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Each week during the offseason, HQ college football writer Bob Asmussen breaks down the sport he loves
WHAT I'M THINKING
– The Lombardi Award watch list came out earlier this week with 47 players listed, including four from the Big Ten. None from Illinois.
But by the time the next list comes out, Illinois defensive tackle COREY LIUGET has a chance to be on it.
The Illinois coaches are expecting a big sophomore season for the Floridian. In 11 games as a freshman, Liuget had 26 tackles. He tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles and had five tackles for loss.
Liuget figures to be one of the starting tackles against Missouri. His Lombardi chances figure to improve if JOSH BRENT returns to the team. Brent is currently suspended from the team after his DUI arrest. No timetable has been announced for his return.
Even if Brent doesn't return, Liuget will have an experienced voice at tackle. SIROD WILLIAMS returns to the field after missing the 2008 season with a knee injury.
The four Big Ten players on the early list are Penn State linebacker NAVORRO BOWMAN, Michigan State linebacker GREG JONES, Penn State defensive tackle JARED ODRICK and Northwestern defensive end COREY WOOTTON.
– As predicted, Texas-San Antonio hired LARRY COKER as its first football coach. The school gets a national champion coach with ties to the area. Coker worked at Oklahoma before moving to Miami.
Don't be surprised if the Roadrunners make a quick move through Division I-AA and into the big time with Coker in charge. He will have them winning early and will be able to pick his successor when he has had enough.
– His brother CHRIS never missed a chance to blast Ohio State. You won't hear any Buckeye blasting from Cincinnati Anderson offensive tackle ANDREW NORWELL.
Andrew Norwell has made a commitment to Ohio State, one of four in JIM TRESSEL's early class. Norwell had offers from Illinois, Notre Dame, Stanford, Cincinnati and others.
– Can't wait to see "Big Ten Quad" with EDDIE GEORGE, which debuts on the Big Ten Network at 10 p.m. Friday.
The former Ohio State star and Heisman Trophy winner hosts three Big Ten personalities in an open forum. Each show will be in front of a live audience on the Northwestern campus.
Among the guests scheduled include former Illini quarterback JEFF GEORGE, Wisconsin coach BRET BIELEMA, Northwestern coach PAT FITZGERALD and Heisman Trophy winners RON DAYNE and DESMOND HOWARD.
WHAT I'M READING
The Mountain West Conference is proposing a four-team college football playoff after bowl games, with a 12-person committee determining bowl participants.
"I will put this as bluntly as I can," said University of Wyoming president Tom Buchanan, chairman of the Mountain West board of governors, on a conference call Wednesday. "We all believe change is needed. The current system is not fair. Somebody needs to stand up and say that and ask for a dialogue amongst all of the parties involved."
Under the Mountain West proposal, which has not been reviewed by the other 10 football conferences, a league can only qualify for one of the major BCS bowls by meeting two criteria: One, play a minimum of 20 regular season games over a two-year period against the six major BCS conferences or, as the proposal calls them, Automatically Qualifying (AQ) conferences; two, win a minimum of 40 percent of those games.
The 12-person committee, made up of one representative from all 11 conferences plus Notre Dame, would determine the top 25 teams at the end of the regular season.
The top 10 teams would play in the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls, plus a to-be-determined fifth bowl currently hosting a non-BCS game. The winners of the top four bowls would play in semifinals one week later, with those two winners meeting a week later for the national title.
The current BCS standings are a three-pronged formula that includes the Harris and coaches polls, plus the average of six computers.
"I'd rather put my trust and faith in those 12 people, who live and die and watch," said MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. "Talk about bias. When a (football) voter says: 'I didn't see Utah play. Maybe I saw highlights.' That does not register well."
– The contracts for the new Illinois assistant coaches go to the school's board of trustees next week. Offensive coordinator MIKE SCHULTZ will be paid $260,000 annually, according to the contract proposal.
New offensive line coach JOE GILBERT's salary will be $200,000 annually. New defensive line coach KEITH GILMORE's salary will be $160,000.
All three contracts will renew automatically each January, with performance reviews held to determine any salary increase.
Schultz takes over for MIKE LOCKSLEY, who left to become head coach at New Mexico. Locksley was earning $500,000 annually.
