State.  Stealing a Southern Cal or a California, on the other hand…

3.  Which schools have the best academic reputations?  As we noted yesterday, academics are playing a smaller and smaller role in expansion and realignment (see: Louisville to the ACC) as dollars and survival instinct become the real drivers behind many leagues’ decisions.  The Big Ten and SEC, however, are in the most powerful positions moving forward.  Their schools currently bring in the most revenue.  If push came to shove, there would be few schools willing to turn down an invite from either conference.  The Big Ten has always been very picky about trying to add AAU member institutions with big research budgets.  The SEC can be choosy, too, at this point.  The league’s presidents are tired of having the pointy-heads from Up North making inferences about the “dumb jocks” in the league Down South.  In addition to growing it’s geographic and media footprint, the SEC’s last round of expansion allowed it to add two AAU schools to its roster.  If forced to expand further, expect Mike Slive to try and land more big name brands with reputations for being solid research-based universities.

 

So let’s start by looking at the 25 schools we identified yesterday as having at least some hope of landing in a bigger conference:  Boise State, Boston College, BYU, Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, SMU, South Florida, Syracuse, UCF, UNLV, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

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Big 12 Reopens The Expansion Can Of Worms

Get ready for talk of a 16-team league.  Get ready for talk of four-team pods.  Get ready for speculation as to whether Florida State, Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Canisius or Utah State might join the SEC.

The Big 12 has reopened the whole expansion can of worms.

Two “high-ranking sources” from the Big 12 have told The Houston Chronicle that further expansion is “very possible.”  West Virginia and TCU have already been tabbed to replace Missouri and Texas A&M, of course, though the Mountaineers can’t gain entry until they escape the Big East.

A new move would take the Big 12 — eventually — to 12 or even 16 teams.  Or 11?  “The Big Ten made 11 work for a number of years,” said one Big 12 source.  (Thirteen is also on the table because the Big 12 does not have a conference championship game and the scheduling requirements that go with it.  A 13-team model wouldn’t be as tough on that league as it would have been on the SEC.)

Louisville — which almost snuck in past WVU for the league’s last bid this past fall — would be the most likely 13th member.  From there, BYU and Notre Dame would probably generate the most chatter, whether those schools are realistic options or not.

“I don’t want to send the message, ‘Oh, they’re getting ready to expand,’ Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said… sending the message that his league’s getting ready to expand.  “But you’d be naive to think there’s not instability still in our business.”

Part of the instability could go away when the BCS commissioners decide on a new format for the end-of-season system.  Leagues like the Big East and non-BCS schools like Boise State, UCF and San Diego State have been racing to form an alliance all in the hopes of getting a slice of BCS reaches.  The league wants to maintain its automatic qualifier status.  The schools want an easier shot into the BCS.

But if the new model does away with automatic qualifier status altogether, schools wouldn’t necessarily need to be in a particular conference to get a BCS invite.  And one has to wonder if the Big East would move forward as a coast-to-coast national league if it’s not a necessity.

If the BCS commissioners create a model that’s easier to reach, leagues and teams should — should — become a bit more stable.  And that would mean that further Big 12 expansion by one or even two teams isn’t likely to create nationwide ripples.

We still firmly believe the SEC is set at 14 schools and won’t eye 16 unless the landscape around it changes in a major way.  Louisville and BYU to the Big 12 is not sweeping change.

So while the Big 12′s blows off smoke like a volcano about to erupt, we don’t believe the college football landscape will be blasted apart this time around.

But never say never.

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Chizik: UM’s The Best 2-5 Team In The Country

Earlier this week we poked a little fun at MSU’s Dan Mullen for saying that Kentucky — if not for a few turnovers — would be a hot team right now.  When it comes to puffing up an opponent, that was a pretty good line because UK wouldn’t be considered “hot” right now if they were playing in the Arctic Circle.

But we’ve got a new King of Puff in the SEC and his name is Gene Chizik.  Chizik’s Auburn Tigers take on Ole Miss this Saturday and the coach called the Rebels “a very, very good football team.”

In fact, he actually said that Ole Miss is “the best 2-5 team in the country.”

How can these guys keep a straight face saying things like that?


