Welcome to our Monday Sprints for the football season -- Kicking Off, a look around the SEC and around the country with a whimsical feel to it. We'll have a section for the news that Sprints provides you in the offseason, but that's only part of what you can expect every Monday.
Should be self-explanatory. On a scale of 1 to 100
Almost 97 percent of the writers in the AP poll chose Florida to win its second consecutive national title. The Gators best hope this works out better for them than it did for their rivals to the north.
UPS AND DOWNS
A look at who's going which way in college football
Old: They'll be good despite freshman QB. New: Only if he can find a new top target.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
A few things to think about
So they've got one thing going for them, at least
Whatever you think of his accomplishments on the field at South Carolina, one thing is clear about Steve Spurrier: ESPN loves the man. And the feeling appears to be mutual.
Since Spurrier started coaching the Gamecocks in 2005, the Worldwide Leader has carried three of South Carolina's season openers, and will make that number four of five on Thursday night when the Gamecocks play at N.C. State. In fact, LSU's demolition of Mississippi State in 2007 is the only time South Carolina hasn't kicked off the the football season for ESPN with its traditional Thursday night opener.
It's been a good arrangement for the Gamecocks. So far, they've outscored their opponents in those three games 73-15 -- a 24-15 win over UCF in 2005, a 15-0 victory at Mississippi State in 2006 and an ugly 34-0 defeat of N.C. State in 2008. None of the games has been particularly dominant, including last year's apparent rout of the Wolfpack, which included an awe-inspiring number of turnovers by both teams.
But South Carolina will take it, considering the last time they lost a season opener, the Gamecocks went 0-11. Then, it was another legendary coach's return that was televised by the Worldwide Leader, though not as their premier game.
The new coach was Lou Holtz. And the Gamecocks played at N.C. State.
Don't go West, young men
LSU's trip to Washington on Saturday isn't generally considered a journey fraught with peril. After all, the Huskies went 0-12 last year, their lone chance for victory ruined by an awful flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.
But road games at Pac-10 opponents have not been kind to the SEC over the last decade. The league is 3-6 in Pac-1+9 stadiums since the beginning of the 1999 season, with none of those wins coming in the coastal states of California, Oregon and Washington (though on SEC team has played in the Evergreen State over that time frame). LSU has two of those wins -- a 59-13 waxing of Arizona in 2003 and a 35-31 victory against Arizona State in 2005 -- while Georgia has the other, last year's 27-10 win over the Sun Devils.
The losses: UCLA 27, Tennessee 24 (2008); California 45, Tennessee 31 (2007); Southern Cal 70, Arkansas 17 (2005); Southern Cal 24, Auburn 17 (2002); Oregon 36, Mississippi State 13 (2002); UCLA 35, Alabama 24 (2000).
No. 1 in August is nice and all ...
There's been plenty of talk about how rare it would be for Florida to go No. 1 wire-to-wire. It's rare enough for any team to do so, but particularly for an SEC team. In fact, it would be unprecedented.
Never in the history of the modern AP poll (dating back to the 1968 season, when the writers consistently started doing their final rankings after the bowl game) has an SEC team gone from the beginning of the season to the end as No. 1 without dropping. The only team to both begin and end the season as No. 1 was 1978 Alabama, which ranked as low as No. 8 on Oct. 2 and didn't come in at No. 1 between Sept. 18 and the final poll, after the Tide defeated then-No. 1 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.
Even then, Bama wasn't a consensus champion. UPI and Billingsley both put Southern Cal at No. 1 once the season was finished.
Can we really believe this?
"Our acceptance of the extension expresses our commitment to the University of Alabama for the rest of our coaching career."
Oddly enough, he did not express his undying belief in unicorns or his insistence that Nixon got a bad shake.
He made $3,750,000 during the 2008 season, with incentives pushing the total past $4 million. He is scheduled to earn $3.9 million this season, $4.1 million in 2010, $4.15 million the following year and $4.2 million in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
As long as he beats the Sun Belt teams on his schedule, it should be worth it.
The Plan: Now with 100 percent more depth chart
And a lot of freshmen will play for Tennessee this year, apparently.
"Just talking to my teammates and family helped me realize I'd made a mistake and that I wanted to be back with this team," Kadri said after the practice. "I was just going through some personal things, a multitude of things really. It feels good to know they're still willing to welcome me back. I more dedicated to this team than ever before."
