Welcome to this week’s edition of “Case of the Mondays” Crystal Ball Run’s look at the good, the bad and the sublime from the week that was in college football and the world beyond.
With SEC Media Days hitting the calendar this week, we are unofficially ready to start the college football season. But before we do, a quick reminder that…
1. This week at Crystal Ball Run is “Big XII Week”: As you’ve probably noticed by now, here at Crystal Ball Run, we’ve gone ahead and given every week between now and the start of the college football season a “theme.” In the past we’ve looked at the Heisman favorites, coaches on the hot seat and discussed the ACC, Pac-12 and new college football playoff at length. It’s been good times. Well, unless you’re a fan of the WAC anyway (sorry for the lack of coverage, New Mexico State fans).
Well this week we’re back, and bringing you wall-to-wall coverage of quite possibly the most fascinating league in college football: The Big XII. While no one is arguing the SEC is more talented top-to-bottom, it does appear as though their brethren in the Midwest might have more interesting storylines entering the season. How will TCU and West Virginia fare in the new league? Is Texas back to being a real contender? Can Oklahoma survive a slew of off-season bad news and keep themselves in the BCS title hunt?
These are all the big questions that have to be answered on the Big XII entering the season. And they’re what we’ll tackle at CBR this week.
2. Of course for those who missed it last week: We covered the Pac-12, and to say we kicked ass would be a major understatement. Simply put, we were like Lane Kiffin on the recruiting trail: Ruthless, relentless and didn’t stop until the work was done.
Regardless, if you did in fact miss the entire week, well shame on you. Luckily, there is still time to catch up. We went ahead and hit on the biggest questions entering conference play this year, some of the top danger games and what the Vegas odds are telling us to look out for in the Pac-12. Then we analyzed whether USC could actually be in trouble in 2012, whether Rich Rodriguez can succeed in the desert and finally, ranked the fan bases from top to bottom in the conference.
Overall it was a fun week, and we hope you take the time to check out some of the work we did.
Moving on to actual news…
3. It’s SEC Media Days Week: That’s right, the college football season unofficially kicks off on Tuesday in Hoover, AL, with the three-ring circus known as the SEC Media Days. And if past years are any indication, it will indeed be a circus. After all, what other place could you hear Nick Saban compare agents to pimps, see Tim Tebow answer questions about his virginity, and see Phil Fulmer skip town entirely… when he refused to show up in 2004 for fear of subpoena? Only at SEC Media Days: The most glamorous three days of college football tomfoolery on the calendar.
So what should you keep an eye out for in 2012?
Well, the first and most obvious storyline is the reception that the newbies, Texas A&M and Missouri will receive. We’ve been talking about these schools coming South for months now, and saw them official enter the conference on July 1. However, nothing quite says “Welcome to the SEC” like showing up to a swarm of close to 1,000 media members in Hoover, and thousands more (apparently unemployed) fans hanging out in the lobby looking to get a glimpse of their college football heroes. It’s quite literally unlike anything else in college sports.
As for everyone else, here’s a quick rundown of what we’re looking forward to: How does Derek Dooley handle the inevitable questions about his job status; how does Will Muschamp answer similar questions after a tough first year in Gainesville; will Georgia actually have any player reps, or will they all be suspended by Thursday (kidding ‘Dawgs fans! Sort of, anyway); and maybe most importantly, what kind of silly things will come out of the mouths of Steve Spurrier and Les Miles. With Spurrier it’ll be intentional and with Miles it won’t, but you do know they’ll say something truly fantastic.
And while nobody will likely say anything too revealing this week in regards to the season ahead or what to expect, there is one simple undeniable truth: These media days get us one step closer to the start of college football season. And that’s something we can all be thankful for.
4. Staying in college football: The big news of last week actually came off-the-field and on the recruiting trail, when stud, five-star linebacker Reuben Foster switched his commitment from Alabama to Auburn.
