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Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Updated: September 24, 4:48 PM ET
The Dash looks for dating advice around the country

By Pat Forde
ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (coaching-box laptop [1] sold separately in South Bend, and completely innocuously, and never to be used to help gain a decided schematic advantage of any kind):

Dating X-And-O's

The latest proof that Texas Tech coach Mike Leach (2) is among the more fascinating football coaches on the planet comes from this YouTube clip. In it, Leach dispenses dating advice on his coach's show. Among his first-date stratagems: Avoid salad-intensive menus, thus "the girl will be forced to eat in front of you, which is something that women hate, but the earlier the better." Also: If the conversation is lagging, go to a coffee house so you can talk about "the bizarre-looking characters going in and out."

Mike Leach
How long before Mike Leach gets an eHarmony endorsement?
What date could go wrong with advice like that? No wonder Leach's offenses score so often.

The fact Leach would field the question is tremendous. That he discussed it with a stone-cold straight face is supernatural, but in character. Leach could open the door to fetch the morning paper, be greeted by a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the front lawn and fail to change facial expression or voice inflection.

But it also got The Dash wondering what dating tips other coaches might offer young men on their campuses.

Bobby Petrino (3): "Flatter her all night -- but keep your eyes open. If you see a hotter girl, pretend to go to the bathroom and then slip off to get her phone number."

Rich Rodriguez (4): "Go with the no-huddle offense, and hope she doesn't respond with the no-cuddle defense."

Pete Carroll (5): "Treat her like someone special. Pour on the charm. Then once you get a commitment for a second date, make it clear that you have seven other bombshells lined up if she doesn't put out."

Bob Stoops (6): "It's all calendar-related. I've always had great success on first dates in September, October, November and December, but they bomb in early January for some reason."

Mike Gundy (7): "If she says something you don't like, stand up in the middle of the restaurant and scream your age at her."

Anya Monzikova
You'll probably have better luck with Anya Monzikova's briefcase on "Deal or No Deal" than on a date with her.
Charlie Weis (8): "If things start going badly, remind her how lousy her ex-boyfriend was."

Jim Tressel (9): "Keep it conservative. Maybe an ice cream cone followed by a little sweater shopping. If she has a Southern accent, give up immediately."

Bobby Bowden (10): "Make that date last forever. Even if it's no fun by the end of the night and you can tell she'd like you to leave, just keep hanging on."

Joe Paterno (11): "Take her to see one of those new-fangled motion picture shows. I hear they have some in color these days."

Nick Saban (12): "Tell her you're too busy breaking down Tennessee's third-and-long offensive tendencies to go on some stupid date. Where is your commitment, son? Who gave you permission to have a life? Drop and give me 20."

And if your date turns out to be Dashette Anya Monzikova (13), bring your A-game and hope it's good enough.

In Grobe's Wake

Jim Grobe
Despite less NFL-caliber talent, Jim Grobe is working wonders at Wake Forest.
That Wake Forest (14) is the last unbeaten in the ACC, after beating Florida State for the third straight year, is proof positive it easily has the best coach in a league beset by bad coaching in recent years.

Jim Grobe (15) is 23-7 since the start of 2006, 12-5 in league play. That's at a school which has no football tradition and has had precious little elite talent. The Demon Deacons have had five players selected in the last two NFL drafts, none higher than the fourth round.

Compare Grobe's results to those schools that have more of everything:

Virginia Tech (16) -- 11 NFL draftees, one first-rounder, 24-7 record. The Hokies have had four wide receivers drafted the past two years, including red-hot Denver Broncos rookie Eddie Royal, yet have been largely inept throwing the ball.

Miami (17) -- Eight NFL draftees, four first-rounders, 14-14 record. This was the bottoming-out process at the end of the Larry Coker Era and beginning of Randy Shannon's tenure.

Florida State (18) -- Eight NFL draftees, one first-rounder, 16-13 record. Sixteen games into high-paid offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher's tenure, the Seminoles still have not scored 30 points against a BCS conference opponent. The three-point effort against Wake was pathetic.

Tommy Bowden
Tommy Bowden has turned into a serial underachiever at Clemson.
Clemson (19) -- Seven NFL draftees, one first-rounder, 20-10 record. Nobody can annually underachieve like Tommy Bowden's Tigers, who have criminally underutilized the running back tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller (76 carries combined on the year).

Boston College (20) -- Five NFL draftees, two first-rounders, 23-7 record. The Eagles have an identical record to the Demon Deacons with better talent.

Virginia (21) -- Five NFL draftees, two first-rounders, 15-13 record. Once Chuck Amato and John Bunting were broomed off Tobacco Road, Al Groh became the undisputed shakiest coach in the league. Not much to show for having had Chris Long, Branden Albert, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Heath Miller, Matt Schaub ...

