College Football Overtime (cont.)
While Georgia readies itself for a top 10 opponent, Minnesota would appear to have a far less rigorous test at Syracuse, winner of just 10 games over the past four seasons. For co-defensive coordinator Cosgrove, however, the Orange present a preparation nightmare.
Syracuse is under the direction of an entirely new coaching staff, led by former New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Doug Marrone, whose last college job was as tight ends coach at Tennessee in 2001. After four years running the West Coast offense, Syracuse is expected to switch to a no-huddle spread attack under former Clemson and Toledo offensive coordinator Rob Spence. Adding to the mystery: Paulus hasn't played football since his senior year of high school in 2004.
For Cosgrove, that's meant researching not only the Orange but: "Tennessee [where offensive line coach Greg Adkins and running backs coach Stan Drayton came from], the New Orleans Saints, Clemson, Toledo" and other schools where Syracuse's new staff previously worked.
"We're been preparing for a lot of different things," said Cosgrove, who remembers Paulus well from recruiting him while at Nebraska. "You can't get too fancy with what you want to do."
My reaction to the latest AP and Coaches polls (or BCS standings):
Overrated: No. 7 Virginia Tech, No. 8/9 Penn State, No. 12 Cal.
In fairness to the voters, their ballots were due before the Hokies lost star RB Darren Evans for the season. Penn State, on the other hand, has garnered a whole lot of faith for a team that returns just nine starters and, over the past decade, has not demonstrated a year-in, year-out ability to reload. Cal QB Kevin Riley needs to show me something before I jump on the Bears' bandwagon.
Underrated: No. 15 Georgia Tech, No. 21/22 Iowa, No. 25/NR Kansas.
It's scary to think what the Jackets could achieve with nine starters returning from the nation's No. 4 rushing offense. The Hawkeyes are getting overlooked because they lost star RB Shonn Greene, but overall they're more experienced than last year's 9-4 edition. And the Todd Reesing/Dezmon Briscoe/Kerry Meier-led Jayhawks are my team to beat in the Big 12 North.
Current BCS forecast
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's my preseason edition:
Title game: Florida vs. Texas
Rose: USC vs. Ohio State
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Boise State
Sugar: Alabama vs. Rutgers
Orange: Georgia Tech vs. Penn State
I know it's unoriginal, but Florida and Texas are the cream of the crop in my eyes, with the Longhorns edging Oklahoma due largely to the vast difference in experience between their respective offensive lines. Hopefully the Sept. 12 USC-Ohio State game will be entertaining, because there's a fair chance we'll see them rematch (again) in the Rose Bowl. I can't see the Trojans reaching the championship game with a true freshman quarterback and two new coordinators.
Speaking of rematches, how 'bout another Sooners-Boise State Fiesta Bowl? It's a toss-up for me between Ole Miss and Alabama in the SEC West, though the Tide may be in better shape for the BCS if they don't play in the SEC title game. I know I said Penn State's too high, but the Nittany Lions will always be a popular draw if they just finish in the top 14. Rutgers is my put-a-gun-to-my-head Big East pick, but five other teams could just as easily win that league.
Spreading the field
In Sunday's Detroit Free Press, 10 current or former Michigan players accused Rich Rodriguez and his staff of working them far beyond the NCAA-allowable hours both in- and out-of-season. While some of the details were troubling (if staff members monitored offseason 7-on-7 workouts, as the players allege, that's a no-brainer NCAA violation, albeit a minor one, and 10-hour Sundays seem inordinately harsh), you'd have a hard time convincing me they're unique to Michigan. In a 2007 SI.com survey of 119 Division I-A starters, 46 percent estimated they spend at least 40 hours per week during the season on football-related activities (the NCAA allows 20 practice hours). Suffice to say, they aren't putting in those extra hours "voluntarily."
Nevertheless, Rodriguez has a huge problem on his hands. The fact that several current players felt compelled to complain to the paper tells me the Wolverines' chemistry issues of a year ago aren't yet resolved. Meanwhile, old-guard Michigan fans -- whose patience was already being tested by the rebuilding process -- will likely begin grumbling even louder. They may not have been pleased with Lloyd Carr's record against Jim Tressel, but they took pride in his integrity and the program's clean record. Suddenly Rodriguez is facing even more pressure to win big, and soon, or risk a full-scale mutiny.
Pete Carroll's surprise decision last week to name true freshman Matt Barkley his starting quarterback has elicited a great deal of skepticism, particularly in light of his interception-strewn preseason. Personally, I wasn't surprised. Carroll knew the inordinately gifted Barkley would overtake Aaron Corp sooner rather than later. He also knows he's got a powerful rushing attack and dominant defense to ease the freshman's initiation. Why wait?
The bigger question: Who the heck will Barkley throw to? Starting receiver Ronald Johnson suffered a broken collarbone in Saturday's scrimmage that will likely sideline him for at least six weeks. That leaves the Trojans with returning star Damian Williams ... and junior David Ausberry, who caught six passes last year. Expect USC to lean heavily on tight end Anthony McCoy and fullback Stanley Havili in the passing game.
In 1982, Miami had both Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde on its roster -- as backups to starter Jim Kelly. This season, the Hurricanes' quarterback stable will consist of sophomore Jacory Harris, true freshman A.J. Highsmith and ... well, that's it. Two other backups, Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith, both opted last week to transfer. (Cook, a Texan, is headed to Rice.) And remember, last year's starter, Robert Marve, transferred to Purdue. God forbid anything happens to Harris this season -- Highsmith (son of ex-'Canes star Alonzo) was recruited as an "athlete," and coach Randy Shannon admits the frosh "isn't ready" to play college QB.
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