Tim's mailbag: Can Hawkins really lead CU to 10 wins in 2009?
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I'm just coming off vacation, but I couldn't make it without a mailbag before we get back for the weekend. I can say I've never answered your missives from a speeding Amtrak train heading from New York City to Baltimore, Md.
Here are some of the better questions I've received this week.
Brandon Brown of Minneapolis writes: Tim, I'm a Colorado fan who is wondering if it's fair to expect a strong showing from the Buffaloes this season? With Dan Hawkins in place long enough to have "his players" in place, it seems to be reasonable to expect 8-9 wins. Do you think this is realistic?
Tim Griffin: Brandon, it seems that Hawkins has high expectations after last season and expects to win "10 games with no excuses" this season. In Hawkins' defense, he didn't say whether he was including a bowl game and a championship game into the final win total. But it's clear that Hawkins must have some confidence in his team if he expects them to play that well.
The Buffaloes do have one of the conference's best running games and a deep offensive line that should be able to move the ball consistently. I don't know about their quarterbacking combination with Cody Hawkins and Tyler Hansen and I think they'll miss the big-play capabilities that Josh Smith gave them. I also think they need some help on the defense front breaking in a new starting rotation, but I really like Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart at linebacker and Jimmy Smith at cornerback.
That being said, I expect the Buffaloes to be competitive in the Big 12 North. The fact that all of their major North Division rivals -- Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas -- all will be home games should help them.
When all of that is considered, I think the Buffaloes have a got shot to win eight games and return to a bowl game this season. And with a break or two, it wouldn't shock me to see them barge into North Division title contention -- and maybe even live up to Hawkins' bold prediction.
Josh Patterson from Katy, Texas, writes: I just went back and looked up Coach Dan McCarney's team fushing stats against Texas when he was at Iowa State. Here's how many rushing yards that Iowa State allowed each time they played Texas: 1998, 334 yards; 1999, 129 yards; 2002, 245 yards; 2003, 235 yards; 2006, 193 yards. By my count that's 1136 yards in five games. Do you think this guy really scares the Texas coaches?
Tim Griffin: Josh, you are commenting about my proposed Texas-Florida game in No. 1 matchups between the Southeastern Conference.
And let's put it this way. McCartney would enjoy equality in talent this time around, compared to when he played Texas previous when he coaching at Iowa State. I think the Gators might be a lot closer to Texas in terms of overall talent in the trenches than they were when he was coaching at Iowa State -- if not even ahead of the Longhorns.
The same could be said about Oklahoma and the Sooners' ability to run the game in previous games against McCarney over the years.
The Sooners and Bob Stoops produced 301, 199, 199 and 185 yards against McCartney's defense in the four times they met before McCartney left after the 2006 season. That's an average of 221 yards per game.
But when McCarney had similar talent to the Sooners, his team came up with a big effort in the BCS title game, limiting the Sooners to 107 rushing yards. Their critical play deep inside the red zone help turn away the Sooners without points on two critical drives late in the first half in the BCS title game that was one of the biggest reasons why Florida won.
Could a similar occurrence happen if Florida and Texas met up? I don't know, but I do think the Sooners' collection of running backs is superior to Texas and we saw what the Gators were able to do against Oklahoma last season.
Bryan Benabe of Frisco, Texas, writes: Tim, I attend Oklahoma State and heard that the Big 12 media day will be held in Dallas, where I live. I was wondering where I could purchase tickets and also if fans are allowed to go. Keep up the good work and Go Pokes!
Tim Griffin: Bryan, sorry to have to inform you, but the public doesn't attend these affairs. No tickets are sold and it will just be use media folks who are there.
But the next best thing to being there will be my blog reports from the festivities. Check back often when things kick off July 27. I'll do my best to try to make it like you are actually there with us.
Patrick Ledbetter from Orlando, Fla., writes: Tim, you're missing the point on the BCS and Orrin Hatch. Forget the money for a minute. Without a playoff system, you'll never know who really was the best in any given year. Relying on computer rankings and top 25 polls from AP sports writers instead of letting the teams play it out on the field is wrong. And here's how I'd do it. Take the final 16 teams at the end of the year and start pairing them off, exactly like the NCAA basketball tournament does. Each game where the teams play each other would be considered a "bowl" game. Start the process in early December with the current smaller bowls and keep going. The bigger of the current bowls would always be reserved for playing the last of the playoff games and they could rotate for who gets to host the actual championship game each year. The NCAA basketball system would work perfectly for college football.
