Michigan Gets Their Man; More College Football Thoughts

Jim Harbaugh is the next head coach at Michigan but how long will he stay?

University of Michigan Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett made it very clear in the days following the firing of Brady Hoke; having a “Michigan man” was no longer a top priority.

There was always an exception to that rule and his name was Jim Harbaugh. Yesterday, Harbaugh became the 20th head football coach of the Wolverines. There is no one more “Michigan man” than Harbaugh who started at quarterback from 1984-1986 for the Bo Schembechler -led teams who were so successful.

I must admit I’m surprised Harbaugh spurned the National Football League and especially for less money than what he could have gotten from just about any of those teams. I think that two things played a major factor in his decision however.

Number one is that of the available NFL jobs, none had a quarterback that Harbaugh really wanted to work with and that’s vitally important for the old QB because as we know he can flat-out coach quarterbacks (see Andrew Luck). The Raiders and Jets both have young signal-callers but neither was enticing enough for Harbaugh.

The argument could be made that both Atlanta and Chicago have good, veteran quarterbacks in Matt Ryan and Jay Cutler but each have their issues.

The second reason Harbaugh chose to leave the NFL is because I really feel he was tired of seeing what was happening to his alma mater an the call to come home and fix it was too great.

Michigan fans will once again pack the seats at Michigan Stadium to see the prodigal son return and he will make the program prominent once again but I caution them this; the desire to win a Super Bowl never leaves you as a player or coach if you’ve had a taste of it and Harbaugh has. I believe his stint in Ann Arbor will be five years or less because that desire will be too strong to avoid.

The OU faithful are starting to wonder what's going on with Bob Stoops.

Bowl Game Bullets

-What on Earth has happened to Bob Stoops and Oklahoma? They were a preseason top five team who ended up finishing with five losses following a humiliating 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. That score wasn’t indicative of how poorly Oklahoma played either. It was 40-0 after three quarters and Clemson pretty much emptied the bench in the final stanza. I have a feeling Stoops falls into that category of having been in the same place too long.

-I could be way off base here, but I think the Pac-12’s success in these early bowl games is a sign that Florida State better strap it up tomorrow when they face Oregon in the Rose Bowl. After Stanford’s 45-21 drubbing of Maryland last night in the Foster Farms Bowl, the Pac-12 moved to 4-0 in bowl season making them the only unbeaten conference remaining. Let’s face it – the level of competition between the ACC and Pac-12 wasn’t really a discussion topic anyway was it?

-As if I needed any more proof for my personal war against instant replay reviews in football I give you the LSU-Notre Dame game. Mad Hatter Les Miles went for a fake field goal and replays clearly showed the ball breaking the plane of the goal line but officials concluded it was disputable because of where the knee was. Here’s the thing, if the knee was down the play is over based on where the ball is when the knee touches right? The ball was over the goal line. If you can’t get replay right that you shouldn’t use it.

-Have a great New Year’s Eve and be safe people.

College and Pro Football Lead the Way on Tuesday

Stops and Castiglione
Stops and Castiglione
Roger Goodell could learn a thing or two about discipline from Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione and Bob Stoops.

Hopefully you’ve been able to peel yourself away from the coverage of Johnny Manziel long enough to do some reading today. I’ve got both college and pro football on the docket so let’s not waste anymore time huh?

The University of Oklahoma did something yesterday that should be getting much more attention. In fact, the institution that should be paying the most attention to it is the National Football League because Oklahoma has shown us the right way of disciplining athletes.

In a joint statement, Head Coach Bob Stoops and Athletic Director Joe Castiglione announced that running back Joe Mixon was suspended for the entire season. What could Mixon have done that was so bad? What could he have done that would deserve such harsh punishment and why would the NFL care?

Mixon has been charged with a misdemeanor assault after being accused of punching a 20-year old Oklahoma student. The assault resulted in four broken bones in the young lady’s face. According to police, the incident occurred at a Cafe on July, 25th. Mixon’s attorney says his defendant was “protecting himself” from the intoxicated and troubled young woman.

Kudos to the University of Oklahoma for doing what should have been done by Roger Goodell and the the NFL when they suspended Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice for just two games after he was videotaped decking his then fiance.

I understand that there is a clear difference between how a university can handle things versus a professional sports’ league but the lesson should still serve it’s purpose. This is yet another reason why Goodell is the worst commissioner in sports.

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly just can't seem to catch a break lately.

Academic Undoing at Notre Dame?

