Les Miles very nearly sealed his own fate and other Saturday thoughts

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Les Miles of the Louisiana State University Tigers against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There have been rumblings in Louisiana that Les Miles has worn out his welcome as coach at LSU. Some have written this off as ridiculous — “He won a national title in 2007!” — but Saturday night was a harsh reminder of why the LSU faithful have lost a lot of, um, faith, in Miles.

The Tigers survived Saturday night in a 30-24 win against half of North Carolina’s team. And it really wasn’t even the good half. Worse still is that LSU very nearly blew a 30-10 lead in the fourth quarter to do it.

Give a lot of credit to the North Carolina players who know the NCAA rules. They played with a lot of heart down the stretch and were two dropped passes and a probably-missed pass interference call away from winning a game nobody gave them a chance in.

But the story here is Miles and the Tigers nearly blowing the game. The Tigers failed to put the game away, and star defensive back Patrick Peterson’s postgame quote said a ton. When asked why he wasn’t on the field for a 97-yard touchdown pass that gave North Carolina life, Peterson responded, “I guess he thought we had a comfortable lead.”

The “he” in that sentence is defensive backs coach Ron Cooper, but how does that decision not go through Miles? If it doesn’t, it should. The head coach doesn’t need to micro-manage his assistants, but he does need to make sure his best players are on the field while the game is still in any kind of doubt. Miles needs to at the very least contend for an SEC title this year, or it could be his last.

Now some other thoughts on the first Saturday of college football. Read the rest of this entry »

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Game 1 of the post-Tebow era in Florida goes, um, not so well

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01:  Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators hugs his head coach Urban Meyer after scoring a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Urban Meyer probably has this photo framed in his house. He’s probably going to sit in front of it tonight and weep.

The 34-12 score in Florida’s opening win against Miami (OH) doesn’t necessarily send up any red flags, but anyone who watched it knows that there could be some serious trouble in Gainesville this fall. The Gators managed 235 yards of total offense against a MAC team that had one win last year. One. In the MAC.

And that doesn’t even begin to tell the story. The Gators’ offensive numbers were helped tremendously by a 72-yard run from Jeff Demps early in the fourth quarter. It was the kind of play Florida fans expect from the countless number of exceptional athletes the team puts on the field each Saturday. It was also nearly half of the team’s offense. The Gators gained 177 yards in the fourth quarter. I’m not a math major, but I think that means they only had 58 yards in the first three quarters.

To be fair to new starting quarterback John Brantley, it wasn’t all his fault the offense sputtered (he was 17-for-25 for 113 yards and two touchdowns). The Gators generally looked out of sync, and suffered from a severe case of fumbilitis. They coughed up the ball six times, giving away three of them. You think Nick Saban is going to have his boys tackling the ball when Alabama and Florida meet?

Sure, it was the first game and I’m assuming the Gators weren’t exactly that fired up to take on the RedHawks. And Meyer was probably only working with about a quarter of the offense. But based on sheer athleticism, you think Florida would have made up for that.

The defense was stout, as you would expect it to be, and forced four interceptions while holding Miami to 211 yards of offense. But if the offense plays anywhere near this bad against a good team over the next 11 games, I don’t know if the defense can hold up.

2010 College Football Predictions

Jan 1, 2010; Pasadena, CA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes players huddle before the 2010 Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks. Photo via Newscom

Conference winners, sleepers, power rankings and one big, fat national championship prediction.

Enjoy.

Big Ten

Champion: Ohio State
Yes, it’s true – the Buckeyes need Terrelle Pryor to be more consistent in the passing game this year if they expect to win a national championship. But stop acting like that’s the difference between OSU winning the Big Ten and them turning into Vanderbilt. Choke on this for a second: The Buckeyes return all three leading rushers from 2009 in Pryor, Brandon Saine and Dan Herron, the secondary features three senior NFL prospects, and they own the best defensive end in the nation in Cameron Heyward. Pryor is also coming off a dominating performance against Oregon in the Rose Bowl and reports state that he has committed himself this offseason to being a better teammate. Sorry Buckeye-haters, but the gap between them and Alabama is closer than you think.

Conference Champion Sleeper: Michigan Slate
My biggest concern with the Spartans is that despite pulling off an upset nearly every year, they also manage to lose a game they shouldn’t. But they have a slew of playmakers and plenty of depth on both sides of the ball, plus feature a ton of offensive firepower in Larry Caper, Edwin Baker, Keith Nicol and Mark Dell. Oh, and linebacker Greg Jones is the best defender in the nation. If this team can avoid being tripped up by an inferior opponent, they could easily surprise this season.

