Dallas Colleges: Ohio State Buckeyes
While the soon-to-be-former Big East is entering its last season as a BCS school, before the four-team college football playoff takes into effect in the 2014-15 season, aggressive scheduling is one way to keep the league on the national radar.
The slates will provide several opportunities for big national upsets in the coming years, so here's a look at some of the notable future opponents for SMU.
SMU: The Mustangs have quite the in-state home-and-home lineup. They canceled this season's home game with Baylor, and while it is unknown if the 2013 game will be made up or bought-out completely, the schools still have a home-and-home scheduled through 2019. The Battlle for the Iron Skillet with TCU will continue through 2017, with the Horned Frogs playing host this season. SMU will go to Texas A&M this year and host the Aggies in 2014, closing out a four-year home-and-home. They begin this season with a Friday night home contest against Texas Tech.
EAST REGION (Washington, D.C.)
Eamonn Brennan: Indiana over Marquette
Fran Fraschilla: Indiana over Miami
John Gasaway: Indiana over Miami
Seth Greenberg: Miami over Indiana
Andy Katz: Indiana over Miami
Jason King: Indiana over Miami
Myron Medcalf: Miami over Indiana
Dana O'Neil: Indiana over Miami
Bruce Pearl: Miami over Syracuse
Robbi Pickeral: Miami over Indiana
Dick Vitale: Indiana over Miami
WEST REGION (Los Angeles)
Eamonn Brennan: Ohio State over La Salle
Fran Fraschilla: Ohio State over Wichita State
John Gasaway: Ohio State over Wichita State
Seth Greenberg: Ohio State over Wichita State
Andy Katz: Ohio State over Wichita State
Jason King: Arizona over Wichita State
Myron Medcalf: Ohio State over Wichita State
Dana O'Neil: Ohio State over La Salle
Bruce Pearl: Arizona over Ohio State
Robbi Pickeral: Ohio State over Wichita State
Dick Vitale: Ohio State over Wichita State
SOUTH REGION (North Texas)
Eamonn Brennan: Florida over Michigan
Fran Fraschilla: Florida over Kansas
John Gasaway: Kansas over Florida
Seth Greenberg: Kansas over Florida
Andy Katz: Michigan over Florida
Jason King: Kansas over Florida
Myron Medcalf: Michigan over Florida Gulf Coast
Dana O'Neil: Michigan over Florida Gulf Coast
Bruce Pearl: Kansas over Florida
Robbi Pickeral: Florida over Kansas
Dick Vitale: Michigan over Florida
MIDWEST REGION (Indianapolis)
Eamonn Brennan: Louisville over Michigan State
Fran Fraschilla: Louisville over Michigan State
John Gasaway: Louisville over Duke
Seth Greenberg: Louisville over Michigan State
Andy Katz: Louisville over Michigan State
Jason King: Louisville over Duke
Myron Medcalf: Louisville over Michigan State
Dana O'Neil: Louisville over Michigan State
Bruce Pearl: Louisville over Duke
Robbi Pickeral: Louisville over Duke
Dick Vitale: Louisville over Michigan State
Marquette at West Virginia (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): West Virginia has to win this game, right? The Mountaineers have lost six of their past eight games. The only wins were over lower-level teams (Providence and Pitt) on the road. Marquette has been on a tear of late and may have the Big East Player of the Year in Jae Crowder or Darius Johnson-Odom.
Vanderbilt at Kentucky (noon ET, CBS): Kentucky has three games left to finish off an undefeated SEC regular season. No offense to Georgia, but the Cats should take care of the Bulldogs. If Kentucky takes out Vandy, the only obstacle left is a game at Florida to end the regular season. If Kentucky can accomplish an unblemished mark, it would go down as one of the most impressive regular seasons in coach John Calipari’s career.
Iowa State at Kansas State (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Wins at Baylor and Missouri have changed the complexion of Kansas State’s season. The Wildcats have finally finished games by playing smart in the final possessions. Iowa State has a tough slate to finish the season with games at Kansas State and Missouri and then hosting Baylor. Not an easy road for a bubble team.
