July 30, 2006

10 to look for and five you'll miss in 2006

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As fall practice approaches, 2006 has already been busy for college football's higher-ups. They approved a new national championship game, added a few new bowl games and even tweaked instant replay to allow a coaches' challenge.

As the summer winds down, let's take a moment to catch up on 10 new things coming to college football and five things on their way out this season.

Ten things to look for in 2006
1. The BCS title game: Fans will have to wait an extra week for the national championship game. The top two teams in the final regular-season Bowl Championship Series standings will face each other Jan. 8 in the BCS National Championship Game. The fifth BCS game will be played after the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls. The site of the title game will rotate between the four BCS sites. First to host the title game will be Glendale, Ariz., home of the Fiesta Bowl.

The new bowl game could also be a prelude to the "plus-one" format once favored by BCS coordinator Mike Slive who is also the commissioner of the SEC. The plus-one format would create a game featuring the top-ranked winners of the four major bowls in a national championship game.

2. Red flags: Coaches can take a more hands-on approach to video review this season after the Football Rules Committee adopted an NFL-style coach's challenge. In addition to replays initiated from an official in the press box, coaches will have one challenge opportunity in a game, provided they have a timeout. If the challenge is unsuccessful, the team will be penalized a timeout.

3. Saturday Night Football: Without Monday Night Football, ABC will add a primetime slot for college football on Saturday. ABC Saturday Night College Football begins Sept. 2 when Notre Dame travels to Georgia Tech. Also on the slate is the game between defending national champion Texas and Ohio State. Games will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern with Brent Musburger providing play-by-play and former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie providing analysis.

4. TCUs of the world rejoice: Non-BCS conference teams have greater access to BCS bowl games and the big money that comes with that access. BCS organizers eased requirements for at-large teams in the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange bowls. Teams with nine wins that finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings are eligible for an at-large bid. The automatic qualifiers for BCS games are the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the BCS standings, the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC champions, Notre Dame -- if it finishes in the top eight -- and a non-BCS conference team that finishes in the top 12 or in the top 16 if it is ahead of a BCS conference champion.

The re-organized BCS also has a new home on television. Fox spent $320 million for the rights to broadcast four of the five BCS games over the next four years. The Rose Bowl will remain on ABC. ABC had televised the BCS games since 1998.

5. Let's play 12: University presidents and athletic directors approved a 12th regular-season game after it was available in 2002 and '03. However, the schedule will not accommodate an extra week in the season, meaning teams will have to sacrifice an open date for an extra game. The Pac-10 used the 12th game to give each team a ninth conference game.

6. Bowl bonanza: Like Toronto in January? Bowl organizers do. Besides the BCS National Championship Game, bowl season will grow by three games, including Toronto's International Bowl. The Jan. 6 game will match a Big East team and MAC team (Syracuse-Buffalo, maybe? Maybe not.). Along with the GMAC Bowl, rescheduled for Jan. 7, the International Bowl is one of two bowl games between the Jan. 3 Sugar Bowl and the Jan. 8 title game.

The postseason now has 32 games with the addition of the Birmingham Bowl (on Dec. 23 between a Conference USA team and either a Big East or MAC team) and the New Mexico Bowl (on Dec. 23 between a Mountain West team and a WAC team in Albuquerque). The NCAA also approved a new bowl game in Houston to replace the defunct Houston Bowl.

Bowl season starts with the Poinsettia Bowl rather than the New Orleans Bowl. The Poinsettia Bowl between the second-place Mountain West team and an at-large team is Dec. 19. The New Orleans Bowl moves to Dec. 22.

7. Coaching stability: Steve Spurrier called it a down year for firing coaches. No kidding. For the first time since 1988, all SEC head coaches returned. Each Pac-10 coach kept his job for the first time since 2000. The ACC has been a bastion of stability comparatively. There hasn't been a coaching change in the conference since 2003 when Ted Roof took over at Duke.

8. Flutie on TV: Whenever there's a Hail Mary or a dropkick, he's your analyst. Doug Flutie, the former Boston College quarterback who retired from the NFL in May, moves into the ABC and ESPN studios as a college football analyst. Flutie will work for ABC during Saturday's games and will be featured on ESPN studio shows and possibly as an in-game analyst on other days.

9. Have degree, will travel: A controversial new rule allows players to transfer without sitting out a year provided they have a year of eligibility remaining, a bachelor's degree and enroll in a graduate program at their new school. The new rule sends quarterback Richard Kovalcheck from Arizona to Vanderbilt and cornerback Ryan Smith from Utah to Florida.

10. Mountain West TV: The Mountain West Conference is the first conference to try its hand at its own sports television network. The mtn. will air in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico on CSTV and debut its first football game (Utah State-Wyoming) on Sept. 2. The network will carry 36 MWC football games, 150 basketball games and more than 200 events in other sports. The Big Ten will follow suit next year with a national cable network, and the SEC is toying with the idea for 2009.

Five things gone in 2006
1. Coaching legends: For the first time since 1990 neither Bill Snyder nor Barry Alvarez will be part of the coaching ranks. The coaches who rebuilt their programs retired after last season. Snyder (136-68-1 from 1989 to 2005) was replaced at Kansas State by Virginia offensive coordinator Ron Prince, and Alavarez (118-73-4 from 1990 to 2005) was replaced at Wisconsin by his defensive coordinator, Bret Bielema.

2. Keith Jackson: The only time you'll be able to hear legendary announcer Keith Jackson this season will be on ESPN Classic or those Gatorade commercials. Jackson, 77, retired from broadcasting in April after 40 years in the booth. Jackson announced he would retire after the 1998 season but stayed with ABC Sports.

3. Vince Young and Reggie Bush: Two of the best college football players in recent years played their final college game against each other in the Rose Bowl before leaving early for the NFL. Don't worry about Texas and Southern California, though. They're reloading just fine.

4. Rivalry traditions: Florida and Georgia officials urged an end to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party nickname for the Florida-Georgia game, citing concerns over drinking. The Ohio State-Michigan game will be played at 3:30 p.m. Eastern rather than its traditional early afternoon kickoff. The Game hasn't kicked off later than 1:45 Eastern in 25 years. In other scheduling changes, the Civil War game between Oregon and Oregon State will be played on a Friday for the first time since 1927. The game is scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving.

5. Native American nicknames: Louisiana-Monroe changed its name to the Warhawks while the Florida State Seminoles, the Illinois Fighting Illini, Utah Utes and Central Michigan Chippewas kept their nicknames with the approval of the respective tribes. This leaves only one Div. I-A school on the NCAA's hostile or abusive nickname list The Arkansas State Indians.


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