Drew Thurman (9:16 am)
If the Fiesta Bowl needed some more drama and storylines, it may well have them now. FOX 10 out of Mobile, Alabama is reporting that their sources claim Muschamp will most likely be named the next Auburn head coach. He is the former defensive coordinator at Auburn, and if takes the job, would be passing up the chance to replace Mack Brown at Texas (whenever that would be).
This would add a very interesting twist to the Fiesta Bowl if true, and will give the media lots to talk about. Regardless, it might be helpful for the Buckeyes, and they will use every break they get!
*Update (10:17 am)
There seems to be a lot of folks disputing the claims of FOX 10 last night. One of those of is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who actually interviewed Muschamp this morning! Muschamp seems to be staying at Texas.
Drew Thurman (12:55 pm)
Turn on College Gameday almost any Saturday morning, and you will hear "overrated" chants when the Big Ten is mention. The media and other conference fans have been hard on the Big Ten, but can you blame them? In the last decade the conference actually has a losing record in bowl games, including a 3-5 record a season ago. So, do things improve this season?
The signs seem to be pointing to a big no! Looking at the bowl schedule this year, it looks as if the Big Ten will need a few upsets just to try to match the record from a season ago. Here are the matchups:
Champs Sports Bowl:
Wisconsin vs. Florida State
Northwestern vs. Missouri
Minnesota vs. Kansas
Iowa vs. South Carolina
Capital One Bowl:
Michigan State vs. Georgia
Penn State vs. USC
Ohio State vs. Texas
The non-BCS bowls look much better than the matchups in the BCS bowls for the Big Ten. I feel Iowa can handle South Carolina, and Minnesota can beat an overrated Kansas team, because I have little respect for the Big 12 North. Then there is Florida State, who doesn't blow anyone out, so Wisconsin should be able to hang around. Outside of these three games though, it is going to be an uphill battle for the Big Ten!
Northwestern and Michigan State both have their hands full against teams that are more stock piled with talent. Especially the Spartans, who are going to have to play their best game ever on defense to have a chance.
Then there are the two BCS matchups for Ohio State and Penn State, and neither look pretty. In a year where most the BCS conferences were top heavy, the Big Ten was a free-for-all. So, this leaves the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions the task of facing the best the Big 12 and Pac-10 have to offer.
All in all the Big Ten could easily be looking at a 2-5 or 3-4 record, and that is if things go well. Not to be pessimistic, but I don't think this is the year for the Big Ten to improve its reputation. I may be wrong, but the bowl battle for the Big Ten doesn't look pretty on paper!
Dave Thurman (9:44 am)
One of the fascinating underlying themes of the OSU-Texas rubber match is in regards to the head coaches and their staffs. Which coach is better in big games? Which one has had more success when given a number of weeks to prepare? Who has the better overall staff?
Let's start with a quick overview of Mack Brown. He has been the head coach at Texas for 11 years and has achieved an excellent record of 114-26, winning better than 80% of his games. After starting out with three nine win seasons, Brown has at least won ten games for eight straight seasons.
But let's break it down a little further looking at his results in big games. Against the Longhorns number one rival, Oklahoma, Brown won the first two meetings (when the Sooners were down) but then lost five straight in the Red River Shootout against ranked Sooners squad, before getting the monkey off his back in 2005. Overall he stands 5-6 against his cheif rival to the north.
In bowl games Brown is an impressive 7-3, including winning the national title by upsetting USC with a Vince Young led team in 2005. However, against opponents ranked in the top ten Brown stands just 8-13 during his Texas tenure.
When I think of Mack Brown I always conjure up the image of a slightly calmer and better John Cooper. He is a nice guy, recruits well, and wins a lot of games, but doesn't blow you away with his X's and O's and sometimes seems to have a deer-in-the-headlights look on the sideline. No doubt he rode Vince Young to a large degree, but Brown was a good coach before Young, and has continued to be successful since.
On a personal note, I have a friend whose teenage son was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, and faced surgery and chemotherapy. The young man, who has since returned to the football field, loves Texas, so I wrote Coach Brown and asked if he would send an autographed picture. Not only did he respond with the picture but sent an inspiring letter along with a Texas media guide and other items. There is no doubt that Brown is a class act, and has done a great job at Texas.
In truth, there are many similarities between Mack Brown and Jim Tressel. Like Brown, JT has won consistently at Ohio State (83% to be exact). Both have won one national championship, and both men are highly respected by others in their profession. If there is anything that seperates the two record wise it is the fact that Tressel has had better success against his cheif rival (7-1 against Michigan) and against top ten teams (9-5). In fact, until the past couple of years, Tressel had the reputation of being the best big game coach in the business, but recent failures in hyped games has tarnished that image.