“They’re probably a play here or a play there from winning five or six games.  I think the record is not an indicator of how good they are.”


In reality, UM did finish just one play away from beating BYU in its opener.  But they lost by 14 to Georgia, 23 to Vanderbilt and 45 to Alabama.  One or two plays probably wouldn’t have gotten the job done.

And while last week’s loss to Arkansas was close — 29-24 — the Hogs rolled off 29 consecutive points to zoom from behind.

Best 2-5 team in the country?  That should satisfy angry Rebel fans.

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Report: WVU To Replace Missouri In Big 12… After One More Season

According to The New York Post, West Virginia will replace Missouri in the Big 12… after one more season with the Tigers in 2012-13:


“A source said the Big 12, by holding Missouri, might hold at 10 teams for next season and then consider a jump to 16 teams.  Louisville and Cincinnati are under consideration as well as Boise State and BYU.”


Earlier this month, Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said that his league was set for next year and that Missouri wouldn’t leave for at least another year… if it left at all.

Last Friday, Missouri officials stated that any moves made in the coming days would be made with next season in mind. 

Yesterday, MU chancellor Brady Deaton did not withdraw his school from the Big 12 during a board of directors meeting (as some sources in Missouri had suggested). 

The Columbia Tribune reported last night that one school source indicated Monday was too soon “to work out several details with both the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference before formally completing the withdrawal process.”

Also, being tossed around the web is the fact that Georgia AD Greg McGarity said yesterday that the league almost has its 13-team schedule set and that it isn’t working on a 14-game plan.  Of course, for legal/stealth reasons, it’s unlikely anyone in the SEC would admit to considering 14 schools before a 14th school is actually announced.

So is it possible the SEC will play with 13 teams next year and that Missouri will be forced to go through one last Big 12 season?  Anything’s possible.

But the bottom line is money.  If MU has the cash to pay a big buyout fee, it would probably be pretty tough to keep them in the Big 12 against their will.  (It will be interesting to see if the Big East can really hold onto Pittsburgh and Syracuse until 2014, as it says it will.)

It could be that Deaton and SEC commissioner Mike Slive are figuring out just how much money Mizzou can expect to make over the next couple of years before the school decides to jump now or suffer through a farewell tour.

More than likely, Neinas’ comments were a negotiating ploy only.  We have been told by several people across the SEC that Missouri is expected to be in the league by next summer… right alongside Texas A&M.

Also, we’re not buying The New York Post story.  At all. 

Here’s why — some in the Big 12 would like to stay as small as a nine-team conference.  Others would like to stay at 10 or 12.  No one has said a word about 16 teams.

And if Texas is worried about losing influence — and it reportedly is — bringing in seven new voting members to the league wouldn’t be the school’s top priority.  Which matters because Texas still rules the Big 12 roost (along with Oklahoma).

In addition, one big reason to stay at nine or 10 schools is money.  It’s possible the Big 12 schools will make more money with a smaller league.  Would the addition of seven schools like BYU and Cincinnati and West Virginia really bring in enough money to keep everyone’s current payout the same?  Very doubtful.

Again, anything is possible when politics and money are involved, but we still believe Missouri will be playing in the SEC East next fall.  Any other development would be very, very surprising.

After all, Deaton said that he did not vote on any league matters at the Big 12 meeting yesterday and he left the room for “the last several hours” of the get-together. 

“We feel a great urgency to clarify (things) as quickly as possible,” Deaton said last night.  “It’s hard to put a timeframe on it.  Our hopes were days, possibly a week or two.  The sooner, the better.”

“Over the last two or three weeks, we’ve reached a firmness of where we’re headed, where we want to focus our attention.  Our head has to outweigh our heart in achieving some of our objectives because our heart might not lead us in the right direction for the University of Missouri.”

Still sounds like Missouri’s head is leading it to the SEC.

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Big 12 Approves Revenue-Sharing, But That Doesn’t Mean A Thing

The Big 12 has announced that a revenue-sharing plan for all Tier I and Tier II television money has been accepted… IF the league’s members all sign over their TV rights to the league office for a minimum of six years.

