NCF Nation: Matthew Stafford

ATHENS, Ga. -- One of the first rules in marketing is to meet your customers where they are -- to essentially seek out the circumstance or medium where your message is most likely to resonate.

That’s the concept that was in play when Georgia’s football program started developing a free app -- titled “The Georgia Way,” after coach Mark Richt’s catchphrase for how he expects players and staffers to go about their business -- that recruits and their families can access on iPhones or iPads.

Mark Richt
AP Photo/John AmisGeorgia coach Mark Richt hopes the app results in positive attention for his program.
“When you poll teenagers and ask what they use a computer for, they say their homework,” said Mike Thrower, president of the company that designed the app, Overtime Software. “They don’t do social media on a computer, they don’t browse for information on a computer. It’s all on mobile devices now. That’s just kind of the direction it’s going. So if you want to reach them, that’s the way to reach them.”

Georgia is not the first major program -- LSU’s Overtime-built app, “The Les Miles Method,” debuted nearly three years ago -- but the app trend is only beginning to catch on in the college football world. Bulldogs video coordinator Brett Greene, who helmed the app project, said Georgia is “one of maybe five or six schools that has put one out there,” and he believes it keeps the program on the cutting edge in the recruiting game.

“It’s a great tool for our coaches to have when they go into recruits’ homes to show their parents, show the recruits. It’s kind of an icebreaker,” Greene said. “They can sit there for 20 or 30 minutes and the mom or dad who hasn’t had a chance to come over here can come here on a visit. They can sit there for 20 or 30 minutes and see everything about Georgia, see everything about Athens, our facilities, academics and all that.”

The app is divided into three main categories that break down the past, present and future of Georgia’s football program. In scrollable timeline fashion, it showcases a number of former Bulldogs who went on to play in the NFL like 2009 No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford and Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green. It features the Bulldogs’ gameday traditions, their coaching staff and current players’ accomplishments. And it shows off many the layers of a student-athlete’s experience as a Georgia football player, including the football facilities at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, the East Campus dormitories, the Rankin Smith Center and other academic buildings, and the social opportunities that exist in Athens and the surrounding area.

It also features a number of videos that Greene and his team produced, including one narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Samuel L. Jackson that plays as the app first opens. That’s one of the features that separate Georgia’s app from others in existence, Thrower said.



We hope that it will be something that recruits, especially, enjoy. But it’s not just for recruits, it’s for the Georgia people.


-- Georgia coach Mark Richt


“They’re the first app that I know of to have a celebrity participating in the app. That’s really a cool thing,” Thrower said. “The other thing that’s pretty unique is the way the story’s told, the whole concept of a timeline. You say, ‘Some people have come before you and this is what coming to Georgia will do for your future. And while you’re at Georgia, this is what you can expect.’ That whole past, present, future concept is pretty unique.”

The concept also serves as a means for Georgia’s fans to learn more about the program they follow, which Richt said gives it added value.

“We hope that it will be something that recruits, especially, enjoy. But it’s not just for recruits, it’s for the Georgia people,” Richt said. “And as I’m watching it be put together, it looks pretty slick. Hopefully it will help draw attention to our program in a positive light.”

The app has existed for only a few months and has already been updated twice -- a trend that will continue when Greene and company deem it necessary to update the player accomplishments, videos and other features in order to keep its message fresh.

Keeping it fresh is what developing the app was about in the first place, and Greene sees it having value for at least another few years as technology continues to evolve.

“Kids these days, they want to see cool things on the phone. They want to see flashy things like videos. They want to see pictures -- interactive stuff. The app has all that stuff,” Greene said. “It has interactive animation, it has videos. That’s what kids are looking at.

“Obviously they stay on Twitter and Instagram all day long, so we wanted to make sure that stuff was connected to our app so they can stay in touch with that. I think that’s what is catching high school kids’ eye now.”

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A quick check of the SEC headlines:

  • Slowed by a fractured wrist during the spring, Nick Stephens hopes to make up ground this summer in the Tennessee quarterback race.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

ATHENS, Ga. -- Blink for just a millisecond in the SEC, and you risk being cast off into football oblivion.

That said, wasn't it just yesterday that Mark Richt was the fresh-faced newbie of the league, a Bobby Bowden protégé from Florida State, who was about to endear himself to Georgia fans forever with his signature "hobnail boot" victory over Tennessee?

