NCF Nation: green luck 090317
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Who's getting lucky on St. Patrick's Day? Get your mind out of the gutter for a minute.
As our green-themed blogging continues, it's time to distribute four-leaf clovers to five Big Ten teams, players or coaches who could use a little luck heading into the 2009 season.
Minnesota linebacker Sam Maresh -- Arguably no player in the country deserves a dose of good fortune as much as Maresh, whose career was put on hold by heart surgery last summer. After he made a quick recovery to prepare for 2009, Maresh discovered a non-cancerous tumor in his left leg. The heralded recruit hopes to practice this spring, and it will be pretty special when he steps on the field again.
Indiana coach Bill Lynch -- Lynch needs better luck on the health front after the Hoosiers' injury report resembled a Russian novel last season. Injuries wiped out Indiana's starting secondary, nagged at quarterback Kellen Lewis and struck an already suspect offensive line. Here's to better health in '09.
Michigan -- The Wolverines endured the worst season in team history last fall and remain extremely young at several key positions. They could use a break or two early on this season to gain some confidence, and it wouldn't hurt if freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson blossomed quickly.
Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki -- Moeaki hasn't been able to stay on the field and could really use a senior season without any injury setbacks. A dislocated elbow and broken hand cost him most of the 2007 season, and he battled a leg injury and a concussion last fall. Moeaki has all the tools to be one of the league's top tight ends, but he needs some better luck this fall.
Ohio State defensive end Lawrence Wilson -- Pegged to succeed Vernon Gholston as the Buckeyes' primary pass rusher, Wilson has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons. He broke his leg in the 2007 opener against Northern Illinois and tore his ACL in Week 7 last fall against Purdue.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Instead of spreading the love on this St. Patrick's Day, we'll spread the luck.
Here are a season's worth of four-leaf clovers for SEC coaches, players, teams and units who could use it in 2009:
Georgia's offensive line: Talk about a unit that was cursed. The Bulldogs' offensive line had to use six different starting combinations because of all the injuries last season. Offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant went down in the preseason with a knee injury, and Georgia stayed in flux on the offensive line the rest of the season.
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin: After some of the yapping he's done, Kiffin now gets to prove that he can back up some of the things he's said. The Vols are off to a stellar start in recruiting, which is a great sign for the future. But Kiffin has painted a Big Orange target on himself that will make for some interesting drama next season.
South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia: There are a lot of people in the Palmetto State, including the visored one, who are keeping their fingers crossed that Garcia finally gets it this year. Decision-making (on and off the field) has tormented him, and South Carolina doesn't have anybody behind him at quarterback who's played. The Gamecocks will pretty much go as he goes in 2009.
Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn: The Tigers' move to the spread offense last season ended up getting everybody run out of town. Now Malzahn comes in with his version of the spread. The first thing he needs to do is find a quarterback who can run it. Otherwise, it could be a long season again on the Plains.
Ole Miss Rebels: It's been a while since the Rebels have sniffed an SEC championship. Their last one came when John Vaught was still running the show back in 1963. Is 2009 their year to end that drought? They have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a nasty defense. The pieces are in place. But to win any championship, you need a little luck along the way.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Luck is part of football success, sometimes as important a part of winning as corned beef, cabbage and green beer are to St. Patrick's Day.
Here are several Big 12 coaches and players who could stand to benefit from an extra four-leaf clover or two to improve their good fortune this season.
- Dan Hawkins, Colorado: No Big 12 squad faced more injuries last season than Hawkins' Buffaloes. Losses in the offensive line to Ryan Miller and Maxwell Tuioti-Maxwell and Rodney Stewart's broken fibula helped cripple the Buffaloes' title hopes. Another similar run of injuries could put Hawkins' job in jeopardy.
- Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: A veteran offensive line helped power Bradford to the Heisman Trophy last season. How much different will it be in 2009 with four new starters along the offensive line? Bradford hopes he won't have too much green in the form of grass stains on his jersey from opposing team's hits, as his young protectors must grow quickly into their new roles.
- Art Briles, Baylor: The only coach in the conference who makes green part of his game-day garb could use some good fortune to hope nothing happens to Robert Griffin. If Griffin can stay healthy and productive, the Bears can contend for a bowl berth. If not, it will be another long season in Waco.
