NCF Nation: mailbag 100512

Mailbag: Tedford in Cal's big picture

October, 5, 2012
Happy Friday.

This is the mailbag. If you were looking for a nice fried egg sandwich, you will not find it here.

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To the notes!

Ken from Berkeley, Calif., writes: If you look back at the fifty years before Tedford, Cal had about 14 winning seasons. This is through eleven other coaches and who knows how many academic administrations. To what extent are the demands/challenges of coaching at Cal different than other places? At Ohio St., for example, fans kept asking isn't Berkeley just a liberal place full of radicals. Hasn't Coach Tedford uniquely succeeded in providing competitive football at despite the challenges more than any other Cal coach in 50 years? Do some Cal fans have an illusion of what the past 50 years were like and how that a jerk coach like some have would not be acceptable as a role model?

Ted Miller: You make a fair point. It's a point that factors into the thinking of the decision-makers/power brokers at California.

No one denies what Tedford has done for Cal. Even, I'd hope, his fiercest critics. He is, in many ways, a victim of his own success. In 2001, regularly posting winning records and going to bowl games sounded thrilling in Berkeley. By 2006, folks had refocused on Rose Bowls and 10-win seasons.

Tedford won despite facilities that were among the worst in the Pac-12. Heck, worst among AQ conference programs. He's also represented the program with class.

But this is a tough business. And a big business. Tedford's success was the linchpin for the massive facilities upgrades, including the $330 million renovation of Memorial Stadium. Now there is concern about whether the product inside the remodeled stadium is up to the task of paying for it.

Tedford's success changing the perception of Cal football, the new facilities, the changing landscape of college football and the Pac-12's moving into the sport's fast lane has changed the dynamic. This isn't 2001. The judgment on Tedford operates almost entirely over the past two-plus years, which haven't gone well.

Further working against Tedford are the types of losses, many of the blowout variety, as well as a good number of upsets against teams that were viewed as inferior. Meanwhile, Cal has become one of the biggest pipelines to the NFL. That suggests talent isn't the issue.

At 1-4 so far this season, with a 13-17 record -- 7-13 in Pac-12 play -- since going 8-5 in 2009, it is legitimate to question the direction of the program under Tedford. And to ask if he can reverse it.

The parallel thought is: If not Tedford, then who? And how? If the decision is made to go into another direction, then folks making that decision need to have a solid map for what comes next and how they plan to pay for it.

There also is this: The season is not over. The Bears have flashed enough potential this year to maintain hope for a turnaround, even though the schedule ahead remains daunting. A win over UCLA on Saturday could be the touchstone for a rally.

Ken, it's good to hear some measured, big-picture perspective. My feeling is you are not alone in supporting Tedford. I'd suggest that you make your feelings known to athletic director Sandy Barbour, whom I'm guessing is not enjoying this situation in the least.

Engineer Mike from WinterthurSwitzerland writes: We've already talked about how 9 conference games gives the PAC-12 some extra guaranteed losses. However, I'm starting to suspect that the real advantage the SEC has comes from the fact that the easy non-conference schedule is so EARLY. When everybody else is seeing drops after a week of unbeatens matched up against one another, you're actually providing yourself great early access to the polls. Never mind that some of those currently ranked won't be there at the end of the season. They're there now, and used as a stepstool for whoever wins this week. Once established, teams are hard to bring back down. I see a matchup of two 5-0 teams that really should have little more value than the first game of the year for either, and yet they both sit in the top 6. Thought?

Ted Miller: There is no disadvantage to playing eight conference games. None. Other than your fan experience, and SEC teams have no trouble for the most part selling 90,000 tickets even when the opponent is a directional school.

I hear your point about creating a lot of 3-0 and 4-0 teams based on weak opponents. That makes it easier for teams to produce winning records and earn bowl eligibility. It also makes it easier to get ranked.

But, in terms of placement on the schedule, what typically happens with four nonconference games is at least one is scheduled for later in the season. That, too, offers major benefits. It's like adding a glorified bye week or scrimmage at some point in the season when it helps to rest your starters.

For example, on the Nov. 17 weekend Oregon plays host to Stanford and USC and UCLA square off, Alabama takes on Western Carolina and Georgia plays Georgia Southern. The two frontrunners in their respective divisions get a nice weekend to get their legs back under them.

We hear a lot about the grind of the SEC schedule, but a lot of times it pays to go, "Really, let's see that schedule." That's even more true now if the SEC doesn't move to a 9-game schedule, despite growing by two teams to 14. Conference misses will become a HUGE deal in that league. Think back to 2011, when LSU, Alabama and Arkansas were the best teams in the conference. Imagine the good fortune of an East team not playing any of the three. You know: Like SEC East champ Georgia didn't.

The hope, of course, is that going forward in 2014 under our new four-team playoff, a selection committee will essentially disqualify teams that refused to play tough nonconference games and not allow them to hide behind the specious, "Our conference is already tough enough!"

Pep from Stanford, Calif., writes: I'm a little perplexed how my Stanford offense got so terrible, so quickly. Last week, we scored 6 offensive points (both field goals) against the same team we scored 65 against last year.I know we're trying to replace The Best Quarterback Since Peyton Manning, but seriously, do we not have a single guy on the roster who's capable of completing a simple slant route? Or a 5 yard screen pass for crying out loud!Any advice?

Ted Miller: My first thought is that you're forgetting this offense didn't just lose Andrew Luck. If OG David DeCastro and OT Jonathan Martin were still on the line, the Cardinal probably could have won against the Huskies without throwing a pass. And if they'd had to throw every once and a while, TE Coby Fleener probably could have helped.

My second is to wonder how things might have been different if Josh Nunes hadn't suffered at least four drops against Washington. It's tough making your first career start on the road. Tougher when your teammates are letting you down.

My third: Nunes had a bad game. Most QBs have those every once and a while. You might recall a certain USC QB looking terrible in a recent game you might be familiar with as a Stanford fan.

Folks are quick to make broad pronouncements about one game. I mean, I still can't believe how in over his head Chip Kelly is! Didn't you see how Boise State stomped him in 2009!

If Nunes is who his coaches think he is, he'll learn from his mistakes and get better. I suspect he might look pretty good Saturday against a questionable Arizona defense.

David Fertal from Calgary, Alberta, writes: Hey Ted, Now that we're 1/2 way through the season, which team has the highest rated defense in the conference? Being a Duck fan, I'm actually a touch worried about our pesky neighbors in Black & Orange... (They who shall not be named)

Ted Miller: Too early to make a final call. We've just started the conference slate, and not all nonconference schedules were created equal.

Here are the notable numbers from my "Stat Attack!" post this week (number to left is national ranking).

Scoring defense

14. Arizona State, 13.6 points per game

21. Stanford, 15.25 ppg

Total defense

10. Arizona State, 276.2 yards per game

21. Washington, 315.0 ypg

24. Stanord, 316.5

Rushing defense

3. Stanford, 65 yards per game

9. Oregon State, 83 ypg

24. Oregon, 110.6

Pass efficiency defense

7. Arizona State

18. Stanford

20. Washington

23. USC

24. Oregon

Third-down defense (percentage)

2. Oregon State, 20.5 %

4. Stanford, 24.62

5. Oregon, 24.69

13. UCLA, 28.21


5. Arizona State, 4.2 per game

6. USC, 4.0

10. UCLA, 3.4

13. Oregon, 3.2

13. Washington State, 3.2

25. Stanford, 2.75

25. Utah, (2.75)

Arizona State, which has played a solid schedule, leads the conference in scoring, total and pass efficiency defense as well as sacks.

So, to this point, I'd rate the Sun Devils No. 1, which no one saw coming.

But Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State, USC and UCLA remain in the picture. Heck, even Washington does, based on its early numbers.

Derek from Salt Lake City writes: In your chat yesterday, you mentioned Cal perhaps going with a cheap up-and-coming coach, presumably because of the cost to fire Tedford. Do you think WSU going with coach Wulff for 3 years was a good thing? At 600 grand a year, it allowed them to save up a little for the two mil a year that Coach Leach costs, right? Although, Wulff is an example of not all up-and-comers working out. And the ones that do usually aren't up and comers for long, kinda by definition. Chip Kelly was an OC for what, maybe two years before his first and only head coaching job? How many hot names are out there besides Wilcox and anyone that works at Alabama?

Ted Miller: I don't think you go cheap just to save money. At the time of Wulff's hiring at Washington State, he was a former Cougar player who'd done a good job at Eastern Washington. It seemed like a roll of the dice that either would prove to be a perfect fit or one that fizzled in obscurity. I personally thought it was an inspired decision at the time.

