No shocker that Washington pulled the plug on the Keith Gilbertson era in Seattle. It is pretty amazing to think how far that program has plummeted in the past three years going from top-10 program to perhaps the worst of all the teams in the BCS conferences. (Although we think they'd still probably knock off Temple.)
That said, this is still a plum job. U-Dub has one of the nation's best stadiums, a great city and school to sell, solid facilities and a strong tradition. The leading contenders are, of course, Utah's Urban Meyer, Boise State's Dan Hawkins and even UTEP's Mike Price, the former Washington State coach. But the two names we're told to keep an eye on are LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
Fisher is very charismatic and held in high regard by new Washington head honcho Mark Emmert, who came from LSU and will have the big voice in this hire. Chow, long considered one of college football's great minds, would seem like a great fit here. He spent most of his career in Utah and has recruited all over this region. He has a keen eye for talent. His rep also would invigorate a program that has made its bones for cranking out top QBs. Yes, he is the highest-paid assistant in the college game, but don't think a school like Washington couldn't pay him much better. He has been very selective with his career moves, but we think he'd go because of the potential here.
"He's as good a prospect as you could find in the country," his boss Pete Carroll said Monday. "I think he's the best prospect in the country."
If Chow did get the call, the real excitement would then begin since it likely could trigger a series of key moves. Tops among those: junior QB Matt Leinart might put his name in the NFL draft and Mark Sanchez, the nation's top QB prospect, might even follow Chow up to Seattle.
You had to love some of the stars stepping up in the Michigan-Michigan State thriller last weekend, most notably the Wolverines Braylon Edwards and Mike Hart and State's DeAndre Cobb, but lost in all the fireworks was a very impressive performance by State center Chris Morris who helped pave the way for the Spartans huge day running on the Wolverines by handling massive NT Gabe Watson.
As for Edwards he gets our vote for the Biletnikoff. On two of his touchdown grabs, State's Jaren Hayes had good position on the big wideout and Edwards simply out-athleted him to make the plays. That's what great players do at crunch time.
We think the world of Aaron Rodgers and Jeff Tedford's rep for spicing up offenses, but we're convinced the most underrated unit in all of college football is the Cal defense. This group is in serious need of some praise. They lead, by far, the Pac-10 in red zone defense and have been surprisingly stout against the run (surrendering 2.8 ypc). They have two studs in LB Wendell Hunter and DE Ryan Riddle (8 sacks) and a good anchor in DT Lorenzo Alexander.
But the key is how well D-coordinator Bob Gregory (another Boise State guy) has them playing together. The Bears play fast, are very disciplined and tackle well. They showed that against a tricky scheme in Air Force, holding UCLA's Maurice Drew to 3.0 yards per carry and Reggie Bush to 29 yards on 8 carries and once catch for six.
Think Utah's Alex Smith will run away with first all-Mountain West honors? The league, comprised of many teams with long-time reps for offensive fireworks, has only two QBs among its top eight with more TDs than INT-Smith and BYU's John Beck (throwing at a still pedestrian 9-7 clip). Smith, having thrown 20 TDs against just two INTs, is playing so far ahead of everyone else in that league it's ridiculous.
Can he win the Heisman? Doubtful. The only scenario we see that could make it happen would be for Matt Leinart to have a three-interception day and/or USC lose; Peterson fumbling away a game AND Auburn to lose.
Few could've expected Auburn would lose standout linebackers Dontarrious Thomas and Karlos Dansby to the NFL and the Tigers D would be better. But apparently, that's the deal. A few big reasons are the Tigers stellar DBs, namely CB Carlos Rogers who is playing like a future first-rounder and AU's young bookend redshirt freshmen pass-rushing terrors Quentin "The Freak" Groves and Stanley "The Predator" McClover.
Groves is a powerful 242-pound converted linebacker. He had four sacks against Kentucky a few weeks back and is tied with David Pollack for the SEC sack lead with 7.5. McClover is third in the league with 6.5 and has a league-best four forced fumbles. The tandem has enabled D-coordinator Gene Chizik to put heat on QBs without having to blitz his linebackers.
The Tigers are running away with SEC sacks lead with 32, just two less than what the team generated in 13 games a year ago.
Parting Shot: Penn State just gets more dreadful each week. Now 2-6, the Nittany Lions have assured JoePa his fourth losing season in the last five years. The loss to Ohio State last weekend was the Nittany Lions' 10th consecutive road loss and their 12th loss in the past 13 Big Ten games.
The PSU D is decent, but the problem lies with its inept offense. They're averaging less than seven points in their losses, and a lot of the blame goes to the Lion coaches inability to develop a quarterback. Zack Mills has been awful as has Michael Robinson, who not so coincidentally is the team's only legit receiving threat. What to do? Go with true freshman QB Anthony Morelli. He has a cannon for an arm and will need to get some seasoning anyhow since he figures to be the guy in '05. Morelli was considered by some recruiters a better prospect than Chad Henne. True, Morelli won't have Braylon Edwards or Mike Hart or a decent O-line, but at least he'll have Robinson.
Bruce Feldman is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His first book Cane Mutiny: How the Miami Hurricanes Overturned the Football Establishment is out in bookstores. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.