CHICAGO -- Unlike some of his counterparts from other leagues -- and unlike some of his own previous years here -- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany didn't seem interested in making major headlines during his address to close out media day.
Then again, Delany's views on NCAA reform and other pressing topics are well-known and well-documented. He spoke at length on the subject last year at this time in Chicago, and all 14 Big Ten presidents and chancellors signed a letter endorsing student-athlete welfare upgrades just last month.
So Delany didn't need to bang the gavel this year. Instead, his comments were more subdued. But the commish's words always carry weight, so here's a recap of his 25-minute address at the Chicago Hilton:
- Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby ripped NCAA enforcement at his league's media days last week, calling the system "broken" and saying "cheating pays" these days. Delany said he wouldn't echo Bowlsby's "more colorful" language, instead simply terming the enforcement branch as "overmatched." Delany did say the power conferences need to come together to bring about a new way of policing themselves. "We need a system that works," Delany said. "I think there's no doubt that NCAA enforcement has struggled. ... My hope is over the next year to 18 months that major conferences can come together and can find ways and processes and procedures that fit with what we’re trying to achieve, which is a level of deterrence, a level of compliance and a level of punishment.”
- Along those lines, the NCAA Division I board is scheduled to vote Aug. 7 on new autonomy measures that will give the Power Five conferences the right to craft many of their own rules. Delany said he's confident that autonomy will pass and would be "very surprised" if it doesn't. But he didn't issue any threats about power leagues forming their own division, as SEC commissioner Mike Slive did earlier this month. “If it doesn’t [pass], I don’t really know what we’d do,” Delany said. “I expect there would probably be conversations within each conference, we’d huddle up, and then see where we're at.”[+] EnlargeJerry Lai.USA TODAY SportsBig Ten commissioner Jim Delany characterized the NCAA's enforcement branch as "overmatched."
- Delany reiterated that the Big Ten scheduling model going forward will include nine conference games, one nonconference game against a power league opponent, and no games against FCS teams. Delany acknowledged that some high-level FCS teams are more competitive than low-level FBS squads and that it often costs less to schedule games against the FCS. But Delany said he's worried less about the budget and more about making sure his conference has the strength-of-schedule ratings needed to catch the eye of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
- Delany testified in the Ed O'Bannon trial and saw one of his own league teams -- Northwestern -- vote on forming a union. So he's well-versed on all the various fronts challenging to tear down the NCAA model. The commissioner said he's not sure where this is headed, but he and the Big Ten remain committed to making sure education plays a pivotal role in college sports. “I certainly hope when the dust settles there will be a wide array of education and athletics opportunities for many men and women,” he said. “I hope at the end of the day the courts will support us in achieving them. College sports is a great American tradition. It’s not a perfect enterprise. No perfect enterprise exists. We can improve it, and we should.”
Coaches are talking about the importance of taking it one game at a time while chasing a conference title. Players have busted out their finest suits and are raving about how difficult the offseason conditioning program was at their schools. And the media grabbed some free food between interviews.
There is one more day to go before the circus leaves Chicago, but before we get to that, the Big Ten blog is handing out some awards to put a bow on the opening day.
Best-dressed player: Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond. The honors could just as easily have gone to teammates Shilique Calhoun or Connor Cook, the former for his bow tie and the latter for his accessorizing with his enormous championship ring. But Drummond stole the show as the sharpest of the Spartans, who clearly looked the part of returning conference champs.
I think the Best Dressed award has been locked up today. Kurtis Drummond, folks. pic.twitter.com/XAnHXjJWKP— Austin Ward (@AWardESPN) July 28, 2014
Most fun-loving players: The bright spotlight and huge crowd around him might have kept Ohio State coach Urban Meyer a bit guarded, but his players certainly welcomed the attention and weren't afraid of being playful with the media. Tight end Jeff Heuerman loosened things up by locking quarterback Braxton Miller in a headlock, and after that, both decided to moonlight as media members by sneaking over to ask Meyer a few questions toward the end of a session -- a rare glimpse at the personalities off the field of two of the league's best talents on it.
Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman and Braxton Miller decided to join the media today and interview Urban Meyer. pic.twitter.com/scWhYDZRNs— Austin Ward (@AWardESPN) July 28, 2014
Biggest missed opportunity: The Wisconsin-LSU matchup to open the season is appealing enough at a neutral site. But the Badgers and Tigers could have taken the intrigue to another level by hosting those games at two of the loudest, most hostile stadiums in the country -- if only Gary Andersen had been around a couple of years earlier. The Badgers' coach said he "would have said yes" to a home-and-home series at Camp Randall and in Death Valley, a tantalizing what-might-have-been if the Tigers might have been as willing as Andersen.
Most appropriate Twitter handle: Nebraska’s Kenny Bell (@AFRO_THUNDER80). The 6-foot-1 receiver was probably the easiest player to pick out of a crowd, as his puffy afro towered over opposing players. Bell’s play didn’t earn him an award last season -- he was honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team -- but we just couldn’t go one more day without recognizing that 'fro.
Best-dressed coach: Penn State’s James Franklin. Every day, the head coach spends 22 minutes to shave his head in every direction and trim that goatee ... so it seems slightly surprising that he is probably the coach who spends the most time on his head, considering he’s bald. But, hey, it takes time to pull that look off -- and he was also looking dapper with that Penn State lapel, blue tie and matching pocket square. Franklin often jokes that he doesn’t need to sleep, so maybe he uses some of that extra time to pick out the right clothes.
James Franklin and our Josh Moyer are sharing head shaving techniques. Seriously. pic.twitter.com/S7iVnnNvo9— Brian Bennett (@BennettESPN) July 28, 2014
Quote of the day: Penn State linebacker Mike Hull has learned under three head coaches -- Joe Paterno, Bill O'Brien and Franklin -- during his career, and their personalities really couldn’t have been any different. Hull laughed while providing their takes on social media as an example.
“Yeah, I’ve seen the whole evolution,” he said. “Joe didn’t know what Facebook was, O’Brien called Facebook ‘Spacebook’ and, now, Coach Franklin probably has every social media there is to have. It’s crazy.”
Most Big Ten quote: “How are you going to approach the Rose Bowl?” -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke, lamenting some aspects of the College Football Playoff in years, like this season, when the Granddaddy of Them All is to serve as a national semifinal game. Hoke suggested that some of the pageantry associated with the game -- for instance, the Beef Bowl team competition at Lawry’s, a prime rib restaurant in Beverly Hills -- will be eliminated because of the high stakes and need for a regular game-week regimen. Of the traditional Rose Bowl, Hoke added: “It’s the greatest experience in America for kids.”
Most Iowa quote (maybe ever): “Sometimes, old school is a good school.” -- Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz on his program’s resistance to some of the offensive innovation that has swept college football.
Best quote about a player not in attendance: “I don’t like standing too close to him because it seems like the wind is always blowing through his hair. When he smiles, this little thing comes off his tooth like in the toothpaste commercial.” -- Penn State coach James Franklin on sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
Patterson brought in co-offensive coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie to jump-start TCU's offensive attack this season after its offense struggled for a large portion of 2013.
"It should help us get better as a defense, because we're going to be seeing that every day," defensive tackle Chucky Hunter said. "We're going to be in better condition, we're going to be more knowledgable of the plays we're going to see."
Safety Sam Carter loves the potential upside of practicing against Meacham's attack.
"I think it's going to help," Carter said. "I don't think it can hinder us in any way. To have it every day in practice, I'm excited to go against it."
While Carter doesn't envision a scenario that includes a downside, a negative impact appears possible. With TCU installing an up-tempo system of its own, it's a fair assumption to think its offensive plays per game average -- 72.2 during the past two seasons -- will increase in 2014, which could also increase the number of plays the defense will see. Those additional plays would be sure to test the depth and overall conditioning of the defensive unit in ways it has not been tested during TCU's first two seasons in the Big 12.
