Sunday, November 26, 2006

USC Number 2 in new BCS

Southern California's championship hopes just got a lot brighter, as it jumped in front of idle Michigan to capture the No. 2 slot in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The upward vault comes on the heels of USC's convincing 44-24 win over Notre Dame at the Coliseum on Saturday night. The Irish tumbled six spots to No. 12 as a result of that loss.

Ohio State (12-0), which completed its regular season with a memorable win over Michigan on November 18, received all 65 first-place votes to retain the top spot for the 14th straight week.
Florida (11-1) stayed in the fourth position following its narrow 21-14 victory over Florida State, and LSU moved up four spots to No. 5 after edging Arkansas on Friday.

Louisville, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Boise State round out the top 10.
Nevada was considered Boise State's biggest challenge on the schedule by many, but the Broncos (12-0) rolled to an easy 38-7 win this past week.

Auburn starts the second 10 and is followed by Notre Dame, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

The Scarlet Knights (10-1) rebounded from their surprising loss to Cincinnati by dropping Syracuse this week, and can capture the Big East title with a win over West Virginia on Saturday.
Wake Forest came in at 16 while Tennessee and Texas share the 17th position. The Longhorns (9-3) fell six spots after losing to Texas A&M. The Aggies, meanwhile, went from not being ranked to securing the 22nd position. Nebraska and BYU complete the top 20.

The final five teams in the AP poll this week are California, Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, Hawaii and Boston College.

Clemson, which was ranked 24th, fell out of the poll after a loss to South Carolina.

The Sports Network

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Schiano, Alvarez among top candidates for Miami coaching job

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — University of Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon wasn't ready to talk about it.

Former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez is in the area. His interest is unclear.

Meanwhile, names like Rutgers' Greg Schiano are bandied about.

Miami coach Larry Coker's long-awaited firing took place Friday. In between reasons for making a change, Miami athletic director Paul Dee also took questions on what the school is looking for in a successor.

"We will begin working on this right away," Dee said. "Our hope would be to have a coach as soon as (possible). But given the circumstances of bowl games and the like it might be a little longer than we otherwise would have taken."

Dee said school officials will consult with Chuck Neinas, 74, former Big Eight Conference commissioner and Executive Director of the College Football Association.
Neinas Sports Services — a one-person consulting company — has conducted about 50 searches, which have included hires at Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Texas A&M, Missouri, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan and Nebraska. He commands from $10,000 to $40,000 for his services.

With Neinas known to work secretly on bringing talented applicants to schools, there may be some surprise candidates.

Dee did say that Shannon, whom Coker hired as a defensive coordinator, is a possible candidate. Miami's defenses regularly have ranked in the nation's top 10 each of his six seasons, and this season Miami set a regular-season school record by allowing just 66 yards rushing per game.
"I'm not talking about (the job) right now," Shannon said. "I'm just worried about the recruits. We gotta get that handled, calling the kids."

That is important because Demarcus VanDyke, a 6-foot-1, 163-pound defensive back/wide receiver from a Miami-area high school, withdrew his commitment to Miami once he heard Coker was fired. He now is considering Florida and Ohio State.

Earlier this week, Alvarez was in Miami, according to employees who work at the Ritz-Carlton. Alvarez also has a Naples condo, which he's staying at this weekend. He didn't return a message left at the front desk of his condo.

In his recently released book Don't Flinch, Alvarez said Miami contacted him twice about its coaching openings in 1995 and 2001. When Dee offered him $1.4 million to be coach, Alvarez wrote in his book, "I was thinking a little north of that number."

Dee said he'd get back to him. Alvarez later wrote he couldn't believe he told Dee that.
Schiano appears to be the popular choice but there's a question whether he might want the Penn State job more when Joe Paterno retires. Rutgers (9-1) also is having a season for the ages and has two games left plus a bowl game.

Rutgers officials reportedly are prepared to offer him an extension, which could go as high as $22 million for 10 years.

Other candidates include:

• LSU offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jimbo Fisher. Miami is familiar with him after LSU beat the Hurricanes 40-3 last season. Friday, LSU beat Arkansas 31-26.

