Sunday, December 30, 2007

Charlotte bowl future looks bright

It would have been crazy to predict 10 years ago that Wake Forest would meet Connecticut in a 2007 bowl in Charlotte and more than 53,000 tickets would be sold.
Now that it’s happened, it makes sense to look ahead at whether the bowl’s six-year history of attendance figures above 51,000 can continue. For the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the future is largely dependent upon securing teams within a short drive of Charlotte whose fans are excited and eager to travel.
A few factors are working in Meineke’s favor in future years as it matches ACC and Big East teams:
- North Carolina and N.C. State appear to be gaining momentum under coaches entering their second seasons. Though neither was bowl eligible for 2007, it’s easy to envision one of these teams getting a little better and making its second appearance in Charlotte next season.
- Losing coach Rich Rodriguez to Michigan could cause West Virginia to slump a bit and bring that school’s supportive fans back to Charlotte, where they were part of a 2002 crowd of 73,535. West Virginia has been out of Charlotte’s reach since then, but Rodriguez’s departure could change that.
- Some other Big East schools are developing traditions of traveling to bowls. Connecticut sold its allotment of 12,500 for the Meineke Bowl, and Cincinnati reportedly sold more than 8,300 to the Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
Is it possible the bowl will have a down year? Of course. But with the previously mentioned factors and the Big East’s general resurgence working in the bowl’s favor, more big crowds seem more likely than not. KEN TYSIAC

Friday, December 28, 2007

'Harold' had passion for football, life

When I covered Clemson for the Anderson Independent-Mail and The (Columbia) State in South Carolina, I could always count on a visit from Dr. Harold Vigodsky when I arrived at the press box before a game.

"Harold," as we called him, kept statistics for the Clemson Tiger Sports Network and just completed his 13th year as the Carolina Panthers’ statistician. Although Dr. Vigodsky crunched numbers at games on Saturdays and Sundays, his interest in football extended beyond the college and pro games.

Dr. Vigodsky, an optometrist who lived in Spartanburg, looked for me every Saturday to bring him up to date on the important high school scores in my area, and we’d talk about high schools, Clemson and the Panthers. Dr. Vigodsky died suddenly Thursday from a virus that led to internal bleeding. He was 62, and his loss will leave heavy hearts among media members and sports information employees throughout the Carolinas.

In a remembrance on Clemson’s official web site, school sports information director Tim Bourret wrote that by the end of his second year with the Panthers Dr. Vigodsky was regarded as one of the top experts on NFL statistics interpretations and was regularly consulted by others for his opinion on how a play should be scored.

Professionally, media types will miss his keen eye for statistical accuracy. Personally, the next time I cover a game at Clemson I will miss talking about football and life with a kind man who had a passion for both.

- Ken Tysiac

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Brand's support of 'Plus-one' a good step

NCAA president Myles Brand told USA Today that he would support a “plus-one” plan for a national championship in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

That’s a step in the right direction for college football when fans and media are clamoring for a playoff to decide a champion. University presidents remain opposed to a playoff because of the class time athletes might miss and the risk of destroying a bowl system that’s lucrative for athletics departments.

But the plus-one model would inch football closer to a legitimate championship decided on the field. In that scenario, the top four teams would be paired in bowls as semifinalists, with the winners meeting in the “plus-one” championship games. Four deserving teams rather than the current two would have a shot at the national title.

The earliest that change could come is the 2010 season, after the current BCS deal expires. Even then, the Big Ten and Pac-10 might keep it on hold until the 2014 season, after their agreement with the Rose Bowl ends.

Either way that’s a long time to wait, but slow progress is better than no progress, and Brand should have the clout to move this idea forward.

– Ken Tysiac

Duke, Cutcliffe pushing season tickets

If you go to Duke’s official athletics website (, the first image you see is that of new football coach David Cutcliffe urging the purchase of season tickets.

That’s just one part of an exhaustive marketing campaign aimed to generate interest in a team that’s gone 13-90 over the last nine seasons under Carl Franks and then Ted Roof.

Duke is giving mini-footballs with Cutcliffe’s signature to any fan who buys season tickets. On the day of Cutcliffe’s introductory news conference, Duke e-mailed supporters of the program with a video message from Cutcliffe asking them to buy tickets.

The school has contacted alumni in North Carolina and southern Virginia by automated phone message and e-mailed alumni worldwide Wednesday by e-mail. Advertisements are running in local newspapers, with radio ads and billboards on city buses coming soon.

“The excitement is high,” said Duke promotions director Bart Smith. “Everybody is excited about the new hire, and we’re trying to get everybody on board.”

Cutcliffe has expressed a desire to see Wallace Wade Stadium regularly filled with fans, and that seems a nearly unreachable goal now. But after making a high-profile hire that has received mostly good reviews from the media, capitalizing on some rare momentum in football is a smart approach at a place where they’re known for being smart.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lots of Bowdens making news

Some will rush to add Florida State’s academic scandal to the blemishes on coach Bobby Bowden’s long career.

That’s probably not fair. According to reports, as many as 25 players might miss the Dec. 31 Music City Bowl against Kentucky. The cheating reportedly occurred in an Internet-based class.
If that’s the case, it’s difficult to imagine Bowden, 78, being hip to it. This is the same guy who’s demonstrated he doesn’t know the difference between eBay and e-mail.

Though Bowden ultimately is responsible for what goes on in its football program, Internet classes can make it awfully easy for students to cheat.

Incidentally, a scan of’s junior college top 50 prospect list showed four of the top 15 committed to Florida State. That’s an unusually large number for any ACC school, perhaps because the program needs players who can compete right away next season because of the scandal.

At running back, where depth was a problem for Florida State this season, the rivals list shows LaGarrette Blount of East Mississippi CC and Tavares Pressley of El Camino CC in California committed to Bowden’s team.

At Clemson, Bobby’s son Tommy is having problems of his own with academics, as three players have been ruled ineligible for the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn.

The loss of starting offensive tackle Christian Capote isn’t disastrous, but Clemson will seriously miss Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie. They’re both speedy, hard-hitting senior linebackers whose quickness would have been ideal for the artificial turf in the Georgia Dome, and they rank first and third, respectively, on the team in tackles.

Bowden hopes to improve to 10-3 and post Clemson’s first 10-win season since 1990, but that won’t be easy after those huge defensive losses.

While we’re discussing the Bowdens, it’s impossible to ignore the interest Tommy’s brother Terry has in West Virginia. A lot of analysts are saying Terry should receive strong consideration.

There’s a lot to like about Terry. He is bright, charming and knowledgeable, with a good coaching record (111-53-2) and great blood lines. But he also hasn’t coached since 1998.
He coached his last game before a BCS game had ever been played, before the read-option was invented and long before text messaging became popular. Heck, a lot of people didn’t even have cell phones or e-mail in 1998.

Nine years out of coaching makes Bowden a huge risk if West Virginia hires him.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brown to Miami, but it's not all bad

North Carolina’s Internet message boards were whipped into a frenzy Monday afternoon over Arthur Brown, a linebacker who just completed his senior season at Wichita East High in Kansas.
Brown listed North Carolina as one of his five finalists and had an in-home visit from coach Butch Davis and recruiting coordinator John Blake on Dec. 5, according to the Wichita Eagle.

During a news conference carried live on television station KAKE’s web site, Brown committed to Miami. He said he’d met with a lot of the players and coaches at Miami and felt good about the school.

“That’s really what it was all about,” said Brown, who’s rated the No. 4 prospect nationally by

Davis and Blake were thwarted this time, but becoming a finalist for a top player in Kansas along with Miami, LSU, Southern California and Florida after a 4-8 season demonstrated that North Carolina is doing something right in recruiting.

The interest of fans Monday in something other than Tyler Hansbrough’s minor concussion (he’s probable for Nicholls State on Wednesday night, by the way) also is a step in the right direction for North Carolina football.

– Ken Tysiac

Rodriguez alters path, seeking success

For years, ACC football observers have thought Rich Rodriguez likely to follow Bobby Bowden’s career path from West Virginia to Florida State after Bowden retired.

Rodriguez, who assisted Tommy Bowden at Tulane and Clemson before becoming head coach at West Virginia seven years ago, has long been rumored to crave a move to Florida State as Bowden’s successor.

Florida State squashed that idea when it announced last week that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher will succeed Bowden whenever he steps down. That may have opened the door for Rodriguez’s move to Michigan.

With Florida State out of the picture, Rodriguez’s chances of landing another college football glamour job outside of Michigan were slim. He turned down Alabama last year.

Ohio State with Jim Tressel, Oklahoma with Bob Stoops, Texas with Mack Brown and Florida with Urban Meyer appear to have good coaches set for long, successful tenures.

Southern California probably is outside Rodriguez’s geographical comfort range if Pete Carroll tries his hand at the NFL again, and Notre Dame’s academic standards are daunting.
So it’s easy to see why Rodriguez left West Virginia despite his roots in that state and his affection for his alma mater. A look at the state of Big Ten football demonstrates why he could win big at Michigan.

Rival Ohio State’s only losses the past two seasons have been to Florida and Illinois. Florida and Urban Meyer used speed and a spread option scheme to run the Ohio State defense ragged. Illinois used quarterback Juice Williams’ fleet feet to run out the clock with a fourth-quarter lead.

In the season opener at Michigan, Armanti Edwards showed how a dual-threat quarterback can frustrate Big Ten defenders in Appalachian State’s upset win.