Conference Power Ranking: #1 Ohio State, #2 Iowa, #3 Wisconsin, # 4 Penn State, #5 Michigan State, #6 Northwestern, #7 Michigan, #8 Purdue, #9 Illinois, #10 Indiana, #11 Minnesota.

I admit that I had Michigan rated too high when I did my Big Ten preview last week. Having any sort of trust in Rich Rodriguez right now is a dangerous proposition for obvious reasons. Just when you think he’s going to figure things out in Ann Arbor, he makes a decision to muck everything up. Penn State might be ranked a little high given their quarterback concerns. Wisconsin is going to give teams trouble this year and Northwestern is going to be a tough opponent every week as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Need practices closed? Just blame the Internet people.

01 January 2010: Florida head coach Urban Meyer is pictured during Sugar Bowl game against Cincinnati at the SuperDome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Florida defeated Cincinnati, 51-24.

Urban Meyer is the head coach of the Florida Gators and as the head coach of the Florida Gators, he has the right to have closed practices, open practices or no practices if he wants.

And Urban gets what Urban wants.

According to a report by ESPN.com, Meyer has closed Gator practices to the public, citing problems with agents and autograph hounds.

“We can’t live the players’ lives, but we can certainly do the best we can,” he told the newspaper. “You should have the right as a player to walk from here to there without being bothered.

“When I tell my colleagues that you get dressed, you walk across and people just maul you and bother you and internet people grabbing helmets, ‘Sign this,’ and we don’t have security saying, ‘Get the heck out of here.’ You’ll see a lot more ‘get the heck out of here’ from now on and let the kids go practice and concentrate on football.”

He’s right – players should have the opportunity to walk around a practice facility without being bothered by autograph seekers. But this isn’t about agents or those crazy “internet people” bothering players – this is about Meyer’s need to control every situation.

It’s always to a coach’s benefit to have a closed practice. Players arguably stay focused longer, coaches don’t have to worry about revealing anything (plays, schemes, etc.) and they can scream at the kids without having anyone peering in from the sidelines. Meyer saw an opportunity here to cash in on Nick Saban’s comments about player agents and use it as an excuse to close practice.

Meyer is arrogant. What happened when he didn’t like how an Orlando Sentinel reporter quoted one of his players? He threatened to kick him out of practice and even deemed him a “bad guy” just for doing his job. This is the same man that also plugged Tim Tebow in the media like he was a bottle of Bud Light and now he wants practices closed because some autograph seekers are bothering the players? Come on.

I don’t like your article – you’re banned from practice. I don’t like how you asked for autographs – you’re banned from practice. What is he, the “Soup Nazi?”

I’m not suggesting that Meyer doesn’t care about his players, because he does. But does he really have their best interests at heart here, or is he satisfying his own wants?

Report: Florida, NCAA looking into allegations involving Pouncey

01 January 2010: Maurkice Pouncey of Florida cheers with the fans during warm-ups before the game against Cincinnati during Sugar Bowl at the SuperDome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo via Newscom

ESPN.com’s Pat Forde is reporting that Florida and officials from the NCAA are investigating a potential rules violation involving former Gator Maurkice Pouncey (now with the Steelers).

Florida is internally investigating what sources described as an allegation that a representative of an agent paid Pouncey $100,000 between the Gators’ loss to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game to Alabama and their season-ending Sugar Bowl victory over Cincinnati. Florida apprised the NCAA of the allegation after it became aware of it.

“We were made aware of some information in early June that we reported to law enforcement and we then shared with the NCAA and the SEC,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement released Monday morning to ESPN.com. “At this time we have no information that has indicated that there are any compliance issues for the University of Florida.”

It’s important to note that even though Florida reported these allegations to the NCAA, the program isn’t any less susceptible to punishment. It’s up to the university to keep agents, boosters, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Girl Scouts away from players, even though it’s impossible for programs to play babysitter to every single athlete.

The key is whether or not Pouncey accepted money or not. If he was just talking to an agent, the Gators are probably in the clear and will avoid any major penalties. But if it’s discovered that Pouncey accepted $100,000 from an agent, then this could be Reggie Bush/USC all over again.

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