Brand was known mostly for being the Indiana University President who fired Bob Knight.
When Dr. Brand took over the NCAA a few years later he was the first academic to lead the organization.
While I didn’t always agree with certain elements of how the NCAA functions (and I still don’t), I do believe that Dr. Brand’s commitment to making sure that the focus was on the student athlete was always the proper approach.
As someone who works in higher education, I think that the idea of trying to ensure that student athletes are making proper academic progress to degree completion is a noble thing—and in my mind is the right thing to do.
I am also a believer in Brand’s mission to make sure that athletics are better integrated into the missions of institutions of higher education.
His background as an academic and as president at two BCS institutions played a big role in his ability to try and move the NCAA in a better direction—one that was more responsive to the needs of the member institutions and also focused on the concept of the holistic student athlete.
It’s a shame that he will not be around to further move the NCAA in the right direction.
With that said, let’s line up for Four Downs:
1) Freshmen Quarterback Play
To start discussing Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier and USC quarterback Matt Barkley, I need to steal from the PGA Tour’s advertisements:
These guys are good.
Barkley’s raw numbers were not great on Saturday night, but when he needed to be centered, controlled, and focused leading the final drive, he was not rattled at all.
Yes, it helps to have Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson in the backfield (and McKnight did much of the heavy lifting on the drive). But the 26-yard-pass to tight end Anthony McCoy looked gorgeous and showed me that he will be ready to have the weight on his shoulders sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor Forcier went 5-for-7 for 56 yards and a winning touchdown pass running the two minute drill for the Wolverines. While it may still be a bit early to say that the Wolverines have turned the corner, this football team looks much improved over the squad that they fielded last season.
2) Questionable Play Calling
I don’t want to detract from the stories that are being woven about these two freshmen quarterbacks, but I found the play-calling by the Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish to be odd.
Odd may not be the right word.
Confusing might be more apropos.
I know that Charlie Weis and Jim Tressel are well-respected coaches—Super Bowl and national title-winning head coaches.
But why wouldn’t you run the football at critical times?
Notre Dame had the ball with 3:07 left in the fourth quarter. Michigan had all three timeouts remaining. Notre Dame ran for 11 yards and then was stopped for no gain before Michigan called time with 2:29 to go.
So the Wolverines had two timeouts left.
Notre Dame should have made Michigan use them.
Instead of throwing two incomplete passes, let’s say the Irish ran twice more and were stuffed twice.
The clock is running and Michigan has to use those timeouts.
Instead, the Wolverines had two timeouts that they were able to use on their final drive, which enabled them to score. Not having those timeouts would have raised the level of difficulty for Forcier and company. Maybe they have to line up and clock it, forcing them to burn a down.
But giving the Wolverines those timeouts essentially extended the game for the Michigan coaching staff.
In the Ohio State-USC game, the critical time came at the end of the first half. Ohio State got the ball with 1:49 on the clock at their own 27. USC had no timeouts.
Terrelle Pryor threw incomplete. Dan Herron ran for seven yards. Pryor threw incomplete. Ohio State punts to USC. USC marches into field goal range and ties the game at the end of the half.
I repeat: USC had no timeouts. I understand wanting to try and score. But Ohio State had two timeouts left. They didn’t have to try and throw the ball downfield to move the ball.
It’s funny that Tressel is now getting killed for his conservative playcalling, yet I would say that on two critical drives at the end of the first half and before USC’s final scoring drive, that Tressel wasn’t conservative enough. And that it cost him and his team dearly.
3) Colorado’s Early Season Struggles
It has got to be tough to be a Buff, or rather, a fan of the Colorado Buffaloes.
Ralphie has got to be one unhappy bison right now, as the Buffaloes got absolutely blasted against the Toledo Rockets, 54-38.
624 yards of total offense?
Two 100-yard rushers allowed?
A 61-yard run (untouched) by Aaron Opelt—a quarterback no one is going to mistake for Pat White or Mike Vick?
A deficit that reached 27 points twice during the third quarter?
Did I mention that Wyoming comes to town on Saturday?
