The Friday Tailgate: Heisman, USC, and Notre Dame, Oh My!

Dave WalkerCorrespondent IJune 10, 2010

Welcome to another tailgate. This week all the swirl was around the shuffling of teams in college football. Nebraska to the Big Ten, Colorado to the Pac-10, and McNeese State to the Big 12. All are true except the last, but in all likelihood the Big 12 as we know it is heading for a grave.

Also in the news is USC's NCAA sanctions that will rip away scholarships and prohibit the Trojans from heading to one of the 600 bowl games scheduled for this year. I wonder if Lane Kiffin is regretting his move yet or not?


In this week's tailgate we'll talk Heisman dark-horses, the teams most likely to not win a game in 2010, and much more.


Let us go deep into college football again this week as we start our five things to watch for in 2010.



Notre Dame schedule = Cupcake



Western Michigan? Tulsa? Are you serious touchdown Jesus?


Once again Notre Dame has what I and many others believe is a cupcake schedule.


Brian Kelly will have an excellent opportunity to get his new spread offense off to a great start with his first three against Big Ten mid-carders in Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State. Nothing really new with this schedule, since they seem to play all three every single year. They should have no problem putting up big points even with a new QB, since these three opponents posses some of the weakest defenses in the Big Ten.


Up next is a Stanford team minus Toby Gerhardt, who will be attempting to rebuild off of a solid 2009 campaign. This should be a win.


A trip to Boston College could be interesting, but should be another win. In fact, the only games that appear to be challenges are against Pitt, Navy, Utah, and USC.


Now I know Notre Dame has years of history against many of these schools and some could be considered rivalries, but come on! The Irish are independent, for now, and should step up and play a better schedule.


The days of recruits being impressed by a 30 point drubbing of Army is over. A close win or even a loss to a top caliber team is more likely to help this program that has been a shell of their former selves.


Notre Dame should easily win eight or nine games against this joke of a schedule, even though they have a few new pieces to plug in. Irish fans enjoy this season, cause once you head into the Big Ten's mega conference, eight or nine win seasons will be few and far between.




What will the affect of sanctions be on the USC Trojans?



So in case you haven't heard, USC has been slapped with a slew of sanctions by the NCAA for violations that mainly centered around agent-player talks while they were still in school. The most talked about violation was with Heisman winner Reggie Bush.


Bush was ineligible starting in December of 2004. A month later the Trojans beat Oklahoma for the National title, and the following year won 12 games and fell just short of another title against Texas. The NCAA ordered the Trojans to vacate every victory in which Bush played while being ineligible.


I guess Oklahoma is the new BCS champs from 2004?


What this means for the Trojans is the loss of 10 scholarships from 2011-13, and being banned from bowl play for two seasons.


So what will be the effect?


If you remember back when the Hurricanes went on probation in the mid '90s, they went from top tier to middle of the pack at best. You can look for this to hurt Lane Kiffin in the recruiting process as the cut in scholarships will greatly affect their depth, which is one of the reasons USC is so great each and every year.


Another question to ask is if players will become frustrated at not being able to compete in a bowl game and transfer out? I am not saying this will happen for sure, but I would suspect that at least a handful of players leave the school and go elsewhere.


This is, and will be, an obstacle for the Trojans more in the future than it is now. They still are plenty full of talent but whether they can reload at their current pace is a major question in Southern Cal.


One final thought before we move on, the great Matt Barkley can only hope to win a National title and/or Rose Bowl during his senior year. Now that's some food for thought....



Who are the Heisman Dark-Horses?


We all hear about guys like Case Keenum, Mark Ingram, Kellen Moore, Pryor, and Ryan Mallett, but who are some of the other guys to watch?


Here are three that are poised to have great seasons, and with a little luck, and a winning team behind them, could end up in the NYC come December...


I am gonna start by talking about West Virginia's biggest offensive weapon in half back Noel Devine.


Devine ran for 1,465 yards behind a line that many questioned before the year began. These big guys remain mostly intact.  Devine will have a great year, and if the Mountaineers can stay in the top 20, Devine will have a great chance to be a finalist at season's end.


Another guy not getting a whole lot of talk is Wisconsin tailback John Clay. Sure, in Big Ten country everyone knows what he can do, but this season the country may take note of him and the boys from Madison. Last year Clay ran for more than 1,500 yards and 18 scores. This year you can expect more of the same as the Badgers appear to be a favorite in the Big Ten.


The key to his run at the Heisman will be simply how he does against the big boys, Iowa and Ohio State. Big games against these two defensive stalwarts will get the chatter behind Clay going louder than a Halloween party on State Street.


My final dark-horse is Jake Locker. Locker could have gone pro after his junior season but opted to come back. Locker is already projected to be the number one quarterback taken in next year's draft, and in all likelihood will improve on his 21 touchdown, 2,800 passing yard season from a year ago. The UW defense is not very good, which may be putting it nicely, so look for Locker to have to put up gaudy numbers for them to even stay in games. If the Huskies can hover around in the Pac-10 race, Locker will almost certainly be a guy to consider for the Heisman.



Who are the coaches that don't get enough recognition?


