Category Archives: College Sports

National college sports thoughts

Furman: An unfamiliar foe with an unfamiliar nickname

Not exactly sure what a Paladin is?  Neither were the Mizzou players.

The Furman Paladins, a team from the Southern Conference, aren't exactly an opponent everybody's heard of.

The Furman Paladins, a team from the Southern Conference, aren't exactly an opponent everybody's heard of.

As the week progresses and the Tigers’ troubles against Bowling Green fade further into the rear view mirror, I figured it’s time to start looking ahead to Saturday’s game against the Furman Paladins…Wait a sec, the Paladins?  First of all, yes, that seriously is their nickname, secondly, what the heck is a Paladin?

College football is home to some great nicknames.  Missouri has faced off against everyone from Gamecocks to Jayhawks, from Red Raiders to Blue Raiders.  They’ve played Racers and Rebels, Lobos and Longhorns, and Red Wolves and Redhawks.  But not once in its long history has the Missouri Tigers football team faced the Paladins.  So we thought we’d ask some of the guys, “What exactly is a Paladin?”

“[Their mascot] Is the who?” senior defensive tackle Jaron Baston said pausing to laugh.  “I’ve never heard of that before in my life.  A paladin?” he repeated slowly.

“Maybe it’s some sort of ancient warrior or fighter or something like that.  Is that what it is?”

Um, sorry Jaron, not exactly.

Defensive tackle Jaron Baston wasn't the only one who was unfamiliar with the Paladins. (Photo from kansascity.com)

Defensive tackle Jaron Baston wasn't the only one who was unfamiliar with the Paladins. (Photo from kansascity.com)

Sophomore tight end Andrew Jones thought he might have the inside scoop on the Paladins after reviewing some film earlier in the day.

“I was just watching film and I seen it written in their endzone,” he said.  His response sounded promising.  That is until he continued. “But I don’t know what it is.  I saw a horse thing running around on their field, but yeah I have no idea.”

Sorry Andrew, a paladin isn’t exactly a horse thing either.

Coming off a stellar rushing performance against Bowling Green, we thought maybe running back Derrick Washington’s good fortune’s might continue.  However, he was also unsure of the Furman mascot.

“No, I have no clue,” he replied with a laugh.  “Do you know what it is?  I can’t even guess.”

Hopefully for Mizzou, Washington can get past the Furman D better than he got around answering our question.

Finally, we approached senior captain Sean Weatherspoon.  Perhaps he would know what a paladin is.  He quickly told us otherwise.

“I have no idea,” he said.  “I’ve got to do a little more homework to find that out man.  I’ve never heard of that, but my mom did actually go to Furman for a semester.  I’ve never asked her, I’m about to call her and find out today though.

Any guesses Spoon?

“No man, I don’t even want to go there.”

According to the Oxford dictionary a paladin is, “a knight renowned for heroism and chivalry.”

On the football field the Paladins are a strong FCS team.  They are 2-0 this season and 58-29 all time under coach Bobby Lamb, who is in his 8th year with Furman.  This week they received votes in the FCS coaches poll and would be ranked 30th if the rankings continued.

However, Missouri is the first FBS team the Paladins will face this season and playing at “The Zou,” should be a little different for them than playing in front of 11,000 at Chattanooga as they did a week ago.

So no matter if you think the Paladins are ancient warriors as Baston guessed or some type of panther like senior Brian Coulter suggested, the bottom line is the Paladins should be nothing but the Tigers’ next ‘W’ on the schedule.

-MG

Reflections on Mizzou Before We Kickoff

 

While I may be split as to which side will prevail on Saturday, I am certain that Mizzou football will be better than the doubters think.

While I may be split as to which side will prevail on Saturday, I am certain that Mizzou football will be better than the doubters think. (Photo by Chris Lee, STL Today)

            Yep, I will graciously confess that, until about two weeks ago, I was one of the individuals that the previous author eluded to when denouncing that this year’s Missouri football team is so different than last year’s to have any reasonable expectations for high success.  The 2009 team is lacking many of the tangible assets that gave the 2007-2008 squads such fruition.  The team is lacking proven superstars.  No more Chase Daniel, no more Jeremy Maclin, no more Chase Coffman, and “no mo” Willy Mo. 

While star power has diminished on the roster, it has also diminished in the booth.  Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen booked it to Laramie to begin a horseshoe business (and head Wyoming’s football program), while defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus ran to the NFL.  With their departures came two new familiar faces.  Commanding the offensive side of the ball is Dave Yost, the former Missouri quarterbacks coach who looks more like he belongs at afternoon meetings on the beach scoping swells with Laird Hamilton than he does scoping Big 12 defenses.  Dave Steckel, the muscular linebackers coach is taking over as defensive coordinator for Eberflus. 

Would you rather have this guy coaching your surf club or your football team?  I will take football.

Would you rather have this guy coaching your surf club or your football team? I will take football. (Photo by L.G. Patterson, AP)

            With all of these losses from a year ago, it would be silly to put any stock into this year’s Missouri squad, wouldn’t it?  Two weeks ago, my answer would have been yes.  I was commanding the bandwagon of doubters, sipping on ‘haterade’ and just wishing that the ‘ole boys could come back for one last season; one last shot at a Big 12 Championship.  The news of Sheldon Richardson being academically ineligible to attend the university had me listening to Adam Lambert’s gloomy version of ‘Mad World’ for weeks.  I would have never even dreamt of saying that Mizzou could knock off Illinois, who albeit struggled last year, still has a boatload of talent returning this season.

            Finally, after weeks of swimming in a sea of doubt, I woke up from the doldrums.  I attended Mizzou training camp scrimmages and saw the potential that this year’s team has.  Blaine Gabbert looks like he is the real deal.  At 6’5”, 240 lbs. Gabbert has the NFL body that Chase Daniel didn’t have, and the quickness that every coach dreams of having in a signal caller.

Gabbert has the body to run over people, if necessary.

Blaine Gabbert has the body to run over people, if necessary. (Photo by Julia Robinson, Columbia Daily Tribune.)

Gabbert is not alone, however.  Danario Alexander will be his primary target, and rumors have swirled saying that some players think Alexander could be better than Maclin, if healthy.  Well, Danario is healthy now, so let the debate begin. 

