Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Catching up: We're almost there

* Just about everyone who hadn't picked a quarterback as of last weekend has picked one now. Tennessee is going with Jonathan Crompton (no surprise there), Texas A&M is going with Jerrod Johnson (also no surprise, although ex-receiver Ryan Tannehill made things interesting in camp and will now play QB full-time) and Louisville will start NC State transfer Justin Burke. Michigan will apparently play everybody, and Pete Carroll (he just has to be different, doesn't he?) wants a little longer to look at Aaron Corp in practice before deciding between Corp and Matt Barkley.

* Speaking of quarterbacks, Miami could use a couple after backups Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith both announced Wednesday that they plan to transfer. Neither was likely to challenge sophomore starter Jacory Harris for playing time, but with Cook, Smith and former starter Robert Marve all out of the picture, the Canes' depth chart is now frighteningly thin. If Harris were to get hurt, the offense would be left in the hands of the only remaining scholarship QB on the roster -- true freshman A.J. Highsmith.

* I was planning on making this a separate post, but Brian over at Mgoblog so thoroughly covered the stupidity of the situation that there's really not much left to say. Indiana has agreed to play Penn State at FedEx Field in Washington in 2010, which at first seems like minor news -- neutral-site games happen all the time. But in-conference neutral-site games, especially ones that are moved much, much closer to the visiting team? Not so much. In fact, Brian's research shows that the only Big Ten game since World War II that was moved out of the home team's state was when Wisconsin played Michigan State in Tokyo in 1993, and I doubt that created much of an advantage for either team. Indiana had 3 million reasons to make the switch, but this is still frustrating as a fan of a team that hopes to compete with Penn State (which will now have one fewer Big Ten road game to worry about) for a conference title. I'll let Brian explain:
Let's stipulate that schools have the right to do whatever they want with their nonconference schedules. The effect on the rest of the conference is minimal there. ... Once we start talking about conference schedules, though, people have a right to bitch. Every team is playing for a conference championship. The schedules need to be as equitable as possible. ...

Not so with Indiana's decision to sell a home game, which benefits exactly one team, has been approved by no one, and compromises the integrity of the league schedule.
I won't steal his entire post, but you get the idea. This is a bad thing, and the Big Ten needs to step in and forbid this type of manipulation of the conference schedule.

* Buffalo running back James Starks, a first-team All-MAC pick last year, suffered a shoulder injury in practice that will end his season. And because Starks is a redshirt senior, his career is over. The Bulls had already lost QB Drew Willy to graduation, and it now seems extremely unlikely that they'll have enough offense to defend their MAC championship. Turner Gill might be an excellent coach, but he can't turn water into wine.

* Tennessee uber-recruit Bryce Brown will not be suspended by the NCAA after an investigation into his eligibility. It's unclear if the NCAA had actually decided to punish Brown before Tennessee appealed or whether the initial investigation just ended with a decision to forgo punishment, but either way, Brown is good to go for the Vols' opener against Western Kentucky. I'm not sure how an investigation into quasi-agent Brian Butler ended without scandal, but whatever. I guess Lane Kiffin finally got some good news ... the only problem is that it came on the heels of finding out that starting receiver Gerald Jones will miss three to six weeks with a sprained ankle. With Austin Rogers (torn ACL) and Denarius Moore (foot injury) already out of the lineup, Tennessee's running game had better improve significantly on last year's 122 yards per game (ranked 88th nationally). It should get better with the addition of Brown and fellow freshman David Oku, but if it doesn't, it will be a looooooong year in Knoxville.

* Nebraska running back Quentin Castille, who rushed for almost 500 yards and six touchdowns last season and was set to platoon this year with Roy Helu Jr., was dismissed this week for a good ol' violation of team rules. There haven't been any reports of legal problems or anything serious, but Bo Pelini sounded less than thrilled when making the announcement to the media:
It's pretty black and white my expectations and what we lay out as a staff, and if someone doesn't follow those policies and guidelines, they're no longer going to be with the program.
There is now little to no experience behind Helu at running back, and with the Huskers breaking in a new QB (Zac Lee) and a new receiving corps this season, expect Pelini to put a lot of weight on Helu's shoulders, especially early in the year. Whether he's up to the task remains to be seen, but Helu did rush for 803 yards last season (at an impressive 6.4 per carry) while earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.

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