Story lines to watch during the 2010 college football season
Here's hoping the 2010 college football season brings more surprises than last year.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Ten coaches riding the dreaded hot seat
1. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan
Rich-Rod tops everybody's list. An 8-16 start isn't what the Maize and Blue faithful had in mind, never mind rules breaches for excessive practice.
2. Dan Hawkins, Colorado
Boise State coaching alums have a checkered record, including Hawkins' 16-33 at CU.
3. Mike Locksley, New Mexico
Debuting at 1-11 is never a good thing, especially when you get suspended a game for punching out one of your assistant coaches.
4. Paul Wulff, WSU
Bigger, faster team, but lots of ground to make up.
5. Mike Price, UTEP
Got the Miners a whiff of success early, but four losing seasons ensued.
6. Mike Sherman, Texas A&M
QB Jerrod Johnson should quiet the wolves at Sherman's door after a 10-15 start.
7. Mark Richt, Georgia
Four straight bowl wins, but 8-5 last year, and there's impatience to match Florida and Alabama.
8. Bob Toledo, Tulane
Ex-UCLA head man is 9-27 in beleaguered New Orleans.
9. Ron Zook, Illinois
Followed Rose Bowl year of '07 with 8-16 record.
10. Tom O'Brien, NC State
Deeply respected, but candidate for Washington job in 2004 has begun in Raleigh with three losing years.
By the usual switchback standards of college football, the year 2009 was relatively tame. Of course, that's using the typical yardstick, akin to slugging down a burrito grande 10 minutes before mounting the carnival Tilt-a-Whirl.
There were no upsets for the ages, no thread of unpredictability and, some would say, no fun, although the house at Husky Stadium seemed to enjoy Washington's early-season gut-twister over USC.
When the last of the 93 bowl games had been played, a formful season had been consummated. There was no Appalachian State lightning against Michigan, no 41-point underdog rising up like Stanford did against USC in 2007. Of the preseason top 10, six were still there in the final poll.
To that, we say: Never again.
Story lines for 2010:
Auld Lang Syne
And don't let the door hit you in the hip pads on the way out. Utah and Colorado are pointed for the Pac-10 in a year. Nebraska, tired of Texas and its 10-gallon attitude, is headed to the Big Ten. Boise State has turned tail for the Mountain West, and Nevada and Fresno State are MWC-bound.
That leaves the Western Athletic Conference looking like Sunday morning in a fraternity rec room, hours after a mega-kegger.
None of the moves take place until 2011. But look for some chapped feelings as those schools exit their conferences in 2010.
"Honey, it's my back again"
You're going to need an alibi on Sept. 11, because this is what's on the menu: Penn State at Alabama, Oregon at Tennessee, Miami at Ohio State. Plus Michigan at Notre Dame and Florida State at Oklahoma. If a day of regular-season football can rival the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament, this is it.
Let's get it started
Opening weekend could either fan the hopes of BCS-busters, or expose them as impostors. Thursday night, Big East favorite Pittsburgh goes to Utah. Saturday, Texas Christian plays Oregon State in Jerry Jones' slick crib in Arlington, Texas. And Monday night, Boise State risks its reputation at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., against Virginia Tech.
Everybody's favorite player
Mark Herzlich, Boston College linebacker, was sidelined last year with bone cancer. He returns this season after a remarkable recovery, though he has been slowed lately by a foot injury.
Nine of the top-11-rated quarterbacks of 2009 have moved on, including headline-hoggers like Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen. That shifts the spotlight to places like Houston (Case Keenum is back, trying to outdo his 44-touchdown performance) and the Pac-10, which is again thick with gifted quarterbacks after a fallow spell.
It also underscores the return of prolific runners like Pitt's Dion Lewis (1,799 yards in '09), Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams (1,655) and Temple's Bernard Pierce (1,361).
What, no trucking schools?
Some programs go to preposterous lengths to invite success. This year's baby's-bottom scheduling award goes to Indiana, which has Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron and Arkansas State.
Say it ain't so, Joe
Joe Paterno was coach at Penn State before the Beatles released "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Now time may be up for JoePa, 83, or so it seemed at Big Ten media day last month. Paterno looked haggard after battling an intestinal problem in the spring.
"Paterno sounded very much like something he never has," wrote David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News. "An old man."
Notre Dame tries (again) to get it right
The Irish might have this time, hiring Brian Kelly of Cincinnati to replace Charlie Weis, who gave arrogance a bad name.
Kelly is one of 22 new coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Among the intriguing newbies are Turner Gill, the old Nebraska quarterback (at Kansas via Buffalo) and Charlie Strong (at Louisville via the Miami staff), two prominent African-American hires.
And of course nobody will be watched like live wire Lane Kiffin at USC. For sizzling repartee out of Los Angeles, Kiffin and UCLA's Rick Neuheisel will make the Dodgers' McCourt divorce look like something on C-SPAN.
Loyalty and the Petrino-meter
Bobby Petrino, the Arkansas coach, recently made an issue of a female radio reporter's Florida hat, and her Hog-centered station fired her.
No doubt she was way more scurrilous than Petrino back in December 2007, when he bolted the Atlanta Falcons three games from the end of the season to hook up with the Razorbacks.
The Southeastern Conference has won the past four BCS title games. And top-ranked defending champ Alabama, with eight offensive starters back, is fixin' to win another one. If it doesn't, coach Nick Saban will be snarling at somebody.
Social media meets the Junction Boys
Used to be players tested their iron-fisted coaches by growing their hair long or cultivating mustaches. Now they do it inside of 140 characters.
Boise State's Chris Petersen recently became the latest coach to ban the use of Twitter by his players. Rachel Newman-Baker, NCAA Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities, recently told SportsIllustrated.com that the NCAA's surge in investigations of players' improper liaisons with agents has been aided by revelations gleaned from social media.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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