Big Ten: Miami Hurricanes

National links: Calm before the storm 

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
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Let’s just get this out of the way: Last week in college football was kind of dull.

Unless, that is, you’re into watching the single-game FBS rushing record fall for the second straight Saturday. (So who breaks it this week?) Yes, last week was dull, unless, of course, you’re into Florida State’s weekly high-wire act, re-awakenings at Arkansas and Minnesota or UCLA’s continued stranglehold on Los Angeles.

My point is, the latest set of games didn’t significantly impact the College Football Playoff picture -- at least in comparison to the past few weeks. Barring some craziness at the selection-committee table, the top four on Tuesday night is going to look no different than last week’s edition.

But Week 13 was simply the calm before the storm. Not so sure? Check out first nine paragraphs Gene Wojciechowski’s BMOC column. The rocky road to Dec. 9 is enough to make a fan of any playoff contender choke on his or her turkey dinner.

And it starts in two days.

Nebraska 41, Miami 31

September, 20, 2014
Sep 20
11:59
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video Ameer Abdullah ran for 229 yards in No. 24 Nebraska's 41-31 victory over Miami.
Our reporters will periodically offer their takes on important questions in college football. They'll have strong, though often differing, opinions. We'll let you decide who is right.

[+] EnlargeBo Pelini
AP Photo/Nati HarnikBo Pelini's Huskers are close to returning to national prominence.
Nebraska and Miami renew a unique rivalry on Saturday night in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers and Hurricanes have played 10 times -- the past five in bowl games, four of which crowned the national champion. Most recently, Miami beat Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Since the Canes joined the ACC a decade ago, neither program has made it to a major bowl game.

So today's Take Two topic: Which is closer, Nebraska or Miami, to a return to the top of college football?

Take 1: Mitch Sherman

I'll go with the Huskers, though almost by default as Miami continues to feel its way through the new world order in college football, having lost five games or more in six of the past eight seasons. Sure, Miami uses a proven recruiting formula under Al Golden, but that's the problem. Florida State does it better. And so does half of the SEC.

Some might make similar claims about Nebraska. After all, the Huskers play in the Big Ten, where Ohio State resonates more deeply with recruits, and Penn State has seized momentum in recent months.

At least the Huskers have stability. Say what you want about coach Bo Pelini's lack of championships, but his teams have played in league title games three times in his six years, and he's never won fewer than nine games. Those 9-4 and 10-4 records do little to soothe the feelings of Nebraska fans who long for the glory years, but that era is long gone.

This week, Nebraska can take some solace in knowing that it's closer, by the numbers, to regaining elite status than Miami. And the weak Big Ten, despite conventional logic, might help Nebraska, which has upgraded its talent while others in the conference have not.

A win over Miami would complete an unbeaten nonconference season. Hurdles remain in the league, but for the Huskers, a re-emergence nationally is closer than many envision.

Take 2: Matt Fortuna

[+] EnlargeMiami
AP Photo/Alex MenendezAl Golden's ability to recruit in talent-rich Miami bodes well for the Hurricanes.
The idea that Miami has not played in a single ACC championship game yet is perplexing. Instead, the men's basketball team is the one that can claim a league title. Go figure.

Looking down the road, though, I think the Hurricanes have the more direct path back to their glory days, or at least at getting closer to what they once were. For one: Location, location, location. There is simply too much talent in Miami for this program ever to fall on down times. Golden, in his fourth year, has taken advantage of this, on pace for his fourth straight top-15 recruiting class. Let's not forget that this was also a program that was operating under the black cloud of the Nevin Shapiro scandal for two-plus years.

The same argument that the Big Ten provides a clearer path for Nebraska can be used for the ACC and Miami; the Coastal Division is a mess. But the most promising aspect for the Canes may be just that: promise.

Yes, fans want more out of this regime, which has lacked some punch at times. But there is still time to clean things up and for Miami -- which, we should note, has had some pretty awful luck with injuries offensively -- to improve. What Pelini has done in Lincoln is no small task, and I do think he is taken for granted, but I wonder if he has maxed out there. That may be tough to accept for a fan base that is so used to dominance, but as you said, that era appears gone.

What isn't gone is the talent in Florida, and in the Southeast. By virtue of its location, and by surviving a potentially program-crumbling scandal, Miami at least has the upside to make a return to the top of the college football world a possibility in the not-so-distant future.
Nebraska and Miami met five times in bowl games from 1984 to 2002, with the winner staking claim to the national title four times. Here’s a look inside the series at three of the most memorable games from an era gone past in college football:

1984 Orange Bowl: Miami 31, Nebraska 30


Turner Gill, Kevin FaganAP Photo/John RaouxKevin Fagan hounded Turner Gill in the '84 Orange Bowl as Miami won its first national title.


December 1983 rated as one of the coldest months on record in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The high temperature was 36 degrees on Dec. 8. The low? Minus-24 on Dec. 22, part of a weeklong stretch when the thermometer did not reach zero while the top-ranked Cornhuskers readied to play Miami in the Orange Bowl.

At the time, Nebraska practiced outdoors on frozen grass and AstroTurf. Four years later, the school built an indoor facility, spurred in part by the horrendous conditions of that month. When the Huskers arrived in Miami, players and coaches exited the plane in their winter coats. The heat and humidity hit them hard -– which was a factor as the Hurricanes jumped to a 17-0 lead on Jan. 2.

The 1983 Huskers averaged 50.3 points and 370.8 rushing yards per game behind quarterback Turner Gill and Heisman Trophy-winning I-back Mike Rozier. But in that Orange Bowl, Nebraska sputtered offensively as Rozier left in the second half with an ankle injury.

The Huskers pulled within one, but Gill’s two-point conversion pass failed in the final minute as Kenny Calhoun knocked the ball away from Nebraska I-back Jeff Smith.

The whole scenario couldn’t have worked any better for Howard Schnellenberger, the Hurricanes’ showman of a head coach who, in buildup to the bowl game, landed a helicopter on the Nebraska practice field in Miami, jumping out with a pipe in his mouth.

A wayward program just five years prior when Schnellenberger took charge, Miami won its 11th consecutive game to earn the school its first national title and first of four in a nine-year period.

And the Huskers, again under Tom Osborne, were left out in the cold.



1995 Orange Bowl: Nebraska 24, Miami 17


Warren SappAP Photo/Jeffrey BoanMiami's Warren Sapp was chatty, but Tommie Frazier and Nebraska got the last word and the win.


The story is part of Nebraska lore. Not the two-touchdown comeback or the prescient halftime vow to his team by Osborne that Miami would tire late -– well, that’s all legendary, too -– but Tommie Frazier’s version of the trash talk shared with Warren Sapp perhaps best symbolizes Nebraska’s rise to surpass Miami in this once-lopsided postseason series.

Osborne had replaced Frazier with Brook Berringer early, the arrangement in place for much of the 1994 regular season as blood clots sidelined Frazier for eight games.

When Frazier returned to field late in the fourth quarter, the Huskers trailed 17-9. Sapp, the Hurricanes’ boisterous defensive tackle, shot jabs at the junior quarterback.

“Where you been, Tommie,” Sapp shouted, according to Frazier.

“It’s not where I’ve been,” Frazier said in 2009, recounting the exchange. “It’s where I’m going, fat ass.”

With fresh legs, Frazier, the Florida native who came up two points short against Florida State a year earlier in the same stadium, gashed Miami on the option. With less than eight minutes to play, fullback Cory Schlesinger burst through middle for a 15-yard score. Frazier found tight end Eric Alford for a two-point conversion to tie it.

Less than five minutes later, with Frazier at the helm, Schlesinger scored again from 14 yards out. The victory secured Osborne’s first national title and one of three in his final four seasons as coach.

As usual in his college career, which concluded with 33 wins in 36 starts, Frazier had the final word.



2002 Rose Bowl: Miami 37, Nebraska 14


Andre Johnson, Daryl Jones, Carl Walker, Ken DorseyAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillMiami had 38 players go to the NFL, including Daryl Jones (L), Andre Johnson (C) and Ken Dorsey (R).


Six years before this most recent Nebraska-Miami meeting, the Cornhuskers fielded a team in 1995 that was considered by some as the greatest in history. Its average margin of victory approached 40 points. And true to form, Osborne’s team crushed Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl.

If only the 1995 Huskers could have met 2001 Miami. Because this Nebraska team had no chance. The Hurricanes, loaded with 16 future first-round NFL draft picks, blitzed the Huskers for 27 second-quarter points en route to a 34-0 halftime lead. Miami could have named its score, but coach Larry Coker showed mercy in the second half as the championship celebration began early.

The star power at Miami in 2001 was incredible, featuring running backs Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, quarterback Ken Dorsey, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow, safeties Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, linebackers Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams, receiver Andre Johnson, cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Mike Rumph, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork -- the list seems never-ending. In all, 38 players from that team were drafted. They accumulated more than 40 appearances in the Pro Bowl.

Miami outscored its opponents in 2001 by 33.2 points per game. Its offense, defense and special teams units each could lay claim to a ranking as the nation’s best.

And for all the work Nebraska accomplished in the '90s to close the gap on Miami’s dynasty of the previous decade, it looked wider than ever on Jan. 3, 2002.
They were told they would never have a chance against Nebraska, the fiercest, most powerful team in America.

Looking across the line, safety Kenny Calhoun and his Miami teammates saw big boys all right. But Miami had speed, and it had confidence, and it had its own toughness, too. Calhoun showed as much when he batted down Turner Gill’s two-point conversion pass attempt in the 1984 Orange Bowl, delivering the defining moment in one of the most memorable national championship games ever played.

Their rivalry only grew from there, Tom Osborne on the Nebraska sideline with his plodding, ball-control offense, trying to figure out a way to neutralize the warp-speed Hurricanes. Their national championship battles became referendums on strength and toughness versus speed and athleticism. Speed won twice. Then Tommie Frazier came along, trash talkin’ Warren Sapp and putting on the moves to back it up, delivering Osborne his first national championship in the 1995 Orange Bowl.

