College Football News And Notes From The Offseason
By Steve Barnes
It is the slow period in college football, at least in theory. There are still two months until kickoff, but the calendar does not stop college football from making news. Thank goodness for never-ending news cycles, sports radio call-in shows and Internet rumors. Here are a few juicy nuggets from the summer:
Auburn has announced its plans to "claim" some national championships from the past. The Tigers have legitimate titles from 1957 and 2010, but hey, why stop there? Folks on the plains seem to have a fixation with the number three. They have decided they need to be crowned for the seasons 1913, 1983 and 1993. I have no idea what happened more than a century ago, but in 1983, I seem to remember the Tigers getting pounded by Texas in Auburn. In 1993, Auburn was on probation for paying players. Who should let some silly sanctions stop from adding to the hardware collection?
I've decided to follow suit. I believe I wrote a few decent columns for Football.com last season, so I am going to claim the Pulitzer Prize. I have received the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes form in the mail. Ed McMahon is no longer with us, but so what, I am going to claim the jackpot. I sing pretty well in the shower; how many Grammies should I put on my mantle?
Claiming honors one did not deserve is not just self-serving, it is pathetic. Come on Auburn.
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston proved something we all knew -- in many ways, he is still a kid. It has been well documented the Florida State quarterback shoplifted seafood from a Tallahassee grocery store recently. It is not out of the ordinary for a college kid to do something like that and Winston received deserved criticism for his lack of judgement. He should have been ripped in the media for pulling a five-finger discount, but I don't understand the guff he has received from the University of Florida fan base.
Gator fans seem to have forgotten former UF tight end Aaron Hernandez is in a New England jail charged with three counts of murder, including one execution-style slaying. He is also being investigated in Gainesville for a similar crime.
I have never lived in Tallahassee nor Gainesville, but having a choice, I believe I'd choose the place where the college football player sneaks out of Publix with a snow crab instead of where one routinely fires a weapon at people he believes has dissed him.
By the way, the best joke of the summer: The snowcrab Winston shoplifted has the same number of claws as Florida had losses last season.
It is way too early, but I am looking forward to an opening week game already. Aug. 28, Boise State faces Ole Miss in Atlanta. The Broncos will begin the post-Chris Petersen era, but let's face it, they are still Boise State. Ole Miss begins year two after landing a top-five signing class.
Many pundits are predicting this is the Rebels' year. Several playmakers are back on offense, the defense is solid and the schedule is favorable. Ole Miss gets both Alabama and Auburn in Oxford, although the LSU game is in Baton Rouge, the Rebs play well there and other than BSU, the out-of-conference schedule would make Ohio State blush. Even the annual Egg Bowl against Mississippi State is in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
But, it all begins with the game with Boise State in the Georgia Dome. With a win, Ole Miss could be off and running. With a loss, the Rebels could just be off to another disappointing year. Last season, Ole Miss did less with more than any team in the country.
The Rebels could pull off a neat bookend season. They start the season in Georgia Dome and should Ole Miss live up to some's expectations, could play there again in December in the SEC title game. Of the member schools that have been in the league since the championship game was created, the Rebels are the only western division team not to play in it. But, they did win back-to-back Cotton Bowls during that time.
Central Florida coach, George O'Leary, has weighed in on SEC commissioner Mike Slive's comment concerning the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12 breaking away from the NCAA and beginning its own classification, Division IV.
According to O'Leary, it is comparable to the Confederacy seceeding from the Union and the start of the Civil War. After his short tenure at Notre Dame, he might want to choose his words more carefully when criticizing others.
Then again, perhaps the non-existant master's degree on his resume was in history.
I ran into some people from College Station, Texas on Pensacola Beach recently. They were all decked out in their Texas A&M gear and were optimistic about the Aggies' future. The fans were knowledgeable, friendly and great supporters of their team.
They spoke of the success of Kevin Sumlin, the new Kyle Field and how the atmosphere at an A&M game was like no other. Finally I asked what they thought of the loss of Johnny Manziel. As it turned out, loss was the wrong word.
"Cleveland can have him," one fan said. "He was a dream to watch on the field and a nightmare off of it."
It doesn't take long to go from "indespensable" to "not worth it."
The Football Bowl Subdivision has two new additions this season. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern make their debut in the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. Each had a great run in the Football Championship Subdivision, winning multiple national championships. I heard a sports radio host say he felt sorry for the "small" schools trying to step up to play with the big boys.
The host should ask Michigan about App. State and didn't the Eagles' have a pretty good swansong in the FCS? All they did was beat Florida in Gainesville. The Mountaineers went to the Big House in 2007 and knocked off the then-fifth ranked Wolverines 34-32.
Florida State fans might want to look for a pipeline from Pensacola's Washington High School to Doak Campbell Stadium.
WHS recently hired a new football coach Seminole fans might remember. Some guy named Charlie Ward who quarterbacked FSU to a national championship on his way to a Heisman Trophy. Ward left his position as head coach at a private school in Houston to be closer to his family in Thomasville, Ga.
He should feel at home already. The Wildcats play their home game in a complex named for former world champion boxer Roy Jones, Jr. and another WHS alum -- former Seminole Derrick Brooks.
I was raised about three hours from New Orleans. As a young adult, a weekend road trip to a Saints' game was a regular occurance. The night before the NFL game, my friends and I would go to the Superdome and take in a college game with Tulane playing somebody.
It occurred to me I have never seen Tulane win a game, but I will be a Green Wave fan until the day I turn room temperature.
In 2012, Devon Walker was paralyzed while playing in a football game for Tulane. He graduated last spring. During the commencement ceremony, he received a ten-minute ovation by his fellow graduates and the crowd in attendance.
Classy Tulane, very classy indeed.