Nobody coaches the spread option and running quarterbacks better than Rodriguez, so he is the perfect hire to take advantage of Big Ten defenses and get the Wolverines back on an even plane with Ohio State after six losses to the Buckeyes in the last seven years.

– Ken Tysiac

Sunday, December 16, 2007

New Duke coach Cutcliffe has enough to keep him busy the next three weeks

New Duke football coach David Cutcliffe will have a busy schedule over the next three weeks.

Cutcliffe will call recruits and coach Tennessee’s offense against Wisconsin on Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl.

But you can be sure Cutcliffe will be in New York on Thursday, when Duke’s basketball team will meet Pittsburgh in a likely meeting of top 10, undefeated teams to be televised by ESPN.

Word is that Cutcliffe will try to get New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who played for Mississippi under Cutcliffe, to come to Madison Square Garden with him.

That will be a high-profile TV opportunity the likes of which Duke football hasn’t experienced in ages. And you can expect to see the Mannings – Peyton, Eli and Archie – help Cutcliffe rebuild the Duke program in any way they can.

Peyton and Eli both called Duke sports information director Art Chase to give him quotes on Cutcliffe to hand out to media at Saturday’s introductory news conference.

Peyton said Cutcliffe was a huge reason he attended Tennessee and was a swaying factor in Eli’s decision to play at Mississippi.

Eli raved about Cutcliffe’s teaching ability.With those types of testimonials, Duke quarterbacks Thaddeus Lewis and Zack Asack ought to feel like they just won the lottery.

And if Cutcliffe gets the attention of a top high school quarterback on Thursday night, the trip to New York in this busy time will be worthwhile.

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cutcliffe would be great hire for Duke

If reports that Duke is close to a deal with David Cutcliffe are true, athletics director Joe Alleva has made a great move in the right direction for the school’s football program.

Cutcliffe, the 53-year-old offensive coordinator at Tennessee, is one of the best quarterback coaches in college football. His work with Peyton and Eli Manning speaks for itself.

He was 44-29 in six seasons as head coach at Mississippi, which made a mistake firing him after his only losing season in 2004. After he came back to Tennessee in 2006, the Volunteers immediately improved their scoring output by almost 10 points per game and their total offense by nearly 50 yards per game over the previous season.

If Cutcliffe comes on board, Alleva will get exactly what he was looking for – a proven head coach with potential to win games on offense. Considering Duke’s woeful recent tradition, that’s every bit as impressive a hire as North Carolina with Butch Davis and N.C. State with Tom O’Brien made a year ago.

Alleva was soundly criticized for his management of the athletics program during Duke’s lacrosse scandal and made two unsuccessful football hires in Carl Franks and Ted Roof, who was fired last month.

But if Alleva gets Cutcliffe on board, even his strongest detractors will have to admit he has made a great hire. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, December 13, 2007

All App. State all the time in hotels

On the ground in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Appalachian State will play Delaware on Friday for the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision title. The Mountaineers are going for a record third consecutive championship:

– Televisions in downtown Chattanooga hotels are showing a continuous replay – minus commercials – of Appalachian State’s 2006 championship game victory against Massachusetts. Good for the Mountaineers in their hotel, but the Blue Hens in the Marriott might be getting a little sick of it.

– The Mountaineers have been outscoring opponents (giving up an average of 32.3 points per game) in the playoffs. That’s always a dicey way to do business in a championship game. Appalachian State’s defense needs to clamp down to win Friday.

– Good news for Charlotte Catholic’s Mario Acitelli, an Appalachian State offensive tackle who broke his leg against Georgia Southern in October and has missed six games. Acitelli is listed as probable for tonight.

-- David Scott

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Could ACC sour on Florida sites?

At halftime of the 2007 ACC championship game on Dec. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla., a reporter from Virginia grilled ACC commissioner John Swofford about future conference title games.

Incredulous at the low turnout for Boston College and Virginia Tech in Jacksonville, the reporter wanted to know why the ACC would consider any Florida site. He was presuming Charlotte’s spot at the geographical center of the conference gave the ACC its best chance at large crowds for future ACC championship games.

The reporter’s assumptions may be correct, but Swofford said that day that Tampa provided a good financial guarantee, a good plan for local sales and boasted a larger population with more direct flights to and from the area than Jacksonville.

Those factors, combined with the Association for Career and Technical Education’s convention scheduled for 2008 in Charlotte on the same date as the championship game, gave Tampa an opening.

Wednesday, the ACC announced that Tampa will get the 2008 and 2009 games, with Charlotte playing host in 2010 and 2011. Publicly, Charlotte officials are thrilled.

Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tim Newman wished Tampa well in 2008 and 2009 and said waiting until 2010 gives Charlotte a chance to finish building attractions such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Wachovia Cultural Center to entertain fans.

Privately, some who worked hard to get the games to Charlotte are disappointed that Tampa was awarded the 2008 and 2009 games. They believe Charlotte is simply the most logical place to hold the game.

But having the game go to Tampa first could have some benefits for Charlotte’s long-term hopes for the game. If Tampa struggles with attendance as Jacksonville did in 2006 and 2007, ACC officials could sour on Florida sites.

A strong showing by Charlotte in 2010 and 2011 could then help Charlotte hold off an expected strong challenge from Orlando.

The home of Disney World and Mickey Mouse is undergoing extensive stadium renovations that prevented it from bidding for the 2008-11 games, but could be a major player next time around.
There’s just one problem for any city that plans to play host to this game. The ACC’s basketball-first culture will make it difficult to sell out stadiums on short notice if Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami and/or Wake Forest are involved.

Regardless of where the game is held, ACC football has a lot of growing to do before it approaches the status of the SEC championship game, held annually in Atlanta to crowds of more than 70,000.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 10, 2007

Head coach in waiting? Please ...

Just when you thought Dan Radakovich’s coaching maneuvers at Georgia Tech were ridiculous, Florida State’s administrators trumped him.

Radakovich is the athletics director who fired football coach Chan Gailey because he wanted somebody to energize the fan base. Then Radakovich hired Navy’s Paul Johnson, an excellent coach and nice enough guy who isn’t any more a marketer than Gailey.

That’s like trading in your Toyota Corolla for a Honda Civic and acting like you just bought a Corvette.

What Florida State has done is worse. The school announced Monday a bizarre set of agreements designating offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher as “head coach in waiting.”

Fisher will become head coach when Bobby Bowden retires. Bowden, 78, is staying for a 33rd season and said he has a deal that will let him decide at the end of each year whether he wants to continue.

That part of the deal, though unusual, is fine. Bowden has a record 373 Division I-A wins, two more than Joe Paterno, and should go out on his own terms. But the “head coaching in waiting” idea seldom works.

Just ask Skip Holtz, who thought he was in line to succeed his father, Lou Holtz, at South Carolina but instead was demoted before ultimately reviving East Carolina as head coach there.

When Bowden retires, a football program as prominent as Florida State’s should search nationally for the best possible candidate. Instead, the school is tied to a successor who has never been a head coach at any level.

So now that two ACC schools have bungled their coaching situations, Duke athletics director Joe Alleva is on the clock as he tries to replace Ted Roof. Surely Alleva can do better than this.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Deacs have bowl, but will they travel?

Around lunch time on Monday, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the Meineke Car Care Bowl will be a test of sorts for the Deacons.

“We need to prove to the bowl people that not only are we a good football team, but that we’ll travel,” Grobe said.

At the same time, Clemson was demonstrating the fan support that makes the Tigers a favorite of bowl executives. At 12:30 p.m. Monday, a day after Clemson accepted a Chick-fil-A Bowl bid, the school sold the last of the 17,500 tickets in its allotment for the Dec. 31 game against Auburn in Atlanta.

Based on play on the field, Boston College was more deserving of a Chick-fil-A Bowl bid than Clemson. The Eagles won Nov. 17 at Clemson to nose out the Tigers for the Atlantic Division’s spot on the ACC championship game.

But Boston College sold only 3,500 to 4,000 tickets out of its allotment for the championship game. Those aren’t numbers that get bowl executives excited, and the Eagles wound up in the less prestigious Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.

Because of Wake Forest’s much smaller enrollment, it’s unrealistic to expect the Deacons to travel in the same numbers as Clemson does. But Wake Forest got off to a good start by selling out its allotment of 17,500 seats to the Orange Bowl last season.

The Meineke Bowl – where the Deacons (8-4) will meet Connecticut (9-3) at 1 p.m. on Dec. 29 in Charlotte – is less prestigious than the Orange Bowl but easier for in-state Wake Forest fans to get to.

A strong turnout would help the Deacons secure attractive bowl destinations in the future if they continue to win.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 3, 2007

BCS got the big one right

It will be easy to criticize Ohio State for backing into the national championship game because the Buckeyes’ best win was against No. 18 Wisconsin. But after so many other teams
stumbled, it’s become clear that the Buckeyes deserve the chance they were given Sunday night, when BCS officials announced that Ohio State (11-1) will meet LSU (11-2) in the BCS championship game.

Why? Ohio State doesn’t own a single impressive win, but lost just one game it shouldn’t have – to Illinois. That’s more than just about anybody else can say.

The other contenders all disqualified themselves:

-- West Virginia lost to South Florida and at home Saturday against Pittsburgh with a chance to sew up a BCS title bid.

