The Football Blitz

Who will Bobby Bowden and Florida State get as their new Offensive Coordinator? How does the Big East stack up against the rest of the conferences in college football? Is Oklahoma State a team on the rise? Where are Martrez Wilson, Ronald Johnson, and Joe McKnight headed and what's up with Tennessee recruiting? I will answer these question and more in this week's Football Blitz.

Do you have any ideas on who may replace Jeff Bowden at FSU? Would you be leaning toward a big name or a lesser known coach?
Chris (Atlanta, Georgia)

The bottom line is that Bobby Bowden and Florida State need to make the right hire, whether it's a big name or not. Sure the Seminole nation wants that big name but it's more important to find the right fit. They need an offensive coordinator with a scheme and imagination to match with the athletes in Tallahassee.

Some of the names already out there are coaches like Chris Hatcher (Valdosta State), Larry Fedora (Oklahoma State), Jimbo Fisher (LSU), Paul Petrino (Louisville), and even Norm Chow (Tennessee Titans). You have some big names there like Fisher and Chow and you have some coaches on the fast track like Fedora and Hatcher. It certainly is an interesting mix of coaches.

One thing you have to remember is that right now it's all speculation. Teams still have games to play and Jeff Bowden's resignation was just last week. I am sure some coaches have been contacted through back channels to see if there is an interest to coach at Florida State. I couldn't imagine that anything more has transpired on the surface because of the current timing. Something else to consider is this, is Jeff Bowden the only coach leaving? There is also speculation that some other coaches like Darryl Dickey (QB Coach) and Billy Sexton (RB Coach) could be leaving the program or even retiring.

Jeff Bowden resigned this past Tuesday for a reason, to take the immense heat off the head coach who just so happens to be his father. Bobby Bowden is a living legend and has more wins than any D-1A coach. He is Florida State and the reason they have won two National Championships, countless ACC titles, etc. Bobby Bowden is Florida State football.

For a variety of reasons, not just Jeff Bowden, FSU has struggled offensively. We have seen the FSU football machine in a slow decline. This has mainly happened on the offensive side of the ball. It started when then Seminole Offensive Coordinator Mark Richt left to become the head coach at the University of Georgia. Jeff Bowden was promoted to OC. Over the course of the following seasons it was like a slow leak in Tallahassee that seemed to get a little worse each year. Fans first blamed then FSU quarterback Chris Rix and Jeff Bowden. Rix became the bigger public scapegoat to the legends of ‘Nole fans. Rix then graduated and Florida State turned to another freshman quarterback in Drew Weatherford. Despite leading the ACC in passing in his first season as the Seminole starter, the FSU offense still wasn't the FSU offense. Something was still amiss and all fingers pointed to Jeff Bowden.

Jeff Bowden
In reality the decline of Florida State's offense can be looked at in a variety of ways. First, Jeff Bowden takes all the responsibility because this was his offense, his baby. Second, Florida State had to go with a freshman quarterback at the time with Rix and the same with Weatherford. Third, how well were these two young quarterbacks coached? It was more than just the younger Bowden. We saw Rix making the same simple, fundamental mistakes as a senior that we saw him make as a freshman. Fourth, Florida State talks about making a real commitment to a running game but they never do. The best way to take pressure of your passing offense and your quarterback is by running the football. Fifth, the Seminoles have not done a very good job recruiting offensive linemen. This is shocking to me because no team has recruited better or with more consistency than FSU over the past 20 years or so. But for whatever reason, the Seminoles have not done a good job in this particular position in terms of recruiting over the past 4-5 years. Lastly, people need to remember one big thing, the ACC has gotten a whole lot better, especially from top to bottom. Maybe the conference is down this season but that doesn't change the fact that as a whole, the ACC is much better than what is was a decade ago when Florida State was dominating the conference.

Ultimately the heat should fall on Bobby Bowden because he made the decision to promote his son to run his offense when Richt left. Coach Bowden made the hire of Darryl Dickey to coach his quarterbacks. When things got dicey over the past few seasons Bowden stood up to the critics and fans alike and was steadfast in his support of his coaches. Meanwhile, Florida State has lost 22 games since the 2000 season began. Do you know how many games they lost in the decade of the 1990s? 12.