For starters, the news wasn’t totally shocking since Foster transferred to a high school in Auburn for the fall and had been reported to be leaning toward a decommit from the Crimson Tide to the Tigers for a while now. Still, it does have ripple effects, as Foster’s changed pledge could now swing a lot of the top prospects in the state Gene Chizik’s way. That’s no small feat when you’re going against a coach who just won a National Championship 12 months ago.
Of course there is a lot of time between now and Signing Day, and the recruiting pessimist in all of us has to wonder if Foster will eventually have a change of heart. While under most circumstances we might say yes, with Foster, his decision seems pretty set in stone…
…or should we say ink?
That’s because with seven months until Signing Day, Foster made the unusual decision to go ahead and get the Auburn emblem tattooed on his forearm. Yes, that happened, and the picture to the right was sent to us courtesy of the good folks at AL.com.
So with that, the recruitment of Reuben Foster appears to be over. After all, could you really see any player- even one as talented as he- ever walking around Bryant-Denny Stadium with that on his arm?
5. Speaking of Foster: There was one other very bizarre thing that happened during his press conference which seems worth mentioning here. Did anyone else notice how eerily similar Foster’s speech was to the one that T.J. Yeldon (a five-star 2012 recruit) gave when he made the opposite switch, from Auburn to Alabama, last year? Actually, forget “similar” they were practically verbatim; if this were a high school English class, Foster would’ve been undoubtedly busted for plagiarism.
For those who don’t know the details, well, our buddy Barrett Sallee over at the Bleacher Report did a bang up job of getting into the nitty-gritty of it all. The whole thing certainly seems intentional and orchestrated, and you’ve got to wonder if someone down on the Plains (yes, we’re looking at YOU Trooper Taylor) helped Foster with his speech. If they just didn’t write it outright for him.
But really, it seems impossible to sum up the situation better than Barrett already did in his article: Of all the truly strange twists and turns in the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, this could quite possibly be the weirdest.
6. One more recruiting note: And it comes from out West. Did you see that Lane Kiffin and Co. again added to what is quickly becoming the top recruiting class in all of college football?
That’s right, after sealing up commitments from some of the top skill position players in the country previously (quarterback Max Browne, running backs Ty Issac and Justin Davis, safety Su’a Cravens), the Trojans have turned their eyes to the trenches and picked up three big commitments (literally and figuratively) there as well. Over the last week they signed a pair of four-star offensive linemen in Nico Falah and Khaliel Rodgers as well as high four-star defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes.
Vanderdoes is undoubtedly the gem of the three, as he just missed five-star status with Rivals.com as the No. 26 ranked player nationally in the class. However interestingly, it may actually be Rodgers who is the most important player of the trio. He is the high school teammate of five-star defensive end and current USC commit Kenny Bigelow, and all along the recruiting process, the pair has appeared to be a package deal. With Rodgers now headed to Troy, it seems like any chance of flipping Bigelow has essentially ended before it ever really even began.
And with those commitments, it also seems as though USC’s recruiting for the 2013 cycle is essentially over. The three commitments last week bring ‘SC’s total to 14, and with scholarship limitations stopping them at 15, it’s hard to imagine more than one or maybe two players (if the Trojans can bend the rules) ending up as Trojans from here on out. It seems likely that with their few remaining scholarships, USC will now focus on the best remaining players on the board, a group that includes Florida offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Both are Top 10 recruits nationally, and each is strongly considering USC. Either would provide a truly fat cherry atop ‘SC’s recruiting sundae.
Regardless, at this point one thing is clear above all others: It’s really… REALLY good to be Lane Kiffin right now.
7. Moving away from college football I’ve got to ask: Was this the slowest weekend on the 2012 sports calendar so far? In a summer that has included the Euro Cup, Wimbledon, the French Open, the Olympic Trials, a fun NBA Finals and a flurry of basketball movement that followed, this weekend was surprisingly sparse with quality sports viewing content.