-- Southern California fell to Stanford, and that loss alone should remove the Trojans from national title consideration.

-- Oklahoma stumbled against Colorado and Texas Tech. But the Sooners defeated Missouri twice to eliminate Chase Daniel and the Tigers.

-- Georgia and Kansas didn’t even play in their conference championship games, so they don’t deserve to play for the national championship.

-- Virginia Tech was humiliated 48-7 at LSU in the second week of the season. Nobody is exactly pining for a rematch.

Ohio State deserves a shot because it didn’t mess up as badly as everybody else. After that, LSU is most deserving because it won the nation’s strongest conference and its losses both came in triple overtime.

This unpredictable college football season makes it more obvious than ever that only a playoff system could determine a legitimate champion. But the BCS system chose the most deserving championship game contenders when no teams clearly distinguished themselves on the field.

As for the championship game itself, it’s distasteful to think of watching Ohio State play an SEC team after what Florida did to the Buckeyes in last season’s title game. But Ohio State fans have been protesting all season that this year’s team has the speed to match up with the best opponents from the SEC.

The Buckeyes will get the chance to prove it on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.
-- Ken Tysiac

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ex-Duke star Hines: Go offensive

Former Duke wide receiver Clarkston Hines was excited after his freshman year when Steve Spurrier was named the Blue Devils’ football coach heading into the 1987 season.
As a student at the Bolles School, Hines had watched Spurrier coach the Tampa Bay Bandits in a game in Jacksonville, Fla., during the early 1980s. Hines knew Spurrier was renowned for offense, and went on to catch 38 touchdown passes, which remains an ACC record.
This weekend Hines, who lives in Statesville and works in Charlotte, is back in Jacksonville as one of the ACC "legends" at the conference title game festivities. And Duke is looking for a coach after Ted Roof was fired this week.
Hines would like to see Duke follow the Spurrier model by hiring somebody who knows offense.
"We need to build on some things and get out of this losing mentality," he said. "It’s going to take an aggressive offense to put us in a position that we can compete every game and win some games."
Duke’s Joe Alleva was not in Jacksonville for the ACC athletics directors meeting Friday and presumably is busy evaluating coaching candidates. He, too, has placed emphasis on hiring a coach known for offense, saying Monday that Duke is unlikely to win a lot of games 10-7.
Hines also agrees with Alleva’s assertion that Duke doesn’t have to compromise its lofty academic standards for football players to win.
"I don’t think Duke has to cave in to accepting anyone into the school," Hines said. "I think we can maintain the excellence in the school room as well as bringing in some kids that can compete in the ACC. It can be done."
Spurrier showed how, sharing an ACC title in 1989 before leaving for Florida. Hines said the Blue Devils, who have lost 25 ACC games in a row, can win again.
"They’ve got a lot of good talent there," Hines said. "I’ve met a lot of those guys and looked at a lot of the games. It’s not a talent situation. We need to build on some things and get out of this losing mentality."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wake not a lock, yet, for Charlotte

Some ACC observations from Jacksonville, Fla., where Boston College will meet Virginia Tech on Saturday in the ACC championship game:

  • While Wake Forest seems an almost certain choice for the ACC’s spot in Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl, bowl officials say there is a scenario that could send the Deacons elsewhere. If Washington defeats Hawaii and Boston College defeats Virginia Tech this weekend, there is a chance two ACC teams (BC and Virginia Tech) will play in BCS bowls. Under that scenario, there’s a good chance the Meineke and Music City bowls would both be considering Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, and it’s not clear where those schools would end up.
  • Expect a strong commitment from Clemson to coach Tommy Bowden when his contract extension is announced. The Tigers are 9-3 and almost certainly would be here at the ACC title game if a Cullen Harper’s pass hadn’t slipped through Aaron Kelly’s hands at the goal line against Boston College. Clemson officials believe the Tigers are on the verge of at least three or four years where they will remain in the hunt for an ACC title. Bowden’s recruiting has been solid, Harper gives the team an excellent returning starter at quarterback for next season, and the staff believes redshirting freshman Willy Korn is a special quarterback who will keep the team near the top of the ACC after Harper is gone.
  • Speaking of Clemson, Jacksonville would be in much better shape in its bid to play host to future ACC title games if the Tigers were here to play Virginia Tech. Word is that Boston College isn’t bringing a lot of fans, and one bowl executive speculated that the ACC title game will be like a Virginia Tech home game.Officials are expecting a crowd in the neighborhood of 50,000. Jacksonville Municipal Stadium seats 76,000, and if it’s one-third empty on Saturday, the bids of Charlotte and Tampa for 2008-10 will be more enticing to the ACC.
  • N.C. State football coach Tom O’Brien is talking to baseball coach Elliott Avent to find a way for Russell Wilson to participate on the baseball team. That won’t included missing spring practice. O’Brien said Wilson, a freshman who redshirted last season, can’t miss spring practice if he hopes to make progress as a quarterback. Wilson is on scholarship for football, and O’Brien has been impressed with his leadership ability and academics. “It looks like he has the temperament and ability to be a good quarterback,” O’Brien said.
- Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's crazy around Ann Arbor today

Les Miles, who will interview for the head coaching position at Michigan soon, certainly knows about pressure-cooker jobs. After all, he's the coach at Louisiana State now and it doesn't get much more intense than Baton Rouge.

But here's what Miles would face should he end up at Michigan, where he played and was once an assistant to Bo Schembechler.

On a sports talk radio show out of Ann Arbor on Wednesday morning, one fan complained that when Miles coached at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys actually lost to Ohio State in a bowl.
"That sticks in my craw," the fan said.

Another caller wondered who the Wolverines would turn to if Miles -- should he be Michigan's next coach -- "didn't work out." Who would be the Wolverines' next coach?


- David Scott

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How strong is commitment to Bowden?

Some thoughts on college football with the conference championship games approaching:

- Though Clemson has decided to extend Tommy Bowden’s contract for the second time in four years, the new buyout provision will demonstrate the extent of the administration’s support for the coach. Under the existing contract, Bowden’s buyout was $2.5 million if he were fired after this season but drops to $500,000 after next season. Unless the new terms increase the dollar amount of that buyout, Clemson won’t be committing much to a coach who’s been bowl eligible in each of his nine seasons but never has won a championship.

- A few years ago, Connecticut vs. Wake Forest would have seemed a disastrous matchup for any bowl. Now it’s a more pleasing scenario for Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl, which chose Connecticut from the Big East on Tuesday. According to a New York Times report, Connecticut brought about 7,500 fans to the cold-weather site of Detroit for its first bowl game, the Music City Bowl, in 2004. If Wake Forest can be locked up for the Dec. 29 game in Charlotte, an energized in-state fan base could combine with a strong Connecticut following for a solid crowd.

- It’s been suggested that some well-to-do Duke alumni want to lure South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier back to Durham. Though Spurrier loves a challenge, that’s not likely to happen. Spurrier is a competitive guy who wouldn’t be able to stomach leaving the Gamecocks after losing his last five games with them.

- Virginia Tech would seem to be the favorite heading into the ACC championship game Saturday. The Hokies have the ACC’s best defense and special teams, and their offense has improved with the emergence of a two-quarterback system alternating dropback passer Sean Glennon and fleet-footed freshman Tyrod Taylor. But if the game is close at the end Hokie fans will be uncomfortable seeing the ball in the hands of Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gailey a good fit for Duke?

If you’re Duke athletics director Joe Alleva, the one good thing about the rash of recent firings in college football is that there are a lot of good coaches without jobs.

Alleva is looking for a coach with Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) experience. One such coach with extensive ACC experience became available at the same time as Alleva was holding his news conference Monday to announce Duke had fired Ted Roof.

Georgia Tech’s Chan Gailey won at least seven games in each of his six seasons at a school that also has to be academically selective in recruiting its players. Gailey held weekly, hourlong leadership discussions with his freshmen, letting the players decide which leaders they admired and wanted to study. Gailey’s only failure was an 0-6 record against rival Georgia.

Gailey is a high-character, winning coach who could upgrade Duke’s program, but hiring a coach who was just cast off by another ACC school might be an unpopular move for Alleva. But Alleva’s problem is that today’s Knute Rocknes and Bear Bryants aren’t going to be banging down his door to interview.

It’s a challenge to recruit talented football players who meet Duke’s academic criteria when you bring them to campus and show them the sad condition of Wallace Wade Stadium.

And if you’re Alleva, the bad thing about the rash of recent firings is that there are plenty of jobs better than Duke’s open for successful coaches looking to move up.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Roof almost coached at Notre Dame

The last time Ted Roof visited Notre Dame he came back with a contract in his hand. It was 2001, and Notre Dame had just hired George O’Leary from Georgia Tech to replace Bob Davie.

Roof, who had been O’Leary’s defensive coordinator with Georgia Tech, decided to join him. Notre Dame sent a plane to pick up O’Leary assistants Roof, Bill O’Brien and David Kelly. They spent a day there meeting school officials, touring campus and looking at homes, then flew back.

Roof brought back his contract because he wanted to have an adviser look it over before he signed. In the middle of the night, O’Brien called him to say there was a problem.

“And then the next morning that was not a deal anymore,” Roof said.

O’Leary resigned after Notre Dame found inaccuracies on his resume. When Georgia Tech didn’t take O’Leary back, Roof came to Duke as defensive coordinator and later was elevated to head coach.

