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SEC preview: Miles' task at LSU simple: Win 'em all

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  • SEC preview: Miles' task at LSU simple: Win 'em all

    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    No pressure or anything, Les Miles, but it would be nice if you'd deliver an SEC title in your first season at LSU.

    OK, a national championship wouldn't hurt either.


    SEC
    Predicted Finish
    East
    1. Tennessee
    2. Florida
    3. Georgia
    4. South Carolina
    5. Kentucky
    6. Vanderbilt
    West
    1. LSU
    2. Auburn
    3. Alabama
    4. Arkansas
    5. Mississippi
    6. Mississippi State
    Off. player of year:
    Chris Leak, Florida
    Def. player of year:
    Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee
    Coach of the year:
    Urban Meyer, Florida
    Like any coach jumping up a level, Miles wanted the fame, money and power that goes with coaching an SEC power. Now comes the reality. Nick Saban left Miles a load of talent.

    And Miles cannot screw it up. No pressure or anything, Les, but the expectations are through the roof.

    "I think I spoke on (a) Wednesday night and I got in the car," said the Tigers' new coach. "(A) guy talked about nine wins and then at the podium somebody mentioned 10 or 11, then a guy said, 'Well, you know 12 victories is probably just what we'd like, coach.'"

    Yeah, no pressure.

    Miles enters the House That Nick Built with the burden of Tiger Nation upon him. Being the first coach to lead Oklahoma State to three consecutive bowl games is one thing. Keeping Tiger Stadium rocking at an earthquake level is another.

    Saban wasn't the most media-friendly guy in the world, but he did deliver two SEC titles and a national championship. That will earn him a lifetime spot in LSU hearts.

    Saban recruited so well that the Tigers have averaged 10 victories the past four seasons. Seemingly the only way they can be dragged down this year is a still-questionable quarterback situation.


    Les Miles hits Baton Rouge after leading Oklahoma State to back-to-back upsets of then-No. 1 Oklahoma. (AP)
    Sophomore JaMarcus Russell has been slow to develop, but that doesn't mean he can't be this year's Jason Campbell. Besides, the Tigers are so loaded at defensive line, running back and receiver that it might not matter.

    Right now, it certainly doesn't matter to LSU fans. LSU was an overwhelming pick to win the SEC West by the media. Six players were picked on the preseason all-conference teams. The run started by Saban is unprecedented in LSU history. It's up to Miles (28-21 at Oklahoma State) not to screw it up.

    "The program is in great shape," he said. "There's arguably maybe no finer football program in the country being run."

    What are LSU's chances? Pretty good. Miles runs a tight, efficient ship. His influences include Bo Schembechler. He has NFL experience. There has been a steady climb up the ladder. He basically has the job because of two upsets of Oklahoma while at Oklahoma State.

    In Baton Rouge, he was wise enough to retain Jimbo Fisher as offensive coordinator and bring in the driven Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator.

    Expect the Tigers to be more diverse on offense and just as aggressive on defense. Saban (and staff) refined a blitz scheme that could change a nanosecond before the snap. When it was working, the quarterback had no time to check off and didn't know where the blitz was coming from.

    "Mostly, he is building on what coach Saban taught us," running back Joseph Addai said of Miles.

    Conference Previews
    ACC MWC
    Big East Pac-10
    Big Ten SEC
    Big 12 Sun Belt
    C-USA WAC
    MAC Indep.
    Rebuilding, then, is not an option.

    Predicted order of finish:

    East
    1. Tennessee: Ladies and gentlemen, we present your 2005 SEC champions. Suspensions, injuries, court cases? Phil Fulmer laughs in the face of all of them. Now we get down to some actual football. This is Tennessee's best team since the '98 national champions. These Vols run the ball and play stout defense. What else do you need? Maybe a break from the schedule maker, who has the Vols playing back-to-back games at Florida and LSU.

    2. Florida: Gators fans have fallen in love with Florida's Urban renewal. While Meyer will win an SEC title and compete for a national title while he's in Gainesville, it won't be this year. There are just too many holes. Chief among them is a tailback who can operate effectively in the spread option.

    3. Georgia: D.J. Shockley's first year as a starter (as a senior) will be cushioned by an experienced offensive line, three tailbacks who have started and sure-handed receivers. No David Pollack and no David Greene, but the Bulldogs will still be expected to compete for the SEC title.

    4. South Carolina: You can bet Fulmer, Meyer and Mark Richt are lining up waiting take their swats at the Spur Dog pinata. This is the year, because the Gamecocks will get better as long as Spurrier is around.

    5. Kentucky: Rich Brooks will be the first coach fired this season.

    6. Vanderbilt: You feel sorry for preseason All-SEC quarterback Jay Cutler, who returned for his senior season. He'll go out a loyal soldier with another 2-9 season.

