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14 staffs competing for bowl eligibility

Some move out while others move in. When we started this exercise, 17 staffs were on the brink of bowl eligibility. Last week it was 16. Now, it's 14. An unlucky few (Air Force, Arizona State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Ole Miss and West Virginia) have spent close to a month (or more) on the outside looking in. Is this the week the bouncer finally lets them in the club? 

Air Force: vs. Hawaii (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 on Friday). Last non-bowl season: 2006. Outlook: Troy Calhoun's team is part of the unlucky three-timer group. If it doesn't happen tonight at home versus Hawaii, it may not happen at all. Air Force closes at conference-leader Fresno State.

Arizona State: vs. Washington State (3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: Four weeks ago, the Sun Devils were 5-1 and led the Pac-12 South. Now they must beat Washington State to avoid an all-or-nothing game at Arizona to close the year. 

Georgia Tech: vs. Duke (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last non-bowl season: 1996. Outlook: The Yellow Jackets have the longest bowl streak of any team on this list. The 15-year streak appeared in serious jeopardy a month ago, but three wins in four games have righted the ship for Paul Johnson and co. Saturday is an important game, though, as a loss will require a win at No. 5 Georgia to reach six wins. 

Iowa State: at Kansas (7 p.m. ET, FSN). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Paul Rhoads' team is thankful for the 9-6 win over Iowa because Big 12 play has not been kind to Iowa State. Saturday brings an important trip to face winless-but-scrappy Kansas. 

Louisiana - Lafayette: vs. Western Kentucky (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: After coming achingly close to a shocker at the Swamp, the Ragin' Cajuns get a Hilltoppers team that's lost three of its last four. If Mark Hudspeth's team does stumble on Saturday, ULL still has Florida Atlantic and South Alabama (combined league record: 3-9) on the schedule.

Miami (Fla.): vs. South Florida (3 p.m. ET, Sun Sports). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: With a trip outside ACC play on Saturday, the Hurricanes could conceivably battle Duke next week not only for bowl eligibility, but also for a spot in the ACC title game.

Michigan State: vs. Northwestern (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Last non-bowl season: 2006. Outlook: Mark Dantonio's hard luck Spartans are just 2-4 in Big Ten play, but their four losses have come by a combined 10 points. Northwestern is also no stranger to close finishes (just see last week's game with Michigan), so tune in around 3:30 ET to see a tight finish.

Missouri: vs. Syracuse (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last non-bowl season: 2004. Outlook: Winning Saturday is imperative for Gary Pinkel's team as the Tigers close the year on the road against Johnny Football and red-hot Texas A&M. 

Ole Miss: at LSU (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Last bowl appearance: 2009. Outlook: Unless the Rebels shock LSU in Death Valley, Hugh Freeze will need to beat Mississippi State for the first time in Dan Mullen's tenure in Starkville to end Ole Miss' two-year bowl drought. 

SMU: at Rice (3:30 p.m. ET, CSS). Last non-bowl season: 2008. Outlook: After a loss to Tulane on Oct. 13, SMU stood at 2-4 and seemingly out of any post-season picture. Now, the Mustangs are not only on the brink of a bowl game for the fourth straight year, but could potentially host Tulsa for a spot in the Conference USA title game next week. 

Syracuse: at Missouri (7 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: A upset thumping of Louisville puts the Orange on the brink. In a scheduling oddity, Doug Marrone's team closes the year on the road for four of their final five games. 

Troy: vs. Arkansas State (3:30 p.m. ET). Last bowl appearance: 2010. Outlook: The Trojans have Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee ahead on the schedule. Unfortunately for the Trojans, those teams are currently on a collision course for the Sun Belt title. Larry Blakeney and co. need an upset. 

Wake Forest: at Notre Dame (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC). Last non-bowl season: 2010. Outlook: Jim Grobe's team runs the risk of ending the season on the outside looking in. After losing to N.C. State, the Demon Deacons are heavy underdogs this week and close the year with a hot Vanderbilt team next week.

West Virginia: vs. Oklahoma (7 p.m. ET, FOX). Last non-bowl season: 2001. Outlook: Even in the face of a four-game losing streak, Dana Holgorsen's team is a trendy upset pick this week. Saturday will mark six full weeks since West Virginia's last victory. 

 




Auburn President comments on the state of football program

After a meeting with the board of trustees today, Auburn president Jay Gogue offered up his first public statements on the state of the Auburn football program, and overall athletic department in quite a while.

Here are a few relevant nuggets from his comments to reporters.

Throughout the interview, Gogue remained firm on his stance to not make a decision until after the season, and reiterated time and time again that the team had not performed up to expectations all season long. 

Gogue stated that he will address any potential changes to the football program at the end of the season (no surprise there) and that the decision will ultimately come down to him, not the board, and he will certainly listen to recommendations from athletic director Jay Jacobs.