The defenses at Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, West Virginia, Texas Tech averaged at least 75 opponent plays per game in conference games during the past two seasons. Of that group, only the Cyclones lack a high-tempo offensive attack.
During the same span, TCU's defense faced 70.6 plays per game as Oklahoma was the lone defense to face fewer average plays per game in conference games. The Horned Frogs understand their average number of plays per game could jump significantly this fall but don't consider it a major concern.
It could end up being a bigger deal than anticipated.
During the past two seasons, the Horned Frogs' defense has allowed more points when facing 75 plays or more on defense. In conference games only, TCU allowed 29.1 points per game in the five games it faced 75 plays or more. In the 13 games TCU's defense faced 75 plays or less, the Horned Frogs allowed 25.8 points per game. Obviously a lot of different elements go into the actual number of plays an opponent runs, but these numbers are a clear sign more plays on the field could be a bad scenario for TCU's defense.
Even though their jobs just potentially got much harder, Hunter and Carter each stressed it was the defense's responsibility to stop opponents from scoring, regardless of the circumstances, and they are hopeful their defense is improved this season.
"We talked about it [playing more plays] but we can't control what the offense does," Carter said. "If the offense scores or not, your job is to stop other teams from scoring."
Why North Carolina will win the Coastal
The running game. Last year’s team struggled to run the ball, finishing 11th overall in the conference in rushing with QB Marquise Williams serving as the team’s leading rusher. But dig a little deeper into the numbers and a more optimistic narrative unfolds. In UNC’s first seven games, it averaged 102 yards on the ground, 2.8 yards per carry and scored six rushing touchdowns. In its last six games, that average jumped to 202 yards per game, 5.1 yards per carry and the Heels scored 13 times on the ground. Now Larry Fedora’s crew adds hulking freshman Elijah Hood to a backfield that already includes T.J. Logan, Khris Francis and Romar Morris and promises to be one of the deepest, most diverse units in the league.
Special teams are special. Only Bowling Green (10) had more non-offensive touchdowns last season than UNC (9), and the Tar Heels’ special teams were a big reason why. Ryan Switzer was an All-American, scoring five times on punt returns last year, but Fedora says his sophomore only scratched the surface of his talent. Switzer may get work on kick returns this year, too. And even if teams work to avoid kicking to Switzer this year, he says that's fine by him. It will simply mean UNC will start every drive with solid field position as the opposition boots them short or out of bounds.
The QB competition. While the rest of the league is searching for one quarterback it can count on, North Carolina’s quandary is how to find reps for both of its QBs. Williams led the Tar Heels to a 6-1 finish last year and showed he can command the offense. Mitch Trubisky was a top recruit with a strong arm and impressive mobility. Fedora said he believes he can win with both -- and that means both will likely see some playing time. There may not be another team in the conference with as much depth at the QB spot as Carolina enjoys.
Why North Carolina won’t win the Coastal
The QB competition. Wait, what were we just saying about the advantages of having two QBs? You know the old saying — if you have two quarterbacks, you’ve got none. That may not necessarily apply to UNC’s situation, but regardless which QB is tabbed as the starter, the expectations will be high and any early struggles could quickly lead to a restless fan base and a divided locker room.
The offensive line. Fedora has been blunt in saying the Tar Heels will likely go just as far as their revamped offensive line can carry them. The unit lost two starters to the NFL after last season, and a host of spring injuries meant there was no time for cohesion to be built among the newcomers. Bentley Spain could be a breakout star at left tackle, but for a team with eyes on an ACC title, relying on a true freshman at that position is never an ideal scenario.
They’re just too young. It’s both exciting and unnerving, Fedora admits. He has just six seniors on his team. The offensive line has only three juniors on the entire depth chart. A host of key personnel on both sides of the ball are freshmen and sophomores. Yes, this is Year 3 for Fedora, and he believes last year’s strong finish was a good sign that players are beginning to grasp his philosophy, but with youth come mistakes, and in a crowded Coastal, there may not be room for too many setbacks.
