A new college football season is little more than a month away, and "new" is the key word this year. To get you ready for the season, which opens Sept. 1, here's an early look at what's new in college football.
Spotlight: New coaches
Of the 23 new head coaches this season, the name of Ohio State's Luke Fickell stands out because he has stepped into a doozy of a situation as he becomes a head coach for the first time.
Four months ago, he was his alma mater's co-defensive coordinator. Since then he has been promoted to assistant head coach, then named interim head coach during Jim Tressel's suspension and, finally, interim head coach for the full season after Tressel resigned.
The Buckeyes, who have the talent to contend for the Big Ten championship, will play their first five games without four suspended star players. That doesn't include quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who also was suspended and has left the university.
The suspended players' first game back will be a big one: a road game at conference newcomer Nebraska. Ohio State also will have to face rival Michigan on the road in the regular-season finale.
That all adds up to a big challenge for Fickell. For sure, all eyes will be on the Buckeyes' new head man.
At right is a list of teams with new coaches:
San Diego St.
One of the great joys of a new season is playing that year's new video games.
Tom Fornelli of CBSsports.com played out the entire 2011 season on EA Sports' NCAA Football 12, and at least on the video game, South Carolina is your new national champion. The Gamecocks defeated Boise State 24-22 in the championship game.
TCU finished 11-2, with road losses to Mountain West opponents San Diego State (33-30) and Boise State (42-20). The Horned Frogs defeated UNLV in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl.
Texas A&M won the Big 12 despite a loss to Oklahoma and had a 10-2 record after defeating Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma opened the season with seven consecutive wins before losing at Kansas State. The Sooners also lost to Oklahoma State. Texas bounced back with an 11-2 season, losing to Oklahoma and A&M.
But the best Texas school was none of the above. Behind Heisman Trophy winner Case Keenum, Houston went undefeated, routed South Florida in the Sugar Bowl and finished second in the final rankings.
New taunting rule
In an effort to curb taunting on scoring plays, beginning this season unsportsmanlike conduct penalties can be ruled live-ball fouls. That means a player taunting an opponent on his way to the end zone can be flagged with a spot foul, resulting in a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the taunting and, thus, wiping out the touchdown. Other rules changes that take effect this season:
If a team commits a penalty in the final minute of either half, the opponent has three options: 1.) accept the penalty and a 10-second rundown; 2.) accept the penalty without a 10-second rundown; 3.) decline both the penalty and clock rundown.
Wide receivers more than 7 yards from the center at the time of the snap can block only below the waist against a player who is facing him or toward the nearest sideline. This also applies to running backs and receivers in the backfield and outside the tackle box.
On placekicks, three defensive players cannot line up shoulder to shoulder in an attempt to overpower one blocker at the line of scrimmage.
To help coaches determine whether to challenge calls, coaches' booths can have video monitors with access only to a live broadcast (no video recorders). If the home team has a video monitor available, the visiting team must also have access to one.
There were a lot of moving pieces in the conference shell games that have taken place since the beginning of last season. The end result for this season is that five teams will be playing in new conferences. There will be another list to put together before the 2012 season, but for now these are all the changes you need to memorize:
New look at UNT
There's a new stadium, a new coach and a new sense of optimism in the North Texas program. Former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney takes over as the Mean Green moves into its shiny new Mean Green Stadium. McCarney inherits a program that hasn't won more than three games in a season since 2004. UNT was 3-9 last year, and two of those wins came in the final five games after Mike Canales (McCarney's offensive coordinator) became interim coach in place of Todd Dodge. There's inexperience at quarterback and a long dry stretch to turn around, so there is much work to be done in Denton. But with McCarney, the stadium and a bit of an uptick from the end of last season, at least there is the feeling that something new is being built at UNT.
Three conferences have changed their logos. The changes are for more than looks. A logo has come to be a conference's brand, as leagues seek to make statements with their logos. A look at the new logos:
Big Ten: The old logo, with the "11" tucked into the words "Big Ten" was college football's version of the old Milwaukee Brewers' logo with its hidden "m" and "b." With 12 teams now, the conference has gone big with its logo, and that's it except for the imbedded "10" in the last two letters of "BIG."
Short take: A "B" with the numeral "1" and a "G" that form a subtle "10" - looks like a rapper's name.
Mountain West: Gone are the words "Mountain West" and the image of mountains as the conference tries to project a "feisty" and "bold" image. The adjoining, three-dimensional block letters "M" and "W" give equal weight to the Western schools as the conference expands into the Pacific and Hawaiian time zones.
Short take: Brings back memories of the arcade game Q*bert.
Pac-12: The conference made a drastic change in logos last year, going with a shield to project an aggressive image in anticipation of its transition to 12 teams. Thus, the only noticeable change in this year's logo is that the number has been updated from 10 to 12.
Short take: Without Texas, the logo has images of mountains and waves, but not the CenTex rolling hills.
New starts in Texas
There are new happenings below the FBS level in Texas. UT San Antonio is making its debut as a Football Championship Subdivision independent. Next year, the Roadrunners will move up into the WAC. UTSA is coached by Larry Coker, who won a national championship at Miami (Fla.), and has a 65,000-seat stadium (the Alamodome) for home games. Also, Dennis Franchione returns to coaching at Texas State in the Bobcats' last season as an FCS program before joining UTSA in the WAC. Franchione, the former TCU coach, hasn't coached since leaving Texas A&M after the 2007 season.