First, we start off with an article by Matt Hayes of The Sporting News about the breakout stars of the 2008 college football season. One entry caught my eye (for what it's worth I also agree with him on Everson Griffen and Lawrence Wilson being breakout studs this year).
WR Duval Kamara, 6-5, 222, So., Notre Dame.
Scout's take: "Saw them twice last year, and he's the only guy on offense who looked comfortable. He knows how to get off the jam (at the line of scrimmage), knows how to use his hands to separate. He's got good speed. Once he figures out how to use his big frame to shield himself, he'll be a terror. No one in college football will be able to match up with him -- no one."
And then there's this entry from Stewart Mandel's CNNSI mailbag from Wednesday. One fired up ND fan!!
In response to last week's question about coaching storylines, I will donate $1,000 to the University of Washington athletic department if Notre Dame loses to Washington on Oct. 25. It will not happen. Hold on to this e-mail for five months.
--Pat, Overland Park, Kan.
Finally, Dennis Dodd has a new column up on CBSSportsline.com on the best coaches in college football.
At the top of the list for Dennis Dodd: Pete "Anytime, Anywhere" Carroll
I really can't argue with Pete Carroll as the best coach in America, and it almost would have been wierd not to see him ranked #1. The program that he has put together at USC is the gold standard for college football these days. When you take into account what USC has done year in and year out in dominating the Pac 10 and winning the big games on the biggest stages, Pete Carroll has to be at the top of the list. He's the best big game coach in college football today, and actually a very underrated strategist and technician. I think there's a perception out there that Pete Carroll just rolls the balls out on the field with all that talent and then fires up the troops with one of those "I've had 14 Mountain Dews and 6 Red Bulls and I'm ready to run through a wall" speeches, but there's a lot more to Pete Carroll than his amped up style. Next time you watch USC play, watch how they do all the little things. Watch how they tackle with precision and seal off their blocks. USC is the most talented team in the country, but also one of the most fundamentally sound. And if it's a big game, there is nothing like seeing Carroll go for the throat right out of the chute with aggressive playcalling on offense and defense. The patented play action on first and 10 at the 50 after a big punt return is a Pete Carroll staple.
As for the other coaches, how would you rank them?? I have to say that I'm a little surprised to see the name Rich Rodriguez on that list. I think Rodriguez is a good coach, but does he belong in the conversation among the very elite in the game at this point?? I'd like to see what he does at Michigan first before putting him into that category. I'm not taking anything away from him, and I can't tell you how many times I was blown away by how impressive WVU looked at times in the last couple years, but the Michigan job is a whole different animal. The new ESPN the Magazine article about what he has done at Michigan is impressive (and admittedly a little scary), but I'm not ready to put him higher on my list just yet. Does Rich Rodriguez belong on this list any more than Mark Richt does??
And then we get to the Mad Hatter himself. The most bizarre man in college football and the man who produces more unintentional comedy in a season than most coaches do in their entire career: Leslie Edwin "Have a GREAT day" Miles. Look, I get why he is on this list. Really, I do. Miles has a ring on his finger now, he's got a huge contract, he got all kinds of attention from the Michigan speculation, and he got the job done for a superb and deserving LSU team (one of the three or four most memorable college football teams of the last 15 years or so if you ask me). The Les Miles soap opera was by far the most interesting story of the 2007 college football season, and it didn't hurt to have the best announcing duo in the history of college football (Lundquist and Danielson) bringing us the action every week from Tiger Stadium. But you have to admit that it is a little bizarre to see the name Les Miles on a "best college football coaches in the land" list. Let's not forget that LSU fans were not exactly in love with the guy prior to last season (and even DURING last season!!), and I would say that the reaction to him being hired by LSU was tepid in the first place. He clearly knows a lot more about football than he gets credit for, but he's no Einstein and his whole hokey "I'm going to try to put on my best Bo Schembechler impersonation and say things like 'my damn good football team' with a half grin and half serious face" act is more funny than impressive. He comes off more like a highly-functioning autistic than a coaching genius. I give Les Miles credit for his record and don't really dislike the guy as much as I used to because I think he means well, but let's not get crazy here and start talking about him as one of the top 5 coaches in the game.
I don't have a lot to say about Tressel (mainly because I live in Columbus and hear so much about Tressel that I'm numb to any discussion of the man at this point), but I do give him credit for getting as much out of his talent as any coach in America. Tressel has a consistent approach, and he has done a great job developing talent at Ohio State. His recruiting classes are usually in the 10-15 range, but they have been cranking out NFL Draft picks left and right. With all that said, isn't it safe to at least somewhat question whether Tressel belongs in the "best coach in the game" discussion when he was clearly outcoached in the last two title games by Urban Meyer and Les Miles?? They had some personnel problems in both those games (mainly in the trenches if you ask me), but some of it was just a lack of imagination and aggressiveness by Tressel and his staff. Here's the thing about Tressel that no one really talks about. He has had a lot of big wins in his tenure at OSU (6-1 against Michigan, 5-2 against Penn State, 2002 National Title game, 2004 Fiesta Bowl win, 2005 Fiesta Bowl win against ND), but who is the best coach Tressel has beaten?? Mack Brown?? Lloyd Carr? Larry Coker? Charlie Weis?? JoePa?? Those are five big names in the coaching industry, but all those guys have had their rough moments in recent years and all have been questioned even by their own fanbases. I would like to see Tressel genuinely coach the pants off of a great coach one time before putting him into the conversation with Pete Carroll and other legends. And wouldn't you know it, Tressel has a big game coming up in September at USC, so I think he has his opportunity on a golden platter to reestablish himself as one of the premier coaches in college football. Tressel owns the Big 10, but that isn't saying much these days. I'd probably still put him in my top 3, but I'd like to see how things shake out for him in the Los Angeles Colisseum before determining if he's going to stay there.
As for Urban Meyer, take a peek at Florida's schedule for the 2008 season.
9-6-08 MIAMI FL
9-20-08 at Tennessee
10-4-08 at Arkansas
10-11-08 LOUISIANA STATE
11-1-08 vs. Georgia (@ Jacksonville)
11-8-08 at Vanderbilt
11-15-08 SOUTH CAROLINA
11-22-08 THE CITADEL
11-29-08 at Florida State
Now that's not an easy schedule by any stretch (Miami and FSU in nonconference plus the SEC...yeesh), but they are fortunate to catch Miami and FSU in a down stretch and no Alabama or Auburn this year. Their toughest road game is against Tennessee, and they get LSU at home. This schedule is set up for a national title run for the Gators. If people think Urban Meyer is going away any time soon, they're kidding themselves. He has that program rolling along and stockpiling talent, and they are going to remain a force in the SEC for a long long time. With Urban at the helm and all their offensive weapons and that schedule, the Gators are winning the SEC this year. Mark it down and take it to the bank right now. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson might as well buy an apartment in Gainesville this year for all the games they are going to do down there for CBS Sports.
Anyway, out of those coaches, here's how I'd rank them going forward:
1) Pete Carroll
2) Urban Meyer
3) Jim Tressel
4) Bob Stoops
5) Nick Saban
6) Frank Beamer
7) Rich Rodriguez
8) Les Miles