Derrick Washington returns.  De’Vion Moore will have an increased role.  Andrew Jones has the potential to become the next great tight end at ‘Tight End U.” 

Sean Weatherspoon is no longer sandwiched between talented defensive stars in Ziggy Hood and William Moore.  But, Spoon does seem hungrier than ever and he put on the weight over the summer to crack enough hard hits to make up for their losses.

I do not want to run through the whole roster and tell you who I think can replace holes from last year’s team.  That would just bore you, and considering that the opener against Illinois is tomorrow night, I’m sure you all are already clued in.

What I’m trying to accomplish with this elegantly scribed column is that Mizzou football is not as destitute as people like Kirk Herbstreit think (in case you didn’t hear, Herbstreit picked Mizzou as his No. 1 team on the move down in 2009.) 

Gary Pinkel has his own eye for talent.

Gary Pinkel has his own eye for talent. (Midwest Sports fans photo)

While it may not protrude as much as in the past couple years, Mizzou’s talent is still there.  You just have to look a little harder and give some of the younger guys a chance.  If anything, I have always thought that it is Mizzou’s system that makes players great.  Gary Pinkel does an excellent job at developing players and recruiting for his system.  So, while there isn’t a plethora of four and five star recruits distributed across the roster, I trust what the coaching staff is doing.

Don’t think too long and hard about predictions for tomorrow’s game with Illinois.  It will drive you crazy.  Trust me.  I have hopped from one side of the fence to another for weeks trying to figure out this one.  I am settling on, “It’s gonna be a good game.” 

If the talent-laden Illinois team shows up in full force, then Mizzou will have some trouble.  Arrelious Benn is as dominant receiver as any in the country, and if Juice Williams can get him the ball without making too many mistakes, then Missouri will need to adjust effectively if they want to succeed.  The Illinois team may look better on paper, but all too often, game are won with intangibles like leadership, strategy, and aggressiveness.  As we saw last season with Illinois, a team with Rose Bowl talent can easily become a 5-7 team if not coached effectively. 

Arrelious Benn should be lockdown target No. 1 for Mizzou's defense on Saturday.

WR Arrelious Benn should be lockdown target No. 1 for Mizzou's defense on Saturday. (Athlon Sports photo)

Mizzou is entering this season extremely hungry, determined to prove that there will not be as big of a drop off in achievement as everyone thinks, if any.  One more thing: After the crew here at the Columns told Sean Weatherspoon about Herbstreit’s comments, he said that he will deliver one hell of a pregame speech on Saturday and keep the ESPN analyst’s comments in mind.  As far as I’m concerned, I would not want to be running out on offense to line up against a defense that was just motivated by Spoon, who jokingly said that “some tears might be involved” in his pregame hollering. 

-PF

Some wisdom from Mizzou’s John Anderson

The following entry was written by ESPN anchor and MU alumnus John Anderson.  This was posted on his ESPN blog on August 27th, 2008.  With the start of college football this week, I thought it would be fitting to pass along to our readers.

“With the college football season kicking off this week here’s my…

*10 point college refresher course.*

Big, quiet place with all the books is the library.  Big, loud place with all the people is the football stadium.

The football stadium.

The football stadium.

The library. (Picture from doit.missouri.edu)

The library. (Picture from doit.missouri.edu)

Eating in the cafeteria is risking illness. Eating in the parking lot is tailgating.

Studying Sunday thru Thursday makes you smarter. Campus parties on Fridays and games on Saturdays make you more well rounded.

Cuddly looking thing with giant mascot head holding a child is the mascot.  Cuddly looking thing with giant mascot head holding #2 pencil is Lee Corso.

A game program is a course syllabus with advertising and a depth chart.

Academic departments have benefactors. Athletics departments have donors.

The hardest class to skip is the first one. The easiest class is generally offered by the geology department.

Distinguished looking 40 year old riding a bicycle is professor. Distinguished looking 40 year old driving the Cadillac Escalade is the head coach.

Co-eds will go out with you after a win if you are wearing school colors. Co-eds will not go out with you after a win if you are painted school colors.

While certainly showing their school spirit, these guys won't be getting the girls according to Anderson. (Photo from mizzouwire.missouri.edu)

While certainly showing their school spirit, these guys won't be getting the girls according to Anderson. (Photo from mizzouwire.missouri.edu)

When looking for co-eds transfer to Ole Miss.

You are *now* ready for class & kickoff.”

– To see this original article, visit Anderson’s blog at:

http://sportsnation.espn.go.com/fans/ESPN_JohnAnderson/blog

-MG

Mailbag!

Mizzou basketball player serving as a bar’s bouncer?  Indiana added to the schedule?  Illinois-Mizzou predictions?  All your questions answered in our first ever mailbag.

Alright so everyone’s doing it.  PTI, Bill Simmons, Powermizzou, they all do mailbags.  So we thought, why not do one of our own?  We’ve slowly gathered enough questions to put together a solid article, so without further ado, here is our first edition of The Columns mailbag:

Everyone else does a mailbag.  Why not us? (Graphic courtesy of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption)

Everyone else does a mailbag. Why not us? (Graphic courtesy of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption)

Joe from Jeff City writes: I heard Kim English is a bouncer at a bar in Columbia.  Would you let him do this job if you’re HCMA?

TW:

The word is that he isn’t a bouncer, basically all he does is stand at the door and check IDs.  It’s a pretty harmless gig if you ask me, it’s not like Kimmie’s inside where he’d be in danger of getting caught in the middle of the a fight. If I’m HCMA it really isn’t an issue for me.  Initially it might sound bad but it’s not such a big deal. Shiloh is generally an older, less rowdy and less crowded bar anyway.

MG:

Tom said it well.  Kimmie works there, but he’s not a bouncer. When I communicated with Kimmie about the job, he made it crystal clear that he is definitely not a bouncer.  He downplayed the situation and refused to answer any further questions on his employment.  If I’m HCMA, I think I realize that Kimmie’s got a good enough head on his shoulders that he won’t get into any trouble.  So he wants to make a few bucks – big deal.  It is pretty funny though that in just two years, Mizzou basketball players have gone from the ones in the bar fights to the ones that may potentially break them up.

Where were the bouncers the night of Stefhon Hannah and co.'s infamous fight?

Where were the bouncers the night of Stefhon Hannah and company's infamous fight?