First came Urban Meyer and then James Franklin, who addressed a number of topics during his first go-round here in the Windy City:
- Franklin's only concern about this place? Each elevator at the Hilton Chicago is plastered with a different Big Ten logo, and the elevator that went to his floor did not have Penn State's logo. So Franklin, never one to shy away from a headline, relayed an anecdote about how he had to take the stairs to his room, lest he ride an elevator that features another league logo painted on it. No word on how many flights of stairs he took. Or which team was, in fact, on that elevator.
- In a reflection of just how much turnover there has been at Penn State, Franklin reminded everyone that, having been hired just seven months ago, he is the veteran of the Nittany Lions' public faces, as the school just hired a new athletic director (Sandy Barbour) on Saturday and had hired a new president (Eric Barron) in February.
- Franklin said his equipment staff has used Notre Dame and Navy as resources for how to prepare for a season-opening trip to Ireland, as Penn State will open overseas against UCF. The Lions will depart from State College for the trip on Tuesday night of game week.
- Asked about Vanderbilt players' disappointment in the way he left the program for Penn State, Franklin said that he has learned that "there's no good way to leave," and that he hopes he tried to do it the right way. He added that he hopes that over time people will look back and see how much he cared about and invested in the Commodores during his time in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Franklin let out a brief laugh and smile when asked if Christian Hackenberg is the most talented quarterback in the country. He said the sophomore has a ton of tools, and he admired the way the signal-caller handled everything from his recruitment to expectations to a coaching change.
- As for his satellite camp at Georgia State, which drew the ire of former SEC comrades, Franklin said he was not sure why it received all of the attention that it did. He said he and his staff get on the Internet every day to explore what other people are doing, and to see if it makes sense for Penn State. He wants to do everything within his power within the rules to give the Lions a competitive advantage. "Whatever that may be, whether it's recruiting certain parts of the county, we're going to look into all those things." He again added that he cannot speak to the reaction it has drawn.
As for what else the third-year Ohio State Buckeyes coach addressed during his time at the podium:
- As happy as Meyer is with his quarterback, he was disappointed in his offensive line and his secondary coming out of the spring. He fielded three different questions about the O-line during his less-than-15-minute news conference, plus one more about the importance of keeping Miller healthy, and he said that Chad Lindsay, Billy Price and Jacoby Boren are all candidates to start at center.
- Meyer did not hide his feelings on a Big Ten East division that also features traditional heavyweights Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, saying: "I think it's one of the toughest divisions in college football." He mentioned three tough road games, as the Buckeyes will travel to East Lansing, State College and Minneapolis (in addition to College Park for Maryland's Big Ten home opener).
- Meyer is much more pleased with what he has at linebacker, saying, "the last two years they weren't what we expect" before conceding that two years ago they weren't that bad. Still, anytime you have to move a fullback to linebacker, he said, you have a problem, especially at a place that has churned out the likes of James Laurinaitis and A.J. Hawk.
- New Ohio State president Michael Drake took office June 30, and Meyer said he has invited him to meet the team. Meyer said he looks forward to working with Drake but added that it really doesn't affect how Meyer does his job as long as the president takes care of business.
- Meyer reiterated that defensive end Tracy Sprinkle is no longer a part of the program following his arrest and charges in the wake of a bar fight earlier this month.
- Asked about Miller's durability issues, Meyer said it has more to do with great players who go above and beyond what their body tells them to do. The same questions came for stars like Tim Tebow, John Simon and Christian Bryant, he said.
- Asked what Ohio State needs to do to live up to the preseason expectations, many of which have it winning the Big Ten, Meyer said chemistry, trust and developing young players are the top priorities.
But the Scarlet Knights aren't just welcoming the challenge of facing Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. They swear they prefer it.
"I wouldn't want it any other way," fullback Michael Burton said Monday afternoon. "I want to play the best of the best, and this conference offers that. That's why it's a blessing."
Of course, that's easy to say at Big Ten media days. What player is going to publicly say he wants the easy path to a bowl game? But defensive lineman Darius Hamilton took it one step further and reinforced the sincerity of the statement.