A Wyoming squad that has a new head coach in Dave Christensen—the same Dave Christensen that was offensive coordinator at Missouri during the last two years, when Mizzou outscored Colorado 113-10?
4) Mr. Kiffin? Mr. Lane Kiffin? Please Pick Up the White Courtesy Phone
Does anyone have any idea how bad it could possibly be on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium?
It could—could—be really bad.
Urban Meyer has the steely resolve and demeanor to turn this game into Lane Kiffin’s worst nightmare. And the weapons to make it happen.
Looking back at last year’s game, the final score was 30-6, but the Vols defense held Florida to 243 yards of offense. Hell, take out a punt return by Brandon James and the score becomes a respectable 23-6. Three turnovers really cost Tennessee.
But that was last year when Phil Fulmer was in charge. In other words: B.L. (Before Lane).
Before Lane Kiffin was hired and started running off at the mouth about singing Rocky Top in the Swamp and calling Meyer a cheater.
Well, time to go get that check cashed, Lane.
Which serves as a perfect segue into this week’s Pick Six. I went 4-2 last week, bringing my season record to 8-4
Florida 45, Tennessee 7
I know that certain folks have thought (or called for) this to be a 50 or 60 point blowout.
But let’s not forget that game last year. Eight starters from that defense have returned, including all-world safety Eric Berry. Yes, they are playing a new scheme. But the Vols defense did not turn into Western Kentucky overnight.
The problem for the Vols will once again be their offense letting them down. I think the Florida defense will force turnovers and the Gators will take advantage of the short field.
Miami (FL) 31, Georgia Tech 27
Which Georgia Tech team will show up on Thursday night? The team that was running up and down the field on Clemson in the first quarter of the game last week, or the team that gagged and gave up 27 unanswered points during the second, third, and fourth quarters?
The answer lies somewhere in between. I think that Georgia Tech is better than the team showed last week, but I wouldn’t count out Miami. Jacory Harris played a good game against Florida State on Labor Day, and has had time to prepare to face the triple option offense.
I think Tech comes out strong once again, but that the ‘Canes pull off the upset late.
California 48, Minnesota 10
Minnesota has played two very close games to open the season, scraping past Air Force and Syracuse.
Meet Jahvid Best and the Cal Bears, Golden Gophers. You haven’t seen anything yet.
Even with the potential time zone issues for the Bears, I highly doubt that there will be any jet lag problems this year.
Virginia Tech 21, Nebraska 17
Nebraska takes a break from its Sun Belt home schedule and heads on down to Lane Stadium for a road test against Virginia Tech.
The Hokies beat up on a struggling Marshall program after losing to Alabama in Atlanta to open the season.
I look for both defenses to be stout, but Virginia Tech will get just enough plays from Ryan Williams and Tyrod Taylor to make the difference. Zac Lee will acquit himself well in his first true road start.
Michigan State 37, Notre Dame 31
These two rivals are each coming off of heartbreaking losses. Michigan State all but had the game won against Central Michigan, but an offsides penalty on a field goal attempt led to a 29-27 loss.
The Spartans have won the last three games that they’ve played at Notre Dame Stadium. The Fighting Irish have a bit more offensive talent, but Michigan State has a slightly better defense. Unless Notre Dame can figure out a way to correct some of its sloppy penalties from last week, I see the Spartans winning their fourth straight in South Bend.
Texas 42, Texas Tech 27
An early season conference game for these two Big 12 South powers.
Last season’s game was a classic, but Texas Tech has lost two of the most prolific players in NCAA history in quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Taylor Potts has filled in well, already tossing nine touchdown passes, and the yards have been distributed fairly evenly.
Texas still has its primary offensive weapons in quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receiver Jordan Shipley. The Longhorns struggled last week in the first half against a game Wyoming squad, with the altitude of War Memorial Stadium being an issue.
But this game is at home for the Longhorns, where the Red Raiders have struggled of late. They’ll get some points. The Longhorns, though, will be too tough to beat at home on Saturday night.