(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Crimson Tide are represented by a trio of current pledges in tight end O.J. Howard, linebacker Reuben Foster and offensive tackle Grant Hill. Foster is a five-star prospect and the No. 2 overall player in the country. He will be in close competition with Jaylon Smith to keep his title of top linebacker, though. Howard is the nation's No. 2 tight end and could see his stock rise even more with a strong performance, while Hill is looking to break into the Rivals100. The Crimson Tide is in on quite a few more prospects in action as well. From the Southwest team, athlete Rickey Jefferson looks to be an Alabama-LSU battle while class of 2014 prospects Hoza Scott, Tony Brown, Laurence Jones and Demetrius Knox all have early Crimson Tide offers. They will also try to keep local 2014 running back Bo Scarbrough at home next year.
"I just like Coach Grant because he keeps it real with you and he's a laid back coach," Barber said. "I think coming to Alabama would be a great fit for me because I've built a relationship with him and he likes me."
12 QB Phillip Ely (rFr.)
2011 season: Worked with the scout team while redshirting as a true freshman.
2012 spring practice: Completed 10 of 18 passes for 83 yards in the A-Day game. With the transfer of Phillip Sims to Virginia, Ely will head into fall camp as the favorite to backup McCarron.
What he brings to the table: Ely has made solid improvement in his first 18 months in the program, especially from a physical standpoint. While not blessed with NFL-like arm strength, he's capable of directing a balanced offense on a short-term basis. Whether he's the answer over the long haul is something Nick Saban doesn't want to begin to learn for at least another year.
10. (tie) Georgia: I'm sure you've already heard plenty about how favorable the Dawgs in-conference schedule is, but their non-conference is pretty cushy too. They open with Buffalo, a 3-9 team in the MAC last fall. Two weeks later, FAU, which was the worst team at the FBS level in 2011, comes to Athens. Then, they close against Ga. Southern, a good FCS program and home against a very solid Ga. Tech squad. Only Tech seems like much of a challenge here. 10. (tie) Tennessee: No question that Derek Dooley is on the Hot Seat in 2012, but his Vols have at least what appear to be three easy Ws from the non-conference. They have home games against Ga. State; an Akron team that just went 1-11 and a Troy program coming off a 3-9 season. The opener, in Atlanta, against N.C. State is tricky, though. The Pack was 8-5 in 2011 and does return a good QB in Mike Glennon.
There's some chance that the group could agree in Chicago on a basic, four-team plan minus such details as where to stage the semifinals and how to select the teams. The championship almost certainly would be put up for bid. It may be more likely, however, that the commissioners will present both the playoff and plus-one options to a BCS oversight committee of 12 college presidents and chancellors, with whom they'll meet next Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Those CEOs will make the final decision there or sometime shortly afterward.
"The challenge of agreeing on the format issue is the resistance or pushback from the Big Ten and Pac-12," a source said. "Will they say they'll agree to favor a four-team playoff instead of the plus-one if the four-team model is based on the conference champions? We'll see."
Talk of a "plus-one’’ format, which would not create national semifinals but instead pick the championship game participants after the major bowls are played, had seemingly crept back into the conversation. But football fans can relax. There is no reason to panic. Chances are still very good SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and their fellow conference leaders get this thing worked out. "There will be something for everybody,’’ BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said after the last get-together in Chicago, "but there won’t be everything for anybody.’’
I've been writing about college football on a daily basis for about seven years, and if longtime readers can't remember me saying anything nice about the Bowl Championship Series in that span, it's probably because I never have. The BCS was shortsighted in conception, inadequate in execution and unfair in sharing the spoils. It failed to satisfy economists or politicians off the field; it failed to satisfy fans or coaches on it. It was a constant object of frustration and ridicule from within college football and without. That was all despite the Series being, in reality, a phantom of an organization with no offices and no employees for most of its existence. As the end neared, the BCS' most recognizable defender, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, was reduced to admitting, "There is no BCS. There is a mark. There is a series of contracts. That's all it is." It was perhaps the most despised nonentity in history. Whatever comes next, the odds are very good that the BCS will be remembered as a blight on the sport. It has earned the distinction. Now that the end is officially nigh, though, it also deserves some acknowledgment for its essential role in the evolution of the sport. It must be said: Clumsy and futile though it may have been, the BCS served its purpose.
But there are issues that come with bowls not knowing if they will be hosting a semifinal or a bowl game until the first weekend of December. Because of that, the rotation system is more likely to be used, a person familiar with the talks told the AP on condition of anonymity because the commissioners have tried to limit public comments about the meetings. As always, the Rose Bowl has to be worked around. The Granddaddy of bowls wants to be involved in college football's new era, but also wants to hold on to its traditions as much as possible. More than anything, it wants Big Ten vs. Pac-12 kicking off around 2:15 p.m. local time on New Year's Day as much as possible.
According to people familiar with the BCS discussions, the commissioners are leaning toward incorporating the semifinals into the existing BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar). At this point, according to sources, the commissioners are leaning toward having predetermined semifinal sites -- which would be designated before a particular season begins -- and rotating them among the BCS bowls. The commissioners considered having the two highest-rated teams host semifinal games at the BCS bowls that are traditionally associated with their respective conferences, like an SEC team playing in the Sugar Bowl or a Big Ten or Pac-12 team playing in the Rose Bowl. But the commissioners realized such an anchor system might create too many potential logistical problems, sources told ESPN.com.