Overall I don't think there is a great deal of difference between these two head coaches, but I have to go with Tressel, because he seems a little more composed on the sidelines, and I think he may be a little better at making adjustments. The past two years aside, I think Tressel is really good when given a few weeks to prepare, and so he gets the nod. Take the Sweater Vest over Mack the Knife, I mean Mack the Nice!
With that in mind, let's take a look at the rest of the coaching staff. Obviously both teams have a number of good coaches or they wouldn't be winning 10 or more games each year. Both squads also have continuity with numerous assistants having been in place throughout the entire tenure of the head coach. However what stands out to me is the comparison of the coordinators. The Longhorns have Greg Davis as their Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, and the numbers don't lie. The team can score points, and the manner in which Vince Young and Colt McCoy have developed is impressive. Meanwhile, Will Muschamp is in his first year as the Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach, and if you have watched any of their games, you have no doubt seen his aggressive style and enthusiasm. While the Big 12 is known for the high octane offense and suspect defense, the one thing that sets Texas apart, in my opinion, is that they are a good defensive team, giving up 18.6 points a game, in spite of playing teams like Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Missouri. This is a marked improvement over a year ago when they gave up 24 points per contest so Muschamp is getting the job done.
Ohio State's coordinators, quite honestly, don't impress me. Jim Bollman is the Offensive Coorinator and Offensive Line Coach, and may well be the most unpopular man in Columbus. His offensive lines have consistently underperformed and although it is Tressel who calls the plays, the lack of execution and creativity on offense are a sore spot with Buckeye fans. Jim Heacock, the Defensive Coordinator, has seen his squads post excellent numbers on a consistent basis, but many of the faithful would like to him be a little more fiery and aggressive. In recent big games, the defense has seemed passive and has been ineffective so Heacock has something to prove on January 5th in Glendale.
So, although it is difficult to compare staffs, I'll take Texas on the basis of their coordinators.
If you're keeping track that's one vote for OSU (head coach) and one for Texas (rest of the staff).
While you'll have to wait for my prediction score, its goes without saying that Texas has had the better year and clearly the more explosive offense, so if coaching is even, you have to favor them in this game.
What do you think? Let us know, as we anticipate round three of Ohio State versus Texas.
Drew Thurman (10:38 pm)
With just two scholarship quarterbacks returning next season, the staff is in hot pursuit of a quarterback in the '09 class. The potential candidates looked pretty slim as of a month ago, but the list has grown in recent weeks. The biggest question left for the Buckeyes is whether or not they will nab a future starter or perennial back-up.
Future Starter Candidates:
1) Tajh Boyd (Phoebus - Hampton, VA): Boyd exited his Tennessee commitment after new coach Lane Kiffin made it clear that his style of play did not fit for the future of the Volunteers. So now Boyd has opened up his recruitment to find a program that better suits his skills as a mobile quarterback. Boyd is probably the most talented quarterback left on the market for the Buckeyes, though he still lacks an offer. I think the offer will come soon, but after the Buckeyes find out how interested he truely is. There are other teams working hard for Boyd's services as well, including Oregon, but the Buckeyes have a real shot.
Boyd has a ton of athletic talent, and would fit well into the Buckeyes offense. Some (obviously including Kiffin) doubt how much of a pocket passer Boyd can become, but many had those same doubts about Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor. So, if Tressel can reel in Boyd, the Buckeyes have a serious talent on their hands to replace Pryor in the future.
2) Kevin Newsome (Hargrave Military Academy - Chatham, VA): Newsome was once a Michigan commitment, and like Boyd is now taking offers and visits. Some of the schools that are fighting for Newsome's services are Penn State, Boston College, and Virginia Tech. Newsome is coming December 13th for a visit to Columbus, and it will be important that things go well.
Newsome is very interesting to watch on film. I hate making comparisons, but his throwing motion and delivery remind me of Troy Smith. He is an all around solid prospect, and unlike Boyd actually has an offer. I think the Buckeyes have a better shot at Boyd as of now, but the staff obviously is looking at Newsome as their first candidate.
Future Back-up Candidates:
3) Austin Boucher (Kettering Alter): Boucher has been late to the Ohio State mix. He led his team to a state championship, and impressed Tressel and the staff in the process. He is a comitted to Toledo, but that may not matter at all if the Buckeyes offer. He is a lefty that has ran the option effectively for Alter, though he doesn't blow you away with his speed on film. He does throw the long ball very well, and above all else he is a winner.
