Downs and distance
Four items of interest on the college football landscape
1. A siren call?
Louisville coach Charlie Strong made my Christmas shopping a little tougher this week. I was all set to pick up the “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’’ video game for my son, but not after Strong’s scathing review. Strong didn’t savage the game itself, rather its effect on his players. He blamed the popular game for the Cardinals’ loss to Pittsburgh last week, saying some of his players became so obsessed with it that they lost interest in practice. The coach said one player even missed class after staying up all night gaming. “We’re dealing with young guys who, all of a sudden, there’s something new, they want to try it and it just engulfs them,’’ said Strong. “They got called to duty.’’ Hey, at least he has a sense of humor.
2. Corner turned?
Nice to see cornerback Tyrann Mathieu kinda, sorta apologize for his recent one-game suspension for violating Louisiana State’s team drug policy. Mathieu, known in some circles as “Honey Badger,’’ had generated some Heisman hype early on for his ball-hawking skills, big hits, and boundless energy. The suspension cost him any shot of winning college football’s top award, but Mathieu and his Tiger teammates still have the BCS championship in their sights. He said he knows he let his teammates down and has vowed not to let it happen again. “I have to grow up fast in this business; [the suspension] definitely humbled me,’’ said Mathieu, who miraculously (wink, wink) returned in time for LSU’s showdown with Alabama.
3. Miami heat
It has been an interesting week for a couple of former Miami coaches, both of whom seem ready to get back in the game. First it was Butch Davis, who ran the Hurricanes from 1995-2000, issuing a YouTube rant defending his 2007-11 tenure at North Carolina. The Tar Heels program was the focus of an NCAA investigation because of possible connections with agents. The probe led to Davis’s ouster, though he has never been charged with any infractions. A second former Miami coach, Randy Shannon, who was fired last season after four seasons at his alma mater (and before the Nevin Shapiro firestorm), said he’s been visiting schools on fact-finding missions and is ready to coach if the right situation comes up.
4. Cupcake wars
You’ve got to hand it to the athletic directors in the mighty Southeastern Conference. Many of these geniuses have taken a page out of the NFL scheduling book and fit a virtual bye week into their calendars. How else do you explain noted football factories Furman, Georgia Southern, the Citadel, and Samford dotting SEC itineraries in mid-November? Third-ranked Alabama is taking on Georgia Southern and of course Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is hyping the Eagles as if they were the 1988 Fighting Irish. “Teams like this beat Division 1 teams all the time,’’ said Saban. Not really, Nick, but we understand your logic. The other mismatches are Citadel at No. 14 South Carolina, Furman at Florida, and Samford at Auburn. Go underdogs!