The Fighting Irish need to be careful because they might end up being called the Cheating Irish if this alleged academic scandal grows more serious. Right now four players are sitting out practices and team activities while the University investigates. Common sense will tell you that anytime, especially at a private institution like Notre Dame, players are accused of academic fraud that it will most likely center around cheating of some sort.

Talk to anyone “in the know” in South Bend and they’ll tell you this is exactly what was going on with QB Everett Golson last year. If you recall, he missed the entire season after admitting academic fraud.

Three of the four players are starters for the Irish and include top receiver DeVaris Daniels who started in the BCS Title game loss to Alabama. If this thing grows, it will get far worse before it gets better.

QB Setbacks in Cleveland?

Hopefully the performances of Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel last night in Washington will slow down circus that has become the Browns this preseason. Hoyer went 2 for 6 passing while Manziel went 2 for 7. Neither guy looked like a competent NFL quarterback and for Manziel, the poor showing only solidified his comments earlier in the week that “he wasn’t ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers yet.”

I’ve said all along that I believe Johnny Manziel will open the season with a helmet on rather than a baseball cap and I still feel that way. The only other plausible scenario is that Hoyer starts the first three games, struggles, then gives way to Manziel following the team’s bye week in week four.

The Browns didn’t bring in Rex Grossman this week just to be a third string QB. He knows what it’s like to be a hot shot young QB in the NFL and could perhaps tutor Manziel while not being a threat to his starting spot.

Regardless of who Browns’ Coach Mike Pettine chooses, they better darn well play better than they did last night.


Don’t Expect the Sooners to Roll Over for Bama

A.J. McCarron has been excellent in his three previous bowl games and I expect the same tonight in his final game for Alabama.

The Alabama Crimson Tide enters the 2014 Sugar Bowl with only one loss yet they have won nothing so far in the 2013 college football season. The team ranked number one for the bulk of the season lost in rare and dramatic fashion on the final play of the game to rival Auburn. The loss sent Bama to the Sugar Bowl and Auburn to the SEC Championship game where they defeated Missouri.

With Auburn now in the BCS Title game against Florida State, the Crimson Tide football team has just one opportunity left to win some sort of title. Many will recall when the Tide was in a similar situation five years ago and got trounced by Utah. I don’t expect that to happen tonight for two reasons; first, Oklahoma carries much more name recognition than Utah did and second, Nick Saban rarely makes the same mistake twice.

While I personally don’t think the Sooners really belong in the BCS this season, they earned their way here with a last-second drive and touchdown to defeat rival Oklahoma State in the season finale. The loss sent Oklahoma State to the Cotton Bowl, Baylor to the Fiesta Bowl as Big 12 Confer fence champ and Oklahoma to a Sugar Bowl berth.

My feeling is that Oregon was more deserving of the BCS slot but I have very little say in that.

Bob Stoops had some harsh words for the SEC. I wonder if those will come back to haunt him?

Over the last month leading into this game, Sooners’ Head Coach Bob Stoops has done a lot of talking. He doesn’t think the SEC is all that it’s cracked up to be despite owning seven-straight BCS titles. He claims that his own conference is just as deep. He would be wrong about that and I have every confidence that Coach Saban has reminded his players of this sign of disrespect.

After opening as a 16-point favorite, Alabama has moved to a 17-point favorite and I honestly think it’s a fair number based on strength of schedule, record and just simply experience in BCS games.

The Tide is an amazing 16-1 straight up in their last 17 games while the Sooners are 5-1 straight up in their last six. Something will clearly give here.

One particular place where rubber will meet the road is when Oklahoma is on offense and Alabama is on D. I’m talking about the running of the Sooners versus the run defense of the Crimson Tide. OU hasn’t run the ball this well since 2001 and does so with a number of backs and as many as three different quarterbacks. I believe you’ll see Blake Bell, Trevor Knight and Kendal Thompson, but I suspect Bell will get the bulk of the work.

The Alabama defense has been consistently good against the run under Coach Saban and this year has been no exception. Alabama surrenders just over 108 yards per game on the ground. By contrast, Oklahoma averages 235 yards rushing so I believe this is where the game will be decided.

That doesn’t mean you should dismiss the Bama offense though. A.J. McCarron has been at his best in bowl games where he has yet to throw a pick and the rushing attack spoke for itself last year when they ran over Notre Dame. Look for T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake to carry the load on the ground which will set up Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood for passes down-field.

While I believe the Tide will win the Sugar Bowl tonight, I have a hard time saying they’ll cover so take Oklahoma getting 17. In terms of over/under, the number is at 52 and I like the under but not by much.