Big Ten: TCU Horned Frogs
Few recruiting battles are more intriguing than the ones going on in Texas for high-profile players such as Daylon Mack, Soso Jamabo and Chris Warren III. What schools they pick could tilt recruiting supremacy in the Lone Star State moving forward
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Alabama, which has already signed three consecutive No. 1 classes, has occupied the top spot in the 2015 rankings since its release. Knocking the Crimson Tide's class, which features 17 ESPN 300 prospects, from the top spot might not be impossible, but it remains a tough task. Despite recently losing a commitment from ESPN 300 WR Daylon Charlot, Bama quickly rebounded, adding a verbal from No. 5 OLB Adonis Thomas. The four-star is reminiscent of 2014 Crimson Tide signee Christian Miller, and possesses excellent size and speed measurables in a hybrid OLB/DE skillset and the versatile defender should fit very well in their base 3-4 defense.
The team that could eventually push Alabama for the top class is Florida State after five-star Josh Sweat picked the Seminoles. FSU, which has had some success recruiting defensive linemen in Virginia with Derrick Nnadi in 2014 and Darvin Taylor II in this class, landed a big commitment in the one-time No. 1 overall prospect Sweat. The No. 2 defensive end is an outstanding athlete with a wonderful combination of speed and power and he can be a versatile and disruptive defender in the Seminoles defense. The current No. 5 player overall in the ESPN 300 was sidelined with a knee injury during his senior season and that could slow initial contributions, but the talented defender is an early enrollee and still possesses great upside with the potential to be an impact player while Tallahassee. The addition of the five-star helped the Seminoles to move into the No. 2 spot in the class rankings.
Inside the rankings
The most difficult thing to do in recruiting is project what a player will be three to five years down the line and perhaps no coach in America does it better than TCU's Gary Patterson. The value of having coached at the mid-major level prior to making the jump to the Big 12 has provided this staff with valuable insight and evaluation tools when it comes to developing players who predominantly will be graded in the 77-82 range for just about all their classes. This was particularly true in the 2012-2014 classes.
This includes players like former WR Josh Boyce (who was lightly recruited) as well as freshman Emmanuel Porter just to name a couple. For TCU, it is about getting the right player -- does he work hard, will he compete and does he have upside in his physical development? Those are the three key things to each TCU class. The other undervalued area that has set the Horned Frogs apart is the staff's ability to project a player at a different position than the one he played in high school. Former TCU great Jerry Hughes was a running back, current safety Sam Carter was a quarterback, OC Joey Hunt was a DT and current starting QB Trevone Boykin was a wide receiver/QB athlete that had to transition to playing QB fulltime.
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There will be teams left out who can make perfectly compelling cases to be playoff participants. There will be voices raised and criticisms leveled regarding which program truly deserved the final spot in the playoff. This much is a certainty.
But which teams have the best chances of cracking the field? It still seems to be a matter of conjecture beyond the top three teams: Alabama, Oregon and Florida State.
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With the unveiling of the fourth set of College Football Playoff rankings only hours away, we wanted to dive once again into which team is most deserving of that coveted fourth spot. With the assumption that Oregon, Alabama and Florida State will take the top three spots, SEC reporter Alex Scarborough, Big Ten reporter Austin Ward and Big 12 reporter Jake Trotter debate which team has earned the final berth to this point.
Is it Mississippi State? Ohio State? Or Big 12 contenders Baylor or TCU?
Take 1: Scarborough -- Mississippi State
It was odd looking back on Saturday's loss at Alabama. Down 12 points with around three minutes remaining, Mississippi State's offense wasn't moving with a sense of urgency. Granted, getting the initial touchdown to make it a one-score game was important, but what was the point if there wasn't enough time left to attempt an onside kick and make another run at the end zone?
But today I'm reminded of the final score, 25-20. After thinking about it, a five-point loss on the road to the No. 5 team in the country isn't that bad. It might sound good enough to be deemed a "quality loss," whereas a double-digit defeat might not be looked upon so kindly.
In fact, seeing as Ohio State and Baylor both fell to unranked opponents, I would say that Mississippi State and TCU have the clear edge in the "best loss" debate -- even though it's hard for me to stomach TCU giving up 61 points to anybody.
I'll concede that Mississippi State's nonconference schedule is weak, but so is Baylor's, and is that really enough to make you ignore three straight wins against top-10 teams? If you're going to move past the losses Baylor, Ohio State and TCU suffered in September and October, why should Mississippi State be penalized for a loss in November? Why is that any worse?
If Mississippi State beats Ole Miss and finishes with four wins against ranked opponents, that would be more than Baylor and Ohio State and tied with TCU. If you want a tiebreaker for later, there's still the possibility that Mississippi State makes it to the SEC championship game with an Alabama loss to Auburn.
Take 2: Ward -- Ohio State
The flaw in the résumé isn't hard to find, and there's no question Ohio State figures to have the ugliest blemish of any one-loss team vying for the final spot in the College Football Playoff.
But that's not the only factor the selection committee will be considering when the field is set. If it focused only on the early misstep, the committee would be overlooking a truly impressive body of work and a compelling case that the Buckeyes are currently playing the finest football in the nation.
