Matt Barkley: USC Quarterback Takes Aim at a National Title
Nick Saban’s Philosophy Has Influenced Programs Across the Country
Peter King Is on the Road, Visiting NFL Training Camps
The London Games Had a Global Connection the World Has Never Seen
(NEW YORK – Aug. 15, 2012) – Sports Illustrated’s 2012 College Football Preview—dated Aug. 20 and on newsstands now—is a comprehensive look at the year ahead in NCAA college football. There are scouting reports for each team in SI’s Top 25, a breakdown of how the Heisman race will shake out and the magazine’s preseason predictions for first team All-America.
Sports Illustrated predicts that the Alabama Crimson Tide will roll through a difficult schedule right into the BCS championship game and defeat the USC Trojans.
Five teams share the honor of appearing on this week’s cover: No. 1 Alabama (A.J. McCarron), No. 2 USC (QB Matt Barkley), No. 5 Oklahoma (QB Landry Jones), No. 10 West Virginia (QB Geno Smith) and No. 13 Michigan (QB Denard Robinson). Click the link for each team to download its respective regional cover.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S TOP 25 (page)
|1. Alabama*||6. Wisconsin||11. Florida State||16. Kansas State||21. TCU|
|2. USC*||7. South Carolina||12. Arkansas||17. Stanford||22. Ohio State|
|3. LSU||8. Michigan State||13. Michigan*||18. Virginia Tech||23. Boise State|
|4. Oregon||9. Georgia||14. Clemson||19. Nebraska||24. Auburn|
|5. Oklahoma*||10. West Virginia*||15. Texas||20. Georgia Tech||25. N.C. State|
*Featured team on this week’s cover
On the Tablets: Video previews for all six BCS conferences.
Who will win this year’s Heisman Trophy? Success, stats and schedule are key for any Heisman candidate and Sports Illustrated’s Magnificent Seven are worthy of billboard treatment (page 61):
- Montee Ball, Sr., Wisconsin RB
- Matt Barkley, Sr., USC QB
- Landry Jones, Sr., Oklahoma QB
- Marcus Lattimore, Jr., South Carolina WR
- De’Anthony Thomas, Soph., Oregon RB
- Denard Robinson, Sr., Michigan QB
- Geno Smith, Sr., West Virginia QB
USC senior quarterback Matt Barkley returns to a Trojans football team that has seen many ups and downs in the past four years, including stringent NCAA sanctions. Barkley’s experiences away from the field—humanitarian missions to Haiti, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa—helped him more than any coach or athletic director, oversee the reconstruction of USC football. Barkley said, “I’m grateful that I saw more than Newport [Calif.]. Otherwise, when everything started going on at USC, I could have been like: Why is this happening to me?”
Over his four years, Barkley has become friends with a 92-year-old former USC track star, Olympian and WWII POW Louie Zamperini. As expectations surrounding this season soar, USC adjunct Jeff Fellenzer—who introduced Barkley to Zamperini—wonders how he will introduce Barkley when he makes his visits back to campus. He already calls Zamperini the “Greatest Trojan of ‘em all” so he said, “What I’d probably call him is the greatest Trojan football player of ‘em all” (page 64).
Alabama’s Nick Saban has established a total-control, detail-oriented, evaluation-to-graduation system, and now that the Tide has won its second national title in three years, the imitators have arrived. When Saban began coaching in Tuscaloosa in 2006, he persuaded the university to invest in its academic support system, the health and fitness center and the players’ dorms. Now, schools such as Florida State, Michigan State and Colorado State are beginning to organize their programs the way Alabama has, but Saban knows that the work put into this process makes all the difference. He said, “You have to pay the price for success up front. Everybody wants to do it. Not everybody is willing to do what they have to do to do it” (page 52).
Saban instills a strong work philosophy in his staff. He picked up this philosophy when he was the Browns’ defensive coordinator under coach Bill Belichek. Saban said, “Everybody says, ‘Be accountable,’ but sometimes nobody ever tells you exactly what the expectation is. Bill was good at defining what he expected from everybody, and everybody buying in. Then the team had a chance to flourish because of it.”