I'm not going to make this specific to Cal, but my theory is the best coaching hires are accomplished, veteran coordinators who have the charisma to front a program or an accomplished coach at a nontraditional power. And, if I'm the guy doing the hiring, I'd ask any candidate to tell me who would be on his staff, which is darn near as important as the head coach. Maybe even more so.

Folks were skeptical about UCLA hiring Jim Mora. Then he hired a great crew of assistants and the scuttlebutt changed.

There are only a handful of programs that can make a splashy hire, such as Ohio State getting Urban Meyer or Alabama getting Nick Saban. The circumstances of Arizona hiring Rich Rodriguez and Washington State getting Mike Leach were fairly unique. It's rare two coaches with their pedigrees are available.

Everyone else is best off doing their homework instead of trying to grab a big name. That means having a meeting with the powers that be and hashing out the qualities everyone wants. Then the decision-making should be handed off to one person, typically the athletic director. The more folks playing a role in the search, the less like it will be successful.

Further, the one thing I can say with absolute certainty: It's a waste of money hiring a coach search firm. They offer little and charge a lot.

Last year, I banged a drum for Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who was hired by Pittsburgh to replace Todd Graham.

This year? Here are some guys worth a look, listed merely in the order in which I thought of them:
  • Head coaches: Charlie Strong, Louisville; Art Briles, Baylor; Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech; Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky; Gary Anderson, Utah State; Butch Jones, Cincinnati.
  • Coordinators: Kirby Smart, Alabama; Chad Morris, Clemson; Mark Helfrich, Oregon; Justin Wilcox, Washington; Noel Mazzone, UCLA; Todd Monken, Oklahoma State; Brent Venables, Clemson; Manny Diaz, Texas; Lorenzo Ward, South Carolina; Kalani Sitake, Utah; Pep Hamilton, Stanford; Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State.
And, of course, there's always the NFL. Plenty of great coaches there, many of whom have extensive college experience, such as San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, one of the most creative offensive guys out there.

UODucky Tempe, Ariz., writes: Ted, good fellow, have you or Kevin been reading the discussion boards this week on the UW vs. UO articles [and here] ? If so, have you noticed how civil the discussions have been (notwithstanding 55USC's valiant attempts to stir the pot). Further, does such civility, in light of the apparent attempt by the articles to start a throw-down, frustrate our gallant Pac-12 bloggers?

Ted Miller: Kevin and I both have one, two-pronged purpose: To entertain and inform. If your joy comes from trash talking -- us or other readers -- fine. If you enjoy civility, that's great, too.

The important thing is that you are here, saving lives, making the world safe for democracy and ensuring every puppy finds a loving home.


SEC mailbag: More on Dawgs-Gamecocks

October, 5, 2012
I’ll do by my best to answer your questions, although my answers may not always be what you want to hear.

But I do aim to be honest.

With that, let’s see what’s in the SEC mailbag this week:

Keith in Maryland writes: Since Georgia and South Carolina really haven’t played any formidable foes yet, what kind of game do you expect between them? A high-octane or a defensive struggle?

Chris Low: I’d say Georgia has been tested a little more than South Carolina. The Bulldogs had to play at Missouri the second week of the season in a tough atmosphere. Remember, that was Missouri’s first-ever SEC game, and the place was rocking. Also, Tennessee is the real deal on offense and going to score points on a lot of people this season, so that wasn’t a picnic last week against the Vols. The Gamecocks just haven’t run up against any offenses this season capable of testing them. Nonetheless, I still think South Carolina is excellent on defense and will prevent Georgia from making a lot of the big plays it’s been torching teams with this season. I really don’t see a shootout in this game. I know it was a 45-42 game last season, and I know the Bulldogs gave up 44 points last week to Tennessee. But the Bulldogs will be better this second game with all of their players back (Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo). I also think both defensive lines are good enough to get off the field in key situations. To me, it comes down to which offensive line plays the best, and I bet you’ll see the Gamecocks do a few new things with quarterback Connor Shaw.

