COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ten story lines, the Heisman, key games and moving along


By Bud Withers – The Seattle Times

All things considered, maybe Mark Emmert should have taken an easier job – say, as PR guy to Anthony Weiner.

Instead, Emmert, the former University of Washington president, opted for the presidency of the NCAA. He has been on the job less than a year, and in that time, we’ve had the Cam Newton saga at Auburn; the Jim Tressel fib-fest at Ohio State; the shadow of Willie Lyles hovering over Oregon; the Butch Davis scam at North Carolina; and now, the mother of all NCAA investigations at Miami.

Of course, none of these are Emmert’s fault.

In fact, he bravely herded some school presidents out for a retreat recently, and among the recommendations was that the governing body has to get tough on crime, so to speak.

What’s a big enough penalty for Miami? What do you get when a prominent booster is paying players, lining up prostitutes, throwing parties, arranging an abortion and, in general, tying the NCAA manual to his trailer hitch and dragging it through South Florida?

Give ’em life without possibility of parole?

Shut down South Beach? Close Biscayne Bay?

Another question: You ready for some football? Bet Mark Emmert is.

Ten story lines

1. Old programs in new places. Not only did Colorado and Utah pledge the Pac-12, Nebraska is in the Big Ten, Boise State in the Mountain West, and Brigham Young is independent.

2. Keeping the seat warm. With Luke Fickell at Ohio State and Everett Withers at North Carolina as interim coaches, you’ll hear lots of conversation about prospective permanent hires. In the Buckeyes’ case, that will encircle Ohioans Bob Stoops, Bo Pelini and Jon Gruden.

3. Button-down football. A new rule stipulates that if a player on the way to the end zone decides to go in with a somersault, or wave the football, or do the Dougie, his team loses the touchdown and incurs a 15-yard penalty from the spot. Sighed USC coach Lane Kiffin, “I’m sure somebody around the country will give us a lesson to learn from.”

4. Southern-fried football. The Southeastern Conference has won the past five BCS titles, so if you’re inclined to argue some other league is better, save it.

5. Can a team be coached from a gurney? Penn State’s Joe Paterno just served as an 84-year-old tackling dummy to one of his players, sustaining hip and shoulder injuries.

6. Biggest acquisition at the trade deadline. North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for 8,545 yards before he graduated, transferred to Wisconsin, where he will start with a year of eligibility left.

7. Forgiveness for Floyd. Notre Dame, which pieced together a finishing four-game win streak under Brian Kelly in 2010, looks to keep it going. It will help that Kelly reinstated receiver Michael Floyd after a DUI bust, since Floyd has 171 career receptions and a school-record 28 receiving TDs.

8. The nine lives of Stephen Garcia. Thanks to Steve Spurrier’s six-strikes-and-you’re-out policy at South Carolina, his quarterback is back from his fifth suspension and leading the 12th-ranked Gamecocks. Well, “leading” is probably a poor choice of words.

9. Rent, don’t buy. With realignment still a hot topic, some teams could be playing in different leagues a year from now. Remember when this talk was confined to the offseason?

10. Whither Texas? Never mind what league will eventually house the Longhorns. How do they follow last year’s 5-7 disaster?

Five contenders for Andrew Luck’s Heisman

Custom holds that the stiff-arm statue is usually won by somebody you least expect in August. These five are hardly dark horses, but clearly, Luck starts at the pole position.

Trent Richardson

RB, Alabama

Landry Jones

QB, Oklahoma

LaMichael James

RB, Oregon

Kellen Moore

QB, Boise State

Taylor Martinez

QB, Nebraska

Five provocative early games

1. Oregon-Louisiana State at Arlington, Texas, Saturday. Willie Lyles has clients, uh, players, in both programs.

2. Alabama at Penn State, Sept. 10. Perhaps best if JoePa coaches from Goodyear blimp.

3. Oklahoma at Florida State, Sept. 17. FSU win would certify its return to prominence under Fisher.

4. Ohio State at Miami, Sept. 17. Insert punch line here about NCAA shenanigans.

5. Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 1. First real headbanger involving Huskers and new Big Ten frat brothers.

Three intriguing coaching moves

1. Al Golden, Temple to Miami. Welcome to the program, coach. Did we mention we might have to shut it down?

2. Will Muschamp, Texas assistant to Florida. More evidence that the coach-in-waiting idea isn’t so good.

3. Brady Hoke, San Diego State to Michigan. Think Hoke might have some inside information on Sept. 24’s Wolverines opponent _ the Aztecs?

The end around

It can be bruising, this college football. Arizona’s finishing five-game losing streak in 2010 included losses to the Nos. 3 (Oregon), 4 (Stanford) and 13 (Oklahoma State) teams. Now, in the Wildcats’ first five of 2011, they get the preseason Nos. 3-6-8 (those three again). Plus USC.

Yes, you can come from left field to win a national title, as Auburn (preseason No. 22) did last year. But in the previous six seasons, nobody deeper than No. 7 won the championship.

Texas A&M doesn’t play outside the state until Oct. 22. And Illinois opens with five straight home games.

A series whose time has come: Presbyterian at California, Sept. 17. Two weeks before that, Stony Brook opens at Texas-El Paso.

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