• TCU coach Gary Patterson, who's used to working in a bigger TV market in Dallas. While TCU (8-2) won't reach a goal of a BCS game, the Horned Frogs have a chance at a fourth 10-win season under Patterson, who is 51-20 in six seasons.

• West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez, who has brought the Mountaineers (9-1) back to national prominence. However, there's a question of whether the West Virginia native would want to leave and he's also due a big raise.

• Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe also is another candidate.

Georgia coach Mark Richt, a former Miami quarterback, and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, a former Miami assistant, told ESPN they are not interested in the job. Steve Spurrier, responding to Internet reports, said last Sunday he will remain at South Carolina.

"It's the best job in the country," Dee said about the Miami position, noting the five national titles won under four different coaches. "This is as fine a job as you can have, because when the success comes, the success is tremendous. It's a hard job. This is not a job for the feeble. This is a job for somebody that likes coaching college football, that is excited by college football. I think this is a wonderful job for whoever wishes to take it and we can attract."

By Craig Handel, The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dolphins Look at ex-Navy Star

Former Navy fullback Kyle Eckel, who faced a five-year military commitment when he graduated in 2005, is practicing with the Miami Dolphins.

The Navy Times, a weekly newspaper, reports Eckel was "kicked out" of the Navy. The Navy Office of Information says he was "administratively separated" Oct. 31 and will not disclose the reason because of "personal privacy."

Lt. Ryan Perry, a Navy spokesman, said Tuesday, "His discharge was not related to his pursuit of a football career." He said Eckel owes the Navy $96,229.56 to repay a portion of the educational costs.

Eckel was in 2005 training camp with the New England Patriots (using military leave). After being waived, he was claimed by the Dolphins, who put him on the "reserve/military" list. They moved him Nov. 2 to the "exempt/commissioner's permission" list, which could enable him to practice without counting on the 53-man roster.

The Miami Herald on Tuesday quoted Eckel, "I was given the opportunity to submit a letter of resignation, which was accepted."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Big East Could Land Two Teams in Top Bowls

The Big East Conference has fallen out of the race for the national championship, but an enticing prize is still within reach. If Louisville and West Virginia win their remaining games, the league could put two teams in Bowl Championship Series games for the first time.

West Virginia is seventh and Louisville ninth in the current BCS standings. Winning out would leave both the Mountaineers and Cardinals 11-1 and would require WVU defeating No. 14 Rutgers on Dec. 2. Louisville would claim the conference crown (and automatic BCS berth) by virtue of its win against West Virginia.

But West Virginia could have enough strength to be picked ahead of the loser of fourth-ranked Florida vs. sixth-ranked Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference championship game, either of which will have at least two losses.

BOWL PREDICTIONS: Complete 2006 lineup

"Without studying it closely, I know there is a chance for two Big East teams," West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday. "A few years ago we weren't considered worthy of one spot."

The conference took a big hit when perennial powers Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech and Boston College left for the Atlantic Coast Conference. But the addition of Louisville and the resurgence of league originals WVU and Rutgers have helped the Big East rebound.

"Putting two teams in BCS bowls would put to rest a lot of questions about the viability of the Big East as a conference, not only in terms of how competitive we are but how attractive our teams are in the marketplace both to the bowls and television," said Nick Carparelli, the league's assistant commissioner for football. "We were left dead and buried two years ago and took a huge step forward this season. There are more steps to take, but we've moved a little quicker than we expected."

Because of the way the guaranteed spots could play out, there might be only one at-large bid available among the five BCS games. Decisions will be finalized Dec. 3. A breakdown:

Ohio State and Southern California are in at least the Rose Bowl, but realistically Ohio State is in the Tostitos BCS Championship on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz., by virtue of its No. 1 BCS standing.

Should analysts be correct in predicting USC would move to the No. 2 BCS spot by defeating Notre Dame and UCLA, that would put the Trojans in the title game. The Rose Bowl then would have lost both anchor teams the Big Ten and Pacific-10 champs. The Rose can fill its slots first from the at-large pool but after anchor teams for the other bowls are decided: SEC winner to the Sugar, Big 12 winner to the Fiesta and ACC winner to the Orange.

