Sunday, September 27, 2009

College Football Week 4

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What did we learn this past weekend about the doings in college football? We found out that light scheduling is a good preparation for tougher contests, that a star quarterback proved that he was human and the Heisman Trophy race became a little more interesting as some candidates compiled great numbers while others were brought down to earth.

1) My best friend and former Editor of the Deerfield Beach Observer Ric Green called me at 2:53 PM on Saturday when the No. 23 Michigan Wolverines were trailing 26-21 to Indiana University (IU) and said he hopes U-M fans are patient with this young and upcoming team. By the end of our 6:31 phone call, Wolverines freshman quarterback Tate Forcier scored a seven-yard touchdown run and U-M converted the two point attempt to take a 29-26 lead. With 2:29 left in the fourth quarter, Forcier hit Martavious Odoms for a 26-yard touchdown pass to win it for the Wolverines (4-0, 1-0). The 36-33 triumph enabled Michigan to extend its winning streak to 16 games over the Hoosiers and IU hasn't won at Michigan Stadium since 1967.

2) It looks like my Alma-mater the University of South Florida Bulls know more about pre-conference scheduling than any of us. USF's first three wins came against Wofford 40-7, Western Kentucky 35-13 and Charleston Southern 59-0. Against Charleston Southern, USF lost senior starting quarterback Matt Grothe to a season-ending injury and started Tallahassee native B.J Daniels to take on his hometown Seminoles. The redshirt freshman threw for 212 yards, two touchdowns and rushed for 126 yards to lead the Bulls to a 17-7 upset win over No. 18 FSU. Daniels chose to go to USF because he was permitted to play football and basketball. I'm sure Bulls Basketball Coach Stan Heath is glad to have him and FSU Coach Bobby Bowden is not happy he didn't keep the local kid in town. Nonetheless, at the press conference, September 26, 2009 seemed like an April Fools Day joke for Bowden as he realized that the Bulls were better then he thought and his team underestimated the Tampa based school due to scheduling weaker opponents. Even a 79-year old coach can learn and this lesson for Bulls Coach Jim Leavitt's squad enabled USF to defeat a state's big three school for the first time, referring to Florida, Florida State and Miami. Leavitt looks like a genius because he permitted a youngster an opportunity to become a two-sport star, a great recruiting strategy and used the first three games as his pre-season. USF is 10-1 all time against teams from the state of Florida and has won four straight against the ACC.

3) If the No. 25 Nebraska Cornhuskers don't win the Big 12 championship, they could classify themselves as winners of the Sun Belt Conference. Nebraska has defeated Florida Atlantic University (FAU) 49-3, Arkansas State 38-9 and on Saturday crushed the University of Louisiana-Lafayette 55-0.

4) The No.2 Texas Longhorns accomplished two things in Saturday's 64-7 pounding of the University of Texas-El Paso in Austin. They won style points in their bid to get to a BCS Championship game and senior quarterback Colt McCoy enhanced his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy. McCoy threw all three of his touchdown passes in the first half giving the Longhorns a 47-7 lead. He completed 28-35 and finished with 286 yards leading his team to an easy win.

5) How do you gain respect? If you're the Houston Cougars, just defeat teams from the Big 12 Conference. On September 12, the Cougars, who play in Conference USA, defeated the No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys 45-35 on the road. Saturday, it was Texas Tech's turn to taste defeat as the No. 17 Cougars (3-0) won a 29-28 decision. Thus far, Houston junior quarterback Case Keenum has eight touchdowns, 1,155 yards and has a passer rating of 158.52. Against Texas Tech, he threw for 453 yards and had two touchdowns including the game winning score, which was a four-yard run with 49 seconds left in the contest. In this game, Houston was playing as a ranked team for the first time in 18 years.

6)Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow proved he was human when he was knocked out of the team's 41-7 victory in Lexington over the Kentucky Wildcats. Tebow, who took a hard hit in the Gators victory over Tennessee on Saturday Sept 19, sustained a concussion with his team leading 31-7 in the third quarter and driving deep in Kentucky territory when Wildcats defensive end Taylor Wyndham came unblocked off the right end and sacked him. As Tebow fell backward, his helmet struck teammate Marcus Gilbert's leg, violently bending his neck forward. Tebow did lay motionless on the field at Commonwealth Stadium before he eventually went to the University Medical Center to stay over night for observation. Many people will wonder why Gators Coach Urban Meyer left him in the game with the contest no longer in doubt. To Meyer's defense, Tebow is so competitive that it would have been tough to take him out of the ball game unless he was injured. But Tebow and the No.1 Gators will have a week off then travel to LSU for an October 10th game against the Tigers. I have a feeling Tebow will be back under center.

7) FAU is off to another slow start at 0-3 but the major reason for this is because of losses to Nebraska and South Carolina. Being a young football program, the Owls need all the money they can get to build the athletic department. The 49-3 loss to Nebraska paid $650,000 while South Carolina wrote a check for $800,000 for a 38-16 win. FAU plays the 100th game in school history on Saturday against the Wyoming Cowboys at 4 PM at Lockhart Stadium.