 
  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  Georgia coach Mark Richt is feeling confident heading into the 2009 season.

The truth is that was eight years ago, and there have been 17 head coaching changes in the SEC since Richt took over at Georgia in 2001. He enters next season as the longest-tenured head coach in the league at the same school.

With Phillip Fulmer and Tommy Tuberville being pushed out following last season, Richt suddenly finds himself as the dean of a conference that chews up and spits out head coaches.

"It changes fast, and you have to be willing to change with it," said Richt, who's been the hallmark of consistency at Georgia.

He's won 10 or more games in six of his eight seasons, and the Bulldogs have finished in the top 10 in the polls five of the past seven seasons. Richt is also one of only six head coaches who has won 80 or more NCAA Division I football games in his first eight seasons, joining the likes of Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops, Urban Meyer, Barry Switzer, George Woodruff and Amos Alonzo Stagg.

Along the way, Richt has won two SEC championships and six bowl games, including two wins in BCS bowls.

About the only thing he hasn't done is beat Florida consistently or win a national title.

Richt is committed to doing both, but he's not consumed by either.

"My goal is to watch these guys become men and develop into the best possible football player they can be," Richt said. "My goal is to get a team to reach its full potential on a yearly basis and come out of here better men than when they showed up.

"We absolutely want to win a national championship. We have the goal set to do that. But the national championship goal is one you really don't control. You can control winning the East and control winning the SEC and then hope two other cats on the other side of the country didn't go undefeated.

"We've won 82 games in eight years, (tied with LSU) for the most of anybody in the league. We've either won or shared the East four out of eight years. So we've done a nice job. But because of the national championship, if you haven't won that, then people say, 'You haven't done it yet.'"

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

All you can do is pray for a quick link, which you aren't going to get.

  • Lots of names in the mix as Arizona State starts spring practices Tuesday -- even at quarterback -- and that's the way coach Dennis Erickson wants it.
  • A look at the USC offensive line, which should be one of the best units in the nation.
  • Matthew Stafford posted a better Wonderlic than Mark Sanchez, and Rey Maualuga didn't exactly knock his out of the park. 
  • The No. 8 player for Washington is a blast from the past who's back. And guess who's got a blog! Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Pete Carroll, Steve Sarkisian promises to give you an inside look at Huskies football.
  • Washington State suffered through a lot of injuries last year -- "at least 25 surgeries from the Hawaii game to the first of the year, not including major ones during last season," according to the Spokesman-Review. That's going to carry over to spring practices.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

ATHENS, Ga. -- Joe Cox is accustomed to waiting in the shadows.

The fifth-year senior quarterback played for two years behind former Florida quarterback Chris Leak at Independence High School in Charlotte, N.C., before getting his chance.

He's waited for four years at Georgia, playing the past two years behind the guy who might be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, Matthew Stafford.

 
  Paul Abell/US PRESSWIRE
  Joe Cox finally has a chance to be Georgia's starting quarterback.

So forgive Cox if he's soaking in everything this spring and leaving nothing to chance. This is his only shot to lead this football team the way he wants to.

Sure, he's always been a leader behind the scenes, a guy who knows the playbook inside and out, a guy who does things the right way and a guy who's been there in any capacity whenever the team has needed him.

As a redshirt freshman three years ago, he came off the bench to bail the Bulldogs out against Colorado and threw a game-winning touchdown pass with 46 seconds remaining.

But it's his team now, and with Knowshon Moreno, Mohamad Massaquoi and Stafford all gone, the challenge to keep the Georgia offensive machine going will be a daunting one.

It's a challenge Cox insists he's up to, and more importantly, one his coaches and teammates insist he's up to.

Cox, a fiery redhead, sat down with me on Thursday, and here's my Q&A with him:

With Stafford's career taking off the last two years, did you ever think you were in the wrong place at the wrong time? You probably could have been the starter at a lot of other schools.

JC: I never tried to look at it that way, because I knew it wouldn't do me any good. I knew when I signed here that this was the place for me and where I wanted to be no matter if I was playing or not. I knew they were going to be bringing in top players at every position every year. It was definitely difficult not playing, but I still tried to look at the positives. I learned a lot and felt like I helped the younger guys, being in the huddle with them and helping them get on the field quicker.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Why in the name of Paul W. "Bear" Bryant would the SEC be envious of other leagues?