Georgia Tech (22) -- Five draftees, one first-rounder, 19-12 record. The switch to Paul Johnson should help the Yellow Jackets' endless struggle to rise above Pretty Good to Very Good.

The coaching in the ACC is gradually improving, with North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke and Miami joining Georgia Tech in making recent upgrades. But clearly there is room for additional improvement.

Idaho Wardrobe Malfunctions, Cont.

A couple of weeks ago The Dash showed you the unfortunate football pants the luckless Idaho Vandals (23) started the season wearing -- the ones with the big block "I" right in the middle of the seat. Might as well have been a "Kick Me" sign on every player's backside. The school requested and received less unfortunate britches.

But that's been followed up by another uniform maelstrom in Moscow. It seems the cheerleaders began the season wearing two-piece unis that showed more than many Mr. and Mrs. Vandal Fans wanted to see. (From pictures The Dash has seen of the unis, Idaho fans are slightly behind the times. Just a generation or two.)

"The cheerleader uniform scandal," was the rather hyperbolic phrase used on KREM-TV last week.

The "scandal" was put to rest when the cheerleaders wore football jerseys and volleyball shorts as a stop-gap measure for their next game. More uniforms have been ordered and are on the way.

The Dash hopes a school with a very modest athletic budget isn't dipping into it to buy second sets of uniforms for both the football team and the cheerleaders. If so, it can cut costs by firing the equipment manager, or whoever signed off on the gear in the first place.

Breakout Year

To have a successful season, every team needs a "pleasant surprise" or two -- players who are seizing the day now in a way few people could have anticipated last year. Six who have caught The Dash's eye:

David Johnson
Nobody is missing Paul Smith with the way David Johnson is throwing the football.
David Johnson (24), Tulsa quarterback. Solid QB play looked like the missing ingredient for a Golden Hurricane offense loaded everywhere else. So far, Johnson hasn't been solid; he's been spectacular. He leads the nation in pass efficiency and has thrown for 1,219 yards and 15 touchdown passes in three games. Keep that pace up for 12 games, plus a potential Conference USA championship game, plus a bowl game, and that's 70 TDs. Which would be crazy.

Kellen Moore (25), Boise State quarterback. Now you know why Chris Petersen chose the redshirt freshman over several more experienced QBs on his roster. He lit up Oregon in Autzen Stadium for 386 passing yards and three touchdowns in a game that made sure people didn't forget about the Broncos in the BCS Buster Derby.

Victor Anderson (26), Louisville running back. The redshirt freshman is tiny (5-foot-7, 175 pounds) but fast and full of moves -- a nice complement to banger back Brock Bolen. Anderson's 176 yards against Kansas State last week included three touchdown runs and gave the Cardinals' offense the explosiveness it has been lacking.

Jake Paulson (27), Air Force defensive tackle. He started out playing on the JV team and had started only a handful of games before this season. Now the senior Paulson leads the nation in sacks (six solo, two assists in four games), and he's scored a defensive touchdown and a safety for the plucky Falcons.

Mark Sanchez (28), USC quarterback. Sanchez was a hugely touted recruit, but Pete Carroll felt unsure enough about him as the successor to John David Booty that he took in Mitch Mustain as a high-profile transfer from Arkansas. That competition ended in the spring, though, and Sanchez has only further established his credentials after recovering from an August knee injury. He's ranked 13th nationally in pass efficiency for the No. 1 team in the country.

Daryll Clark (29), Penn State quarterback. Most people figured it wouldn't be hard to improve upon departed senior Anthony Morelli, but Clark has done more than that. He's thrown just one interception along with seven touchdowns passes in 114 career attempts and is running the Nittany Lions' explosive spread offense expertly -- admittedly against a cake schedule so far.

Detail Oriented

Brandon James
Brandon James has been dynamic in the return game for the Gators.
One of the reasons Urban Meyer (30) is so successful is he sweats over every facet of his Florida football program. Not just recruiting and schemes, but ball security and special teams, too. Just look at the numbers.

The Gators are the last team in America without a turnover and are a plus-nine in turnover margin through three games. On special teams, they've scored each contest: twice on Brandon James punt returns (74 and 78 yards) and once on a punt blocked through the end zone for a safety. Florida ranks third in the nation in punt returns, eighth in net punting, 12th in kickoff returns and has been perfect on placements.

All of which helps make up for a passing attack that ranks 98th nationally, making Tim Tebow's bid to repeat as Heisman Trophy winner a long shot.