So the question is where do the ‘Noles go from here? It's hard to say at this time who will really be on the short list as offensive coordinator candidates. Let's assume it's the coaches mentioned above. Fisher and Chow are the two big names. Fisher is one of the highest paid coordinators in college football. He has ties to the Bowden family, as he was an assistant under Terry Bowden at Auburn and Samford. Fisher is one of the top coaches among his peers. He did a wonderful job for then LSU Head Coach Nick Saban. Fisher didn't go to Miami with Saban and elected to stay in Baton Rouge. Les Miles took over the Tigers and Fisher stayed on board. So in reality, Miles was stuck with Fisher although you can't really get stuck with a better coach. Their relationship has deteriorated and he could be on his way out. Chow is considered one of the best coordinators in the game at any level. He is now with the Titans and is making close to a million dollars. Chow would be expensive and is under contract. But what happens if Tennessee makes a coaching change with Jeff Fisher? Would Chow want to get back in the college game and would he be interested in FSU?

Larry Fedora was the OC at MTSU and left Murfreesboro for Gainesville to coach the wide receivers at Florida under Ron Zook. He was promoted to Offensive Coordinator and did a nice job with the Gator offense. Then Zook got fired and Fedora was headed to Illinois with Zook to run the Illini offense. A few weeks later, then Oklahoma State coach Les Miles took the LSU job. The Cowboys promoted Mike Gundy to Head Coach and Gundy got Fedora away from Zook to run the Ok-State offense. This season, the Cowboys are putting up big numbers offensively under Fedora. He is a young coach on the fast track, with a very good offensive mind and one of the top recruiters in the country.

Chris Hatcher was an assistant on Hal Mumme's staff at Kentucky and coached Tim Couch. He then became the head coach at Valdosta State. There, VSU is an offensive machine as they throw the ball all over the place. Like Fedora, Hatcher is a young coach with a great offensive mind on the fast track.

For Bowden, it has to be about the right fit and how he wants his offense to run in the future. You would think that this is Florida State and that Bowden could attract some big names as well as young and up and coming coaches alike.

Not since Bob Stoops became the Defensive Coordinator at Florida has there been so much talk about a coordinator position. That's because of the program we are talking about – FSU. The Seminoles should not be a program fighting to get above .500. There is too much talent and too much tradition. For Bowden, this could be the most important hire he ever makes. Sure fans of Florida State and fans of college football will always remember Bobby Bowden as one of the greatest. But Bobby Bowden doesn't want to leave this game or Florida State University like this.

So you would imagine that sometime over the next four or five weeks Bobby Bowden will find his man. He has to in that time frame or recruiting could take a real hit. At least the ‘Noles don't have many scholarships to hand out this season. Regardless, it should make for some interesting water cooler discussion between now and the Bowl season.

Bobby Reid
I know we aren't even done with this season yet, but what are your early rankings for the 2007 season? I see the Oklahoma State Cowboys making some noise next season with that high powered offense and year older defense. What do you think?
Joshua (Mannford, Oklahoma)

I have not really thought about rankings for next season but I certainly believe that Oklahoma State is a program on the rise. The Cowboys are a team that is really starting to hit their stride offensively this season. Sophomore quarterback Bobby Reid is certainly one of the top quarterbacks in the country and he has the numbers to back it up. In 11 games this season he has thrown for 1,972 yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He has also rushed for 446 yards and four scores. Reid is 14th overall in passing efficiency (151.9) and third in the Big 12. The Cowboys also have one of the game's top receivers in Adarius Bowman. He has 51 receptions for 1,051 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. They are good across the front. It's a balanced offense that also averages 203 yards on the ground and is second in the Big 12 in scoring with 40 points per game.

Where they need to improve is on the other side of the ball. The Cowboys are 6-5 and in their five defeats they have given up way too many points (165) which equates to 33 points per loss. Oklahoma State's rush defense is not bad, giving up 105.4 yards per game (5th) while the pass defense gives up 234.6 yards per game (9th). They are 10th in both total defense and scoring defense in the conference. Those numbers need to improve.

They are losing many veteran players on their defensive front. In all five defensive linemen in their two deep on the front will be lost to graduation. The good news is that the Cowboys return everyone in their back seven next season.

Oklahoma State is also bringing in a quality recruiting class led by defensive end Richetti Jones (Dallas, Texas).

The weapons are in place offensively in Stillwater. An improved defense will improve Oklahoma State's chances to challenging Oklahoma and Texas for the Big 12 South. I think they, along with most of the other teams in that conference are making strides in the right direction.

Colt Brennan
How can you rank Boise State and Hawaii in the top 20, when there are at least 40 schools that would be favored over them on a neutral field. Is it all on their record? The talent certainly isn't there.
Steve (Salem, Virginia)

Boise State and Hawaii are two good programs worthy of their ranking. Boise State is unbeaten and is in everyone's top 20. On the other hand, I have Hawaii a little higher than most polls. Right now the Warriors are sitting at No. 25 and could work their way in the top 20 with wins in their final two regular season games.

