Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mark Ingram Named SEC Athlete of the Year

mark ingram cover The SEC announced Tuesday that University of Alabama running back Mark Ingram is the SEC Male Athlete of the Year. The Female of the Year award went to Susan Jackson, a gymnast at LSU.

Ingram added this award to his already impressive resume including an unanimous first-team All-American and his Heisman Trophy, the first to be won by a Crimson Tide Player.

When asked about Ingram and Jackson, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said, “They have competed at the highest level of collegiate athletics and through their hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence have been successful in their endeavors. They are fine representatives for their universities and this conference. The SEC is proud to honor them for their accomplishments.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tide Players make Preseason Award Watch lists

Five University of Alabama players have been named to preseason award watch lists by the Football Writers Association of America. The Tide will have players in the running so far for the Outland Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.

The Outland Trophy is awarded to the nation’s outstanding interior linemen and making the preseason list for the Tide are James Carpenter and Barrett Jones. Both will anchor this seasons offensive line unit and will look to be the top of the list.

As for the Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the top defensive player in the country, defensive linemen Marcell Dareus, safety Mark Barron, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. All will look to make their presence felt on a defense that returns only a few key players from a year ago.

Friday, June 18, 2010

NCAA Conference Expansion Winners And Losers

It’s amazing to think that a week ago we were talking about the breakup of the Big XII and the expansion of the Pac-10 and Big Ten that would lead to the creation of four or so super conferences. However, now that the University of Texas has achieved keeping the remaining 10 schools in the Big XII together, most talk of conference realignment and super conferences has ceased.

So now that most if not all of the conference jumping has ended, who are the winners and losers?

First, let’s look at the teams that did make moves. Nebraska and Colorado will both leave the Big XII with Nebraska heading to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-10. Also on the move was Boise State which found a new home in the Mountain West Conference, a move all the remaining teams in WAC are excited for because now they can compete for the championship with the Broncos out of the picture. The last team expected to move will be Utah, who after Texas’ snub to the Pac-10 will most likely accept the Pac-10’s offer to become the 12th team in the conference.

Winner: With all conference expansion complete, the overall winner would have to be Texas, who will now control the new-look Big XII. With the departure of Nebraska and Colorado, Texas is poised to increase their already-number-one revenue stream. Plus, most fans in the Lone Star State have wanted a "Texas Network" and with Texas’ increased power over the conference, they will probably get it. When all is said and done, the new conference will continue Texas’ hold on college football in that part of the country.

Losers: With Texas and the rest of the six invited team from the Big XII giving them the snub, the loser has to be the Pac-10 who instead of expanding to 16, will have to settle for 12. Yes, the Pac-10 will still be one of the best conferences out there, but losing out on Texas and Oklahoma still gives them a losing grade.

As for the other conferences, they seem content with their current arrangements. The ACC didn’t have any jumpers though many thought that there would be a couple to the SEC. The Big East remains the same (although there are murmurs of Memphis and UCF joining their ranks), and the Big Ten takes a step forward by adding a historic program like Nebraska to its ranks. The SEC too will remain a powerhouse even though they didn’t add any teams, and the remaining Big XII will still be fine. In fact they will all probably make more money out of the departures.

 Article first published as NCAA Conference Expansion Winners And Losers on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Tennessee Volunteers

block Where to start when it comes to the current happenings of the Tennessee Volunteers? While the heartbreak of Lane Kiffin abandoning ship is mending, most have found comfort in USC’s recent pounding from the NCAA. As for the football program, the second rebuilding in as many years has begun under the new head coach Derek Dooley. The former Louisiana Tech coach will have his hands full building a squad out of remnants from last year’s team, but with the young talent he will have to work with, he will definitely be building a foundation for the future.

His largest issue to tackle is how to replace his starting quarterback, running back, and all of the starters on the offensive line from a year ago. In fact, the Volunteers will only have four returning starters on offense: running back Tauren Poole, wide receivers Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore, and tight end Luke Stocker. While the offensive line and quarterback will be brand new, whoever takes the helm will find some comfort with knowing he has some returning skill players.

Just who will be under center is a big question coming out of spring. The position battle will be between Matt Simms and Tyler Bray. Both had an impressive spring and showed in the Tennessee spring game that they wanted the starting job. Which one we will see this fall has still not been decided and may not have an answer in the first few games of the season. The one job not up for discussion is at the running back position. Poole has solidified himself as the number one guy and showed he could handle the bulk of the carries and has the explosiveness to make some big plays.