So there’s still a pretty big “if” hanging out there.  Also, this does nothing for the Tier III rights which would include Texas’ Longhorn Network.

In other words, today’s announcement is a PR move — possibly designed to help ease the fears of potential Big 12 expansion targets like BYU.  But officially, nothing changes until each school agrees to hand its TV rights over to the league.  And that’s not happened yet.

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Power Rankings: Worst SEC Coaching Jobs, Week One

During the football season, we’ll be bringing you some Top 5 lists each week on a variety of topics.  First up this week, we’ll look at the five worst coaching jobs from across the SEC on opening weekend:

 

5.  Mark Richt, Georgia — Georgia went up against a Top 5 team that might wind up playing for the national title.  But Boise State is known for its offense, not its defense.  And the Dawgs couldn’t produce consistently on the ground or through the air.  Granted, UGA has had massive attrition on the O-line and at the tailback position, but Georgia just wasn’t as competitive as expected in Saturday’s 35-21 loss.  Oh, and one more thing — enough with the gimmicky uniforms.

4.  Gene Chizik, Auburn — The Tigers were breaking in what amounted to a whole new team against Utah State on Saturday.  Still, all the emotion in the world should have been on Auburn’s side.  The “disrespected” card.  The home opener.  Etc, etc.  In the end, AU had to fight for survival against a team it was expected to annihilate.  The Aggies pushed Auburn’s defense all over the field.  The Tigers didn’t look ready for Opening Day.

3.  Joker Phillips — Like the coaches above, Phillips was having to use a lot of green players in key positions against Western Kentucky.  But WKU is expected to be one of the worst teams on the FBS level this season.  To have 75 yards of offense through three quarters?  By hook or by crook an SEC team needs to do better than that.

2.  Steve Spurrier — The Gamecocks whipped East Carolina 56-37 in their opener… but not before digging themselves a 17-0 hole first.  Spurrier gets credit for fixing the problem and igniting his team by putting quarterback Stephen Garcia into the game.  However, it was Spurrier’s ridiculous decision to bench team-favorite Garcia and start Connor Shaw that led to the 17-point deficit in the first place.  In other words, Carolina’s biggest problem in Week One was a problem manufactured by the Ol’ Ball Coach.

1.  Houston Nutt — Ole Miss almost upset BYU on Saturday.  If it had hung on, Nutt would’ve been credited for a fine coaching job.  So why was his work considered the worst of the week?  Because UM had the game won.  Who knows if BYU would have driven the length of the field for a game-winning 4th-quarter touchdown, but the Rebels should have played things safe, protected their lead and punted the Cougars deep with 5:30 to play.  After all, BYU had managed just 7 points through nearly 55 minutes of action.  But instead, facing a 3rd-and-27, Nutt and offensive coordinator David Lee asked new quarterback Zach Stoudt to drop back and try to complete a pass for the first down.  There aren’t a lot of 3rd-and-27 plays in most teams’ playbooks.  Waiting for receivers to come open, Stoudt was strip-sacked and BYU returned the fumble for the game-winning score.  Not good.  Bad enough in fact, for Nutt’s work to be ranked as the SEC’s worst of the week.

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SEC Headlines 9/4/2011 Part Two

Auburn 42 – Utah State 38

1. Quarterback Barrett Trotter leads the late comeback.

2. Gene Chizik: ”That performance today on offense and defense won’t win us very many games.”

3. Kevin Scarbinsky: “If you need two touchdowns sandwiched around an onside kick in the final 3½ minutes to deliver yourselves from Utah State, there’s a very good chance it’s going to be a very long season.”

4. With one play, true freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier burns his redshirt.

Alabama 48 – Kent State 7

5. Quarterback battle upstaged by defense.

6. Jon Solomon: (A)t some point, Alabama has to choose one quarterback with one voice, right?

7. Seven true freshmen see action.

8. Backups outshine Trent Richardson. Sophomores Eddie Lacy and Jalston Fowler both reach the end zone.

BYU 14 – Ole Miss 13

9. For the second consecutive year, a late collapse in the season opener.

10. Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee: ” We lost it on offense.”