Tim Griffin: Patrick, I don't know if I necessarily agree with you. First, I don't think many bowls that don't have a chance for a national championship game or a high playoff would be interested in signing off on something like this. These games are important for their home cities and provide a reason for fans to travel to watch their teams play. Do you really think that many fans will have the time and inclination to travel over three straight weeks -- with the expensive plane tickets bought on short notice to boot -- to really make consecutive trips like that?
Another item I find problematic would be taking 16 teams for a playoff. If that's the case, won't the 17th or 18th best team claim it had just as viable a chance as those at the end of the playoff?
I'm not necessarily sure I agree the playoff is the best idea. The major reason why is because the regular season acts as a de facto playoff system. I think college football has the best regular season in all of sports. It begins with excitement in the first week of the season and only gets better as the season continues. I would hate to see that diminshed in any way.
But if I was forced to go along with a playoff system, how about a four-game playoff after the major bowl games? That would allow the major bowls to have a viable part in the playoff system. I think this idea makes the most sense to continue what we currently have.
Todd Lamerton of Birmingham, Ala., writes: Hey Tim, it amazes me the love that Texas receives from you sportswriters. If you asked the average college football fan how many Big Twelve titles that Mack Brown has won, most people would guess a few. He's actually won one. People talk about Bob Stoops choking in big games, but he's won six Big 12 titles and three in a row. Texas hasn't even been able to win its own division most years with Brown.
Tim Griffin: Todd, the numbers you are relating are correct. The Longhorns have been dominated by Oklahoma in terms of conference championships during the Mack Brown/Bob Stoops era. I've always maintained that Stoops doesn't ge
t the national love he deserves for claiming three-straight conference championships.
Want an idea of how hard that feat is in recent college football?
Since Stoops arrived at Oklahoma in 1999, only two other programs have claimed three consecutive conference championships in BCS conferences: 2003-05 USC and 2000-02 Miami. And in conferences that determine their titlist with a championship game, only two have been able to top what Stoops has done in college football history. Marshall claimed four-straight conference championship games in the Mid-American Conference from 1997-2000 and Florida in the Southeastern Conference from 1993-96. So it's a difficult accomplishment to achieve.
The "Big Game Bob" moniker might have worn off nationally, but it still fits in the Big 12 as Stoops has made the Big 12 his own playground during his coaching tenure with the Sooners.
I don't think many fans inside the Big 12's footprint are discounting what Stoops has been able to accomplish. I think he's the pivotal figure in Big 12 history at this point.
John L. Romano of Washington, D.C., writes: Much respect for all the original material you've provided us during this down time. So I figured I'd sneak in a recruiting question before things start heating up for the upcoming season.
Being in San Antonio, I was wondering what your feeling is on 2011 running back product Aaron Green and what your gut is telling you about where he might end up?. I ask because his older brother just signed with Nebraska and he should be in a good position to compete for playing time as a freshman at NU after Roy Helu leaves. Do the Cornhuskers have a shot?
Tim Griffin: The recruiting battle for Green will be interesting. Like you wrote, older brother Andrew is a freshman defensive back at Nebraska. I don't know if he will follow him to Nebraska, although the opportunity for immediate playing time definitely would be there. I hear Texas is very interested in him. And there's also a family tie at Baylor, where his father, Tony, and his uncle, Gary, both played for the Bears.
But if I was guessing with my gut, which received all kinds of sustenance with black and white cookies and matzo ball soup during the last week while in "The Big Apple," I would think the Longhorns will definitely be in the hunt at the end. And Mack Brown has a pretty good track record of getting the players whom he wants from Texas high schools.
And with Cody Green at quarterback, it could make for some confusing times for Greg Sharpe as he broadcasts Nebraska's games. But I bet he wouldn't complain if all of them were there together.
That's all for this week. Check back with me again next Friday for another set of letters. And keep the e-mails coming, please.