Over the last three weeks, senior writer Peter King has covered 15 NFL training camps and two preseason games. He has traveled 13,581 miles through air and land. With one more week to go on his journey, King reports on what he has seen (page 40).
On the Tablets: Peter King video’s from throughout his tour.
VOICES CARRY – ALEXANDER WOLFF
The London Games connected fans and athletes as never before. Over 17 days, there were extraordinary moments that enthralled people everywhere. Chairman Sebastian Coe and his London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) had a targeted slogan, “Inspire a generation”, which was a terrific fit for U.S. gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas, who said, “I’ve always wanted to inspire people. This quote, ‘Inspire a generation’—I can check that off my bucket list” (page 32).
There was a wide range of historic moments. Sarah Attar and Wojdan Ali Shaherkani became the first women to compete for Saudi Arabia. David Rudisha’s broke Coe’s world record in the 800 meters. All-in-all, it was a terrific two weeks in London. Coe said, “Moments are what people tend to remember, and that’s what I believe is the driver of sports participation.”
On the Tablets: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Alex Wolff and a slideshow of pictures from closing ceremonies.
Zach Cone and Johnathan Taylor—best friends, Georgia teammates and baseball brothers—don’t dwell on the moment that left one of them paralyzed and changed their lives forever. As freshmen, Cone and Taylor won starting jobs in the Georgia outfield. They warmed up before games and played catch in between innings. On road trips they roomed together. They played summer baseball together, and their families were close. Their personalities meshed not only with each other, but with the entire community at the University of Georgia (page 44).
On March 6, 2011, in a game against Florida State, a line drive into the outfield had both racing for the ball. Cone caught the ball just as Taylor’s head went directly into Cone’s hip. The collision left Cone dazed. It left Taylor paralyzed. Since then, despite many high and low moments, their friendship made going forward easier. Taylor said, “How is being bitter going to help me achieve my goals? There are days I want to be sad, but I can’t. Have to keep moving.”
Cone was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 2011 draft as the 37th overall pick, a day later the Rangers made the moving gesture of drafting Taylor in the 33rd round. Taylor never signed and will never play, but best friends being drafted by the same team? It can’t get much better than that.
On the Tablets: Jonathan Taylor talks about his rehab.
NFL PLAYERS POLL
Would you want your team featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks?
[Based on 335 NFL players who responded to SI’s survey]
FAST FACTS: SI conducted its poll last September, before the Dolphins (and QB David Garrard, above)
were chosen for the current (seventh) iteration of the NFL reality show. . . . Young players seem to be more interested than veterans in the added exposure: 51% of those aged 21 to 24 said yes, compared with 44% of those 25 to 29 and 27% of those 30 and older. . . . The Aug. 7 premiere was watched by 737,000 people, the second-largest debut audience for the show since 2002, behind the ’10 season featuring the Jets.
After months of speculation and rumors, Dwight Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers last week. Howard arrived in L.A. and allowed his best attribute to take charge, his sense of humor. Howard is joining one of the most successful franchises in sports and will be surrounded by three of the highest-minded players in the game: Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Only time will tell if he can mesh his style with the other stars, one thing is certain though: The Lakers, not the Heat, will be the main attraction this season (page 21).
Senior writer Phil Taylor is back from London, where he experienced two weeks of emotional, deeply moving competition. He found that the nobility of many Olympic athletes made sports in America seem frivolous and crass—at least for a little bit (page 122).
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD
- Shawn Barber (Kingwood, Texas/University of Akron) – Track and Field
- Zana Muno (Hermosa Beach, Calif./Notre Dame High) – Volleyball
- Marc Arnold (New York City/University of Indiana) – Chess
- Kallie Myers (St. Clairsville, Ohio/Bridgeport High) – Soap Box Derby
- Charles Anthony (Swansea, Mass./La Salle Academy) – Golf
- Carly Bedinghaus (Columbus, Ohio/Hillard Darby High) – Equestrian
To submit a candidate for Faces in the Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces