Wed Apr 15 09:58am EDT
• Your timidity will not go unrecorded. You know we're hitting the dog days when the trash talk starts over non-conference schedules, and Rivals' Mike Huguenin provides some initial fuel with a detailed analysis of the wholesale wussification of scheduling among the power schools in general. Of the 20 teams facing at least three "Big Six" conference opponents outside of their own league, only four -- UConn, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Syracuse -- are actually from a Big Six conference themselves; more than twice as many Big Six teams (10) are playing zero Big Six opponents in non-conference, including the ignominious sextet of Duke, Kansas State, Ole Miss, North Carolina, N.C. State and South Florida, which each loaded up on a pair of I-AA cupcakes. (Rutgers, still seeking a seventh home game, is likely to join that list.)
Singled out are two teams, Texas Tech and Wisconsin, which have effectively adopted the "Snyder Plan" of snacking your way to the top: Tech under Mike Leach hasn't faced a Big Six opponent outside of the Big 12 since facing N.C. State and Ole Miss in 2003, the longest streak in the country, and in each of its best seasons in that span (2005 and 2008) faced not one but two I-AA patsies in September. Meanwhile, Wisconsin under Bret Bielema (an old Bill Snyder assistant at Kansas State, who apparently learned well from the master) has played all of one Big Six team in three years (easily dispatched Washington State in 2007) and faces a slate this year of Northern Illinois, Fresno State, Wofford and Hawaii.
Drawing fire on this front today: Auburn, which reportedly backed out of an intriguing 2010 game with UCLA in the Georgia Dome, apparently content to keep its date with Arkansas State. The Bruins were offered the chance to play Georgia Tech instead, but declined.
• Black marks on the Tigers, for posterity. It's a moot point at this stage, but just weeks after a settlement was reached between Missouri and the family of former Tiger linebacker Aaron O'Neal, the AP has gotten its hands on documents that show Mizzou's training staff didn't follow proper procedure when O'Neal collapsed and eventually died during a workout in 2005. Not even close, actually -- among the specific malpractices on the scene:
• Despite requirements by the NCAA, the school and professional organizations, the staff on hand didn't know the warning signs of exercise-induced trauma associated with the fairly common (in black males) sickle cell trait.
• The supervising strength and conditioning coordinating testified he lacked the credentials to be hired for the job.
• And Missouri's sports medicine director ignored colleagues and players who suggested O'Neal should be "examined" when he exhibited signs of medical distress.
Damning allegations (and this story doesn't even mention the oft-reported line about O'Neal being initially moved to the locker room in the bed of a pickup truck), but with the family's settlement in hand, only a warning to other schools to mind the protocols when coaches aren't around.
• It's the first annual scowling clinic. Jon Gruden and Bill Belichick will both visit Gainesville Friday to speak at a high school coaches' clinic, thereby setting a record for grumpy intensity and bulging forehead veins in one place.
Actually, Belichick and Meyer are good friends, bound together by their crippling stares and subsequent championships, and the Patriots boss will surely want to get a good look at Florida's new "freak," Carlos Dunlap, with whom the scouts will be enamored until it comes time to actually consider drafting him, at which point he'll be considered lower than dirt.
• Prothro returns. Here may be something worth the multitudes planning to swarm Alabama's spring game on Saturday: Quasi-tragic figure Tyrone Prothro, who never fully recovered from the terrible broken leg that suddenly ended his barn-burning junior year in 2005, will be back on the field for the first time as part of the Tide's alumni flag football game. Nick Saban may be able to summon the masses with a wave of his hand, but here's guessing the biggest roar of the day will still be reserved for No. 4.
Quickly ... Speaking of broken legs! Auburn's Mike McNeil will miss 8 to 10 weeks in recovery, while South Carolina's Dion LeCorn will be out 6 to 8 weeks with the break that prematurely ended the Gamecocks' spring game on Saturday. ... Meet Tennessee tackle Cody Pope, possibly the world's only 300-pound vegetarian. ... Kentucky agreed to open the upcoming season against Miami, Ohio across the river in Cincinnati. ... Minus his top three receivers from last year's miracle season, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is impressed with former JUCO transfer Aiona Key this spring. ... Paul Wulff has suspended two players, Romeo Pellum and Michael Willis, following citations for driving with a suspended license and DUI, respectively. ... Breathe easy, Las Vegas Bowl fans: The game has an exciting new sponsor to replace Pioneer. ... USC may not name a starting quarterback at the end of spring practice, but Aaron Corp remains the favorite, Matt Barkley still occasionally struggles with the details and Mitch Mustain continues to fall behind. ... Things get a little chippy at UCLA practices. ... Colorado cornerback Cha'pelle Brown, who's played in every game of his career, is recovering from giardia, a parasitic disease that turned the senior-to-be into a skeleton. ... Quarterback Jordan Jefferson's promises "a show" at LSU's spring game, even minus receiver Terrance Toliver. ... You would think a lineman named "Bo Thran" would be impervious to injury, but you would be wrong. ... And occasional Dr. Saturday contributor Clay Travis recounts his self-consciously ridiculous attempt to complete the NFL combine, which, based on part one, should make for stellar reading as future installments drop. (Like I sez, the serials is comin' back, I tell ya, dey gonna be big again!)