- Jordan Shipley, Texas: Injuries have cost him two seasons of eligibility. When healthy, he plays like one of the most explosive wide receivers in the nation. He will be particularly important this season as Colt McCoy's veteran receiving threat and a potential kick-return menace every time he touches the ball. Just ask Oklahoma.
- Barry Turner, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers' top pass-rushing weapon sustained a broken leg in the second game last season and missed the rest of the season. His return and good health could provide a much-needed outside pass-rushing threat for the Cornhuskers and take some of the double-team pressure away from massive defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
We could all use a little luck every now and then, and today is the perfect day to hand out a few four-leaf clovers to teams, coaches and players in the ACC. Nobody, though, needs more luck than this Irishman ...
NC State coach Tom O'Brien -- In 2005, O'Brien received the John F. Kennedy National Award, given to "an outstanding American of Irish descent for distinguished service to God and country." Rumor has it there's an Irish pub near his house he's a fan of, and even his children's names -- Colleen, Daniel and Bridget -- sound Irish.
O'Brien is as Irish as they come, but somehow he has been one of the unluckiest coaches in the conference. In 2007, 13 players who were starters at some time missed a total of 44 games. Six starters missed multiple games. In 2008, 13 starters had missed a total of 80 games, and quarterback Russell Wilson got knocked out in the first half of the Papajohns.com Bowl with a knee injury.
To top it off, he was supposed to be the grand marshal of the city of Raleigh's St. Patrick's Day parade this past weekend, but it rained on his parade. Literally. It was moved to Saturday, when he has practice, but he's figured out a way to make both. No wonder his staff left him some "Lucky Charms" cereal at his news conference on Monday.
Duke -- The Blue Devils could use some help getting to a bowl game this year. They came surprisingly close last year with four wins, but have back-to-back road trips to Army and Kansas in September and four of their last five games are against Coastal Division opponents.
Miami -- Anyone facing this blockbuster lineup -- Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma -- in the first four games could use a little luck. The Canes will have to redeem themselves from an embarrassing defensive performance against the Yellow Jackets on a Thursday night last season, and travel to Blacksburg before turning the calendar to October.
Virginia coach Al Groh -- It's not so much that he lost 11 starters from last year's team, it's the fact so many of them were key contributors. Considering the Cavaliers won just five games last year, though, maybe it's not such a bad idea to start from scratch -- coordinators included.
Florida State -- A four-leaf clover is perfect for the Noles -- they'll need one leaf for every year of probation. Bobby Bowden will need some luck if he's going to finish his career as college football's winningest coach.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
I've never really understood the phrase "luck of the Irish." The Irish people I know aren't especially lucky, and the one time I found a four-leaf clover as a kid, nothing magical happened.
I'm also not a big believer in luck in college football. I firmly believe you create your own luck by taking advantage of opportunities or minimizing mistakes.
Still, there are several players and/or teams that could use a fortunate bounce here or timely break there in 2009. Since it is St. Paddy's Day after all, let's call it the luck of the Irish (but not Notre Dame; that's a sensitive topic for most Big East fans).
• Cincinnati's quarterbacks: It seemed like gremlins, not leprechauns, were after the Bearcats' signal callers in 2008. Three of them got hurt, and Ben Mauk had his appeal for an extra year denied. Cincinnati is due for a year of health from Tony Pike at the position.
• Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville: Kragthorpe thought he was inheriting a pot of gold when he took the Louisville job in 2007. Instead, it's been more like a bowl of soggy Lucky Charms. You can argue over just how much he's responsible for the downgrade of the program, but there's no debating that he could use some luck this year with an undermanned team and a disgruntled fan base. Some luck in the health department for receiver Scott Long could help a lot, too.
• Matt Grothe, South Florida: Again, you make your own luck, and clearly Grothe has been guilty of forcing passes into places he shouldn't have ventured. But if you watched closely last year, you saw that Grothe had several passes tipped or batted in the air for interceptions. He could benefit from some luck there, as well as some help in the running game for a change.
