Category Archives: NCAA Football

Five quick college football predictions

I should really get out of the prediction business; I’m terrible at it.

Quitters never win.

Here are five very quick predictions I have on this college football season…

1. Alabama wins the national championship. Mount Union wins the Div. III national championship. Perhaps you’ve seen this movie before.

2. I am previously on record with this: Ball State will get to 12-1 by beating 9-4 Ohio in the MAC Championship Game.

3. There’s plenty of hype surrounding Louisville, but the Cardinals will lose their season finale at Cincinnati and the Bearcats will claim the AAC’s last automatic BCS bid.

4. Braxton Miller will sit on the stage at the Downtown Athletic Club for the Heisman Trophy ceremony in December. Johhny Manziel will sit there, too. A.J. McCarron will win it, and we’ll all hope Katherine Webb is there.

5. Ohio State will win. And win big. And win its first 11 games, then lose at Michigan. Then, the Buckeyes will turn the tables on the Wolverines and win the following week in the Big Ten Championship Game to get to 12-1 and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl, where they’ll beat Stanford.

Ice cream all around at Toledo

This is Toledo coach Matt Campbell’s elaborate way of stopping practice to feed his team ice cream.

Not surprisingly, the players love this guy.

It’s going to be about 122 degrees next Saturday when Toledo opens the season with a 12:22 p.m. kickoff at Florida, but on this night the Rockets were some cool customers.

A few notes from Ohio State’s Wednesday practice

COLUMBUS, Ohio – We got to watch Ohio State practice today.

Here’s a little of what I scribbled in my notebook and stored in my memory bank…

*Braxton Miller is good. You already knew that. But Braxton Miller is better — he’s noticeably more confident and generally throws a much better ball — and, at least from a far, seems more comfortable. The more offense Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman can give Miller, the faster the Buckeyes will play, more players will be involved and defenses will be gasping for air.

*Miller is better, and he’s still far from a finished product. It still remains to be seen not only how he’ll perform from the pocket, but how often opponents can keep him from the pocket. In 90 or so minutes on Wednesday, the impression this untrained eye had was that Miller threw a bunch of different kinds of passes and didn’t throw them all well, but he threw a couple big-timers and overall seemed much more sure of his throws and his reads. I’ll stand by what Meyer said all summer, that we have not seen even close to his ceiling.

*Dontre Wilson, the freshman runner/receiver/slot man/return man, is the real deal. Believe the hype.

*Miller on one play was sprinting out to his right and saw Wilson on what was either a wheel route or Wilson breaking off his first route into open space. Miller kind of lazily lofted a throw from about the 15-yard line towards the back corner of the end zone. When it left his hand, it looked like he’d thrown it too far. Wilson hit that extra gear he clearly has and caught it. Whether or not he got a foot down, and whether or not he was the first or fourth option on that play, and whether or not Miller threw it like he knew what he was doing or just threw it to see if Wilson is really a human being, it’s the kind of play that speaks to the potential of this offense.

*Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs is still the staff’s resident wild man, and he doesn’t disappoint. But Meyer really runs an impressive football practice, and it seems like no one on the staff is afraid to show emotion, show displeasure or really get after guys. We don’t always know what we’re watching, but it seems like Coombs was really getting after freshman corner Eli Apple. Maybe that’s because he thinks Apple can play sooner than later?

*Top corner Bradley Roby, who still faces discipline from a July arrest depending on when Meyer “gets the facts,” was with the second-team defense. Roby was very good, and it’s not hard to imagine that the dozen or so NFL scouts watching Wednesday were there primarily to see Roby.

*Meyer only opens a handful of summer camp practices and has a few select regular-season weeks open to scouts. That the St. Louis Rams had three guys watching from the sideline is probably a function of different universities granting access at different times — and of the Rams opening the preseason on Thursday night in Cleveland.

*It appeared as though freshman Gareon Conley was playing left cornerback with the first unit with Roby serving his time. If Roby misses any time the Buckeyes will be very green at the cornerback position but have leaders and experience at safety in Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett.