He was offered a hypothetical: What if RU would finish 5-7 with the hard schedule but would finish 7-5 with the easy schedule? Wouldn't he then prefer the easy path? The 265-pound lineman just shook his head.
"I'll pick the hard anytime," he said. "When your back's against the wall and you're pushed to the limits, that's when you find out what kind of men you have on your team. I'd rather take a hard loss than an easy win any day of the week."
A bowl berth would go a long way toward helping Rutgers gain respect in the Big Ten. But that obviously won't come easily in 2014. Rutgers plays three elite teams on the road -- the Buckeyes, Spartans and Cornhuskers -- and the second-strongest schedule in the B1G is ranked six spots behind the Scarlet Knights' slate.
But that's all just fine with head coach Kyle Flood.
"I think it's great," he said. "[Our players] are competitors. They want to go against the best. And if people are saying this is the best, then good."
But will the Irish end up helping or hurting? ACC reporters Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna debate.
Andrea says: Jury is out on the Irish.
Imagine this scenario playing out: Oct. 18, Doak Campbell Stadium. Notre Dame and Florida State, putting together an instant classic. The Irish have the Seminoles on the ropes, threatening their perch atop the college football rankings.
Think having Notre Dame as a quasi-partner would go over well in that nightmare scenario?
Not exactly. And while hypotheticals are generally a meaningless exercise, in this case they cannot be ignored. Because we really have no idea what the addition of Notre Dame will do to the ACC this year. The Irish could help, or just as likely, they could hurt the league.
Florida State is but one example, though it is the most important. The Seminoles are playing a much more difficult schedule than a year ago. Not only do they have a neutral-site game against Oklahoma State, they have to play rival Florida, expected to be improved.
Two difficult nonconference games against power-five opponents is challenging enough. Adding Notre Dame into the mix gives Florida State the toughest nonconference slate in the ACC AND the toughest nonconference slate among the other teams expected to be ranked in the preseason Top 5.
Nobody else has to play two power-five opponents and Notre Dame. Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma and Auburn play one power-five opponent each. Notre Dame is not on their respective schedules.
Notre Dame is expected to be a preseason Top 25 team, so that means the Irish certainly have the capability of pulling an upset. And the placement of that game on the schedule is not exactly ideal. After a bye, Florida State has to travel to Louisville for a Thursday night game, the toughest two-game stretch on the schedule.
Now, it is well within the realm of possibility that a one-loss Florida State would make it into the playoffs, but nobody even knows how the committee is going to start evaluating candidates. Nothing can be accepted as a given.
Then there is the bowl partnership between Notre Dame and the ACC. Say Florida State is out of the playoff and into the Discover Orange Bowl. Say the Irish and Clemson finish with the same record. Well, the Russell Athletic or Capital One Bowls would be well within their rights to take Notre Dame over Clemson. Can't imagine that would go over very well, either.
There’s no doubt the partnership looks good on paper. But there may be a time it backfires.
Matt says: The Irish will be a huge plus.
Notre Dame football's affiliation with the ACC moving forward is far from a one-sided affair. Yes, the Irish do get to expand their schedule after finding a safe (and natural) home for their other sports. And yes, the Irish do gain access to a ton of postseason opportunities that simply did not exist for them when they were entirely independent. But the school and the conference are now friends with benefits, and that means that the ACC receives some perks from this relationship as well.
Let's not overlook what the semi-addition of Notre Dame has already done for the league's exposure, either. As part of Notre Dame's ACC agreement, the Irish can take an ACC team's place in a non-access bowl if their record is better than, equal to or within one win of the ACC team -- or if the Irish are ranked higher. The Irish would share in the revenues of the non-access bowl. And, well, what do you know? The ACC bowl lineup that starts this year -- the same year that the Irish begin their football partnership with the league -- is deeper and better than before, with the Capital One Bowl and New Era Pinstripe Bowl among the league's new 13 postseason partners. Some coincidence.