Bryan W. writes: Missouri replaced Illinois with Indiana on the schedule.  I think that is a pretty weak replacement.  Who would you have liked to replaced Indiana?

TW:

I’m ok with Indiana. It’s a BCS conference school and I like that it’s within reasonable driving distance for Tiger fans to make the trip when we play there.  Also, given the current trends, it pretty much should be a guaranteed W every year. Other schools that would have been ok with me; Iowa, Arkansas, Tennessee, Notre Dame (maybe) Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Cincinnati. Really any school within reasonable travel distance I like. Take your pick on level of difficulty, but Missouri is never one to go after the big non-conference games. I think Arkansas or Wisconsin would have to be my two favorites after looking at those schools, but that’s just me.

MG:

I have to disagree with Tom here.  Missouri’s non-conference schedule even including Illinois is about as exciting as a WNBA dunk contest. Take away Illinois and replace them with Indiana, a team that is 27-56 since 2002 including an 11-45 record against the Big Ten, and it’s like removing Candace Parker from said dunk contest.  Mike Alden insists on a policy of scheduling a non-conference schedule comprised of one BCS conference school, one team from FCS, and two mid-major opponents.  Frankly, I think it’s time for a change. I’m not saying we should be scheduling Ohio State or USC, but let’s at least get some BCS conference opponents in here that Missouri can beat.  Seriously, how do you expect to excite your fan base with home games like Furman?  I’m fine with Indiana as a second or third non-conference opponent, but not the marquis match-up.  In 2007 when Mizzou played Illinois and Ole Miss in non-conference, that was a respectable schedule.  I want to see some opponents people have heard of.  Indiana is a guaranteed win and while that is nice, I think Missouri could have challenged themselves a bit more.  Teams I would have rather seen: Minnesota (ok so I’m a homer), Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arizona, Louisville, Cincinnati, Northwestern, Oregon State, TCU (I realize they’re not BCS, but they’re good and they’re in a good recruiting territory), Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Indiana as our big game? What a snoozer.

Indiana as our big game? What a snoozer.

Kenneth from KC writes: Is their any truth to the rumor that KU’s Dezmon Briscoe might be ruled ineligible this season?

TW:

I have no knowledge on the situation beyond the rumors I’ve heard just like you. I can offer you this link to a Topeka, Kansas newspaper that has some more info. I’d bet you see him on Saturdays this fall, there is no way a school like KU, who seems to always find ways to keep athletes eligible, does not have him on the field.

http://www.cjonline.com/sports/football/2009-07-26/kus_briscoe_day_to_day

ESPN offered this from Mangino at Big 12 Media Day regarding Briscoe:

http://myespn.go.com/blogs/big12/0-11-113/Mangino-expects-Briscoe-to-be-ready-when-KU-practice-starts.html

MG:

It’s KU, he’s a star.  He’s not going to miss a thing.

GoTigers writes: In your opinion why was Leo not drafted?

TW:

He wasn’t a first round talent, and once it gets to the second round it is more of a particular team really liking a particular guy.  Leo might have been second or third on those teams list, but with only two or three picks per team he was a casualty. His inconsistent play certainly didn’t help him at all. With strong summer play he will certainly latch on somewhere with the loads of talent he has. Is there anyone that wouldn’t like a 6’9 guy with range and a nice scoring touch. Hopefully he can improve his defense and post moves this summer.

MG:

It had to have been his inconsistency.  You look at some of the players drafted ahead of him – guys like Taylor Griffin and Chinemelu Elonu – they weren’t necessarily more talented, but they were more consistent performers.  In the second round you would think a team might go for a guy like Leo with such a large upside.  However, like Mike Anderson said following the draft, it’s better for Lyons to go undrafted and choose his own team with whom to tryout, than to be picked up in the late 50’s.  However, none of this really matters because in the time since this question was sent to us, Leo has signed with a professional team in Israel.

Israel couldn't have been Leo's first choice.  But hey, he's still getting paid.

Israel couldn't have been Leo's first choice. But hey, he's still getting paid.

Matt writes: What’s your prediction on the Mizzou Illinois game?  Will Mizzou be the favorite again?

TW:

Prediction? Do we want a score? It might be a little early for that not seeing or hearing a thing about two-a-days. I’ll predict we’ll see strong performances from Derrick Washington and Sean Weatherspoon. I predict strong defensive end play, and flashes of tremendous upside and ability, but the mistakes and growing pains of a young team.  Will Mizzou be favored? I’m going to say no.  In terms of talent I think Missouri pretty close and Mizzou probably has the edge, but the Tigers lost a starting QB some wide outs that some would say were pretty good, and a lot of talent on defense. Illinois returns a starting QB and a hell of a wide receiver in Arelious Benn. Illinois will be favored, however I’ll take Missouri 34-27.

MG:

Illinois should be favored.  As we’ve seen, Missouri is getting absolutely no love from media members outside of Columbia.  That combined with the question marks that we’re all aware of already, will have everyone talking about how this is finally Illinois’ year.  However, I see this game going the way of the most recent Mizzou-Illinois basketball game.  People were talking about how this was Missouri’s year to win the Busch Braggin’ Rights game yet it just didn’t happen.  There seems to be something about this rivalry in football where Missouri just has Illinois number.  I’m not ready to go on record with a full prediction (that will definitely come later), but if Mizzou wins, that would set the stage for a season that will surprise many.  If they were to get blown out, lookout, the young team could lose confidence quickly.

When talking Mizzou-Illinois football, is there a cooler picture to include than this one? I don't think so.  Unfortunately Tommy didn't come down with this pass. (Photo by Parker Eshelman, Columbia Daily Tribune).

When talking Mizzou-Illinois football, is there a cooler picture to include than this one? I don't think so. Unfortunately Tommy didn't come down with this pass. (Photo by Parker Eshelman, Columbia Daily Tribune).

Columns – Mizzou football already has landed two 4* recruits after getting none last year.  What do you think is the difference in recruiting so far?

TW:

Part of the difference is that this is a small class so guys want to join in sooner, rather than winding up on the outside looking in.  I think another big thing was proving 2007 was no fluke by adding 10 more wins and another North Championship in 2008. Kids want to win and the Tigers proved they can do a lot of that. Also, April’s draft further helped Mizzou considering they had six kids drafted – two first rounders – and more guys drafted than the other 5 teams in the north combined. Every recruit’s dream is to end up in the NFL and the Tigers are proving they can put players on pro rosters.