North Carolina at Virginia (4 p.m. ET, ESPN): UVa has had injury issues and hasn’t been able to find consistency against the league’s elite (Duke and North Carolina). But the Cavs have a shot to re-establish themselves. This could turn into an ACC Player of the Year-type game as Tyler Zeller of the Tar Heels matches up with Mike Scott of the Cavs. UVa must ensure that it controls the tempo to have a chance.
Mississippi State at Alabama (6 p.m. ET, ESPN): Mississippi State has stumbled down the stretch and has no momentum going into the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs have lost to the bottom of the SEC and now to Kentucky at the top. Meanwhile, Alabama has done a tremendous job, despite player suspensions, to be in the hunt for an NCAA tournament berth. The win at Arkansas was one of the more impressive for the Tide this season.
George Mason at VCU (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2): George Mason was going to be in position to possibly catch Drexel and win the conference. But an overtime loss at Northeastern has pushed the Patriots into a second-place tie with VCU. The winner will get the No. 2 seed in the CAA tournament and potentially set up for a final matchup against Drexel.
Temple at Saint Joseph’s (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Temple has emerged as the class of the A-10. Saint Joe’s had some fleeting hopes of getting a bid, but the Hawks lost at home to Richmond and scored only 49 points in the process. This is a huge rivalry game but the toughness of the Owls should prevail.
Penn at Harvard (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3): If Harvard gets by Princeton on Friday night, a win against Penn could give the Crimson a share of the Ivy League title and a chance to clinch it outright the following Friday at Columbia. Harvard is trying to get to the NCAAs for the first time since 1946.
Syracuse at Connecticut (9 p.m. ET, ESPN): The Huskies have new life after Shabazz Napier’s 3-point heave went in to beat Villanova on Monday night. The Orange have been as good, if not better, on the road than at home -- other than at Notre Dame. Syracuse should dominate the bench scoring. The Huskies have a chance if Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi can win the post, and Napier and Ryan Boatright can get into the zone with floaters to score. UConn is in desperate mode to get this win.
Wisconsin at Ohio State (4 p.m. ET, CBS): The Badgers lost at Iowa on Thursday night and now have to go to Ohio State? Yikes. Iowa let Wisconsin back in the game, but then the Badgers couldn’t finish and lost by one. OSU, save the game against Michigan State, has been as dominant at home as any team in the country. The Badgers have to find a way to score and avoid the droughts that can decimate their chances of pulling off an upset like this one.
California at Colorado (5:30 p.m. ET, FSN): Colorado had a chance to make some noise down the stretch in the Pac-12, but losing at home to Stanford took some of the energy out of this game. The Buffaloes had overachieved to that point. Cal needs to get a sweep of the mountain area to win the Pac-12 regular-season title, assuming Washington doesn’t stumble.
Florida State at Miami (6 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The Seminoles lost their shot to win the ACC regular-season title by dropping a home game to Duke. Miami desperately needs this game to prove to the selection committee that it is tourney-worthy. This game will have ACC tournament seeding implications.
Nobody likes sounding relentlessly redundant, but if the story doesn't change the story doesn't change.
For all that Oregon has accomplished in two years under Chip Kelly, it has flopped against highly rated nonconference foes who have had extra time to prepare for the Ducks high-tempo, spread-option attack.
- In 2009, the Ducks opened at Boise State. While that game is most remembered for LaGarrette Blount's post-game meltdown in Kelly's debut, Boise State fans will be glad to remind you the Broncos held the Ducks to 31 yards rushing in a 19-8 victory.
- The Ducks righted themselves dramatically in 2009 and earned a berth opposite Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. But the Buckeyes held the Ducks to 260 yards in a 26-17 victory
- And, finally, in the national title game against Auburn, the Ducks only scored 19 points. They gained 449 yards but only 75 on the ground.
If you have ever played football, you surely understand that when a football player has his physicality doubted, well, that's pretty galling.
Before all you Ducks get bent over this, keep in mind that Kelly has been a stand-up guy about this very point. In all three instances, he admitted the Ducks got beat at the point of attack. Further, during preseason camp, I asked running back LaMichael James about what went wrong against Auburn.