That helps with Vanderbilt's DE issues. Some, at least.
Demps looking like Florida's RB
I'll announce starters sometime next week, but as of now, Demps is a little bit ahead just because he goes everyday and he's very dependable. And very talented as well.
Andre Smith signs
$21 million in real money, up to $42 million in Monopoly money.
The Doc's predictions
Dr. Saturday thinks these Florida and Alabama programs might just make some noise this year. The only SEC teams he has missing bowls: Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
LSU at No. 7, says The Quad
Does no one think that last year could be an omen?
'Very, very capable' would definitely be an improvement
Tru at A Sea of Blue kicks the preseason optimism into full gear by recounting how far the offense appears to have progressed.
Pot, meet kettle
A Mississippi State beat reporter blogging about offensive troubles at Jackson State?
Tebow talks charity
There's not much new in the football portion of the interview, at least if you've been paying attention in the offseason, but some of the stuff about his charity work is interesting.
Ever heard of TO?
Coach Fulmer on the NFL.
You know, I had a couple of N.F.L. opportunities this year. I’ve had several in the past. With my children being at the place where they are now. They’re grown, basically. My youngest is a senior in college. Yes, that is something that I would look at. I like the college scene. I like to take an 18-22-year-old growing into manhood, adolescence to manhood. But football is football and professional football is a lot less about personalities.
Please someone make this happen.
Meyer told reporters that Debose might have a torn tendon and that UF's medical staff will know more about the injury on Monday.
Michigan's new strength and conditioning coach: Dick Cheney. The Detroit Free Press has taken some heat for its story showing the extreme practice, um, practices at Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, but they at least follow the cardinal rule about anonymous sources: If you must use them, explain clearly why and make sure their allegations are detailed and credible. Check and check.
In the past two off-seasons, players said, the Wolverines were expected to spend two to three times more than the eight hours allowed for required workouts each week. Players are free to exceed the limit, but it must be truly voluntary. ...
Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4-hour limit. The Wolverines also exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours, the athletes said.
Players said members of Rodriguez’s quality-control staff often watched seven-on-seven off-season scrimmages. The noncontact drills, in which an offense runs plays against a defense, are supposed to be voluntary and player-run. ...
These sorts of things will not be taken lightly as Michigan, because the stakes are much higher than they might be at a typical SEC school.
If the NCAA investigates and concludes that U-M willfully and repeatedly violated the rules, the NCAA could find the football program guilty of major violations for the first time in the football program’s history. [EMPHASIS C&F's]
Beauford at MnB has a balanced reaction, but misses a key aspect that a lot of Michigan fans appear to zoom by. The "it wasn't a mandatory workout" defense won't work just because the coaches say it wasn't mandatory. As the Freep article makes clear, voluntary workouts have to actually be voluntary; simply saying so as a CYA measure doesn't work, and the NCAA has several rules to make sure there are no loopholes.
But Beauford also raises one huge question:
why the h*ll does Michigan have so many former and current players willing to throw the program to the wolves? What is it about Rodriguez that has proved to be such a lightning rod for these kind of things?
mgoblog declares jihad (their word) -- no surprise there -- against the allegations, getting a quasi-denial from Mike Forcier, a parent of two Michigan players.
"I've had three sons in college football now, and they've all gone through the same things so far. Tate has been doing the same things as his brothers were at UCLA and Stanford."
As Dr. Saturday points out, though, part of the problem with what Michigan is doing might be that it's not all that uncommon. So "doing the same things as his brothers were at UCLA and Stanford" could still be against NCAA regulations. Michigan is investigating.
I agree with the Doc that the issue goes beyond Michigan, but I don't think that's a reason to be unconcerned. Students are dying at summer conditioning drills, in particular, and it's time to either bring these practices into the sunlight -- have the coaches there and regulate the number of total "voluntary" and "mandatory" exercises a student can take part in, period -- or the NCAA needs to crack down on schools that break the rules, whether it's Michigan or South Carolina. Black Shoe Diaries has some punishment ideas.
I, for one, am less concerned about a kid ending up with an ill-gotten Taurus than one dying because the Association looked the other way.
Alamo Bowl snags Pac-10
Any chance they might take an SEC team instead of a Big XII squad? I'd love to see the two conferences meet in the postseason, and San Antonio seems about as centrally located a place as anywhere. (Sure, it will never happen, and the Alamodome is a dank prison that should never host a football game ever -- but I can have dreams.)