Babb Bits

OSU vs. Miami Part II? Charles Babb gives his thoughts on that as well as coaching situations across the country and more.

Ohio State vs Miami

It seems that the current flavor of the week among the media (and perhaps even bowl representatives) has Ohio State traveling to play Miami in the Orange Bowl. Ohio State fans seemed favorable to this possibility as well up until this past weekend when the Hurricanes put a whuppin' on the Panthers and introduced fear into the hearts of more than a few Buckeyes. Emerging as victors by a margin of 28-14, the Hurricanes rushed for 280 yards on 52 carries while limiting the Panthers to 33 yards on 26 carries.

For those who are concerned, I have two words.

Fear not.

First, remember Miami defeated a Pittsburgh team comprised of Ohio State, Michigan, and even Penn State castoffs. Walt Harris has done a good job with the talent on the roster, but not once has this program actually landed a top recruit out of the state of Ohio. When you are neck and neck with West Virginia in recruiting competition, you are clearly not in the same league as the Buckeyes or the Hurricanes. Only at quarterback and possibly wide receiver did Pitt actually have an advantage over Miami while virtually every other match up favored the ‘Canes in a big way.

Second, bear in mind that Pitt is not exactly a legitimate top 20 team. This is the same Panthers squad that lost 35-31 to Toledo. You know, that Toledo program of MAC fame… Pittsburgh also lost 20-14 at home to Notre Dame. You know, that same Notre Dame that is so bad that its fan base and coach view beating Navy a tremendous accomplishment. Notre Dame rushed for 352 yards on 56 carries while holding hapless Pitt to 8 yards on 27 carries. Walt Harris' team also was absolutely destroyed by West Virginia by a final score of 52 to 31. The Mountaineers ran for 307 yards while limiting Pitt to 10 yards on 26 carries.

Third, Pitt's 8-4 record shows that upon close examination, it is simply a program fattening its record upon weak sister competition.

Opponent

Score

Opponent Season Record

Opponent Combined Records

Kent State

43-3

5-7

5-7

Ball State

42-21

4-8

9-15

Toledo

31-35 (loss)

8-4

17-19

Texas A&M

37-26

4-8

21-27

Notre Dame

14-20 (loss)

5-6

26-33

Rutgers

42-32

5-7

32-40

Syracuse

34-14

5-6

37-46

Boston College

24-13

7-5

44-51

Virginia Tech

31-28

8-4

52-55

West Virginia

31-51 (loss)

8-4

60-59

Temple

30-16

1-11

61-70

Miami

28-14 (loss)

10-2

71-72

Against teams with a winning record, Pitt is a woeful 2-3 this season, and one of those two was over Boston College, a team that was forced to win this past weekend to stay above .500. The other victory over a program with a winning record was against a Virginia Tech squad that is fading faster than Milli Vanilli. The Hokies are 1-3 in their last 4 games with the only win coming against 1-11 Temple in overtime because the Owls missed an extra point. Pitt's wins came against teams with a combined 40-56 record, and in losses to Miami, West Virginia, and Notre Dame the Panthers rushed for 51 yards on 79 carries (less than 2 feet per carry).

Given the situation, fans and pundits should be no more impressed by the Miami win than they might be Ohio State's 20-0 win over Northwestern. Pittsburgh is not a great team, and if forced to play Ohio State's schedule they would likely not be heading to a bowl game.

Jeers to Alabama

Sometimes, Christmas comes early.

Several years ago, when the NCAA handed down sanctions to the Crimson Tide, the administration decided that it would go around the bowl prohibition by sending its team to Hawaii for its last game. This way, they could sell recruits on a trip to the beautiful Pacific Island and give the NCAA a giant ‘one-fingered-salute.'

The problem for Alabama was its arrogance. The Crimson Tide believed that they would go to Hawaii and emerge with two easy wins. They never even considered the possibility that they might lose to the Warriors.

They should have.

Aside from a 3-9 aberration in 2000, the Warriors are 36-15 since 1999. In the past three seasons, they are 19-3 in Honolulu. Those 3 losses have come by a combined margin of 15 points, and that includes the 21-16 squeaker that ‘Bama managed to pull out in 2002.

Alabama thought they would have the last laugh at the expense of the NCAA, but who is laughing now?

The short list might include:

- Hawaii The program knew exactly what Alabama was thinking but accepted their challenge. Undoubtedly, June Jones used it as motivation, telling his players exactly why Alabama scheduled this contest.

- The SEC Given the dynamic of negative recruiting, does any sane individual not think that Alabama's conference foes will not mention this to anyone thinking of going to school there? "Son, do you really want to go to Alabama? I mean – really. Think about that. This is the same program that can't even beat Hawaii, let alone play for a conference or (chuckle) a national title!"