Green Day
College Football Nation is decked out in green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. While you can't tell if our bloggers actually are wearing the day's color, their posts are green from head to toe.

Green with envy: Teams
Green with envy: Conferences
Who could use a four-leaf clover?
What is your teams' greenest unit?
Best/worst spent green

After all, the SEC has won four of the last six BCS national championships, and Florida will be favored to make it five of the last seven next season.

Sure, they play football in other leagues around the country, but nobody lives it 365 days a year the way people do in the SEC.

But as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, even the SEC has a few things to be envious of when it comes to other conferences:

Big 12 passing games: The SEC had Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford and Jevan Snead last season, but nobody threw the football around the park like the Big 12 quarterbacks. Among them, the Big 12's top five quarterbacks (Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel and Todd Reesing) threw 200 touchdown passes last season. You could have put some of the SEC passing games out there for 30 games last season and they wouldn't have come close to reaching that total. In fact, the 12 teams in the SEC combined for a total of 208 touchdown passes last season to go along with 161 interceptions.

The JoePa way: Let's face it. Joe Paterno can do what he wants. I guess that's what happens when you're still kicking everybody's rear end at 82 and own more victories (383) than any other coach in FBS history. The guy's 82. He's had hip replacement surgery, and he's still going strong. Can you imagine any pour soul in the SEC lasting to even 70 as a head coach? JoePa has it figured out. He's untouchable. If he doesn't want to do a television interview he's contractually obligated to do, he doesn't do it. If he wants to chase down an official after the game, he does it. What are they going to do to him? He's JoePa. Not even Nick Saban has that kind of power.

The road in the ACC: Playing a game on the road in the ACC is akin to spending a few days at a quiet, secluded resort. In the SEC, you have to brave such places as Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night, the sweltering heat and ear-bursting noise of the Swamp or passion-filled Bryant-Denny Stadium with 90,000-plus fans going crazy and the ghost of the Bear leaning against the goal post in one end zone. Going on the road in the SEC is like a going to a brawl in the meanest, toughest neighborhood in town. With the exception of a few spots (Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech), going on the road in the ACC is like going on a vacation.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Georgia's Jeff Owens was like any other Bulldog a year ago. He couldn't wait for the season to begin.

 
  Doug Benc/Getty Images
  Jeff Owens is hoping to bounce back from a torn ACL.

The Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the country, and Owens was one of the anchors of the defense from his tackle position. He was primed for a big senior season.

But in the first quarter of the opener against Georgia Southern, his season was over. He tore the ACL in his right knee while running to make a play. He jumped over a player, landed awkwardly on his right knee -- and just like that -- was done for the season.

Because Owens hadn't previously redshirted, he was eligible to return to Georgia for the 2009 season and elected to do so rather than test the NFL waters. Projected as a high NFL draft pick before his injury, Owens will team with Geno Atkins to give Georgia the best tackle tandem in the SEC.

Owens is still working his way back to full health, but said he's getting close.

Here's my conversation with the 6-foot-3, 298-pound senior, who had started in 15 straight games before his injury and will be an integral part of the Georgia defense in 2009:

What percentage are you right now coming off that knee injury?

Jeff Owens: I'd have to say I'm about 75 or 80 percent, around that area. I'm doing close to everything. I'm running now, and that's a big plus. I'm getting my strength back, and everything is coming along well.

How difficult was last season, especially watching the defense struggle at times?

JO: It was rough; your senior year and you get hurt and you know you could have helped your teammates out there. But you've got to bounce back and weather the storm. Injuries always happen. They happen every year, and it unfortunately happened to me. It wasn't just me, either. We had a lot of guys get hurt last year.

When was it the hardest for you?

JO: When they'd get ready to go on the road and I couldn't travel with the team. I'd just have to sit back at home and watch. That hurt me more than you will know. I think it was the lowest point in my life so far. I knew I just had to have the courage to get back out there and work hard. There's nothing fun about rehabbing an ACL tear.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

We start a week-long primer today that should further get you ready for the start of spring practice in the SEC.

The first topic: Who are the five players or coaches in the SEC that will be the toughest to replace in 2009?

Let's face it. There are some big shoes to fill in this league.

Here goes:

 
  Charles Sonnenblick/Getty Images
  It won't be easy for Florida to replace Percy Harvin.

1. Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith: This was an easy choice for the top spot. For one, Smith is one of the best left tackles to come through the SEC in the last decade. He was dominant in every way. But go back and look at what the Crimson Tide did (or didn't do) without him last season in the two games he missed. They struggled mightily against Tulane and were torched by Utah in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Retooling the offensive line will be a major undertaking for Alabama. Also gone are All-American center Antoine Davis and steady guard Marlon Davis. A couple of first-year players could be in line to replace Smith -- junior college newcomer James Carpenter and highly rated true freshman D.J. Fluker, who won't be on campus until this summer. If neither are ready, Alabama might have to move Mike Johnson over to left tackle from his guard spot. Johnson filled in for Smith in the bowl game before leaving with an ankle injury.

2. Florida running back/receiver Percy Harvin: How do you replace the most explosive player in the SEC, maybe the explosive player in all of college football? Harvin was a threat to go the distance as a running back and a receiver, and it didn't matter where you lined him up. The only knock on him was that he was prone to injury. He was coming back from a nasty sprained ankle in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game, but still managed to rush for 122 yards on nine carries, catch five passes for 49 yards and score a touchdown in the 15th straight game in which he'd played. Without him, Florida probably doesn't beat Oklahoma. Don't feel too sorry for the Gators, though. They still have plenty of speedy playmakers -- just nobody quite like Harvin. Some of the guys to watch are Deonte Thompson, David Nelson and incoming true freshman Andre Debose. Florida also redshirted three receivers last season who were all highly rated coming out of high school.

3. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford: As great as running back Knowshon Moreno was, strong-armed quarterbacks like Stafford, who've started since their freshman season, are invaluable. His leaving early for the NFL draft also means Georgia will be going with somebody at quarterback (whoever it is) that has little or no experience in SEC competition. With Stafford's ability to make every throw, he kept defensive coordinators honest. He could beat you a number of different ways. Some of the Georgia fans got down on him at times because of untimely interceptions, but he led the SEC with an average of 266.1 passing yards per game last season and was second with 25 touchdowns, while completing 61.4 percent of his passes. Those numbers won't be easy to replace. Taking his shot will be fifth-year senior Joe Cox, who rallied Georgia past Colorado as a redshirt freshman in 2006. True freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger are already on campus and will go through spring practice, and sophomore Logan Gray is one of the best all-around athletes on the team.

4. Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers: If you've been keeping up with the NFL combine, you're getting a feel for what kind of talent Ayers is. He was the second-best player on Tennessee's team last season behind All-American safety Eric Berry. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Ayers was the kind of defensive lineman coaches love. He could play inside or outside and finished third in the SEC with 15.5 tackles for loss. Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith said Ayers was the best player he faced last season and was equally good as a pass rusher and against the run. The other thing that makes Ayers so difficult to replace is that the Vols are scary thin on the defensive line, and they certainly don't have a proven difference-maker at this point in Ayers' mold. This is a big spring for junior defensive ends Ben Martin and Chris Walker, but neither are big enough to slide inside and help. Senior Wes Brown may get a look inside after having a solid 2008 season at end. But other than senior tackle Dan Williams, there's not much there on the interior for the Vols.

5. Ole Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry: The only reason Jerry's not a little higher up on this list is because Ole Miss does have some quality depth in its defensive line. Former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron had recruited extremely well in the defensive line, and Jerry was the gem of that group. He was the SEC's most dominant defensive tackle during the last half of the 2008 season and completely took over games at times. He wrecked opposing teams' plays before they ever had a chance to get started and lifted the play of everybody else around him. Jerry was a first-team All-American who led the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss from his tackle position, and that kind of player doesn't come around every day. He was also one of the leaders of the Rebels' defense. Ole Miss returns Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and Jerrell Powe in the middle. Laurent and Scott both have star potential, and if the 335-pound Powe can keep his weight down, he also has a chance to be a real factor next season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

A quick glance around the SEC to see what's making news:

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Let's take a look at what's making headlines around the SEC:

SEC bowl helmet stickers

January, 12, 2009
1/12/09
12:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Now that the bowl season has come and gone, it's time to reward those in the SEC who stepped up with our final round of helmet stickers. The SEC (outside of Alabama and South Carolina) really flexed its muscle during the bowl bonanza, and special props go to Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt for winning their games despite being underdogs. There were several memorable performances to choose from:

Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida: Is he the greatest college football player in history? He's already established himself as one of the best and will be back for his senior season. As a competitor, he's one of the fiercest to ever come through the SEC. And typically, he was at his best in the fourth quarter of Florida's 24-14 win over Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game. Tebow finished with 231 yards passing and two touchdowns and also rushed for 109 yards. He was exceptional on third down. But, then, he has been all season.