4) Terrance Owens (Glenville HS): Owens has had a little contact with the Buckeye staff, but some of that may have been the fact that he has teammates the Buckeyes are going after. He does boast offers from several MAC schools, but looks to be one of the last options the Buckeyes have at quarterback. This isn't saying that he does not have a lot of talent, because he does, but if the Buckeyes offer him it because they need to put another quarterback on the roster.
5) Devontae Payne (Cleveland South): Payne is a big quarterback at 6-6 220 pounds, and has the looks of Division-I player. He has very few offers though, and like Owens will be a candidate the Buckeyes will go after if they lose out on guys like Boyd and Newsome.
#3 Texas Longhorns (11-1) vs. #10 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2)
The Buckeyes are making yet another appearance in Glendale, Arizona to play in the Fiesta Bowl. On January 5th, Tressel and company are slotted to play a very talented Texas team (11-1). Under Tressel the Buckeyes have made three appearances in the Fiesta Bowl (3-0), and have also played in Glendale in the National Championship loss to Florida.
Unlike in years past, the Buckeyes will playing the role of the underdog. Many believe the Longhorns are the best team in the country, and it will be interesting to see how they respond to being left out of the National Championship Game. Regardless, the Buckeyes have their work cut out for themselves if they want to come away with a victory on January 5th!
More to come later this week. In the mean time, here are a few links:
Texas Season Stats
Texas Game-by-Game Stats
Dave and Drew Thurman (5:15 pm)
The Buckeyes are not playing for the second week in a row, but there is still a lot of good football to watch. No doubt both of us will be watching the games, but we have much different opinions of the outcomes. So, here is the Father vs. Son Prediction Battle:
#12 Ball State (12-0, 8-0) vs. Buffalo (7-5, 5-3)
Friday 8 PM ET ESPN2 - MAC Championship
Dave: Ball State 42 Buffalo 21
Drew: Ball State 35 Buffalo 10
#23 Pittsburgh (8-3, 4-2) vs. Connecticut (7-4, 3-3)
12 PM ET ESPN
Dave: Pittsburgh 26, Connecticut 21
Drew: Connecticut 27 Pittsburgh 24
#17 Boston College (9-3, 5-3) vs. #25 Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3)
1 PM ET ABC - ACC Championship
Dave: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 20
Drew: Boston College 31, Virginia Tech 17
#13 Cincinnati (10-2, 6-1) vs. Hawaii (7-5, 5-3)
11:30 PM ET ESPN2
Dave: Cincinnati 34 Hawaii 23
Drew: Cincinnati 24 Hawaii 21
#5 USC (10-1, 7-1) vs. UCLA (4-7, 3-5)
4:30 PM ET ABC
Dave: USC 38 UCLA 10
Drew: USC 28 UCLA 7
#20 Missouri (9-3, 5-3) vs. #2 Oklahoma (11-1, 7-1)
8 PM ET ABC - Big 12 Championship
Dave: Oklahoma 45 Missouri 31
Drew: Oklahoma 35 Missouri 21
#1 Alabama (12-0, 8-0) vs. #4 Florida (11-1, 7-1)
4 PM ET CBS - SEC Championship
Dave: Florida 27 Alabama 17
Drew: Alabama 31 Florida 27
Drew Thurman (11:25 pm)
Coaching changes are taking place all over the country, and are filling up a lot of air time of ESPN. From the firing of Tommy Bowden at Clemson to the hiring of Lane Kiffin at Tennessee, excellence is being demanded. Unlike many conferences around the country, the coaching outlook actually looks pretty stable in the Big Ten at this point in the year. I am actually shocked by this, because I figured there would be a much larger coaching shake up in the conference with the lack of success taking place for many teams. Let's take a look:
Illinois: Ron Zook has been coaching the Fighting Illini since 2005, and has made a big splash in recruiting the Mid-West. Zook has quickly become one of the most notable head coaches in the Big Ten despite his 18-30 record with the Illini. He won Champaign over with his 9-4 record and Rose Bowl bid in 2007, but one has to wonder if that was the exception not the rule. With a 5-7 record in 2008, Zook is going to have to translate his recruiting classes to wins to keep his job for the long haul!
Indiana: You have to wonder how good the Hoosiers could have been with Hoeppner at the helm, but now they are stuck with Bill Lynch. IU being embarrassed not once, but twice by a MAC school highlights how bad Lynch really is. He could not keep his job at Ball State (fired in '02), and is obviously not the quality the Hoosiers need. Speaking of Ball State, Head Coach Brady Hoke would be a great candidate for the Hoosiers to look at. You know the old statement,"If you can't beat 'em, steal their coach!" Anyways, Lynch's days seem to be numbered in Bloomington.