As a matter of fact, what would you say even was the biggest storyline of the weekend? Was it Jeremy Lin’s move from New York to Houston? Because if it was… yawn. I’m not saying I’m not Linsane in the membrane as much as the next guy, but when Sportscenter is dedicating 40 minutes of a 90 minute show to a guy who isn’t even one of the 10 best point guards in the league? Well, damn, what can you even say?
The good news though? With the painfully slow weekend, it also brings us one weekend closer to the start of our beloved college football season. What are we, about 45 days away now?
8. Staying in the NBA: How disappointed was everyone that we didn’t get any more news on the Dwight Howard trade front this weekend?
Oh wait, that’s right: No one! Interestingly, in the 24-hour, need-news-now news cycle we live in, Dwight Howard has managed to do the unthinkable and oversaturate us with so much news surrounding his trade that we simply just don’t care anymore. That’s no small feat, and shows how truly obnoxious D12 has been over the last few months.
Moving forward, if you’re asking me where I think Howard will end up (which, admittedly, I know you weren’t), I’ll go ahead and say that I like Houston’s chances here. Howard obviously wants to be a Net, but don’t you think if the Nets had anything Orlando wanted it would’ve happened by now? Also, although the Lakers have the best piece to offer in Andrew Bynum, both sides seem hesitant since neither Howard nor Bynum seems willing to sign an extension.
Meaning that the one safe landing spot here does appear to be Houston. The Rockets have the right pieces to make the trade and also the willingness to take on some of the abominable contracts that the Magic have doled out through the years and are trying to get rid of now. Plus, to their credit, Houston seems to be the one team willing to do what no other will, and that’s take Howard without a guarantee that he’ll sign an extension after this year. After all, you can’t win if you don’t play, right?
Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that at this point, we don’t care how the Howard saga ends, just that it does in fact end. We don’t care if he plays in Orlando or Ottawa, Houston or Havana, just as long as we get some closure… and soon!
9. My one baseball thought of the week is as follows: Did anyone see how the Padres beat the Dodgers on Saturday night? Simply put, it was one of the most mesmerizing and amazing endings to a game I’ve ever seen.
Here’s how it went down: The Dodgers were up by one run at home, with two outs in the top of the ninth. San Diego was literally down to their last out.
That didn’t matter to Everth Cabrera though. He was on third, and when he saw Dodgers pitcher Kenley Jansen turn his back to the play in between pitches, Cabrera took off for home. By the time Jansen realized what was going on it was too late, and he fired the ball above catcher A.J. Ellis’ head to allow Cabrera to score. Because of the overthrow Will Venable also came home to score the go-ahead run. Three outs later, the Padres had literally stolen a win.
Anyway, the words do the play absolutely no justice, so if I had one piece of advice it’d be the following: Just watch the video above. You will not be disappointed.
10. And finally: As I always do in this space, I will close things out with a book, TV or movie recommendation.
This week, the recommendation comes from the literary world and it isn’t so much a “recommendation” as it is “demand.” If you haven’t read “Waiting for the Fall,” Mike Casazza’s detailed look at the last decade of West Virginia football… do it. Right now. Like, if you don’t buy it in the next 10 minutes, I’ll be personally offended.
Really, it’s impossible for me to tell you how good this book is, only because like me before I read it, I doubt you have any idea how many truly wild things have gone down within the program over the last 10 years. Between the rise and untimely departure of Rich Rodriguez, the Bill Stewart era, Dana Holgorsen’s arrival, the 2005 Sugar Bowl, the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the 2011 Orange Bowl and more, I cannot describe how many things have gone down at West Virginia. Forget Tennessee, USC, Michigan or anywhere else: It is West Virginia which has been the most volatile and fascinating program of the last decade.
Again, the book is called “Waiting for the Fall” and it could not come any more highly recommended by me.
Until next time, kiddies…
For all his insight, analysis and opinion on college football, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.