Josh in Altoona, Pa., writes: Hey, love the blog. I had two questions, both dealing with scheduling. My first is whether the SEC is going to reconfigure the schedules next year to make room for Arkansas and South Carolina changing inter-divisional rivals or if they'll just shoehorn the replacements into the place of the old game? In that case, do I just switch the home-away schedule of a team this year to get an approximation of next year's schedule? My second question is about the possibility of the SEC moving to a nine game schedule at some point in the future, which I hear is inevitable.

Chris Low: This year’s schedule was just a one-time deal. The plan was to start the new rotation next year, although it’s not a given that will happen. But going forward, some of the teams will have new cross-divisional rivals (South Carolina-Texas A&M and Arkansas-Missouri). The details are still being worked out as to when all this will go into effect. It does look like a few teams will be making return road trips again next season to play cross-divisional games similar to Mississippi State playing at Kentucky this season for the second straight year. My take on a nine-game league schedule has changed. I used to think there was no way it would happen. But with the national playoff coming in 2014 and strength of schedule being more important than ever before, there’s some momentum in the SEC to explore the idea of playing nine conference games. The hard part will be convincing teams like Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky to go along with it. All three have in-state rivals they play every year out of conference. However it shakes out, let’s hope the elite teams in the league continue to go out and play marquee nonconference games similar to Alabama-Michigan this season and LSU-Oregon last season.

Nick in San Antonio, Texas, writes: Why are there no props given to the Aggie defense? We are giving up an average of 4.6 yards per game. Alabama’s at 4.4 and South Carolina at 4.3. We’re No. 1 in the SEC in third-down defense, No.1 in red-zone defense and No. 3 in scoring defense. You can call it bend don’t break all you want, but the defense’s job is prevent points and get off the field on third down. Texas A&M is accomplishing that with the best of them.

Chris Low: My first thought would be because Texas A&M has been so explosive on offense and that the Aggies’ offense has sort of stolen the show with “Johnny Football” running around and making plays. That said, I had a chance to see Texas A&M’s defense in person against Florida, and I was very impressed with the front seven and the way the Aggies get after the passer. Damontre Moore has been my Breakout Player of the Year in the SEC to this point. They’ve also held their own in the secondary, which was a concern coming in. But bigger tests await down the road. All in all, I’m a believer and think this is a much more complete football team than anybody (including me) gave the Aggies credit for back in August.

Christian in Hattiesburg, Miss., writes: The SEC has five teams in the top10. The last remaining hopes for the country are Notre Dame, Florida State, West Virginia and Oregon. If those teams go down, which is a big possibility, and a team like LSU or South Carolina loses only one game to someone like Alabama or Georgia, is it possible to see another SEC national championship game?

Chris Low: I wouldn’t count out a one-loss USC team climbing back into the national title picture, either, even though the Trojans looked shaky in the early part of that Utah game on Thursday. If all the teams you mentioned do lose a game, it’s certainly possible that we could have another all-SEC title game. I wouldn’t call it a probability, though, not after all the grumbling about seeing two SEC teams in the final last season. One potential scenario could be an unbeaten Alabama team meeting an unbeaten Florida, Georgia or South Carolina team in the SEC championship game. Would the loser of that game, especially if it’s a close loss, be able to hang on and claim the No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings? I just don’t see an Eastern Division team getting to the SEC championship game unbeaten. Georgia probably has the best chance, particularly if the Bulldogs can win this weekend at South Carolina. I don’t think you count out LSU, either. We’ll find out a lot more about the Tigers this weekend in the Swamp. But if they win there and can find some firepower on offense, it could really get interesting. It always is in this league.

BeardoMSU in Starkville, Miss., writes: How do you like our chances to finally get to 10 wins this year? Also, what’s with all the Dee Milliner love from ESPN? He’s a “poor man’s” Johnthan Banks, at best.

Chris Low: If the Bulldogs are 7-0 going into that Alabama game, I’m predicting nine wins in the regular season with a chance at 10 wins in the bowl game. It’s still hard for me to see that far ahead with the Bulldogs because I want to see them be more consistent and not just squeak by lesser opponents. The Tennessee game on Oct. 13 will be a pivotal contest. Maybe this is simply a team that plays best in the big games. Mississippi State’s most impressive performance this season was the win over Auburn in Week 2. You don’t need to sell me on Banks. He’s a super player who’s been making plays ever since he was a freshman. He has great instincts, great ball skills and will be a terrific pro. But if you’ve watched Milliner play this season, then you know how good he is, too. Mel Kiper Jr. has Milliner listed as the top cornerback on his latest Big Board of the top NFL draft prospects and No. 15 overall.

