When word got out that an explosive book about college football would be released mid-September, there were some noticeable groans and winces within the NCAA. “The System,” written by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, promises, according to Amazon.com, to give “an explosive and revelatory portrait reported from deep behind the scenes of big-time NCAA college football.”
According to the pre-order information from the Amazon book site, “The System” will expose that “behind this glittering success are darker truths: “athlete-students” working essentially full-time jobs with no share in the oceans of money; players who often don’t graduate and end their careers with broken bodies; “janitors” who clean up player misconduct; football “hostesses” willing to do whatever it takes to land a top recruit; seven-figure black box recruiting slush funds.
“And this: Despite the millions of dollars pouring into the game, 90 percent of major athletic departments still lose money,” the preview reads, “Yet schools remain caught up in an ever-escalating “arms race”—at the expense of academic scholarships, facilities and faculty.”
Alright, go back and read “hostesses willing to do whatever it takes.” Oh mercy, you know who squealed? University of Tennessee hostess Lacey Pearl Earps was made famous during the Lane Kiffin era where she was so successful at luring high school players to Knoxville they called her “The Closer.”
In an effort to tease pre-orders for the book, Earps told the writers her job was to flirt. “These are high school boys and they have only one thing on their minds,” she said.
She also confirmed she drove hundreds of miles to close deals with players and, according to a story on The Sporting News website yesterday, said she was one of the girls who violated NCAA rules by attending a game in Duncan, S.C. “From the athletic department’s perspective, it didn’t matter how the recruit got there. Whatever it took. A lot of people turned a blind eye and that was very unsettling for me.”
Whew! The book will be released on Sept. 17 and, when that happens, some people are going to be in for a big surprise.
That said, here are my Top 10 picks for the opening week of college football:
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SATURDAY, AUGUST 31
TOLEDO at FLORIDA, 12:21 p.m. (SEC Network) – As crazy as it sounds, Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison will not play because he barked at a police dog. While he’s apologized publicly, he added he “ain’t gonna’ set no record straight” and refuses to discuss it. Florida, ranked 10th in the first AP poll, is a 24-point pick over Toledo but the view here is that’s too much. Florida has a history of slow starts and the Rockets return 13 starters (9 on offense) from a team that won 10 games last season. MY PICK? Florida, 34-21.
SYRACUSE at PENN STATE, 3:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN) – Nittany Lion Coach Bill O’Brien is still stymied between who’ll start at quarterback, JUCO product Tyler Ferguson or freshman sensation Christian Hackenburg, but it seems the rest of the PSU team has regained its footing since the Sandusky atrocities. Syracuse will go with either Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen or sophomore Terrell Hunt at the switch. The game is being held in New York and PSU is favored by 8. MY PICK? Penn State, 27-14
MISS. STATE at No. 13 OKLAHOMA STATE, 3:30 p.m. – Cowboy coach Mike Gundy will continue to play two quarterbacks like he did last year because both are back - senior Clint Chelf and sophomore J.W. Walsh. OSU is favored by 13 over the Bulldogs and, since this game will be played in Houston, the advantage is about right. MY PICK? Oklahoma State, 35-24.
BRIGHAM YOUNG at VIRGINIA, 3:30 p.m. – Bronco Mendenhall, the Cougars head coach, got a big raise and a contract extension over the summer after compiling a 74-29 record and eight bowl trips. But the bigger news is that BYU top receiver Cody Hoffman is back. Virginia, 4-8 last year, has a new QB in redshirt soph David Watford and I believe BYU will cover the one-point spread. MY PICK? Brigham Young, 27-10.
VIRGINIA TECH at No. 1 ALABAMA, 5:30 p.m. (ABC) -- For the past four seasons, the Crimson Tide has consistently improved and has three national championships to show for it. Now favored by 20, will Nick Saban play conservative or will he try to get as many of his superstars in the game as possible? Alabama has next Saturday off before travelling to A&M so the hunch here is this is going to be a whipping. MY PICK? Alabama, 48-0.
AUSTIN PEAY AT TENNESSEEE, 6:00 p.m. – This is the day’s biggest embarrassment but we’ll get to see Butch Jones put his first signature on a Tennessee victory, as empty as it may well be. Look for the Vols to play everybody, especially at quarterback. Some think a team makes its biggest improvement between the first and second game and UT will have to bear down with Western Kentucky next week. MY PICK? Tennessee 42-3.
KENTUCKY AT WESTERN KENTUCKY, 7:00 p.m. – These two have endured the emotions of new coaching staffs for all of August so it is no wonder that UK is a slim, 4-point favorite. WKU coach Bobby Petrino, his deeds at Arkansas famous, is ready. "I'm excited about our football team. I think we've done a lot of good things. We have a lot of good things. We have a lot of improvement that we need ahead of us. We'll line up Saturday night and see where we're at." MY PICK? Kentucky, 23-21.
WASHINGTON STATE AT AUBURN, 7:00 p.m. – After a tragic 3-9 record, Auburn is eager for the Gus Malzahn era to begin. On Tuesday the new coach said he's most curious about "our effort, our attitude, how we handle adversity, how we handle success." WSU, which hasn’t had a winning record since 2003, is coached by “The Pirate,” Mike Leach, who will bring his “AirRaid” attack to face the 15-point spread. MY PICK? Auburn, 34-14.
No. 5 GEORGIA at No. 8 CLEMSON, 8:00 p.m. – Easily the best game of the day, both teams have potential Heisman Trophy winners at quarterback. Georgia’s Aaron Murray is a little ahead of Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, last year’s ACC Player of the Year, because Murray is surrounded with a little more overall talent. And don’t forget the Bulldogs, favored by 2 points, host No. 6 South Carolina next week. MY PICK? Georgia, 24-17.
No. 20 TEXAS CHRISTIAN vs. No. 12 LSU (Arlington, Texas) 9:00 p.m. – LSU’s famed defensive coordinator John Chavis is noted for telling his players, “Tradition doesn’t graduate,” so look for LSU to swarm against TCU tomorrow. The Tigers are only favored by 5; that’s because QB Casey Pachall is back after being dismissed from the team early last season for substance abuse. Pachall is a dazzling player – as good as any in the country – but TCU will play Trevone Boykin, too, after he stepped in so well in Pachell’s absence. MY PICK? LSU, 35-21.