“It was a nice place,” Roof said of Notre Dame. “That day I was there, it looked nice.”

On Saturday, Roof will return as Duke (1-9) visits Notre Dame (1-9).

O’Leary is in his fourth year as head coach at Central Florida. His biography on the school’s official web site makes no mention of Notre Dame.

“He’s an awfully good football coach and a good person,” Roof said. “It was just an unfortunate situation. He’s been successful everywhere he’s been.” -- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wolfpack's O'Brien knows rivalry

Don’t talk to N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien about rivalries.

O’Brien, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and coached seven years there, knows about rivalry. From the time he enrolled on June 28, 1967, the Army-Navy rivalry was constantly in his thoughts.

“The first three words I learned were, ‘Beat Army, sir,’ ” O’Brien said.

N.C. State’s rivalry with North Carolina is big. On what O’Brien calls the “rubber chicken circuit” during the spring, N.C. State fans constantly asked him about defeating the two teams with “Carolina” in their name – North Carolina and East Carolina.

UNC-N.C. State is certainly bigger than anything O’Brien experienced in 10 years at Boston College, which he said didn’t have a rival.

“We tried to make Notre Dame the rival, but they didn’t want us to be, especially after we started beating them,” O’Brien said.

But Army-Navy was a constant theme for O’Brien for 11 years. As a plebe, the first thing he was required to recite at meal call each day was the date of the Army-Navy game.

“There’s nothing like it,” he said.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pack's Eugene knows Orange Bowl history

The first college football game N.C. State tailback Jamelle Eugene attended was at the Orange Bowl in 2002.

Eugene watched from the opposite end zone as Xavier Beitia’s field goal attempt missed wide left and Miami edged Florida State 28-27.

Now Eugene, a native of Naples, Fla., is playing as the opponent in Miami’s second-to-last game in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes are moving their games to Dolphin Stadium next season.

“A part of me is like, the Orange Bowl, this is it,” Eugene said. “I always looked forward to playing there. At least I’ll have the opportunity to play there one time. There’s so much history there.”

Eugene’s high-profile opportunity is the result of his own persistence. When he arrived at N.C. State in 2005, former coach Chuck Amato’s staff moved him to defensive back because it had so much young talent at running back in Bobby Washington, Andre Brown and Toney Baker.

Eugene lasted just one day at defensive back. He kept telling his coaches that he was a running back, and they told him they’d give him a shot there.

“I guess they saw the light or something,” Eugene said. “They decided to keep me there, and it’s been a blessing.”

Washington has transferred. Brown and Baker are injured. And Eugene has two performances of more than 100 yards in his last two games as he heads to the Orange Bowl.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, October 29, 2007

BC just another story in Boston so far

Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan watched the first six innings of Game 4 of the World Series, then fell asleep.

He woke to find that the Boston Red Sox had completed their sweep of the Colorado Rockies. One obstruction preventing Ryan and Boston College from grabbing headlines in Boston was cleared.

Now there's another, Sunday's much anticipated meeting of undefeated NFL rivals, the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. If competing for the spotlight bothers Ryan, he's not admitting it.

"It's a great time to be in Boston" Ryan said Monday during a teleconference with reporters. "To be a part of the Boston sports scene is a good thing as well, so we're enjoying it."
If the college football season ended today, Boston College (8-0) would meet Ohio State in the BCS title game, and Ryan probably would win the Heisman Trophy. In a season when the other Heisman favorites have stumbled, Ryan produced the highlights that impress Heisman voters with two late touchdown passes for a 14-10 victory on national television Thursday night at Virginia Tech.

Since Miami and Virginia Tech and then Boston College joined the conference, ACC detractors have complained that its lack of a national title contender has made the league appear weak.

Now the ACC has a title contender and its first Heisman favorite since Chris Weinke in 2000. And if many sports fans in Boston get behind Ryan and Boston College along with the Red Sox and Patriots, the whole conference will benefit.

- Ken Tysiac

Monday, October 15, 2007

College football needs a playoff

It’s more obvious than ever.
College football needs a playoff. For the first time in history, the difference between the No. 1 and No. 15 teams in the nation seems negligible.

That means it’s ridiculous to pick two teams at the end of the season with some convoluted formula and have them play for the national title. It’s time to have a national championship that’s earned on the field.

Here’s how it should be done:
- Seed the six BCS conference champions, the best non-BCS team and one at-large team (this leaves room for Notre Dame) in an eight-team bracket.
- Include the current BCS bowl sites plus Atlanta, Dallas and one other city as neutral locations for the games.
- Charge some eager TV network $17 bajillion for the broadcast rights.

There, that was easy. And for you college presidents who pretend to be concerned about academics, we promise we can get this done long before the ridiculous Jan. 7 date when the current season’s BCS title game will be held. So the playoff system won’t interfere with second-semester classes the way the BCS system does.

And you can keep the second- and third-tier bowls operating as rewards for all the teams that have winning records but can’t get into the playoff.

If all the intelligent people who run our nation’s universities can’t figure out a way to implement such a playoff system, well, maybe they’re not as intelligent as we think. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, October 8, 2007

Shame on Butch Davis

Shame on coach Butch Davis and North Carolina.

Just when football season was about to transition seamlessly into basketball with Late Night with Roy approaching Friday, Davis’ team gave fans a reason to care about football.

During his news conference Monday, a writer from South Carolina asked whether last week’s 33-27 win over Miami would prevent the Gamecocks from overlooking North Carolina.

Davis replied that he didn’t have time to think about that. He has enough responsibilities trying to get his team ready for Saturday’s game with South Carolina and Steve Spurrier’s crew at Kenan Stadium.

But clearly the Miami win, which broke a four-game losing streak, gives the Tar Heels hope. After the game, safety Deunta Williams even talked about reaching the team’s goal of playing in a bowl game.

North Carolina (2-4) needs to win four of its six remaining games to do that, but it’s not out of the question with struggling N.C. State (1-5) and Duke (1-5) left on the schedule.

Davis wants North Carolina to be like Florida and Ohio State, where the football and basketball teams both contend for national titles. The Tar Heels are a long way from that level in football.

But having people excited about a football game against a top-10 opponent on the same weekend as Late Night is a step in the right direction. That’s what the win over Miami accomplished.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Davidson keeps its head in coin toss

The Davidson football team has won eight of its past 10 games entering Saturday’s game against Morehead State, but the Wildcats might not have maintained the streak if not for a heads-up move during a coin toss.

Before Davidson’s 20-10 win Saturday against Jacksonville, the Dolphins won the coin toss, but a poor decision helped cost Jacksonville the game. When asked what they wanted to do, a Dolphins player said, "We’ll kick."
Davidson then smartly deferred to the second half, meaning the Wildcats would receive the kickoff in each half. Davidson needed that extra boost, scoring on its opening drive of the second half to help erase a 10-0 deficit and spark a victory.

"That was really the key to the game," Davidson coach Tripp Merritt said. "We scored on three plays, and that got us going again."

Davidson dominated the rest of the way, gaining 301 yards in the second half to only 111 yards for Jacksonville.

"It was just a mistake on their part," Merritt said. "But luckily our guys were paying attention and knew what to do."

-- Kevin Cary

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mountaineers' QB Edwards out again

A nagging shoulder injury is keeping Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards out of today's Mountaineers-Elon game at the Phoenix's Rhodes Stadium.

There's pretty good reason to think that Edwards -- who hurt the shoulder against Michigan in the season opener and missed the next two games before playing again last week against Wofford -- might not play again until Appalachian's next Southern Conference game, Oct. 20 against Georgia Southern.

The Mountaineers play nonconference Gardner-Webb next week and then have a bye week. Appalachian should be able to handle Gardner-Webb without Edwards -- who reinjured the shoulder against Wofford -- and with capable backup Trey Elder. So that would give Edwards a full month to recuperate before the big conference game against Georgia Southern. -- DAVID SCOTT

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Five reasons to watch ACC football

It’s not easy to get excited about college football in North Carolina these days, when Wake Forest (2-2) is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team in the state that’s not 1-3.

New coaches Butch Davis at North Carolina and Tom O’Brien at N.C. State are off to rough starts, and Duke is still Duke even though it won at Northwestern.

But here are five reasons for Charlotte-area fans to keep paying attention to college football as September winds to a close:

1. Spurrier is coming. Even if North Carolina is 1-5 on Oct. 13, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s visit to Chapel Hill will be memorable. North Carolina fans still haven’t forgiven him for running up the score in 1989 when he was at Duke and then taking a team picture in front of the scoreboard.

2. Charlotteans are shining. Defensive end Jeremy Thompson is tied for fourth in the nation with five sacks for Wake Forest, and teammate Kenneth Moore is one of the most versatile players in the ACC. At North Carolina, Hakeem Nicks is one of the ACC’s best big-play receivers, and tailback Ryan Houston could be ready to break out at tailback as a freshman.

3. Quality QBs. Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner, North Carolina’s T.J. Yates and Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis are worth watching. That’s more than you can say for many of the ACC’s quarterbacks.

4. East Carolina isn’t hopeless. The Pirates are 1-3, but they’ve lost to two ranked teams (Virginia Tech and West Virginia) plus the preseason favorite in their division in Conference USA (Southern Mississippi). Their schedule will get easier.

5. Jim Grobe. With Skinner back from his shoulder injury and an open date this week to heal some more, Wake Forest isn’t out of the ACC championship race yet because it has one of the best coaches in the nation.

