July 7, 2008

Plenty to lose for some, even early in season

We're more than a little intrigued by Texas' decision to play at UTEP this season (the first time the Longhorns have played the Miners in El Paso), so we went looking for a few more games where the visiting team has a lot to lose and not much or anything to gain.

We came up with a few:

Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech, Aug. 30: This is the first time an SEC team has deigned to travel to Ruston to play the Bulldogs. Mississippi State's defense should be too much for Tech. Still, the goodwill Mississippi State built up in finally going to another bowl last season would be greatly dissipated by a loss in this one.

Maryland at Middle Tennessee, Sept. 6: Virginia barely got out of Murfreesboro, Tenn., alive last season, winning by two. How will the Cavaliers' ACC foe fare? MTSU has some issues on defense, but Blue Raiders QB Dwight Dasher will make things difficult for the Terps' defense.

Minnesota at Bowling Green, Sept. 6: Big Ten teams annually play a number of MAC opponents, but this is a rare case where the MAC team probably will be favored. Bowling Green has a potent offense. As for Minnesota's defense well, the Golden Gophers last season would've had issues stopping your kid's Pop Warner team. Maybe a new year and a new coordinator and a new scheme and a bunch of new players will make a difference for Minnesota.

Texas Tech at Nevada, Sept. 6: The Red Raiders' non-conference schedule is a joke, and this is the toughest test. Yes, Tech's offense should have its way with Nevada's defense. But the Wolf Pack's "Pistol" offense has the potential to give what is expected to be an improved Red Raiders defense a stern test.

Texas A&M at New Mexico, Sept. 6: This has "trap game" written all over it for the Aggies. A&M still will be getting used to new coach Mike Sherman, and the Lobos' blitz-happy defense is tough to prepare for and to handle. New Mexico gets another chance to beat up on a "big boy" the next week, when Arizona comes calling. The Lobos won in Tucson last season.

South Florida at Florida International, Sept. 20: USF struggled to put away Florida Atlantic, FIU's biggest Sun Belt Conference rival, last season. But FIU isn't FAU's class, much less USF's. This should be a rout emphasis on the "should be." If USF struggles, that bodes ill.


The architect of one of the most unbelievable one-year turnarounds in college football history died last week. John Pont the only coach in history to take Indiana to the Rose Bowl died in Oxford, Ohio, at age 80, and it's a shame more people don't know about Pont.

Pont led IU to the Rose Bowl in the 1967 season, and time has not diminished that miraculous season. It was IU's first bowl appearance (never mind that the Hoosiers lost 14-3 to USC), and in the 40 seasons since, IU has made just eight bowl appearances. Plus, the Hoosiers had gone 3-16-1 in Pont's first two seasons, making the 9-1 regular-season record in '67 all the more amazing.

Pont also was coach at Miami University and Northwestern.


So Phillip Fulmer enters last season on the hot seat, loses to arguably his two biggest rivals by a combined 63 points but still wins the SEC East. Yep, that sounds like it's worth a raise to $2.99 million annually, with the deal extended to 2014.

Oregon State senior free safety Bryan Payton who was expected to contend for a starting role this season has decided to leave the team. His departure almost certainly means senior Greg Laybourn will be the new starting free safety for the Beavers.

Man, you have to love Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. At an event with six college football coaches from around Colorado last week in Colorado Springs, Hawkins likened his young team to a golden retriever puppy. "We like to run around a lot and we're cute, but sometimes we chew things up and pee on the rug," he said.

Virginia Tech junior receiver Brandon Dillard, who was in the hunt for a starting job, will miss the season after rupturing his right Achilles' tendon during a workout last week. Dillard, who may have been the fastest player on the team, faces up to six months of rehab. His loss truly hurts a Hokies team trying to make up for the loss of the four leading receivers from last season.


Who says Big Ten baseball is as good as the SEC (well, other than Jim Delany)? Further proof that it isn't close: Michigan State coach David Grewe left to become an assistant coach at LSU. Grewe replaces Terry Rooney, who left to become coach at UCF. To replace Grewe, Michigan State hired Eastern Michigan coach Jake Boss, who is a former Michigan assistant.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.


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