    West
    1. LSU: This sounds weird, but the Tigers are in good shape even after the injury to running back Alley Broussard. LSU is deep at running back, where Justin Vincent -- MVP of both an SEC championship game and Sugar Bowl in his career -- will get more playing time. Joseph Addai and Shyrone Carey aren't too shabby either.


    Who will win the SEC this year?

    LSU
    Tennessee
    Florida
    Auburn



    2. Auburn: Tommy T. thinks his Tigers won't lose a step. The truth is, Auburn will trip a time or two. Last year was a once-in-a-lifetime season. A quick, small defense will lead the way as Auburn wins at least eight games.

    3. Alabama: If Brodie Croyle stays healthy, if Kenneth Darby can put up 1,000 yards again, if 'Bama can beat Auburn, if Mike Shula is an SEC-quality coach, then the Tide have a chance -- to finish second.

    4. Arkansas: The SEC's chronic overachievers aren't going to surprise anyone this year. The Hogs will be a borderline bowl team. Robert Johnson is nothing special at quarterback, if only because he isn't Matt Jones. The secondary will be better after four new starters took their lumps last year.

    5. Mississippi: If emotion were victories, the Rebels would be undefeated this season. New coach Ed Orgeron brings plenty of defensive smarts from USC. Ole Miss still needs bodies. It will take a couple of years to get back to the Cutcliffe-Manning stage again.

    6. Mississippi State: Running back Jerious Norwood is one of the few bright spots for a program that will struggle to match last year's 3-8 record.

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  • DJRamFan
    Pac-10 preview: Former power Washington begins rebuilding
    by DJRamFan
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    Something to do over beers as the season draws near: Put together a list of the top 10 football factories. You know, the schools that get their very identity from football excellence.

    Most likely Washington will be in there somewhere.

    Pac-10
    Predicted Finish
    1. Southern Cal
    2. Arizona State
    3. California
    4. Washington State
    5. UCLA
    6. Oregon
    7. Oregon State
    8. Arizona
    8. Washington
    8. Stanford
    Off. player of year:
    Reggie Bush, USC
    Def. player of year:
    Spencer Havner, UCLA
    Coach of the year:
    Pete Carroll, USC
    What happened to this once-proud program could fill a courtroom. In fact, it has. The unfortunate Rick Neuheisel saga dragged U-Dub down to a point that Tyrone Willingham became the program's third coach in 18 months.

    The top story in the Pac-10 is Southern California chasing its third consecutive national championship. Right below it might be the plight of Washington. When was the last time the Huskies were picked last in the preseason as they were by media earlier this month?

    Not surprising, really, when Washington finished 1-10 and winless in the Pac-10 for the first time since 1973 last season. But, still, Washington? The school of Don James, great quarterbacks, Rose Bowls?

    Fortunately, the Huskies lucked out when Willingham was available. They won't be down for long in a conference that -- pre-USC dynasty -- was fluid (Washington won 11 games as recently as 2000). With less than two months to recruit after being fired, Willingham assembled a serviceable (if small at 13 players) recruiting class.


    Tyrone Willingham is in Seattle to turn around a Washington program that went 1-10 in 2004. (AP)
    The Huskies won't be going to any Rose Bowls anytime soon. The fact that four quarterbacks are still in the mix says something about the existing talent. Athletic Isaiah Stanback is thought to be the frontrunner after completing only 34 percent of his passes last year.

    But the Huskies will be better because they can't get any worse. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer assembled the nation's best defense against the run last year at Notre Dame. The entire front seven return, which, in this case, could be as bad as it is optimistic.

    The coaching changes, the Neuheisel distraction, the Keith Gilbertson disaster -- it all had a cumulative effect. Washington committed a staggering 42 turnovers last year. That's the second-most in I-A this decade (only Army in 2003 had more).

    The climb back begins with the luck of the former Irish. Willingham needed a job and Washington provided the opening...
    -08-17-2005, 08:42 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Big 12 preview: No end in sight for North's woes
    by DJRamFan
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!





    The Big 12 North isn't a division, it's a kennel.

    You know, a place where all the mutts go.

    The division's six teams fell just short of making it into Letterman's monologue last year. Colorado was the "champion" and lost by 39 points to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game. In inter-divisional play, the North won only three of 19 games against the loaded South. Conference officials are still determining whether those even count. All three were against Baylor.

