It’s Friday and I’ve Got Several Things on My Mind and Football is All of Them

Hill
Hill
Kenny Hill torched 9th-ranked South Carolina last night with over 500 yards passing.

So apparently my English skills are about as good as my ability to predict things if read this title. Two days ago, I gave you five fearless predictions for college football and already one of them is looking incredibly wrong. I said that Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks would win the SEC and while that could still happen, that theory took a massive hit last night.

Texas A&M came to Columbia with a redshirt freshman quarterback not named Johnny Manziel and torched the Gamecocks for over 500 yards passing in a 52-28 upset. Kenny Hill, son of former MLB pitcher Ken Hill, threw for 511 yards and three touchdowns in the rout over ninth-ranked South Carolina. The win does two things; first it makes us question just how good South Carolina is and two, how much longer before Kevin Sumlin is coaching in the NFL.

The fact that Sumlin has been able to show in just one game that he has moved this team beyond the Manziel era is enough for NFL teams and other major college programs to take notice. As for the Gamecocks, might want to work on that pass defense.

Rice
Ray Rice got one heck of a hometown discount from Roger Goodell as it turns out.

Goodell Does Something Positive for Once

Roger Goodell and the NFL announced yesterday that they have implemented a disciplinary system for domestic violence abusers. The first time will result in a six-game suspension while the second offense will result in a lifetime ban from the sport. Why it took this long for some form action in this regard is beyond me but it’s finally here and we should be happy about it as we can’t tolerate this behavior.

In the announcement, Goodell did something I never dreamed I’d hear from him. He apologized for the weak response in Ray Rice’s situation. While I appreciate the apology, I find it interesting that he didn’t extend Rice’s penalty. Perhaps it has to do with the NFLPA or maybe that Baltimore is his hometown team.

Strange that Goodell never apologized to Ben Roethlisberger after suspending him even though he was never arrested or charged with a crime. I digress however… I’m glad that the NFL is acting on domestic violence. It’s just a shame it’s taken this long and after a massive cry from the general public. Goodell has once again proven himself as the ‘reactive’ commissioner.

Because they have made themselves the epicenter of the sports’ world, ESPN is hard to avoid no matter how much they irritate and bother the hell out of us. Outside of ’30 for 30′ and the featuring of the several major sports, the rest of ESPN is essentially tabloid fodder. This notion was proved once again this week as ESPN reporter Josina Anderson decided to report on St. Louis Rams’ defensive end Michael Sam’s showering habits.

As you know, Sam is an openly gay man trying to make the roster and so far, he has an excellent shot at it. Whoever thought a story about whether Michael Sam showers with his teammates was worthy of our viewing time at ESPN needs to be fired. My question in this manner is quite simple; “who cares?”

Sam has had a really good preseason for the Rams and his two sacks of Cleveland Browns’ QB Johnny Manziel nearly forced Twitter into a shutdown. Whether he makes the roster or not is uncertain but someone will grab him because he has proven he can play in the NFL. Let’s hope that is what ESPN chooses to report on from here on out.

Looking Ahead to College Football in 2014 (Part One)

Sumlin
Sumlin
How will Kevin Sumlin and Texas A&M fare without Johnny Football in 2014?

Last night officially brought an end to the 2013 college football season (and the BCS) with Florida State’s dramatic 34-31 win over Auburn. Today I find myself no better than the folks who feel it necessary to look forward to the following season before the teams even leave the field from the BCS Title game. I’m going to take a look at what we can look forward to in CFB in some major conferences next year.

Note: The Pac-12, Mountain West, American Athletic and Independents will follow on Thursday.

SEC – Despite the streak of national titles ending at seven, I think the Southeastern Conference is still in good shape. The exception of course is that the play of quarterbacks is likely to be down with Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger, A.J. McCarron and Johnny Manziel off to the NFL.

Burning Questions for the SEC – How will LSU and Georgia fare with new signal-callers under center? Can Will Muschamp survive a poor start in Gainesville with the pressure he is under? How good can we expect Texas A&M to be in year one post-Manziel? Can Bret Bielema survive another down year in Arkansas and can Auburn top their run from 2013?

Maryland
The Terps, and Rutgers, join the Big Ten for the 2014 season.