Sure, it’s tempting to forget football and spend the beginning of October pining for basketball. But the start of basketball practice still is a few weeks away. Don’t give up on football yet. – Ken Tysiac

Friday, September 14, 2007

Random thoughts on ACC Week 3

Random thoughts heading into the third Saturday of ACC football:

  • A lot of people think Boston College at Georgia Tech on Saturday is a preview of the ACC championship game because of those teams’ strong starts. But it’s premature to count out preseason division favorites Florida State and Virginia Tech despite those teams’ early struggles. Florida State has looked horrible early, but that might be a result of adjusting to new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher’s system. This team could be vastly improved at midseason, though the schedule gets much stronger in November. Virginia Tech may have solved its biggest problem by replacing Sean Glennon with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. If you trust Frank Beamer to get the Hokies’ offensive line problems corrected, they shouldn’t be discounted as a contender.

  • Defending ACC champ Wake Forest is another team that shouldn’t be forgotten just yet. The Deacons have just one ACC loss, and it was on the road. They didn’t have their starting quarterback when they nearly defeated Nebraska. They should roll over Army on Saturday even with Riley Skinner out with a separated shoulder that isn’t as severe as first thought. If Skinner returns Sept. 22 for Maryland as expected, the Deacons should be in good shape. They have an open date Sept. 29 followed by a game at Duke on Oct. 6, and should have Skinner back into rhythm before the schedule strengthens.

  • After it took North Carolina coach Butch Davis a long time to hire an offensive coordinator, the selection of John Shoop seemed questionable. Much of Shoop’s NFL experience came with the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders, which hardly were juggernauts on offense when he was there. But after two college games, it’s already obvious Shoop is doing a good job accentuating the talent on the North Carolina roster. Speedy wide receiver Brandon Tate, a non-factor on offense last season with five receptions, already has three touchdown catches of 28 or more yards. Missed assignments supposedly held back Tate in the past, but he has done a nice job running deep routes under Shoop. Quarterback T.J. Yates throws the deep ball with excellent accuracy, and Shoop hasn’t hesitated to turn loose that arm. Shoop also did a good job punishing East Carolina’s defensive aggressiveness with bootleg passes last week. His next job? Getting North Carolina’s running game going with inexperienced backs. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, September 10, 2007

Yates could lead Heels to bowl

After two weeks of football, it appears North Carolina might have an opportunity to challenge for a bowl bid after going 3-9 last season.

The reason? Redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates, who worked on the scout team last year behind Joe Dailey and Cameron Sexton, is a lot better than expected.

He shows an uncanny ability to keep his eyes downfield and avoid the rush, partly because he spent his high school career dodging defenders behind a shaky offensive line. His most impressive skill is his ability to throw the deep ball.

In Saturday’s 34-31 loss to East Carolina, Yates threw three touchdown passes of 37 or more yards, all on deep balls.

“The deep ball throws he made today, you’re right there (defensively),” East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said after the game. “There’s a half-step, and he dropped it right in.”

Yates has six touchdown passes already, more than half the total (11) that North Carolina’s quarterbacks threw all of last season.

Meanwhile, quarterbacks throughout the ACC are struggling. Harrison Beck, N.C. State’s second starter in two weeks, threw five interceptions and lost a fumble at Boston College.

Virginia’s Jameel Sewell was supposed to be one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, but is having trouble keeping freshman Peter Lalich from taking his job.

Miami isn’t getting production out of Kirby Freeman or Kyle Wright. Virginia Tech might have to replace ineffective Sean Glennon with freshman Tyrod Taylor.

North Carolina’s nonconference schedule appears to be an even more significant hurdle now that South Florida has upset Auburn and South Carolina defeated Georgia. And East Carolina’s James Pinkney showed that the North Carolina secondary is porous if a quarterback can avoid a strong pass rush.

But if the Tar Heels remain stable with Yates, they will have a significant advantage over their ACC competitors.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

ACC football points to ponder

Five points to ponder about ACC football now that the first weekend is complete:

1. Clemson fans shouldn’t get too excited about the prime time win over Florida State on Monday night. The Tigers’ defense was excellent, but Clemson won’t win the Atlantic Division unless quarterback Cullen Harper can loosen up defenses with downfield throws. The 2007 Tigers look a lot like the 2006 version, which was crippled against top defenses by quarterback Will Proctor. Clemson also looks a little like Wake Forest, using all manner of trickery with wide receivers and running backs to spread the field horizontally.

2. Redshirt freshman T.J. Yates is better than anybody North Carolina used at quarterback last season. His refusal to be satisfied even with his strong performances in the spring game and against James Madison indicates that he should continue to improve. But if the Tar Heels can’t develop a running game against the strong schedule they play, they might not improve much on last year’s 3-9 record.

3. Many of N.C. State’s players have “an over-inflated image” of their own talent, coach Tom O’Brien said Monday. “That’s something that’s permeated here, that we have this great talent,” O’Brien said. N.C. State’s failure to control the line of scrimmage in the first half of a 25-23 loss to Central Florida should dispel the myth that the Wolfpack can win on talent alone, according to O'Brien. After the loss, N.C. State senior wide receivers John Dunlap and Darrell Blackman passionately appealed to their teammates to get serious. The Wolfpack has lost eight in a row. “We’ve got some winners on this team,” said tight end Marcus Stone. “Granted, we’ve had a few losses in the past. We’re going to work it out and get on the right page.”

4. Though Riley Skinner’s shoulder separation is a blow to Wake Forest, don’t underestimate coach Jim Grobe’s ability to overcome injuries. The Deacons lost starting quarterback Benjamin Mauk and tailback Micah Andrews and survived a bunch of other key injuries last season to win the ACC title. And backup quarterback Brett Hodges’ 17-for-23, 130-yard performance provides hope that Wake Forest can win even if Skinner can’t play Saturday against Nebraska.

5. The struggles of Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon on Saturday weren’t a surprise. East Carolina’s domination of the Virginia Tech offensive line was unexpected, though. If the Hokies are going to win at LSU on Saturday and get into the national championship hunt, the veteran line led by Duane Brown and Sergio Render must do a much better job against All-America candidate Glenn Dorsey and the LSU defensive front.

- Ken Tysiac

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Appalachian Nation relishes big victory

One day, there will be lots of Appalachian State fans who will say they were there when the Mountaineers stunned Michigan 34-32 in Michigan Stadium.

Actually, only about 3,000 of them were among the 109,218 in the Wolverines' "Big House" to watch their team perform the unthinkable.

But that's OK: Everyone associated with the school deserves to be part of what was a wonderful afternoon for Appalachian Nation.

Make no mistake, this was as unlikely an outcome as there has ever been in college football.

Sure, the Mountaineers are the Michigan of the NCAA's football championship subdivision (formerly I-AA), with two straight national titles. But the gap between the FCS and the BCS programs in the football bowl division (formerly I-A) -- in terms of scholarships and depth of lineups -- is incredibly wide.

That's why it's taken so long for a FCS team to beat a ranked team.

But it happened Saturday, and Appalachian State was the first to do it.

Appalachian State's offense has Michigan befuddled at halftime

Things would be pretty quiet at Michigan Stadium early Saturday afternoon if it weren't for the booing.

Appalachian State, using a mixture of flash and up-the-gut football, leads Michigan 28-17 at halftime. The Big Ten's Wolverines haven't been able to figure out the Mountaineers' offense, which has rolled up 244 yards in total offense.

Michigan appeared to be driving for a touchdown late in the half, but stalled at the Mountaineers 5. When the Wolverines' field goal unit ran on to the field, Michigan fans responded with a chorus of boos. They grew stronger when the Wolverines had the wrong players on the field, forcing a time out.

But Michigan's Jason Gingell made the kick, cutting Appalachian's lead to 11 points at halftime.

-David Scott

107,501 fans in Michigan Stadium an imposing site

Michigan Stadium, the largest in the country, has a seating capacity of 107,501.

But it’s a subtle 107,501 because, as you approach it, the Big House doesn’t look so big.

The stadium sits in a bowl below ground level and isn’t multi-tiered.

But the stadium has 90 rows of seats - 96 in the end zones - and when they’re filled as they were Saturday against Appalachian State, well, it is an impressive sight.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Will kickoffs be more dangerous?

Kickoffs are so dangerous that college football coaches hesitate to even practice them at full speed.

Eleven players on each team charge headlong at the opponents, with players often colliding violently at full speed.

"I don’t think there’s a coach that doesn’t feel like kickoff coverage has the most potential for injury," said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe.

Yet the NCAA football rules committee recommended and the NCAA playing rules oversight panel mandated that the kickoff be moved back 5 yards to the 30-yard line to create more returns and fewer action-stopping touchbacks.

This should create more excitement, interesting kickoff strategies and higher-scoring games. But is it worth it?

"In the sport of football the most violent play is the kickoff, and we’re going to put guys at risk more often because the ball is going to remain in play," said Purdue coach Joe Tiller. "Chances are, we are going to have more injuries in a sport that has come into close scrutiny here about injuries."

An NCAA spokeswoman said it will be two or three years before the NCAA has injury data to determine whether kickoffs are more dangerous than other plays.