    Big 12
    Predicted Finish
    North
    1. Colorado
    2. Iowa State
    3. Nebraska
    4. Kansas State
    5. Missouri
    6. Kansas
    South
    1. Texas
    2. Oklahoma
    3. Texas A&M
    4. Texas Tech
    5. Oklahoma State
    6. Baylor
    Off. player of year:
    Vince Young, Texas
    Def. player of year:
    Rodrique Wright, Texas
    Coach of the year:
    Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M
    Once again, the conference's title game (Dec. 3 in Houston), is expected to be a formality. Texas or Oklahoma will wipe the floor with the North's Last Comic Standing.

    It wasn't always this way. The league debuted 10 years ago with most of the power concentrated in the North. Nebraska was in the midst of winning three national championships in four years. Kansas won 10 games in 1995. Kansas State was an emerging national power. But while you were in the kitchen getting a sandwich, Big 12 North football became the island of misfit boys.

    Actually, it took a little longer than that. In the pillow fight that was the Big 12 North race last year, all Iowa State had to do was beat floundering Missouri -- which had lost to Troy -- to win its first race of any kind since tying for the Missouri Valley in 1912. After 92 years, a tap-in right?

    No, just another case of the yips. Missouri won in overtime, leaving the field feeling somewhat better about a 5-6 train wreck of a season in which its hothead coach needed some anger management and a new offensive coordinator. How dare media ask why Gary Pinkel's offense was able to turn Brad Smith from brilliant scrambling Heisman contender to pocket pińata?

    Once again, all six teams in the North have a chance to win the division going into 2005. That's kind of the problem. Colorado won it last year as much as the other five didn't.


    Gary Barnett and the Buffs are the best team in a bad Big 12 North division. (Getty Images)
    Can the Big 12 North bounce back? The short answer is "no" which, for now, is also the long-term answer. Blame it on Tom Osborne. When T.O. hung it up in December 1997, in retrospect, that sent Nebraska and the North...
    -08-18-2005, 08:49 PM
  • Nick
    Top 25 games of the season (or why the SEC still rules)
    by Nick
    Top 25 games of the season (or why the SEC still rules)
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBSSports.com Senior Writer
    Aug. 26, 2011

    This season's five Ws -- who, what, when, where and wahoo!

    The games of the year (ranked 1-25):

    1. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 5: Seriously, can we hit the "sim" button on the season and just fast-forward to this mega-matchup? A lot of folks think these are the two best teams in the country. This game could decide the SEC West, the SEC and half of the BCS championship game. Alabama still has quarterback issues, but, oh, that defense. Speaking of quarterback issues, for all of his problems, Jordan Jefferson has missed only seven of 27 passes in his career against Alabama. Last year's 10-of-13 performance in Baton Rouge was one of the best of his career.

    2. Oklahoma at Florida State, Sept. 17: FSU has to prove it's back. No. 1 Oklahoma has to stay unblemished to continue its national championship run. The Sooners will have to win without leading tackler and best trash talker Travis Lewis. You get the feeling this is an all-in game for the 'Noles. In other words, if they do lose it's going to be hard to recover emotionally with a trip Clemson up next. Bottom line: OU can afford a loss. FSU can't.

    3. Alabama at Auburn, Nov. 26: Don't sleep on the Iron Bowl after last year's all-timer. Remember what has happened in the offseason -- the Toomer's Oaks, the tornado, Saban's 9-foot statue, the Cam Newton investigation hovering over it all. 'Bama will be favored but what will that mean? This is guaranteed to be one of the most emotional Iron Bowls ever.

    4. Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 12: This game should decide the Pac-12 North. (It feels funny just writing that.) It also could decide the Heisman given that the leading active vote getters are playing in this game (Andrew Luck, LaMichael James). This is the Cardinal's revenge game. There aren't many of them. After blowing a 21-3 lead last year at Oregon, Stanford watched the Ducks score 49 of the next 59 points.

    5. Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 1: Anyone not wearing red gets smacked over the head with a full Leinenkugel's. This is what Jim Delany had in mind when he expanded the Big Ten. Inventory for the league, lots of hype and two top-11 teams. Big Ten title-game preview? Nebraska plays its first conference game in its new league. Wisconsin tries to remind the Huskers who's boss. Russell Wilson never faced a defense like this in the ACC.

    6. LSU-Oregon, Sept. 3 in Arlington, Texas: At this rate, patrolmen from Eugene and Baton Rouge will be going out for the coin toss. Call it in the air -- heads and Jordan Jefferson is suspended. Tails, Oregon receives -- another call from the NCAA. But seriously folks, this is one of the biggest season openers in years. The last time two top-five teams played on a neutral field to start the season was 1984. LSU will want to keep its momentum...
    -08-30-2011, 06:22 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Changes Multiply With D-II Football Set To Start
    by DJRamFan
    By Brad Dopke
    From CollegeSportsReport.com

    Those in BCS circles would have you believe that the college football season kicks off in Washington, D.C., on August 28 when Southern Cal and Virginia Tech hook up. However, purists know that many Division II teams will be kicking off the Thursday prior to the big boys.

