Saturday NCAA Football News and Notes

Saturday NCAA Football News and Notes

Washington at Oregon: Three capping questions answered
By DAVID PAYNE

Washington at Oregon
10 p.m., Saturday
Line: Oregon -14, N/A

Three questions consider while handicapping Washington at Oregon (-14)

Has Washington’s defense improved?

Tyrone Willingham’s job may be depending on it. And, if it hasn’t, expect Oregon to put up big numbers. Last year’s Husky defense compiled the worst numbers in school history, allowing 31.6 points and 446 yards per game. Five starters return from that unit, which will be under the direction of new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. In camp, Donatell has not been pleased with his defense, especially up front where the Huskies are undersized and inexperienced.

That’s not good news heading into the Oregon game. The Ducks racked up 465 rushing yards in last year’s 55-34 blowout win at Washington. And, while Jonathan Stewart is in the NFL, running back LeGarrette Blount has been a star of camp for the Ducks. In reality, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti himself probably could have rushed for a couple touchdowns against the Huskies. It really hasn’t mattered who carries the ball against UW. The Ducks have averaged 309 rushing yards and have outscored the Huskies 134-69 during Willingham’s three-year tenure.

Is Willingham ever going to win at Washington?

Heading into his fourth season, there are very few indications, if any, that he’s got the UW program headed in the right direction. He’s not even having much success recruiting, which is supposed to be one of his biggest strengths. Besides quarterback Jake Locker, Washington is benefiting little from players Willingham has signed in the past three seasons.

This is the year the star recruits of his first two classes were supposed to be blossoming. Yet, the Huskies are relying heavily on incoming freshmen to contribute immediately. Other than Locker, there just aren’t a lot of playmakers on the roster. Whoever Willingham has been recruiting isn’t producing.

Things might not seem so grim, if the Huskies could sprinkle in an upset or two during this overly lengthy rebuilding process. But Washington has been particularly bad against ranked teams under Willingham. Last year’s early defeat of No. 22 Boise State marks his only win over a ranked team. In total, he’s 1-13 against ranked teams at Washington with multiple blowout losses.

How much emphasis should be put on the Oregon quarterback situation?

A week before kickoff, the status of presumed starting quarterback Nick Costa was up in the air. Costa injured his surgically repaired left knee 10 days before the season opener. Early reports did not indicate positive news for the sophomore. An official announcement is expected Monday.

If Costa is ruled out, don’t expect the line to drop much, though. He was in a tight battle for the starting spot with last year’s Sun Bowl hero, Justin Roper. A string of quarterback injuries late in the season vaulted Roper, then a redshirt freshman, from fourth string to bowl-game starter.  He responded by throwing for 342 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Ducks to a very impressive 56-21 beatdown of a good South Florida squad.

Roper is less of a run threat than Costa, which could benefit Washington’s defense. But Bellotti has never hesitated to play multiple quarterbacks, so dynamic freshman Chris Harper, who’s been a serious weapon in practice, likely will see time as a change of pace to Roper.

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Paterno picks Clark to start at QB for Penn St.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -Daryll Clark will start at quarterback for Penn State when the 22nd-ranked Nittany Lions open the season against Coastal Carolina on Saturday.

Coach Joe Paterno said Clark's experience and solid preseason gave him the edge over Pat Devlin. Clark, Devlin and third-stringer Paul Cianciolo practiced well the last three weeks, he said.

Devlin is expected to get some playing time in the season opener against the Division I-AA school, Paterno said.

Clark served as the primary backup the last two years to Anthony Morelli.

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Shopping for Line Value in Week 1
by Tommy Rider

There are many different ways to break down games. But one thing I think we all look for in our college football picks is line value. For instance, I visited a couple of books today and saw that Florida is up to 38. I liked the Gators originally but if that line gets much higher, they are almost forcing me to take Hawaii due to the tremendous line value you get with the Rainbows. Heck, if Hawaii scores 17 points, Florida will need to almost top 60 to cover. That's good value in my opinion. So, as Week 1 approaches, I've pinpointed some games I think represent good value. Let me make one thing clear: I'm not making selections right now on these games. These are just some lines I like and I'll be watching over the next couple of days to see if they move in my direction.

Ohio +12 - I know Ohio is replacing some people on offense but who in the hell are the Cowboys to be laying 12 points? Wyoming had a miserable end to the 2007 season and their coach, Joe Glenn, is on the hot seat. I had this line at around eight and now it's up to 12 in some places. The Cowboys have a new starting quarterback in sophomore Dax Crum and they are going to a more power-based rushing attack this season. That doesn't sound like a recipe for covering a big spread to me. Wyoming has a strong front seven on defense and maybe they shut down the Bobcats offense. However, I think there is some solid value here with Ohio.

