Go tell it on the mountain. And across the fruited plain, for that matter. I'm not alone in picking these guys No. 1.
They're talking national championship at West Virginia -- and not just in the Morgantown bars. They're talking it on the practice field.
"National champs on three!" coach Rich Rodriguez says when he brings his team together at the end of each spring practice.
"One-two-three!" the coach yells.
"National champs!" the players respond.
So they're not hiding from the buzz. Not embracing it by any means -- Rodriguez's humble-and-hungry counterstrike mantra is pervasive -- but not hiding from it, either. That's why the end-of-practice chant is what it is.
The second, also by Pat Forde, deals more with how Rodriguez got to where he is.
"I was the youngest head coach in America at 24," Rodriguez said. "I was fired at 25."
Not just fired; disbanded. About 13 months after he became head coach, Rodriguez remembers sitting in his office at Salem one June day, just a few weeks away from his wedding to Rita. He'd just bought his first house for $33,000. He was living large.
Then the phone rang around 8:30 a.m., and there was a reporter asking for his reaction to Teikyo University's buying Salem and discontinuing the football program. Rodriguez figured it was a friend playing a prank. Then the phone rang again, and it was a college coach asking whether Salem's players were going to transfer, and how he could get hold of them.
Finally, his athletic director popped his head in the door, well behind the breaking news.
"There will be a press conference today that is detrimental to your program," the AD said, then walked out.
Rodriguez picked up the phone and called Rita.
"The good news is, we're still getting married," he told her. "But I've got no job."
The bad news is that he will be getting a lot of offers to leave WVU over the next few years. He has said on many occasions that this is his dream job, and that leads me to believe he will stay. Some think that he will only leave for a pro coaching position. I think that would be a huge mistake. I have no doubt about his coaching brilliance, but the Rah-Rah factor is non-existent in the NFL, and I think that would be his downfall. Some of you rich WVU alumni need to pony up some money, because he is going to have the leverage to demand it real soon........