But the advantages they once used to build their dynasties seemingly have disappeared as the college football landscape has changed. The last time they met, Miami routed Nebraska for a fifth national title in the 2002 Rose Bowl.

Since then, neither school has replicated the success they had when their paths met during the 1980s and 1990s. When they play Saturday in Lincoln, their matchup will serve as another reminder that college football has moved on without them.

"Those two teams, those two decades are moments in time and I seriously doubt that they can ever be duplicated," Calhoun said. "Just basically because of recruiting, the bowl structure now, the playoff system and the NCAA regulations and rules on how they govern the game."

[+] EnlargeHoward Schnellenberger and Al Golden
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeHoward Schnellenberger, left, led Miami to the 1983 national title. The college football landscape has changed for current Miami coach Al Golden.
So much has changed in the 30 years since the two teams met in the Orange Bowl. At the time, Nebraska had built a strength and conditioning program that was the envy of everybody across the country. The Huskers had perfected the option offense and had a strong coaching lineage, big draws for players growing up in the Plains.

Miami, meanwhile, began to focus on recruiting the South Florida area. Coach Howard Schnellenberger coined the term "State of Miami," hoping to lock down the best athletes from the three counties surrounding the school. He also brought a pro-style offense with him from his days as an NFL assistant. After Miami began having success, other programs started to follow the Hurricanes’ blueprint.

Their advantages were no longer a secret. Schools from across the country now recruit in South Florida, and are looking for speed. That includes Nebraska. Plus, there are more FBS programs in state looking for a piece of the recruiting pie. South Florida, Central Florida, Florida International and Florida Atlantic were not part of the equation during the dynasty years.

As for Nebraska, the Huskers no longer own an edge in strength and conditioning. The option offense is virtually obsolete, negating another edge it used to have. They no longer have rivalries with Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma to sell. Their closest conference "rivals" are Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

And recruiting has changed for the Huskers, too.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Tom Osborne
AP Photo/Hans Deryk"One thing that we did have in common is, if you looked at our recruiting classes, we were usually -- Miami and Nebraska -- ranked around 20th or 30th, 35th," Tom Osborne said.
"One thing that we did have in common is, if you looked at our recruiting classes, we were usually -- Miami and Nebraska -- ranked around 20th or 30th, 35th," Osborne said. "They seemed to get a lot of players out of South Florida that lots of people didn’t know about. And we got a lot of kids out of Nebraska and other places that people didn’t know much about. We developed talent. We didn’t have as many blue-chip players, but we certainly had guys who could play."

Former Miami defensive end Kevin Fagan echoes that sentiment, believing Miami can win again with the right group of players -- a group that shows the same characteristics that his 1983 championship team showed.

"Throw away the five-star stuff and go out there and look at kids," Fagan said. "Put on the film against really good opponents. When they’re getting beat, do they have character? Look beyond the speed and vertical jump and bench press. ... Schnellenberger, that was something he was really, really good at. He looked for those tough kids that other people didn’t want. Who finds a Jim Burt, or Jim Kelly? No one thinks he’s a quarterback, but Schnellenberger did."

Since the 2001 season, only Miami has played for another national championship, in 2002. Since 2004, neither team has won a conference championship. The highest final ranking for Miami was No. 11 in 2004; for Nebraska, it was No. 14 in 2009.

"Football is still a developmental game," Osborne said. "People go about it in different ways. Every place has an offseason plan and a sophisticated strength program. I agree that we might have had an edge for a period of time, but by the '90s, I think that was pretty well gone. ... But you always look for things -- whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s academic support, whether it’s schemes -- things to give you an edge."

Miami and Nebraska are still looking.

Big Ten reporter Mitch Sherman contributed to this report.

Best cross-conference recruiting battles 

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
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Some recruits get attention from all over the country. Whether it’s their prowess or proximity to multiple teams, top prospects will have schools from multiple conferences pursuing them. ESPN.com’s conference recruiting reporters look at five players in the recently updated ESPN 300 who have different conferences after them and have recruiting battles that could carry throughout the fall.

NOTE: For battles with multiple teams, reporters chose reported leaders or best fits.


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Position U: Linebacker

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
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Who really deserves to claim the title of “Linebacker U” for the 2000s?


1. Ohio State (222 points)


Move over Penn State. Ohio State is the new “Linebacker U” -- and the Buckeyes claimed the title in a blowout. In many of these positional rankings, only a handful of points separate first and second place. At linebacker, the Buckeyes finished nearly 50 points ahead of second-place Alabama. But when your players stockpile national awards and All-America honors and then many more go on to become NFL draft picks, you put your program in position to rank at the top of this list. Players such as A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis and most recently Ryan Shazier have done that in Columbus.