11. Rick Cleveland: “Devastating. That’s the one word that describes this Ole Miss defeat.”

Arkansas 51 – Missouri State 7

12. The Tyler Wilson wait is over. The QB throws for 260 yards and 2 TDs.

13. Matt Jones: “If speed is lethal, Arkansas was a killer Saturday night. ”

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Tyler’s Take: Week 1 Picks

Yes, I’m back. After ending last year with seven consecutive weekends with a winning record (a 21-8 record against the spread), I’m ready to open up the 2011 season with a handful winners for you. As you would expect, I’m using the betting lines of the truthful Danny Sheridan… Wait a minute, should we be concerned this guy is setting lines? I’m dedicating this week to Clay Travis who seems to be doing everything in his power to bring down the SEC one team at a time. He’s got great website, but has brought TMZ to the SEC and should be public enemy #1 in the South. Enjoy, and feel free to send me a million dollars on Sunday.

Lock of the Week: South Carolina -20’ vs. East Carolina. The Ol’ Ball Coach has finally done what he showed up in Columbia to do: compete for SEC titles. Huge strides have been made in the land of Sandstorm, and USC returns nearly 80% of its production on offense and eight of their top ten tacklers. Their schedule sets up beautifully with MSU and Ole Miss from the West, and a win in Athens should seal the East for the Cocks before week three. The Cocks offense should be in mid-season form, and they play arguably the worst defense in C-USA. Cocks cover big.

Oregon -1 vs. LSU. A few weeks ago I would have rolled the dice with the Tigers, but it’s been a bad start in The Rouge. Has the luck finally run out for Les?

Boise State – 3 vs. Georgia. The East is wide open and they’ll be playing for Richt with the friendliest SEC schedule. Depth issues and inexperience on the line will hurt, so the youngsters must be ready to play on snap one. A rare SEC “Dawg” in an out-of-conference game, the Dome should be jacked and we don’t do blue turf in the South. This will look like 2097 since both teams will be playing in their Pro Combat uniforms, but SEC defensive speed simply doesn’t change regardless of the year. Dawgs cover and week 2 against the Cocks in Athens makes or breaks their season. If the Dawgs open 2-0, they should be 7-0 when they play the Gators and a return trip to Atlanta in December is very possible even with a loss to the Gators.

Alabama -36’ vs. Kent State. The back seven of Bama could make for one the best defensive team’s college football has ever seen due to talent, coaching and poor QB play (not you, Tyler Wilson) in the West. With Penn State in Week 2 Bama keeps things simple on offense and rests their players early. Expect some late points from Kent State and a cover.

*In 2010 Bama ranked nationally in the following defensive categories:

-          5th in total defense (286 ypg)

-          10th in Rushing Defense (110 ypg)

-          13th in Passing Defense (176 ypg)

-          3rd in Scoring Defense (13 ppg)

 

Mississippi +3 vs. BYU. I like where BYU is headed. I don’t like where Ole Miss is headed. Consecutive trips to the Cotton Bowl seem like years ago, and Nutt’s time in the Grove could be coming to an end. A BYU victory and cover doesn’t help Nutt’s cause.

Auburn – 22 vs. Utah State. Some QB combination will put up big numbers in Malzahn’s offense – obviously – but it took a player like Cam Newtown to win several close games last year. With Newton gone I can’t see Auburn winning more than seven games when Eastern foes are at South Carolina and Georgia. But they score enough to cover against Utah State. Shouldn’t this line be higher, Sheridan?

Florida -34’ vs. Florida Atlantic. I hate taking favorites with big lines in early season games, but it’s a new regime in Gainesville and Muschamp wants to welcome back John Brantley to the college football world. Buttoned up on offense, the Gators  still manage to cover the 34’ line.

Arkansas -39’ vs. Missouri State. Bobby Petrino is never one to lay off the gas, and Tyler Wilson goes big as the Hogs cover.

Texas A&M -16 vs. SMU. Why not. Let’s welcome the #8th ranked Aggies to the SEC with a cover against the Ponies.

Tennessee -28 vs. Montana. How can the Vols NOT cover this?

Off the board? Vandy, of course.

Recap: USC // Oregon //UGA // Kent State // Florida // BYU // Auburn // Arkansas // A&M //Tennessee

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