But if coaches and administrators had even an inkling that kickoff returns are especially dangerous, why would they make a rule that increases their frequency for 2007? – Ken Tysiac

Five games to watch Saturday

The long month of preseason anticipation is over for college football fans as North Carolina’s Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) teams all debut Saturday.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have tickets and plan on quarterbacking with the clicker from your armchair, get your snacks and beverages ready.

Here are five games to plan your day around:

1. East Carolina at Virginia Tech, noon, ESPN: This is a chance for Virginia Tech and the nation to come together in honor of the victims of Seung Hui Cho’s April shooting rampage. The game itself is impossible to predict because of the emotion involved. But the event will put football in proper perspective as the season begins.

2. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame, 3:30 p.m., NBC: Who is Notre Dame’s starting quarterback? Can Georgia Tech score without Calvin Johnson? Is Taylor Bennett really better than Reggie Ball? These questions will be answered in South Bend.

3. Oklahoma State at Georgia, 6:45 p.m., ESPN2: Former North Carolina wideout Adarius Bowman is an All-America candidate for Oklahoma State. Former Charlotte Independence High wideout Mohamed Massaquoi is working out of the slot for Georgia. That’s reason enough to watch the first half.

4. Tennessee at California, 8 p.m., ABC: Click over from Oklahoma State-Georgia to see the best game of the day. Phil Fulmer hasn’t won an SEC title since 1998 but has a hot quarterback in Erik Ainge. California is the second-best team in the Pac-10.

5. Idaho at Southern California, 10:15 p.m., Fox Sports Net: Opening Saturday wouldn’t be complete without checking out the nation’s No. 1 team. Watch Tennessee-Cal until the end, but get at least a glimpse of quarterback John David Booty and the Trojans’ offense. You won’t have to watch long. USC will make this a blowout in time to get you to bed at a decent hour. – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 30, 2007

UNC's Davis suspends free safety

North Carolina coach Butch Davis has suspended free safety James "Cooter" Arnold indefinitely for violating team rules, the school announced Wednesday.

Arnold, a junior, made 48 tackles last season and was listed as a possible backup at free safety on the depth chart.

"I spoke with Cooter and told him he had some things he needed to get accomplished and get done," Davis said Wednesday after practice, "and that we would revisit it some time in the near future and give him an opportunity to demonstrate his willingness and desire to get back on the team."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Duke looking to break losing streak

Duke defensive end Patrick Bailey uses San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds to illustrate how a win in Saturday’s opener against Connecticut could lead to more wins for a team mired in a 20-game losing streak.

After Bonds reached 753 home runs on July 19 to close within two of Hank Aaron’s career record, he slumped. He hit just one homer in the next 15 days.

Bonds’ 755th homer, which tied Aaron’s record, began a 15-day stretch when he hit six homers.

"One he got (the record), it was like, ‘Bam, bam, bam,’ " Bailey said Tuesday.

Connecticut was 4-8 last season. Three years ago, the Huskies edged Duke 22-20 when a Blue Devil field goal attempt went wide left with six seconds remaining.

So there is optimism at Duke that the Blue Devils can win at home against this opponent.

"It would be a huge boost of morale," Bailey said.

The plan is for that boost to lead to more wins, and restore Duke to respectability, just as Bonds’ 755th led to more home runs. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 27, 2007

N.C State QB praises former coach

Hours after Daniel Evans was told he would keep the starting quarterback position at N.C. State, he praised former Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato.

This is what makes Evans a bit different from the average college athlete. Protocol dictates that players avoid talking about their former coaches, particularly if they were fired.

But Evans can bring up uncomfortable subjects because his love for N.C. State is unquestioned. He grew up dreaming of playing for the school where his father, Johnny Evans, was a quarterback and All-America punter.
Daniel Evans was asked Monday about the excitement that surrounds N.C. State football.

"It started with coach Amato," he said. "Nobody should sell that short at all. These facilities and the way N.C. State football is thought of around the nation started with coach Amato. He kind of put it back on the map."

Since he was fired and accepted an assistant coaching position at Florida State, Amato has been ridiculed because of his flamboyance and a 25-31 ACC record. But Evans is grateful because Amato offered him a scholarship when no other ACC school did.

He also said first-year coach Tom O’Brien can raise the excitement to a higher level if N.C. State wins eight or more games for six consecutive years as Boston College did under O’Brien.

"I loved my time with coach Amato," Evans said, "but I’m really excited for where the program is going under coach O’Brien, too." – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tar Heels' coach encouraged by improvement of passing game

There is good news from North Carolina’s preseason camp for fans frustrated with the Tar Heels’ passing game a year ago.

In 2006, the Tar Heels completed barely half their passes (50.8 percent) with 18 interceptions and just 11 touchdown passes. First-year North Carolina coach Butch Davis said those struggles continued during spring practice.

But Davis said Wednesday that the passing game is the team’s most significant area of improvement since the spring.

"We’ve got too many good playmakers at the skill positions to not have some effectiveness," Davis said.

Improved protection is a factor in the improvement. Davis said he also has been pleased with wide receivers Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster, Hakeem Nicks, Greg Little and Kenton Thornton.

Tight ends – long a Davis passing-game staple with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Hurricanes – also are getting involved, with Richard Quinn, Ryan Taylor and Zach Pianalto contributing.

That’s encouraging for the Tar Heels, because with the team’s returning tailbacks having totaled one carry all last season, the running game is far from a sure thing.

- Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Davidson vs App State almost happened

Davidson football coach Tripp Merritt leaned back in his office chair and pondered what might have been.

The Wildcats almost took a game at Appalachian State Sept. 8, which would have given the Wildcats a nice payday and a chance to see where they stacked up against the two-time NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title winners.

Davidson could have faced running back Kevin Richardson - who scored 30 touchdowns last season - and tried to break Appalachian State's 27-game home winning streak.

"That would have been something, wouldn't it?" Merritt said. "We talked about it as a staff. We really think we can play with anybody."

Davidson even had approval from Wingate - which had been scheduled to play the Wildcats that day - to move their game to Sept. 22 (Davidson's bye week) and let the Appalachian game happen.

Merritt mulled over the offer, but then decided to back off. Adding the Appalachian State game would have created an 11-game schedule for Davidson, a non-scholarship program. The Davidson coach said he preferred the Wildcats' current setup, where Davidson plays three non-conference games and then has a bye before its Pioneer League opener against Jacksonville Sept. 29.

"You always have to worry about injuries, and we only have 78 guys on our team," he said. "It just wasn't the right fit."

The Wildcats might have to wonder about the missed chance for a few years. Merritt said his team has already completed its 10-game schedule through 2010, and Appalachian State is not expected to have any openings before then. -- Kevin Cary

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

'Canes moving from Orange Bowl

It’s a sad day when college football is leaving the Orange Bowl.

University of Miami officials announced today that the school will move its home games from the Orange Bowl to Dolphin Stadium beginning in 2008. Without a major tenant, the Orange Bowl might be leveled to make way for a new baseball park for the Florida Marlins.

The Orange Bowl has had a few memorable moments for Carolinas teams. On Jan. 1, 1955, ACC champion Duke won a memorable, 34-7 rout over Nebraska there.

Clemson defeated Miami there 15-14 on Jan. 1, 1951, to complete a 9-0-1 season, and won its national championship there on Jan. 1 1982, defeating Nebraska 22-15.

"That’s a very special place for Clemson people, with the ’81 Orange Bowl game being there," said Bill Smith, a defensive end for that national championship team. "There’s a lot of history there in the stadium."

Smith understands why the Hurricanes are leaving the venerable, old stadium, which opened in 1937. Smith is a member of Clemson’s Board of Trustees, and he knows why Miami covets the suites and video age amenities of Dolphin Stadium to impress recruits and donors.

In 1996, the Orange Bowl game itself even moved to the Dolphins’ home stadium.

"I assume from the university of Miami’s perspective, it’s an old stadium, and everybody is upgrading college facilities," Smith said. ". . .From their perspective I guess it’s a good move. But having played there, I hate to see that the Orange Bowl may not be what it used to be."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Andrew Pearman back at UVa

"Jitterbug" is the term of endearment being thrown around at Virginia’s preseason camp to refer to Providence High graduate Andrew Pearman.

The day before camp started, Pearman was told he would be meeting with Anthony Poindexter, who coaches running backs. Pearman, who had been working at wide receiver, was happy.

"Just getting back here and being around these guys is so great," he said.

Pearman missed all but the first four games of last season when he left school for personal reasons. When Virginia coach Al Groh learned Pearman wanted to return this season, he decided to let Pearman’s natural talents shine through.

As a senior at Providence, Pearman rushed for 2,273 yards and 32 touchdowns. His brother, Alvin, was a first-team All-ACC running back for Virginia in 2004 and now is with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Andrew is just 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, which seems too small to take the pounding at running back.

"While he may not look like the prototypical running back in size, that’s his style of play," Groh said. "So let’s just put him where things are most natural to him and get him off to a positive start now that he’s back. And he’s taken to it very well."

Poindexter dubbed Pearman the jitterbug because of his size, style and speed. Pearman is working with the second team behind teammate Cedric Peerman, and also is returning kickoffs and punts.

"It should be really great," Pearman said. "Out here I’m definitely not the biggest running back. . .but I’m having a lot of fun." – Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 16, 2007

ASU coach Moore finds motivational tool for former wrestler

Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore believes he's discovered how to motivate freshman defensive end Gordy Witte.