Percy Harvin, running back/receiver, Florida: If not for the sprained ankle and hairline fracture, Harvin wouldn't have been caught by the Sooners on a couple of those runs where he hit the sideline. But even at less than 100 percent, he was the most dynamic player on the field with 122 yards rushing (averaging 13.5 yards per carry) and five catches for 49 yards. Without him, the Gators probably don't win the game.

Torrey Davis, defensive tackle, Florida: Davis had made more news off the field than he had on the field in what had been a disappointing sophomore season. That all changed with his fourth-down tackle of Oklahoma's Chris Brown for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter. The Sooners had it fourth-and-goal at the 1 and were poised to take a 14-7 lead, but Davis shot through the line and changed the entire complexion of the game.

Jevan Snead, quarterback, Ole Miss: Nobody played a bigger role in Ole Miss' six-game winning streak to end the season than Snead, who capped it off with a career-high 292 passing yards and three touchdown passes in the Rebels' 47-34 win over Texas Tech in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. All three of his touchdown passes came in the first half after Texas Tech had taken an early 14-0 lead. Snead threw 16 touchdown passes and only three interceptions during Ole Miss' six-game unbeaten streak.

Houston Nutt, head coach, Ole Miss: Yes, he could pass for a highly-strung, tent revival preacher, but the charismatic Nutt was exactly what the Ole Miss program needed. A brilliant motivator, he engineered the biggest turnaround from one season to the next since the legendary John Vaught's debut in 1947. The Rebels went from winless in the SEC in 2007 to 9-4 overall (5-3 SEC) in 2008, including the 47-34 dismantling of Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

LSU's defense: The Tigers, maligned for much of the season for being the ultimate underachievers on defense, took out some frustration in the Chick-fil-A Bowl by thrashing Georgia Tech 38-3. LSU's defense smothered Georgia Tech's option attack and held the Yellow Jackets to just 162 rushing yards. It's the same Georgia Tech offense that ended the regular season by torching Miami for 472 rushing yards and Georgia for 409 yards on the ground.

Bobby Johnson, head coach, Vanderbilt: The feel-good story of the bowl season was the Commodores bouncing back from a disappointing finish to the regular season and knocking off Boston College, 16-14, in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl for their first bowl victory since 1955. Johnson and his staff have done a superlative job with this program. Getting a school with the academic standards of Vanderbilt to seven wins in a conference the caliber of the SEC speaks for itself. Forget what Johnson's record at Vanderbilt says. The guy can coach.

Bryant Hahnfeldt, kicker, Vanderbilt: On a day when Vanderbilt didn't score an offensive touchdown and was held to just 200 yards of total offense, Hahnfeldt was the Commodores' offense. The senior kicker went out in style with field goals of 45, 42 and 26 yards. The 45-yarder with 3:26 left was the game-winner.

Ventrell Jenkins, defensive tackle, Kentucky: The Wildcats' defense ended the season the way it started it, and Jenkins' 56-yard fumble return for a touchdown was the difference. He scooped up a loose ball, forced by fellow defensive tackle Myron Pryor, used a mean stiff-arm and showcased uncanny balance for a 285-pound lineman on his way to the end zone in Kentucky's 25-19 win over East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. The Wildcats rallied from a 16-3 halftime deficit.

Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Georgia: In what turned out to be his final game at Georgia, Stafford shook off a poor first half to throw all three of his touchdown passes in the second half, leading the Bulldogs to a 24-12 victory over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. Stafford completed 14 of his final 17 passes, including his three touchdown strikes. He set a single-season school record with 25 touchdown passes.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten probably wants to forget this postseason after going 1-6 in bowls. But several players stood out, even in defeat, and they deserve recognition. Let's hand out helmet stickers for the final time this season, beginning with the one Big Ten team (Iowa) that actually won its bowl.