Syracuse +11 - I've said it before and I'll say it again: Some teams just shouldn't be double-digit favorites. I like this Northwestern squad but they actually have some pretty high expectations this season. That's not a great spot for them. Syracuse is terrible, make no mistake about that. However, with the way the Wildcats play defense, I think the Orange have a chance to stay in this game by running the ball with their deep stable of backs. I haven't decided yet if I have the balls to put money on Syracuse but I think there is good value with this line.

Michigan -3 - Poor Michigan. I hear their talent level is similar to Rice these days. Or at least that's what you would think when reading all the stuff saying that this is a lost season for the Wolverines. Whether you think Michigan is in trouble or not, this line should be a touchdown in my opinion. No one is saying that Michigan is going to go out and score 30 points in Rich Rodriguez's first game but don't forget, the Wolverines have one of the Big 10's most experienced defenses. Is it really hard to fathom that Michigan's defense will dominate this game, while their big offensive line wears down Utah's defense? I know Michigan is a bit of an unknown right now, but the Wolverines laying only three points in the Big House is the best value of Week 1 in my opinion.

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Tide's Julio Jones grabs starting job
August 27, 2008

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -John Parker Wilson might as well have wandered around campus this summer carrying a sign that read: ``Julio's doing fine.''
   
Then, maybe fans would have skipped ahead to ask Alabama's quarterback about the team or the season or even what coach Nick Saban is like. That last question is so 2007.

Seems Topic No. 1 in T-town these days is how much-hyped freshman receiver Julio Jones is doing.

``That's the first thing everybody asks,'' Wilson said. ``It was coach Saban last year, now it's Julio.''

The most definitive answer of how Jones is doing came earlier this week when Saban released the Crimson Tide's depth chart and the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder was on top. The nation's top-rated receiver recruit has already had a catch - at a closed scrimmage, no less - wind up on YouTube and has been anointed a star before ever playing a college game.

And equally impressive, his teammates seem OK with that.

``He hasn't come in expecting anything just because of what he did in high school,'' Wilson said. ``He's shown me and the rest of the guys that he's gonna earn his position, earn his spot and so far he's done that every day.''

Jones and freshman linebacker Don'ta Hightower both are listed as starters for Saturday night's game against No. 9 Clemson in Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Only nine freshmen have started a season opener for Alabama.

Jones got plenty of attention recently when he made a one-armed catch along the sideline during a scrimmage, then stiff-armed All-Southeastern Conference safety Rashad Johnson on his way to a touchdown. A video of the play made it onto the Internet and has already drawn more than 24,000 views on YouTube.

Plenty more will get to see him on Saturday night. Since Saban doesn't allow freshmen to speak to the media, he almost seems to have taken on near-mythical status with teammates left to do all the talking. Who's Julio?

``He doesn't let that hype get to him,'' receiver Mike McCoy said. ``He's real laid-back. He's cool on and off the field. We hang out all the time. This past weekend we just kicked it together. He's a humble guy.''

Added offensive tackle Andre Smith: ``He's a great athlete, a great guy both on and off the field.''

McCoy said the attention is deserved. He even watched film of Jones from high school and was a believer.

``He's just a different breed,'' McCoy said. ``Some people have got it, some people don't. He's one who has it.''

Jones was a Parade and USA Today All-American who was regarded by most recruiting services as one of the five best high school players in the nation after racking up more than 3,000 yards in his high school career.

Saban said Jones has been consistent from the start of fall camp and arrived in good shape. He will also return kicks and be a backup to Javier Arenas on punt returns.

``He's consistently made plays in practice and in both scrimmages,'' Saban said. ``After the first scrimmage, it was pretty evident that he was going to have some role as one of the three receivers that we use quite a bit.

``This last week he certainly solidified his position as the starter. He and Mike McCoy have been our two best receivers throughout this camp.''

The hype has come because of Jones' high school credentials, but also because of his timely arrival. The Tide has to replace Alabama;s career receiving leader DJ Hall, along with Keith Brown and Matt Caddell.

Hello, Julio.

The only current Tide player who might be able to relate to this level of attention out of high school is Smith, regarded as the nation's top offensive line prospect a few years ago. He said teammates have told him they thought he would be arrogant, and had the same fear for Jones.

``They thought he was going to be, but he's a hard worker,'' Smith said. ``He's not out boasting about, what (he's) going to do. He just lets his actions speak louder than his words.''

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