Sure, Notre Dame could upset an expected national title contender like Florida State this year and potentially ruin the league's chance at reaching the four-team College Football Playoff, but "potentially" is the key word there. The Seminoles have, after all, opened as 24-point favorites over the Irish, so there really shouldn't be much to worry about. And heck, it's not like Notre Dame hasn't beaten FSU when it supposedly mattered before, only to see the Noles crowned as national champions later. (Lest we forget about the '93 Game of the Century.)
And if the Irish were to win in Tallahassee? Well, chances are they would be having a really good season then. Playoff good. Which would mean one less spot in the ACC bowl lineup for them to take from a team with the same or better record. And, perhaps, give the ACC an even stronger presence in the playoff, which is supposed to reward strength of schedule, meaning a 12-1 FSU team with nonconference wins over Oklahoma State and Florida would, theoretically, still have a very strong case.
A case strengthened by Notre Dame.
The Boilermakers averaged just 14.9 points per game last season. Only four teams in the FBS fared worse. But Mostert just smiled Monday when asked about the offense's ceiling this season.
"Thirty-something points a game," Mostert said during Big Ten media days. "We feel really confident that we're going to score a bunch of points on opponents."
Easy follow-up question: Are you crazy?
"No, I'm not crazy at all," Mostert said with a laugh. "Just confident."
Despite a disastrous 2013 season, confidence was the theme of the day for the Boilermakers, as player after player talked about how Purdue was moving forward this season. Defensive end Ryan Russell even made mention of Big Ten title hopes, while linebacker Sean Robinson praised the freshmen along with sophomore quarterback Danny Etling.
That swagger came as a bit of a surprise considering Purdue's lone win last season came against FCS opponent Indiana State. The Boilermakers haven't beaten an FBS squad since Nov. 24, 2012, against Indiana. But players insisted those struggles are in the past.
"Last year, we didn't know what we were doing on offense. We didn't understand what was going on," Mostert said. "Now that we have that year and we've settled on what plays work, that's really going to help us in the long run -- understanding what we have to do and what our jobs have to do for us to score a lot of points."
The offense was admittedly young and inexperienced last season. Etling and his top target, DeAngelo Yancey, were true freshmen. And it didn't help that coach Darrell Hazell was trying to turn around a program in Year 1. But this season Purdue is hoping to take a step forward -- and Mostert isn't shy about aiming a little high.
"The confidence level is through the roof -- we're looking forward to scoring a lot of points," Mostert said. "We didn't have that last year."
Fitzgerald, the Northwestern coach, said Monday at Big Ten media days that he made a "bad joke" this month in describing Nebraska as a "pretty boring state" while speaking to boosters at a Chicago golf outing.
As you might expect, the comments provoked a variety of responses from fans of the Huskers, including some not fit for print.
"I've learned a lot of hashtags on Twitter," Fitzgerald said.
The coach apologized and said he would "own" the mistake, but that he meant no harm by it. Fitzgerald said he was trying to compliment Nebraska fans on how well they travel. The visitors overtook a large portion of Ryan Field in 2012 as the Huskers came from behind to beat the Wildcats 29-28.
Nebraska visits Northwestern on Oct. 18.
"Our fans need to step up," Fitzgerald said.
Last year in Lincoln, Nebraska beat Northwestern 27-24 on a Hail Mary pass from Ron Kellogg III to Jordan Westerkamp as time expired. Asked Monday about how long it took to get over that finish, Fitzgerald quipped: "I have no idea what you're talking about."
The coach said he has spent just two days in the state of Nebraska -- not nearly enough time to form an opinion, though he said his players and staff were treated warmly on trips in 2011 and 2013. Northwestern upset Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in the Huskers' first year of Big Ten play.
Nebraska fans heartily congratulated the Wildcats after their 2011 win, according to Fitzgerald. They did the same last season, said the coach, drawing a laugh.
"It's just a great fan base," Fitzgerald said.
Start planning accordingly. The Ultimate Pac-12 Road Trip continues.
Welcome to Week 9.
Friday, Oct. 24
- Oregon at California
- Arizona at Washington State
- Arizona State at Washington
- USC at Utah
- UCLA at Colorado
- Oregon State at Stanford
- Byes: None
Why: It’s Pullman in late October, the jewel of Eastern Washington. Duh, why wouldn’t you want to be there?
We’ve seen some pretty good defensive battles so far during the first eight weeks of the road trip. But now it’s time to let loose and watch a little offense. And what better matchup than seeing two of the most innovative offensive minds in the country squaring off.
This will be the second time these two coaches have met -- and Round 1 went to Mike Leach and Co. with a surprisingly low scoring 24-17 win last year in Tucson. Connor Halliday threw for 319 yards and a pair of scores as the Cougs erased a 14-10 halftime deficit and made chumps out of the Pac-12 blog.
What’s going to happen this time around? Both squads boast a thrilling cast of wide receivers. But the quarterback edge, at least for now, goes to Halliday and the Cougars for the simple reason that we still don’t know who Arizona’s quarterback is going to be. Of course, by Week 9, Rich Rodriguez’s guy might be putting up monster numbers, given the talent he’ll be throwing to and the style of offense. But for now, we just don’t know.
And if there were ever a pair of coaches who were simpatico in their thinking -- especially in their responses to proposed “slow down” measures -- it’s Leach and Rodriguez.
Arizona State at Washington is intriguing, because it was, by far, the Huskies’ worst game of the season last year. Oregon State and Stanford were tight the last time the two met on the Farm. And there’s nothing wrong with doing a Bay Area two-fer by hitting Oregon-Cal the night before at the new Levi Stadium. That in itself is a compelling draw.
But for actual game value, this one might turn out to be the most thrilling, high scoring game of the week with plenty of fireworks. Or the Pac-12 blog could look like chumps again when the Utes shock the Trojans at Rice-Eccles. We're big enough to admit when we've been wrong before.
Choosing the best 100 players in the country?
Yet here we are with a No. 1 just for you.
This summer, 32 writers and editors from ESPN.com narrowed down a field of 460 players representing every conference to create #CFBrank -- a list of the top 100 players based upon their expected contributions for this season. It was a dizzying assignment, one with no right answer or formula. There is no simple way to compare kickers and quarterbacks, or linebackers and linemen -- yet that’s exactly what we did. Each player was ranked using a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the most valuable to his team.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would have been a 10 last season. It's a no-brainer: Heisman Trophy winner. National title. Undefeated.
A lot of talent from his supporting cast is gone this season. Still a perfect 10?
What about Auburn center Reese Dismukes? A Rimington Trophy finalist who helped his team to the national title game. Do you rank him a nine? Eight?
The exercise is subjective: Which positions do you value more? The linemen who are the lead blockers or Todd Gurley, a Heisman hopeful who's had 12 career 100-yard-rushing games? Do you give more credit to the quarterbacks or the defensive ends who smother them? Incoming freshmen like LSU running back Leonard Fournette, and Michigan cornerback Jabrill Peppers -- the top two players, respectively, in the 2014 recruiting class -- were also considered. Neither of them has done diddly squat at the collegiate level, but both are oozing potential and are worthy of at least a ... five? Six?
(Don’t forget that the last defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy was a Michigan cornerback, too.)
Go ahead, argue among yourselves. Think you can do it better? You’ll be arguing with yourself.
Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is an All-American cornerback whose three interceptions last season all came in the end zone. He plays for a national title contender. Is he more valuable than Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller? Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun?
Don’t look for Oklahoma transfer receiver Dorial Green-Beckham -- Bob Stoops can’t find him yet, either. Because the former Missouri star's eligibility is still uncertain, he wasn't included in the voting. These 100 spots were reserved for the players who have all but guaranteed playing time. They’re for game-changers at every position -- or players we think will be.
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. So are the top 100 players in the country. Here are the first two parts -- 100-91 and 90-81 -- of #CFBrank. We will unveil the rankings in descending order every day this week.