- NCAA executives Somewhere in Indianapolis, NCAA executives are sitting around, smoking cigars and proposing toasts to Hawaii and June Jones.

Solich Out at Nebraska…

First, Nebraska made the right choice. The program has been slipping gradually since Solich took over from Tom Osborne. Pederson will take heat from the media because it was not their idea, but it needed to be done. Nebraska isn't recruiting like it did in the mid 1990's, and it clearly isn't winning like it did under Osborne.

However, even with the need for a new coach, Husker fans should probably be realistic about building another juggernaut the size of the Bismark.

For starters, this is now the Big 12 and not the Big 8. When the conference added Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, and Texas Tech, they added all of the remaining SWC big boys to their conference (Arkansas having already jumped ship to the SEC and SMU now a shadow of its former glory). What that means is that the Huskers will have to play more than just 2 big games a year against Oklahoma and another program that is up for a decade or so (Kansas State, Missouri, and Colorado have all had good and bad stretches). In fact, given the improvement of Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Missouri, and even Colorado, Nebraska could have as many as 7 tough football games per year just in their conference. Compare that to the schedule Nebraska faced in 1994 and 1995 when they went 21-0 in the regular season against D-IA teams (they faced I-AA Pacific both years), and their opponents had a combined record of 123-115-4.

Second, Nebraska folks need to realize that their recruiting woes are not simply going to go away by getting a new coach. When OU and Texas were both down in the late 1980's and early 1990's, it only makes sense that Nebraska would be able to get better players. Toss in the occasional steal from Florida (with a down Miami) and California (with a down USC), and the ‘Huskers were clearly the class of their admittedly weak conference. Now, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas State, and even Missouri are all legitimate competition for any recruit. California and Florida are going to be more difficult to recruit with improving programs. Add the relative weakness of the talent pool in their home state, and Nebraska is probably going to struggle to land top players. Why leave your home state to play at Nebraska when you can play for Miami, FSU, UF, USC, UCLA, OU, Missouri, and any one of several good Texas teams?

Finally, coaching legends do not grow on trees. Alabama discovered this first after losing Bear and then after Stallings' retirement. Ohio State saw this when it came time to replace Woody Hayes. Notre Dame has not been the same since Lou Holtz departed. BYU is clearly struggling without LaVell Edwards. USC has only now replaced John Robinson. Florida is good but not great without Spurrier. Washington has not been back to the top since losing Don James. Need I continue?

Nebraska might just get that top coach they are looking for after firing Frank Solich, but even if they do land that kind of talent on the sidelines, in the future – 9-3 and 10-2 should be considered fabulous seasons.

Walt Harris – Staying or Going?

With Pederson's connections to Pittsburgh, the natural speculation is that Walt Harris will be contacted for the open Nebraska position.

If he is not already considering it as a serious possibility, Walt Harris ought to sit back and take stock. I for one think it would be a good move.

- The Big East will be a complete joke as of 2004. They are losing 3 teams that are bowl eligible, including their top 2 programs from the past decade in Miami and West Virginia. This would be like the Big Ten suddenly losing Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. What kind of conference would that leave behind?

- Mark it down, Pittsburgh will not contend for any national titles and will be hard pressed to reach a BCS Bowl in the future. First, their strength of schedule will be completely submarined by Temple, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers, etc. In fact, of the 4 other teams in the Big East with a winning record, only West Virginia will remain. Second, the Big East will undoubtedly lose its automatic BCS berth when renegotiations are opened in the not too distant future.

- The three new members of the Big East are not even close to what they are losing. Cincinnati is not even the third best team in the state of Ohio. That honor goes to the winner of the Bowling Green – Miami tilt. Louisville, like Cincinnati, is and always will be a basketball school at heart. South Florida is the fourth best program in the state of Florida and has only been playing D-IA football for a few years. Who will even care if Pitt manages 11-1 or 12-0 against such competition?

- Notre Dame looks to be jumping ship. They are smart enough to see the handwriting on the wall and are getting out. The Golden Domers are showing once again that they are nothing more than a football school by making inquiries with the Big Ten and ACC now that the Big East appears to have all but lost its BCS berth. That further hurts the image of the future Big East.

Finally, Pitt alums, administrators, and local media seem to think that Harris is doing a bad job. Aside from needing to get their collective heads examined, Harris should send them all tapes of this team when Ohio State beat them 72-0 and returned a punt for a touchdown with just 8 men on the field. If Walt Harris does not leave Dodge soon, he may actually be fired for the success he has created. This is Pitt. This is not Ohio State or Michigan we are talking about. This is a program that prior to Harris' arrival had not won more than 8 games since 1982 and aside from a nice run in the 1970's and early ‘80's managed to get more than 7 wins only once since 1938. What a complete joke.


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