Word has also been recently circulating that Jacobs will be evaluated at seasons end. Gogue said that they'll look at five key areas when assessing the performance of the athletic director.

"We look at how well our kids are doing academically, graduation rates, APR numbers, graduation success rates. If you look at those data, Auburn athletes only have five out of 580 that have below a 2.0. You have to feel very good about the academic performance of the kids. The average GPA of all athletes is a little over 3.0 So we look at the academic part. That’s critical."

"No. 2, we look at how well we’re complying with the rules of the SEC and the NCAA. Do we have major violations? Have we had any? Those are the areas you look at. The third area we look at, and it relates to some of the questions you asked earlier, how is the gameday experience? That means parking, that means concessions, that means a whole host of things.

"How well does the band do on that day, does the eagle fly good, a variety of things go into that gameday situation. We look at whether you’re living within your budget. We look in the financial aspects of that."

"Finally, we look at how well you play competitively. Those are the five values we look at." Gogue added.

Auburn hosts Alabama A&M (SWAC) this weekend and then closes it out at Alabama a week from Saturday. Alabama A&M has lost 3 of its last 4. Conventional wisdom would say that Auburn should win this one handily. For the staff's sake, let's hope that's the case. 

 

 

 




Steve Spurrier can match a Bear Bryant SEC milestone on Saturday

Steve Spurrier can match an SEC record set by the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant with a win on Saturday. A win over Wofford will be Spurrier's 64th at South Carolina, tying him with Rex Enright for the school record. 

Spurrier is already the all-time winningest coach in Florida history with 122 victories, so, according to the Charleston Post and Courier, a win Saturday would join him with Bryant as the only coaches in SEC history to be the all-time wins leaders at two different schools. 

Bryant won 60 games at Kentucky from 1946-53 and led Alabama to 232 victories from 1958-82. 

Spurrier is still well behind Bryant for the all-time SEC wins record, but with 185 victories Spurrier will likely pass John Vaught of Ole Miss (190 wins) for fourth place and could close in on Dan McGuin of Vanderbilt (197 wins) for third place. Spurrier is 16 wins behind Vince Dooley for second place all-time. Bryant's record of 292 wins remains safe; Bryant also won 25 games at current SEC school Texas A&M, but the Aggies were, of course, members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference at the time. 

Spurrier and Bryant are also the only SEC coaches to win more than 110 conference games. With 116 victories, the Old Ball Coach needs 43 more wins to catch the Bear. 




Ohio State's weight room atmosphere is "not fun, but entertaining"

As Pete Thamel of SI.com points out in a recent article, the Ohio State offensive line has gone through an impressive transformation which started in the weight room, and has since translated nicely onto the field.

Last season, Ohio State ranked 118th nationally in sacks allowed, allowing nearly 4 per game. As if that weren't bad enough, the Buckeyes ranked 114th in pass attempts with just 245 on the season, which shakes out to roughly 19 attempts per game. Meyer was critical of the body composition of the offensive line when he was hired, and realized that needed to change in order to have the success that him and his staff expected.

Urban's new staff brought in plenty of changes, including hiring a full time nutritionist and giving players healthier choices at meals and have also stationed fridges full of Gatorade all over their training facility.

"In the first six months of Meyer's tenure, the team lost 457 pounds of fat and gained 521 pounds of muscle. The offensive line, a group of just a dozen guys, lost a combined 133 pounds of fat." Thamel notes in his article.

That's very impressive.

One of the more interesting parts of the piece centers around the environment that Marotti has created in the weight room. Not only do they get after it with intensity (with the results to prove it), but he also keeps things entertaining and has created an environment where players want to lift. For example, Marotti has been known to have themed lifting days such as "Harley Davidson day" where guys show up to work out dressed in all black and cut-offs.

"It's not a fun atmosphere, but an entertaining atmosphere. It makes you want to lift." one player noted.

This season, the offensive line has improved tremendously. The daily instruction of offensive line coach Ed Warriner on the field, coupled with Marotti's approach in weight room has payed immediate dividends. Through the ten games of 2012, the Buckeyes are averaging just over 2 sacks allowed per game, and have already thrown the ball nearly as many times this season (242) than they did in all of last season's 13 games (245). Ohio State's ground game has also been dominant, ranking 8th nationally in rushing (256 ypg).

With less than a year in Columbus, Meyer and Marotti have already given the Buckeyes a fresher, faster, and lighter identity. There's no doubt that the weight room environment has a lot to do with their transformation and it's clear to see why Urban noted that Marotti was his "most important hire" after he got him on board. 

Let the results on the field speak for themselves




Update on the Idaho search

Early this morning the Spokane Spokesman-Review posted an interview with Idaho offensive coordinator and interim head coach Jason Gesser on his interest in retaining the Idaho head coaching job full-time.