Award winners: A.J. Hawk, Lombardi (2005); James Laurinaitis, Butkus (2007), Nagurski (2008), Lott (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Matt Wilhelm (2002), A.J. Hawk (2004, 2005), James Laurinaitis (2006, 2007, 2008).
First-team all-conference: Joe Cooper (2000), Matt Wilhelm (2002), A.J. Hawk (2003, 2004, 2005), James Laurinaitis (2006, 2007, 2008), Ross Homan (2010), Brian Rolle (2010), Ryan Shazier (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: A.J. Hawk (2006), Bobby Carpenter (2006), Ryan Shazier (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cie Grant (Round 3, 2003), Matt Wilhelm (Round 4, 2003), Anthony Schlegel (Round 3, 2006), James Laurinaitis (Round 2, 2009), Thaddeus Gibson (Round 4, 2010), John Simon (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Courtland Bullard (Round 5, 2002), Rob Reynolds (Round 5, 2004), Larry Grant (Round 7, 2008), Marcus Freeman (Round 5, 2009), Austin Spitler (Round 7, 2010), Brian Rolle (Round 6, 2011), Ross Homan (Round 6, 2011).


T-2. Alabama (174)


The Crimson Tide has claimed two Butkus Awards and has had four consensus All-Americans at linebacker since 2009, when Alabama won the first of its three BCS titles under Nick Saban. Alabama also has had three linebackers picked in the first round (Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley) and five linebackers overall drafted during that run of dominance.

Award winners: DeMeco Ryans, Lott (2005); Rolando McClain, Butkus (2009); C.J. Mosley, Butkus (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: DeMeco Ryans (2005), Rolando McClain (2009), Dont’a Hightower (2011), C.J. Mosley (2012, 2013).
First-team all-conference: Saleem Rasheed (2001), Derrick Pope (2003), Cornelius Wortham (2004), DeMeco Ryans (2005), Rolando McClain (2008, 2009), Dont’a Hightower (2011), Courtney Upshaw (2011), C.J. Mosley (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Rolando McClain (2010), Dont’a Hightower (2012), C.J. Mosley (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Saleem Rasheed (Round 3, 2002), DeMeco Ryans (Round 2, 2006), Courtney Upshaw (Round 2, 2012), Nico Johnson (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Derrick Pope (Round 7, 2004), Cornelius Wortham (Round 7, 2005).


T-2. Oklahoma (174)


Hey, what do you know? Oklahoma is near the top of the rankings at another position. At linebacker, the Sooners’ position is largely because of the early-2000s run when Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman cleaned up on the awards and All-America circuit. It also helps that Oklahoma has had 12 linebackers drafted since 2001.

Award winners: Rocky Calmus, Butkus (2001); Teddy Lehman, Bednarik (2003), Butkus (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Rocky Calmus (2000, 2001), Teddy Lehman (2002, 2003), Curtis Lofton (2007).
First-team all-conference: Rocky Calmus (2000, 2001), Jimmy Wilkerson (2001), Teddy Lehman (2002, 2003), Dan Cody (2003), Lance Mitchell (2004), Rufus Alexander (2005, 2006), Curtis Lofton (2007), Travis Lewis (2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Torrance Marshall (Round 3, 2001), Rocky Calmus (Round 3, 2002), Teddy Lehman (Round 2, 2004), Dan Cody (Round 2, 2005), Clint Ingram (Round 3, 2006), Curtis Lofton (Round 2, 2008), Keenan Clayton (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Lance Mitchell (Round 5, 2005), Rufus Alexander (Round 6, 2007), Nic Harris (Round 5, 2009), Travis Lewis (Round 7, 2012), Corey Nelson (Round 7, 2014).


T-4. USC (140)


It should come as no surprise that the greater portion of USC’s linebacker point total came during its mid-2000s run, when it was an annual BCS title contender. Standout linebackers such as Rey Maualuga -- the 2008 Bednarik Award winner, consensus All-American and three-time All-Pac-10 selection -- Keith Rivers, Matt Grootegoed and Brian Cushing helped the Trojans become the nation’s most dominant program during that period.

Award winners: Rey Maualuga, Bednarik (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Matt Grootegoed (2004), Rey Maualuga (2008).
First-team all-conference: Matt Grootegoed (2002, 2004), Lofa Tatupu (2004), Rey Maualuga (2006, 2007, 2008), Keith Rivers (2006, 2007), Brian Cushing (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Keith Rivers (2008), Brian Cushing (2009), Clay Matthews (2009), Nick Perry (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Markus Steele (Round 4, 2001), Lofa Tatupu (Round 2, 2005), Kaluka Maiava (Round 4, 2009), Rey Maualuga (Round 2, 2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Zeke Moreno (Round 5, 2001), Oscar Lua (Round 7, 2007), Dallas Sartz (Round 5, 2007), Thomas Williams (Round 5, 2008), Malcolm Smith (Round 7, 2011), Devon Kennard (Round 5, 2014).


T-4. Miami (140)


When your program has 12 players from one position drafted and four of them go in the first round, chances are you’ll rank toward the top of the board. That’s the case with Miami, which had Dan Morgan (who won three national awards and was a consensus All-American in 2000), Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams and Jon Beason all become first-round picks after standout careers in Coral Gables.