When Witte began to tire during a one-on-one blocking drill recently, Moore challenged Witte with his background as a star wrestler at Salisbury High, where he won two state heavyweight titles.

"He was fading a bit," said Moore. "So I yelled at him, 'There's 13 seconds left in the (wrestling) match and you're down by one point!"

Witte grinned at Moore and finished the drill by beating his man.

"He's had so much success as a wrestler, it was great he could draw on that," said Moore.

Witte (6-6, 285 pounds) might be counted on this season for the Mountaineers, who lost three starters on their defensive line to graduation - including All-American Marques Murrell.

But players like Witte and LSU transfer Tim Washington might make those losses easier to take. And another transfer - defensive end Quavian Lewis (Vanderbilt) - hasn't been cleared to play yet, although he is practicing with the Mountaineers.

- David Scott

Former Independence QB says he's comfortable in back-up role at Georgia

Former Charlotte Independence High graduate Joe Cox doesn’t have a problem with being second on the depth chart at quarterback behind Matthew Stafford at Georgia.

Away from the football field, Cox enjoys hanging out with Stafford, who shares Cox’s appreciation for old school rhythm and blues (think Marvin Gaye), rap and hip hop. On the football field, Cox accepts that Georgia coach Mark Richt’s staff believes Stafford has earned the job.

"It doesn’t bother me at all that there’s somebody in front of me," Cox said. "You can’t sit back and complain about where you are. You just have to find the good in it and make the best out of the situation."

Cox has solid credentials for the starting job. As a redshirt freshman last season, he was named national player of the week by The Sporting News for leading Georgia to a 14-13, comeback victory against Colorado.

In the G-Day spring game, he completed seven of eight passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.

"My best strength is my accuracy," Cox said. "That’s one thing I’ve always worked hard on."

But Stafford, who’s also a sophomore, is a former Parade All-American who was 6-2 as a starter last season and made the SEC all-freshman team.

Though Cox continues to work hard to push Stafford in practice, he said he isn’t disappointed with the backup role and is thankful he gets along well with Stafford.

"That makes it really easy," Cox said. …

Mohamed Massaquoi, Cox’s teammate at Georgia and Independence, has moved inside to a slot receiver spot when the Bulldogs use a three-wideout formation, Cox said.

Massaquoi made 68 catches for 871 over two seasons when he played primarily the "X" split end position for the Bulldogs. He still is playing some "X," Cox said, but also is working at the "Y" slot position.

"I think he’s really going to help us out and open a lot of things up for us," Cox said. "It’s only going to constrict the defense more to help guys outside make plays."

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Duke not caught up in numbers game

Duke defensive end Patrick Bailey said he doesn’t know how many consecutive games the Blue Devils have lost.

Wide receiver Jomar Wright said he doesn’t know the number and doesn’t really care.

“Every time we step on the field we feel like we can win,” Wright said.

Duke enters the 2007 season with the longest losing streak in the football bowl subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) at 20 games.

Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase said he tries not to think about that.

“We don’t need any negativity,” said Oghobaase, who has lost more than 20 pounds and has been a force in practice at 297 pounds. “We need to be as positive as we can be.”

It’s easy to look at coach Ted Roof’s team and list reasons Duke will continue losing in 2007. The Blue Devils have 11 returning starters on offense, but guard Zach Maurides and tackle Ted Roland have not practiced yet because of injuries.

The defense has lost its best player, linebacker Michael Tauiliili, to an indefinite suspension after his arrest on charges including driving while impaired and simple assault.

Duke’s nonconference schedule includes a trip to Notre Dame and no football championship subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) opponents.

So the Blue Devils have to find hope elsewhere heading into their Sept. 1 opener against Connecticut. They point to a 14-13 loss to ACC champion Wake Forest and a 20-15 defeat against Miami last season as evidence of progress.

If the losing streak says otherwise, the players will do their best to disregard that number.

“Coach Roof, he hasn’t even brought up the losing streak,” Wright said. “It’s not something we talk about.”

– Ken Tysiac

5 yards no big deal to Swank

Successful kickers are usually pretty unflappable. You've got to have some serious chops to line up a potential game-winning field goal with no time left and the crowd howling. Wake Forest's Sam Swank is no different.

Swank, first-team all-ACC last season as a kicker and honorable mention as a punter, showed up at preseason practice last week figuring he'd go about his usual routine in preparing for the Deacons' season opener Sept. 1 at Boston College.

But Swank hadn't heard about an offseason rule change by the NCAA that moves kickoffs back 5 yards to the 30.

"I hadn't heard of it until the coaches told me before practice," said Swank on Tuesday at the team's media day in Groves Stadium.

Swank was asked how the rule change will affect his kicking.

He shrugged.

"I'll move the ball back 5 yards," he said.

- David Scott

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sexton: Davis adjusting offense to his players

It’s not a revolutionary concept, but quarterback Cameron Sexton said a subtle change in philosophy on offense could lead to better production for North Carolina in 2008.

Sexton said first-year coach Butch Davis is molding the offense to the strengths of the players rather than vice versa. “We’ve adjusted the offense to the players,” Sexton said. “We’ve really done a good job of saying, ‘This is what we’re good at. And this is who is good at that position. Let’s find a way to get him the ball, not make him adjust to what we want to do.’ ”

Don’t be surprised if junior wide receiver Brandon Tate gets a lot of opportunities in this offense. Tate has established himself as one of the nation’s premier kick returners, but made just five catches with three rushing attempts last season. Tate is going in motion in the backfield and getting the ball on swing routes and wheel routes.

During Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage, Tate lined up in the slot against a man-to-man coverage with no deep safety help. He beat the safety who was covering him for a long touchdown pass.

“They’re trying to get me the ball in the open field, so I can make somebody miss and see what I can do,” Tate said.

– Ken Tysiac

ACC goes 'subdivision' more than ever

Just a reminder: If it seems like there are more games this season between Division I-A and I-AA (now referred to as the Division I football championship subdivision) teams, it's because there are.

Thanks to the addition of a 12th game to Division I-A schedules in 2006, those larger schools have had to scramble to find opponents to fill those dates. Eight ACC teams play I-AA opponents this season - only Duke, Florida State, Virginia and Wake Forest are not. And those four schools have gone the other direction in getting their schedules up to 12 games. Duke faces Notre Dame, Florida State plays Alabama, Virginia plays Pittsburgh and Wake Forest plays Nebraska.

Each team in the I-AA Southern Conference, for instance, plays at least one I-A team - including Appalachian State (Michigan); Chattanooga (Arkansas); The Citadel (Wisconsin); Elon (South Florida); Furman (Clemson); Georgia Southern (Colorado State); Western Carolina (Alabama and Georgia) and Wofford (N.C. State).

The I-A schools receive millions of dollars in extra revenues from these games and they can count a victory against one I-AA team toward bowl eligibility. The I-AA teams receive financial "guarantees" that make it worth their while to be pummeled on the field.

So, when you see that Appalachian State is opening its season in Michigan's "Big House" on Sept. 1, or that two weeks after Western Carolina plays in Tuscaloosa, the Catamounts travel to Athens - you'll know why.

- David Scott

Saturday, August 11, 2007

UNC freshman QB Paulus finding college more difficult than he expected

North Carolina’s Mike Paulus has been surfing the Internet, reading about his fellow freshmen across the country struggling to make an impact in their first fall camp.

Paulus no longer is in the race for the starting quarterback position. Coach Butch Davis could name redshirt freshman T.J. Yates or sophomore Cameron Sexton the starter as early as Monday. Paulus played primarily in the shotgun at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse and has had to learn how to work from under center.

"I thought it would be a breeze, but it really is a tough time, the college transition to the college offense," Paulus said.

Saturday was the first day media members were allowed to interview North Carolina’s freshmen. Paulus, defensive tackle Marvin Austin and wide receiver Greg Little were expected to make an impact immediately. Austin and Little still might.

But the players’ comments made it clear how difficult training camp is for freshman. Little said his "welcome to college" moment came with a crushing hit in the midsection from freshman linebacker Quan Sturdivant when Little tried to reach for a ball thrown high.

"I hopped right back up, though," Little said bravely.

Austin said he has a lot to learn about the playbook and beating blocks.

"I was trying to rely on my athletic ability," Austin said. "Just beating some blocks. But that’s not what you’re supposed to do. ...I’m used to just pass rushing every play, basically, just rushing to the ball. And now you’ve got bigger guys and the speed is much quicker."

For Paulus, the only consolation comes from reading that freshmen in other places are making the same difficult adjustments.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tar Heels' passing surpasses expectations

North Carolina’s passing game has been one of the most pleasant surprises of fall camp for coach Butch Davis.

"The passing game has been good," Davis said. "We’ve made some good completions, and our receivers have had an excellent start to camp thus far."

The Tar Heel wide receivers have lived up to their billing as a strength on the roster. Davis said Brooks Foster, Brandon Tate, Hakeem Nicks, Greg Little and Kenton Thornton have done a good job in camp.

North Carolina’s quarterbacks are doing a better job getting those players the ball than they did during spring practice.

"The first couple weeks of spring practice, we talked about, not only could we not catch them, we couldn’t throw them or get anywhere close to it," Davis said. "So that’s very encouraging."

- Davis said he used Chinese bamboo growers as a metaphor for his team Friday when talking to his players. He said bamboo growers clear land, plant seeds, fertilize and pull weeds.