Iowa: After the 2004 season Kirk Ferentz looked to be one of the best coaches in the Big Ten, and was coming off of three seasons with records of 11-2, 10-3, and 10-2. The next three seasons were not so friendly to Hawkeyes, and I along with many thought this with Ferentz's last season. The 8-4 season they put together looks to have saved his job, and he owes Shonn Greene a big thank you.
Michigan: It's hard to say anything positive about what is going on up in Ann Arbor or about Rich Rodriguez. He came in and changed traditions, changed the style of ball, and ticked off the Wolverine faithful. The 3-9 record he produced didn't make up for any of that, and I personally wonder how much time he has with the Maize and Blue. In fact rumors surfaced about him going to Clemson, with many of Michigan fans were already talking about Brian Kelly of Cincinnati replacing him. Overall I think Rich Rodriguez can turn things around, but he needs time, and that means winning the fans over again!
Michigan State: Mark Dantonio has been the stable coach that the Spartans needed. I don't think he is ever going to blow anyone away with his offensive schemes or risky play calling, but seems to have cleaned things up a bit in East Lansing. He has things going in the right direction, and I don't see him going anywhere anytime soon. Things might be a little rough without Ringer next season, but Dantonio doesn't need to worry about his job.
Minnesota: If anyone doubted Tim Brewster after the 1-11 start at Minnesota, they do not now. The Gophers did lose their final four games, but the 7-5 record they produced is miles ahead of last season. Brewster offers a much fresher style, and it has really paid off for him on the recruiting trail as well. The Big Ten really needs more teams like Minnesota to step up, and you better believe I will be rooting Brewster on.
Northwestern: Pat Fitzgerald didn't take over the Northwestern team in the best of circumstances, but he has made the most of the opportunity. The Wildcats have seen improvement in each of his three seasons, with the best being the 9-3 record this year. Fitzgerald seems to be safe, though I am not sure Northwestern will ever be able to make a run like they did in the late 1990's again.
Ohio State: "In Tressel We Trust." No matter how frustrated some of you may be with the offensive play calling, Tressel has won four straight Big Ten Titles. I think it is safe to say that Tressel is a Buckeye until he chooses retirement.
Penn State: I have to say that I thought the end of this season was a perfect time for Joe Paterno to step down because Penn State won the Big Ten Title, he was forced to be in the booth and let the assistants coach, and his contract runs up at the end of the season. Who am I to tell the winningest coach of all time to step down though! It looks like the only thing that will stop JoePa now is death!
Purdue: The Tiller era is done for the Boilermakers, and new coach Danny Hope takes over for the '09 season. Hope isn't a huge name, but he did provide a smooth transition for Tiller's exit. He isn't young either, at 49, and will have to prove himself to the folks in West Lafayette. He previously coached Eastern Kentucky with an overall record of 35-22, and in 2007 lead them to a 9-3 year in the Ohio Valley Conference. He already has made huge changes on the Purdue staff, and hopefully will bring some fresh air into the program. Like I said earlier, the Big Ten needs teams like this to step up!
Wisconsin: Bret Bielema started out strong with a 12-1 record in his first season with the Badgers, but now has many wondering if he can do it without Barry Alvarez's recruits. Wisconsin has been a sinking ship the last three seasons with Bielema, and going 3-5 in the Big Ten this season has raised many eyebrows. Things better get turned around quickly, or the Wisconsin faithful will happily look elsewhere. I may be totally wrong, but I don't think Bielema can take this team to the next level!
Drew Thurman (5:21 pm)
There a few things going on in the recruiting world that are good news for Buckeye fans. Check these nuggets out:
1) The Buckeyes have five commitments playing in the Under Armour All-American Game in Jamaal Berry, Duron Carter, Melvin Fellows, Jack Mewhort, and C.J. Barnett. Prospects Marlon Brown, Corey Adams, and John Martinez are also part of the roster.
2) Adam Bellamy may have won the State Title with Aurora, but there are still some commits playing in other states. Matthew Hager of BuckeyeSports.com highlights what is still going on for Duron Carter, Justin Green, Carlos Hyde (pictured), and Jordan Whiting. Check out the write up, all these guys have been putting up serious numbers!
*Picture courtesy of naplenews.com
Drew Thurman (7:31 pm)
The NFL has suspended New Orleans Saint Will Smith along with five other players for violating the league's anti-doping policy. Interesting stuff from the former Buckeye defensive end, and it looks like he will be done for the season. The Saints lawyer says that Smith was negligent, and took what he thought was a weight loss supplement.