8) Just when it was time to put California tailback Jahvid Best into the Heisman Trophy discussion after scoring five touchdowns on the road on September 19, in a 35-21 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, fives were in Best's final numbers again. But this time the Golden Bears held Best to 55 yards as No.6 California took a 42-3 beating to the Oregon Ducks (3-1) in the Pacific Northwest. The week before, Oregon snapped No. 18 Utah's 16-game winning streak by winning 31-24 at home. It's been a good couple of weeks for the Ducks as they're well on there way towards competing for a Pac 10 championship. This was Cal's most lopsided loss under Coach Jeff Tedford--Oregon's former offensive coordinator--and worst since 55-14 to USC in 2001.

9) If the Mountain West Conference is looking for a BCS Bowl bid, they're going to need the TCU Horned Frogs to be their representative. With Utah losing at Oregon and BYU falling to Florida State, No.14 TCU needed a big win and got it by going into Clemson's Death Valley for the first time since 1965 and defeating the Tigers 14-10. Junior Andy Dalton threw for two touchdowns to keep the Horned Frogs perfect at 3-0. TCU's defense held Clemson to 117 total yards in the second half and stopped the Tigers twice on two fourth quarter drives inside the TCU 20-yard line. TCU won for the seventh time in its last 10 road games against BCS Conference opponents, including two this season against Clemson and Virginia.

10) I doubt the late Grambling State Coach Eddie Robinson would have scheduled this game but he could have used quarterback Doug Williams in the Tigers Saturday match up at Oklahoma State. Grambling State faced a Big 12 school for the first time and the Cowboys ripped them 56-6. Oklahoma State has not lost to a non-FBS opponent since losing to West Texas A&M in 1980. It was the most lopsided win for Oklahoma State since a 59-7 victory over SMU in 2004, the year before Mike Gundy took over as coach.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com




Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Could the Lions Upset Redskins?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

If there was ever a time for the Detroit Lions to snap their 19-game losing streak, this would be the week to do it.

On Dec 5, 1999, the Detroit Lions ended their 16-game regular season losing streak to the Washington Redskins with a 33-17 win at the Pontiac Silverdome in a game that I attended. On Sept 10, 2000, Detroit defeated the Redskins 15-10 at the Silverdome.

So the question is, why would I be crazy enough to think this would be the week that Detroit could win a game? Here are some reasons.

Last week, the Redskins defeated the lowly St. Louis Rams 9-7 in the nations capital and had to settle for three field goals to win it. In 2008, the Rams finished 2-14.

Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford is due to have a break out game so there couldn't be a better time to do it than this week against a team that is struggling to score points itself. The Redskins offense has only scored 26 points in two weeks.

Nines are wild in this equation, as 1999 was the year they snapped one drought, have currently lost 19 games in a row, and we're 10 years later in 2009.

If the Lions don't win this week, they'll have to face a large task of facing the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers the following three weeks with a bye on Oct 25 before returning to action at home against the Rams on November 1st.

Facing the Bears and Packers on the road and the defending Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh Steelers at home is a large challenge knowing that their getting closer to the Tampa Bay Bucs all-time record of 26-losses set in 1976-77.

For a rookie quarterback and coach to have a gorilla on their backs could be taxing for Stafford and Jim Schwartz.

To win against the Redskins would be huge because Washington leads this series 27-10.

But the Lions are 8-9 at home all-time against the Redskins, a franchise they lost to in their lone NFC Championship game on January 12, 1992, 41-10.

Other Detroit teams have fared well against Washington squads.

The 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals 4-0 to win the championship.

The Detroit Pistons have fared well against the Washington Wizards over the years in route to three NBA Championships.

Finally, who can forget the transaction the Tigers made with the Washington Senators when they traded former Cy Young Award Pitcher Denny McLain during the 1970 World Series for Joe Coleman, Eddie Brinkman and Aurelio Rodriguez in one of the biggest steals in MLB history?

These three players led Detroit to the playoffs in 1972 under Tigers Manager Billy Martin.

Would a Lions win over the Redskins top these other Detroit teams accomplishments over their major sports counterparts? That would be subject for debate.

But to defeat the Redskins at the most infamous time in franchise history over free spending Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder would be a tremendous feat.

Here is a guy that at one point charged his fans admission to attend training camp practices. Yet the passionate Redskins fans paid to see them practice. If the Redskins lose this game at Ford Field, I can just imagine the embarrassment, ridicule and protests that would be in front of the Redskins headquarters, let alone the punchlines on all the late night talk shows by David Letterman, Jay Leno, etc... These protests might even make it as far as the White House and the Capital Building.

The NFL Network, ESPN, along with all the other entities covering the NFL plus the wave of blogs and websites will crucify the Redskins. It's a burden that any team would have to live with, but a proud franchise that has won Super Bowls which has owned the Lions over the years, could be the victim to end this futile streak thus would never live it down.