"Their defensive line was overpowering our offensive line," he said. "That was just the way it was."
How do you think this goes over with a Ducks offensive lineman? Department of "Truth Hurts."
Here's the good news: Oregon can end such talk on Saturday. All it has to do is take it to No. 4 LSU, a program as physically talented in terms of future NFL potential as any in the nation.
That's the micro-economic level of the super-cool-awesomeness of this marquee season-0pener in Cowboys Stadium.
Any one else curious to see what Kelly's got up his sleeve to counter LSU's extra prep time to school itself on the Ducks misdirection?
The macro-economic level is this: Pac-12 versus SEC. One game for a regular-season's worth of trash talking.
You might have heard the SEC has experienced some football success of late. On occasion, SEC fans will take a moment to remind you of it. There is a rumor, in fact, that five consecutive seasons have ended with a happy ending in some SEC outpost, the latest against the Pac-12's newest top-dog.
That would be Oregon.
To be honest, last January, I though Oregon was going to pound Auburn. I didn't think a two-player team -- no matter how good those two players were -- could beat the Kelly and the Ducks. The last time I had such a strong hunch about a game and was so completely wrong was when Washington pushed Miami around in 2000. (This is not to say I've had a long run of correct strong hunches about games before January. They just don't come by very often before marquee matchups).
Even if you throw out the stakes specific to Oregon and the Pac-12, this game has huge meaning nationally. The winner could -- should, in my mind -- rise to No. 1 in both major polls. Voters should reward the winner for showing the courage to play this game, which is great for college football at a time college football needs something great to distract fans from a stunning onslaught of scandals. A couple of which, rumor has it, might involve these two teams, territory we're choosing not to explore at this moment.
So if Oregon wins, it could rise to No. 1. If LSU has a successful season in the rugged SEC West, that win will grow in value. But even if LSU falters, the Ducks will be in position to play again for the national title if they keep winning.
Further, the odds aren't terrible that Oregon could arrive at Stanford on Nov. 12 and we find ourselves eyeballing two unbeaten teams. It could be a One-Two matchup even. At the worst, if the Ducks and Cardinal face each other without a blemish on either slate, it will be the biggest Pac-12 game in years (last year's game also matched unbeaten teams but was much earlier -- Oct. 2 -- in the season). If Stanford prevailed, it also could crow about beating the team that beat LSU and likely would play for the national title if it finished 12-0.
If Oregon loses to LSU, the Ducks could still have a great season. They could rally and perhaps get back into the national title hunt. And there's always the Rose Bowl, hardly a terrible destination. One nonconference game can't completely make or break a season.
But an Oregon victory would give the program a level of early-season gravitas it has never had. It would silence any remaining doubters, both of the Ducks and the Pac-12.
So, yes, you have heard correctly: This game is very, very big.
Wisconsin, after all, was the only team to beat Gee's Buckeyes this season. Reached by the New York Times' Pete Thamel on Saturday night, Gee said: “I’m going to New Orleans tomorrow [where Ohio State will play in the Sugar Bowl], and Antoine’s is a great restaurant. I think they serve crow, and I’ll be eating my portion of that. TCU played a great game, and they deserved to be recognized for that. Obviously, TCU is a great ball team.”
Frogs coach Gary Patterson was asked after the 21-19 New Year's Day victory that boosted TCU its first undefeated and untied season since 1938 if he had a message from Gee. Patterson remained diplomatic.
"I don't have any messages for him," Patterson said. "I make mistakes every day. So what I'm going to do is know that TCU is 13-0. We've won 44 ballgames, this senior class has in the last four years. And know that at any point in time anybody can beat anybody."
TCU's time as the little guy in college football's hierarchy is coming to an end. The Horned Frogs will play one final season in the non-automatic qualifying Mountain West Conference and then join the establishment as a member of the Big East Conference, one of the six power conferences granted automatic access to the BCS.
"I think what we’ve been able to do for the past however many of years and the success that we’ve had, we’ve earned the respect," said senior Andy Dalton, who exits TCU as the school's all-time winningest quarterback. "I think people are really starting to realize how good TCU is and I guess the Big East obviously realized that and wanted us to be a part of their conference, and so I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for TCU."