Both Boise State and Hawaii play in the WAC and they are the two dominant teams. Earlier this season the Broncos held off the Warriors and won by a touchdown. Both teams have high octane offenses that could certainly put up some big numbers against teams you would see ranked anywhere between 21-40. Hawaii's other loss was an opening day defeat on the road to Alabama 23-15. In that game they held the Crimson Tide to two offensive touchdowns and only 21 rushing yards in the second half. In that game Hawaii also committed five turnovers. If that game were played today, on a neutral field as you say, the outcome could be different. They are playing good football right now.

Hawaii has always been good on the offensive side of the ball. It took a few weeks this season but that offense has taken off and put up some unbelievable numbers. Quarterback Colt Brennan is on pace to throw for over 50 touchdown passes and 5,000 yards. The offense has scored 49 points or more in six straight games. They have scored 34 points or more in all but one game and that was their opener. Now obviously those numbers are against the conference foes that don't exactly play great defense and they certainly wouldn't put up those kinds of gaudy stats against top 40 type of opponents. But what makes this Hawaii team different is their defense. They are not exactly LSU or Michigan defensively but they are vastly improved and playing light years better then they have under Defensive Coordinator Jerry Glanville. It's even more impressive considering Glanville and Hawaii don't have near the talent you see in Tuscaloosa or Columbus.

We will all get a real sense of how good this Hawaii team is over the course of the next two weeks when they play Purdue and Oregon State. They get the Beavers to end the regular season and this Oregon State team that knocked off USC a few weeks ago.

Boise State on the other hand has been good for a while now. They will finish the regular season unbeaten and perhaps get a BCS bowl berth. They have a great offense and a great running game with sophomore running back Ian Johnson. He has rushed for 1,466 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Jared Zabransky has had a good season, completing 65% of his passes for 2,026 yards, 19 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

Hawaii leads the NCAA in scoring with 49.2 points per game while Boise State checks in at No. 4 overall with 39.5 points per game. Defensively the Broncos are 22nd in scoring defense (16.4 points allowed per game).

So can both Hawaii and Boise State compete and beat such top 40 teams like Houston, Maryland, TCU, Texas A&M, Penn State, Ohio, Navy, Kentucky, Purdue, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon State, etc? Well, we will all know more on Hawaii as they get the Boilermakers and Beavers over the next two weeks and whoever they play in their Bowl game.

The bottom line is that there are very few great teams in college football. There is a lot of parity between teams 20 and 40 and I really believe that these two teams are two of the better teams in that category.

Ray Rice
When will people start to acknowledge what the Big East has done? With three top ten teams, Rutgers, Louisville, and West Virginia, a highly underrated USF team, and two more bowl-bid candidates in Pittsburgh and Connecticut? The Big East has played better than the ACC, the Big 12, and the Pac-10 in my book.
Jordan (Tampa, Florida)

I really believe that the Big East has earned a lot of respect this season. The top teams in the league, West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers have all proved they can play great football. The Scarlet Knights are the darling of college football and arguably the greatest team story of this season. The Cardinals and Mountaineers certainly lived up to the hype and West Virginia proved a lot last season when they defeated the SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl. South Florida is certainly a program on the rise as is Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Cincinnati, although I am a bit disappointed in the Panthers.

I believe that the SEC is the top conference in the country and I guess it all depends on how you define "the best conference". If you just look at the best teams you could make a case for the Big 10 because Ohio State and Michigan have been so dominant and Wisconsin finished their season with only one loss (but they did not play the Buckeyes). Having said that, there is a huge drop off after these three teams and Penn State in the Big 10. So from top to bottom I don't think the Big 10 would rank as the top conference. That distinction would go to the SEC. Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU are all in the top 25 while South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama would likely be top 40 clubs. Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky showed great improvement this season, making the SEC the deepest conference in the game. It's tough to run through this league, especially this season, and have a team go unbeaten. In my opinion, the most talented team in the SEC is LSU and they are sitting on two losses (against Auburn and Florida). Arkansas is unbeaten in conference play at this point but they get LSU this weekend.

To me, the Big 12 is still a very good league because I think the middle tier teams are good teams and improving – Texas Tech, Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, etc. Oklahoma and Texas still rule the roost but it's getting a little more difficult and will be more of a challenge in the coming years. Then there is Nebraska who is now back as a top 25 club.

The Pac 10 is still all USC but programs like Cal. and Oregon are knocking on the door and teams like Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon State are teams of the future that could emerge as a big threat as well to the Trojans supremacy.