What's worse, finishing with a winless season or being the team makes NFL history for all of the wrong reasons to end the streak? Time will tell on Sunday September 27, 2009 in downtown Detroit. This game should be a sellout and I doubt it will get blacked out.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

College Football Week 3

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There is one major thing that I learned about myself during week three of the college football season. I am not a professional prognosticator therefore I better stick to just informing the fans with facts and not opinions. I predicted the Florida Gators would demolish the Tennessee Volunteers by 50 plus points and the outcome was decided by just 10 by the team that makes Gainesville it's home otherwise known as the defending national champions. So here are this week's highlights.

1) In their week two win against Colorado, the Toledo Rockets defense gave up 38 points but they should have known that if they give up this many points again to intrastate rival No.11 Ohio State, the outcome could get ugly. It did as the Buckeyes whitewashed the Rockets 38-0 in front of 71,727 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Buckeyes improved to 25-1 against current MAC schools. The Buckeyes have not lost an intrastate game from a school in Ohio since 1921 as they fell to Oberlin.

2) Since we're on the Ohio theme, former Nebraska Cornhuskers Coach Frank Solich posted a 58-19 record in six seasons with the "Big Red" from 1998-2003. He has found a home with the Ohio Bobcats (2-1) and is 25-27 after Saturday's 28-10 victory over Cal Poly. The Ohio Bobcats are located in Athens and play in 24,000 seat Peden Stadium. Solich's Cornusker's were accustomed to playing in front of crowds above 85,500 in Lincoln. During his four plus seasons he has guided the Bobcats to a bowl appearance. But one of his biggest accomplishments was on September 6, 2008 when he took his Bobcats into Ohio Stadium and lost a hard fought decision to the No.3 Buckeyes 26-14 in front of 105,002. The Bobcats travel to Knoxville and face the Volunteers (1-2) Saturday at Neyland Stadium which has a capacity of 100,011. Solich's overall collegiate record is 83-46.

3) If you're a Minnesota Golden Gophers fan and you bought season tickets to the new TCF Bank Stadium, one way to accept the first loss in this facility, which holds 50,805, is by witnessing an outstanding performance by a Heisman Trophy Candidate. Jahvid Best scored five touchdowns and rushed for 131 yards enabling the No.8 California Golden Bears to topple the Gophers 35-21.

4) After coming off a nice 17-15 victory over Kansas State at home in week two, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette came back to reality in the battle of I-10 as the No.9 LSU Tigers hammered the Ragin' Cajuns 31-3 in front of 92,443 fans at Tiger Stadium. LSU improved to 22-0 in their series with UL-L and won versus a team from Louisiana for the 23rd straight time. The Tigers are 33-0 against the Sun Belt Conference. UL-L fell t0 1-22 against ranked opponents.

5) Speaking of the Sun Belt Conference, in NFL terms when the Raiders are mentioned playing a Maryland based team, we speak of the match ups between Oakland against the Baltimore Colts or Ravens. On Saturday, The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (2-1) defeated the host Maryland Terrapins (1-2) 32-31 in College Park as Alan Gendreau kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired. This was the second straight win for the Blue Raiders over Maryland as they pulled off a home 24-14 upset on September 6, 2008.

6) The Delaware State Hornets (0-2) will see Maize and Blue twice this season and at the rate things are going figure to lose both games. On Saturday, the Delaware Blue Hens (2-1), who wear the same colors as the Michigan Wolverines faced their intrastate rival for the first time ever in the regular season and came away with a 27-17 win over the Hornets in Newark. A crowd of 20,585 saw this contest. The Hornets face No.23 Michigan on Oct 17 and playing in the "Big House" if my math is correct, the crowd will by five times higher in a venue that holds over 100,000.

7) What is the only way to play in the Rose Bowl if your conference has no affiliation to get there? Schedule the UCLA Bruins and after this past weekend, the Kansas State Wildcats felt the same way many Big Ten teams feel when the conference loses to the Pac 10. The Wildcats were beaten by UCLA 23-9 and dropped to 1-2 while the Bruins improved to 3-0. UCLA was 4-8 last year under first-year Coach Rick Neuheisel. The only difference in this 100,000 seat stadium was the size of the crowd as 67,311 turned out as the Rose Bowl does sellout yearly.

8) Was the Washington Huskies 42-23 win over Idaho in week two a fluke? Don't tell that to the USC Trojans, who dropped a 16-13 decision in Seattle. A crowd of 61,889 at Husky Stadium watched Washington avenge a 56-0 loss at USC last season, the worst loss in the 80-year history of this series. In the Idaho win, Washington snapped a 15-game losing streak. Washington entered this game with a 10-game Pac 10 Conference losing streak. Do you think Washington Coach Steve Sarkisian, USC's former offensive coordinator, has the Huskies headed in the right direction? Ask his former boss Pete Carroll and the answer will be an obvious yes, whose team was a nearly three touchdown favorite heading into the contest.

9) How would you like to be ESPN Announcers Sean McDonough and Matt Millen. This tandem called back to back thrillers as they watched the Michigan Wolverines defeat Notre Dame 38-34 on September 12 in Ann Arbor. On September 19, they saw No.13 Virginia Tech (2-1) defeat the No.19 Nebraska Cornhuskers (2-1) 16-15 in Blacksburg, VA as Tyrod Taylor fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to Dyrell Roberts with 21 seconds left in the game. The Cornhuskers fell to 1-21 in their last 22 games against teams in the top 20. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech now has won 32 straight non conference home contests.