The Frogs will leave the fight for equality to the Boise State's of the world. Yet, on some level, it would seem the Frogs and Patterson will miss the underdog role, always having to strive for perfection, to take the hard road, to constantly have to prove that they belong. After all, TCU, along with Boise State, have been the ones constantly harrassing the BCS and leading the surge of public animosity toward college football's postseason power structure.
"We’ll always be that," Patterson said of retaining underdog status despite the move up. "Yeah, because we’re in the state of Texas. We’re never going to be compared to the Big East. Just like in the Mountain West, we’re compared to Texas and [Texas] A&M and Texas Tech. That’s how we recruit. We recruit to try to beat the Big 12."
This season the Big East was weakest of the power six. Connecticut, at 8-4 after the regular season, represented the conference in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday night and was handled by Big 12 champion Oklahoma, 48-20. Only West Virginia, with four losses, finished the season with fewer than five losses. The Big East sought the Frogs to lift their football profile.
Unless there's a sudden surge by one of the current eight Big East programs, the Frogs could walk into the league in 2012 as favorites to win it and claim the BCS slot.
The lure of the Big East is its automatic berth. Win the conference and you're in. No longer will perfection, which the Frogs have accomplished in consecutive regular seasons, a prerequisite. No longer will an early non-conference loss a season death sentence.
Yet, even there, Patterson found room to quibble.
"As far as a national championship it is, but not playing for a BCS game," Patterson said. "If you’re ultimate goal is playing for a national championship then you’re still tyring to get done what you’re trying to get done. It still means you need to go undefeated and do the things you need to do."
The Frogs (9-0, 5-0 Mountain West) are ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings and the Utes (8-0, 5-0) are No. 5. The winner of Saturday afternoon's game in Salt Lake City will be in prime position not only to play in a BCS game, but to actually have a shot at the once unthinkable for non-automatic qualifiers -- the national championship game.
"That’s what we’ve been working towards, is for people to think that this is a big ballgame,"TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Us beating Utah in overtime [in 2005] or them beating us in 2006, nobody said much about it. Now you’re in 2010 and you’re playing the same ballgame, and now one’s [No. 3] and one’s [No. 5]. We’ve come a long way as a league. We’ve come a long way as programs and what we’re trying to get accomplished. It says a lot about where we’ve been and what we’re trying to do and where we’re still trying to go."
The Frogs have their work cut out at sold-out Rice-Eccles Stadium. TCU has never won there. Two years ago, TCU doubled Utah's offensive production, yet still lost, 13-10 to ruin a shot at a BCS game. Last year in Fort Worth, the Frogs jumped out to a big lead, cruised to victory and cleared the way to a first-ever BCS appearance.
The Frogs are 0-3 in Salt Lake and quarterback Andy Dalton has played in two of those games. He knows how difficult it is to play there. Patterson began pumping loud music in at practice during offensive drills and prepping with hand signs and visuals to offset the crowd noise, aspects not often needed in most MWC venues. Close to 47,000 are expected to be at the game.
"They’re loud, noisy, obnoxious. They do a great job, especially when you’re on offense with the crowd noise and just all the stuff that goies into it," Dalton said. "I think they’re going to black out the game again. Last time we there it was at nighttime, it was all black, black uniforms, so I think they’re fans really bought into everything, which makes it a tough place to play."
Since the Frogs beat SMU 41-24 back on Sept. 24, the defense has allowed 16 points in the last five games and TCU has won by an average of 34.6 points. The Utes are coming off a 28-23 win over Air Force. The 28 points were the fewest Utah as scored since the season-opening 27-24 overtime win over then-No. 15 Pittsburgh. Since, Utah has scored at least 56 points four times.
Something's got to give. The Frogs know the Utes will use redemption for last season's blowout as a motivator, just as TCU used the 13-10 loss at Utah in 2008 heading into last year's game.
