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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Offseason, part 2

Compared to what's going on in college football right now, the NFL is rather tame. We've got sanctions against USC and the Reggie Bush thing, conference expansion as well as the usual "players getting into trouble" malarkey. I could write in detail on each, but I won't. A quick snapshot of what's going on and how they'll probably turn out should suffice.

Southern California's Sanctions

So on to Southern California – better specify which USC in case the boys in South Carolina think they're in trouble – and they're sanctions. A two year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships of 3 years is the punishment, although there is talk of them losing their '04 National Championship due to Reggie Bush's ineligibility as a result of his dealings with agents while still at Southern Cal. USC is a school with a great history, and one of the few schools who could recruit by telephone if they wanted to, and I think they'll be fine. They'll probably lose a few juniors and seniors, but I can't see a major exodus, Alabama suffered similar penalties in '03 and after a couple of years of mediocrity (by their standards) they won the big one last season. The big draw for USC is, regardless of their success on the field (none of this pathetic 9-3 season stuff), they constantly churn out quality pros – only Miami, Florida really comes close. Lane Kiffin did a better job at Tennessee (when he stopped yakkin') than their record suggested, and with a plethora of five-star talent at his disposal and his familiarity with the university, he could well carry on have similar success to Pete Carroll.

Player Problems

A couple teams with conference title aspirations and beyond took some big hits as a result of potential starters acting in a less than exemplary fashion. Oregon's star QB Jeremiah Masoli, was kicked off the team after being found in possession of marijuana during a traffic citation. This may sound excessive, even though the rules change for scholar-athletes, as the idea of students and marijuana tend to go together (rightly or wrongly) like say, fish and chips. But this is not the entire story. Masoli, together with receiver Garrett Embry, was already on suspension after being charged with second degree burglary. This is a huge loss. Masoli was the driver of that offensive juggernaut run by the Ducks last season that steamrolled pretty much everyone until they ran into the brick wall that is Ohio State in their bowl game, and even then they made some plays against a stout defense. Oregon has been on the cusp of becoming a big time program lately, but they're not at the stage where they can overcome the loss of a star QB, even with 9 other starters back on offense. The current favorite to replace him is Nate Costa, who has a great arm but worse knees than Joe Namath, and mobility at QB is important in this offense.

The other team with player issues, although not as damaging, is Iowa. Jewel Hampton, a RB who was tipped for great things last season before getting injured without playing a snap, was arrested for public intoxication after police were called to a confrontation at a restaurant in which he and CB Jordan Bernstine were allegedly involved. As a minor, Hampton should not have even been present in a bar after 10PM in Iowa City. Coach Kirk Ferentz is currently investigating the matter himself and as yet, no action has been taken. However, should he be suspended, an important member of the RB rotation could miss time due to bad choices. Iowa is relatively deep at the running back position, buy as any coach will tell you, you can't enough backs. Hopefully all the young men involved in these misdeeds will learn and move on.

Conference Expansion

The biggest thing going on in college football is expansion/realignment of conferences. The Big 10 started the ball rolling when they expressed an interest in expanding. This got the rumor mills grinding and every college was being shipped off to every conference, the Big 12 was dead in the water and so on. So far three colleges have confirmed they are moving on – Nebraska to the Big 10; Colorado to the PAC 10 and Boise State to the Mountain West. Oklahoma is currently in talks with the PAC 10, and apparently the Southeastern Conference has entered the fray, expressing interest in Oklahoma and Texas.

So the question is, why does everybody suddenly want to leave the Big 12? Okay, to say everyone "wants" to go isn't entirely true – Nebraska wants to go. Believe it or not, there is more to colleges that athletics, there is the small matter of academics too, and in the FBS the Big 10 is top conference academically, followed by the PAC 10. Nebraska wants to increase its reputation for academic excellence. On the pitch, the conference and the 'huskers match up well – power running and big tough defences rule the roost. The Big 10 has been talking of expanding to 12 teams and having a championship game pretty much since Penn State made them the Big 11 back in '93. It was always assumed it would eventually be Notre Dame, but they're happy with their lot right now, and who can blame them? But with Nebraska gone from the Big 12, their North rival Missouri want to follow them. Geographically they're a great fit, and as long as they meet the required academic standards, they will probably follow. The Big 10 also wants to move East, with Rutgers and Pittsburgh looking likely targets. This leaves the conference at 14 teams, and still leaves room for Notre Dame.

Colorado has also confirmed their move to the PAC 10. Again, the PAC 10 has high academic standing, although Colorado has recently had a number of students placed under academic probation. But enough with that. The PAC 10 now has eleven teams and will take at least one more, with Oklahoma the current favorite. The university everyone wants though, is Texas. They have their pick of conferences, although they will more than likely follow Oklahoma. Texas wants recognition as a top academic university, so the SEC is probably out of luck. It is possible if Oklahoma and Texas become members of the PAC 1o, Oklahoma State and the other two Texases, A&M and Tech will follow.

Boise State has come on in leaps and bounds as a university, and this would be a good move at any other time. They will be competitive in the MWC, but if the Big 12 doesn't fold, it is likely they will absorb the current three powers of TCU, BYU and Utah as well as Colorado State. With these guys gone, the MWC will be a weak conference regardless of who (if any) takes their place.

So realignment is actually happening and the move towards sixteen-team conferences is looking increasingly likely. There is talk of four super-conferences, with everyone left out in the cold, and while this will potentially mean the odds of a playoff finally happening, is it really that good for college football? Only time will tell.


 

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