For starters, if winning a conference championship is going to be valued, claiming the crown in the Big Ten is nothing to be scoffed at, particularly in a league that had five teams in the top 25 a week ago, a total topped only by the SEC. Over the past two weeks, the Buckeyes have knocked off a pair of ranked opponents on the road in poor weather, showing off a high-powered offense that is complemented by an opportunistic, aggressive defense, with both units showing marked improvement since that loss in Week 2 to Virginia Tech. At that time, J.T. Barrett was making just the second start of his career after being thrust into action in place of Braxton Miller, and neither the redshirt freshman nor a handful of other new starters was ready for the big stage.
Look at the Buckeyes now instead of where they were then and it's easy to see they have earned one of the last tickets to the playoff.
Take 3: Trotter -- Baylor or TCU
After the SEC, the Big 12 has been as good as any conference in the country this season. After the SEC, only the Big 12 still has two teams alive in the playoff chase. The Baylor vs. TCU debate can be saved for another time, but whoever emerges from that conversation deserves playoff inclusion. Neither team has a bad loss, especially TCU. And both teams have great wins, especially Baylor.
Ohio State has surged in recent weeks, but the Buckeyes lost their only nonconference bout with a Power 5 opponent. Ohio State also has only two wins against top-25 teams, which is sure to be trimmed to one win tonight when Minnesota is bounced from the top 25. With only one noteworthy win and the horrible loss in Columbus to Virginia Tech, Ohio State's overall résumé doesn't stack up.
Mississippi State's body of work is only slightly better. The Bulldogs opened SEC play by toppling LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Those wins looked impressive then. They don't look so impressive now. Those three teams have a combined 11 losses. Only Auburn figures to remain in the top 25 when the selection committee updates its rankings. The loss at Alabama carries no shame. But Mississippi State's nonconference schedule of Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama and Tennessee Martin should. Much has been made of Baylor's soft nonconference schedule, and rightfully so. But Mississippi State's is even worse because it includes four cream puffs as opposed to three.
Unlike Mississippi State or Ohio State, Baylor defeated a team up for the playoff debate in TCU. The Bears also handed Oklahoma its worst home loss of the Bob Stoops era.
The only flaw on TCU's résumé, meanwhile, is a disastrous fourth quarter on the road against another playoff contender. The Horned Frogs otherwise have mostly been stout, with a victory over Minnesota that trumps anything Ohio State or Mississippi State accomplished in the nonconference slate and wins against Oklahoma and K-State.
The TCU vs. Baylor debate will rage on. But for now, one of the two should be in the committee's top four.
Among them, dotting the "i" at Ohio State, lighting the Tower at Texas and rolling Toomer's Corner at Auburn. All fine events, but no list of such customs in the sport is complete without the latest craze: the wait for Tuesday night.
I say that somewhat jokingly, so refrain from the angry tweets. No, I don't really think it's more fun to dream about the details of a five-minute interview with Jeff Long than to decorate an intersection with toilet paper.
But it's close.
So welcome to the fourth of seven Tuesday College Football Playoff poll unveils, where it finally gets real in the selection-committee room.
Why is this Tuesday different? Because after last Saturday, none of the remaining unbeaten or one-loss Power 5 contenders will meet in the regular season or in conference-title games.
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College football has been a well-kept secret so far, as it has been hiding the true identities of teams. Not this week. It's time to play or go home. There are six games between ranked teams. Of the 17 undefeated teams remaining, eight play against each other this week. It's the most relevant weekend the sport has had in regard to the new College Football Playoff.
Here are the games you can't miss, ranked from least to most likely to affect the playoff:
No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame -- Stanford already has one loss, and this is the second straight road trip for the Cardinal. If Stanford loses again, its playoff hopes will be in serious jeopardy but not over, given that it could still win the conference. This game should reveal more about Notre Dame's place in the playoff, as it will be the first ranked opponent for the Irish.
No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU -- ESPN's Football Power Index gives Oklahoma a 64 percent chance to win and predicts this to be Oklahoma's hardest remaining game -- slightly more difficult than Nov. 8 against Baylor. If the Sooners can't handle TCU, they'll be on the outside looking in.
No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn -- LSU gave Auburn its only regular-season loss the past year, but LSU has already lost to Mississippi State, which put the Tigers behind in the SEC West race. Considering the rest of LSU's schedule -- and the hole it's already in -- this is a must-win. For Auburn, this is a chance to erase some doubts and make a push from the bubble into the top four.
No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State -- Two terrific quarterbacks will be on display in the Aggies' Kenny Hill and the Bulldogs' Dak Prescott, who both rank in the top 10 in total QBR. A&M's stock dropped a bit this past week after it needed overtime to beat Arkansas, but it could be a top-four team if it can survive the state of Mississippi the next two weeks.
No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss -- This is the most interesting matchup of the day. Alabama ranks third in offensive efficiency, and Ole Miss ranks second in defensive efficiency. Neither team has played a ranked opponent, so there is still some margin for error, but the Tide have a chance to separate from the crowded West.
No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State -- Surprise. The game with the biggest playoff implications is not in the SEC West. This Big Ten matchup could knock Sparty out of the playoff entirely. It's one thing to lose to Oregon; it's another to try to make the four-team playoff with two losses and your best win coming over Nebraska in the Big Ten title game. Conversely, a win in East Lansing could vault the Huskers into the playoff conversation. They're the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten, and the toughest game left on their schedule is against No. 17 Wisconsin. If Nebraska pulls off the upset, it's time to take it seriously as a playoff team.
But when Franchione had two young Kansans on his staff at NAIA Pittsburg State in the late 1980s, the office might as well have been called the 5-1. Jerry Kill and Gary Patterson typically put in those types of hours.