MG:

Tom is definitely our recruiting expert, but I feel obligated to throw my two cents in on this one.  The addition of former LSU recruiter Josh Henson, combined with the fact that Missouri has won 30 games in the past three seasons is why I believe there is an upswing in recruiting.  Just this past week I received an email from a reader in Georgia who says he knows two D1 prospects and he wants them to get them in touch with Mizzou.  He asked me how he could get these players he knows on Mizzou’s recruiting radar.  That’s just one example, but I think it shows how Missouri’s recent success has helped its exposure, and now it may start to pay dividends on the recruiting trail.  According to the emailer, one of “his guys” just gave a verbal commitment to Georgia Tech, so maybe he really does know what he’s talking about.

Big Jeff writes: Will Missouri’s fb recruiting continue at this pace or should we get back to expecting the rest of our recruits to be 3 and 2* guys?

TW:

To be honest it’s realistic to expect that the majority of Missouri’s classes will be 3 stars, hopefully higher rated three star guys though.  Gary Pinkel consistently talks about how stars mean nothing to him.  That’s more something fans worry about.  Look at Sean Weatherspoon – he was a two star recruit according to rivals.  Now he could become the greatest defensive player in school history. Coaches don’t base offers on stars so I think you’ll always see a few two star guys. If we can win 8 games this year it is certainly fair to think that you’ll see Mizzou getting more visits and more top 5’s and top 3’s for higher level guys and hopefully a couple commitments.

Are there any guys on the recruiting radar that you consider “must gets” in this class?  If so why?

TW:

I addressed this back in April with this article,   https://missouricolumns.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/replacing-playmakers-inside-mizzou-football-recruiting/

I’ll provide a follow up on recruiting before the season kicks off.

Scott S. writes: In your opinion how much of a difference are the new coordinators going to make in Mizzou’s play?  Should they expect to be better or worse because of this?

TW:

I think offensively less trick plays and more of a commitment to the running game, which is dictated by our skill positions but also by Dave Christensen’s mad scientist mentality and unwillingness to run the ball if the Tigers were ever down. I think eventually we are better because of it, but it is hard to say because the proven skill players are playing on Sundays now. Defense we can only go up right? The players all have great things to say about new coordinator Coach Stec, lot of young talent with great potential but we won’t know much until camp and then the real games start.  A lot of defensive players last year said that Steckel’s schemes and game plans were too complicated.  That led to many defensive lapses (think: Juice Williams lighting up the secondary).  Steckel’s defense should be less complex and hopefully lead to better results.

Due to the sheer volume of questions… oh wait, that’s powermizzou’s line.  Honestly though we would like to thank everyone who sent in questions.  Please feel free to email/twitter/comment/facebook questions for us.  We look forward to providing more mailbag articles in the future.

-MG (Although all questions were also answered by the great football mind Tom Weyerich)

Famous to USF… What?

 

Many Mizzou fans thought the Tigers would land Famous.  Even more fans probably thought USF was the last place he'd end up.

Many Mizzou fans thought the Tigers would land Famous. Even more fans probably thought USF was the last place he'd end up.

   Highly recruited Junior College power forward/center, Jarrid Famous made his college decision today.  Famous had narrowed  his search to Missouri, Arizona, Seton Hall, and the University of South Florida.  No, he did not commit to Missouri who made it to the Elite Eight this past season, nor did he commit the well respected Arizona Wildcats.  He didn’t even commit to a struggling Seton Hall program.  Instead, Famous will be taking his talents to USF.  That’s right USF.  Wait, they have a basketball team??  Apparently they do, although with their program’s “success” I can see why no one would notice.

   The three schools that Famous passed up combined for 67 wins last season.  USF managed a grand total of nine.  In the Big East, the Bulls went 4-14.  Their four wins included two against DePaul who failed to win one Big East game.  Overall, USF was 9-22 with non conference losses including Virginia, Wright State, Oral Roberts, and Niagra.  The Bulls finished the year with an RPI of 190.  The three schools he passed up totaled RPI ratings of 145 and that includes Seton Hall’s RPI rank of 101.  Now I’m not saying a college player should make his decision based on RPI ratings, but the fact is, the Bulls are miserable.  Even if Famous gives them 5 more wins than last season, they are still going to miss the NIT by a mile.  He will get no exposure playing in the lowly obscurity that is USF basketball.

   Since 2002, USF has gone a total of 75-130.  The Bulls have a total of 16 wins against current Big East teams since that time and have had season win totals in single digits (3 times), more often than they have surpassed twelve wins (once in 2002).  They haven’t been to any sort of post-season in this decade.

  It’s not for a lack of talent at USF either.  In the 2007-2008 season, USF saw senior Kentrell Gransberry selected to the All Big East first team, while freshman Dominique Jones was given All Big East honorable mention honors.  It appears that even if Famous can earn All Big East honors, it likely will not matter for the overall success of the USF Bulls.

  USF plays in the Sun Dome, a 10,000 seat arena built in 1977.  Even in the Bulls home win against Cincinnati, there were fewer than 5,000 people in attendance.  In their non-conference games, home attendance was regularly below 3,000.  I’m sorry, but the Sun Dome is no Mizzou Arena.  The USF basketball program is nowhere near the other 3 schools Famous turned down.  Now I know players sometimes like to go to a more obscure school and try to raise it to prominence, but USF is so far out of contention in the Big East that it will be years (Famous can only play there for two), before they even near the NIT tournament.  

All of this writing is irrelevant, because the decision is already made, but the reality is, USF was a surprising choice, and in my mind the wrong one.  But like Kim English’s facebook status says:

“South Florida?? I’m flabbergasted … Idc though.. Safford, ramsey, bowers, Moore and dewitt sound pretty good to me.”

Kimmie, I agree.

-MG

Ranking the top athletic schools

B12 Baylor Missouri Basketballn630236718_1236013_38344

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an Elite Eight tournament run and another bowl winning season in football, is Missouri really one of the nation’s top athletic schools?