The biggest disappoint nationally of all the conferences has to be the ACC. Much of this has to do with the sudden decline of annual powerhouses Florida State and Miami. They have 11 losses between them and their demise has certainly brought the conference down. Having said that the play of Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Maryland, and Boston College have proved that some programs are making big jumps, particularly the Demon Deacons. Like Rutgers, Wake Forest is one of the great team stories in college football. Virginia Tech, who has been a major power recently, started slow, but they are playing pretty good football right now.

So how would the Big East stack up this season with the rest of the conferences? Here is how I would rank the BCS conferences –

1) SEC
2) Big 12
3) Pac 10
4) Big 10
5) Big East
6) ACC

Now I rated them based purely on what I see from top to bottom. I think the SEC is good at the top and deep. The Big 12 is ok at the top but good in the middle. In the Pac 10 USC and Cal are the two best teams and then you have some pretty good programs in the middle of the conference while the Big 10 is great at the top and there is a huge drop after the Nittany Lions. The Big East has three very good teams and a few decent teams. The ACC is not strong at the top but down the middle there is parity.

If you just took the top four or five teams in each league that ranking would be a little different. Given that criteria I would give a slight edge to the Big 10 over the SEC. Now I don't think Ohio State or Michigan would run unbeaten through an SEC schedule but I certainly believe that if in that league one of them would win in the conference title this season.

To take it a step further, the SEC has five teams in the BCS, four which are in the top 12. The ACC has five teams as well in the BCS top 25 but the highest rated team is Georgia Tech at No. 16. The Big 10 has four teams, with Ohio State No. 1, Michigan No. 2 and Wisconsin No. 8 and Penn State No. 25. The Pac 10 has two teams, Southern Cal and Cal in the BCS Top 25 while the Big 12 has three teams. Meanwhile, the Big East has three teams, Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers all ranked in the top 14.

Like I stated above, I think you have to factor in the total depth of each conference to say who is the best but at the same time you also have to give some credence to what's at the top of each league. In regards to the Big East there is no question that it's an improving conference that has gained a ton of respect this season in the college football world.

Joe McKnight
I have recently seen that Joe McKnight, the five star running back out of Louisiana, has shown some interest in Clemson. How much of an interest does he have in Clemson? What is the likelihood that he will end up in Clemson? If he doesn't, where is he likely to play next fall?
Josh (Newberry, South Carolina)

Honestly, I think Joe McKnight is headed out west to play for USC or stay home and play for LSU. McKnight, from River Ridge (La.) John Curtis High School, almost committed to the Trojans last summer. At this time he said he will visit LSU, USC, Clemson and possibly Arkansas. In the end I expect McKnight to sign with the Trojans or Tigers. This one is going to be a battle.

Marvin Austin
Tennessee has about 17 commits so far, all of them skill type players. Any BIG BOYS interested in the Vols?
Jamie (Los Angeles, California)

The Volunteers will sign some linemen this season. Offensively, Darris Sawtelle (Bloomfield, Mi.) has already committed to Tennessee and the Vols will resign OL Cody Pope. They would love to land center Kristofer O'Dowd (Tucson, Az.) but he is likely headed elsewhere. OL is not a big need for Tennessee because they will only lose two seniors from this unit. On the other side of the ball the Volunteers have three defensive line committed, defensive end Rufus Williams (Titusville, Fl.), defensive end Gerald Williams (Fork Union, Va.) and defensive tackle Donald Langley (Germantown, Md.). They would love to land the nation's top d-tackle in Marvin Austin (Washington D.C.). He has already visited Knoxville and the Vols are very much in the hunt as they are battling Florida State, Illinois, Maryland, USC and others. Rae Sykes (Alcoa, Tenn/) and Jarius Wynn (Georgia Military) are two other possibilities at this time.

Martez Wilson
What do you think of the chances Michigan has with its remaining recruits, especially regards to Ronald Johnson and Martez Wilson? Do you think we could see something soon as far as commitments from these guys?
Chris (Allendale, Michigan)

Michigan, like always, will bring in a very good class that is highly rated. You know Wolverine Head Coach Lloyd Carr and company would love to land these two gems. At this time I think they have a better shot at Johnson (Muskeegon, Mi.). Johnson has recently said that he would like to officially visit Michigan, USC, Florida, Texas and Ohio State. My best guess is that this battle comes down to the Wolverines and Trojans and I like the chances of the maize and blue. Wilson is another story. Teams like Michigan, USC, Ohio State and Notre Dame are battling Illinois and Ron Zook. The Fighting Illini appear to be the team to beat right now.

