Posts Tagged 'gene chizik'

BCS Title Game Breakdown: Part 2

The college football bowl season is about to begin, and although there are several solid match ups, none are as intriguing as the title game, where arguably the two most explosive offenses in the nation square off, as Oregon and Auburn take the field in Glendale, AZ next month.

In the first of our three-part breakdown of the title game, College FootBlog took a brief look at the X-factors from each team.  In part 2 of our analysis, we look at the individuals who have led the way for each team–the head coaches.  

Gene Chizik When he was named head coach at Auburn, many experts questioned the hiring, mainly due to Chizik’s mediocre results as the head coach at Iowa State.  Chizik silenced most of those critics last season when he led the Tigers to an eight-win season and gave Alabama (the eventual national champion) everything they could handle in last year’s Iron Bowl.  Chizik slammed the door on the few, if any, critics that were left going into this season, as he has rolled through the nation’s deepest and strongest conference with a perfect 13-0 record.

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik has had a lot to celebrate this season. Will he be celebrating a BCS Championship next month? (google images)

Chizik

, who had been known for his defensive strategies, has relied on his offense since arriving at Auburn last season.  While Auburn has some play makers on defense, Chizik and his staff bet all their chips on Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton to be a virtual one-man show, and the bet has paid huge dividends. 

Perhaps even more impressive is how well Chizik has sheltered his team from the media frenzy that has surrounded the program since questions regarding Newton and his father handled his recruitment last season.  Through it all, Chizik has kept his cool, but more importantly, his team has continued to prosper, despite the negative attention.  Handling the media for a national title game should be a cake walk, compared to the last month.

Chip Kelly:  Oregon’s offensive explosion is actually a continuance of Kelly’s days as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator.  He took the OC job in 2007 and perfected the spread attack, and the Pac 10 hasn’t been the same since.  While the Ducks have athletes on defense as well, Kelly remains an offensive mastermind, and other than one game against Cal, no team has kept Oregon from putting up 37 or more points–the Ducks put up at least 50 points in and astounding six of their twelve games this season.

Like Chizik, Kelly is in just his second year as head coach of his program.  And like Chizik, Kelly has generated championship results, despite controversy surrounding his team.  Even the avid college football fans probably didn’t even know who Kelly was until the famous right cross of LaGarrette Blount connected on Boise State’s Byron Hout after the Ducks’ opening week loss to the Broncos.

Kelly suspended Blount, who had been his top running back, and publicly discussed the incident and his plan get his team refocused and to help Blount get back on track.  Oregon won the Pac 10 title last season, but in the wake of the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, his starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate, Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed from the team for burglary.  Even without his starting QB, Kelly’s squad has put up ridiculous numbers on offense, leading the nation with over 49 points per game.

Analysis:  Each program should be very excited about their respective head coaches, not only for this season, but for years to come.  There really appears to be no clear-cut advantage in the coaches.  Expect each coach to have his team ready to play, and the way they have led their players through previous media turmoil, don’t expect either team to be rattled because after all, each team has been in the national spotlight (for good reasons and bad) quite a bit the last several months, but each coach has persevered and each coach now has a shot at a championship ring in year two of taking the reigns.

Look for our third and final breakdown of the BCS Title Game later this week.

2010 College Football SEC West Preview

Over the last three weeks, College FootBlog has provided preseason power rankings for the ACC and Big Ten.  Earlier this week, College FootBlog broke down the SEC East (see link).  The SEC has been known for being the best conference in college football, and for good reason–the last two national champions have come from that conference.  We now take a look at what we expect from the much deeper SEC West Division.

1.  Alabama:  Even though the tide lose several key defenders including both starting corners and All-American linebacker Rolando McClain, head coach Nick Saban has more than enough talent to put another sound defense on the field in 2010.  People outside of Tuscaloosa will know the name Dre Kirkpatrick after this season.  The sophomore corner has the size (6’3″ and 190 lbs.) and skills to be the Tide’s next All-American defensive back.  On offense, Bama has the top running back tandem in the nation with Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and sophomore Trent Richardson, who rushed for over 100 yards and two TDs in last year’s BCS National Championship.  Wide receiver Julio Jones will be an NFL first rounder next spring if he chooses to leave early, and quarterback Greg McElroy enters this season with big-game experience.  The running game and Saban’s ability to coach up the defense make the Tide the front-runner to not only win their division, but also challenge for another BCS National Championship.

Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett enters the 2010 season as the SEC's top quarterback (google images)

2.  Arkansas:  As quarterback Ryan Mallett goes, so will the Razorbacks.  Mallett, who goes 6’7″ and 238 lbs., should only improve his draft stock by sticking around another season in Bobby Petrino’s offense.  The Heisman hopeful will look to build on last years numbers of over 3,600 yards passing with 30 TDs compared to only seven picks.   Defensively, the Hogs must improve and a couple of new coaches on that side  of the ball and the return of cornerback Isaac Madison, who missed last season due to injury, should help a secondary that finished 99th in the nation against the pass, giving up just under 250 yards per game through the air. 

3.  LSU:  Les Miles will have a pretty young team, but he has recruited extremely well.  The Tigers must replace a couple of key weapons on offense, including WR Brandon Lafell, but they have a stable of big, physical receivers like 6’5″ Terrence Tolliver and and 6’3″ Rueben Randle.  Quarterback Jordan Jefferson must be more consistent this season, but with a full season under his belt and the talent he has at WR, he should take a step forward this fall.  Stevan Ridley looks like he will take over the starting running back spot with the departure of Charles Scott, but the Tigers will split carries among a few running backs.  Defensively, LSU lost two-sport star Chad Jones, but they have some decent depth and athleticism in the secondary, including freshman safety Craig Loston.  The schedule is not in LSU’s favor, though, as they go on the road to face Auburn, Florida, Arkansas and North Carolina.

4.  Auburn:  Head coach Gene Chizik silenced all who criticized his hiring from lowly Iowa State in last year’s off-season.   The new head coach led the Tigers to an 8-5 record and gave Alabama all they could handle in the Iron Bowl before losing to the Tide 26-21.  On offense, the Tigers return running backs Ben Tate and Onterrio McCalebb and four of their five starters on the offensive line that combined for the nation’s 13th best running game in the country in 2009.  Add to the mix, junior college transfer quarterback Cameron Newton and a deep and talented receiving corps, and Auburn could easily move up the power rankings in a hurry this fall.  Defensively, the Tigers gave up 30 or more points in seven games last season.  That must change if they want to challenge Bama for the SEC West, but Chizik is known for his defenses, and with a year under his belt and another solid recruiting class should provide much better results this fall.

5.  Ole Miss:  Although quarterback Jevan Sneed did not perform well last season, throwing 20 picks, he was still a leader on a Rebels’ squad and replacing him will be easier said than done.  Whoever assumes the starting job at QB will be inexperienced and unproven.  By far the biggest hit on Houston Nutt’s offense, however, is the graduation of do-everything RB/WR Dexter McCluster.  The Rebels’ defense, along with the electric play of McCluster, was what kept them in games last season, and the good news for the fans in Oxford is that several key defenders, including mammoth NT Jerrell Powe who weighs in at 340 lbs.  Powe will attempt to lead another top 25 defense, like the Rebs’ fielded last season.  Even with a stout defense, the key losses on offense will prove very difficult to overcome, and staying afloat in what is probably the toughest division in all of college football (SEC West) will probably make a .500 season a difficult task.

6.  Mississippi State:  Second-year coach Dan Mullen will have his work cut out for him again competing in this division.  The Bulldogs lose their running back from last season, Anthony Dixon, and that loss will hurt.  Robert Elliott is the front-runner for the starting RB spot, but replacing 1,300 yards will be difficult to pull off.  A major reason for the Bulldogs’ 3-5 SEC record from last year was their pass defense, which was 11th in the conference.  It doesn’t help the Bulldogs that instead of Vanderbilt this season, they pick up Georgia.  Coach Mullen should have an improved product on the field this season, but that will not necessarily translate into a better SEC record in 2010.

College Football Preseason Top 25 (#16-#25)

As the end of Spring Football draws near, some major college football programs have answered some questions, while others have more questions than they had in February.  In this three-part series, College FootBlog will release our Preseason 2010 Top 25 with some insight on each team and the season that will be here in five months.  In this first edition, we will break down #16-#25.