The biggest hill to climb for the Tennessee offense will be replacing all five starters on the offensive line. The Vols will have to rely on some freshmen at some key positions and that usually equals tough times in the SEC with the skill of defensive linemen in the conference. The line will have some struggles this season protecting the quarterback and opening up holes for Poole, but will look to build on the game experience for the coming years.

On defense the Vols will have more returning starters, but it will have to replace possibly the best defensive player to come through the college ranks in safety Eric Berry. They will return two starters on the defensive line in tackle Montori Hughes and end Chris Walker who led the team in sacks last season with six. At linebacker, they return Nick Reveiz who will anchor the unit. As for the secondary, they have some good talent in safety Janzen Jackson and Darren Myles Jr., but will still have troubles filling the void left by Berry. There is also some good talent at the cornerback position, but as a unit we will have to see how they play together without the leadership of Berry.

When the Tide takes the field in Knoxville this year, they should definitely have the upper hand on both sides of the ball with the level of talent the Tide has. While we know the Tide’s defense will be new, they will still have less to worry about than the Tennessee offense. The defensive line will wreak havoc on the young Vol line and should create some big problems for whoever is under center. On offense, the Tide should be able to move the ball and put points on the board, and with Eric Berry not on the field, Julio Jones, and the other Tide receivers should have a lot of room to operate.


Article first published as Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Tennessee Volunteers on Blogcritics.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Ole Miss Rebels

Mississippi%20RebelsThe Crimson Tide will welcome Houston Nutt and the Ole Miss Rebels to Bryant Denny on October 16. Last year the Rebels ended the season third place in the SEC West with a SEC record of 4-4. Overall they finished with a record of 9-4 including a 21-7 Cotton Bowl Victory over Oklahoma State. However, much like the Florida Gators, the Rebels will be replacing their quarterback in Jevan Snead, who was 5th in the SEC last year in total offense for a quarterback with 2,632 yards.

Snead will not be the only weapon they will have to replace on offense. They will also have to replace wide receiver Shay Hodge who lead the SEC last year in receptions and receiving yards per game, and Dexter McCluster, who led the team in rushing and was one of the most explosive and entertaining players to watch on the field.

Taking the reins at quarterback will be sophomore Nathan Stanley. Stanley did see some playing time last year, throwing for 163 yards and a touchdown on 11 completions. He did however end the season with one interception to his credit and a lower quarterback rating than Dexter McCluster. He will however have some big receivers to throw to this fall in Markeith Summers and Brandon Bolden, both who were in the top five in receivers on the team a year ago. Taking over for the graduating McCluster is Rodney Scott, a sophomore who had only 138 yards rushing on 35 attempts and two touchdowns. Though young, Scott will look to make the most out of his carries and carry the rushing offense on his young shoulders.

On the defensive side of the ball we will see much of the same from last year, especially up front. The Rebel defense returns six of their front seven from a year ago. While not much will change, look for them to add to their work from last year. Last season the Ole Miss defense was fourth in both Total Defense and scoring defense in the SEC. The real question mark will be the secondary with only one returning starter in safety Johnny Brown. The Rebels will have to look for some young talent to fill the gaps, especially at corner back which is never good in the SEC with the talent of wide receivers in the league.

While Ole Miss will be no walk in the park for Alabama, they have always played the Tide tough. However, the Rebels will have to answer some questions both on the offensive line and defensive secondary. With the talent on the Tide’s defensive front, it may be a long day for Stanley and the Rebel offense. On defense, this may be one of the better games to watch the battle in the trenches between to the line units. Depending on how well the Tide can run the ball, that will dictate the need to pass. However, look for Greg McElroy to call some big plays to pick at the young secondary.

Article first published as Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Ole Miss Rebels on Blogcritics.

Friday, June 11, 2010

USC Gets the Hammer

80616514 With all of the rumors swirling around the Pac-10 and expansion talks, we almost forgot that one of their top programs, the University of South California, was being investigated by the NCAA for violations into practices involving their football and basketball programs.

Though the report mentioned numerous violations, the most significant violations involved football running back Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo. The violations stem from allegations that the two were involved with agents during their time at USC and whether or not those actions lead to them losing their status as amateurs while at school.