Award winners: Dan Morgan, Bednarik (2000), Nagurski (2000), Butkus (2000).
Consensus All-Americans: Dan Morgan (2000).
First-team all-conference: Dan Morgan (2000), Jonathan Vilma (2001, 2002, 2003), D.J. Williams (2003), Sean Spence (2011), Denzel Perryman (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Dan Morgan (2001), Jonathan Vilma (2004), D.J. Williams (2004), Jon Beason (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Rocky McIntosh (Round 2, 2006), Leon Williams (Round 4, 2006), Tavares Gooden (Round 3, 2008), Darryl Sharpton (Round 4, 2010), Colin McCarthy (Round 4, 2011), Sean Spence (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Darrell McClover (Round 7, 2004), Spencer Adkins (Round 6, 2009).


6. Penn State (134)


The old “Linebacker U” still makes our top 10. In fact, Penn State still has plenty to brag about at the position where it has long been known for producing stars. The Nittany Lions earned four national awards and three All-America designations between Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor, plus they had nine players drafted since 2001.

Award winners: Paul Posluszny, Butkus (2005), Bednarik (2005, 2006); Dan Connor, Bednarik (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007).
First-team all-conference: Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007), NaVorro Bowman (2008, 2009), Gerald Hodges (2011), Michael Mauti (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Paul Posluszny (Round 2, 2007), Dan Connor (Round 3, 2008), Sean Lee (Round 2, 2010), NaVorro Bowman (Round 3, 2010), Gerald Hodges (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tim Shaw (Round 5, 2007), Josh Hull (Round 7, 2010), Nathan Stupar (Round 7, 2012), Michael Mauti (Round 7, 2013).


7. Georgia (110)


Two-time All-American Jarvis Jones and fellow 2013 first-round pick Alec Ogletree might get most of the glory, but this group is chock full of talent. Justin Houston is making his mark as a pass-rusher in the NFL and there are a bunch of old war horses such as Will Witherspoon, Kendrell Bell and Tony Gilbert who hung around the league for several years.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jarvis Jones (2011, 2012).
First-team all-conference: Boss Bailey (2002), Odell Thurman (2003, 2004), Rennie Curran (2008, 2009), Jarvis Jones (2011, 2012), Ramik Wilson (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jarvis Jones (2013), Alec Ogletree (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kendrell Bell (Round 2, 2001), Will Witherspoon (Round 3, 2002), Boss Bailey (Round 2, 2003), Odell Thurman (Round 2, 2005), Rennie Curran (Round 3, 2010), Justin Houston (Round 3, 2011), Akeem Dent (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tony Gilbert (Round 6, 2003).


8. Texas (108)


Texas snuck into the top 10 on the back of Derrick Johnson, who won both the Nagurski and Butkus awards in 2004 and was a consensus All-American in 2003 and 2004 before becoming a 2005 first-round draft pick. The current Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl linebacker accounted for 62 of the Longhorns’ 108 points in the linebacker rankings.

Award winners: Derrick Johnson, Nagurski (2004), Butkus (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Derrick Johnson (2003, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Cory Redding (2001), Derrick Johnson (2002, 2003, 2004), Aaron Harris (2005), Sergio Kindle (2008), Emmanuel Acho (2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Derrick Johnson (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Roddrick Muckelroy (Round 4, 2010), Sergio Kindle (Round 2, 2010), Sam Acho (Round 4, 2011), Keenan Robinson (Round 4, 2012), Alex Okafor (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Emmanuel Acho (Round 6, 2012).


9. Boston College (104): Luke Kuechly is responsible for most of the points here. The four-time award winner in 2011, was twice named a consensus All-American, earned all-conference honors three times and became a first-round draft pick. That's a grand total of 84 points for the Carolina Panthers star. The Eagles also have an active string of first-team all-conference linebackers that started with Mark Herzlich in 2008.

Award winners: Luke Kuechly, Nagurski (2011), Lombardi (2011), Lott (2011), Butkus (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Luke Kuechly (2010, 2011).
First-team all-conference: Mark Herzlich (2008), Luke Kuechly (2009, 2010, 2011), Nick Clancy (2012), Kevin Pierre-Louis (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Luke Kuechly (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kevin Pierre-Louis (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.


T-10. Maryland (100)

E.J. Henderson accounts for more than half of Maryland’s points thanks in large part to his two national awards and two consensus All-America designations. Henderson is among three Terrapins linebackers who made the All-ACC first team twice (along with D’Qwell Jackson and Alex Wujciak), while Shawne Merriman is the only Terp during the 2000s to be selected in the first round of the draft.

Award winners: E.J. Henderson, Bednarik (2002), Butkus (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: E.J. Henderson (2001, 2002).
First-team all-conference: E.J. Henderson (2001, 2002), D’Qwell Jackson (2004, 2005), Erin Henderson (2007), Alex Wujciak (2009, 2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Shawne Merriman (Round 1, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: E.J. Henderson (Round 2, 2003), Leon Joe (Round 4, 2004), D’Qwell Jackson (Round 2, 2006)
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Moise Fokou (Round 7, 2009).