"I used to tell them to go home," Franchione, now Texas State's coach, told ESPN.com this week. "They were there early and stayed late, longer than anybody. You knew they were going to be successful because of the way they approached it."
Work ethic fueled both Kill, Pittsburg State's defensive coordinator from 1985-87, and Patterson, who replaced Kill in 1988. Both had grown up in small towns: Patterson in Rozel, northeast of Dodge City; Kill in Cheney, west of Wichita. Both played linebacker in college (Kill played for Franchione at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas).
About the only difference: Patterson stuck with defense, while Kill switched to offense before entering the head-coaching ranks.
They became friends and have remained close for more than a quarter-century. Kill was Patterson's best man at his wedding. Until recently, they spent every year swapping football ideas.
"We came up the hard way," Kill said this week. "We worked hard to get where we're at. It's why we've been good friends."
"There aren't very many people from two small towns in Kansas to be where we're at. We come from common folk."
Both have accomplished uncommon things and now lead Power 5 programs that meet Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. Patterson, who guided TCU to an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl championship in 2010, is in his 15th season as the Horned Frogs coach. Kill has helped Minnesota to consecutive bowl appearances.
"Both of us are highly competitive," Patterson said, "so this week is difficult."
The friends wish they weren't meeting this way. They might rather take on Oregon and Florida State than stand on opposite sidelines at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
In May 2013, when Patterson heard rumors about a home-and-home series with Minnesota, he immediately called Kill.
"You know anything about that?" he asked.
"Nope, we're not playing you," Kill replied. "No way that's happening."
The coaches soon learned their friendship wouldn't stop their bosses from a nice schedule addition. TCU will return the game next September when they open the 2015 season on a Thursday night in Minneapolis.
"It's not something you want to do," Kill said, "but you know what? Ain’t changing that. It's happened, so go play."
Part of the reluctance is how much time Kill, Patterson and their staffs have spent together over the years. Tracy Claeys, Kill's longtime defensive coordinator and fellow small-town Kansan (Clay Center), has made almost annual pilgrimages to TCU to study with Patterson.
When Claeys first become a coordinator, while working for Kill at Emporia State, he attended 10 of TCU's 15 spring practices.
"The way we we've played, [Patterson] probably wouldn't want me to say I've learned anything from him because we haven't played as well as he has," Claeys joked this week. "I've learned a tremendous amount from him and his staff."
Although TCU uses a 4-2-5 alignment and Minnesota operates from a 4-3, Claeys estimates that 90 percent of his defensive philosophy is drawn from Patterson's. Because of the games, Claeys' trips to TCU have been put on hold.
"I've missed that," he said.
Kill and Patterson nearly reunited on TCU's staff in 2001. Patterson had replaced Franchione as Frogs coach after serving as his defensive coordinator at both TCU and New Mexico. Kill, a head coach at two Division II programs, had the chance to become Patterson's offensive coordinator.
But after consulting with Franchione, he decided to remain a head coach and went to Southern Illinois.
"He's one of those guys I have the utmost respect for," Patterson said of Kill. "When we get done coaching, he’ll be a guy, along with his wife, we’ll go on trips and always stay in touch."
Franchione remains in close contact with both of his protégés. The first two scores he checks on Sundays are TCU's and Minnesota's.
He hopes to catch the start of Saturday's game before Texas State begins its final preparations to face Navy.
"They're what America's all about," Franchione said of Patterson and Kill. "They've done it the right way, they've done it with class, they're appreciative of everything. I don't think there's any part of them that doesn't remember being a [graduate assistant] and eating peanut butter and jelly."
Kill and Patterson haven't talked ball very often lately, but Kill knows what to expect Saturday from his friend, the "defensive genius." He's certain Patterson devoted part of spring ball to prepping for Minnesota, and an open date before the game likely didn't hurt.
"We're both cut from the same cloth," Kill said. "We go 100 miles an hour."
So, we decided to take a look at how past teams did in similar situations. Did new conferences help or hinder the programs? How did those first seasons go? And just how quickly did the teams assimilate?
We looked at teams that moved into new BCS conferences (outside of the Big Ten) prior to the 2012 season. Obviously, there are plenty of variables at play, but here is a look at nine programs that transitioned -- and how they fared:
Boston College, Big East to ACC, 2005
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 9-3 (SOS – 74), won 2004 Big East title. Beat North Carolina in Continental Tire Bowl, 37-24
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 9-3 (SOS – 22), won 2005 ACC Atlantic Division. Beat Boise State in MPC Computers Bowl, 27-21
Synopsis: The Eagles didn’t skip a beat in the first season with the ACC, and they actually ended up winning three division titles in their first four years in the conference. The wheels only started to come off for Boston College once it fired Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing with the New York Jets following the 2008 season. The 2009 season was the last time Boston College had a winning conference record.
Colorado, Big 12 to Pac-12, 2011
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 5-7 (SOS – 33), finished fifth in Big 12’s North Division. No bowl berth
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 3-10 (SOS – 21), tied for last in Pac-12’s South Division. No bowl berth
Synopsis: The Buffaloes haven’t had a winning season since Gary Barnett coached the team in 2005, so the move to the Pac-12 really only saw Colorado go from bad to slightly worse. In its first three seasons with the Pac-12, Colorado won three, one and four games, respectively.