    In the wake of Mike Anderson’s signing of his 7-year contract extension, it is time to give credit where credit is due.  The Columns would like to thank MU Athletic Director Mike Alden for doing a fantastic job as AD.  He has made a commitment to fielding competitive teams and keeping good coaches.  By resigning Gary Pinkel and Anderson, Missouri has given itself stability in its two most important positions within the athletic department.  While Alden screwed up by not resigning Anderson following the Big 12 tournament, when he probably could have resigned Anderson at a lower price, he did what was necessary to keep one of basketball’s most coveted coaches.  The outstanding job by Pinkel and Anderson in recent year(s) leads me to the point of this article.  Missouri has climbed its way into the discussion for one of the top 10 athletic schools in the country.  Now, I know other sports are important to the University, but The Columns is going to judge schools athletically, based only upon football and men’s basketball.

    In order to even gain consideration for a great athletic program, a school must first have two things:

–  A football team that goes to a bowl game AND

– A men’s basketball team that makes the NCAA tournament

Under our ranking system, The Columns is sad to admit that last year’s best athletic program was kU.  By winning a BCS bowl and the National Championship in basketball, Kansas had an athletic year for the ages –  Almost as good as when Florida won titles in both sports.

 

Kansas's national title in basketball and Orange Bowl victory in 2008 made them the best athletic school in the nation a year ago

Kansas's national title in basketball and Orange Bowl victory by the football team, made the Jayhawks the best athletic school in the nation a year ago

Qualifying schools and how they faired: (bowl and tourney outcomes listed)

– Ohio State: Lost Fiesta Bowl to Texas, lost in first round to Siena

– Utah: Won Sugar Bowl, lost in first round to Arizona

– Arizona: Won Las Vegas Bowl, went to Sweet Sixteen

– Wake Forest: Won Eagle Bank Bowl, lost in first round to Cleveland State

– West Virginia: Won Meineke Car Care Bowl, lost in first round to Dayton

– Kansas: Won Insight Bowl, reached Elite Eight

– Boston College: Lost Music City Bowl to Vanderbilt, lost in first round to USC

– USC: Won Rose Bowl, reached second round

– Michigan State: Lost Capital One Bowl to Georgia, reached Final Four (and beyond possibly)

– Connecticut: Won International Bowl, reached Final Four (and beyond possibly)

– BYU: Lost Las Vegas Bowl to Arizona, lost in first round to Texas A&M

– Missouri: Won Alamo Bowl, reached Elite Eight

– California: Won Emerald Bowl, lost in first round to Maryland

– Maryland: Won Humanitarian Bowl, reached second round

– Memphis: Lost Magicjack.com Bowl, reached Sweet Sixteen

– Pittsburgh: Lost Sun Bowl to Oregon State, reached Elite Eight

– Oklahoma State: Lost Holiday Bowl to Oregon, reached second round

– Florida State: Won Champs Sports Bowl, lost in first round to Wisconsin

– Wisconsin: Lost Champs Sports Bowl to Florida State, reached second round

– Texas: Won Fiesta Bowl, reached second round

– Minnesota: Lost Insight Bowl to Kansas, lost in first round to Texas

– North Carolina: Lost Meineke Car Care Bowl to West Virginia, reached Final Four (possibly more)

– LSU: Won Chick-fil-A Bowl, reached second round

– Clemson: Lost Gator Bowl to Nebraska, lost in first round

– Oklahoma: Lost National Title to Florida, reached Elite Eight

That leaves 25 schools in the running.  Perfect for ranking a top 25…

 

Oklahoma is certainly in the running for the best athletic school of 2009.  Having a Heisman winner like Bradford in the bag gives them a nice intangible

Oklahoma is certainly in the running for the best athletic school of 2009. Having a Heisman winner like Bradford in the bag gives them a nice intangible

The Rankings (25-20)

byulogo25. Brigham Young Universtiy – While BYU had a nice football season in which they saw their national ranking shoot into the top 20, they did not finish the season well.  A loss to rival Utah combined with an 0-2 record vs. ranked opponents was disappointing.  Finishing off the football season with a loss to Arizona in the less than prestigious Las Vegas Bowl added sting to the disappointment.  In basketball the Cougars faired similarly.  A nice 25-7 season, but 0-2 vs. ranked opponents and a first round loss doomed the Cougars.  BYU checks in on the list at                             #25.

umin-logo24. Minnesota – The Minnesota athletic program has things pointed in the right direction in 2009 after a dismal 2008.  Head football coach Tim Brewster took the team from one win in 2007 to 7 in the 2008-2009 campaign.  The team also earned a ranking as high as 19th in the country.  While the Gophers did lose the Insight Bowl to Kansas it is still an improvement and ranks ahead of BYU’s Las Vegas Bowl loss.  In basketball, the Gophers improved under Tubby Smith and made the tournament for the first time since 2005.  Tubby had the Gophers ranked for a period of time and led them to wins over other tournament bound teams such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Cornell, Ohio State, and Louisville.  Minnesota’s seasons were very equivalent to BYU’s, but the Gophs play in a better conference.

 

After revamping their defense, Simoni Lawrence (21) and the Gophers are on the rise. (AP Photo)

After revamping their defense, Simoni Lawrence (21) and the Gophers are on the rise. (AP Photo)

boston_college_logo23. Boston College – The end results for the Eagles were not good this year.  The football team lost the Music City Bowl to Vanderbilt of all teams, while the basketball team suffered a first round upset loss at the hands of USC.  In football, BC had wins over a similar program Wake Forest but lost to Clemson. The Eagles also went a total of 0-3 against those programs in basketball.  In basketball they beat Duke and North Carolina (high points) but lost to Saint Louis University and Harvard (low points).  Making this list is an accomplishment by itself so the Eagles shouldn’t be ashamed to check in at #23.

clemson_logo22.  Clemson – We’ll stay in the ACC with Clemson at 22.  If we were to rank pre-season expectations and hype, Clemson might find its way into the top 10.  Maybe even the top 5.  But since this ranking is performance based and not hype based, the Tigers typical mid to late season collapses put them near the bottom.  In football and basketball each team received a tremendous amount of hype and expectations yet still managed to underachieve in both sports.  The football teamed opened up the year ranked 9th in the nation before promptly getting blasted 34-10 by Alabama on national TV in week one.  They fired their head coach midseason and stumbled their way to a Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska – a bowl they weren’t deserving of anyway.  In hoops, the story reads similarly.  Clemson stormed to a 16-0 record and tons of media attention before finding their rightful place as team that gets upset in the first round of the tourney.  Clemson should be happy the football and basketball seasons aren’t any longer to where their late season skids would sink them off of this list altogether.

wake-forest-logo21.  Wake Forest – Eventually a non-ACC team will find its way back onto this list but for now we’re stuck in Atlantic Coast territory with number 21 Wake.  The Deacons football team has seemed to work its way into national respectability the past few years.  While 2008-2009 did not bring another BCS appearance, winning the first ever Eagle Bank Bowl is somewhat respectable.  Producing a stud like Aaron Curry doesn’t hurt the program’s rep either.  In hoops, the Demon Deacons found their way into the top 5 rankings while beating quality opponents such as BC, Clemson, Duke, North Carolina, and Florida State.  The basketball team ,which is not accustomed to first round exits, were the surprise casualty of the first round, getting upset by the Cleveland State Vikings.  Ouch.