T-10. Notre Dame (100)


There are times when a single player’s excellence is the difference between a school's spot falling near the top of the rankings and its sitting further down the list. Such is the case with Manti Te’o, who accounted for 82 points in his incredible 2012 season alone (seven national awards, a consensus All-America selection and then becoming a second-round NFL pick). Notre Dame is penalized in these team rankings by not earning points for all-conference honorees, so its spot in this top 10 speaks to how impressive Te’o’s 2012 season truly was.

Award winners: Manti Te’o, Maxwell (2012), Camp (2012), Nagurski (2021), Lombardi (2012), Bednarik (2012), Lott (2012), Butkus (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Manti Te’o (2012).
First-team all-conference: Not applicable.
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Rocky Boiman (Round 4, 2002), Courtney Watson (Round 2, 2004), Manti Te’o (Round 2, 2013), Prince Shembo (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Anthony Denman (Round 7, 2001), Tyreo Harrison (Round 6, 2002), Darius Fleming (Round 5, 2012).

REST OF “LINEBACKER U” RANKINGS
98 – Florida State; 92 – UCLA; 72 – Florida, Stanford; 66 – Iowa, TCU, Wisconsin; 64 – Nebraska; 62 – Michigan State, Oregon State, Tennessee; 60 – LSU, Pittsburgh; 58 – Virginia Tech; 56 – West Virginia; 48 – NC State; 46 – Michigan, Ole Miss, Purdue; 44 – BYU, California, Kansas State; 42 – North Carolina; 40 – Illinois; 38 – Clemson, Iowa State, Texas A&M; 36 – Arizona, Auburn, Syracuse; 34 – Arizona State, Utah, Wake Forest; 32 – Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia; 30 – Arkansas, Georgia Tech; 28 – Kentucky; 26 – Northwestern, Vanderbilt; 24 – Colorado, Oregon; 20 – Washington; 18 – Oklahoma State, Rutgers; 16 – Mississippi State; 14 – Kansas, Louisville; 12 – Baylor; 10 – Washington State; 6 – Duke; 4 – Texas Tech; 2 – Minnesota; 0 – Indiana


The bright lights and the big stage certainly didn't affect the focus of the defending champs, as No. 2 Alabama routed No. 8 Michigan 41-14 on Saturday inside Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Alabama's defense might be younger, but it didn't flinch against Michigan's flashy spread offense. The Tide's defense smothered the Wolverines, holding them to 268 total yards, forcing Michigan to go 3-of-12 on third downs and creating three turnovers.

Alabama's offense was equally impressive. The Tide showed tremendous balance, as quarterback AJ McCarron passed for 199 yards and two touchdowns, while true freshman running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 111 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.

It was over when: This one got away from Michigan early, but you could really feel this one was officially out of hand after Alabama running back Eddie Lacy bullied his way into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 with 1:24 left in the first quarter.

Game ball goes to: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart called a near-perfect game against an offense many thought would give the Tide issues. Smart and his players were more than prepared against Denard Robinson and that spread. Robinson was all over the place with some of his early passes, and was pressured and contained by Alabama's front seven for most of the night, basically taking him out of the game.

Stat of the game: Michigan didn't give up more than 40 points in any game last season. The Wolverines surrendered 41 points Saturday night and gave up 31 by halftime.

Unsung hero: There was a lot of talk about what Alabama's defense would do, especially the secondary. That put a lot on the shoulders of senior cornerback Dee Milliner. But he made quite the statement Saturday. He showed lockdown ability, knocked passes away and came away with his own interception. He's certainly the leader of this group.

What it means for Alabama: People wondered what the defending champs had in the tank with the pieces they lost on defense, and Alabama delivered a monstrous punch. It was only one game and SEC play hasn't started, but Alabama yet again looks very strong on both sides of the ball. That's a scary thought for the rest of the country ... and the SEC.

What it means for Michigan: This wasn't Robinson's best game, and there were a few plays in the first half that should have been made. But the Wolverines likely won't play a defense as dominating as Alabama's from here on out. The other good news is that suspended Fitzgerald Toussaint and defensive end Frank Clark will return. This team can still make a run in the Big Ten.
When Miami announced Sunday night that it would self-impose a bowl ban in response to an NCAA investigation, many soon turned their eyes to the Buckeyes of Ohio State.

Like Miami, Ohio State has been in hot water with the NCAA. And like Miami, Ohio State has a 6-5 record and isn't headed to a marquee bowl game. Miami's self-imposed penalty was widely seen as one that would go over well with the NCAA and its infractions committee. Colleague Arash Markazi pointed out on Twitter that had USC done the same thing in 2009, it would likely be playing in a BCS bowl this year rather than staying home for the postseason.

Why shouldn't Ohio State follow Miami's lead?

For starters, imposing a bowl ban would be inconsistent with Ohio State's approach to the NCAA violations. The school has been cooperative with the NCAA throughout the process -- a tactic that should help with penalties -- but it has maintained a minimize-until-forced-to-maximize strategy. Athletic director Gene Smith has been adamant that the school's issues are isolated incidents and not a systematic problem.