*Freshman defensive tackle Joey Bosa is going to play. Freshman defensive tackle Michael Hill is probably going to play, too.

*Adolphus Washington is as advertised. A stud.

*Guard Andrew Norwell went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury and left practice. Depth on the offensive line is one of Meyer’s top concerns, so this is a storyline to watch — both from the standpoint of when Norwell and center Corey Linsley can get back, and who can answer the call their (at least temporary) absences created?

MAC Football preseason poll – how Zac voted

DETROIT — In case anybody cares or wants to send some hate mail, I figured I’d share my votes in the preseason Mid-American Conference poll.

The poll was released Tuesday at MAC Media Day at Ford Field, and the consensus of the 25 voters was that Northern Illinois would defeat Ohio in the conference title game.

Toledo, Ball State and Central Michigan followed NIU in the West voting, with Bowling Green, Kent State and Buffalo behind Ohio in the West. Six teams got at least two votes to win the conference title game.

I voted a little differently. And here’s what my ballot looked like…

West

1. Ball State
2. Toledo
3. Northern Illinois
4. Western Michigan
5. Central Michigan
6. Eastern Michigan

East

1. Ohio
2. Bowling Green
3. Kent State
4. Buffalo
5. Akron
6. Miami-OH
7. UMass

I picked Ball State over Ohio in the title game. The Cardinals return experience and talent and have the kind of schedule a MAC team needs to rack up 10 or 11 (or even 12 with the right lightning strikes) wins. I believe Ohio’s experience will carry  it through the East, too, and the Bobcats schedule seems to set up better than that of its closest competitors.

It’s #MACtion. Anything can happen — and usually does.

A glimpse behind the curtain with Urban Meyer

About 30 minutes after his second annual hometown youth football camp had ended on Monday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer got up in front of about 80 people — mostly camp volunteers — in a private room and started giving thanks.

It was pretty informal and seemed both genuine and off the cuff. There are lots of people who do lots of legwork so hundreds of kids can come to the camp and say they rubbed elbows with Meyer, and though he mostly shakes hands and gives a brief address at the camp, he couldn’t help but jump into a couple of drills at the camp and show kids a proper defensive back’s stance or how to run while protecting the ball.

Meyer was admittedly a little uncomfortable addressing the younger campers (it’s for boys and girls entering grades 1-8) as they probably don’t fully appreciate his stories and lessons on being a good teammate and the importance of leadership. He was more comfortable afterwards, upstairs in that separate room, talking about his hometown and what it would mean for him to be able to help football there and to one day see an Ashtabula team play for a state championship or an Ashtabula kid play for Ohio State.

It was just the type of speech local-boy-done-good would give to a local audience. And then, just a few minutes into it, something clicked with Meyer and he ended up delivering this fiery motivational speech about leadership and teamwork and what  makes a team do what Ohio State did last fall, going unbeaten a year after losing seven games.

For the football junkie in me, it was 10 or so minutes of absolute bliss. For the lazy person inside who tends to weigh down the rest of me, it was almost enough motivation to jump out of my chair.

Meyer, through people running the camp, had requested that no video cameras be turned on and nothing be recorded. I wasn’t taking notes, either, but he made much of it hard to forget.

He started talking about how it wasn’t the spread offense that had changed Ohio State’s fortunes but rather a buy-in by the players to an attitude and work ethic/approach. I’ve heard the stuff about the importance of leadership before, but this was the first time he went into detail about searching for different ways to motivate and a formula involving effort and outcome  and results. At one point Meyer stepped forward and showed how he puts his clenched right fist in the air just before sending his team out of the locker room before a game, and he was so intense and into what he was saying that twice he didn’t even finish his sentence.

Meyer had been talking about the “power of the unit” philosophy he’s subscribed to years, and he essentially said all of the outside hype surrounding his team has nothing to do with Braxton Miller’s ability or any defensive scheme but that they only way the 2013 Buckeyes will be worthy of it is if all nine units are on the same page and giving the same effort. It all gave me the sense that, yes, he’s been doing this stuff and giving these speeches for years — but this is what he was born to do.

