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May 10, 2008

Roundtable: The biggest stories of spring

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each of our national writers for their opinion about a specific topic from the past week.

TODAY'S QUESTION: Other than Ryan Perrilloux being dismissed from the LSU team, what was the biggest storyline to come out of spring practices?
Olin Buchanan
There were so many interesting storylines from this spring that picking the biggest isn't as easy chore. My first thought would be the USC quarterback race with Mark Sanchez apparently winning the starting job over Mitch Mustain, the highly-regarded transfer from Arkansas. That could conceivably have several ramifications.

USC quarterback is arguably the most glamorous position in college football, and is often a strong Heisman Trophy contender. Is there any need to remind that two of the last three Trojans starting quarterbacks won the bronze trophy? By winning the competition this spring, Sanchez will direct a national championship contender. Therefore, it's not outrageous to suggest that he could emerge as a Heisman contender.

Consequently, questions also will surface regarding Mustain's role. Sanchez is a junior. Mustain is a sophomore, and used his redshirt year last season.

Mustain was the nation's second-ranked pro style quarterback prospect in 2006 and left Arkansas - among other reasons - because of the offense that was used there. Will he be content to back up Sanchez for two seasons? Or will he consider transferring again?

Tom Dienhart
Looking for a trend? Check out the no-huddle offenses popping up across the nation. No league has adopted this craze more than the Big 12.

Kansas and Missouri already have embraced the no-huddle—and enjoyed wild success. This spring, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas State have gotten on board.

KU coach Mark Mangino admitted to me during a recent conversation in his office that schools have called to pick his brain. Why not? The Jayhawks have soared with Todd Reesing pushing the pedal on an attack that ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring (42.8) last year en route to an Orange Bowl title.

And, bottom line: You need a good quarterback like Reesing to make the no-huddle fly. Looky here. The Big 12 just happens to possess the best collection of passers in America.

In addition to Reesing, there's Missouri's Chase Daniel, Texas' Colt McCoy, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell and Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson. And Colorado (Cody Hawkins), Oklahoma (Sam Bradford) and Kansas State (Josh Freeman) all have promising commodities under center that appear capable of making the no-huddle fly.

Why all of this the no-huddle love? The scheme allows offenses to get off plays in rapid succession, which will be even more of an advantage with the new 40-second play clock.

But making the no-huddle even better is the fact the coaches are in full control, signaling plays in after the defense has set itself and leaving defenders unable to offer a counterpunch alignment. Translation: The unit that gets the last move usually wins.

So, expect plenty of points and touchdowns in the Big 12 this fall. Offenses figure to have an upper hand as defenses scramble for an answer to what has become one of college football's biggest trends: the no-huddle offense.

Steve Megargee
UCLA was generating plenty of buzz as a potential sleeper following the arrivals of coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow, but the excitement around Westwood took a major hit after quarterbacks Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson were injured on back-to-back plays in the final week of spring practice.

Cowan had just won the job as UCLA's starting quarterback when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Olson injured his right foot, though it shouldn't keep him out of the season opener.

Olson has started five games each of the past two seasons, so the Bruins aren't exactly decimated at the position. But his history of health problems could make UCLA fans worry they're headed for a repeat of the 2007 season, when the Bruins started three different players at the position and were forced to use walk-on McLeod Bethel-Thompson in a loss to Notre Dame.

The injury to Cowan also could have an indirect impact on another team's BCS hopes. BYU plays host to UCLA on Sept. 13. Cowan's absence gives BYU a much better chance of beating the Bruins and finishing the regular season unbeaten.

David Fox
The status quo will remain for the postseason.

With fans' desires for a college football playoff at an all-time high, the BCS turned its nose up at such a prospect.

Following meetings of the BCS conference commissioners in South Florida this spring, we learned that we'll be stuck with the current system until at least 2014. That's six more Decembers of disarray.

The biggest revelation of those meetings was not that the plus-one was rejected. It was that college football is further away than we previously thought. Originally, it seemed the Pac-10 and Big Ten were holding the sport back. Instead, the SEC and the ACC were the only two major conferences who even wanted to discuss the plus-one format.

From Auburn's 13-0 season, to the Ohio State-Michigan rematch debate, to the Year of the Upset, we have seen a plenty of reasons why a playoff is necessary. Too bad the ones in charge aren't listening.



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