"I think it’s like a three-year process," he said. "At the end of the third year, little bitty buds start to grow up. Then you continue to take care of it and you grow it and fertilize it. And the next thing you know, those little buds turn into 80-foot bamboo shoots."

He compared practice to the bamboo-growing process.

"We won’t become a good team until you do all the due diligence," Davis said. "And then one day all of a sudden, look around, and it’s amazing how far we’ve come."

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Locals in the UNC lineup

Charlotte Latin graduate Mark Paschal and safety Deunta Williams, who entered North Carolina’s camp as backups, worked with the first-team defense during drills open to the media during the first half of Thursday’s practice.

Paschal was practicing at middle linebacker with the starters, and Williams was at safety alongside Trimane Goddard. Paschal has lost about five to seven pounds since weighing 235 in the spring, and said he is faster.

"I guess whenever you lose some weight it affects your speed," Paschal said. "It’s one of those things where you just go out and try to work on a certain part of your game every day. Over the summer, that’s something I really focused on."

T.J. Yates remained with the first team at quarterback, and Anthony Elzy worked with the first team at tailback before the second half of practice was closed to the media. – Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

N.C. State's intrasquad scrimmage

Coach Tom O’Brien emerged from N.C. State’s first fall intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday evening disappointed with his players’ lack of consistent production and leadership.

"It could be a function of many different things - the newness of the system or the heat," O’Brien said.

Tailback Toney Baker was among the statistical leaders with seven carries for 38 yards and a touchdown along with a 13-yard touchdown catch. Andre Brown rushed seven times for 33 yards. Tight end Matt Kushner had two catches for 30 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown reception.

Incumbent starter Daniel Evans led the quarterbacks, going 7-for-10 for 61 yards and a touchdown. Harrison Beck (3-for-6, 54 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception), Justin Burke (3-for-7, 23 yards, 2 interceptions) and Russell Wilson (3-for-6, 48 yards, 1 interception) also played quarterback in the 75-play scrimmage.

Nate Irving made a team-leading five tackles. John Ware made four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Antoine Holmes had 2.5 tackles for loss.

The defense was a bit of a bright spot despite giving up three touchdowns.
"They tackled much better than they did in the spring," O’Brien said. "So that’s a positive." – Ken Tysiac

Criticism, strength and leadership

Some notes from training camp in North Carolina:

Tar Heels LB Mapp takes criticism personally

Senior Durell Mapp, North Carolina’s leading tackler last season, took personally the criticism he received from preseason magazines.

He was disappointed when one magazine said he wasn’t an ACC-caliber linebacker.

“I’ve got it at the house,” he said. “I put it up for motivation.”

That motivation has been apparent at North Carolina’s practices.

“He is relentless, running to the football, making plays,” said coach Butch Davis.

Davis said another linebacker, Mark Paschal of Charlotte, had one of the most productive offseasons on the team.

“I think he realized he needed to drop some weight, get faster, get quicker,” Davis said. “And I think that adjustment has certainly helped his playmaking ability.”

N.C. State's O-line a strength

The middle of N.C. State’s offensive line is expected to be a strong point with center Luke Lathan flanked by left guard Kalani Heppe and right guard Curtis Crouch.

In their careers, Heppe has started 15 games, Crouch 12 and Lathan eight. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible told the players that a cohesive middle of the line of scrimmage is essential in pass protection.

“Somebody on the outside can be let loose and the quarterback can step up in the pocket,” Lathan said. “But he can’t step up in the pocket if somebody is coming right at him. It’s good because Kalani and Curtis and I, we’ve all had games together and so many snaps together in practice that we know each other’s tendencies.”

Davis awarding yellow jerseys to leaders

In many training camps, a yellow jersey is a sign that a player is injured and unavailable for contact.

Not so at North Carolina’s camp. In Tour de France fashion, coach Butch Davis sometimes awards the jersey to a player who has been a leader in camp. Sometimes he gives it to challenge a player to raise his play another level.

So far, Kentwan Balmer, Hilee Taylor, Aleric Mullins and Trimane Goddard are among the players who have worn the jersey.

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Heat an issue on football field

The severity of the heat for the start of football practice in the Carolinas is a surprise even for those who grew up here.

Players and coaches are accustomed to practicing in 90-degree weather. But when the temperatures climb into the high 90s and are expected to flirt with 100, practice becomes a chore.

“That’s just something that’s going to make us stronger in the end. . . . I can feel myself getting in better shape working in it,” N.C. State quarterback Daniel Evans said bravely.

Coach Tom O’Brien said N.C. State has averaged about one player a day who has been physically unable to finish practice because of the heat. He said that’s not bad when you consider there are more than 100 players on the field.

The heat puts coaches in an unusual spot. They want to see who is tough enough to succeed in the uncomfortable conditions and prepare for games that might be held on hot afternoons.
They also don’t want to burn out their players before the season begins. East Carolina coach Skip Holtz is beginning practice in the middle of the afternoon because the Pirates open in a noon game Sept. 1 at Virginia Tech. But he is monitoring the heat’s effect on his players and will adjust accordingly.

“We want to make sure we have somebody to play with when we go up to Virginia Tech,” Holtz said.

The “acclimatization period” created by the NCAA in 2003 helps protect players from the heat by outlawing two-a-days for the first five days of the preseason. Practices start with no pads, then add shoulder pads and advance to full contact by the fifth day.

Even after the acclimatization period ends, two-a-days on consecutive days are prohibited.
Bear Bryant might have frowned upon these precautions because they can prevent a coach from building toughness. But North Carolina coach Butch Davis said he’s been sensitive to the effects of heat on players for more than 10 years, dating back past his tenure with the Miami Hurricanes to his time with the Dallas Cowboys.

After spending his entire coaching career in the South, Davis remembered trying to figure out what to do as coach of the Cleveland Browns, when he experienced temperatures in the 70s.
“That was more of an adjustment than, how are you going to deal with 92 degrees,” Davis said.
But as the mercury climbs in the Carolinas, temperatures in the 70s would sound good to a lot of sweaty football players.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, August 6, 2007

Appalachian State hot, relatively speaking

The heat is relative in the Carolinas, especially when you're 3,333 feet above sea level in the mountains.

After Appalachian State wrapped up its practice Monday, Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore talked about how the heat - which reached the mid-80s in Boone - affected his team. A few players had gone down from the warm temperataures, including one taken off the field on a stretcher by an EMT team for precautionary measures.

But Moore was asked how the temperatures compared to Texas, where he used to coach at North Texas and Texas Tech. Or even in the flatlands of the Carolinas.

"I know," he said with a grin, acknowledging the comparatively temperate climes of Boone. "It's nothing like that."

Still, the two-time NCAA Division I-AA champ Mountaineers coped with the heat. After practice, several linemen got in tubs of cold water outside the field house and proceeded to have a splashy water fight.

The Mountaineers open the season with two of the more unlikely games any team will play this season. On Sept. 1, Appalachian plays at Michigan. On Sept. 8, the Mountaineers play the other end of the spectrum, hosting Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. - David Scott

Beck: N.C. State unlike Nebraska in one way

Yes, it’s hot here in North Carolina – unusually hot, even for August.

But N.C. State’s Harrison Beck – who’s fighting for the starting quarterback job – said it’s even hotter in Nebraska this time of year. Beck is a sophomore who transferred from Nebraska.

“It’s like someone is holding a torch in your face (in Nebraska),” Beck said. “Here, it’s really humid.”

Beck said the media attention for football in Nebraska also far exceeds that at N.C. State.

“That’s all they have in (Nebraska),” Beck said. “There’s media out there that stretches the whole side of the football field (at practice). It’s more of a circus there.”

UNC's Austin sloppy so far?

Mega-recruit Marvin Austin appeared sluggish during the portion of North Carolina’s opening practice reporters were allowed to watch. He was the last one in line to run through many of the defensive line drills, and position coach John Blake had to tell him to put his shorts back on after he took them off. Moments later, Blake had to tell Austin to tie the drawstring in his shorts because they were falling off his rear end.

Though Austin looked sloppy, Durham’s Greg Little appeared ready to immediately become one of the team’s best receivers. He runs precise routes, adjusts to the ball when it’s in the air and catches with his hands rather than his chest.

Another wide receiver, 6-5, 210-pound Rashad Mason, has the best-looking physique in the freshman class. He isn’t as polished as Little, but should make an impact at some point simply because he has outstanding physical tools.

Can ECU D make up for Pinkney?

East Carolina will miss quarterback James Pinkney, who led the Pirates to the Bowl as a senior last season.

But the Pirates’ defensive line is so strong that great quarterback play might not be necessary to get the team back to a bowl. Tackle Khalif Mitchell spent two years at North Carolina before transferring, and end Marcus Hands was a North Carolina signee before he enrolled.

Freshman tackle Linval Joseph is listed at 6-6 and 344 pounds, and coach Skip Holtz said he has the physique to help the team immediately.

“We’ve come a long way when you look at the front seven,” Holtz said.

Duke's season off to bad start

Losing starting linebacker Michael Tauiliili to a suspension after an arrest is a devastating way for Duke to begin its season. Coach Ted Roof suspended him after he was charged with driving while impaired, simple assault and other offenses.

There isn’t much positive to say about Duke’s football program, except that it has 11 returning starters. Tauiliili was Duke’s best defensive player, and his predicament gets a team desperate for good news off to a miserable start.

- Ken Tysiac