Miami (Fla.), Big East to ACC, 2004
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 11-2 (SOS – 40), shared 2003 Big East title. Beat Florida State in Orange Bowl, 16-14
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 9-3 (SOS – 9), tied for third in ACC. Beat Florida in Peach Bowl, 27-10
Synopsis: The Hurricanes rolled into the ACC as a great team, but the conference has been relatively harsh on them. After making four straight BCS bowls in the Big East, Miami hasn’t made a single one in the 10 seasons since joining the ACC. On the plus side, they have had winning records in eight of those past 10 seasons -- but they have never had double-digit wins during that span.
Missouri, Big 12 to SEC, 2012
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 8-5 (SOS – 13), finished fifth in Big 12. Beat North Carolina in Independence Bowl, 41-24
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 5-7 (SOS – 1), finished fifth in SEC East Division. No bowl berth
Synopsis: Lingering injuries to quarterback James Franklin didn’t do Missouri any favors in that first season, as Missouri’s pass efficiency dropped from No. 30 in 2011 to No. 103 in 2012. The Tigers bounced back in their second year in the SEC, however, and finished first in the SEC East Division with a 12-2 record.
TCU, Mountain West to Big 12, 2012
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 11-2 (SOS – 86), won 2011 Mountain West title. Beat Louisiana Tech in Poinsettia Bowl, 31-24
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 7-6 (SOS – 16), tied for fifth in Big 12. Lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 17-16
Synopsis: In TCU’s seven seasons in the Mountain West, it finished with within the top 25 a total of six times -- and came away with four conference titles. In the Big 12, so far, it has underachieved by quite a bit. Part of the reason for the drop-off in Year 1 was that quarterback Casey Pachall withdrew in October to enter inpatient rehab. But even with Pachall back in 2013, TCU fared even worse at 4-8, the first time it didn’t make a bowl since 2004.
Texas A&M, Big 12 to SEC, 2012
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 7-6 (SOS – 4), tied for sixth in Big 12. Beat Northwestern in Meineke Car Care Bowl, 33-22
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 11-2, (SOS – 6), tied for second in SEC Western Division. Beat Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13
Synopsis: A new head coach like Kevin Sumlin and a freshman like Johnny Manziel are enough to ease any transition. The Aggies finished with 11 wins during their first season in the SEC, which also happened to be the first time they broke double-digit victories since 1998. With Mack Brown leaving Texas, A&M is a team whose stock is certainly on the rise now. A move to the SEC only helped.
Utah, Mountain West to Pac-12, 2011
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 10-3 (SOS – 50), finished second in Mountain West. Lost to Boise State in Maaco Bowl, 26-3
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 8-5 (SOS – 49), tied for third in Pac-12’s South Division. Beat Georgia Tech in Sun Bowl, 30-27 OT
Synopsis: Utah fared extremely well in the Mountain West -- finishing with double-digit wins in five of its last eight seasons there -- and did pretty well in its first season in the Pac-12. But, in the past two seasons, the Utes twice finished 5-7 in part because their passing game has been grounded. Still, if quarterback Travis Wilson is healthy this season, some are expecting Utah to return to the postseason.
Virginia Tech, Big East to ACC, 2004
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 8-5 (SOS – 60), finished fourth in Big East. Lost to Cal in the Insight Bowl, 52-49
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 10-3 (SOS – 42), won 2004 ACC title. Lost to Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, 16-13
Synopsis: The move appears to be a great one for the Hokies. From 1991 to 2003, Frank Beamer came away with just three Big East titles. From 2004 to the present, he has won four ACC championships. Although the past two seasons have been a step back, Virginia Tech finished with double-digit wins during its first eight seasons in the ACC.
West Virginia, Big East to Big 12, 2012
Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 10-3 (SOS – 57), won share of Big East title. Beat Clemson in Orange Bowl, 70-33
Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 7-6 (SOS – 29), tied for fifth in Big 12. Lost to Syracuse in Pinstripe Bowl, 38-14
Synopsis: In WVU’s past 10 seasons in the Big East, it made 10 straight bowls and won at least eight games every year. But Year 1 in the Big 12 was a defensive disaster and a step backward. The Mountaineers allowed more than 45 points in six of their first seven conference games and, the next season, had to replace a lot of starters and finished No. 100 in the nation by allowing 33.3 points per game. West Virginia missed the postseason last season, the first time since 1999.
Which team deserves to claim the title of "Defensive Line U" for the 2000s?
1. LSU (200 points)
Four-time award winner, All-American and first-round NFL draft pick Glenn Dorsey produced 68 points by himself, but LSU is “D-Line U” because of the sheer number of outstanding players it has produced. There are 21 draft picks in all, including first-round picks Dorsey, Marcus Spears, Tyson Jackson, Michael Brockers and Barkevious Mingo. That’s an amazing legacy, which helped Les Miles’ Tigers barely edge Texas for the top spot.
Award winners: Dorsey - Outland (2007), Lombardi (2007), Nagurski (2007), Lott (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: Chad Lavalais (2003), Spears (2004), Dorsey (2007).
First-team all-conference: Lavalais (2003), Spears (2004), Claude Wroten (2005), Dorsey (2006, '07), Drake Nevis (2010), Sam Montgomery (2011, '12).
NFL first-round draft picks: Spears (2005), Dorsey (2008), Jackson (2009), Brockers (2012), Mingo (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jarvis Green (Round 4, 2002), Marquise Hill (Round 2, 2004), Wroten (Round 3, 2006), Al Woods (Round 4, 2010), Nevis (Round 3, 2011), Montgomery (Round 3, 2013), Bennie Logan (Round 3, 2013), Ego Ferguson (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Howard Green (Round 6, 2002), Lavalais (Round 5, 2004), Kyle Williams (Round 5, 2006), Melvin Oliver (Round 6, 2006), Chase Pittman (Round 7, 2007), Ricky Jean-Francois (Round 7, 2009), Lazarius Levingston (Round 7, 2011), Lavar Edwards (Round 5, 2013).