10) Perhaps Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Coach Howard Schnellenberger will have better luck with the rest of his schedule after the Owls (0-2) lost its first two road games to Nebraska 49-3 and to South Carolina 38-16. FAU's latest loss came to Gamecocks Coach Steve Spurrier, who is 37-0 in his career against teams not currently in the Bowl Championship Series. FAU faces University of Lousiana Monroe-Warhawks (1-2) in the home opener this Saturday at Ft. Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium. UL-M was spanked 38-14 Saturday by the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

College Football Week 2

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH


As we get ready for this Saturday's action? Here are some of the most interesting developments on the college gridiron during week two.

1) NFL teams that are utilizing the latest "Wildcat" innovation created by the Miami Dolphins in 2008, must be drooling that Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow has thrown a touchdown pass in 30 consecutive games, plus has 45 rushing touchdowns. He ranks tied for third on the SEC's all-time rushing list behind Kevin Faulk (46) and Herschel Walker (49). The Gators blasted Troy 56-6 in Gainesville as Tebow accounted for five touchdowns enabling Florida to maintain its No. 1 ranking. Tebow will have plenty of games to shatter that record starting with Saturday's contest in "The Swamp" against the Tennessee Volunteers.

2) Two weeks ago, it looked like Michigan supporters wanted to run Coach Rich Rodriguez out of Ann Arbor. I'll bet they have a different attitude now as U-M upset No. 18 Notre Dame 38-34 at "The Big House." Tate Forcier didn't look like a freshman as he threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Greg Mathews with 11 seconds left. Forcier went 23-33, 240 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Forcier had a 31-yard TD run and rushed for 70 yards. When it was all over, Michigan's win overshadowed the fine performance by Notre Dame signal caller Jimmy Clausen, who went 25-42, 336 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. It's been a long week for Fighting Irish Coach Charlie Weiss and I'm sure he'll be glad to return to South Bend Saturday to face the Michigan State Spartans. A loss to MSU could greatly hamper Notre Dame's attempt to reach a BCS bowl game.

3) Look for Central Michigan University (CMU) quarterback Dan LeFevour to play in the NFL someday. The CMU signal caller was 33-46, 328 yards and amassed three touchdowns to lead the Chippewas to a stunning 29-27 win over Michigan State at Spartan Stadium. LeFevour passed Marshall's Byron Leftwich (12,084) for the most yards in MAC history with 12,166. LeFevour can add to his record Saturday against the Alcorn State Braves. The Braves (0-1) were destroyed in their opener 52-0 to Southern Mississippi on Sept 5th.

4) In the battle of basketball schools, the host Connecticut Huskies could have used former Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who passed for over 10,000 career yards. The No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0) edged the Huskies (1-1) 12-10 Saturday in East Hartford, Conn.

5) The Iowa Hawkeyes, who survived a scare a week ago to Northern Iowa University 17-16, bounced back nicely by winning a road game in Ames by crushing intrastate rival the Iowa State Cyclones. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi threw a career high four touchdown passes. Iowa also forced six turnovers in the states biggest athletic event.

6) It seems like the Tennessee Volunteers got a false sense of security by routing Western Kentucky 63-7 in their opener. Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin rarely lost to UCLA as an assistant coach at USC. But the Bruins humbled the young coach by defeating him 19-15 defeat in front of 102,239 at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Loss No. 2 for Kiffin is expected in Gainesville against the Florida Gators, who have won their first two games by margins of 59 and 50. I have a feeling that Florida Coach Urban Meyer would like to surpass 60 points after Kiffin accused the Gators of recruiting violations. This is going to get ugly for the Orange and White. My prediction, Florida will hammer Tennessee 75-21. Accuse the Gators of cheating and Tebow and company will punch you in the mouth. There is no reason to think that a 50-point spread shouldn't hold-up in this contest.

7) It seems like yesterday that the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and my alma mater, the University of South Florida Bulls were rivals in the Sun Belt Conference in basketball. Western Kentucky used to dominate my Bulls. Western Kentucky is in its first full season in Division I and USF defeated the Hilltoppers 35-13 in Bowling Green, KY.

8) The last time I saw Florida International University (FIU) wide receiver Ty Hilton was last season in the Golden Panthers 57-50 loss to Florida Atlantic University. A crowd of 92,012 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, saw Hilton have a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. FIU kept this contest close trailing 20-14 at halftime to No. 4 Alabama before the Crimson Tide pulled away for a 40-14 win. It's hard to believe the the 5-10, 175 pounder is just a sophomore and the upside on this youngster barring injuries in unlimited. NFL scouts know it!