In your opinion, on any potential selection committee for a playoff, is it possible to have members/voters without a possible bias? You'd have ex-coaches (for example, Bobby Bowden) who might vote for their schools/conferences in addition to current/former AD's and/or commissioners. Isn't impossible to have a perfect system? -- Jonathan, Westerville, Ohio
Like I said -- "mostly" playoff free. Humans have biases. There's not much we can do about that. And I'd agree that when you're dealing with potential committee members who were directly involved in the business they'll be discussing, they're going to have preexisting relationships and allegiances that may affect their thought process. However, that doesn't mean they can't still be professional and put those biases aside. My personal preference for a selection committee is that the panel would consist primarily of ex-coaches -- Bowden, Phillip Fulmer, Lloyd Carr, R.C. Slocum and Fisher DeBerry, just to name a few. First and foremost, they know college football better than anyone else you could think to include that's not actively involved in the sport. They don't hold the direct conflict of interest that active coaches do. Also, it isn't like putting a random fan on the panel; these guys dedicated their lives to the sport and will treat it with the appropriate respect. For fairness' sake, I would try to divide the voters fairly evenly based on where they spent the bulk of their career -- i.e., Bowden would be the only ACC-oriented member, Carr the only Big Ten rep, etc. Every conference would be represented. And unlike the current polls, the members would be required to explain their selections to the public, thus making it more difficult to hide personal agendas.
Commissioners of the 11 Football Bowl Subdivision conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick will meet in Chicago on Wednesday, when they're expected to begin hammering out details of a potential four-team playoff. A playoff wouldn't go into effect until the 2014 season. The current BCS system, which pits the top two teams in the final BCS standings in the BCS National Championship Game, will remain in place during the next two seasons. What once seemed like an immovable object -- college football's bowl system -- might finally be pushed aside, opening the door for a true national playoff, which many fans have wanted for years. "They are listening to the fans," says BCS chairman Bill Hancock. "They get it that people would like to do something different. The worm didn't turn all of the sudden. This is not a revolutionary process; it's an evolutionary process."
But what most people are really interested in is how the teams will be selected. SEC commissioner Mike Slive has made it perfectly clear that he wants the top four teams selected, regardless of if they win their conference or not. He knows that plays to the SEC's strength because there could be the occasional scenario, as in 2011, where the SEC could send two teams to the playoff, increasing the conference's chances of competing for and winning a national championship. And if you take conference championship prerequisites out of it, the SEC might even be in contention to get three teams in (very, very unlikely, but the league did have the top three spots in the BCS heading into the final weekend of the 2011 regular season).
Schnellenberger’s hidden now — the first football coach in FAU history, the man who created the entire program — tucked away on the second floor of the administration building, the last door on the right in a tight hallway filled with secretaries and computers and, well, business. Real work. His office is still covered wall-to-wall with memories of the past — the old framed photo of Bear Bryant, the shot of Schnellenberger stroking his mustache in a Miami huddle with Bernie Kosar — but the room feels more Schnellenberger Museum than Schnellenberger Office despite the location. Dressed in a long-sleeve white dress shirt, grey pinstripes with gold suspenders on top, the 78 year old is trying to explain his new job. "The university offered me the position of ambassador, which I summarily rejected," Schnellenberger says. "I stated I would require being ambassador-at-large, so I wouldn’t be confused with those senior students that squire around the freshmen when they come in at orientation. There’s a lot of ambassadors that run around there, so I wanted to have a different title than that. I wanted to be like Geraldo Rivera."
The immediate response some people might have is, "So what? The money's not there to tie these guys together. It will be in D-I superconferences." This misses a very cogent point, however. In the case of D-I conferences considering an expansion, money is the only justification -- so much so that perfectly logical moves are not being made because they don't add to the bottom line. In every case listed above where the 14+ model has thus far been successful, there is some compelling reason why those schools are remaining tied to one another, be it tight geography, institutional cohesion, or simply decades of familiarity (and even that excuse, as we now see with the WVIAC, doesn't cut it when other matters surge to the forefront). The lack of money is just as relevant a point as its existence. The Arkansas and Oklahoma schools didn't leave the Gulf South and Lone Star conferences over revenues. They left because their connection to their former conferences simply wasn't in their DNA. For that matter, the WAC expanded for money, seeking the additional revenue the conference championship game would bring, and then later the MWC schools didn't leave the WAC over money. They left because they just didn't fit.
RIP Champs Sports Bowl (2004-12). An entire generation of football fans was vaguely aware of your existence. According to a press release, the Orlando-based game that's flown the "Champs Sports" banner for the last eight years has been officially rebranded as the Russell Athletic Bowl through at least 2015, per an agreement between Florida Citrus Sports and Bowling Green, Ky.-based Russell Brands, LLC. The 2012 game will go on at 5:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 28, again featuring a matchup of also-rans from the ACC and Big East. Its popular, refreshingly human Twitter feed remains intact.
Both teams made their final pitching changes to start the seventh inning with the USA National Team bringing in Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) and Dallas Escobedo (Glendale, Ariz.) entering for the USA Elite Team. Traina started by giving up a single to Rebecca Gamby (Mt. Victory, Ohio) but retired the next six batters she faced striking out four in the process.
One has to wonder, though, about its flip side. There will be three new coaches in the SEC this year (that doesn't count Missouri's Gary Pinkel, new to the league but not to the school) at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Arkansas (although that merits an asterisk, since Bobby Petrino's demise had nothing to do with wins and losses). Will it be three or more next year? Logic suggests it will, because in a 14-team league, there have to be 56 losses spread around somewhere.