 

Aaron Curry and the Demon Deacons have established Wake Forest on the national scene in football.

Aaron Curry and the Demon Deacons have established Wake Forest on the national scene in football.

 

 

wisconsin_logo20.  Wisconsin – While the University of Wisconsin generally fields competitive teams in both football and basketball, 2008-2009 was a down year for the Badgers.  The football team began the year ranked in the top 10 before they went on a stretch where they lost 4 in a row and 5 out of 6.  Perhaps the ugliest part of they year for Wisconsin football was the fact that they needed overtime to beat Cal Poly.  The Badgers ended the year with a 42-13 spanking at the hands of the Florida State Seminoles in the Champs Sports Bowl.  The basketball team finished the year 20-13 and squeaked into the tournament where they avenged their bowl loss by beating FSU in the first round.  A Champs Sports Bowl loss and a second round exit in the tourney isn’t the usual results for a program like Wisconsin, but this year it puts them at 20 on the list.

cal19.  California – Good but not great seasons for both teams out of Berkeley.  The football team went 9-4 and 1-2 against ranked opponents.  A thrilling win in the Emerald Bowl over Miami capped off a season where the Bears finished fourth in the PAC 10.  The basketball team was also unable to separate itself from the pack.  They finished 4th in the PAC 10 in basketball as well.  Cal had a nice 15-2 start but losses to Florida State and a 27 point thrashing at the hands of Mizzou stuck out like sore thumbs.  The Bears finished the season going 2-5 in their final seven games and being upset in the first round by Maryland (who they also lost to in football).

west_virginia_logo18. West Virginia – This was a really hard spot to fill.  It came down to West Virginia and Florida State for this spot and their seasons in each sport were almost identical.  Each football team went 9-4.  Each football team won a lower tier bowl game that is played on December 27th.  Each basketball team finished in the middle of their league and lost in the first round of the tournament.  The edge goes to FSU over WVU for two reasons: The Seminoles smashed Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl whereas West Virginia barely won a very entertaining Care Care Bowl over North Carolina.  Secondly, Florida State went 25-10 in basketball and had a remarkable run in the ACC tourney to the title game, whereas West Virginia went 23-11 and did not make a run in their conference tourney.  For those reasons the edge goes to Florida State and the Mountaineers check in at the 18 spot.

floridastate_logo17. Florida State – see number 18.

 

Florida State barely edged out West Virginia for 17 spot.  The fact that Florida State has hotter fans was not a factor for The Columns decision.

Florida State barely edged out West Virginia for 17 spot. The fact that Florida State has hotter fans was not a factor for The Columns decision.

memphis_logo_80x8016.  Memphis –  Memphis is not usually a school one thinks about when they think of dual threat athletic schools, but somehow they have managed their way to the 16 spot on the list.  Their football team, and its 2008 season were such a joke that The Columns had trouble even placing the Tigers on this list in the first place.  The Tigers football team, which is hidden from national view under the blanket of Conference USA anonymity finished the season 6-7.  You read that right.  6-7, not 7-6.  For those of you keeping score at home, that is a losing record.  They started the year 0-3, barely recovered enough to back their way into the worst bowl in bowl history, the Magicjack.com bowl, and then were promptly destroyed by an actual football team, Southern Florida, 41-14.  Needless to say, football takes a back seat to basketball in Memphis.  The Tigers find themselves this high on the list thanks to a 33-4 basketball season.  Their basketball season included a 27 game win streak, plenty of national attention, and a 2 seed in the tourney.  Memphis is the only team in the nation to earn a 1 or 2 seed in the tourney for 4 straight seasons.  Memphis had a great season in basketball and many were surprised when Missouri beat them so soundly in the Sweet Sixteen.  Overall though, the basketball program carries Memphis to national respect and the 16 spot on the list… Without coach Cal, the outcome might be different next year.  Memphis should enjoy this spot while it lasts.

osucowboys15. Oklahoma State – Oklahoma State has very respectable teams in each prominent sport.  As a Missouri fan, as much as it hurts to say this, if OSU played in the Big 12’s North division they would probably have a few more wins each year in football.  On paper, Oklahoma State’s 9-4 football season that ended in a loss in the Holiday Bowl to Oregon looks rather mediocre.  When you throw in the fact that they went 1-4 against ranked teams it looks even more mediocre.  But when you have to play 3 of the nation’s top teams in your own division, it becomes pretty difficult to win 9 games.  Their was no shame in losing to Texas, OU, and Tech last year.  While Okie State finished 4th in the South division, they were definitely the Big 12’s 4th best team overall too.  The Holiday Bowl is well respected and although they lost, Oklahoma State’s football season is probably the best on the list thus far.  In basketball the talented Cowboys struggled in stretches of the regular season but got hot toward the end and managed to beat a similar team in Tennessee in the first round. They played Pitt tough and finished 23-12.  Nothing to be ashamed of.

 

While we all know that Mike Gundy is a man and that he is 40, he is also doing a great job turning Oklahoma State into a competitor in the extremely tough Big 12 South.