Oregon State RB Quizz Rodgers is one of the most electric players in college football (google images)

16.  Oregon State:  The Beavers surprised many outside of their conference last season, but to the Pac 10, their rise in ’09 was a continuance of what they have been doing for the last four years, the Beavers are 36-17 and have finished second in the Pac 10 in each of the last two years.  The Rodgers brothers (Quizz and James) return to lead the offense.  There is a battle between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich to replace Sean Canfield at quarterback, but if the last four years are any indication, Oregon State is for real and they are here to stay.

17.  Miami:  Many doubted the Hurricane offense going into last season, but then sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris proceeded to light up defensive secondaries en route to a 3,000-yard passing season.  Harris and his receiving corps faltered against Wisconsin in their bowl game, but with only one wideout leaving for graduation (Leonard Hankerson), look for Miami to put up good numbers on offense again in 2010.  Couple that with a very athletic defense led by linebacker Sean Spence, and the ‘Canes will be tough this fall.

18.  LSU:  The Tigers were a decent offense away from ending Tim Tebow’s BCS Championship long before Alabama knocked the Gators off in the SEC Championship Game.  Les Miles had a solid defense last season, and senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard returns to anchor this season’s unit.   Do-everything offensive game-breaker, Russell Shepard should make a name for himself in his sophomore season.

19.  Nebraska:  Bo Pelini brought respect back to the storied program that had been in a major drought since the days of Eric Crouch.  Pelini has brought back the “black shirt” defense as opposed to what had looked more like the “mesh shirt” defense in the earlier part of the last decade.  The loss of Ndamukong Suh is significant, but luckily for Husker fans, the rest of the Big 12 is not good at tackle football.

20.  Georgia:  After a disappointing 8-5 season, look for the Bulldogs to bounce back this fall.  The offense should take a step forward, with one of the top receivers in the country in AJ Green and running back Washaun Ealey.  The defense was a major reason the ‘Dawgs underachieved in 2009, so head coach Mark Richt has revamped his coaching staff on that side of the ball, and the buzz coming out of Athens so far this spring sounds like those changes are already having a favorable impact.

21.  Penn State:  Look for JoPa to make one last run in 2010, although we believe the Nittany Lions don’t quite have enough to dethrone Ohio State for a run at the Big Ten title.  The thing that Penn State has going for them is their conference.  While there are four teams that should be very good in 2010, the rest of the conference takes a significant nosedive, and PSU should benefit from that.

Senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt is the key to GT's triple option attack (google images)

22.  Georgia Tech:  After scoffing at Paul Johnson bringing the triple option to a major college offense a couple years ago, we have all learned one thing–he is a great football coach.  And we have learned to not count him out.  The loss of stud running back Jonathan Dwyer will hurt the Yellow Jackets, but if quarterback Josh Nesbitt can stay healthy, GT will make another run at an ACC Championship Game.

23.  North Carolina:  Butch Davis has the Tarheels playing great football…well, at least on defense.  UNC boasted the nation’s 6th ranked total defense, allowing opposing offenses just under 270 yards per game.  Unfortunately, for the ‘Heels, the offense was as bad as the defense was good.  UNC was ranked a pathetic 108th in total offense.   If the offense can improve at all (which isn’t exactly a tall order), look for Butch Davis’ squad to give teams fits in 2010.

24.  West Virginia:  The Mountaineers will have to overcome the loss of quarterback Jarrett Brown, but Geno Smith will look to show why he was such a highly-touted QB out of Florida.  Noel Devine has been one of the most explosive players in the country since his freshman season, and the fact that he returned for his senior means that the Mountaineers can always one play away from breaking one.

25.  Auburn:  The heavily criticized hiring of Gene Chizik worked out well, as he led the Tigers to an 8-5 record and a bowl victory over Northwestern in his inaugural season.  Look for even more improvement from the offense and a stout defense.  Look for freshman running back Michael Dyer and freshman DE Corey Lemonier to make immediate impact this fall.

College Football National Signing Day Recap

College Football’s National Signing Day for 2010 is now officially in the books.  In this edition, College FootBlog will take a look at a few teams that were big winners and a couple teams who finished stronger than some experts initially expected.

Even with his future in limbo, Urban Meyer hauled in the nation's top recruiting class (google images)

The Texas Longhorns ranked second in most major recruiting polls, and again, it was not a surprise.  Signing Day is typically uneventful for Mack Brown, as he usually has his class locked up by August.  Although most of the Texas class was in tact before the holidays, the Longhorns added Jackson Jeffcoat to the class last week.  They also lured stud-linebacker Jordan Hicks away from the state of Ohio.