For the violations, USC’s football program will have some significant sanctions levied against them. They are:

  • A two-year ban from all postseason bowls
  • A loss of 10 scholarships a year for the 2011 through 2013 seasons
  • The school must vacate all wins that Reggie Bush played in, including their BCS Championship against Oklahoma
  • Four years probation

These sanctions will compound the difficulties for new head coach Lane Kiffin, who took over the program when Pete Carroll left for the NFL and Seattle. Recruiting will be especially more challenging with the loss of scholarships and the ban from postseason bowl games. Let’s not forget that Kiffin has had himself some issues with NCAA violations while in his only season as head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers.

Most in the Volunteer State would probably say he deserves it for hightailing it to the West Coast once Carroll left, but not even the almighty Kiffin could have planned for this. With things not going so well last season at Tennessee, Kiffin has yet to prove himself as a head coach and the sanctions will make things only worse.

As for programs vacated wins, they include all the wins during Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy season. The next question is whether or not Bush may be stripped of his Heisman Trophy and reputation at USC. I’m sure there will be a big debate on both sides of the fence, but only the Trust will have the last word on Bush’s trophy. Also, there is the question of whether or not the Trojans will lose their 2004 BCS National Championship, which then opens the discussion on who would be in line to receive it.

As for the final impact of the sanctions, only the future will tell. The quickest effect will be felt on the Trojan’s recruiting efforts, especially with the loss of scholarships and bowl ban. In the coming years we will see the mighty Trojans fall from the top of the Pac-10 to the middle of the pack, whether it be 10 or 16 teams in the future.

Article first published as USC Gets the Hammer on Blogcritics.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The New Landscape of College Football

In one of the most surprising moves Wednesday, a source close to the Board of Regents at the University of Nebraska says that the school has informally agreed to leave the Big 12 and enter the Big Ten conference.
While the official work will not come until Friday, this move has created quite the shakeup in college football. The main reason, if Nebraska does decide to leave for the Big Ten, the Big 12 is effectively dead in the water, and will most likely be dismantled.
Nebraska really had no choice with all the rumors surrounding the teams leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10. By deciding to leave, they took a step to create their own destination and future for the program rather than have to wait and see what schools like Texas and Oklahoma decided to do. With the Cornhuskers leaving, this will almost guarantee that we see those schools invited to the Pac -10 accept their invitations. That could mean that six other current Big 12 teams will be moving to the west coast conference creating a super conference.
Those teams making up the 6 are Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Colorado (which is now official). The Big 12 has given each team until June 14 to make their decision to leave or pledge their allegiance to the Big 12. However, if Nebraska does leave the conference is most likely dead.
That leaves the Big 12 with five teams looking for a home in college football: Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State. Though there was some big time lobbying for Baylor to be sent along with Texas, it looks like the Pac-10 has firmly said Baylor is not wanted. Missouri, once a potential conference jumper, is going to be looking for a home in the Big Ten and will most likely end up there. As for the others left in limbo, they should find homes if needed whether in the Big Ten as well or other conferences such as the Mountain West or Conference USA.
Should all the moves go down, what does that mean for college football? Well, the "Pac-16," I guess it might be called, will be home to some of the most powerful teams in the game, and will have a couple of teams challenge for a national championship each year. Also, with the required 12 teams for a conference championship, there should be some great Rose Bowls in the future.
The same goes for the Big Ten; we will finally have a Big Ten challenger for the national title that has won a conference championship, which has been one of the main arguments come BCS time for why the Big Ten team shouldn’t play in the big game. That leaves the ACC and SEC who up until now have been discussing some changes within their ranks but have taken a wait and see mentality, and now that teams have made their moves, the rumor mills should start right back up again.
 
Article first published as The New Landscape of College Football on Blogcritics.

Kirkpatrick recovering from shoulder surgery.

The University of Alabama’s defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. The injury has lead to Kirkpatrick limiting his practices this summer with the team. Kirkpatrick had the procedure done after the A-Day game once spring practice was complete.

Injury has been a familiar scene for Dre, most recently his hamstring injury last year before the season started. He will continue his rehab, and coach Nick Saban expects that Kirkpatrick will be at full strength and speed by the time practices start.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks

ALA @ USC The Crimson Tide will play their third consecutive SEC opponent on October 9 when they travel to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks of the University of South Carolina.

Last year the Tide hung 20 points on the Gamecocks behind an unbelievable performance by Mark Ingram on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy. The Tide only allowed South Carolina to score six; however this season there will be one major difference on the South Carolina offense in that coach Steve Spurrier will be calling all of the plays for the offense.