Dan in Rock Hill, S.C., writes: Cool that your blog bio mentions Rock Hill, and why shouldn't it? Typical of the Southeast, that little town is a place where football talent is nurtured.

Chris Low: You’re right about that, and I was blessed to receive my own nurturing in what was once a little town, but not so little anymore. Over and above all the great football players who’ve come out of there -- Chris Hope, Ben Watson, Jeff Burris, Gerald Dixon, Johnathan Joseph, Rick Sanford, Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore, Ko Simpson, Jonathan Hefney, Derek Ross, Tim Jones, Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Worley -- there are tons of wonderful people in Rock Hill. I’m eternally grateful for all the folks there who had such a profound impact on my life. Two stand above all the rest … my parents, Ted and Beulah Low.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

October, 5, 2012
Hope you enjoy the games Saturday.

Jerome from Toronto writes: Now that the ACC has said they're only going to have 8 league games, what are the chances that the B1G and ACC reach an agreement on scheduling a series with each other? Obviously, the ACC will have two teams that will sit out each year since the conferences have a different total of teams in each league. This may be a good way to help get the B1G exposure down in the South and also on the East Coast. Your prediction on this becoming a reality?

Adam Rittenberg: Jerome, this is an interesting proposal. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany really likes partnerships with other leagues, which is why he was so disappointed when the Pac-12 pact didn't work out. Delany would be cautious about doing another scheduling partnership -- he'd need assurances from the other league that they wouldn't back out. But I do strongly believe if the Big Ten went down this road again, it would be with the ACC rather than the SEC or Big 12. The two leagues are a lot more similar, especially now with Notre Dame, which has historic Big Ten rivalries. Although the Pac-12 situation shows how difficult it is to get everyone on board, Delany definitely doesn't close the door to partnerships, whether it's in football or basketball.

Ben from Burlingame, Calif., writes: I'm curious to get your thoughts on William Gholston being knocked out cold during the MSU-Ohio St. game and then going back into the game shortly thereafter. I know MSU says that he only had the wind knocked out of him, but to anybody who saw that incident, it's not a remotely plausible explanation. Gholston didn't move an inch for quite awhile after the play and it seemed pretty obvious he was out cold and was shaking off serious cobwebs when he finally walked off the field. With all of the additional scrutiny on head injuries, helmet to helmet hits and concussions these days I was absolutely stunned the MSU allowed him back in the game. I'm even more surprised that nobody seems to be talking about it and that Dantonio and company don't seem to be getting any heat about it. Is this a case of the staff putting a 'W' too high on the priority list or am I way off base?

Adam Rittenberg: Ben, a lot of folks are talking about this incident. It certainly looked like Gholston got knocked out after colliding with a teammate. I talked to him on Wednesday and he reiterated that he just had the wind knocked out of him. Whether he's telling the truth or not is up to you to believe. Ultimately, Michigan State's athletic training staff has a huge responsibility to the player -- not to clear him unless it's safe, especially when a potential head injury is involved. Gholston wouldn't have played unless he received clearance from the staff. It looked like they put him through the necessary tests. But like many of you, I was very surprised to see him back on the field so soon.

Jeremy from Dayton, Ohio, writes: With the season progressing and the big ten looking like it does. Its hard to look past my nittany lions who are hitting their stride and getting the Obrien offense down. my question is Could the Big Ten game of the year be in Happy Valley when OSU comes to town? and Could this decide who wins the division? (neither team could play in the title game though)

Adam Rittenberg: Jeremy, it definitely could decide the division champ, especially if both teams win tough games Saturday. And who knows, maybe it'll feature the league's top two teams as well. While that's not the desirable scenario for the Big Ten -- having its best two teams being ineligible for the bowls -- it might be the reality. I still think teams like Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State will improve during October and November and be pretty good by bowl season. But Ohio State is finding ways to win and Penn State has rebounded really nicely from its 0-2 start. Wisconsin clearly isn't the same team it was in 2010-11, and while Purdue has shown flashes, the Boilers need to prove they can beat good teams. My sense is that Ohio State and Penn State are the class of the Leaders division, but that there's more overall strength in the Legends, which will produce the league champion.