While we all know that Mike Gundy is a man and that he is 40, he is also doing a great job turning Oklahoma State into a competitor in the extremely tough Big 12 South.

marlyandterrapins14. Maryland – Maryland comes in at 14 thanks in part to a solid football season and a first round win in the tournament by the basketball team.  In football Maryland was 8-5 but had an impressive 4-1 record against ranked teams.  Maryland beat ranked opponents Cal, Clemson, Wake Forest, and North Carolina and then capped off the season with a Humanitarian Bowl win over Nevada.  Had the football team not slipped up with bad losses against teams like Middle Tennessee State and Virginia (31-0), their season could have gone even better.  In basketball, much like football, the Terrapins mixed great wins with terrible losses.  Wins over Michigan State, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wake Forest were neutralized by horrible losses like Morgan State, Georgetown (by 27), Clemson (by 29), Duke (by 41), and Virginia.  However, once Maryland snuck into the tournament they proved they belonged there by upsetting California.  A first round win combined with a bowl win earns Maryland the 14 spot on the list.

arizona-logo13. Arizona – Arizona may be a surprise here, but when looking at season outcomes, Arizona is quite impressive.  The football season began with a 70-0 thumping of Idaho and ended with the Wildcats first bowl victory in 10 years.  In between, Arizona managed a winning record in the PAC 10 (5-4) and went 2-2 against ranked opponents.  While a Las Vegas Bowl victory doesn’t look all that good on paper, the 31-21 win over 16th ranked BYU that it was, is quite impressive.  It finally seems that the other Stoops in college football has things headed in the right direction in Tuscon.  In basketball, a lot of discussion went into whether Arizona should make the tournament, but once they did, the Wildcats made the most of it by making a run to the Sweet Sixteen.  They upset Utah in the first round, and then avoided being upset by Cleveland State in the second.  While they did get destroyed by Louisville, a Sweet Sixteen run and a decent bowl victory earns Arizona the 12 spot on this year’s list.

 

Arizona head coach Russ Pennell and Nic Wise (13) silenced critics with their run to the Sweet Sixteen. (AP photo)

Arizona head coach Russ Pennell and Nic Wise (13) silenced critics with their run to the Sweet Sixteen. (AP photo)

lsu_logo12. Louisiana State – A year that once seemed it was heading south, as the football team fell out of the top 25, was rescued nicely by an impressive bowl win and a successful basketball season for LSU.  Usually in the national title hunt in football, the Tigers were hurt by a 1-3 regular season record against ranked opponents.  LSU lost its three biggest games of the year to Florida, Georgia, and Alabama by a combined 50 points.  However, in football, the SEC is on a whole different level than any other conference and LSU proved that with their 38-3 beating of Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A bowl.  Winning a New Year’s Eve bowl game against a ranked opponent is impressive.  When you do it by 5 touchdowns it is even more impressive.  While SEC football may be the best, it is a different story in basketball.  In 2008-2009, SEC basketball was the worst of the BCS conferences.  The Tigers took advantage of that by winning the regular season SEC title and amassing a 27-8 overall record.  They won their first round match-up against Butler and hung around against North Carolina in the second round.  A Chick-fil-A bowl win and a trip to the second round in hoops, earns LSU the 12 spot.

ohiostate_logo111. Ohio State – Ohio State is program accustomed to being near the top of these types of lists and 2008-2009 is no exception.  In football the Buckeyes went 10-3 and finished second in a weak Big Ten.  Once again Ohio State lost a BCS bowl, this time to Texas, who in some people’s minds could have played for the national title.  Although they lost, Ohio State had a strong showing losing 24-21.  Had it not been for some Colt McCoy heroics late in the game, the Bucks would have walked away winners.  A 7th BCS bowl appearance (most all-time) and finishing 9th in the final AP poll is still something to be proud of in Columbus.  In basketball, the Buckeyes went 22-11 and 6-7 against ranked opponents.  Although they lost in the first round of the tournament, Ohio State’s football season carries them to 11 on The Columns list.

pitt-logo110. Pittsburgh – In recent years, the Pittsburgh Panthers football team had fallen to mediocrity after winning the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.  In 2008 however, the Pitt football team rebounded, winning 9 games and finishing second in the Big East.  Wins over fellow bowl teams Iowa, Notre Dame, Navy, Connecticut and West Virginia boosted their regular season resume.  However, it is the way Dave Wanstedt’s team finished the year that prevented Pittsburgh from moving any higher on the list.  Pittsburgh lost the most boring game of the bowl season, 3-0 in the Sun Bowl.  Oregon State was a respectable opponent, but when Pitt failed to score a single point in their bowl game, it was a reminder that they still have a long way to go if they want to get back to the BCS.  In basketball, Pitt got as much love all year as anybody.  While an Elite Eight exit may have been disappointing to the team, their 28-3 regular season was anything but.  Throw in 2 wins over UConn, a 15-3 record in the Big East, and a #1 ranking during the season and Pitt had a season to be proud of. 

 

DeJuan Blair and Pitt took down UConn twice in the regular season, but failed to reach the Final Four. (AP Photo)

DeJuan Blair and Pitt took down UConn twice in the regular season, but failed to reach the Final Four. (AP Photo)

ku-logo9. Kansas – The defending champs backed up 2007-2008 with an impressive showing in 2008-2009.  The football team did not get the benefit of a ridiculously soft schedule this past year and slumped to 4-4 in Big 12 play.  Kansas went only 1-4 against ranked teams.  They did still manage to win 8 games and cruise to an Insight Bowl victory.  At Kansas, football comes second to basketball and Kansas had a great year despite returning zero starters from a year ago.  The Jayhawks went 27-8 overall and 14-2 in a stellar Big 12.  A solid football team combined with a sweet sixteen basketball team earns Kansas the 9 spot.

uconnlogo8. Connecticut This one may create some controversy.  Pittsburgh, a team ranked below Connecticut beat the Huskies in football and twice in basketball.  This list is about season outcomes though and when you compare Pitt and Connecticut’s season outcomes the advantage definitely lies with UConn.  Connecticut went 8-5 in football, beat the Big East Champion Cincinnati, and won their bowl game.  While the International Bowl is not exactly the most prestigious bowl out there, UConn took care of business and handled MAC champion Buffalo by 18 points.  UConn obviously is carried by its basketball team.  A 31-5 season and a run to a Final Four is extremely impressive.  Throw in the fact that they did most of it without Jerome Dyson and it is even more impressive.

utah_logo7. Utah –  When the college football season once again came to an end this year without a playoff, no one could be more upset than the Utes.  All they managed to do was go 13-0, 4-0 against ranked teams, win the Mountain West, and DESTROY Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.  No one gave Utah a chance against the heavily favored Tide and the game was not even as close as the 31-17 score indicates.  People argue against Utah because they play in the Mountain West.  To alleviate that “problem” they played a tough non-conference schedule as they won at the Big House over Michigan in week one and beat Oregon State in week six.  Then in a game against a team from the almighty SEC, they promptly ripped Bama to shreds.  Utah finished second in the AP and coaches poll at the end of the year.  Their basketball team also won the Mountain West, but their dismal exit as 5 seed in the first round of the tourney prevent the Utes from climbing even higher on this list.