Big Ten -The Big Ten, which previously had 12 members, now has 14 and is still called the Big Ten. No wonder American kids are terrible at math. Rutgers and Maryland join the Midwest’s premier conference and with them comes realignment. Gone are the ‘Legends and Leaders’ divisions and in their place are the East and West. The Scarlet Knights and Terrapins will join Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State in the East.

The West will be Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. The conference will also move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.

Burning Questions for the Big Ten… Who will replace Bill O’Brien at Penn State where the Nittany Lions still have two years of probation left? Can Ohio State rebound from two straight losses after their 24-game winning streak? Can Michigan State repeat as conference champion? Can Brady Hoke survive another mediocre season in Ann Arbor and can Jerry Kill stay healthy enough in Minnesota to keep coaching?

Big 12 – The biggest news from the Big 12 comes from Austin where the Texas Longhorns appear to have found their man to replace Mack Brown. Louisville’s Charlie Strong has agreed to become the next coach of the Longhorns and he will immediately be under the microscope by the burnt orange faithful. Not only does Strong have to compete with conference foes for recruits but his Longhorns have played second fiddle to rival Texas A&M the last two years as well and that never sits well in Austin.

Burning Questions for the Big 12… Does Oklahoma enter as a prohibitive favorite based on how they finished their season with wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama? With Bryce Petty and Art Briles both back in Waco what can we expect from Baylor? Is there a surprise team on the rise like Iowa State or Kansas and can Mike Gundy and the Cowboys finally get over the hump?

ACC – The Seminoles have wrestled the title away from the SEC and now will look to repeat but they know it won’t be easy as many guys will head to the NFL. Clemson will be in a similar predicament with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins gone. With a year under their belts in the ACC, Syracuse and Pitt are out of the newlywed phase and expectations will be higher.

Burning Questions for the ACC… What will David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils do for an encore after a great 2013? Does Virginia Tech bounce back or does another average season spell the end for Frank Beamer? What will newcomer Louisville bring to the table in the ACC without Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater? If Al Golden returns to his alma mater of Penn State who takes the reins in Miami? Who plays QB at Clemson and how will Dave Clawson fare in year one at Wake Forest?

 

Will He or Won’t He? Aggies Saying Little

Manziel
Manziel
I see little reason for Manziel to be on the bench Saturday. I say he plays.

It was reported earlier this week that the NCAA met with Johnny Manziel and his attorney on Sunday for approximately six hours. The details of the lengthy meeting are sparse on content but common sense would tell us most of the discussion was about just whether or not Manziel was paid for signing autographs.

Coming up this weekend, Manziel’s Aggies are scheduled to take the field against Rice. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether or not he will play. Head Coach Kevin Sumlin has said repeatedly that he isn’t discussing the matter.

At risk for the Aggies is that they could play Manziel in each game knowing that if the NCAA finds him guilty of accepting money that any game he were to have participated in would be forfeited. With the Aggies scheduled to host #1 Alabama in the third game of the season, his presence on the field will have a tremendous impact on a great many things.

The game for Bama is a revenge game. Manziel and the Aggies gave them their only loss last year and it came in Tuscaloosa. It could also be a game that determines the SEC West division, who plays in the SEC Title game and potentially it could affect the BCS. Oh, and can you imagine the ratings drop if he doesn’t play against Alabama? CBS is probably begging the NCAA to end this investigation immediately for fear of losing the ratings’ bonanza.

Sumlin
Sumlin has been tight-lipped to this point about Manziel's status for Saturday.

Manziel has acknowledged that he signed as many as 5,000 items for numerous brokers but also claims he never received a dime for the duty. Common sense would ask why would anyone do such a thing and not get payment for it. Maybe Manziel is just a swell guy and did it out of the goodness of his heart. Well, it’s possible isn’t it?

I thought Mike Greenberg of ‘Mike and Mike in the Morning’ made an excellent point yesterday. He said the NCAA is used to dealing with kids who come from very little and have even less. They certainly don’t have money for lawyers to help themselves prove their cases. Manziel is different however.

