East Lansing, Michigan
Based on what has transpired on the college football field over the past month or so I would certainly say that USF has every right to play for the National Championship if they run the table this season. Think about this, a month ago they were not even in the top 25. Today they are No. 2 because they have taken care of business on the field. The Bulls have beaten Auburn on the road, West Virginia and everyone else on their schedule this year. They have also gotten some serious help along the way to their meteoric rise in the polls. If LSU, Southern Cal, Cal. and some others win the games they are supposed to win then South Florida would be sitting closer to No. 10 than No. 1.
That's what makes the game of college football so great. You just never know.
Every once in a while there is a new story, a great story within the game. Last year it was Rutgers and this season it's South Florida.
Amazingly, this is only the Bulls 11th season playing college football. 11. Getting this good this fast is not supposed to happen. But USF got on the fast track. First, they found the right leader for the job in Jim Leavitt. Nothing came easy for him and his staff. The program had to fight, scrap and claw for everything.
One thing that they were blessed with was being located in Tampa, Florida. If you follow recruiting then you know Florida is a hotbed of college football prospects. From Key West to the state capitol, the Sunshine State is loaded with great athletes and certainly enough to feed the teams in Tallahassee, Gainesville, Coral Gables, Tampa, Orlando and beyond. Think about all the Floridians on the rosters of teams like West Virginia, Louisville and Clemson among others and you will quickly realize there is more than enough talent to go around.
Just because you sign players from Florida or the bulk of your roster is from Florida doesn't mean instant success. If that were the case than Central Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International would all be better programs than what we see from them today. From day one Leavitt and his staff have done a very good job in evaluation in terms of recruiting and then developing the kids that they sign.
USF also quickly climbed the football ladder from 1-AA to Conference USA to the Big East. Now they are on pace to possibly play not only in a BCS game but potentially the National Championship game.
One thing people outside the USF program and Big East need to realize is that this is a program that will not be a one hit wonder. The Bulls have arrived. This is a young program and an even younger team with a bright future. Sure they are missing a pedigree, but everyone has to start somewhere.
It has been a crazy year in college football. Do you see anyone not losing?
You think you have teams pegged this season and then they get beat. Before the year had started I honestly felt the national title was a foregone conclusion. Just crown the Trojans champions. But USC has not played like a champion this season. Neither have a few other teams that were supposed to challenge for the title. The top 10 has been turned upside down.
Now I do feel that by far, the two most talented teams are USC and LSU. They just have not played up to their potential this season. Maybe I am being a bit hard on the Tigers after losing in overtime to Kentucky. But they knew the stakes and couldn't make the plays when they had to and the Wildcats did.
I do think it's going to be extremely difficult for anyone to run the table this season and go unbeaten, especially after what we have already seen. Let's take a closer look at the unbeaten teams and what's left on their schedule –
This is the kind of Jim Tressel Ohio State team that is the most dangerous because they play great defense, special teams, can run the ball and make very few mistakes. With that formula you know the Buckeyes will be in every game. This Ohio State team has really not been tested so far this season. They are now the top rated team in the country and the target is back on their jersey. Playing at Penn State and at Michigan are going to be very difficult games.
For South Florida I think the biggest test of the season will be when the Bulls travel to Rutgers. It's a short week coming off a big win over a rival (Central Florida). The Bulls played their best overall game of the season and that's hard to do two weeks in a row with less preparation time. I think the Scarlet Knights match up well with USF and they will see a huge dose of Ray Rice all night. If South Florida can get by Rutgers they have the best shot outside of Hawaii at running the table.
You have to love quarterback Matt Ryan and that BC offense. Like Ohio State, have the Eagles really been tested? We will know next Thursday as they travel to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech. They have four other land mines in FSU, Maryland, Clemson and Miami. It's highly doubtful BC runs the table.
Like Boston College I think the schedule is just too tough for Arizona State. Cal., Oregon, UCLA, and USC is a brutal four game stretch.
The Jayhawks have a big test this weekend when they travel to Colorado. The last time the Buffs had a home game they beat Oklahoma. We should know a lot more about Kansas after this Saturday. If they win they could be unbeaten going into the season finale against Missouri.
No question that Hawaii has the easiest road but even if they run the table can they get in the hunt? No way for the title game but they could certainly sneak into the BCS.
I will go on record and say I don't think anyone will go undefeated this season. At the end of the day everyone will have one loss and it will be mass chaos and a mad dash to the BCS finish line.
Who do you see winning the Heisman Trophy?
I can never remember a year where we are midway through the season and you can't really say who the front runner really is. Personally, I think the best college football player in the country is Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. But I think for him to win he will need a monster second half to overcome the Razorbacks three losses. My short list right now would be comprised of quarterbacks Matt Ryan (Boston College), Tim Tebow (Florida), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Andre Woodson (Kentucky) and Brian Brohm (Louisville) and running backs McFadden and Mike Hart (Michigan). My top five (in no order because there is no standout frontrunner at this point) would be McFadden, Harrell, Ryan, Hart and Tebow.
