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January 12, 2009

Veteran quarterbacks could be key in 2009

MORE: Rivals.com 2009 Preseason Top 25 | Final 2008 Rivals.com 120

Tim Tebow's decision to return for his senior season means Florida almost certainly will open the 2009 season atop the polls. The only other teams that could possibly be No. 1 are Texas (whose quarterback, Colt McCoy, already has said he is coming back) and Oklahoma (whose quarterback, Sam Bradford, hasn't made public his decision).

Of the top 10 teams in the Rivals.com early 2009 preseason top 25, nine are set to have a returning starter at quarterback, though Oklahoma and USC (with Mark Sanchez) could end up losing them. LSU saw Jarrett Lee start the most games this season, but he's not likely to begin 2009 as the starter. The only team in our early top 10 without a returning starter at quarterback is Alabama.

As for the entire top 25, only three teams other than Alabama won't have starting quarterbacks returning behind center: Utah, Georgia and Texas Tech.

Is having an experienced quarterback important? Draw your own conclusions.

Of the 10 teams that played in BCS bowls this season, seven (Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, Utah and Virginia Tech) returned their starting quarterback(s) from last season. Cincinnati, Penn State and USC are the teams that had new starting quarterbacks, though Ohio State benched returning starter Todd Boeckman early in the season to go with Terrelle Pryor.

Of the 68 bowl teams this season, 46 had returning starters at quarterback, though a few most notably, Florida State, Iowa and N.C. State either benched the returning starter during fall practice or during the season.

That's why fans, coaches and other players are so eagerly anticipating the final decisions from Bradford and Sanchez. Bradford certainly isn't the only OU underclassmen contemplating a jump to the NFL, but he is the most important. As for USC, the Trojans' defense could have as many as 10 new starters, so a potent offense which the Trojans would have if Sanchez returns is going to be important.

No, the Sooners and Trojans won't suffer through losing seasons if Bradford and/or Sanchez go pro. At the same time, neither team will be in Pasadena for the national title game if their quarterback leaves, either. Too many other teams are too experienced at quarterback for that to happen.

The BC saga
One of the more bizarre offseason stories thus far was Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo firing coach Jeff Jagodzinski after Jagodzinski interviewed with the New York Jets about their head-coaching vacancy.

DeFilippo certainly was within his rights to fire Jagodzinski after he told Jagodzinski he would be fired if he interviewed. A couple of things, though:

DeFilippo said he wanted a coach who "will be here for the length of their contract." That makes sense. At the same time, are you telling me that if BC had gone 8-40 in four seasons under Jagodzinski that BC wouldn't have fired him before the end of his contract? ADs always whine about coaches who seem to be interested in other jobs. But when's the last time a coach was let go without a few years left on his contract? That's right never. Heck, Army Army! fired Stan Brock after just two seasons. It makes you wonder if BC will make sure its next coach has language in his contract specifically mentioning interviews for other jobs.

Interestingly, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz's name has come up in relation to the BC vacancy. Holtz, of course, just signed a new deal with East Carolina a few months ago. Darn those coaches who renege on their contracts.

If you're a hot young coach, do you risk working for BC? In some respects, it's as if DeFilippo doesn't believe in upward mobility. Yes, BC is a good job. But let's get serious: It's not one of the top 25 jobs in the country. Personally, if my coach is good enough to interview for an NFL job, I embrace that notion and make sure my coaches hammer it home on the recruiting trail: "How good is our coach? Well, he has interviewed for NFL jobs so they'll notice you if you play well for him."

There are all sorts of reports swirling that Jagodzinski may not have been completely happy with college ball. He was coach at BC for two seasons after spending eight seasons in the NFL. If he was unhappy, he certainly masked it well, leading BC to back-to-back appearances in the ACC title game. And this season's appearance came after the loss of Matt Ryan, leaving Jagodzinski with an inexperienced quarterback. Thus, maybe interviewing for the Jets was Jagodzinski pushing the envelope and hoping to get fired. The whole thing, though, puts a nasty ending on what had been a good BC season.

Stoops bashers need to be quiet
" 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

That's what Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in 1850.

We bring this up for two reasons: One is to show off our knowledge of English poets; the second is in relation to football as in, folks who criticize Bob Stoops for dropping to 1-3 in title games are short-sighted.

Yes, obviously it's better to get to the title game and win it. But, as with love, just getting to the title game is something to be celebrated. After all, OU fans again could live through the morass that was Sooners football as overseen by Gary Gibbs, John Blake, etc., one more time.

Grid bits
So that's what Tom Hansen looks like. Hansen is the Pac-10 commissioner, and he presented Florida coach Urban Meyer with the national championship trophy on the field after the national title game. Usually, the BCS overseer this season, it was ACC commissioner John Swofford presents the title trophy, but Hansen is retiring at the end of this academic year, so Swofford let him hand it out instead. Hansen is the most anonymous of the "Big Six" commissioners, and it will be interesting to see if his replacement is any more ahem "forward thinking" than Hansen.

Speaking of conference commissioners, you wonder what Big Ten commish Jim Delany will do in the wake of his league's 1-6 bowl mark. Hmmm maybe he'll write a letter talking about the great academics in the Big Ten.

Of the teams in the final BCS top 25 of the season, 15 lost their bowl games. Ten of the losses came to other teams in the BCS top 25. The five teams that lost to unranked teams: No. 14 Georgia Tech to LSU, No. 16 BYU to Arizona, No. 20 Pittsburgh to Oregon State, No. 22 Ball State to Tulsa and No. 24 Boston College to Vanderbilt. Only four of the top 10 won their bowls: No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Texas, No. 5 USC and No. 6 Utah.

Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff is threatening to file a lawsuit saying the BCS is a cartel and violates anti-trust laws. Uhh, didn't Utah just play in a BCS bowl for the second time in five seasons? Maybe Shurtleff needs to file suit against the coaches, sports writers and broadcasters and computer programmers whose votes/computer code led to Utah being left out of the title game.

The NCAA updates its stats following the bowls. The teams that finished first and second nationally in toughest schedules, according to the NCAA? Oklahoma was first, Florida second. Going into the postseason, OU was first and Florida fourth. Both played bad Football Championship Subdivision (i.e., Division I-AA) foes, but it certainly didn't seem to hurt.

Coaches talk about wanting to have upperclass leadership on teams, and they often talk about how that equates to championship-caliber squads. Well, let's look back at the 2005 signing classes for Florida and Oklahoma; those players would be fourth-year juniors or true seniors this season. Only four players from Florida's '05 signing class played in the national title game; 13 players from Oklahoma's '05 class played, and two more would've seen action had they not been injured.

In his news conference the morning after Florida won the title, Meyer said he was intrigued enough by Oklahoma's no-huddle attack that he may incorporate it into Florida's playbook. He noted that he hired Scot Loeffler as his new quarterback coach. "He's had some of that in his background. I'm going to really study it because I love their offense," Meyer said. SEC defenses had problems with Florida's offense as it was; that added wrinkle could make things even more difficult.

MORE: Rivals.com 2009 Preseason Top 25 | Final 2008 Rivals.com 120

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be heard on Rivals Radio every Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. ET and can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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