To suddenly announce a bowl ban would be a departure from the strategy. It would come across as a sign of fear and panic. Smith all along has said he doesn't believe the violations will merit a postseason ban. While Ohio State has been respectful and cooperative during the process, it has also placed the burden on the NCAA to prove how significant the violations are.

Also, Ohio State twice has self-imposed penalties for violations but not included a bowl ban. What has changed other than the team's loss total?

Not every NCAA infractions case is the same. The alleged violations at Miami are seen as much worse than what happened at Ohio State. While Ohio State could receive a bowl ban from the NCAA -- especially after receiving the failure to monitor charge with a second Notice of Allegations -- it's not a guarantee. A multiyear bowl ban seems highly unlikely.

While there's some risk involved in not imposing tougher penalties, Ohio State also could penalize itself more than the NCAA would have.

While some are surprised Ohio State hasn't followed Miami's lead, the real surprise would be if it did.

Al Golden talks Penn State

November, 9, 2011
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First-year Miami coach Al Golden was a three-year (1989-91) letter-winner and two-year starter at tight end for Penn State. He earned his undergraduate degree in pre-law from Penn State in 1991, and is still emotionally connected to the university and the program. Golden said on today's ACC teleconference he was "disheartened and sad" to hear about pending retirement of coach Joe Paterno and the allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

"Clearly thoughts and prayers go out for the young people, the victims in this case, and certainly my prayers go out to coach, too," Golden said. "It's tough. I don't know much about it ... we're in the middle of Florida State week, but I'm just disheartened by the whole thing and saddened by it and keeping everybody in my thoughts and prayers from a distance."

Golden's contract situation and future at Miami has already come into question once this season, though he repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to the program. The speculation is bound to continue, though, now that the end of Paterno's career is officially in sight. It's hard not to link the two. As a junior in 1990, Golden played a key role in Penn State's nationally televised 24-21 upset of No. 1-ranked Notre Dame at South Bend. His touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter tied the score at 21 as Penn State rallied from a 21-7 deficit.

Golden was also a team captain during his senior year and helped lead them to a 42-17 win over Tennessee in the 1992 Fiesta Bowl.

When asked about how he plans to counter the distraction of the speculation in recruiting and on the field, Golden said:

"We're going to counter it by playing well and preparing well and clearly we've gotten two commitments in the last 48 hours, and I think there's going to be another one here today or tomorrow," Golden said. "We're excited about what we're building here. I can't worry about what other people are saying. I think you know me well enough to know that I don't worry about the media. I'm just moving the team and our players forward and really trying to enjoy this, the fact we're in the middle of the Miami-Florida State week, to be honest with you."

Buckeyes need a second-half rally

September, 17, 2011
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They've reached halftime at Sun Life Stadium, as Ohio State is trying to claw out of a 14-0 hole.

Miami leads 17-6 at the break.

Ohio State-Miami: Despite a miserable start and a mostly anemic offense, Ohio State is still hanging around in this one. The Buckeyes have no passing attack as quarterbacks Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller both are struggling, but running back Jordan Hall has provided a very nice spark in his first game back from suspension. The Buckeyes defense also seems to be buckling down a bit after surrendering two touchdown drives in the first 10 minutes. Jacory Harris has been Jacory Harris -- wildly inconsistent -- but Hurricanes tailback Lamar Miller (128 rush yards, 15 carries) is really making Ohio State pay. Still, it's hard to see Ohio State rallying with at least something from its quarterbacks, who have combined to complete just 1 of 10 pass attempts.

Video: College GameDay onsite

September, 16, 2011
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Pat Forde and Heather Dinich break down Oklahoma-Florida State, Auburn-Clemson and Ohio State-Miami.
Luke Fickell & Al GoldenUS Presswire, Icon SMIOhio State's Luke Fickell, left, and Miami's Al Golden have had challenging starts to their new jobs.
As college football suffered through an offseason of scandal, two programs found themselves squarely in the crosshairs.

Ohio State made headlines for the wrong reasons throughout much of the spring and summer, especially during an eight-day stretch when coach Jim Tressel resigned and starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor left the program. The notoriety then shifted to Miami after a Yahoo! Sports investigation revealed damaging allegations by former booster Nevin Shapiro.

It brings us to Saturday night, when the Buckeyes and Hurricanes will meet on the field.

Some folks are calling it the Ineligi-Bowl.

Both teams are short-handed -- Ohio State more than Miami -- and both are dealing with change and intense scrutiny. Both are facing potential NCAA penalties and uncertain futures, but first-year coaches Luke Fickell and Al Golden are trying to keep the focus on the field.

Bloggers Heather Dinich (ACC) and Adam Rittenberg (Big Ten) break down a unique matchup at Sun Life Stadium.

Adam Rittenberg: HD, hope you had a better summer than the Canes or Buckeyes. Both programs have dealt with a lot of recent distractions. Miami dropped its opener to Maryland but regains the services of quarterback Jacory Harris and others from suspension. Ohio State still will be without three offensive starters and looked very shaky Saturday against Toledo. Before getting between the lines, let's look between the ears. How do you think these teams are approaching this game from a mental standpoint? Does one squad have an edge?