Auburn made a huge push this season, keeping the momentum for Gene Chizik.  The Tigers landed OL Shon Coleman, RB Michael Dyer, QB Cameron Newton and they were able to beat out Florida State for the services of the top-rated DE in the state of Florida, Corey Lemonier.

A couple of teams that finished strong, despite mediocre seasons and head coaching changes were Tennessee and Florida State.  Tennessee benefitted from eight prospects who were early enrollees, which included DE Corey Miller.  But the Vols managed to take one of the top players in the country out of Georgia by landing WR Da’Rick Rogers.

Florida State had big, big problems on defense last year, and they helped themselves a lot with this year’s class.  The Seminoles landed the #2 ranked outside linebacker in the country, Christian Jones, and the #1 cornerback, Lamarcus Joyner, and the #1 inside linebacker, Jeff Luc.

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2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings Part 3

In our first two pieces, College FootBlog ranked the third through the sixth ranked BCS conferences from the 2009 season (see link).  In this three-part breakdown, we analyze the results from each conference from the 2009 college football season, and we also give an outlook for the upcoming 2010 season.

Without further adieu, here are our top two BCS conferences from our Power Rankings.

2.  Big East

2009 Recap:  There was a time when analysts argued if the Big East should even have the right to an automatic BCS bid for its champion.  That is no longer the case.  Most people left the Big East for dead when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left for what was believed to be the greener pastures of the ACC.  While the ACC has fallen from respectability, the Big East has consistently raised the bar over the last three years.

Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard was one of the most explosive players in all of college football in '09 (google images)

Dave Wannstedt has Pitt back on the national scene and they gave Cincinnati all they could handle in a stunning 45-44 loss that was one of the best (if not the best) college football games all season.  Overall, the Panthers finished with ten wins on the year, West Virginia and Rutgers racked up nine wins and USF and UConn each pulled in eight victories on the year. 

2010 Outlook:  Coaching changes could have a significant effect on the Big East next season.  The Departure of Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly for Notre Dame and the firing of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt will put a lot of pressure on new head coaches Butch Jones and Skip Holtz.

The good news is that each of those two programs will have a proven quarterback.  Cincy did not lose a beat when Tony Pike was lost temporarily due to injury because of the great play of Zach Collaros.  And USF will have leader Matt Grothe back next fall, but they now have a proven back up in BJ Daniels.

The issue for the Bulls is going to be replacing future NFL defensive ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul.  Pitt will have to replace quarterback Bill Stull, but running back Dion Lewis will take a lot of pressure off the new starter at QB.

Overall, it will be difficult to keep the #2 Power Ranking in 2010, but the coaching and talent will continue to gain well-deserved respect from college football.

1.  SEC

2009 Recap:  As much as some fans would like to see a changing of the guard, the SEC simply will not allow that to happen.  All the SEC did this season is send ten of their twelve teams to bowl games, and they won six, which included the Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship.

When the dust settled, the SEC combined for a whopping 97-59 record in ’09, making it by far the deepest conference in the country.  Led by Alabama’s national championship team and the Florida Gators, whose only loss came at the hands of the Crimson Tide, the SEC once again imposed its will on the rest of college football.

Mark Ingram's punishing running-style led the Tide to the BCS Title (google images)

2010 Outlook:  Look for much of the same with the SEC dominating college football.  Flordia will have a bit of a rebuilding year after the loss of Tim Tebow and likely NFL first rounders, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Aaron Hernandez and CB Joe Haden.

The scary part is that the other top teams could be and should be even better this fall.  That includes ‘Bama, who returns the running back tandem of Ingram and Richardson, but they also return WR Julio Jones and QB Greg McElroy.

Head coach Gene Chizik will look to build on the momentum he created at Auburn, and with Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, the SEC could possibly have a pair of first round quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Just to recap, College FootBlog’s 2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings are as follows:

  1. SEC
  2. Big East
  3. Big Ten
  4. Big 12
  5. ACC
  6. Pac 10

Please feel free to post your own power rankings and give your feedback.  Also, look for College FootBlog’s analysis of the recruiting season in a couple of weeks.


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