If it seems like he’s hell on his players when it comes to standards and accountability, Meyer said he’s even harder on his assistant coaches. He said he appreciates that Ohio State has a beautiful team meeting room but said it’s rare when something gets accomplished in a 115-person meeting. He said he needs to know that the individual position meetings will be where the real work and the real teaching get done.

It was almost like we could tell when he’d clicked into unscripted football mode. His voice got a little louder, his words came out a little faster and he’d cram three sentences into what sounded like one, with only words like “trust” and “improvement” truly decipherable. At one point he stopped after using a couple of unprintable words — right in the flow with the clenched fist and the game-day look on his face — and said, “see why I wanted the TV cameras turned off?”

He went on, sharing philosophies and practices and explaining that everything the program does — everything from grueling winter conditioning workouts to the “real-life Wednesdays” career program that just concluded — is planned and executed with football goals in mind. He said it’s his job to constantly build better leaders, smarter players and players who understand the opportunities in front of them. He said the start of leadership-building activities was moved up by months this year because the lack of proven leaders is probably his top concern as the season starts with training camp in early August.

We got a glimpse at Meyer the person, too. He said he’s missed only two of his 14-year-old son’s baseball games this spring, and “when I was at Florida, I saw none,” instead choosing to obsess over game film or one of his team’s perceived flaws. He said that one of his goals is to someday obtain a Master’s degree in Scripture. He said he sometimes wears what would almost amount to a disguise and just strolls through campus to make sure he has at least some sort of feel for what world his players are living in when they’re not in structured football activities.

He called most of what he seems on campus “nonsense,” and he tied that back into his leadership goals and his demands for the meeting rooms. In those rooms, he said, the nonsense has to stop.

“Or the losses start piling up,” he said.

It ended with a fiery revisiting of the efforts and outcomes and desired results speech, and another football note. He said when he calls the team to the center of the locker room before a game the last thing they yell out is “1-2-3 showtime,” a reminder that for all the work and all the spotlight and all the demands, the games are supposed to be fun.

When he was done, the six grown people at my table sat there silently, kind of stunned. A lot like the six or eight people at each of the other eight or 10 tables were.

“He’s pretty good at his job,” I quipped.

Five people nodded.

We saw how he wins all those recruiting battles. Starting in a couple months, we’ll see just how far his philosophies and standards can push the Ohio State program.

AND ONE MORE THING — Much has been made of what Meyer said (or didn’t say) later when he formally addressed the media and was asked what he’d felt the last week in regards to Aaron Hernandez, a player to whom he was very close during his time at Florida.

Meyer chose not to address it. He was not a bully about it, and he exercised his right to decline comment.

He’s going to continue to be asked about it, though, so he might end up wishing he’d just made some sort of statement. Meyer is not a guy who gets caught unprepared for any scenario very often; it’s entirely possible that he’s so hurt by it that he hasn’t figured out the right thing to say.

I respect that. We all should.

No (sane) person is blaming Meyer for what Hernandez allegedly did. But the two are so closely tied and enjoyed so much success together that Meyer is going to be linked to the story, which is currently and clearly the biggest story in football. Meyer is so good at his job that just about everything he does becomes a big story. It’s going to keep being asked, and eventually he’ll have to address it.

I don’t know what he’ll say. I have no idea what I’d say, frankly. I just wanted to make clear to you, the reader, that it’s our job to keep asking.

A hilarious act of, um, bravery

I’m late to this party, but that happens all the time.

Anyway…

The Mid-American Conference might never get a team back to the Orange Bowl, but the MAC keeps raising the bar for maximizing exposure and selling its brand.

The latest bit of MAC innovation comes from Bowling Green sports information director Dave Meyer, who came up with the idea of suiting up and taking a sack from defensive tackle Ted Ouellet.

Meyer is, um, brave. And Bowling Green is boldly racking up the YouTube hits.