Heather Dinich: The only edge I see, Ritt, is the fact that Miami had a bye week to move on from its loss to Maryland, while that scare from Toledo is pretty fresh in the Buckeyes’ heads. Then again, it could have been just the wake-up call Ohio State needed. Plus, Miami has to be recharged a bit and excited about getting several of its players back from the opening-game suspension. Miami was without eight players against the Terps, and now five of those players return, including Harris. Most notably, the defense should get a boost up front from the return of linebacker Sean Spence, defensive end Adewale Ojomo, and defensive tackle Marcus Forston. The Canes were beat up front by Maryland, but the return of those guys should give them some more confidence heading into the Ohio State game. What about the Buckeyes? Two wins over teams they should beat. Are they ready for their first real test of the season?

AR: Ohio State's first real test actually came Saturday against Toledo, although few thought the Rockets would challenge the Buckeyes. Toledo found gaps in Ohio State's secondary and held the Buckeyes to just six points in the second half. Ohio State will have to play better in all three phases against Miami, especially in the kicking game after the Canes recorded two returns for touchdowns last year in Columbus. The first road game always presents challenges, especially for an Ohio State team dealing with significant personnel losses on both sides of the ball. Line play is an area the Buckeyes must lean on Saturday night, as Ohio State has proven veterans on both sides like center Mike Brewster and defensive lineman John Simon. But with so many key players out, the Buckeyes will be challenged.

Speaking of getting key players back, what's your take on the short suspensions for Harris and the others? Ohio State fans are livid that the Tat-4 remains out while Shapiro's pals are back on the field this week.

HD: Well, fortunately for the sport, there really is no precedent for this, so it seems like the only thing you can really compare in these two cases is the monetary value of their infractions. In Miami's cases, the harshest punishments (six games and four games), were reserved for violations that occurred when Olivier Vernon and Ray-Ray Armstrong were still recruits. Vernon has to repay more than $1,200, Armstrong (four games) and Dyron Dye (four games) were both less than $800. The one-game suspensions correlate to players whose violations all amounted to less than $500. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the Buckeyes are working on repaying between $1,000-$2,500. I think it's safe to say the Buckeyes' violations were more costly in more ways than one, as they should be.

All of that aside, though, there's only one thing that will matter on Saturday, and that's who wins. Miami hasn't started out 0-2 since 1978. Who, in your opinion, needs this win more?

AR: Yeah, I think the folks in Columbus are more upset that three players who took money at a charity function -- running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey Brown -- are serving longer suspensions than those who took benefits from Shapiro. But whatever. Both teams really need this win, but I'll make the case for Ohio State. Unlike Golden, who shouldn't have to worry about his job security (whether he wants to stay at Miami is another question), Fickell and his staff have no guarantees beyond this season. While coaches need the players to perform well in the Big Ten no matter what, this is the type of game that can build confidence or reduce it. Any road win boosts a team's morale, but beating Miami without so many key pieces would increase the Buckeyes' belief that they can continue to achieve their top goals despite all the turmoil. I certainly see the urgency for Miami, too.

Let's talk about Jacory Harris. I'll be kind and say he was very bad last year at The Shoe. If not for his interceptions, Miami could have made things very interesting. How do you think Harris fares against an Ohio State defense with a bunch of new starters, particularly in the secondary?

HD: Four turnovers was the reason Miami lost this game last year. I would be surprised if Jacory doesn't play better. I spent some time down at Miami this summer and could sense some genuine confidence in Harris from first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and from Golden. They backed that up when they named him the starter after the loss to Maryland. I know Stephen Morris is the fan favorite, but Jacory's experience alone will help alleviate some of the mistakes and confusion that came in the loss to the Terps. This is Jacory's last season to go out a winner and redeem himself. I believe he is truly a more confident player, but how that translates in his first start since a dreadful performance in the Sun Bowl last year remains to be seen. He still has a lot to prove. Of the four ACC teams lining up against ranked opponents this weekend, though, I give the Canes the best chance to win. I'll save the score for Thursday's picks, but I'm sticking with the ACC in this one. I'll give you the last word, though, since I know you'll need it to defend the Buckeyes.

AR: Thank you, ma'am. Defending Ohio State after last week's performance isn't easy, but Toledo looks like a pretty solid team, and coach Tim Beckman definitely had the Rockets ready to play. Given the players missing on offense, Ohio State will have to win this game by playing TresselBall -- ironically without Tressel. It'll be all about defense, the run game, controlling field position on special teams and limiting mistakes. The Buckeyes need a much sharper defensive performance and I think they'll get one, especially against Harris, whom I don't trust at all to limit mistakes. The kick and punt coverage teams have to be sharper than they were last year and against Toledo. It will be tough for Fickell's crew, but there are enough leaders on that team who know how to win tough games. I'll also wait to reveal my score Thursday, but I'm going with the Scarlet and Gray.

Video: Looking at Ohio State-Miami

June, 9, 2011
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Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg and ACC blogger Heather Dinich look at Ohio State-Miami.

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