9). The Big 12 has been feasting on Sun Belt Conference teams through the first two weeks. But the Sun Belt Conference finally broke through as the host University of Louisiana-Lafayette (UL-L) Ragin' Cajuns edged Kansas State 17-15. UL-L didn't need alumnus Jake Delhomme (Carolina Panthers) to pull off the upset. Instead, the needed a Tyler Albrecht 48-yard field goal with 32 seconds left that enabled UL-L to win it's first game over a BCS Conference member since 1996. This loss was no way for Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder to celebrate a contract extension through 2013.

10) In the game of the week, the Ohio State Buckeyes came through again losing another big contest by dropping an 18-15 decision to USC in the final moments. The shocked Columbus crowd of 106,033 saw the Buckeyes drop their sixth consecutive game to a top five opponent and watched USC post its 10th straight win against the Big 10. The Trojans have beaten Ohio State seven straight times.

Ohio State fans will have a reason to be nervous in week three as the Buckeyes play their first game in Cleveland since 1991 against the Toledo Rockets in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Rockets (1-1) defeated Colorado 54-38 in week two on Friday Sept 11th and last season edged the Michigan Wolverines 13-10 in "The Big House." The Rockets are 5-6 in their last 11 games against the Big Ten which will give Buckeyes Coach Jim Tressel plenty of motivation material for his 11th ranked squad. Toledo is some 20 miles closer to Cleveland than Columbus and the Rockets are considered the home team. Ohio State is 25-1 all-time against the MAC and hasn't lost to an intrastate rival in 88 years.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Expensive College QB Decisions

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I wonder if Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is re-thinking his decision to return to school for his senior year after sustaining a shoulder injury in the Sooners opening game 14-13 loss to Brigham Young.
Bradford, who threw for 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions last season leading Oklahoma to the BCS Championship game, was considered a top five NFL pick in the 2009 draft. He appears to have left millions of dollars on the table.
Bradford's injury reminds me of when Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jim Kelly injured his shoulder in 1982 against Virginia Tech and was sidelined for the season. Kelly did rehabilitate his shoulder and had his own pro day in Coral Gables. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round in 1983.
Meanwhile, USC Heisman Trophy Winner Matt Leinart was considered a top prospect in the 2005 NFL Draft after his Trojans won the national title with a 55-19 thrashing of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl leading them to a 22-game winning streak. Leinart came back for another season. The Trojans reached the BCS title game and lost to Texas and Vince Young in the Rose Bowl. USC had a 35-game winning streak but Leinart dropped to 10th in the 2006 NFL Draft to the Arizona Cardinals. Young was drafted ahead of Leinart and was the third player selected going to the Tennessee Titans.
Leinart is currently the Cardinals backup behind Kurt Warner and like Bradford, his check book took a financial hit.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford cashed in on Bradford's decision to stay in school with a contract that guaranteed him $41.7 million (the most guaranteed to any player in NFL history) and the total value is $78 million. It's safe to say that if the former Georgia Bulldog wants to get his degree after leaving as a junior, he'll be able to pay his tuition. In any economy let alone a bad one, Stafford looks like a genius.
What makes Bradford's decision even more intriguing is if his thought process was to come back and win a national title after losing 24-14 to Florida on January 8, those hopes took a jolt at Cowboys Stadium in the Sooners loss to BYU.
I'll never criticize a player for going back to school but that can wait when there is plenty of money out there.
In Kelly's case, I don't recall an under graduate rule so the only options were the defunct USFL and the Canadian Football League. Before signing with Buffalo in 1986, Kelly did play for the USFL's Houston Gamblers for two seasons in Mouse Davis' run-and-shoot offense amassing 9,842 yards and 83 touchdowns winning the league MVP in 1984. By developing his game under Davis' tutelage, Kelly guided Buffalo to four straight Super Bowls and that led to his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. I doubt Kelly would have left early playing for Howard Schnellenberger.
It will be interesting to see how Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas Colt McCoy fare in their senior seasons as they attempt to stay healthy as well as lead their teams to a national championship.
If both have excellent seasons they could become the next quarterback debate in the 2010 NFL draft.
Thus far, the move has backfired for Bradford unless he returns for the last half of the season and the Sooners get to a major bowl game plus he follows it up with a huge pro day following Kelly's example.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

College Football Observations Week 1

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Division I college football may lack a legitimate playoff system to determine a national champion on the field, but every week there are great story lines. During the fall, I'll be looking for the highlights that interest me and I encourage feedback from you readers as to what stood out in your mind.

1) I want to send a thank-you to Charleston Southern for making the odds makers look bad. The Florida Gators were 73-point favorites and they only lost by 59, dropping a 62-3 decision. Air Force came closer to this point spread by thrashing Nichols State 72-0.

2) I never thought I'd see an Ohio State coach stick-up for a Michigan man. But Jim Tressel did when he defended U-M's Rich Rodriguez last week about excessive practice time. Tressel pointed out he has to lock his players out of the building and all coaches around the country are dealing with this dilemma. I wouldn't be surprised if Rodriguez sent Tressel a thank-you e-mail and when these two squads meet in November, I wouldn't be surprised if there are hand shakes before and after the contest.