There could also be another major change on offense. With Stephen Garcia’s continued struggles in his sophomore campaign, there was some serious conversations in Columbia about replacing him with true freshman Connor Shaw. Though extremely unlikely, it will be very interesting on how Garcia will react to the continued criticism from his coach and those close to the program. Whether or not Garcia is at the helm, there will be seven returning starters on offense including receiver Alshon Jeffery and tight end Weslye (not a typo) Saunders. Combine those two with the rest of the South Carolina receiver core and you are looking at possibly the best receiving core in the SEC East. The one question mark on offense is the offensive line. Even though they return center T.J. Johnson, the ability for the unit to protect the quarterback will be the toughest assignment for the offense.

As on offense, the Gamecock defense will return seven starters from a year ago. They have been one of the best defenses in the last few years. Lets not forget that they held the Tide offense to barely any production last season until Ingram took over the ball game. The Gamecocks return two big names on defense in starters defensive end Cliff Matthews and defensive back Stephon Gilmore. Both will compete for All-SEC honors at their respected positions, and Gilmore may be one of the best shut down corners around.

When the two teams meet on the field against each other this fall, the Gamecocks will look much like the team we saw a year ago. Around the league, the Gamecocks have been selected as the team to finally knock off the Florida Gators and win the SEC East. The check mark on offense definitely goes to the Tide with such a potent offense and the instability on the Gamecock offensive line and quarterback concerns. On the other side of the ball, the Gamecocks get the mark with so many players returning compared to the Tide's two.

However, along with the high expectations comes the pressure along with it. We all know that consistency under pressure is one of Garcia’s lower attributes, but the Gamecocks will have something to prove and will give the Tide everything they have.

 

Article first published as Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: South Carolina Gamecocks on Blogcritics.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Could The SEC Really Expand?

The SEC began its spring meetings this week in Florida and the hot issue on everyone’s mind seemed to be whether or not the SEC would expand its conference from the 12 current members. Expansion, not only in the SEC but around college football, has been a hotbed for rumors and speculation this summer.

I mean, why would the SEC even think of adding more teams to probably the most successful college football conference there is. The SEC has won the last four football national championships, and most preseason polls show that the conference has a good chance at winning the next one.

With all the chatter going around, why not add my two cents into the conversation? Here are my four teams that if the SEC did decide to expand would be the top possibilities, and NO, Texas is not in it. The chance of the University of Texas leaving the Big 12 is slim, and unless the Big 12 gets busted up somehow, they aren’t going anywhere. So here we go.

1. Florida State: The Seminoles take the top spot because well, it just makes sense. They have the history and name recognition you see in the SEC. Let’s face it, they have had some disappointing seasons here recently, but you know they will be back on top again at some point. Also, imagine going to a FSU vs. Florida game where the win wasn’t only for bragging rights but has conference implications.

2. Clemson: When you think of the Tigers you think first of their awesome stadium and facilities, not to mention the team has an amazing following. Again, add some more significance to the in-state rivalry with South Carolina and you would see it ranked up there with the Iron Bowl and Florida vs. UGA game. We also know that Clemson would put people in the stands and compete with most if not all the SEC teams on any given Saturday. Think back to the matchup between Alabama and Clemson, which kicked off the season and sold out the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

3. Georgia Tech: The battle between Clemson and Georgia Tech was close, the facilities of Clemson matched with the fact that the Atlanta market is pretty much already saturated with UGA fans. Remember though that Georgia Tech does have the history that we have come to love with SEC teams and they were a member of the SEC at one time, so we know it would work. Their only downfall is they do have to compete for love against UGA.

4. Louisville: My last and dark horse team is Louisville. Let’s remember that Petrino left the Cardinals with a pretty impressive football program foundation. Also, we aren’t just talking football with expansions but every other team that go along with the University. So add the fact that Louisville basketball team would add another legitimate team to the league. They are definitely worth a look.

So expand or not to expand, that is the question. The possibility is out there, but we will have to wait and see if another major conference makes the first move. For now, it will be a wait and see, but it will definitely add some interesting debates come fall.

 

Article first published as Could The SEC Really Expand? on Blogcritics.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Florida Gators

Gators The Crimson Tide's SEC home opener on October 2 will be a big one. The Tide will host the Florida gators in a matchup that will bring together the last two SEC Champions and the last two winners of the BCS National Championships. The game itself will not only have conference implications but will most likely end the loser's hopes at winning a national championship.

