My holiday mail is stacking up, but I wouldn't think of heading into the holidays without answering a few letters from my readers this afternoon.
Jason from Sioux Falls, S.D. writes: Mack Brown recently said of Alabama: "Coaches are dealing with Alabama. We're not able to sleep," Brown said. "They've got three (Nebraska All-American defensive tackle Ndamukong) Suhs up front. That's the problem." That is as ridiculous of a statement as I have read in some time. Alabama is a great team with an outstanding defensive line, but they do not have three players on that line that will win the Lombardi, the Outland and be the number one prospect on both Kiper and McShay's boards. They do not have one player the quality of Suh, let alone three.
Tim Griffin: Brown took a little poetic license as he prepares his team for what likely will be its toughest challenge of the season. I can understand his usage of Suh as a reinforcing point -- particularly after the Longhorns’ recent struggles against the Cornhuskers.
But like you said, I don’t know if Alabama necessarily has the talent across the defensive front to match at least Suh. Even if Brown is making the Crimson Tide sound significantly better heading into the Citi BCS National Championship Game.
Bruce M. Jackson of Houston writes: I know I'm a bit late getting into this discussion I was out of the country the past couple of weeks, but as someone who follows the south more closely than the north. I have a general question for you, Tim.
I just don't get the idea that new Kansas coach Turner Gill is some sure-fire can't miss program builder. Here is a coach who is 10 games under .500 and plays in the “can't walk and chew gum division” of the MAC. Yeah, last year was a great story and all, but they still went 8-6 and had to go to overtime to get three of those wins and get another in an extremely fluky play. I know Buffalo is near the bottom of 1A schools but it’s not like the difference between Buffalo and Bowling Green (I guess the best job in MAC East) is as great as the difference between KU and Nebraska. Again, I’m not saying that Gill will fail, but there is nothing as of yet to indicate that KU will be the best or second to best team in the North 5 years from now (which will more than likely still be determined by your cross-division schedule).
Tim Griffin: Bruce, I saw enough things in Gill’s short tenure at Buffalo that led me to believe he would be successful with a program with more advantages. I always look at a coach’s record in close games as indicative of his success he’ll have with equal talent. And as far down as Buffalo was when he accepted the job leads me to believe he’ll do well at Kansas where his facilities and talent should be in the middle of the North Division – if not better.
I like his chances with the Jayhawks, particularly because of his existing recruiting ties in Texas and the new facilities at Kansas.
Craig Coldren of San Antonio writes: Tim, thanks to you and all the ESPN experts for making Texas the underdog in the BCS title game. Shades of '05.
Tim Griffin: Craig, I haven’t officially made my pick yet. But something tells me that Mack Brown, Will Muschamp, Colt McCoy and all the rest of the Longhorns share your sentiments.
Jeff Campbell of Shakopee, Minn., writes: Tim, with all the players that Texas and Oklahoma are losing after this year we could have a new conference winner. Who is your early pick to win the Big 12 in 2010? What do you think are the chances of Missouri or Nebraska breaking the South's streak and winning the conference?
Tim Griffin: I think the difference between the two conferences will be slimmer than in the past. And I would be surprised if we have any undefeated teams in the conference.
But even though Oklahoma and Texas will be coming back to the pack, I don’t see Nebraska or Missouri having enough to jump past the Texas/Oklahoma logjam at the top. The loss of Suh, along with the questionable Nebraska offense down the stretch, makes me a little dubious about the Cornhuskers’ Big 12 title hopes. And Missouri will be losing Danario Alexander and Sean Weatherspoon – arguably their two most important players.
Also don't discount Texas Tech and Texas A&M, who I think could contend for the Big 12 South with a few breaks next season.
With that being considered, I look for the South team to make it seven straight titles when the Big 12 title game is played in early December 2010.
Bryan of Houston writes: Tim, what are the rules on medical hardships? I just saw Oklahoma linebacker Ryan Reynolds’ appeal was denied. It seems with missing two full seasons and most of third with major knee injuries and then a couple of more games this year he'd get one no problem.
Tim Griffin: Actually, a “medical hardship” isn’t an official NCAA term, but a generic one used when a student-athlete is injured after participating in a limited amount of competition during a particularly academic year. They then could qualify for a medical hardship waiver granted by the NCAA.
Here’s what the NCAA has to say about it:
If a student-athlete suffers a season-ending injury or illness after competing in a limited amount of competition during a particular academic year, he/she may qualify for a medical hardship waiver which would allow him/her an additional season of competition during the five-year period of eligibility. To qualify for a medical hardship:
(a) the student-athlete’s injury or illness must occur in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition or subsequent to the first day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;
(b) the injury or illness must occur prior to the completion of the first half of the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship in that sport and must result in incapacity to compete for the remainder of that playing season; and
(c) the injury or illness must occur when the student-athlete has not participated in more than two contests/dates of competition or 30% of the institution’s scheduled contests/dates of competition in his/her sport (whichever number is greater). The number is rounded up.
Obviously, Oklahoma held out hope that Reynolds would have been granted an extra season for last season, when he was injured in his sixth game. He played what would be his senior season this year with hopes that one more would be received. There was none, so his college career will be over after the Brut Sun Bowl against Stanford.
That's all the time I have this week. Seasons greetings and we'll have more letters early next week.