The summer solstice has come and gone, marking the longest day of the year. The 'Book will, however, confirm what college football fans can tell you -- the longest day of the year really is the last day before the season begins. Back to help you fill another of those days, the 'Book has items from around the region and the nation, though in the summertime, solid football news sometimes is hard to come by. That's why we include perhaps the most subjective ranking ever compiled in sports: "Best-dressed college coaches." Bleacher Report listed a Top 25, and deserves some kind of commendation for finding 25 of them, though after looking at the pictures, maybe not.
But first, an intriguing comparison. When Athlon Sports puts together its college football preview magazine, it compiles its information in March and April. The 'Book wonders if its Best Coaching Hires for 2013 rankings would've been affected by subsequent recruiting, still, their rankings of two area new hires provide fodder for discussion:
STOOPS VS. PETRINO: RANKING THE HIRES
In its College Football National Edition preview magazine, Athlon Sports ranks Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino the top new coaching hire in 2013. It ranks new University of Kentucky coach Mark Stoops No. 14.
From a standpoint of experience and early buzz, you can't argue with Petrino's ranking. He's won at every college stop, and taken two different programs to BCS Bowl games. (Petrino sat down with WDRB's Eric Crawford for a one-on-one interview last week, and that interview will air on WDRB News and Crawford's column from that interview will run on WDRB.com next week).
But Petrino hasn't been the buzz coach in his own state during the past month. That distinction has belonged to Stoops, who vaulted UK to the top of the national recruiting rankings briefly and still has them at No. 2 in the Rivals.com rankings.
Last week at a Toppers on Tour stop in Elizabethtown, Petrino said, "Making sure we trust our evaluations and not someone else's. Everybody wants to make these early commitments right now. Some places that's good, some places that's not so good. We need to be patient and take it as it comes."
Take a look at the chart below. It comes from Google Trends, and measures the amount of Google Search Engine action on each coach from the beginning of 2013 to today. Bobby Petrino is the red line, Mark Stoops the blue. Entering 2013, there was no comparison. But take a look at where the coaches stand now. Stoops has nosed ahead, and the "A" marking his line represents the program's recruiting being featured by Yahoo! in a story last week. Of course, one other thing that can't be escaped is that the activity on both is far lower than Petrino's profile entering the year.
The matchup has the added bonus, of course, of pitting the coaches head-to-head to start this season. Petrino will talk about the challenge of preparing for Mark Stoops, and disclose a surprise confidant in some of his travails, during his WDRB interview.
As for his vision for WKU, he said he's hoping to make a statement quickly.
"We want to win," Petrino said. "We're not real patient. We want to win right away. Go to a bowl game and win it every year is my goal for this program. Winning a conference championship is very important. Then as we get into 2014 and the rules change and the highest-ranked team from the five other conferences can get an automatic bid, that's where we want to be. We want to be competing to be that highest-ranked team of the five other conferences."
By the way, University of Louisville coach Charlie Strong's typically low-key offseason ways also show when looking at Google Trends. Below is the same chart, but this time Strong is added. He is the gold line, and his online interest heading into July ranks lower than both Stoops and Petrino. (More perspective: When all three were compared to online interest in the search term "Kevin Ware," none of the three returned enough search volume to show results.)
STRONG JUST OUTSIDE TOP 10 OF 'BEST-DRESSED'
Any preseason pub is good preseason pub. And Strong has picked up another, what do you call this, an honor?
Bleacher Report rated the Top 25 best-dressed college football coaches, which must have been quite a task, given that most coaches show up on the sidelines looking like they're ready to tailgate, not work.
Nonetheless, Strong checked in at No. 12 on the list of best-dressed, with the following review: "Louisville head coach Charlie Strong is a big dude. He wears clothes baggy enough to fit two people in, but he pulls it off quite well. The black pants are something not a lot of other coaches are willing to try, and the long-sleeved shirt he wears is something between a sweater and UnderArmour. It certainly is one of the more distinct wardrobes on the list."
Not sure how to react to that assessment. The 'Book will just let it pass.
U of L is well-represented on the list. Tony Levine, former director of football operations at U of L and now head coach at Houston, was rated No. 17 for "khakis and tucked-in polo."
Yeah. It's slow.