Nick from Columbus writes: The expectations for Michigan were ridiculously high coming in to the season and I think it was naive to think they could be even better than (or equal to) last year's team. With that being said they already have 2 losses and haven't even faced a big ten opponent. Is this game a must-win for Michigan to "salvage" their season and have a shot at a big ten championship?

Adam Rittenberg: It's a huge game, Nick, especially because Michigan still has an even tougher road crossover game Nov. 24 at Ohio State. A loss drops Michigan to 2-3 on the season, increases the Wolverines' issues on the road and creates a potential situation where they have to run the table in the Legends division. Now it's important to note that Michigan State already has a Big Ten loss (Ohio State), and Nebraska visits the Buckeyes on Saturday night. I still think the division winner comes out of that Michigan/MSU/Nebraska group, and the team that plays best on the road -- both within the division and in crossovers -- has the best chance to make it to Indy. But from a confidence standpoint, Michigan needs to bounce back from the Notre Dame loss with a strong performance at Purdue. Although a win in West Lafayette might not turn heads around the Big Ten, it'll give Michigan a boost before potentially tougher road tests at Nebraska and then Ohio State.

Pete from Fort Worth, Texas, writes: Adam, why is it that Braxton Miller is receiving more Heisman hype than Taylor Martinez? Martinez is ahead of Miller in most statistical categories (only behind in rushing yards and scores really). Martinez has a better completion percentage, better TD/INT ratio, and is more efficient. What gives? And could the game this weekend perhaps change the tide?

Adam Rittenberg: Several reasons explain the hype differential, Pete. For starters, Miller entered the season with more hype than Martinez because of Urban Meyer's arrival and his fit in Meyer's spread offense. Martinez was known as a guy who took a step back in 2011 and had a bad throwing motion. Not saying it's right, but this was the national perception of the two players before the season. Miller also has made more highlight-type plays, especially with his feet, than Martinez. Although Martinez showed last week that he can still gash defenses as a runner, he didn't do that much in the non-league games. The more highlight plays Martinez pulls off as a runner, especially in crunch time, the better his chance will be for an award like the Heisman. Martinez still has to overcome the UCLA performance, but he can with big games down the stretch, beginning Saturday night in Columbus. To answer your last question, Martinez can absolutely turn the tide if he outplays Miller and Nebraska beats Ohio State. He'd also be helped by leading the Huskers on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Miller has been extremely clutch so far this season, while Martinez is 1-1 in those opportunities (loss to UCLA, win against Wisconsin).

Teddy from Decatur, Ill., writes: Adam, at some point during this season do I have the right to say we need a new coach at Illinois? To me personal foul calls, a porous defense, no idea what we do on offense and overall just a poorly disciplined team is a sign of bad coaching. Yes, I know he hasn't recruited a single class of his own but Bill O'Brien and Urban Meyer don't seem to be doing too shabby. Beckman, however, seems to have done nothing with a solid defense (with NFL potentials) and can't seem to get the offense going. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Teddy, I completely understand your disappointment in Tim Beckman so far. Illinois definitely is trending in the wrong direction despite back-to-back bowl seasons. That said, no coach should be fired after one season. He needs more time to get things on track -- not much more time, but certainly more than a single season. What hurt Beckman in my view is him bringing so few of his assistants with him from Toledo and bringing together a staff from all over the country. It's hard to find the right cohesion in Year 1 when the staff hasn't been together. While it's no an excuse to be blown out at home like Illinois has been, it explains some of the mistakes. I do think Beckman and his staff will recruit well, but good recruiting hasn't mattered at Illinois (i.e. the Ron Zook era) without strong coaching to complement it. So while it's too soon to talk about a change in Champaign, Illinois needs to start looking like a more cohesive team as Big Ten play progresses.

Tad from Omaha writes: Adam - What are the television windows for 10/20? Just trying to project the Northwestern-Nebraska game time.

Adam Rittenberg: Tad, the complete schedule of game times and TV for Oct. 20 will be finalized Monday (Oct. 8). The only two games set already are Indiana at Navy (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports) and Penn State at Iowa (8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network). Check the blog Monday around 11:30 ET for the complete schedule.

Wayne from New York writes: Adam....across the college football world I think you are the only one I have seen pick Nebraska to win against OSU. Do you know something we don't or..... did you just say no to the OSU Kool-Aid everyone else is drinking?