Harrell will have the best statistical year of anyone. He has completed 74% of his passes for an astounding 3,151 yards and 31 touchdown passes in only seven games. He has only three interceptions in 347 attempts so far this year. Harrell is my dark horse and he should continue to put up PlayStation like numbers the rest of the season, with two showcase games (Texas, Oklahoma) to finish the year.
If Ryan and his teammates can run the table or perhaps even go 11-1 he will likely get a Heisman ticket to New York City because the final five games are all against teams that play good defense.
Tebow has two things going against him. First, UF has lost twice and needs to work their way back in the BCS picture. If they do work their way up the BCS ladder they will have to do it behind the arm and legs of Tebow (which is good). Second, he's a sophomore. McFadden claimed second place last season as a sophomore so why not Tebow?
Hart has been both a leader and work horse for the Wolverines. When the chips were down (and they were DOWN) in Ann Arbor, he stepped up and showed why he is one of the games best and most dynamic players. Hart already has 200 rushing attempts this season and 1,078 yards.
Who will make their way to NYC? Who will win the Heisman? Well, we are half way through the season and your guess is as good as mine.
How well will Coach (Butch) Davis do this up coming year recruiting? He made a late run last year and landed a very good class. Will he do the same this time?
I think once again that UNC will be a surprise in terms of recruiting. I guess it will won't be that big of surprise because they are somewhat expected to recruit well with Butch Davis, John Blake and company. They lack the big numbers and only have five commitments to date. They will resign wide receiver Dwight Jones. Linebacker Ebele Okakpu (Roswell, Ga.) and quarterback Braden Hanson (Charlotte, N.C.) are their highest profile recruits thus far.
The Heels are hot after linebacker Arthur Brown (Wichita, Ka.) and will likely get a visit from the nation's top prospect. No one knows what Brown will do in the end but he will make his decision in December because he will graduate early. He was in Chapel Hill last weekend. One linebacker likely headed their way is Etienne Sabino (Miami, Fla.). They will get a visit from four-star cornerback Charles Whitlock (Chester, S.C.) and they are in the hunt for defensive end Robert Quinn (North Charleston, S.C.). UNC is also in the hunt for linebacker E.J. Abrams-Ward (Thomasville, N.C.), offensive guard Kenneth Page (Columbia, S.C.), safeties Spencer Adams (Mathews, N.C.) and Vaughn Telemaque (Long Beach, Calif.), offensive tackle R.J. Mattes (Concord, N.C.), defensive end Quinton Coples (Chatham, Va.), wide receiver Marcus Sales (Syracuse, N.Y.), cornerback Travis Howard (Miami, Fla.) and running backs Jamal Womble (Sierra Vista, Az.) and Tony Morgan (Garner, N.C.).
North Carolina won't land all of the prospects mentioned above but they should get their share, as coach Davis and his staff continue to replenish the talent in Chapel Hill. They will recruit better and better each season and look for UNC to contend for the ACC in the near future.
Given Virginia Tech's success since joining the ACC, including a conference title and another appearance in the conference championship game in just three years, and that former powers Miami and Florida State have struggled during this same time period, do you think the Hokies can up their recruiting to the point of becoming a traditional power year in and out with the likes of Ohio State, Texas, USC, and Oklahoma?
Brent, I don' think they will ever become the recruiting power of the schools mentioned above for one reason, a bulk of their recruiting is done in their home state. Nothing against the state of Virginia, as it's obvious this state produces not only high quality kids but high quantity prospects as well. A year ago the state of Virginia was seventh overall in prospects that signed 1-A (88) behind Texas, Florida, California, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. I bet that will surprise some people.
If you look at the Virginia Tech roster 77 of their 115 players are from Virginia. This state produces good talent but there are not as many highly ranked kids as you will find in sheer numbers like Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, etc.
Then why is VT typically a very good football team? I think that the Hokies have one of the nation's better coaching staffs and they develop these prospects into very good players into their very good systems (offense, defense and special teams).
How come you keep saying that T.J. Bryant is not coming to Florida State? You should know that all Lincoln players sign with the Seminoles. Shame on you!
I will say one more time, for the record, that Florida State is currently on the outside looking in for the nation's No. 2 ranked cornerback in T.J. Bryant. Bryant is from Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln High School. Typically, most of the elite Lincoln prospects sign with FSU. That will not happen this year with Bryant, at least that is how I feel right now in mid-October. He is headed elsewhere, likely out of state. At this time I think LSU and USC are the two teams to beat. If I had to pick between the Tigers and Trojans I would lean toward LSU. Bryant will visit both of those schools as well as Auburn and Florida. Miami is in the hunt to.
But we are currently at the halfway point of the football season. There could be some coaching moves at some of the schools Bryant is interested in that could ultimately impact his decision. He also hasn't taken any official visits yet and those trips will certainly influence what he decides to do in the end.
I do believe that the longer this drags out the longer FSU has time to make up ground. Plus, Bryant is big into track and the Seminoles have an outstanding track program. Florida State is also a program that always has a good defense that produces good players in the secondary under Mickey Andrews.
Right now Bryant is off-limits with the media until his season is over. Look for him to make his decision toward the end of the recruiting season if not on National Signing Day. Stay tuned because this could be one of the more interesting recruiting battles.