 

Led by Brian Johnson (3), Matt Asiata (5), Brent Casteel (6), and Darrell Mack, Utah made a case for a national championship in football.  They also may made a case to move higher on The Columns list.

Led by Brian Johnson (3), Matt Asiata (5), Brent Casteel (6), and Darrell Mack, Utah made a case for a national championship in football. They also may made a case to move higher on The Columns list.

newback6. Missouri – It is with great pride I can say that I put Mizzou here completely unbiasedly.  Their list of accomplishments, their body of work, and season outcomes create a strong resume.  Their football team won 10 games, earned a ranking as high as #3 during the course of the year, landed an SI cover, won the Big 12 North for the second straight year, and won a second straight bowl game.  The Tigers saw Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman earn All American awards.  While the football season was not the dream season that many thought it could be, a program that has struggled like Missouri’s historically has, is in no place to complain about an Alamo Bowl victory.  In basketball, let’s be honest, no one saw this coming.  You can look further down the page at a different post to read of the Tiger’s basketball team’s accomplishments so I will not bore you with that.  What I will tell you is that a 31-7 Elite Eight basketball team combined with a 10-4 Alamo Bowl winning football team is the most impressive resume up to this point.  Mizzou finished the season ranked 8th in hoops and 19th in football.  That’s pretty damn good.

 

Missouri's balanced success in both football (Alamo Bowl win) and basketball (Elite Eight) carry them to the 6 spot.

Missouri's balanced success in both football (Alamo Bowl win) and basketball (Elite Eight) carry them to the 6 spot... On a side note - how athletic is Chase Coffman?

 

michigan_state_spartans_logo_svg5. Michigan State – An improbable run to the basketball title game propels Sparty to the top 5.  Although both their football season and basketball season had good outcomes, there was a disturbing trend that prevented Michigan State from going any higher on the list.  In their two biggest games of the year in football (Ohio State and Penn State), Michigan State lost by a combined score of 96-25.  In their biggest game of the year in basketball, they never even competed against North Carolina.  However, a Capital One Bowl appearance combined with a National Championship appearance in hoops is a year that nearly any university would take.  A great year for the Spartans earns them the 5 spot.

unc4. North Carolina – Not only did the Tar Heels victory over Michigan State win them a national title Monday, more importantly it moved them ahead of Michigan State in The Columns rankings.  A national title in basketball and a decent football team is as much as any athletic program can ask for and North Carolina definitely had both.  It was apparent all year in basketball that they had the most talented team in the nation, it was just a matter of putting it all together.  Behind a legendary coach in Roy Williams, they obviously put it all together.  In football, an 8-5 season with wins over Connecticut, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Boston College, and Georgia Tech is respectable.  Plus they have a nasty receiver in Hakeem Nicks that I’m hoping the Vikes draft.  Anyway, quite a year for North Carolina.

 

After UNC won the title, they were a lock for the top 5 on The Columns list.

After UNC won the title, they were a lock for the top 5 on The Columns list.

texas-longhorn-logo3. Texas –  With the basketball season so fresh in everyone’s mind, some people might be a bit surprised to see Texas ranked so highly.  But considering their Fiesta Bowl victory in football, combined with a solid basketball season, the Longhorns definitely are deserving.  It’s not just that their football team won the Fiesta Bowl.  Texas may have been the best team in the nation, they just never got a chance to prove it.  The Longhorns were 4-1 against the AP top 25.  They played arguably the toughest 4 game stretch in college football history beating #1 Oklahoma, #11 Missouri, and #6 Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks.  They finally lost the fourth game of that stretch AT Texas Tech on the game’s final play.  The Longhorns also produced a Heisman candidate in quarterback Colt McCoy.  In basketball, Texas won 23 games.  They reached the second round and their season included wins over fellow tournament teams UCLA, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, and Villanova.  The Texas basketball team finished the year ranked 23rd in the country, while their football team finished the year ranked 3rd.  Hard to argue against those seasons.

southerncal_logo2. USC – Let’s skip over USC’s decent basketball team that made it to the second round (equal to Texas) and won 21 games.  It  is USC football that carries the Trojans over Texas and into the 2 spot.  It was between USC and Texas for this spot and here’s why USC won:  Their basketball teams were roughly even.  The Trojans football team however, finished the year ranked higher than Texas in both polls.  2nd in the USA Today, 3rd in the AP.  They beat Ohio State by 32.  Texas beat Ohio State by 3.  USC held opponents to 3 points or fewer an astounding 6 times.  Had it not been for that slip up in Corvalis, I think we’re talking about another national championship for Southern Cal.  A Rose Bowl victory and PAC 10 championship outweigh Texas’s Fiesta Bowl victory and no conference championship.  The Trojans check in at #2.

oklahoma-logo1. Oklahoma – Oklahoma was the closest thing to dominant in each sport as any program was all year.  In football, Oklahoma reached the #1 ranking at one point, won the ridiculously tough Big 12 South, produced a Heisman trophy winner, won the Big 12 title and had an appearance in the national championship.  Aside from winning the national title, there is not much more a program can do in one season.  In basketball, the Sooners produced the consensus national player of the year in Blake Griffin, reached the #2 ranking at one point in the season and went to the Elite Eight as a 2 seed.  The Sooners football team finished the year ranked 5th in each poll, the basketball team 7th.  That is an amazing combined total of 12, which is best in the nation.  Congratulations to Oklahoma, The Columns best athletic university of 2008-2009.

 

The Columns would like to congratulate Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners on being named the #1 athletic school in the nation for 2008-2009.

The Columns would like to congratulate Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners on being named the #1 athletic school in the nation for 2008-2009.

– MG

Tournament time

While first round games are getting underway, The Columns would like to provide you with some links to get you in the tourney mood.

-MG