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Posts Tagged ‘Rice’

Conference USA Nosedives to Rock Bottom

Rewind eight months. Houston capped one of the finest seasons in program history by decimating Penn State, 30-14, during bowl play. Southern Mississippi won its program-record 12th game against Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl – and in their last time out, the Golden Eagles had harassed Case Keenum and the Cougars out of the B.C.S. conversation. Tulsa, S.M.U. and Marshall acquitted themselves well in the postseason, with the Mustangs beating Pittsburgh, Marshall beating Florida International and the Golden Hurricane leading B.Y.U. for 59 minutes before a late collapse. Was last season the finest in the history of Conference USA? It’s not hard to make that case.

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    No. 111: Rice

    Since the start of the 2003 season, Rice has allowed, on average, 36.7 points per game. So it’s not too surprising to find that the Owls are 39-69 over the last nine years; what’s surprising is that Rice has made two bowl trips over the last nine years. Rice has allowed at least 40 points in a game 44 times since 2003: eight times in 2007, when the defense allowed 515 points, and another seven times in 2009, when the defense allowed 517 points. The Owls have scored 40 or more points in 24 of their 39 wins since 2003, including seven such victories in 2008, when the program scored more points than it allowed for the only time since 1997. The goal of football is to score more points than your opponent over the span of 60 minutes; for Rice, that quest is waylaid every fall by a defense that is reaching a historical level of ineptitude.

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      Looking in House, Not Outside the Program

      In the wide number of cases, new coordinators are hired as part of a brand-new staff: see Calvin Magee at Arizona, for example, or Ohio State’s Tom Herman, or Mike Breske at Washington State. If an offensive or defensive coordinator is hired from elsewhere to join an incumbent coaching staff, however, it’s for one of two simple reasons: attrition or incompetence. Likewise for assistant coaches promoted up the ladder from within a staff, as occurred in 10 different instances during the latest coaching cycle. This includes Houston, which replaced Kevin Sumlin with Tony Levine, who in turn replaced former defensive coordinator Brian Stewart with Jamie Bryant.

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        Again, The Grass is Greener for Graham

        Todd Graham’s been to Ada, Mesquite, Midwest City, Allen, Morgantown, Tulsa, Houston, Tulsa and Pittsburgh. Tulsa came twice, first as Steve Kragthorpe’s defensive coordinator and then as his replacement, with those stints sandwiching a one-year stay at Rice, when he led the Owls to their first bowl berth in 45 seasons. The point: Graham’s been around, touching down in several of those one-stoplight towns prevalent in nearly every coach’s history. But it’s the way he’s left town, first at Rice in early 2007 and then Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon, that makes Graham different than the rest. He’s the Runaway Coach.

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          It’s Still O.K. to Cheer. You’re Allowed.

          You’ve resigned yourself to the following truths:

          Penn State will never be the same again; what we think of Penn State will never be the same again, more correctly.

          What happens from here on out takes a backseat to all that has come to light in Happy Valley.

          The 2011 season has taken on an entirely different feel.

          For a few of us, college football itself may never be the same again.

          For all of us, the search for distractions has never been more vital.

          I can tell you four things with certainty: one, it’s important to never forget what has happened at Penn State, those whose lives were changed and those who did nothing to stop the atrocities; two, I’m not sure you could forget if you tried; three, there are stories happening in college football worthy of your distraction; and four, and most importantly, it’s O.K. to cheer. You can be a fan again, even if Happy Valley remains first and foremost in your mind.

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            Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Right, Select…

            I think Sam Kahn Jr., who covers Houston football for the Houston Chronicle, put it best: the Cougars “regularly put up video game-like statistics,” Khan wrote in his game story from last night’s 73-34 win over Rice, and that sounds just about right. The numbers resemble your video game totals, with a twist — 12-minute quarters, on rookie, against your little brother, all while doing your best to run up the score. Case Keenum’s Playstation-like evening against the Owls involved one N.C.A.A. record, a handful of near school records, nine touchdowns and, from top to bottom, a night to remember. For Keenum, it may be time to upgrade his game’s level of difficulty.

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              U.C.F. at B.Y.U.; Non-B.C.S. Themes

              It’s a big weekend for Conference USA. It’s a big week — big month — for Conference USA, in fact, what with the potential for a major merger with Mountain West clearly on the table for both parties. In terms of this coming weekend, the Conference USA slate will be highlighted by a Friday night date with U.C.F. and B.Y.U., with both teams looking for a win after disappointing losses a week ago. Who needs it more? You can see it from both sides: U.C.F. should be a bit chagrined after losing to Florida International last weekend, as that was an opportunity for the Knights to stem F.I.U.’s recent climb; B.Y.U. isn’t merely chagrined but humiliated after losing by 44 points at home to bitter rival Utah. Touching on the upcoming Conference USA schedule and other non-B.C.S. conference themes:

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                The Wrong Time for Baylor’s Stand

                Seventeen years ago, Baylor had a chance to make a stand. The Southwest Conference was dissolving: what was once a nine-team league had dwindled to eight when Arkansas left for the SEC in 1991, leaving the conference’s long-term future was in doubt. Yet the remaining eight teams held on through 1992 and 1993, playing a seven-game conference slate and adding a fourth game outside of SWC play. The death knell came in March of 1994, when four teams accepted to join the Big Eight, soon to be the Big 12: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor.

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.