Texas A&M Aggies: 3-point stance

1. The SEC released Monday its schedule rotation for nondivisional conference opponents, laying out in stark terms the cost of playing only eight conference games a year. For instance, Texas A&M players who enroll this fall will play UCLA twice (2016-17) and never play Georgia or Vanderbilt (the fifth-year guys will get Kentucky in 2018). Or this: Missouri plays at Kyle Field this fall, and the Tigers won’t return to College Station before 2026, when this year’s first-graders will enroll in college. That’s conference play?

2. I can’t recommend highly enough the breakdown of Big Ten balance sheets that my colleague Matt Fortuna began Monday in a four-part series. The numbers are staggering, yes, but the explanation of expenditures by Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis provides depth and detail to the amount of resources afforded to scholarship student-athletes. I’m for giving them full cost of attendance, but as Fortuna highlighted, the increase in services provided by schools over the last decade is staggering.

3. At the Tulane commencement Saturday, Wynton Marsalis used words and his horn to give graduates a compelling message. But the best moment came when university president Scott Cowen singled out former Green Wave defensive back Devon Walker, paralyzed in a game two years ago. When Cowen asked spectators and Walker’s fellow graduates “to show our love and our respect for this incredible young man,” they responded with a 40-second standing ovation.

3-point stance: Playoff pays off

March, 18, 2014
1. It might be the first unforeseen benefit of the College Football Playoff: the major programs are curtailing their junk-food intake and increasing the amount of meat on their schedules. Just last week, UCLA and Texas A&M announced a home-and-home. Here’s the best part: only two extra slots are available, yet dozens of FBS programs have upped their games. That’s quite a bang for the playoff buck.

2. Florida might be the top seed in March Madness, but there’s one viewpoint that illustrates how football dominates the Deep South. Five of the BCS teams from last fall made the NCAA Tournament field: Baylor, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Stanford. Five BCS teams failed to make the field: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and UCF. That’s two SEC teams, two football-first ACC teams, and one of the southern-most teams in the American. In related news, Alabama began spring practice Saturday.

3. A federal judge sentenced former Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker to eight months in prison last week for his role in a conspiracy in which the bowl reimbursed employees who made illegal campaign contributions to politicians. Junker became a symbol for bowl excess, and the scandal helped usher in the playoff era. But let me remind everyone that Junker spent a lot of that excess on promoting college football as the game’s popularity exploded during the BCS era. Athletic directors, coaches and sportswriters all enjoyed his largesse. Fans benefited from it, too.

3-point stance: Recruiting nationally

February, 6, 2014
1. Local recruits might be a program’s bread and butter, but it sure seems as if more schools are looking outside their geographic comfort zone. UCLA signed five players east of the Rockies. National champion Florida State reached beyond the local bounty to sign players from 11 other states. Alabama signed recruits from 14 states, not to mention linebacker Rashaan Evans from enemy country (Auburn [Ala.] High). Evans narrowed it down to Alabama, Auburn … and UCLA.

2. Here’s another way of making the same point: Jake Trotter, our Big 12 reporter, said on Paul Finebaum’s radio show Wednesday that the best players in the conference states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa signed with SEC schools. Texas A&M’s move into the SEC opened the doors of the state to the conference. Ten SEC schools, including every Western Division program, signed at least one Texas recruit.

3. It’s great to see Ralph Friedgen return to coaching. The 66-year-old Fridge, after three years of golf and hanging around, will help Rutgers move into the Big Ten as the offensive coordinator for head coach Kyle Flood. Friedgen, who went 75-50 in 10 seasons at Maryland, returned for the same reason that Dennis Erickson and Tom O’Brien are now assistants: to coach young men. That’s why these guys got in the business. After all the years and the money and the fame, that’s why they’re still here.
1. Stanford outgained Michigan State on the ground, 162-65, and won the turnover battle, 2-1. Forget the stats. The Spartans won the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl presented by VIZIO, 24-20, because they controlled the line of scrimmage when the Cardinal had the ball. Take away Tyler Gaffney's 47-yard rush in the first quarter, and he gained 44 yards on 23 carries. The Cardinal defense committed two penalties inside its 10-yard line and dropped two picks. Simply put, the better team won.

2. The state of Texas has a rich history of playing physical football. You line up and you hit the guy in front of you and you see who’s best. That’s how it went until the state’s schools fell in love with the uptempo spread. Texas A&M gave up 48 points and won. Baylor surrendered 52 and lost. Rice allowed 44 to Mississippi State and lost. Texas gave up 30 to Oregon and got embarrassed. You would think with all that talent in Lone Star State, someone could play defense.

3. Nebraska beat Georgia, 24-19, in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl and extended to six seasons head coach Bo Pelini’s streak of finishing either 9-4 or 10-4. Given the emotional highs and lows that Pelini has endured in Lincoln -- this week he’s popular -- the notion that he has become the model of consistency is a headscratcher. Here’s another one -- only three head coaches in the Big Ten (Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern and Mark Dantonio of Michigan State) have longer tenures than Pelini.
1. Still in my notebook from the Lane Kiffin story: Much has been made of USC interim coach Ed Orgeron putting desserts back onto the training table. Kiffin listened to a nutritionist; Orgeron said something about linemen loving cookies. Pac-12 Network analyst Yogi Roth, a former Trojan assistant who wrote a book with Pete Carroll, said Carroll made it clear he wanted a lot of desserts. When the nutritionists objected, Carroll said, "Ah, screw it. They’re 19 or 20 years old. They’ll be fine."

2. In the two games since Texas A&M sophomore wideout Mike Evans had a career day against No. 1 Alabama (seven catches, 279 yards, one touchdown), he has caught eight passes for 173 yards and two scores. That tells us that SMU and Arkansas paid more attention to Evans. But he managed catches of 46 and 49 yards, respectively, against each. That tells us that Ole Miss won’t take its eye off Evans, either.

3. The legendary Beano Cook died one year ago today. I have been thinking about him, what with a big game at LSU this week, the 25th anniversary of the Notre Dame-Miami “Catholics vs. Convicts” game next week, and the Pirates playoff run. Beano would have rooted for his hometown team, even if he professed to abhor baseball. On the day before Game Six of the 2011 World Series, Beano said he might go see UConn at Pitt. “You’re not going to stay home to watch Game Six?” I asked. His reply: “No. No, no, no. If Game Six were in my bedroom, I would sleep in the kitchen.” There was only one Beano.


Recruits Miss Lone Star Showdown
National recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton spoke with top prospects at Nike's The Opening regional in Dallas. The findings were overwhelming: Players want the game back.