2. Texas (196)
With 13 draft picks -- including first-round picks Casey Hampton, Marcus Tubbs and Brian Orakpo -- and 11 first-team all-conference picks, Texas finished a close second to LSU in the defensive line race. Orakpo was the big point producer with four national awards, an All-American honor and an all-conference selection before going in the first round of the 2009 draft.
Award winners: Orakpo - Lombardi (2008), Hendricks (2008), Nagurski (2008); Jackson Jeffcoat - Hendricks (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Hampton (2000), Rodrique Wright (2005), Orakpo (2008), Jeffcoat (2013).
First-team all-conference: Hampton (2000), Cory Redding (2001), Tubbs (2003), Wright (2005), Tim Crowder (2005), Roy Miller (2008), Orakpo (2008), Sam Acho (2010), Alex Okafor (2011, '12), Jeffcoat (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Hampton (2001), Tubbs (2004), Orakpo (2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Shaun Rogers (Round 2, 2001), Redding (Round 3, 2003), Crowder (Round 2, 2007), Brian Robison (Round 4, 2007), Miller (Round 3, 2009), Henry Melton (Round 4, 2009), Lamarr Houston (Round 2, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wright (Round 7, 2006), Frank Okam (Round 5, 2008), Kheeston Randall (Round 7, 2012).
3. Georgia (182)
Four-time award winner and two-time All-American David Pollack is the main reason that Georgia ranks so high on this list, but the Bulldogs have produced a ridiculous number of NFL defensive linemen in the 2000s. First-round picks Pollack, Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Charles Grant and Johnathan Sullivan are among 20 NFL draft picks from Georgia, including players like Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers and Charles Johnson who have made big impacts in the league.
Award winners: Pollack - Lombardi (2004), Bednarik (2004), Lott (2004), Hendricks (2003, '04).
Consensus All-Americans: Pollack (2002, '04).
First-team all-conference: Seymour (2000), Pollack (2002, '03, '04), Quentin Moses (2005), Justin Houston (2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Seymour (2001), Stroud (2001), Grant (2002), Sullivan (2003), Pollack (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Geathers (Round 4, 2004), Moses (Round 3, 2007), Johnson (Round 3, 2007), Corvey Irvin (Round 3, 2009), Atkins (Round 4, 2010), John Jenkins (Round 3, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tyrone Robertson (Round 7, 2001), Josh Mallard (Round 7, 2002), Kedric Golston (Round 6, 2006), Marcus Howard (Round 5, 2008), Jarius Wynn (Round 7, 2009), Jeff Owens (Round 7, 2010), Kade Weston (Round 7, 2010), DeAngelo Tyson (Round 7, 2012), Cornelius Washington (Round 6, 2013).
4. Oklahoma (174)
A pair of All-Americans (Tommie Harris and Gerald McCoy, both first-round NFL draft picks) and an award winner (Harris) highlight Oklahoma’s batch of defensive linemen who tied for fourth in our standings. The Sooners had a total of 11 defensive linemen drafted in the 2000s.
Award winners: Harris - Lombardi (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Harris (2002, '03), McCoy (2009).
First-team all-conference: Ryan Fisher (2000), Harris (2001, '02, '03), Jimmy Wilkerson (2002), Dusty Dvoracek (2003, '05), Dan Cody (2004), C.J. Ah You (2006), Larry Birdine (2006), Auston English (2007), McCoy (2009), Jeremy Beal (2010), Frank Alexander (2011), Ronnell Lewis (2011), Charles Tapper (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Harris (2004), McCoy (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Dvoracek (Round 3, 2006), Alexander (Round 4, 2012), Lewis (Round 4, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Wilkerson (Round 6, 2003), Ah You (Round 7, 2007), Beal (Round 7, 2011), Stacy McGee (Round 6, 2013), David King (Round 7, 2013).
4. USC (174)
With four first-round draft picks -- Kenechi Udeze, Mike Patterson, Sedrick Ellis and Lawrence Jackson -- it’s no surprise that USC would rank high on this list. The Trojans tied Oklahoma for the No. 4 spot largely thanks to that foursome, who also accounted for two of the program’s three All-American honors for defensive linemen in the 2000s (Shaun Cody had the other).
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Udeze (2003), Cody (2004), Ellis (2007).
First-team all-conference: Udeze (2003), Cody (2003, '04), Patterson (2003, '04), Frostee Rucker (2005), Jackson (2005, '07), Ellis (2006, '07), Fili Moala (2008), Brian Price (2009), Jurrell Casey (2010), Nick Perry (2011), Leonard Williams (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Udeze (2004), Patterson (2005), Ellis (2008), Jackson (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cody (Round 2, 2005), Rucker (Round 3, 2006), Kyle Moore (Round 4, 2009), Moala (Round 2, 2009), Everson Griffen (Round 4, 2010), Casey (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ennis Davis (Round 7, 2001), LaJuan Ramsey (Round 6, 2006).
6. TCU (158)
Aside from Jerry Hughes’ impressive résumé in 2008 and 2009, TCU doesn’t have a defensive line résumé that competes with some of the other top-tier programs at the position. It certainly helps the Horned Frogs’ cause that they were competing in the WAC, Conference USA or Mountain West up until 2012, as 96 of their 158 points came from linemen earning all-conference honors -- and only two of them earned that recognition since TCU joined the Big 12.