Based on tradition, the Rose certainly would pick Michigan of the Big Ten. At worst, the Wolverines will be among those eligible to be selected (at least nine victories and at least 14th in the BCS standings). If they are third in the BCS standings as an at-large (with conference member Ohio State the automatic), the Wolverines also would be an automatic selection. They could even be automatic as the No. 4 BCS team.

As for the other Rose spot, Notre Dame looms, and the Irish are always attractive for any bowl. They are assured of a BCS bid by being in the top eight of the final BCS. Should they lose to USC, the Irish might fall below No. 8, knocking them from automatic but keeping them eligible. The Rose would have to decide if it wants a rematch of Michigan's win at Notre Dame in September or a team from the East such as West Virginia or Florida, should they be available, or even a 10-2 LSU.

After the Rose Bowl fills both its spots, the other three BCS games can pick their teams from the at-large pool and Big East winner. By rule, the selection order is based on the dates closest to the title game: Allstate Sugar (Jan. 3) goes first, then FedEx Orange (Jan. 2) and Tostitos Fiesta (Jan. 1).

The at-large pool could have some interesting teams. BCS No. 11 Boise State is guaranteed a spot if it finishes in the top 12 thanks to a new inclusion rule designed to help teams outside the big six leagues. The Tostitos Fiesta on Jan. 1 is the most likely destination.

The Big East champ would be Louisville if it wins out and West Virginia beats Rutgers. That leaves an exciting 11-1 West Virginia offense available possibly as high as BCS No. 5.

The loser of the SEC title game will have at least two losses. LSU, No. 10 in the BCS, already has two losses.

The only other one-loss team in the top 10 under that scenario would be Wisconsin. By rule, no conference can have three teams in BCS games, so the Big Ten's Badgers (11-1) would be out.

Another possibility, though unlikely, could scramble the picture. Provisions exist for bowls and leagues to make deals that move anchor teams to create more attractive matchups or avoid rematches. Would the Sugar Bowl want local favorite LSU (if it beats Arkansas) enough to make a deal for the Orange to take possible SEC champ Florida? And if Boise loses to Nevada ...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Phillies Ryan Howard wins NL MVP Award

NEW YORK - Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies was voted the National League's Most Valuable Player on Monday after leading the majors in home runs and RBIs, beating out the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols for the honor.

Howard received 20 first-place votes and 12 seconds for 388 points in balloting by a panel of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Pujols got 12 firsts, 19 seconds and one third for 347 points.

Howard, the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year, had 58 homers and 149 RBIs while batting .313. He had the most homers in the major leagues since Barry Bonds hit a record 73 in 2001.

He set Phillies records for home runs and RBIs, producing the highest totals in those categories in big league history for a second-year player. Twenty-three of Howard's homers put the Phillies ahead and five tied games. The Phillies went 32-18 in games in which he homered.

Pujols, who hit .331 with 49 homers and 137 RBIs, defeated Atlanta's Andruw Jones 378-351 in last year's voting after finishing second in 2002 and 2003. Stan Musial and Ted Williams (four times each) are the only players to finish second more often than Pujols, who matched three-time AL MVP Mickey Mantle with three second-place finishes.

Pujols was third in the NL in batting average behind Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez and Florida's Miguel Cabrera, and second to Howard in homers and RBIs.

Stan Musial (four times), Ted Williams (four times) are the only players to finish second more often than Pujols, who matched three-time AL MVP Mickey Mantle with three second-place finishes.

Houston's Lance Berkman was third with 230 points, followed by the New York Mets' Carlos Beltran (211), Cabrera (170) and Washington's Alfonso Soriano (106) who on Sunday reached a preliminary agreement on an eight-year contract with the Chicago Cubs worth about $136 million.