There are many coaches that get a lot of attention nationally for their programs, and just as many who are considered to be next in line to earn a big time coaching gig. But there are those who are doing solid jobs and not getting enough credit.


The first guy that comes to mind is College Football Hall of Famer Pat Fitzgerald. Coach Fitz took over after the untimely death of head coach Randy Walker. His first season was one that showed promise with back-to-back Big Ten wins, and since then he has guided the Wildcats to back-to-back bowl appearances and top 5 finishes in the conference.


It is always tough to recruit period, but even tougher at an academic institution like Northwestern. He has done a great job at getting solid student athletes. Since Northwestern is not a high profile athletic program, he simply does not get enough credit for the job he has done in Evanston.


Another guy I like is Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoades. In his first year in Ames he led the Cyclones to a 7-6 mark including an Insight win over Minnesota. Rhoades took over an Iowa State program that was seemingly headed towards the toilet after Gene Chizik left after his first season. All Rhoades did in his first season was beat Nebraska in Lincoln, win seven games, and install enthusiasm back into the program.


Rhoades is just one of those fiery guys that a struggling program responds to. No matter what the talent level is on the Cyclone team, they are always going to be playing hard, and that is a huge step for a program that has been where it has been for the last several years.


In the opener, Rhoades and the Cyclones meet Northern Illinois and head coach Jerry Kill. Kill built a dynasty at FCS Southern Illinois during his days in Carbondale. Now in two seasons in Dekalb, all he has done is lead the Huskies to back-to-back bowl appearances. Now the next step is for the Huskies to contend for the MAC title.


Kill brings a winning personality with him. He has assembled a potentially high powered offense, similar to that of his teams at Southern Illinois. Look for Kill and the Huskies to continue their success this year, and for years to come.


Al Golden took Temple to a place they hadn't been for a very long time, a bowl game. Last year was a breakthrough year for the school that at one point was booted from the Big East because they were so bad. Temple went 9-4 and went to the Eaglebank Bowl.

Golden has done a great job of getting character players that are there to help try and change the way people look at Temple football. Again in 2010 Temple appears to be good, with 17 returning starters. Another conference contending season for the Owls could mean a big opportunity for Golden to move on.


Finally I want to throw Tulsa coach Todd Graham in the discussion. He has gone 26-14 in his three seasons, including two bowl appearances. Last year was just a five win season, but Tulsa could have won eight if it weren't for close losses against Memphis, Houston, and UTEP.


Graham will have his team reloaded for 2010. I don't see them winning in Houston, but I would pay attention to games against Oklahoma State and Notre Dame. A win over the Irish could give Graham the notoriety that he needs to step up and coach at a BCS school.



Who will go 0 for in 2010?


There are plenty of teams that will struggle in 2010, but few of them will actually compete for the 0-12 FBS bottom feeder. Too many teams nowadays play at least 2-3 FCS or lower quality opponents so they can avoid this unwanted honor.


However, there are at least three that had better bring their A game and then some to avoid a winless 2010.


New Mexico is hoping to improve on a 1-11 campaign from 2009. Second year coach Mike Locksley got into just as many physical altercations with his staff as the Lobos had wins. This is not a good omen heading into 2010.


The Lobos have a tough Mountain West schedule that includes trips to BYU and Air Force. Their non conference slate includes UTEP, Texas Tech, at Oregon, and the most winnable game against in state rival New Mexico State. If they don't beat the Aggies there is a very high chance of Locksley getting an 0-for and the boot out of Albuquerque.


The next team that had better look out is Washington State. The Cougars have been outscored by more than 700 points in the last two seasons. Simply said, they stink.


Their schedule includes all nine Pac-10 schools that are far better than they are. The non-conference games include an opener at Oklahoma State, a trip to SMU, and the winnable one, Montana State. But that may be easier said than done, as the Bobcats are thought to be a threat to FCS heavyweight Montana in 2010.


Miami of Ohio rounds out the worst of the worst. At 1-11 last year, the Redhawks seemingly turned the ball over just as much as they scored. This year could be like a nightmare revisited for the folks in Oxford.


Miami has non conference games at Florida, Missouri, and Cincinnati, with a home game versus Colorado State. Their best chance for a win comes in the second game when they face off against 2009 winless Eastern Michigan.



What we learned today


As always, we end our day just like the good folks at Sportsnation do with the facts and figures of the day.


Notre Dame's cupcake schedule will allow the Irish to appear “back” under first year head coach Brian Kelly.


USC will be affected by sanctions, but more in the future than now.


Devine, Clay, and Locker will emerge as possible front runners for the Heisman Trophy.


Coaches like Pat Fitzgerald, Paul Rhoades, Al Golden, Jerry Kill, and Todd Graham do not get enough credit for what they have accomplished thus far at their respective schools.


At least three teams will want to cover their eyes and cry when it is all said and done in 2010.


As always, these are just my opinions, and I could be wrong.


So what do you think about Notre Dame's schedule? Is it too easy? Too boring? Would you like to see them step outside the box for a change? Will USC suffer in 2010? What about the Heisman?


Please feel free to leave your comments and just remember, the season starts in less than 90 days...


Also feel free to check out the previous tailgate articles that discuss BCS busters, mega conferences and more. Here are the links below.


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