Award winners: Hughes - Lott (2009), Hendricks (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Hughes (2008, '09).
First-team all-conference: Aaron Schobel (2000), Shawn Worthen (2000), Chad Pugh (2003), Bo Schobel (2002, '03), Tommy Blake (2005, '06), Chase Ortiz (2005, '06, '07), Hughes (2008, '09), Wayne Daniels (2010), Stansly Maponga (2011, 2012), Devonte Fields (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Hughes (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Worthen (Round 4, 2001), Aaron Schobel (Round 2, 2001), Matt Schobel (Round 2, 2002), Bo Schobel (Round 4, 2004).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Maponga (Round 5, 2013).
7. Penn State (152)
Considering that only 11 Penn State defensive linemen have been drafted since 2001, it’s impressive that five of them -- Jimmy Kennedy, Michael Haynes, Tamba Hali, Aaron Maybin and Jared Odrick -- went in the first round. Hali, Maybin and Devon Still (a second-round pick in 2012) accounted for the Nittany Lions’ three consensus All-American selections during that time period.
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Hali (2005), Maybin (2008), Still (2011).
First-team all-conference: Kennedy (2001, '02), Haynes (2002), Hali (2005), Scott Paxson (2005), Maybin (2008), Odrick (2008, '09), Still (2011), Jordan Hill (2012), DaQuan Jones (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Kennedy (2003), Haynes (2003), Hali (2006), Maybin (2009), Odrick (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Anthony Adams (Round 2, 2003), Jay Alford (Round 3, 2007), Still (Round 2, 2012), Hill (Round 3, 2013), Jones (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jack Crawford (Round 5, 2012).
8. Florida State (148)
Jamal Reynolds and Bjoern Werner are the headliners, as both players earned consensus All-American honors before becoming first-round NFL draft picks -- plus Reynolds claimed the Lombardi Award in 2000. But Florida State has plenty to brag about, including 13 total draft picks and 10 all-conference selections among its defensive linemen in the 2000s.
Award winners: Reynolds - Lombardi (2000).
Consensus All-Americans: Reynolds (2000), Werner (2012).
First-team all-conference: Reynolds (2000), Darnell Dockett (2001, '03), Alonzo Jackson (2002), Travis Johnson (2004), Everette Brown (2008), Brandon Jenkins (2010), Werner (2012), Tank Carradine (2012), Timmy Jernigan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Reynolds (2001), Johnson (2005), Brodrick Bunkley (2006), Werner (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Dockett (Round 3, 2004), Chauncey Davis (Round 4, 2005), Andre Fluellen (Round 3, 2008), Brown (Round 2, 2009), Carradine (Round 2, 2013), Jernigan (Round 2, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Eric Moore (Round 6, 2005), Letroy Guion (Round 5, 2008), Everett Dawkins (Round 7, 2013).
9. Clemson (138)
Two-time award winner Da’Quan Bowers (38 points) and first-round draft pick Gaines Adams (22 points) -- both consensus All-Americans -- account for 60 of Clemson’s 138 points, but the Tigers have had 13 defensive linemen drafted, which is a big reason why they cracked the top 10. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Vic Beasley add significantly to the point total this season.
Award winners: Bowers - Nagurski (2010), Hendricks (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Adams (2006), Bowers (2010), Beasley (2013).
First-team all-conference: Terry Jolly (2000), Nick Eason (2002), Adams (2006), Bowers (2010), Jarvis Jenkins (2010), Andre Branch (2011), Beasley (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Adams (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Eason (Round 4, 2003), Bryant McNeal (Round 4, 2003), Donnell Washington (Round 3, 2004), Phillip Merling (Round 2, 2008), Darell Scott (Round 4, 2009), Bowers (Round 2, 2011), Jenkins (Round 2, 2011), Brandon Thompson (Round 3, 2012), Branch (Round 2, 2012), Malliciah Goodman (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Charles Bennett (Round 7, 2006), Ricky Sapp (Round 5, 2010).
9. North Carolina (138)
There aren’t a ton of accomplished North Carolina defensive linemen on this list. The Tar Heels have just one award winner and All-American, Julius Peppers, and just seven all-conference selections. But UNC boasts a whopping six first-round draft picks in the 2000s -- Peppers, Ryan Sims, Kentwan Balmer, Robert Quinn, Quinton Coples and Sylvester Williams -- which is more than any other school in the top 10.
Award winners: Peppers - Lombardi (2001), Bednarik (2001).
Consensus All-Americans: Peppers (2001).
First-team all-conference: Peppers (2000, '01), Sims (2001), Quinn (2009), Coples (2010, '11), Williams (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Peppers (2002), Sims (2002), Balmer (2008), Quinn (2011), Coples (2012), Williams (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: E.J. Wilson (Round 4, 2010), Marvin Austin (Round 2, 2011), Kareem Martin (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Joey Evans (Round 7, 2002), Chase Page (Round 7, 2006), Hilee Taylor (Round 7, 2008), Cam Thomas (Round 5, 2010).