3) There is no doubt that the game of week two is going to be USC at Ohio State. The main question going into this contest is which team is better prepared after their respective openers. Was Ohio State's 31-27 win over Navy a wake-up call? Or was USC's 56-3 blasting over San Jose State a confidence builder for Trojans freshman quarterback Matt Barkley against the Buckeyes highly touted sophomore Terrelle Pryor. Should be fun to watch.

4) What makes the Michigan versus Notre Dame meeting in Ann Arbor interesting is how they both manhandled their opening week's opponents. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen was 15-18, 315 and four touchdowns as Notre Dame cruised to a 35-0 win over Nevada in South Bend. Meanwhile, Michigan waxed Western Michigan 31-7 utilizing a pair of freshman quarterbacks which has undoubtedly given Irish Coach Charlie Weiss and his staff plenty to think about. Tate Forcier threw for three touchdowns and was 13-20, 179 yards, while Deerfield Beach, Fla's, Denard "Shoelace" Robinson had an impressive 43-yard touchdown run demonstrating incredible speed.

5) If there was ever a win-win situation, this was it. Texas led by Colt McCoy's 317 yards and two touchdown passes hammered the University of Louisiana Monroe 59-20 in Austin. The Warhawks athletic department received an $850,000 check to be the Longhorn's whipping boy. This payout is larger than those handed out by the smaller bowl games.

6) Week one's version of the "Boston Massacre" was watching Boston College's 54-0 blowout over Northeastern in this inter-city contest.

7) Speaking of Boston or the New England area, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick wins championships with his famous hood sweatshirt other wise known as "The Hoody" while Ohio State's Tressel is known for the "Vest." It's interesting to look for championship attire trends.

8) Despite throwing an interception in overtime, Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus looked solid in his debut by throwing for 169 yards and one touchdown in the Orange's 23-20 home loss to Minnesota. Paulus, who played four years for Duke's Mike Krzyzewski will be the latest two sport star where pro football could be an option. The last time Paulus played football was five years ago as a senior in high school. My favorite two sport athlete of all-time is by far Bo Jackson! Look for him in future blogs.

9) The North Carolina Tar Heels chose to handout the basketball team's championship rings at the opening football game versus The Citadel. It makes sense as 58,500 saw former Miami Hurricane's football coach Butch Davis team pound the visitors 40-6. The Dean Smith Center holds 21,750.

10) Some intra-state games can be dangerous as the host Iowa Hawkeyes found out. Iowa was the beneficiary of two late missed field goals escaping with a 17-16 win over Northern Iowa University.

11) On Monday Night, ESPN got it right the week before NFL Monday Night Football returns. The network featured another in state rivalry and this was a dandy. Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden was undefeated in home openers until his nemesis the unranked Miami Hurricanes delivered a classic 38-34 upset. It took a banged up sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris 386 yards performance to give Bowden his first blemish at home. Harris' 386 yards performance is the best ever in this storied rivalry passing Hurricanes legends Ken Dorsey and Vinny Testaverde. Both teams combined for 880 yards as Miami amassed 476 while the Seminoles had 404.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

College Football's Biggest Rivalries

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
For years, I keep asking myself, why do I waste my time paying attention to college football since this is the only major sport that doesn't have a playoff system to decide a national championship?

The NCAA will always attempt to justify that it doesn't want disrupt its bowl system which is fun to watch during the holiday season, in addition to the fact that NFL scouts earn their money trying to find talent. Yet, the lower divisions do have a playoff system to determine their champion.

If the NCAA had any sense, it would keep its bowl system intact and just take the top four teams in the country and go with a 1-4, 2-3 format and add one extra game to decide its champion. To determine this champion by the opinion of writers and computers is absurd.

But since that doesn't figure to happen anytime soon, aside from my association with the FAU Owls, there is one other reason that I enjoy watching college football.

If there is one thing good about all sports is fans and the media can appreciate a good rivalry.

The TV Networks enjoy broadcasting the games because it attracts great ratings.

Here is a list of the top 30 broken down into two classifications. There are the national and in state match-ups. I encourage any reader and fan to e-mail me to provide their feedback.

The Best National Rivalries include:

Michigan Vs Ohio State.
Michigan Vs Notre Dame.
Texas Vs Oklahoma
Florida Vs Georgia
Army Vs Navy
Oklahoma Vs Nebraska
Tennessee Vs UCLA
Tennessee Vs Florida
Michigan Vs Penn State
LSU Vs Alabama
Ohio State Vs Alabama
Notre Dame Vs USC
USC Vs Michigan
Miami Vs Notre Dame
Florida Vs LSU

The Best Instate Rivalries include:

Florida Vs Florida State
Auburn Vs Alabama
Florida State Vs Miami
Michigan Vs Michigan State
USC Vs UCLA
Georgia Vs Georgia Tech
Texas Vs Texas A&M
California Vs Stanford
Clemson Vs South Carolina
Louisville Vs Kentucky
Oklahoma Vs Oklahoma State
Arizona Vs Arizona State
Penn State Vs Pittsburgh
Virginia Vs Virginia Tech
North Carolina Vs NC State

It will be interesting to see what new rivalries develop as newer college football traditions develop. Once FIU develops a competitive program, there meetings with FAU will be more meaningful. A couple years ago, a major brawl at the Orange Bowl between Miami and FIU gave both schools national publicity neither wanted as both teams recruit the same high schools thus developing the natural hatred amongst themselves.