Adam Rittenberg: The only one? Really? Maybe I'll be wrong, but I think Nebraska is poised to finally turn the corner as a program. And I also think Ohio State, while deserving credit for being 5-0, has been pretty fortunate to this point, overcoming turnovers and defensive breakdowns. Nebraska is by far the best offense Ohio State has faced. The Huskers will make the Buckeyes make plays in space, where they've struggled early this season. It's tough to go against Miller Time, but I like the Huskers in the upset.

ACC Friday mailblog

October, 5, 2012
FSU fans didn't like my prediction again this weekend. Funny thing is, I keep picking FSU to win ...

Matthew Robb in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: You really think FSU will only win by 7? You didnt learn anything after the Wake Forest game where you picked a narrow margin there as well? With that prediction you are saying that FSU isnt a top 5 team at all. Glennon cant move out of the pocket. The defensive line will have a field day against him just like last year when they had under 200 yards of total offense. At least last year they had an offensive line worth something. GEEZ

HD: That score isn't a knock on FSU by any means. The mark of a great team is not winning by 50 points every Saturday, it's finding a way to win tough games on the road and winning every weekend, regardless of hostile crowds, which FSU will find at Carter-Finley. I will be shocked if NC State doesn't play better and more disciplined than it did last week at Miami.

Chris Jackson in Miami, Fla., writes: Do you think the fighting Irish secondary could stop the air attack against a speedy Miami offense ?

HD: With three new starters back there, the Irish have a very inexperienced secondary. It's something Miami can exploit -- if quarterback Stephen Morris gets the time. Notre Dame's front seven is the real deal, and that's where the Canes should be concerned. The Irish will try and pressure Morris into mistakes. The secondary, though, has been banged up. They've played well so far, but they haven't faced a team passing like Miami is yet. Notre Dame lost one starting safety to an Achilles injury, one expected starting cornerback injured his Achilles in camp. Some guys have come over from offense, too, as one safety was a receiver last year, one cornerback was a receiver two years ago, and another cornerback was a running back when he arrived in June.

Andrew Rosti in Arlington, Va., writes: Heather, I agree that the 8-game conference schedule is the fairest mostly because of the home-away split keeping a balance. However, as conferences grow beyond 12, we see the issue of conference teams not meeting but once every six years, and at home only once every 12 years.Should the ACC go a step further and get rid of the "cross divisional" rival format? Imagine playing in the ACC for all four years and never seeing Clemson, Virginia Tech, or FSU in your career? Teams may see non-conference opponents more frequently.

HD: No, Andrew, I don't think it's really an option to do that, nor do I think it's in the best interest of the league. I think the value of keeping games like FSU-Miami, Clemson-Georgia Tech, UNC-NC State and Maryland-Virginia outweighs not seeing everyone from the other division as often. That is the one good thing that will be lost without the nine-game schedule, though, is that players would have faced each team at least once in his career. Logic states that teams have to have the head-to-head results of facing each team in the same division in order to crown the division champs, and keeping the cross-divisional rivals is important to the league's tradition. Any inequity in that system is partially compensated for by getting a shot at the championship game.

Kenneth in Auburn, Ala., writes: I was slightly disappointed in your hot seat article earlier. It's definitely no secret that many Hokies are dreaming of the day we can have an explosive offense a la pre-Stinespring. What needs to happen in order for Beamer and Weaver to finally realize a drastic offensive change is needed? I'd be happy to see Virginia Tech have a losing record if it meant change from the consistently mediocre coaching we have now.

HD: Simple: Status quo. If Virginia Tech's offense doesn't pick up soon, the Hokies are going to struggle to stay in the Coastal Division race, let alone win it. UNC can score. Miami can score. Heck, Duke can score. I know Frank Beamer has been loyal to his assistants, but at some point, he might have to make a choice. While Stinespring has taken the brunt of the criticism, it wouldn't surprise me if there were changes with some position coaches like wide receiver and/or offensive line. It's still a little too early, though, to say that needs to happen. There is plenty of time for the Hokies' offense to get better, and I would be really surprised if they didn't take another step forward against UNC.