In Gesser words, “I want to be here in the worst way. I love the place. I love the university. I love the community. I finally just got my family over this year and they love it. And so I don’t want to go anywhere else. I really don’t. If I had the opportunity of staying on as the offensive coordinator/quarterback coach again, that would be great. Or whatever it may be. That’s something that I hope if I’m not the guy selected that I do have that opportunity of still staying here.”

After a five-year career in professional football, Gesser is in just his second season coaching college football. He spent five seasons as a high school coach in Washington before becoming the running backs coach at Idaho in 2011. Gesser was promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach prior to this season before receiving the interim head coach tag on Oct. 21.

Sources tell us that Idaho athletics director Rob Spear is still conducting phone interviews and plans to speak with Wyoming defensive coordinator Chris Tormey, Montana State head coach Rob Ash, Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh, along with Gesser, among several others. 

When asked for the ideal candidate, Spear said this, “Obviously we want somebody from a successful program. I want somebody that understands the Northwest and is going to be able to recruit the Northwest. I want somebody who’s going to be able to recruit a high character kid. I want them to hold them accountable. And I want discipline in the program. So those would be the characteristics. And I don’t think you need to say it has to be a former or current head coach. It could be an up-and-coming assistant. I think we’re going to be very open in this process.”

Several coaches have asked us if Dan Hawkins could wind up getting this job. We don't believe Hawk is involved with this one. 

 




Stunning video tour of USC's new facility

A few months back I had the privilege of taking a tour of USC's new "McKay Center" shortly before construction was completed. At that time I could see that this facility was going to be one of the most visually stunning facilities in all of college athletics. 

I haven't been back through it since the team moved in back in July; but had seen a few pics and a some video and knew that the design team (Advent) had hit a home run with the finished product. Well, this morning we noticed that Advent and USC have released the video above showing the final product and to say it's stunning would be an understatement.

Without further adieu...




The Scoop on Friday night's games

Two games dot the FBS schedule tonight, and we'll break down what each game means to the participants and what match-up figure to decide the doubleheader. 

Florida International at Florida Atlantic (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

The 11th Annual Shula Bowl takes place tonight Sun Belt's South Florida programs square off in Boca Raton. Don Shula helped both programs get off the ground financially and has a connection to a former head coach at each school, former FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger worked for Shula with the Miami Dolphins and former FIU head coach Don Strock played quarterback for Shula in Miami. The Owls have a commanding 8-1 lead in the series, but FIU earned its first official win last season, 41-7. (FIU's 2005 win was vacated.)

The first half of the season was unkind to first-year head coach Carl Pelini, but the Owls enter tonight on a two-game Sun Belt winning streak, including a 38-27 upset of Western Kentucky last week. A strong finish can put FAU in position to contend for the Sun Belt crown in 2013, as the Owls will lose a Sun Belt-fewest nine seniors after the year. One of those seniors, however, is quarterback Graham Wilbert, the Sun Belt's third-leading passer. Wilbert has thrown for 518 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in FAU's last two wins. 

After playing in bowl games in back-to-back seasons, this season has been a disappointing one for Mario Cristobal and FIU. The Panthers' best moment came on Nov. 3 when they bested South Alabama 28-20 to stay out of the Sun Belt basement. 

Hawaii at Air Force (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

This match-up slants heavily in favor of an Air Force team looking to sneak its way into a tie for the Mountain West title. At 5-5 overall and 4-2 in league play, Troy Calhoun's team will need to win out and receive some help to claim a share of the conference crown. But that won't matter if they can't beat a 1-8 Hawaii team looking for its first conference and road wins under first-year head coach Norm Chow. 

The telling match-up figures to be when Air Force runs the ball. The Falcons' triple option has been its usual self in 2012, ranking second nationally with 335.3 yards per game and 5.41 yards per carry. Attempting to slow down the Falcons will be a Warriors run defense that checks in at No. 106 in the country with an average of nearly 210 yards per game and 4.77 yards per carry allowed. 

In a telling sign of the struggling season, a marriage between passing guru Norm Chow and a Hawaii program with a history of prolific passers has not materialized in year one. The Warriors rank ninth in the Mountain West in passing efficiency, seventh in passing yards and 10th in scoring. 




VIDEO: Texas A&M pushing #JohnnyFootball for Heisman

Texas A&M released a video pushing freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel for Heisman. 

Here's what A&M had to say about Manziel...

Johnny Manziel is most dynamic player in college football this season. He's broken the 43-year-old SEC record for total yardage in a game - twice. Through just 10 games, he's thrown for more yards than Tim Tebow & Troy Smith had in their respective Heisman seasons, and he's on pace to break Cam Newton's SEC total offense record - even though he will play in one fewer game.

Without a doubt, Johnny "Football" Manziel is best candidate for this year's Heisman Trophy Award.