My alma mater the University of South Florida (USF) has an I-4 rival against the University of Central Florida. Both schools are starting to send players to the NFL. Last season with the Bulls ranked No. 6 in the country, FAU lost an exciting 35-23 contest. Lockhart Stadium was a sellout.

Fifty percent of the crowd was sporting the green and gold of USF while the other 50% was wearing the red, white and blue of FAU.

Look for FAU and Miami to meet down the road as Howard Schnellenberger faces the university that he led to national prominence by guiding the Hurricanes to a 1983 national championship.

Alabama-Birmingham has two great potential rivalries with Alabama and Auburn. I enjoyed watching Delaware and Delaware State face each other for the first time ever in last years Division 1A playoffs.

I haven't found many quality football rivalries in the Northeast because that area is known for college basketball. Perhaps if the Big East wins a national championship, then by the next time I write a column like this, the list will change.

In the meantime, the biggest rivalry on the East Coast in any sport is the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rocky Mountain Fraud

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH


There is no question that the month of September is one of the most exciting months in sports. The baseball pennant races become more intense, college and pro football dominate the headlines and there is more news about the NHL and NBA.


MLB teams have to enjoy September the most because now they can expand their rosters to 40 players as the minor league seasons conclude. For the contenders, it's an opportunity to rest their regulars and add depth plus evaluate their talent for the future and see what players stick around or become good trade bait.


For the teams that are out of the playoff chase, September to them is what the NFL pre-season is and that's an opportunity to look towards the future and give their younger players more playing time.


But there are certain players that have to be thankful for the month of September. One which clearly comes to mind is Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi.


As much as I've come to realize that the steroid era is a black mark in MLB history and I've rarely cared about the subject, when I think of Giambi, his numbers are what the game has turned into. One that needs more asterisks.


My childhood hero is legendary Detroit Tigers right-fielder Al Kaline. I find it hard to believe that Kaline's 399 homers ranks 43rd on the all-time list. I once asked Kaline during spring training if he regretted that he didn't stick around and hit that milestone homer, and he told he did because of all the conversation it sparked after his retirement. It didn't affect his Hall of Fame status because he made it on the first ballot in 1980.


Kaline went on to have a lifetime batting average of .297, 1,583 RBIs, 3,007 hits, in 2,834 games with 11,597 at bats in a career which saw him become an All-Star 15 times and win a World Series Championship in 1968 during 21 seasons. Kaline's hit totals are 25th on the all-time list.


As for Giambi, his numbers are enough to make me gag. The 38-year-old signed a one-year contract in January to return to Oakland for $5.25 million. The A's received a .193 average, 11 homers, 40 RBIs in 83 games before they finally released him this summer. At the end of August, the Rockies signed him for the stretch run.


Giambi's career numbers are 407 homers, 1,322 RBIs, 1,865 hits, 1935 games, 6,602 at bats, and a lifetime batting average of .282. He hasn't won a championship but was a shrewd enough businessman to collect millions of dollars from the NY Yankees. The only thing the Yankees fans didn't receive from Giambi is an admittance that he didn't use steroids, though his body language and voice inflections were all we needed.


Now Giambi doesn't need steroids to pad his future numbers because he has the thin air of Denver's Coors Field. Whether he plays regularly or is used as it appears as a pinch-hitter as he is now, this guy has more breaks than any player I've seen in a long time.


But the only way to describe Giambi is he's a fraud of a flawed system. Just looking at his home run, hits, at bats and games compared to those of Kaline are enough to validate that point. But if there is one justice that will be served when comparing the "Rocky Mountain Fraud" to those of "Mr. Tiger" Al Kaline, is that Giambi won't make it to Baseball's Hall of Fame.


As strong as the National League looks this year, The Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals are so good that any of them could make it to the World Series. If the San Francisco Giants reach the post-season as a Wild-Card team, then with the addition of Brad Penny, they can't even be ruled out to reach the Fall Classic.


Wild-Card teams in the past have fared well in the playoffs and if the Giants were to win the World Series then double justice would be served because the Rockies experiment to bring Giambi would have failed and the biggest fraud on the planet Barry Bonds will still be without a championship ring.


But I give the Rockies credit, they had to make a move to reach the post-season, and a guy with Giambi's power should fit in well in the mile high thin air.


Who knows, they might like him so much that he could pad his numbers next year in Denver and maybe be lucky enough to reach 500 homers should he stay in Colorado for multiple seasons. If he does reach that milestone, he'd be in the right place.


At least Kaline's place in baseball history is sacred and I'm sure that deep down inside he agrees with the rest of the rest of baseball's legends, that he did things the right way therefore doesn't dwell on the players who belong in Baseball's Hall of Shame because they are cheaters.


Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jim Kelly Vs Rusty Smith

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH


When the FAU Owls open up their 2009 season Saturday in Lincoln against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, QB Rusty Smith will try to do what Jim Kelly did on Nov 3, 1979.


He'll try to defeat a national power on the road in hostile territory. Kelly (6-3, 217) pulled the trick when he defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 26-10. For Kelly, it was an opportunity to show Nittany Lions Coach Joe Paterno that he should have offered him a scholarship to play quarterback and not linebacker.


While Coach Howard Schnellenberger compares the skill level of Smith to Bernie Kosar because the two signal callers are intelligent, similar in size and delivery, that's where the comparisons end. Even though Kosar led Schnellenberger to his lone national title in 1983, it was Kelly who put the Hurricanes football program on the map and took the Miami football into national prominence with this historic win in Pennsylvania.


Kelly amassed 5,233 yards and threw for 32 touchdowns. If he didn't sustain a season ending shoulder injury in 1982 against Virginia Tech, who knows what his final statistics would have been.


But like Kelly nearly 30 years ago, Smith represents the latest star pupil for his 75-year old coach. These two quarterbacks are both program builders.


It was Smith who sent Schnellenberger out a winner in his mentors final game at the Orange Bowl on Nov 24, 2007 by blasting the Florida International University Golden Panthers 55-23. This victory led to a season ending three-game winning streak which was culminated by a 44-27 win over the Memphis Tigers Dec 21, 2007 in the New Orleans Bowl in FAU's first-postseason appearance.


FAU's second bowl victory occurred in Detroit as the Owls defeated Central Michigan 24-21 at Ford Field on Dec 26, 2008 in the Motor City Bowl lifting Schnellenberger's bowl record to 6-0. He is 2-0 with Smith at the helm and 1-0 with Kelly as the Hurricanes defeated Virginia Tech 20-10 in the 1981 Peach Bowl.


Before the Penn State game, Schnellenberger used his past experiences in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts to dictate when he wanted Kelly to see his first real game action.


"It was my feeling that I didn't want to start Jim Kelly's record prior to the time that our offensive football team had to learn the offense and have enough practice where he had a legitimate chance to win, " Schnellenberger said. We had a good spread out mobile quarterback named Mike Rodrigue and I let him take the first seven games and we were 3-4. We had beaten some minor teams and got killed by the better ones. But the time eventually came and in the eighth game at Penn State and I kept it a secret from the team, from my coaching staff, my wife Beverlee that I was going to start him in that game.


"I didn't in fact tell him until the pre-game meal which was four hours before kickoff that he was going to start the game and the game was going to be his. We started the game with a conservative game plan and threw 20 times and completed two thirds of those and two were for touchdowns. Low and behold, we had a win against mighty Penn State in State College in Happy Valley. Jim went on to go 2-2 his first year following losses to Alabama and Notre Dame but with a season ending victory over Florida in Charley Pell's first year.


"But this sent a message that Jim Kelly was going to be the quarterback of the future and that we can win a lot of football games with him at the helm. I praise my good Lord it was a rainy, windy day and the underdog had a better chance to win. We finished 5-6 in that first year and the win over Penn State certainly gave us great hope for the coming years."


Schnellenberger compared Kelly and Smith as,"very similar and Jim is bigger strong guy with a strong arm. He's less escapable than Rusty but can get out of the pocket and run with it. The only time I remember him escaping was when he got hurt against Virginia Tech in 1982. They tackled him outside, when he was running outside they chased down and someone fell on top of him and separated his shoulder and knocked him out the rest of his senior year. Rusty is faster and we'll see how Rusty measures up to Jim in the next 5-7 years."


When I talked to Schnellenberger about these two quarterbacks and put him on the spot about which one did more for his respective program, this is one time it was tough for him to go out on the limb. But he acknowledged that Smith has done wonders for FAU's football program.


"Rusty has been with us since the time we've been in the Sun Belt Conference, has taken us from a dormant to a champion and has led us to two bowl wins, " Schnellenberger added. "Now he looks in his senior year to have a chance to beat Nebraska, South Carolina, our conference schedule along with Wyoming. The first game against Nebraska we'll be prohibitive underdogs, yet we have an outside chance to get ahead at games end. If that would happen then of course he would be immortalized here in the State of Florida. "


If the Information Management Major doesn't win against the Cornhuskers then I'm sure if Smith uses his information management of game film and the playbook to keep this game competitive, Schnellenberger would be pleased with that outcome.


It happened before that a South Florida based football team played a national power and emerged when Schnellenberger was 45-years old so anything is possible nearly 30 years later.


Going into this season, Smith, 6-5, 230, has appeared in 38 games, has thrown for 62 touchdowns and amassed 8,197 yards. Reaching 10-11,000 career yards with an outstanding season and many offensive weapons is attainable.


But one thing is for certain, Kelly and Smith have built these programs in their own way and while Kelly never was able to get an on campus stadium built, his bust hangs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, while Smith has an excellent chance to be the first player in Owls history to be drafted in the NFL and the major reason there will be an on campus stadium set to open in 2011.


So let the comparisons between Kelly and Smith continue.


Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

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