Iowa running back Shonn Greene -- Playing in what would be his final collegiate game, the Hawkeyes' junior went out with a flourish, racking up 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Greene eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 13 games and set a single-season school rushing record with 1,850 yards.

Iowa strong safety Tyler Sash -- South Carolina was in a giving mood (five turnovers), and Sash capitalized with two interceptions, raising his season total to five. Sash, a redshirt freshman who became one of the team's top playmakers, picked off Stephen Garcia's first pass of the game and had interception returns of 45 and 29 yards.

Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher -- The senior recorded an interception and a forced fumble in his final game in a Hawkeyes uniform. With Iowa up 14-0, Fletcher squashed any chance of a South Carolina rally by intercepting a Garcia pass in the end zone for a touchback. He also forced a fumble on South Carolina's first play of the second half.

Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman -- He hadn't taken significant snaps since September but gave Ohio State a big lift in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Texas. The offense was sputtering until Boeckman found Brian Robiskie for a 48-yard completion on the first play of the fourth quarter. Boeckman later threw a touchdown to fellow quarterback Terrelle Pryor and nearly helped Ohio State to a big upset.

Ohio State's defense -- Colt McCoy and Quan Cosby had the final word in Glendale, but Ohio State held the high-powered Texas offense well below its season scoring average. The Buckeyes racked up three sacks and nine tackles for loss and limited big plays until Cosby's 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left.

Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher -- Bacher ended an up-and-down senior season with arguably his best performance in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri in a 30-23 overtime loss. Bacher threw only one interception and spread the ball well to his veteran targets.

Northwestern's senior wide receivers -- Rasheed Ward, Ross Lane and Eric Peterman combined for 19 receptions, 261 yards and three touchdowns in the Alamo Bowl. All three had scoring receptions of 20 yards or longer, highlighted by Lane's circus catch in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter.

Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman -- The Rose Bowl was a rough one for Penn State's defense, but Bowman certainly did his part with five tackles for loss and a sack. Bowman finished the season with 106 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. Next season he'll form the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem with Sean Lee.

Michigan State safety Otis Wiley -- Wiley and his fellow defenders held Georgia to three first-half points in the Capital One Bowl and gave the Spartans offense a chance to create some distance on the scoreboard. Michigan State eventually caved against Matthew Stafford, but Wiley had a forced fumble and seven tackles to go along with 87 return yards in his final collegiate game.

Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker -- Decker returned from knee surgery and an ankle injury to boost the Gophers in the Insight Bowl with eight receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. The junior set Minnesota bowl records for receptions and receiving yards and will return in 2009 as one of the Big Ten's top targets.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten took a beating this bowl season, but rather than gripe about unfavorable locations and matchups, it's time to acknowledge a fact about the league.

The quarterback position stinks.

And in this age of college football, that equals competitive suicide.

All it took was a look across the field during bowl season to realize how far the Big Ten must progress at the quarterback spot.

The list of quarterbacks the Big Ten faced included:

  • Texas junior Colt McCoy, a Heisman Trophy finalist who ranks fourth nationally in pass efficiency, fifth in total offense and ninth in passing yards.
  • USC junior Mark Sanchez, who ranks sixth nationally in pass efficiency and 20th in pass yards.
  • Georgia junior Matthew Stafford, who ranks 15th nationally in pass efficiency and 14th in pass yards.
  • Missouri senior Chase Daniel, who ranks fourth nationally in pass yards and fifth in total offense.
  • Kansas junior Todd Reesing, who ranks eighth nationally in both passing yards and total offense.

Of the Big Ten quarterbacks competing in bowl games, only one, Penn State's Daryll Clark, ranks among the top 25 nationally in pass efficiency (Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor did not qualify). Minnesota's Adam Weber had the most passing yards (2,761), which ranks 35th nationally.

Granted, the Big Ten's best statistical passer, Illinois' Juice Williams, didn't reach the postseason, but this league is losing the arms race.

The Big Ten had by far the best stable of running backs in the country this season, boasting three of the nation's top six ball carriers (Shonn Greene, Javon Ringer, Chris "Beanie" Wells).

Who cares?

College football has become a quarterback's game, and the Big Ten has fallen way behind. For the Big Ten to restore its place among the nation's top conferences, the fix must begin under center. It takes more than adopting the spread offense, which most Big Ten teams have done. Quarterbacks must be better developed in this conference.