    Still, the real story before the start of the season is in the happenings off the field. Not only will D-II continue its push toward regionalization by increasing the number of playoff participants from 16 to 24, but there is also interest in some regions to reduce the maximum allowed scholarship equivalencies from 36 to a number as low as 24 per year. Any change in equivalencies could come as early as the 2005 NCAA Convention.

    As scholarship money is limited at the Division II level, it just may provide the impetus for more schools to step up to Division I. Gone are North and South Dakota State from the NCC to join Cal-Davis and Northern Colorado in Division I, with Winston-Salem State making public its desire to move up as well. Also missing from the D-II landscape is one time power New Haven, which decided to drop the sport for financial reasons.

    At a time when financial support for football is getting more difficult to come by, a push to reduce overall costs for the sport may have the numbers to get scholarship reductions pushed past the powerbrokers that vetoed such a fate just a few years back. Now back to the field of play. Members of the four regions have been set, and each region is allotted six playoff participants. Truly surprising was that the Championships Committee decided to remove one of the Division's most powerful conferences (the GLIAC) from the Northeast Region to an already difficult Northwest Region. That means the PSAC, WVIAC and non-scholarship Northeast Ten already come out as big winners. Part I takes a look at the Northeast and Southeast regions.

    NORTHEAST

    With regionalization establishing the PSAC as a leader in Division II, the conference comes loaded with quality and growing teams. Things should really be hot in the West Division where Shippensburg returns a good chunk from what was a successful title contender. This year the Raiders would like to topple Lou Tepper's Edinboro Scots from their title perch. Still, Shipps will have its hands full as Indiana looks to be in the title chase. With six picks in the Northeast Region, expect two of these three teams to make it to the playoffs.

    In the PSAC East things may not be as torrid on the national scene, but both Bloomsburg and West Chester will field quality teams that should be in the hunt for the divisional title. Right behind both contenders will be East Stroudsburg. Although Mansfield may lack the overall punch necessary to top them all, the Mountaineers may have the nation's best performer in running back Earnest "Poohbear" McNeal....
    -08-26-2004, 01:20 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Penn State has Coke-bottle glasses about JoePa
    by DJRamFan
    Oct. 27, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd
    SportsLine.com Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!


    National feature | Notebook
    At least Florida had the power to fire its coach.

    Penn State has no such option. The only person who can determine the future employment of Joe Paterno is Joe Paterno. And at last check the 77-year-old was armed with a four-year extension as a foundation for an increasingly obvious stubborn streak.

    SportsLine.com odds
    Florida coaching candidates
    Coach, School Odds
    Steve Spurrier EVEN
    Bobby Petrino, Louisville 2-1
    Butch Davis, Browns (NFL) 3-1
    Urban Meyer, Utah 10-1
    Jeff Tedford, Cal 100-1
    Rick Neuheisel, H.S. $11,000-1
    Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 1 million-1
    The silly season kicked off early Monday with the firing of Ron Zook at Florida. The 2004-05 round of coaching changes apparently won't include the departure of Paterno. What was merely uncomfortable the past couple of seasons could get flat-out embarrassing in Happy Valley.

    Those Coke bottles might help JoePa focus on his world, but they're still blocking his view. Saturday's 6-4 loss to Iowa proved that -- or rather reinforced it. The Nittany Lions have few Big Ten-quality athletes, even fewer playmakers.

    They are 2-5 this season and 5-14 over the past two seasons. In the last four-plus seasons, Penn State has lost 31 games. That's not a blip on the radar, friends, that's a trend. The school lost a total of 22 games in the 1970s, 28 in the 1980s and 26 in the 1990s.

    What little Big Ten talent Paterno does have, he doesn't seem to know what to do with. The coach lashed out at reporters last week after calling quarterback/receiver Michael Robinson "one of the best football players I have ever coached."


    Steve Spurrier is getting in some golf in Florida before a widely anticipated return.(AP)
    "Don't question me," Paterno added.

    Robinson promptly went out and threw two interceptions and fumbled on plays that ended Penn State's final three possessions. Most troubling, and usually a sure sign a coach is in trouble, is thousands of empty seats at Beaver Stadium.

    Apparently, not at Penn State where the school would be firing one of its biggest donors who has ties to bigger donors. That the final score was the same as the first college football game played in 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton, taints those first noble football warriors.

    Back then, didn't each "touchdown" count for a point?

    Considering the issues, jobs, coaches and schools this could be on the most interesting offseasons in recent history. Now that Florida has broken the seal, here the top potential openings in the country ...

    Florida
    He's coming...
    -10-27-2004, 12:14 PM
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