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January 19, 2009

Monday with Mike: Breaking down NCAA bids

We're less than two months from "Selection Sunday" (March 15), and though we're barely into conference play, it looks as if the "Big Six" leagues are going to dominate the field.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the ACC and Big East combine for 16 bids – or almost one-fourth of the field of 65.

Throw in the other "major" conferences – the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC – and the number of at-large bids for the "other" leagues likely will be between three and seven. The record low since the field expanded to 64 in 1983 is five. In each of the past two seasons, the number has been six.

Let's take a quick look at what the leagues can expect, bid-wise. First, we'll look at each of the "Big Six," then break down the "others" in categories:

ACC: The league is No. 1 in RPI, and it has three teams currently in the hunt for a No. 1 seed – Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest. Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Miami and Virginia Tech are the others who should remain in the mix for a bid. PREDICTION: Six bids.

BIG EAST: The league might be No. 3 in the RPI, but it sure looks like the best, with eight teams in the top 32 of the RPI heading into Sunday's action. The league might not end up with a No. 1 seed, but there's a good chance it could get six teams seeded No. 4 or better. Eleven teams – all but DePaul, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John's and USF – have legit NCAA hopes right now. PREDICTION: Nine bids, which would be a record.

BIG TEN: The league as a whole has been a surprise and is No. 2 in the RPI. Unlike the Big East, though, this league looks as if the vast majority of its teams will be seeded fifth or worse. Michigan State looks to be the only team with even a long-shot chance at being a No. 1 seed. Nine teams – all but Indiana and Northwestern (of course) – can be said to still be in the NCAA hunt. PREDICTION: Six bids.

BIG 12: The league is No. 4 in the RPI, but Oklahoma is the only team that looks to have a legitimate chance at being a No. 1 seed. This is another league that likely will have the bulk of its entrants seeded fifth or lower. Eight teams – all but Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech – at least have some NCAA hopes right now. PREDICTION: Six bids.

PAC-10: The league is No. 5 in the RPI and is the home of one of the nation's biggest surprises in Mike Montgomery-coached California. Oregon and Oregon State are the only two schools already out of the NCAA at-large hunt. PREDICTION: Five bids.

SEC: The league is sixth in the RPI, and it wouldn't be a surprise if there was no conference team seeded better than fifth. Arkansas owns the two best non-conference wins – over Oklahoma and Texas – but the Hogs are 0-3 in league play. Ten of the league's teams were 55th or worse in the RPI heading into play Sunday, and only two teams in the Western Division were above .500 in league play. It's going to be hard to get a "good" win against an SEC West team in league play because their RPIs are all relatively low. PREDICTION: Five bids.

Are you kidding me?
U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., is the latest elected official to weigh-in on how college football needs a playoff.

He's the new chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and said he plans to hold a hearing on the need for a playoff. Earlier this month, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who's on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced legislation that would force a playoff. And President-elect Barack Obama, of course, also has said he think there needs to be a playoff.

With all due respect to these elected officials, I have this to say, "#?&%$#! Worry about something truly important, like – oh, I don't know – the economy or the war in Iraq. Geez, I understand the value of political posturing, but come on.

Plus, there's this: The government is going to make everything all right with college football? Yeah, OK. It would make me laugh – if it wasn't such a scary proposition.
Four leagues can expect two bids – maybe: Atlantic 10, Conference USA, Mountain West and West Coast. We say "maybe" because none of these leagues will get more than two unless the league champ falls in the conference tourney. And even then, it depends on when that team loses. Xavier (A-10), Memphis (C-USA) and Gonzaga and Saint Mary's (WCC) are going to have strong non-conference résumés. The Mountain West, right now, is too jumbled to say which teams to keep an eye on, but the league can expect to get two. And for all the talk about how much C-USA has improved, only two teams are better than 70th in the RPI. The conference may get just one bid unless Memphis loses in the league tourney.

Three leagues could get two, depending on what happens in the league tournament: Colonial, Horizon and Southern. Butler (Horizon) and Davidson (Southern) have the non-conference résumés to get strong looks should they falter in their league tourneys. They also have recent strong NCAA showings, though that is not supposed to matter on "Selection Sunday." George Mason (Colonial) could play itself into that category if it loses only once or twice in league play.

Eighteen leagues will get one bid: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Ivy, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southland, Summit, Sun Belt, Southwestern Athletic and Western Athletic.

Four of the 10 selection committee members are from "Big Six" conferences, including chairman Mike Slive, who is SEC commissioner.

Grid bits
Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has finished putting together his staff, and I'll be interested to see what the total annual compensation will be once the contracts become public. New Vols defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will make $1 million, making him the first million-dollar coordinator. New defensive line coach Ed Orgeron reportedly will make at least $650,000, and there's a good chance the total annual salaries for the assistants will be at least $3.5 million.

It's rare when a current NFL player has a son old enough to be a high school senior, but that's the case with New York Giants punter Jeff Feagles. His son, C.J. Feagles, is a North Carolina commitment – as a punter, naturally. And the younger Feagles isn't the only UNC commitment to have NFL ties. TE Shane Mularkey is the son of Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

There are top-quality black assistants nationally, but more and more, they seem to head to the NFL. Gee, I wonder why? The Tampa Bay Bucs' new coach is Raheem Morris, 32, who in 2006 was Kansas State's defensive coordinator after three seasons as the Bucs' defensive quality control coach. He went back to the Bucs in 2007 as secondary coach. The Bucs originally hired him in 2002 off the staff at Hofstra. In 2001, the Bucs hired Mike Tomlin off the staff at the University of Cincinnati. Tomlin, of course, now is the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's rare that a guy heading into his third season as a starting quarterback transfers, but that's the case with North Texas' Giovanni Vizza. He started for the Mean Green the past two seasons, but is leaving before his junior season.

New Eastern Michigan coach Ron English has hired Tyrone Wheatley – who starred at Michigan and in the NFL as running back – as his running backs coach.

TV ratings for the national championship game were up 16 percent from last season.

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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