Much like the Tide, last year the Gators were undefeated through the regular season and had an impressive Sugar Bowl, pounding Cincinnati 51-24. The big question of course is how on earth they will replace possibly the best college football player of all time, Tim Tebow. That job falls to John Brantley, and he definitely has some large shoes to fill at quarterback. Even with the loss of Tebow, Florida is ranked in the top five in most of the preseason polls out there.

Not only do the Florida Gators have to replace the team’s top passer and rusher in Tebow, but they will also have to replace the team’s leading receiver from a year ago in Riley Cooper. Another key departure for the Gators offense was tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was also one of Tebow’s favorite targets. Brantley will have some support from returning players. In total, the Gators will return six starters from last year.

Both running backs Jeffery Demps and Emmanuel Moody will be back, but the most important returning player is center Mike Pouncey. Pouncey will give the Gators much needed protection on the front line, especially with a first year starter behind him. Given the lack of game time experience Brantley has, relying on proven offensive linemen like Pouncey will definitely give him some much needed confidence under pressure. He may not have the stats and will have some growing pains, but Brantley is absolutely poised to put up some impressive numbers with the offense around him.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Gators will have to replace some big names including defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham, linebacker Brandon Spikes, and defensive back Joe Haden. The most significant loss comes with the departures of Dunlap and Cunningham who were the anchors on a stellar defensive line last season. However, we all know do know one thing, that the Gators defense will fill the gaps and still be a hassle for opposing offenses.

There are some very talented guys ready to take up the starting slots, most of them who could start on many other defenses around the league and only were saw less playing time due to the players in front of them. Linebacker Brandon Hicks, defensive back Janoris Jenkins, and safety Ahmad Black will anchor the defense allowing the new guys to fill the missing gaps. Let’s not forget, that the Gators also have some highly talented recruits that will be on campus this fall and challenging for some playing time.

Overall, the largest issues for Florida will be replacing their leader Tebow, but Brantley has spent his time in waiting and showed some of his potential with his highlights this spring running the offense. The game will definitely be an early season battle. We have learned in the last two seasons how much this matchup has played in determining supremacy in the SEC. The Gators will also have the motivation from last season’s loss in the SEC Championship much like the Tide did last year. We also saw what happened last time the Gators made their way into Bryant-Denny, so as it stands now it still may be anyone’s game.

 

Article first published as Crimson Tide 2010 Opponents Preview: Florida Gators on Blogcritics.

Gene Stallings Elected To College Football Hall of Fame

stallings Former University of Alabama head football coach Gene Stallings was announced as one of the newest members of the College Football Hall of Fame. Last week the National Football Foundation's Veterans Committee selected Stallings and 13 other former college coaches and players to make up the 2010 class.

Stallings, who started his college football career playing for Paul "Bear" Bryant at Texas A&M, also served the Aggies as head coach from 1965 to 1971 after serving Bryant as a defensive assistant on the 1964 national championship team. He then served 14 years for the Dallas Cowboys and was given his chance to be an NFL head coach for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1986 to 1989.

In 1990, Stallings returned to the University of Alabama as head coach where he would stay until 1996. His record at Alabama was 70-16-1 as a head coach, and was only the second head coach in school history to win the Iron Bowl in his first season. He is most remembered for his accomplishments in 1992, leading a 13-0 Alabama team to a national championship against Miami and winning the first SEC Championship game.

Coming off the SEC Championship win, Stallings lead the Crimson Tide into the Sugar Bowl against a powerhouse Miami Hurricane team. The Tide held Miami to just 13 points winning 34-13, and who could forget the play of the game that will forever be remembered as “the strip” when defensive back George Teague ran down receiver Lamar Thomas and stripped the ball from him as the two barreled towards the end zone.

He now serves on the Board of Regents at his alma mater Texas A&M University. In all, Stallings' teams won one national championship adding him to the schools list of five head coaches and the school’s 12th championship, one SEC championship, and brought home four SEC West titles.

Also named to the 2010 class were:

  • Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin)
  • Pat Tillman (Arizona State)
  • Desmond Howard (Michigan)
  • Dennis Byrd (North Carolina State)
  • Ronnie Caveness (Arkansas)
  • Ray Childress (Texas A&M)
  • Randy Cross (UCLA)
  • Sam Cunningham (USC)
  • Mark Herrmann (Perdue)
  • Clarkston Hines (Duke)
  • Chet Moeller (Navy)
  • Jerry Stovall (LSU)
  • Alfred Williams (Colorado)

 

Article first published as Gene Stallings Elected To College Football Hall of Fame on Blogcritics.