"Biggest thing is I remember the locker room after the game," Dalton said of that 2008 loss. "To see that we played pretty well and got so close and we didn’t end up winning the game; to see the guys, guys that had worked so hard, in tears, that’s a feeling that you never want to feel."
These days, the Horned Frogs simply re-load.
After three games, TCU is ranked No. 4 in the nation in total defense, allowing 222.7 yards a game. They've yet to give up 200 yards passing in a game or 100 yards rushing.
"Their defense is the best defense I've looked at in 10 years I've been in college football," said SMU coach June Jones, whose Mustangs take on the fourth-ranked Frogs Friday night at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. "They know what they’re doing. They’re well-coached, they know their schemes, they know how to play football. They play fast and do they do what they do, like all great teams do, and make you adjust."
Jones called this season's unit better than last year's that led the nation in total defense (239.7 ypg).
They limited pro-style Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz to 159 yards passing and dangerous tailback Jacquizz Rodgers to 75 yards on 18 carries. Elusive Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was held to 164 yards passing and 21 yards rushing on 14 carries.
About the only thing the Frogs defense hasn't done much of yet is make picks. They have just one, from junior cornerback Jason Teague, on 70 pass attempts.
They'll get plenty of opportunities to make plays Friday night against Jones' spread offense led by impressive sophomore quarterback Kyle Padron. The Mustangs are averaging 35.3 pass attempts and a less-than-expected 224.0 yards a game through the air. Padron has thrown three interceptions. Surprisingly, they've been quite effective running the ball, averaging 165.3 yards a game. Sophomore Zach Line is averaging 7.7 yards a carry and 92.0 yards a game.
Jones knows his still-evolving offense has its hands full against the fast and physically imposing Frogs defense.
"That's a statement they make every game they go play. They play very physical and they play hard," Jones said. "That’s what they’re going to try to do against us or they’re going to try to do it against Ohio State."
TCU entered the weekend trailing Boise by 143 points in the poll. Heading into this Saturday's big home game against hungry Baylor -- while Boise is on the road at Wyoming -- TCU finds itself just 71 points behind the Broncos. (TCU also remained No. 5 in the USA Today coaches poll.)
Yet, with good news comes bad. No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Ohio State both handled threats from ranked opponents and increased their points margin over Boise and TCU.
Back to the Frogs' romp over Tennessee Tech, where coach Gary Patterson got his start and earned his master's, TCU was nearly a 50-point favorite. I immediately picked Tech to cover, not because I didn't think the Frogs could win by 50 or more, but because I didn't think they would allow the score to get that out of hand.
Apparently neither did Patterson. But, you can only do so much.
TCU scored its final touchdown with 4:09 left in the fourth quarter. Running up the score? Playing for style points to gain votes?
"I want to publicly apologize. I didn't mean to score the last touchdown. We don't do style points," Patterson said after the game. "We didn't throw the ball in the fourth quarter. That's not the program we are, period. I did not want to score 60. I'm not unhappy. I'm just not going to come in here jumping up and down."
Patterson went on to say that he didn't think Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown was too pleased with him (yes, Mack's brother).
But, if the Golden Eagles can't make a tackle late in the game, then what choice did fifth-year senior and seldom-used fullback Ryan Hightower have but to take it to the house?
Hightower, playing in just his fourth career game and after hundreds of career practices, found daylight from 16 yards out and took it in the for the score to crack the 60-point barrier for the second time in three seasons (67-7 over Stephen F. Austin in 2008).
"I was really excited for Ryan Hightower," Patterson said. "We were just running a fullback for a couple of yards, but he cut back. It was not called to get a touchdown. I'm happy for him. He's been doing it for five years and never gets any credit. But I've been on the other end of it and I just don't like those kinds of games."
No argument there. But, national-championship good? The voters, in this case the reporters who cover the teams and the games, think so. When this week's AP top 25 poll revealed that TCU had leaped the Longhorns, bouncing from No. 6, over No. 5, and to No. 4, it put the Horned Frogs bumper-to-bumper with its BCS-buster nemesis, No. 3 Boise State.
Those poll positions, for the first time since the creation of the BCS, mean not just one, but two "non-automatic qualifying" teams are legitimate contenders to bust on through to the national championship game.