Gilbert replaces ERIC WOLFORD, who left for a similar position at South Carolina. Gilmore takes over for TOM SIMS, who is now the defensive line coach at Kansas.
– Left to be announced is the raise for co-defensive coordinator DAN DISCH. Illinois athletic director RON GUENTHER said that Disch will receive a bump in pay. Last week, Disch turned down an offer to become defensive coordinator at South Florida and the school decided to reward him for his loyalty.
– The Illinois season ticket prices have been set for 2009 without any increases. Season tickets in the prime area are $260, sideline season tickets outside the prime areas are $225, horseshoe season tickets are $77 and student tickets are $77.
"I think Ron Guenther has shown a lot of sensitivity toward fans both in pricing horseshoe and student tickets and in not raising prices," Illinois assistant athletic director Chris Hanna said. "He's got a strong record of pricing in a way that's fan friendly."
Single-game tickets for the two prime games (Michigan and Penn State) will be $60 regardless of the location. Single-game tickets for the other four Illinois home games (Illinois State, Michigan State, Northwestern and Fresno State) will be $50 for the prime tickets, $45 for the sidelines and $25 for the horseshoe.
Season ticket renewals will start in the next few weeks with a May 1 deadline. New season ticket orders are being taken for the sideline area. For new prime area season tickets, contact the I-Fund.
"I feel very good about our tickets because of the quality of our team and the quality of the home schedule," Hanna said.
– It's about time for CHAD CASSEL to schedule a game at Memorial Stadium for his Illini club hockey team. Everybody else is doing it.
Michigan and Wisconsin are working on hockey games for their football stadiums in the coming years. The Wolverines and Badgers will play at renovated Michigan Stadium in December 2010, with a return game at Camp Randall Stadium in February.
Michigan and Michigan State played in front of 75,544 in 2001 at Spartan Stadium, the outdoor hockey attendance record. Both Camp Randall and Michigan Stadium could top the record.
– New Tennessee coach LANE KIFFIN got a big name for his spring coaching clinic. Steelers coach MIKE TOMLIN, fresh off a Super Bowl win, will be Kiffin's special guest.
– Former Illini tackle BOB CUNZ, a member of the 1947 Rose Bowl team, died last Sunday. Cunz was picked by the Packers in the eighth round of the 1948 NFL draft. Cunz was a longtime successful high school coach at San Marino (Calif.) High School, serving for 22 seasons.
– Former Illini DANNY CLARK, now with the New York Giants, is one of four NFL players visiting U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf. Others on the trip are Cardinals receiver LARRY FITZGERALD, Rams linebacker WILL WITHERSPOON and Vikings defensive end JARED ALLEN. Clark's brothers, JASON and JOSHUA BROOKS, are in the military.
– The smart folks in Coralville, Iowa, are honoring former Hawkeyes coach HAYDEN FRY by naming a portion of First Avenue "Hayden Fry Way." It is the most heavily traveled stretch of road in the county and is the easiest access to Kinnick Stadium.
There are 76 players and six coaches under consideration to the College Football Hall of Fame. The Class of 2009 will be announced April 30. Here are 10 who will be on my ballot:
Otis Armstrong Purdue
Left Boilermakers as Big Ten's career rushing leader
Brian Bosworth Oklahoma
Two-time Butkus Award winner led Sooners to national title
Tim Brown Notre Dame
Heisman Trophy-winning receiver set 19 school records
Eric Dickerson SMU
Two-time Southwest Conference POY holds school rushing record
Tony Franklin Texas A&M
Superstar kicker nailed 15 field goals of 50 yards or longer
Michigan Heisman winner led nation in scoring and kickoff returns
Jonathan Ogden UCLA
Outland Trophy winner helped the Bruins win the 1993 Pac-10 title
Deion Sanders Florida State
Two-time All-American a force as a defensive back and returner
Chris Spielman Ohio State
Two-time All-American won the 1987 Lombardi Award
Lawrence Taylor North Carolina
All-American and ACC Player of the Year as a senior, when he had 16 sacks
... that's how many commitments Texas has for the 2010 class according to Rivals.com. All of the players are from the state, including quarterback CASE McCOY. Colt's younger brother is one of two quarterbacks who have made a commitment to the class. There are four receivers, four defensive linemen and three defensive backs.