He comes from a wealthy family backed by oil money. Getting a lawyer, and not just any lawyer, is easily within their budget. How will the NCAA, who has botched several recent cases, handle a player with a Heisman Trophy behind him and top lawyers in front of him? The NCAA will tell you publicly that this situation won’t bother them at all but behind closed doors it has to be complicating things.

Remember, right now it’s the word of Manziel versus the word of some brokers. He claims he took no money and they claim he did. If it were cash which is what it is believed to have been, it will be difficult to track those payments.

As is usually the case with the NCAA and their rule book of total ridiculousness, the Aggies should be able to play Manziel without penalty until the investigation is over but that isn’t the case. Once again, the NCAA punishes clean players and their teams instead of waiting for an investigation to run its’ course.

My guess at this time is that Manziel will play on Saturday. The evidence as we know it is thin and the Aggies will take the risk. Should they decide to sit Manziel, junior Matt Joeckel or Freshman Kenny Hill will start against the Owls. Joeckel is a more of a traditional pocket passer while Hill is a dual-threat guy more in the mold of Manziel.

Unless the NCAA has something much bigger than the general public or even the media knows about then I expect Manziel to be on the field Saturday.

Is Something Amiss in College Station?

Sumlin
Sumlin
Sumlin is starting to find out that life in the spotlight isn't so wonderful.

When last we saw the Texas A&M football team the Aggies were coming off the field in Cowboys Stadium following a 41-13 thrashing of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. The victory was the ultimate ‘cherry-on-top’ of an 11-2 season highlighted by their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference, a win at #1 Alabama and of course a only the school’s second Heisman trophy winner in Johnny Manziel.

The offseason started decently enough despite quarterbacks’ coach Kliff Kingsbury leaving to become the Head Coach at Texas Tech. He was replaced by a former colleague and excellent QB coach in his own right Jake Spavital who will be looked on to further the career of Manziel.

Then for some reason things have suddenly gone a bit wrong down in College Station.

A week ago in this space I discussed Manziel and his chances for a Heisman repeat. This came on the heels of an incident where Manziel tweeted “he couldn’t wait to get out of College Station. ” This immediately sent the college football world into whirlwind of activity and speculation. As we soon came to find out, Manziel was merely expressing his frustration over getting a parking ticket on campus. I’ve been there before so I get his feelings but I’m not sure Manziel really understands just yet how much of a microscope he is now under compared to this time last year.

Manziel
Manziel is finding out just how much attention is paid a returning Heisman winner and it isn't all fun.

The news didn’t stop there though. Soon after, information was discovered that prior to his Heisman-winning campaign, he was very nearly suspended by the University for the season.

Earlier in the year, Manziel was part of a bar fight in which he was found to be in possession of a fake I.D. This isn’t taken lightly at many schools but Texas A&M isn’t one of them as they are known for firmer discipline. Manziel was ready to transfer as he confirmed in a story with Texas Monthly. Cooler heads eventually prevailed as Head Coach Kevin Sumlin was able to convince the University that the discipline Manziel was facing through the athletic department was more than enough punishment.

What his comeuppance was is anyone’s guess but it doesn’t look good especially in this day of the pampered college athlete. Manziel recently announced he was ‘taking a break from twitter’ in order to avoid distractions. While he may be avoiding them, his teammates are not.

Two projected starters on the defensive side of the ball turned themselves in this week and are facing charges of assault in Brazos County, Texas. According to reports, Floyd Raven, Sr. and Deshazor Everett were involved in a fight at a bar which later moved to an apartment complex where Everett lived.

The report states that two other men were upset about being sprayed with champagne by the two Aggies’ players and things then escalated outside. They are currently suspended from all team activities.

There’s a very good chance this all just ‘boys being boys’ but whatever it is, it doesn’t look good.

Texas A&M has a long tradition of football but over the last ten years or so, the team has been quite mediocre. With Sumlin coming over from a very successful stint at the University of Houston and orchestrating an 11-2 season, there is tremendous pressure and attention now.

A&M is pushing forward with a major renovation to Kyle Field. The construction will start after this season and by 2015 the stadium could hold as many 109,000 fans which would be second only to Michigan. It would easily be the largest stadium in the SEC.

With so much going on in College Station, I have to wonder if the Aggies can repeat their success or improve on last year’s record. Right now I’m inclined to say “no.”