The Heisman Race

1)Troy Smith (QB) Ohio State
Smith made a few mistakes against Michigan but he still made a ton of big plays. He threw for 318 yards and four scores. For the season Smith has completed67% of his passes for 2,507 yards, 30 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

2) Brady Quinn (QB) Notre Dame
This past weekend Quinn threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns against Army. For the season he has completed 65% of his passes for 3,004 yards yards, 32 touchdowns and only five interceptions.

3) Colt Brennan (QB) Hawaii
Wow, this guy is consistent as he continues to put up incredible numbers. Against San Jose State Brennan threw for 401 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for a score. For the season he has completed 72.3% of his passes for 4,155 yards, 48 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions.

4) Darren McFadden (RB) Arkansas
Mississippi State did a nice job of containing McFadden, limiting him to 84 yards on 26 carries. But McFadden did return a kickoff 92 yards for a score. For the season McFadden has rushed for 1,301 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns while averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

5) Steve Slaton (RB) West Virginia
Slaton rushed the ball 23 times for 215 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt. So far this season he has rushed for 1,578 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging an eye popping 8.2 yards per rush.

The Football Blitz Power Ratings
Top 20
1) Ohio State (12-0)
The big play Buckeyes hold off the Wolverines in one of the greatest games in this great rivalry. Now Ohio State waits for their opponent in the title game. Will it be USC, Michigan, Arkansas or Notre Dame?

2) USC (9-1)
USC's defense was impressive in their win against Cal. It is the Trojans fifth straight Pac 10 title. Notre Dame awaits them on Saturday and they close with UCLA. Two more big wins may be enough for USC to jump Michigan and play Ohio State for another title.

3) Florida (10-1)
The Gators beat 1-AA Western Carolina 62-0 and the computers don't like it. Florida plays their big rival FSU this weekend. Not only do they need to beat the Seminoles but they need some serious help from others.

4) Arkansas (10-1)
Mississippi State played Arkansas tough but Darren McFadden and company were just too much. To keep their National Championship dreams alive the Razorbacks have to find a way to beat a very talented LSU team this weekend.

5) Michigan (11-1)
The Wolverines played the Buckeyes closer than anyone this season in a surprisingly high score affair. Their defense failed them or is Ohio State that good offensively? Michigan wants another shot at the Buckeyes and they just may get it, although USC may jump them if the Trojans win out.

6) Notre Dame (10-1)
Quarterback Brady Quinn and running back Darius Walker propel the Irish over Army. A win this weekend against USC will make things a little more interesting with the BCS.

7) Louisville (9-1)
The Cardinals bounced back nicely against South Florida with a big win over the Bulls. They travel to Pitt this weekend.

8) West Virginia (8-1)
Quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton showed why they are on of the top duos in the nation as they out up over 400 yards rushing between them in their big win against the Panthers. West Virginia takes on South Florida this Saturday.

9) LSU (9-2)
Was LSU looking ahead against the Rebels with Arkansas looming this weekend. They needed overtime to defeat Ole Miss.

10) Texas (9-2)
The Lonhorns were idle and face Texas A&M this weekend.

11) Oklahoma (9-2)
The Sooners took care of business against Baylor and rolled once again. They travel to Stillwater to face the Cowboys. ]

12) Wisconsin (11-1)
The Badgers blow away Buffalo to finish the season with 11 wins.

13) Auburn (10-2)
The Tigers win the Iron Bowl and finish their season with 10 wins.

14) Boise State (11-0)
The Broncos took care of Utah State with Nevada on deck Saturday.

15) Tennessee (8-3)
The Vols rolled over Vanderbilt and get a much improved Kentucky team this weekend to close out the season.

16) Georgia Tech (9-2)
The Tech offense showed up big against Duke. They close their regular season against the Dawgs on Saturday.

17) Rutgers (9-1)
Football is such an emotional game. Rutgers was sky high against Louisville and the opposite against Cincinnati, as they upset the Scarlet Knights. They get Syracuse this weekend.

18) Hawaii (9-2)

The Warriors have scored at least 49 points six straight weeks. They took care of San Jose State 54-17. Can Purdue control them this weekend? Doubtful.

19) Cal (9-3)
The Bears had their chances against the Trojans but USC wouldn't budge. Southern Cal proves they are still the Pac 10 kings. Cal's two game losing streak will end this weekend against Stanford.

20) Nebraska (8-3)
The Cornhuskers were idle this week. They take on Colorado on Friday.

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