Notice the label on Meyer’s helmet with his blood type.

This is brilliant. This is #MACtion.

So, about Derek Kief’s commitment video…

This is how Cincinnati LaSalle class of 2014 wide receiver Derek Kief announced his commitment to the University of Alabama on Sunday night.

Over the top? Kind of cool? Right in line what this whole recruiting production has become?

Give Kief a 9.5 for use of props and for creativity. The whole DerekKief.com thing, though? Produce first, kid. All that stuff can come later.

We were all young once, I guess.

Buckeyes well represented on Steele’s All-Big Ten teams

Noted college football savant Phil Steele has released his preseason All-Big Ten teams, and to the surprise of few Ohio State was very well represented.

Quarterback Braxton Miller heads six Buckeyes on the first team. Six more made the second team, and five others are either on the third or fourth team.

Other Ohio State first-teamers were cornerback Bradley Roby, safety Christian Bryant, linebacker Ryan Shazier and offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell. Roby, like Miller, will be on just about every major preseason award list throughout the summer.

Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, a native of the Dayton area, was on the first team. Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington and Curtis Grant were on the second team, and both are interesting projections because they’ll be in totally new roles this season. All four of Ohio State’s returning offensive linemen were represented in Steele’s four-tier projections.

Steele is based in Cleveland. His annual magazine — the absolute annual college football encyclopedia — will be released later this month.

View the full list here on Steele’s site

Toledo lands QB transfer from Alabama

Toledo played two quarterbacks in 2011 and for parts of last season, too. One, Austin Dantin, has exhausted his eligibility. Terrence Owens, who emerged as the starter last year, will be a senior this season.

The Rockets have added three quarterbacks since February: Freshman Logan Woodside of Kentucky, freshman Michael Julian of South Carolina and now Alabama transfer Phillip Ely, a native of Florida.

Think this mid-week TV exposure thing is working for the Mid-American Conference?

Toledo won nine games in Matt Campbell’s first season as head coach last year. The Rockets turnaround started under Tim Beckman, who rode two years of success to the job at Illinois following the 2011 season. Toledo hasn’t been able to get past Northern Illinois to win the MAC West but the Rockets have played in three straight bowl games following a five-year drought.

Another good season could be on the horizon, though the Rockets open the season at Florida and at Missouri. If they can survive that SEC double with their starters healthy and intact, they’ll be right in the mix in the MAC West again, likely with Northern Illinois and Ball State.

According to this AL.com article, former Toledo coach Nick Saban helped Ely find a new home.

Multiple reports last month said the MAC is working on extending its mid-week TV deal with ESPN, a deal that would be good for both sides and is crucial to the MAC’s continued growth and sustaining last year’s success. SportsTime Ohio remains the league’s Saturday TV partner.

McFadden’s OTA absence shouldn’t last

BEREA, Ohio – Rookie cornerback Leon McFadden is absent from the Browns first week of organized team activity (OTA) practices this week due to an antiquated NFL rule, but his absence isn’t expected to be a long one.

Browns Head Coach Rob Chudinski said McFadden will be back next week, and that’s good news for both the team and for McFadden.

NFL rules prohibit rookies whose schools are still in regular academic session from attending OTAs. In some past cases, players have had to miss the entire OTA period. The rule does not apply to full-squad minicamp, which most teams hold in June to conclude this portion of their offseason.

Under the new CBA, teams get 10 OTA days that most use over three weeks, then wrap up with a three-day, full-squad minicamp in either the first or second week of June. The rule used to keep Ohio State players out of OTAs, but Ohio State switched from quarters to semesters for the 2012-13 academic year.

McFadden’s absence is glaring because the secondary is arguably the Browns’ weakest area at this point; it certainly seems to be the thinnest. A third-round pick last month, McFadden should get snaps immediately and compete for a starting job. Buster Skrine worked opposite Joe Haden Thursday in the first practice open to the media.

Undrafted rookie running back Robbie Rouse (Fresno State) is also absent from OTAs due to the academic calendar issue.