SPORTING NEWS RANKS BRIDGEWATER NO. 5 PLAYER IN NATION
The Sporting News had a bit more traditional ranking going last week. It came out with its list of the Top 25 players in college football. "Mr. Football," Johnny Manziel, was rated No. 1, at least until he can find a way out of College Station. He was followed by Marques Lee of USC, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, then U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Of Bridgewater, the magazine said, "Played huge in Louisville's last two games (Rutgers, Florida) to make a solid season spectacular. Let's see how he (and the Cardinals) plays with big expectations."
CARDS GAIN MAJOR RB COMMIT, LOSE LB COMMIT TO GEORGIA
Daniel Greshman, the No. 1 rated fullback in the nation, reportedly is headed to U of L, according to Mike Hughes of Insidetheville.com. Gresham had previously committed to Texas but pulled that commitment recently. He had offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Ohio State and Tennessee. The four-star recruit (three-star by Rivals.com) is said to be looking to move to running back in college, and has family in Louisville.
It continued a busy Monday morning for Strong and staff. Earlier Monday, they landed three-star cornerback Zykiesis Cannon from Greenville, S.C.
Linebacker Detric Dukes, a three-star prospect out of Atlanta, confirmed via Twitter that he has switched his verbal commitment from Louisville to Georgia. Dukes had committed after being in town for the Red-White game in the Spring, and leaves the Cardinals with just one linebacker committed for the 2014 class.
CARDS' GAME VS. EKU TO BE INTERNET-ONLY TELECAST
The American Athletic Conference last week set the game time for U of L's second game of the upcoming football season, Sept. 7 against Eastern Kentucky. The game will kick off at noon, with the telecast being picked up by ESPN 3.
The Cards' opener against Ohio University has been picked up by ESPN after being moved to Sunday, Sept. 1 at 3:30. No TV plans have been announced for U of L's third game of the season, at UK on Sept. 14.
SMITH GETS MENTION AMONG THE NATION'S BEST SAFETIES
ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore is ranking the top college football players at each position this fall, and when it came time to list safeties, he said U of L senior Hakeem Smith is a safe choice, listing him as the No. 3 safety in America.
Gilmore called Smith, "The one player I trust more than any player on this board."
He went on to explain, "He's always in the right place. He's not going to have the great stats. You're not going to see a lot of pick sixes or picks from him, but he will be in the right gap when it comes to the run game, he'll be in the right zone in zone coverage, and he's a sure tackler. He's going to make sure that nobody gets behind him to make a play. I like him, I trust him, and if he had the big plays, he might be No. 1."
U OF L ADDS RADIO REACH WITH NEW STATIONS
U of L announced Monday that WBGN in Bowling Green (1340 AM) and WKDO in Liberty (98.7 FM) have joined the Cardinal Football and Basketball Networks developed by Nelligan Sports Marketing.
"WBGN is very excited to add Louisville football and men's basketball to our programming and provide South Central Kentucky with a radio outlet for fans to follow the Cardinals," said Norm Haney, WBGN Program Director. "The success of both of these programs speaks for itself and 1340-AM 'The Ticket' looks forward to its partnership with the Cardinals and being affiliated with their success in the future."
"We are very excited to become part of the Louisville Cardinals family," said Joey Hoover, WKDO Operations Manager. "With 25,000 watts at 98.7 FM, WKDO will deliver Cardinals' football and basketball games to fans in over 25 towns across southern and central Kentucky!"
Nelligan Sports Marketing and U of L have expanded the primary radio footprint of Cardinal sports cover to more than 13 stations across Kentucky and Ohio, with a reach into Indiana and Tennessee as well as nationwide coverage on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
ESPN: ACC TO ANNOUNCE DEAL WITH PINSTRIPE BOWL
ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported Monday that the ACC will announce a 6-year agreement with the Pinstripe Bowl. Beginning in 2014, the ACC will meet a Big Ten representative in the Yankee Stadium game, sources told McMurphy, who also reported that as part of the deal the ACC will get a sign inside Yankee Stadium to be on display year-round.
ESPN reported that the Pinstripe will share the ACC's third through sixth selections with the Belk, Sun and Gator/Music City Bowls. The report also says the ACC will strike a deal with the Capital One Bowl to provide an opponent for the SEC representative if its Big Ten choice is taken for the Orange Bowl.
Last week, reports said the ACC would also establish a new bowl in Detroit with a Big Ten opponent.