REST OF “D-LINE U” RANKINGS
128 - Utah; 126 - Nebraska, Ohio State; 116 - Florida; 114 - Pittsburgh; 108 - Iowa, Miami; 104 - Tennessee; 102 - Auburn; 100 - Wisconsin; 98 - Louisville; 96 - Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina; 94 - Arizona State; 92 - Michigan; 86 - Oregon State, Purdue; 80 - California, Syracuse; 74 - Georgia Tech; 70 - Oregon, Virginia Tech; 64 - BYU, UCLA; 62 - Texas A&M; 58 - NC State; 56 - Virginia; 54 - Illinois; 52 - Kansas State; 50 - Michigan State, West Virginia; 44 - Boston College; 42 - Arkansas; 40 - Maryland; 38 - Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Rutgers; 34 - Washington State; 30 - Minnesota, Northwestern; 28 - Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Stanford, Texas Tech, Washington; 24 - Wake Forest; 18 - Baylor, Indiana, Iowa State; 16 - Arizona; 12 - Duke; 4 - Vanderbilt
Post your comments and questions and we’ll include as many of them as possible.
To the mail ...
Wisc QB from Wisconsin writes: Why is it that even though Wisconsin is returning more starters and has played more games than ASU, everybody is acting like ASU is a proven commodity while Wisconsin is still an unknown. Why is nobody mentioning that this is the first real test for both of these teams? And I'm pretty surprised that I haven't seen a single pick in favor of the Badgers.
Adam Rittenberg: These are fair points, QB, and it's a little odd to see a ranked team getting so little love against an unranked foe. You're right that neither team has been tested, so we really don't know that much right now. The concern is that Arizona State's strength (a dynamic passing game) is matching up with Wisconsin's potential weakness (secondary/pass defense). A quarterback like Taylor Kelly could pick apart a Badgers back four featuring three new starters if he doesn't face pressure. That's why I'm so interested to see what Dave Aranda and Gary Andersen dial up for this one. You also can't overlook the fact that Big Ten teams really struggle in Pac-12 venues (just six wins in the past 26 appearances) and have never beaten Arizona State in Tempe. Sure, this year is different and the teams are different, but on paper, this looks like a tough matchup for Andersen's Badgers.
Todd from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., writes: I'm surprised you haven't mentioned the unfortunate death of the UCLA football player and the impact it might have on the Nebraska-UCLA game. If managed correctly, I think it could provide the edge to UCLA. If not managed well, it could cause UCLA to be blown out. What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: Todd, we mentioned the tragedy on a few videos, but not enough in the blog. That's a fair point, and it could be a significant factor Saturday. It's a terrible thing for a team to deal with, especially in the middle of a season. Teams can use a tragedy as a rallying point but they also can get overwhelmed by it, especially when things start to go badly on the field. It's why I'm so interested in how UCLA starts the game Saturday. The Bruins are playing at 9 a.m. Pacific time, which is already an adjustment, and continue to deal with Nick Pasquale's tragic passing. I think there's an opportunity for Nebraska to strike quickly and shock UCLA a bit. Then again, Bruins coach Jim Mora is an excellent motivator, and he should have his team as ready as he possibly can for kickoff.
Joel from Minneapolis writes: Adam, you've made it clear how annoyed you (and Brian) are about Minnesota playing the likes of FCS and bottom-dweller FBS teams, and I am in the same boat. I would love to see more noteworthy opponents than Western Illinois on the Gophers' schedule as well. My question is what is your take on Kill's rationale for scheduling these types of teams (building confidence)? I would like to think that maybe Kill is on to something, that once Minnesota can turn that corner of putting away these types of teams the way perhaps Wisconsin has done up until now, maybe it would be a worthwhile investment.
Adam Rittenberg: It's important to string together some bowl appearances, Joel, and Kill's scheduling approach gives Minnesota a better chance to do so. Kill comes from the Bill Snyder school of scheduling, and Snyder helped build Kansas State's profile by living in cupcake city outside of league play. So there's some precedent. The problem is Minnesota fans saw a similar scheduling approach under Glen Mason, which led to a bunch of mid-tier bowl appearances but not enough success in the Big Ten. Kill needs to have his team ready for the Big Ten, and I don't know if these schedules will do the job. Minnesota's recent schedule addition of TCU for 2014 and 2015 is a good one, and I hope we see more of those games (and, somewhat sadly, fewer games on Aggie Vision).
Marc from New York writes: With Notre Dame gone, who do you think Michigan will play in their night games now, specifically in the next two seasons? I'm not quite sure if the future OOC schedules warrant a Under the Lights III/IV, unless Dave Brandon is willing to play at night later in the season against B1G teams.
Adam Rittenberg: Marc, I hear you, but why does every Michigan night game have to be a huge deal? It speaks to a larger issue I have with the Big Ten and its reluctance to shake up the scheduling approach. Night games are cool almost regardless of the opponent. Michigan should play a Big Ten game at night. I wish it would be Michigan State, but Brandon has his reservations about playing a rival under the lights. It happens all the time in the SEC and Big 12 -- just sayin'. I think Oregon State or BYU could work well in 2015, and I'd expect some exciting additions to the nonleague schedule with Notre Dame moving up. But my larger point is Michigan shouldn't have strict standards for night games. Play Penn State at night, or Wisconsin, or Northwestern, or Nebraska. Night games should be a bigger part of the Big Ten's identity. They are everywhere else.
Buckeye from Columbus writes: Adam, would it be better, in regard to the league's national perception, that Notre Dame blows out Purdue this weekend? I know losing nonconference games aren't good, but wouldn't the league be better off that Michigan beat a good ND than Michigan beat a mediocre ND who barely won/lost to a, so far, terrible Purdue? I know this isn't fair to Purdue fans, but public opinion rarely is.