Matthew in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Coming into the season there seemed to be pressure building on Paul Johnson's shoulders. After a rookie season winning our hearts he has compiled a three game losing streak to Miami and Georgia, and going a big 0 -4 in bowl games. After a heartbreaking lose to VT and Miami, and the embarrassing lose to MTSU how hot is his seat? Is a win against Clemson and U[sic]GA enough to keep him in ATL for another year?

HD: Johnson's ridiculous contract will keep him there if nothing else. It still runs through 2016, and according to Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it would cost the athletic department $10.485 million to fire Johnson after this season. Georgia Tech is already on a tight budget. If there's going to be a scapegoat this year, my guess would be defensive coordinator Al Groh.

hokieingeorgia in Athens, Ga., writes: Do you think that Logan Thomas let all the pre season hype get into his head and thats why he hasnt been playing up to his potential. becouse by now shouldnt he be timed right with all the new receivers.

HD: No, no, no. I'm telling you guys, Logan Thomas is not the problem. It's the guys in front of him. They need to be more physical, and so do the receivers. Virginia Tech needs to block. Period. Hit somebody.

Tom in Miami, Fla., writes: After watching WVU absolutely light up Baylor and everyone else they have played, I am wondering if the UMD defense is better than expected after "holding" WVU to 31 points? I am asking because I am very far from objective as a MD alum, and am looking for an objective opinion.

HD: I said before the season started that Maryland's defense would be better than expected and underrated. It's a very, very talented group that is doing its part to help the Terps dig out of last year's 2-10 crater. Maryland has the No. 11 rushing defense in the country. They've played some good teams. The challenge now is to keep it up against ACC opponents and get more help from the offense.

Notre Dame mailblog

October, 5, 2012
The Windy City is living up to its name.

J from Washington D.C. writes: I think it would be hilarious if Irish Chocolate was suddenly revealed to have an insanely accurate cannon arm.

Matt Fortuna: But J, Louis Nix said this week he wants to be a Wildcat-only QB! That would certainly add a new look to the Irish offense that we have yet to see, no? I don't think too many outside of the Notre Dame coaching staff would object to the idea, either.

Chuck Otis from Wilmington, Mass., writes: Can the Irish beat Miami this week? You have to admit they have played the toughest schedule so far.

Matt Fortuna: Chuck, Notre Dame can and should win, though the Hurricanes certainly have the playmakers that can make this thing interesting. Colleague Travis Haney had the Irish this week at No. 2 on his merit-based rankings. I'd have to agree with his top two choices, with Oregon State coming in at No. 1.

Mikail from Ave Maria, Fla., writes: Matt, Riddick has played well this year, but my read is that Wood has out performed him in every game that they both played (the stats back that up as well). I'm surprised that Wood isn't getting more touches - I know that there's a lot of talent at the RB position with limited space on the field, but why is our most experienced back, a 1000 yard rusher from last year, getting fewer touches when he's still more productive?

Matt Fortuna: Mikhail, I think everyone is a bit surprised Wood has not touched the ball more so far, though Riddick is more of a receiving threat. Brian Kelly said Thursday that the touches have more to do with the ground game's zone-blocking technique under new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, as it requires the backs to be more patient in waiting for holes to open up. There should be opportunities for both to make plays Saturday night.

Brian from Portsmouth, Ohio, writes: How can people say that ND isnt in the title hunt with their schedule? They have one of the hardest schedules in college this year.

Matt Fortuna: I think it's just a matter of whether the Irish will look impressive enough to leap some of the undefeated teams ahead of them if multiple teams run the table. Alabama? Not happening, for obvious reasons. Florida State? Maybe, since the Seminoles' schedule isn't all that great. Oregon? Not a great schedule, but the Ducks do get a 13th game if they run the table, and a win in the Pac-12 title game over, say, USC for a second time, would enhance their profile. The Irish's slate looks a lot less difficult though after the season's first month, and Notre Dame is currently ranked higher than all of its opponents, each of which has already lost a game. Boston College, a road ACC game, is essentially the closest thing the Irish have remaining to a cupcake, so I think it's important to keep in mind that there really are no lay-ups here (Navy gets a pass, in an opener overseas). Bottom line, it's too early to be worrying about these types of things. Notre Dame looks like it has a chance to win every game, but it's a few miscues away from being in deep trouble, too. If the Irish win out, I'd have a hard time seeing them not in the national title game. (I also have a hard time seeing four or five BCS programs going undefeated this season.)