And despite the league's sagging national reputation, there is hope.

The quarterback spot figures to be stronger in 2009 than it was in 2008.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Mark Richt's job at Georgia next season is about to get a lot harder.

Multiple reports say quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno will announce at a 3 p.m. news conference Wednesday that they plan to forego their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft.

Stafford apparently wrestled with his decision and talked to several people, including the Manning family. Both Peyton and Eli stayed in school all four years and were both No. 1 picks.

With Stafford and Moreno gone, the Bulldogs will fall back into the pack as far as hype and won't face near the expectations they did this season. They were preseason No. 1 in the polls, but battled injuries and never came close to playing to that level.

Joe Cox, who will be a senior, is the favorite to replace Stafford at quarterback. Cox has at least played some and knows what it's like to face SEC defenses. The Bulldogs also like Logan Gray, who's athletic enough that he returned some punts this season. Gray will be a third-year sophomore next season.

The two incoming freshmen at quarterback are Aaron Murray of Tampa, Fla., and Zach Mettenberger of Watkinsville, Ga. Murray was the top-rated quarterback in the state of Florida last year and can run and pass. Mettenberger is closer to being the pure pocket passer of the two. Both players are midterm enrollees and will be able to go through spring practice.

Winning Moreno's tailback job will be a battle between Richard Samuel and Caleb King. But as the Bulldogs have shown in the past, they will play multiple players back there. Samuel passed King this season on the depth chart, but both players are immensely talented.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State had the lead at halftime, but the Spartans didn't have the momentum they needed in the Capital One Bowl against No. 15 Georgia.

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 The Georgia defense never allowed Javon Ringer to get on track.

A more talented but seemingly disinterested Georgia team gave No. 18 Michigan State numerous opportunities to take control of the game. The Spartans ran 26 plays in Bulldogs territory in the opening half but produced only six points. That's nowhere near good enough. Michigan State easily could have been ahead by double digits.

The missed opportunities wound up costing the Spartans in a 24-12 loss.

Credit Georgia's much-maligned defense for shutting down Spartans star Javon Ringer (47 yards) and putting quarterback Brian Hoyer under constant duress. The game was won at the line of scrimmage, and Georgia's speed in the defensive front proved to be the difference. Michigan State (9-4) needed a strong performance from its offensive line to spring Ringer, and it didn't get one.

In many ways, the Capital One Bowl mirrored another near miss by a Big Ten team. Like Michigan State, Northwestern dominated the first half against Missouri in the Alamo Bowl but found itself tied at the break because of a few miscues. The Wildcats went on to lose.

Put bluntly, this year's bowl matchups were terrible for the Big Ten, but both Michigan State and Northwestern had opportunities for upsets and neither team could convert.

Credit Michigan State coordinator Pat Narduzzi and a defense that came to play today. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford looked bewildered during the first half, and the Spartans frustrated Bulldogs star Knowshon Moreno.

Georgia Vs. Big Ten in Bowls
BowlOpponentResult
2009 Capital One Michigan St. W, 24-12
2004 Outback Wisconsin W, 24-21
2003 Capital One Purdue W, 34-27
1999 Outback Purdue W, 28-25
1997 Outback Wisconsin W, 33-6
1992 Citrus Ohio St. W, 21-14
1988 Gator Michigan St. W, 34-27
Note: Georgia is 1-2 vs. Big Ten teams in regular-season games.

With a bigger lead entering the third quarter, Michigan State's defense might have continued to surge. But Stafford got things together and made several brilliant throws to rally his team. By the time Michigan State got in the end zone, Georgia's talent-stocked offense was rolling along.

Despite the loss, Michigan State made major strides this season and head coach Mark Dantonio got everything out of his players. The program is on the upswing.

The Spartans must make upgrades throughout their offense -- quarterback, wide receiver, line -- and find a way to replace Ringer's production. They really could have used a game-changer like Devin Thomas today. The defense loses only three starters and should be much stronger in 2009 behind Greg Jones and Trevor Anderson.

The Big Ten falls to 1-4 in bowl games and remains on pace for the worst postseason in its history. Iowa looked dominant and both Michigan State and Northwestern had bright spots in defeat, but the Big Ten desperately needs a BCS win from Penn State or Ohio State.

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