Adam Rittenberg: I don't know if a Purdue blowout helps the Big Ten, but a Notre Dame win, maybe by 10-14 points, probably does, as Michigan would benefit from the Irish having a strong overall season. The Big Ten wants the profiles of its top teams -- Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska -- too look as good as possible come early December. Notre Dame is Michigan's only impact nonleague game, so when we're judging the Wolverines, we want to attach value to their win against the Irish. So yes, beating Purdue is important, but if Notre Dame wins against better teams such as Oklahoma, Arizona State, BYU and, most important, Stanford, that will mean more for Michigan and the Big Ten.
KMan from BMore writes: After the emergence of freshman phenom Christian Hackenberg, do you feel there is a possibility that Tyler Ferguson might transfer? I know the free-transfer period has ended, but (barring injury) I am having a hard time believing he will see meaningful snaps over the last three years of his eligibility. Best-case scenario (from an outside observer) would be Hackenberg starts through his junior year (2015), heads to the NFL, and Michael O'Connor steps in with three years of eligibility remaining, which would take PSU to the end of the sanctions with two top-flight pro-style quarterbacks at the helm. Do you concur?
Adam Rittenberg: KMan, I'm not in Ferguson's head, and he probably wants to see how things play out in the next few weeks, as Hackenberg could struggle when Big Ten play rolls around. But there's a decent chance the scenario you presents ends up being true. If that's the case, you couldn't blame Ferguson for wanting to play elsewhere and get a real chance. He took a leap of faith in picking Penn State without ever setting foot on campus. Maybe that loyalty keeps him in State College, but he's a California kid who left the team this summer to be with his ailing mother and has some strong ties to his local area. Penn State certainly needs Ferguson to stay this season as the quarterback depth is so poor, but it seems pretty clear that Hackenberg is the future for the Lions offense.
Bill from Genoa, Ohio, writes: Adam, I continue to see MSU fans' concerns about their offense and not scoring points. I want to remind them that their school hired Jim Bollman as their offensive coordinator this past offseason. Being an Ohio State fan, and having watched and complained about his and Jim Tressel's play calling for years, I want to tell MSU fans what you are seeing is what you are going to get. Even with a dynamic QB who can make plays 1,000 different ways, Bollman's approach is more conservative than most members of the GOP. He is not innovative and will run the ball to death, even when the run isn't working. I have sympathy for the MSU fans out there, because I think they are better than how their offense has been playing, and I really thought they'd play in the B1G championship this year. So MSU fans, as long as Bollman is in charge of your offense, no matter how good that offense is or could be, get used to averaging points in the mid to high-twenties and don't expect any creative plays to happen, because there is no imagination in the offense right now.
Adam Rittenberg: Bill, I understand your criticism for Bollman, and I admit his hiring didn't inspire much confidence among those who know his background with Tressel at Ohio State. But he's not the primary offensive play-caller. Co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner is, and Warner has been on the Spartans' staff for a while. And while Michigan State's play-calling leans conservative, the problems with the offense go deeper. Quarterbacks haven't improved, receivers continue to drop passes and the offensive line can't take the next step to become an elite Big Ten unit. I'll admit that the decision to flip Warner's and Brad Salem's responsibilities -- Warner now coaches running backs and Salem coaches quarterbacks -- left me scratching my head as almost every offensive coordinator also coaches the QBs. Bollman might be part of the problem in East Lansing, but he's not the biggest issue the Spartans have right now.
Eric from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: I am wondering why the blog is now being written by a lot of other writers besides Bennett and you?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Eric. We've expanded our blog staff to include Chantel Jennings, Mitch Sherman, Austin Ward and Josh Moyer. While they'll write a decent amount about specific teams for the Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State team pages, they'll also contribute in the Big Ten space. The idea is to provide a better overall product with more viewpoints and in-depth coverage. The additions also free Brian and I up to work on longer blog features and other projects, both in the Big Ten space and elsewhere. We didn't have this luxury in the previous model because of all the posting demands. The changes should improve the blog and the overall college football coverage we provide. We're excited about it.
After buying its way out of a series against North Carolina and revealing a wholly uninspiring slate of future non-conference games last fall, Minnesota took a big step in the right direction Tuesday by announcing a home-and-home series against TCU for 2014 and 2015. The Gophers will visit TCU on Sept. 13, 2014, and play host to the Horned Frogs on Sept. 3, 2015.
The 2014 game fills a vacancy on Minnesota's schedule, and the 2015 game replaces FCS opponent South Dakota State on the Gophers' slate. As you know, the Big Ten wants to remove all games with FCS opponents by the 2016 season or shortly thereafter, and Minnesota had been one of the worst at piling up games against lower-division foes.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com that he wants every team playing one marquee non-league game per season against a team from another major conference. TCU makes perfect sense for Minnesota, which recruits a lot in Texas. Gophers coach Jerry Kill and Frogs coach Gary Patterson are very close friends.
The teams have met just once previously, in 1974, when Minnesota beat TCU in a 9-7 thriller (cough, cough).
Kudos to Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague for getting this done, and to Kill for understanding the need to beef up the schedule and give fans an appealing series to watch.
Minnesota's 2014 and 2015 non-league schedules are complete. The Gophers play TCU (road), Eastern Illinois (home), Middle Tennessee (home), and San Jose State (home) in 2014; and TCU (home), Colorado State (road), Kent State (home), and Ohio (home) in 2015.
The Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.
Here's hoping Minnesota makes similar schedule upgrades for 2016 and beyond.