• Syracuse: The Orange haven't been victims of bad luck lately as much as they have suffered from a lack of talent and coaching. Still, the team needs a few breaks this year to get the Doug Marrone era off to a good start, especially with a schedule that sees them opening with Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern.
• Adam Gunn, Pittsburgh: The senior linebacker broke his neck in the first half of the season opener on a freak helmet-to-helmet collision with teammate Scott McKillop. Now that's bad luck. After being granted a sixth year of eligibility, Gunn deserves a much better fate in 2009.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Who couldn't use some luck?
Of course, some need it more than others. So we're handing out four-leaf clovers in the Pac-10.
A four-leaf clover for ...
Nonconference success: The Pac-10 went 5-0 in bowl games, but that only improved the 2008 nonconference record to 19-17 -- 7-8 vs. the top 18 in the final regular-season AP poll. While no other conference even approaches the Pac-10's aggressive scheduling, it's about winning -- not just playing -- the game. So with road trips to Ohio State, Iowa, Tennessee, Georgia, Boise State, Notre Dame and Wake Forest as well as visits from LSU, Cincinnati, Maryland and many others ahead, the Pac-10 needs to produce.
Quarterback competitions: Only Washington and Oregon are certain who the starting quarterback is going to be in 2009 (knock on wood). The other eight teams have quarterback competitions that are fairly wide open. Here's a four-leaf clover for the coaches who need to pick the right guy before Game 1 in order to avoid (cue dramatic music) a dreaded quarterback controversy!
The Crapple Cup: A clover each to Washington (which will get plenty of water) and Washington State (which will need a warm coat). Last year, the two programs played a rivalry game where the stakes were simple: The loser was the nation's worst BCS football team. The Huskies lost, but the Cougars certainly didn't walk away from the season roaring with pride. So let's toss in a third clover -- extra luck may be needed -- for the hope that Apple Cup 2009 features teams that enter with more than one victory between them.
Health for star players: Injuries are part of the game, but it seems like the Pac-10 got more than its share at key positions last year. What might happen if players like Jahvid Best, Jake Locker, Joe McKnight, Jeremiah Masoli and Jacquizz Rodgers play every game in 2009? Maybe one of them will go to New York as Heisman Trophy finalist.
BCS luck: The BCS formula hasn't been good to the Pac-10 in large part because it rewards a team that schedules four nonconference patsies, while the Pac-10's round robin scheduling means five teams lose each week over the nine weeks of the conference schedule. Here's a clover for Pac-10 teams that are in the hunt for the BCS national title game or a second BCS bowl berth getting the nod from the obscure system.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
The third St. Patrick's Day post is all about luck.
There are a couple coaches, teams and conferences that are on the hot seat and could use a little luck for the 2009 season. So, I'm handing out some four-leaf clovers to help with that process.
• The Mountain West: After a great 2008 campaign and the subsequent BCS campaigning that followed it, the Mountain West has to have a similar showing in 2009 if it wants to be taken seriously by the public and the automatic qualifying schools. If the Mountain West gains another BCS qualifier, its pleas for automatic qualification will have even more backing.
• Notre Dame: It seems strange to give luck to the Irish, but few teams have fallen from grace like they have. This might be coach Charlie Weis' chance to show that he can lead this team back to the Promised Land with the players he recruited. The Irish got a nice jump-start with their bowl win over Hawaii and the schedule sets up nicely.
• UNLV coach Mike Sanford: UNLV showed progress last season, beating Iowa State and No. 15 Arizona State, but Sanford will need to keep showing progress if he wants to keep his job. Until last season, UNLV had finished last in the conference every year since 2004, the season before Sanford came on board.
• Houston wide receiver Patrick Edwards and Southern Miss receiver DeAndre Brown: Both players suffered gruesome broken legs last year (do a Google search and you'll see what I mean) and both players were the top receivers on their teams when they were injured. Neither player will participate fully in spring drills, but both are expected to play in 2009.
• SMU and North Texas: These two teams learned that offense gets you great stats, but it doesn't win you games. Both teams finished the season 1-11 -- second consecutive season for SMU -- and they've won just one conference game between them in the past two years. If any member of the non-automatic qualifying conferences needs a little luck, it's these two.