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Friday, June 12, 2009
Tim's mailbag: Will UT be hurt by its weak nonconference schedule

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Here are some of the more interesting letters I received from readers this week. Thanks for the good questions and keep them coming. I'll try to answer as many as I can each Friday afternoon.

Trent from Denver writes: Tim, I love your blog and read it daily. Great coverage of the best conference in college football! I've particularly enjoyed yours and the other ESPN college football writers' recent posts about the decline in marquee non-conference scheduling over the past 30 years.

With the strength of the major BCS conferences (especially the Big 12), a team can, and likely will, play for a national championship this season despite scheduling a bunch of non-conference patsies (See, e.g., Longhorns, Texas), which provides little to no incentive for scheduling a tough non-conference game. I don't think teams necessarily need to schedule two or three tough non-conference games each season, but I wish more teams would follow my Cornhuskers' approach and at least schedule one good non-conference game each season. Why don't more teams do this?

Tim Griffin: First of all, thanks for the compliments. I think you bring up a valid point, although it seems like some coaches have decided to completely blow off the nonconference part of the schedule. Some coaches obviously believe they can make up for any deficiencies in their nonconference schedules by the strength of their conference schedule.

Maybe playing in the South Division provides Mack Brown and Texas that kind of confidence. I don't know and I can't answer that for him.

But I do think it will be very interesting to gauge Brown's thoughts about his nonconference schedule on Nov. 7. That's the day the Longhorns host Central Florida. On the same day, Oklahoma will be traveling to Nebraska, Ohio State will visit Penn State, LSU travels to Alabama and USC visits Arizona State. Which team will be getting the least BCS bounce on that date?


Jim Jzar from Grand Junction, Colo., writes: Tim: Isn't it pretty chicken of Colorado to restrict Josh Smith's transfer to only USC? He also listed Arizona State as a school that offered the program he wanted. This isn't like a coach commiting to a school then accepting another job: this is a young man who chose a school, then did better than he had expected in his vocation/hobby (rap music) and decided he should try to develop that. It's a big loss for Colorado, sure, but why should they prevent him from doing the best for himself, his family and his changing life circumstance?

Tim Griffin: I don't know why Mike Bohn and the Colorado program have limited Smith only to USC rather than Arizona State. Obviously, it would be more difficult for Smith to crack the rotation with the Trojans than the Sun Devils. But I still think that Smith's abilities in special teams would make him an attractive addition wherever he might end up.

I'm also a big believer in taking the high road if a player should decide to transfer for whatever reason. Because there's always going to be a bunch of players who watch your actions in how you react to somebody leaving. Taking the high road, I believe, makes a program more attractive to the next group of players who come along.


Andrew from Dallas writes: Hey, Tim, in regards to that story by John P. Lopez you posted from Texags.com. Texas A&M's problems are not due to its academic majors. This is the classic Notre Dame excuse. Their problem is: Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban/Les Miles, Mike Leach, Gary Patterson, Les Miles/Mike Gundy, Houston Nutt/Bobby Petrino, Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin, and soon to be June Jones > Dennis Franchione/Mike Sherman It is that simple.

Tim Griffin: You raise an interesting point. I do think that all of the across-the-board construction projects that Bill Byrne has implemented for many of the other sports than football has been a major reason why the Aggies have enjoyed all of the recent success in many other sports.

But I also think that many A&M fans discount all of that success because the Aggies have been struggling in football. It's been particularly pyrrhic success as the Aggies' rivals all around them -- Texas, Oklahoma, LSU and now even Baylor and Texas Tech -- have appeared to lap them in football.

And the biggest reason for success in a college football program is coaching. I'm not saying that Mike Sherman is lacking in any coaching acumen. But he better get things turned around in the right direction, considering all of the success that the rest of the South Division has enjoyed.


Ryan Jones from Stillwater, Okla., writes: Hey Tim, I'm a student at Oklahoma State and I was wondering what you think about the Cowboys' home opener against Georgia this next season getting College Game Day? It is no doubt one if not the biggest games of the opening weekend of the football season and it is also the grand re-opening of Boone Pickens Stadium, it's going to be a huge night. Both teams are going to be in top 15. Is that enough to bring Herby and Corso back to Eskimo Joes?

Tim Griffin: Ryan, I think the OSU-Georgia game ranks among the two best games of the opening weekend along with the Virginia Tech-Alabama game in Atlanta.

Both games will be intriguing. I think the Georgia-OSU game might have more national star power because it should involve higher-ranked teams. But the Virginia Tech-Alabama gets a little extra boost after the Crimson Tide's NCAA penalties earlier this week. So it might be the more attractive game.

I'm just glad I don't have to make the decision on where they go. Because I think both games should be attractive.


James D. from Houston writes: Hey, Tim. Thanks for making this football waiting period less painful. Anyway, I saw a previous question about matching up Texas' D-line vs. OU's O-line and was wondering if you could switch it and share you thoughts on Texas' O-line vs. OU's D-line. Both seem like they're going to be very strong and wanted to get your take.

Tim Griffin: James, I don't think the Texas' offensive line vs. Oklahoma defensive line will be nearly as important as the other side of the ball because of the team's weaknesses in that area.

The Texas offense vs. Oklahoma defense will be a battle of strength vs. strength. And for that reason, I think the team that has the most success on the other side of the ball will end up winning the game.

Special teams could be critical, too. You could argue that Texas won the game last year on special teams because of the return by Jordan Shipley that pumped life into a sagging Texas team after the Longhorns had fallen behind early. But I think the Texas offensive line will be tested by Oklahoma's depth along the defensive line. Arguably, the depth of Oklahoma's front seven might be the biggest strength on the Sooners' team.


Marcus Geiger writes: I just read where Coach Dan Hawkins is going to have 3,200 football campers this summer. It's the largest in history, while keeping a reasonable 10-1 coach to player ratio. How does that compare with other schools in the Big12 and can you tell us how these camps effect recruiting?

Tim Griffin: Several stories have been written in the last several days about similar booming business in the camp business at places like Missouri and Baylor. I don't think I've seen anybody match the Buffaloes' total
-- yet.

Obviously, the more campers who are attracted to camp provide schools with a way to sell the their school. So getting the word out to as many potential players as possible is a big positive for a school and program. Even if only a handful of players materialize from those camps, the public relations benefits for a school are immense.


Jack Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Tim, absolutely love the blog. I know you know football and have been traveling across the Big 12 area for a long time. Quick question for you. If you had one last meal anywhere in the Big 12 area, which restaurant would you choose?

Tim Griffin: Bill, you raise a good question and I'm going to hesitate to answer with just one of my favorites. Instead, I'll limit it to my favorite few places. I'll go with Misty's in Lincoln for a juicy steak; George's in Waco for chicken-fried chicken, veggies and hot rolls; Hut's in Austin for burgers and world-class onion rings; the Cattleman's Restaurant in your town for steak and calf fries (don't knock them until you try them) and of course the holy trinity in Kansas City of Stroud's, Arthur Bryant's and Winsteads.

All of them are my favorites. I could live well eating my last meal at any of them. It's making me hungry just thinking of them.

Thanks again for all of the good questions again this week. I promise I'll check back again next week.