Boise has the edge over the Frogs if both sweep their respective schedules -- for a second consecutive season. But, if Boise bumbles just once and TCU stays true, the Frogs would be in position to possibly get the chance to color in the tip of coach Gary Patterson's famed pyramid of goals. It reads: No. 1, National Champions.
But, when push comes to shove, would an undefeated Boise or TCU really get the nod over, say, a one-loss Florida or Oklahoma?
"I don't think we'll know until we get to the end of the season," Patterson said.
If Boise or TCU -- or both -- don't lose, the coaches that vote in the USA Today top 25 poll will have to think long and hard. (Patterson, by the way, will not be casting votes this season. With a slight smirk, he said he's glad.) The Harris Poll voters will also have to think long and hard. Then it will all come down to a formula and a computer will spit out No. 1 and No. 2 and the national championship matchup is born. (The AP poll is not part of the BCS formula, but the other polls, logically, would be in close step.
So does TCU or Boise have the more difficult path to perfection? And what about No. 1 Alabama? And No. 2 Ohio State? Does either have an early loss lurking? And what about No. 5 Texas? Could Bevo push from behind if it builds a head of steam?
Two of three face stiff tests Saturday: Alabama welcomes No. 18 Penn State, and Ohio State plays No. 12 Miami at home. Texas should get an easy, crowd-pleasing win in its home opener against the Mountain West's Wyoming.
Meanwhile, TCU will be heavy favorites in each of its games, starting Saturday at home against Tennessee Tech and leading into the Nov. 6 showdown in Salt Lake against big-in-its-britches Utah, soon-to-be Pac-10-bound. The Utes broke into the rankings this week at No. 20.
The Broncos face the Beavers at home on Sept. 25. Two late-season WAC games, fortuitously at home against Fresno State and Oklahoma-stunner Utah State, stack up as Boise's most challenging obstacles.
If Boise and TCU continue to win, how voters weigh overall strength-of-schedule, an edge the "major conference" teams will win every time, will be an interesting study.
But, who knows? Anything is possible.
Here's a look at the key areas of the remaining schedules for the nation's top five teams:
No. 1 Alabama
Ranked teams defeated: None
Ranked teams left on schedule:6 (No. 18 Penn State, No. 14 Arkansas, No. 8 Florida, No. 24 South Carolina, No. 19 LSU, No. 21 Auburn)
Others close to being ranked: None
Trap game: at Tennessee
No. 2 Ohio State
Ranked teams defeated: None
Ranked teams left on schedule: 4 (No. 12 Miami, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 18 Penn State, No. 9 Iowa)
Others close to being ranked: Michigan
Trap game: at Minnesota
No. 3 Boise State
Ranked teams defeated: 1 (No. 10 Virginia Tech)
Ranked teams left on schedule: None.
Others close to being ranked: Oregon State, Fresno State
Trap game: at Idaho
No. 4 TCU
Ranked teams defeated: 1 (No. 24 Oregon State)
Ranked teams left on schedule: 1 (No. 20 Utah)
Others close to being ranked: BYU
Trap game: at Colorado State
No. 5 Texas
Ranked teams defeated: None.
Ranked teams left on schedule: 2 (No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 6 Nebraska)
Others close to being ranked: None.
Trap game: at Texas Tech
In terms of the national title picture, Boise and TCU are right there. And for the Frogs, they were just a couple of minutes away from likely taking Boise's third spot as it appeared Virginia Tech was going to complete the comeback and beat the Broncos on Monday night.
"We were all watching it," TCU linebacker Tank Carder said. "I was kind of feeling that they [Boise] were going to come back and do it."
A Boise loss would have eliminated the Broncos from any national title possibilities, and perhaps from the BCS picture, while elevating TCU as the lead horse in the race of the non-automatic qualifiers to get back to the BCS and possibly more.
"I had to root for Boise," Patterson said. "They're going to come in the [Mountain West] conference. You had to root for Boise, [even though] they could hurt us. I always believe that things happen for a reason. Things are going to happen for a reason."