Pujols gets a $100,000 bonus for finishing second, Berkman $250,000 for placing third and Beltran $200,000 for winding up fourth.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

McNabb Out for the Year

USA Today reports that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb will miss the rest of the year because of a torn ligament in his right knee, ending his season early for the third time in five years.
McNabb was carted off the field early in the second quarter of Philadelphia's loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
The Eagles said McNabb tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
"That's normally an eight month to a year injury, so he's done for the year," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Navy Grounds the Owls

To the casual observer, Saturday afternoon's match up between Navy (7-3) and Temple (1-10) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium might have been a ho-hum affair. No one told that to Navy's 35 seniors or the rest of the Midshipmen who rolled to a 42-6 victory over Temple.

33,927 fans watched Navy use a total team effort from the opening kickoff to overwhelm the Owls and jump out to a 35-0 halftime lead. Navy's defense came ready to play limiting the Temple offense to just 13 yards rushing and 83 total yards in the first half. Navy's top ranked rushing offense was clicking on all cylinders amassing 263 yards rushing and 298 total yards in the half.

Navy finished the game with 420 yards rushing for the day and 455 total yards.

The victory broke a two game home losing streak. The Mids haven't lost two consecutive games in Annapolis since the 2002 season when they went 0-5 at home.

Navy's offense continued their efficient style by scoring a touchdown on their opening drive of the game. That TD, an eight yard scamper by backup quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, was the ninth consecutive scoring drive resulting in a touchdown for the Mids' first team offense. Navy never relinquished the lead.

Navy's seniors and their parents were honored before the game in what was their final game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Special teams senior standout Anthony Piccioni had mixed feelings about today's game.

"To be honest, it hasn't really hit me yet. I've tried not to think about it because it hurts too much to think all of this is going to be gone," Piccioni said. "We've all put our whole heart and soul into this program. Along the way, we've had so many good times together. I just can't imagine what it's going to be like without football and these guys."

Piccioni's father, Sam, tries hard not to think about what the future holds for his son. "With the Iraq situation, it's tough on Naval Academy parents. We've said a lot of prayers recently."

The same holds true for all parents of not only Navy football players, but also those from Army and Air Force.

Navy head coach Paul Johnson decided to use two different 12th Mids to cover kicks during Saturday's game.

Rich Lippincott and Clint Desjarlais alternated on the kick off team had the honor of wearing number 12, as 1963 Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach has given his permission for his number to be unretired once per year for the 12th Mid. Neither player was in on a tackle.

Navy will next face Army in two weeks at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Mids have already accepted a bid to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte against an ACC team.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Schembechler dies after collapsing during television show

Former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler died Friday, according to Southfield authorities.
Mike Dowd, chief investigator with the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office, confirmed he died at 11:42 a.m.
He was transported to Providence Hospital after a medical emergency Friday morning, a Southfield Police Department official has said.

Detective John Harris said Southfield officers escorted an ambulance carrying Schembechler to Providence Hospital at about 9:30 a.m. Medical personnel were called to WXYZ-TV in Southfield after Schembechler apparently suffered a medical problem.

Around noon, friends and family continued to arrive at Providence Hospital, including former U-M coach Gary Moeller and U-M football color commentator and former player Jim Brandstatter. Security guards led them inside.

At Schembechler's Ann Arbor home, where two American flags hung outside the garage, a family friend who would not give her name, said: "It wasn't time for him to go. He wasn't ready. He knew that he had a problem with his heart, but he wasn't ready to give up."

She said Schembechler's wife, Cathy, was on her way back to Ann Arbor from Providence Hospital.
Friday's incident was the second time that Schembechler collapsed while taping the Big Ten show at WXYZ-TV studios in Southfield. The first occurred in October when he experienced dizziness and other symptoms before taping his weekly show.

He was admitted to the cardiovascular unit of the University of Michigan Hospital where he had a procedure done in which a small device was installed in his chest to help regulate his heartbeat. The device is designed to help Schembechler's heart pump more efficiently and prevent possible heart-related crises. It combines a pacemaker, which regulates the heartbeat, with a defibrillator, which can shock the heart back into rhythm.

He remained at the hospital for a few days.
The seven-time Big Ten coach of the year compiled a 194-48-5 record at Michigan from 1969-89. Schembechler's record in 26 years of coaching was 234-64-8.