Crummy Conference Of The Week

The Pacific-10 (31). Every team but You Know Who has lost at least once. Every team but You Know Who is unranked. Six Pac-10 teams have lost to a non-BCS team. Two Pac-10 coaches rank among the leading candidates nationally to be fired (Washington's Ty Willingham and Arizona's Mike Stoops). One conference (the Mountain West) is openly laughing at the Pac-10. No conference has more consistent officiating issues.

There are a couple of nonconference credibility games left to come this week in the Pac-10: UCLA hosts Fresno State and California hosts Colorado State. But home field hasn't meant much to a league that is 8-5 in nonconference home games.

Timetable Check

Despite the nature of our instant-gratification society, it's useless to judge a coach's fitness for his job less than a month into his first season.

A year and a month tells us a little more. Not the entire picture, by any stretch -- at that point Willingham and Weis were heroes at Notre Dame and Rich Brooks (32) was a buffoon at Kentucky, for example. But this is where six men (one from each major conference) who started at their present schools in 2007 currently stand in the program-building department:

Nick Saban ahead of schedule at Alabama. Record: 11-6, 4-0 this year. The Crimson Tide has left Tuscaloosa twice this season to take on BCS-conference competition. Result: two wins by a combined score of 83-24. Instant-impact recruiting has taken Bama from sub-.500 in 2006 to the Top Ten in '08.

Tim Brewster
It's still early, but Tim Brewster should get Minnesota bowl eligible.
Tim Brewster (33) behind schedule but gaining at Minnesota. Record: 5-11, 4-0 this year. The Gophers are 4-0 for the first time since, since, since ... well, since Glen Mason annually used to pick up victories over chumps just like this team has. Brewster hasn't done enough yet to make anyone forget his 1-11 debut season, but there are enough winnable games left on the schedule to return to bowl eligibility. The Gophers are scoring some points behind sophomore quarterback Adam Weber.

Gene Chizik (34) behind schedule at Iowa State. Nobody said it was going to be easy in Ames -- it never has been before, in 116 years of playing football. Chizik is only 3-7 against BCS conference opponents. Problem is, he's only 3-5 against non-BCS opponents. He still stands a solid chance of becoming successful, at least in the short term, but don't expect the breakthrough to happen this year in an improved Big 12 North.

Jim Harbaugh (35) ahead of schedule at Stanford. Record: 6-10, 2-2 this year. The Cardinal is well on its way to a seventh straight losing season, but Harbaugh has been a tangible upgrade from the Buddy Teevens/Walt Harris double whammy that retarded the program's growth earlier this decade. He's won four conference games in 11 tries, which is progress. That one of those wins was over No. 1 USC in Los Angeles sure doesn't hurt.

Butch Davis (36) ahead of schedule at North Carolina -- but not nearly as far as he could have been if they hadn't blown that lead Saturday to Virginia Tech. Record: 6-9, 2-1 this year. The Tar Heels had a true credibility game within their grasp against the Hokies, up 14 at home in the second half, and let it get away. Now they'll have to go at least six weeks without quarterback T.J. Yates, which could scuttle the season. Nevertheless, Davis has quickly upgraded the talent in Chapel Hill and should be set for the long haul.

Steve Kragthorpe (37) behind schedule at Louisville, but possibly gaining in a low-expectation second season. Record: 8-7, 2-1 this year. A hugely disappointing debut season was followed by a hugely disappointing season opener, a 27-2 loss to arch-rival Kentucky. But the Cardinals played their best game yet under Kragthorpe last week in beating Kansas State, and have an opportunity to make another statement Friday in a revenge game against Connecticut (UConn was the opponent in the infamous Fair Catch Game in 2007). Defensive coordinator Ron English has paid immediate dividends.

Putting Out An APB For ...

... Former All-America Texas running back Steve Worster (38), a star from the Darrell Royal heyday of the late 1960s and early 70s. This being Texas-Arkansas week, many older Horns fans will fondly remember their epic 15-14 comeback victory over the Razorbacks that paved the way to the 1969 national title. Worster was a big part of that team, and of Texas' 30-2-1 record over his three-year varsity career. Anyone with information on Worster's whereabouts, please apprise The Dash.

Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that hundreds of Tennessee fans have located 1998 hero quarterback Tee Martin (39), alive and well in Georgia. Martin put on a camp this past summer for "dual-threat" quarterbacks such as himself and has coached on the high school and small-college levels. He also has done some analyst work for Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast. The Dash appreciates the background info.

Point After

When hungry in Louisville, where they just held one remarkable Ryder Cup, The Dash recommends dinner at Limestone Restaurant (40), where the menu is local but upscale. Try the shrimp 'n' grits appetizer and the New Southern veggies, or just have the chef do all the work with a spontaneous five-course tasting menu. And of course, they have a quality beer selection.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.