Boise finished the job behind quarterback Kellen Moore in the final minutes with a touchdown drive. The Broncos' next big test is in three weeks against now-unranked Oregon State, which dropped its No. 24-ranking after a 30-21 loss to the Frogs Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium. The Broncos have this week off and play at Wyoming in two weeks.
The Frogs get Tennessee Tech for their home-opener on Saturday and will face Baylor at home in two weeks.
"You can't worry about it. All you can do is take care of yourself and play each week and let the chips fall as they may," TCU reciever Bart Johnson said of the rankings. "I wouldn't have been really disappointed if they had lost."
That they didn't only makes the coming weeks that much more intriguing.
Coming off a first-ever BCS appearance and returning 19 starters, the TCU Horned Frogs begin the 2010 season ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Saturday morning. It is the highest preseason ranking ever for the Frogs, who came in at No. 7 in the coaches' preseason poll.
No surprise, defending national champion Alabama is No. 1 and Ohio State came in a distant second.
The Frogs sit between familiar company. The Texas Longhorns begin the post-Colt McCoy era ranked No. 5 and the Oklahoma Sooners return from an injury-ravaged season at No. 7.
The Boise State Broncos, the other main BCS-buster with TCU, opens at No. 3, its best preseason ranking coming after last year's undefeated season that included a 17-10 win over the Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl.
For TCU and Boise, the ranking puts those programs in prime position to make a run not only at another BCS game, but at a possible national championship game appearance if either team can run the table. Last season, TCU started at No. 17 and climbed to No. 4 after going undefeated in the regular season. Many observers believed TCU came within one second of playing Alabama in the Rose Bowl for the national championship before Texas kicked a last-second field goal to beat Nebraska (ranked No. 8 in this season's preseason poll) in the Big 12 title game to secure its place opposite Alabama. A Nebraska victory might have pushed the Frogs over the top. Boise started last season at No. 14 and rose to No. 6 prior to the Fiesta Bowl.
A team from a non-automatic qualifier conference such as the Mountain West or WAC has never played for a BCS national title. With two such teams ranked in the top six to start the season, could this be the year?
"I don't know. We'll see in December. We'll see if somebody can be undefeated," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "If they are, then they should get an opportunity if they started high enough, like Boise or ourselves."
TCU will begin its quest in two weeks, on Sept. 4 at Cowboys Stadium against the Oregon State Beavers, who come in at No. 24. Boise State opens the season on Sept. 6 in Washington D.C. against No. 10 Virginia Tech.
Let the games begin.
TCU has again been selected as one of 10 programs to wear uniquely designed Nike uniforms for at least one game. In fact, both teams could be wearing the uniforms in the opener at Cowboys Stadium since the Beavers were also included the group of 10.
It's not a given either team will break out the new duds then -- although it would make the most sense with the game being televised nationally on ESPN. The dates of those games that the teams will wear the uniforms will be announced at the unveiling of the uniforms Sept. 1 in New York City. TCU twice wore a special Nike Combat uniform last year, debuting it at home against Utah and then again in the Fiesta Bowl. It's not how this season's uniform might differ from last season's.
The other eight schools that will wear the uniforms are: Alabama, Boise State, Florida, Miami (Fla.), Ohio State, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
(Cue "Sweet Georgia Brown.")
Williams on Tuesday was selected by the Harlem Globetrotters as part of their 2010 Draft Class, the organization announced. The 6-foot-1 Williams, who hails from Jamaica, N.Y., led the Mustangs in scoring and was fourth in Conference USA at 16.6 points. That is the highest rank for a Mustang since joining C-USA.
Among others chosen by the Globetrotters in the team's annual player draft were Mark Titus of Ohio State; 2010 College Slam Dunk champion Marqus Blakely of Vermont and Slam Dunk runner-up Chris Roberts of Bradley. Roberts is from Fort Worth and played at fabled Dunbar High School.
Williams, no doubt, could add some nifty dribbling and eye-popping shot-making, while Roberts is sure to please with his crazy dunking ability.
All players will be extended an invitation to fall training camp to vie for the honor of joining the Globetrotters for their 85th consecutive season of touring the world.
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Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.