Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Ballot

I had the opportunity this year to fill out a ballot for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award recently for the Football Writers Association of America. After some careful thought and consideration, I finally figured out what order I wanted to vote. I studied long and hard all of these qualified coaches and how their teams did this season based on expectations and reality. So here is my Ballot.

 

  1. Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M
  2. Bill O’Brien – Penn State
  3. Dave Doeren – Northern Illinois
  4. Gary Andersen – Utah State
  5. David Shaw – Stanford
  6. Urban Meyer – Ohio State
  7. Bill Snyder – Kansas State
  8. Will Muschamp – Florida
  9. Brian Kelly – Notre Dame

Every one of these coaches were very deserving in their own way, but looking through the season as a whole, I couldn’t help but choose Kevin Sumlin as the Coach of the Year. He is in his rookie season at A&M and he took over a program that was “treading water” in the Big XII and turned them into instant threat to win the SEC. A couple plays different and it could have been A&M against Georgia in Atlanta. If Sumlin can repeat the same success next season, look out!

Bill O’Brien did an amazing job this season at Penn State in the wake of the whole controversy and players bolting from “Happy Valley”. Finishing the year at 8-4(6-2) is very respectable after most experts picked them to have trouble winning more than two or three games going into this season.

After a very close loss to Iowa to open the season, Dave Doeren did an amazing job to lead the Huskies to the BCS Promised land after winning the MAC Championship. While some feel that they don’t deserve to be there, they may be able to surprise everyone if Florida State isn’t prepared.

Gary Andersen took a Utah State team that is usually lucky to make Bowl eligibility and turned them into conference champions.  With an exciting season like this year, be ready to see Utah State in the conversation for bowl slots a lot more often.

David Shaw had big shoes to fill when he took over at Stanford and he has done a great job keeping the program moving forward. Stanford has not lost a step since he took over, but in my opinion he didn’t deserve a higher selection because Stanford wasn’t in the national title hunt.

Urban Meyer came back to coaching and took a team on probation to an undefeated season with seemingly no pressure. Regardless if he went undefeated, or winless, Ohio State is still sitting at home this post season. Still a great season and deserves some recognition.

Bill Snyder, Will Muschamp, and Brian Kelly all had great seasons in their own ways. Snyder had Surprise Kansas State one win away from playing for a national championship and Brian Kelly finally made Notre Dame relevant again.  It was tough to order these three, but in my humble opinion, a school like Notre Dame should be a top team every season and Kelly just got them back to where they should be.

It will be fun to see who will win the final award and to know that my opinion played a small part of that will even make it cooler. For this independent blogger from Texas this was by far a highlight of my year.

Penn State; It’s time for a time for change

I have chosen for the better part of the last year to avoid writing about the Penn State tragedy and write about the stomach churning details of what Jerry Sandusky did. But since the Freeh report, I have had a numerous range of emotions, ranging from anger to just plain disgust. I have lost a lot of respect for what was once perceived as a “clean” school and football program. I am not going to bash the school or Joe Paterno, he is gone and it won’t make anything better.

We have seen the Paterno Statue removed from in front of Beaver Stadium and the fact that Paterno’s name has been removed from a building on the Nike campus in Oregon. The Freeh report has torn down a long standing thought that Penn State was a school of virtue and value. Instead it seems like it was run by men who cared more about protecting the sacred football wins and “clean image” than protecting children’s lives.

The NCAA levied some serious fines and sanctions against the school, but even after a few days it just doesn’t feel like enough. Penn State avoided the death penalty by agreeing not to appeal, but with the heinous nature of the crimes committed by Sandusky on campus, and the ensuing cover up since 1998 it seems that something more needed to be done.  It will be up to each individual person to decide how Joe Paterno’s legacy will be remembered; The NCAA has made sure he won’t be at the forefront of any record books.

Anyone who can sit there and say with a straight face that the scholarship reductions and other sanctions will end up destroying Penn State for a long time needs to look in the mirror and come back to reality. Penn State has been one of the “Big Dogs” of the NCAA for a very long time and while they will struggle in the interim, it won’t make a difference the long run because they will still get to be on TV. Penn State will still be a destination for a lot of kids out of the northeastern part of the country. Yes, they will lose quality recruits and players now, once they are on the backside of the sanctions, it will be back to old hat for Penn State.

Penn State dodged a major bullet, and I think everyone surrounding the program knows they should have had their program shut down for at least a year. This is the time for the administration and staff at Penn State to show the country they are making huge changes across the board to prevent anything like this happening ever again. NCAA President Mark Emmert said “These sanctions will help Penn State make changes without worrying about wins and Bowl trips”

If the school can make the appropriate changes and keep their nose clean, then they will return to the upper echelon unscathed except for a big black eye. For that Penn State is very lucky. It almost makes you wonder if Penn State agreed to these sanctions to cover up other activities that an investigation would have uncovered…Guess we will never know.

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Loss of Legendary figure: The passing of Joe Paterno

Upon hearing about the passing of Joe Paterno, I had to take some time to really get my thoughts and feelings into check. I have no association with Penn State or Joe Paterno in any way shape or form. But being a lifelong college football fan there have been very few figures that everyone could look up to and admire.  He was a true role model.

Joe Paterno, or “Joepa” as he has been affectionately called as long as anyone can remember, was the head coach at Penn State for 45 years. Some would occasionally say the game had passed him by and it was time for him to go. Then he would go out and have a stellar season and prove all the critics wrong. This season was supposed to be one of his best in over a decade and people wondered if he could win another championship.

Then the scandal broke in the media and it started a snow ball that even he couldn’t stop. It was unfortunate the scandal brought his coaching career to a tragic and unjust end. Joepa was a football coach first and foremost, and I doubt he truly understood the severity of what was happening at the school. He did what he felt was right. He followed the protocol he was supposed to. In the end, nobody really knows the truth except him and the administrators.

Not long after his firing, he was reported to have been stricken with cancer and it led to his passing. But much like the previous coaches who had long illustrious careers, it was only a short time before they passed on to the great coaching box in the sky. One of the finest coaches to ever coach has joined them to add his game plan to theirs.  It is entirely possible he died from a broken heart.

Joepa was a great coach, but it was the fact that he never got “famous”. Now what I mean by that is the simple fact that he didn’t buy a bigger house, or nicer cars. He didn’t wear flashy jewelry or try to make sure everyone knew how much money he had or how successful he was. He was one of the few coaches who did everything he could to improve the university, his players and bring more fame to the school and not just his football team.  He also leaves a legendary graduation rate of his players.  He showed time and time again his faith and support in his interactions with his players.

Joe Paterno was the last of a now dying breed. He coached football to change young men’s lives. He didn’t recruit players to help step them up to the NFL; he recruited players who wanted to win and wanted to obtain their degree. Maybe not all of them would earn it in their four years at the school, but many went back and completed it.

Joepa would donate most of his money back into the university over the later years of his career. I bet Nick Saban, Les Miles, Bob Stoops or Mack Brown wouldn’t do that. I am not saying those coaches aren’t great and change men’s lives, but they aren’t cut from the same mold as Joe Paterno. The world lost a great man, but college football lost a true legend. And for that, fans across the country will morn this loss.

Maybe I am just old school, and old fashioned.  I for one think College football needs more guys like Joe Paterno and a few less Nick Saban types.

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Rapid Reaction: Ticket City Bowl

On a brisk Monday morning in Dallas, the Ticket City Bowl was played on the historic grounds of the Cotton Bowl stadium. And for the 46,000 that showed up to the game, were treated to the Case Keenum show. This was billed as the unstoppable force vs. the immovable object. Well the unstoppable force today was Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars.

Case Keenum was able to pick apart the Penn State defense and throw at will. Sometimes it looked like the defense wasn’t even on the field with them. This was a special way for Keenum to end his Houston career. He set numerous records today and threw for over 500 yards.

When the dust had finally settled at the Cotton Bowl, Houston had won an easy game 30-14 over Penn State. This game will go down as a great performance for a team and a quarterback. Houston completed a record year by winning their 13th game today. Now the only question is who will require Keenum’s services next year in the NFL.

Despite the year that Penn State had, losing this game will just add to some of the embarrassment and shame that the program has suffered. But there should be brighter days ahead, because there were moments of brilliance for the Penn State squad.

The Bowl committee gave everyone a top flight match up with two top 25 teams. It lived up to its billing, but the passing game of Houston proved too much for the Big Ten size of Penn State. There is a lot to be taken from this game for both programs, Houston looks to be on the rise and could be a BCS team in the very near future, While the scandal has shown to take its toll over the once proud Penn State.

It was a New Year’s treat to be able to cover this game, and I hope to make this a yearly tradition.

Ticket City Bowl Preview

On Monday the first official college football game of 2012 will be played at Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas, TX. This year’s matchup is between the Penn State Nitney Lions and the Houston Cougars. Both teams are ranked in the top 25 and this is one of four non-BCS bowl games that will pit two top 25 teams against one another.

This is the first trip to this bowl for both of these teams, but these teams have met a few times before. The last meeting was in 1977 in State College, PA. Penn State is 2-0 against the Houston Cougars and this will be the first time these two teams have met in a post season contest. Also, this will be the first time they have ever played on a neutral site. Their past matchups have been home and home. Houston is making its 21st Bowl trip in school history and looking to snap a skid of only one bowl win since 1980. This team is a class act who won 12 games in the regular season creating a school record. The Cougars are hoping to change its sordid bowl history and also its history against Penn State in one big swoop. However Penn State has quite a history itself and will be a formidable opponent.

Unlike Houston, Penn State is used to its January Bowl games and they are making their fourth straight trip to a January Bowl. This will be their sixth bowl appearance in seven years, while Houston is only making its sixth in school history. Penn State is a school with a lot of football history and is ranked 5th in the NCAA with all time victories. This matchup could almost be a “David vs. Goliath” type matchup.

Either way you slice it; this should be a fun game with lots of twist and turns. Houston has a very fast paced offense ready to put points on the board in a hurry. Penn State is a team with size and skill; it will come down to attrition to decide this matchup. Can Houston wear down the Penn State defenders and get a step up late, or will Penn State lean on the Houston players and make them start dragging late?

This is a great matchup to start off the New Year, and I am honored to be covering it from the press box.