KENTUCKY ADVERTISING BLITZ SHOWS UP IN SOME UNLIKELY PLACES
There's no question, UK has bolstered its football marketing immensely. The latest places that its Internet ad buys have shown up, however, are interesting.
Now, lots of people have taken to Facebook to advertise. If you talk much sports on Facebook, expect to see a sidebar ad show up asking you to buy Wildcat football tickets.
But those Internet buys also can show up in interesting spots. For instance, most recently, UK football ticket ads have shown up on Mike Rutherford's U of L fan site, CardChronicle.com.
It happens, IU football ticket ads ran often at Kentuckysportsradio.com. A blanket buy can land your ads anywhere. If anything, it might make for a little less trouble for U of L fans looking to buy tickets for Game No. 3 on the UK schedule.
INDIANA TABBED AS ONE OF THE NATION'S MOST IMPROVED
Athlon Sports has picked Indiana University to be one of the ten most-improved teams in college football in 2014. It's rationale? "Indiana's performance on offense (last season) was even more impressive when you consider starting quarterback Tre Roberson was lost in the second game of the season with a leg injury. With Roberson back in the mix, the Hoosiers could be even more deadly on offense, especially with one of the Big Ten's top receiving corps and an improving offensive line. While the defense won't take a huge step forward in 2013, seven starters are back, and this unit has more upperclassmen with game experience than it did in 2012."
Athlon projects the Hoosiers will make it to bowl eligibility, finishing 6-6, and 3-5 in Big Ten play.
RUTGERS COACH CALLS OUT SEC PROGRAMS THAT WON'T PLAY THE KNIGHTS
Kyle Flood, coach of Rutgers, says he tried to schedule SEC teams, but got the cold shoulder.
Speaking with reporters on a conference call last week, Flood said, "There were a couple of teams that were available that weren't willing to play us. I'm not going to name names. We were looking for a game that we thought would be an exciting game for our players and fans. Really the only stipulation I have is that I want it to be a home-and-home."
That last sentence might be the catch. Not everyone is dying to get to Piscataway, N.J., though if you want to do business in recruiting-rich New Jersey, it doesn't hurt. That, in fact, helps the Knights get games. Playing in a 52,434-seat stadium, however, doesn't, at least not when you're talking about SEC programs used to playing in stadiums of 80,000-plus.
With a move to the Big Ten coming, The 'Book thinks Rutgers' players and fans will have all the excitement they can handle soon enough.
MANDEL: FOOTBALL SELECTION COMMITTEE NEEDS A 'DRY RUN'
The 'Book thinks Stuart Mandel of SI.com is right on the money when he suggests that the yet-to-be-formed football championship selection committee would do well to be in place during this season and run through its procedures and selection processes as this season goes along.
It only makes sense that next season will run better if the group has been in place and been through the drill one time.
But that's not the choice the football playoff organizers are making.
"We have a BCS champion to decide [in 2013]," playoff executive director Bill Hancock told Yahoo! and USA Today. "Any kind of parallel universe runs the risk of detracting from that champion and none of us want to do that."
By all means, protect the BCS till the bitter end. One reason for skepticism over the new playoff process is that it is being run by many of the same old people.
THE LIST: TOP TWITTER COACHES
The Tulsa World some time ago ranked the top coaches in college football according to Twitter following, though The 'Book found a problem or two with some of the numbers. Here is a new listing compiled by our curators, with the reminder that Nick Saban isn't on Twitter, and Bob Stoops only uses Twitter with recruits, otherwise his account is private. Of note here, Stoops now has climbed into the Top 10 in Twitter following. For those asking: Charlie Strong's Twitter following is 29,499. Kevin Wilson of Indiana is at 16,116. Bobby Petrino has 5,755 at WKU. The top dozen:
1. Les Myles, LSU 110,323 2. Brian Kelly Notre Dame 92,834 3. Butch Jones, Tennessee 79,636 4. Mark Richt, Georgia 67,805 5. Brett Bielema, Arkansas 62,234 6. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss 47,485 7. Steve Sarkisian, Washington 47,444 8. Mark Stoops, Kentucky 46,962 9. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State 46,213 10. Bo Pelini, Nebraska 46,149 11. Mike Leach, Washington State, 42,844 12. Will Muschamp, Florida 41,563