NCF Nation: Mailbag 101912

Mailbag: ASU exposed or Ducks that good?

October, 19, 2012
Welcome to the mailbag.

You can follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter here.

To the notes.

Kevin from San Antonio writes: Was ASU totally exposed last night vs. Oregon or is Oregon so much better than everyone else that you can't use the game as a measuring stick for ASU?

Ted Miller: Neither.

Before I go off on a tangent of Football Game Rationalizing 101, let me establish what matters: Winning.

A team is what it does. Judgments in football -- all sports, really -- are what the scoreboards say when the clock expires. You can hush a guy playing football "What if?!" by merely noting, "Sure, if what happened didn't happen then the game would have been different. I will grant you that."

So, duly noted.

I suspect -- and away we go -- that the Oregon-Arizona State game would have been much different if Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton didn't get hurt on play No. 2. The supporting evidence I have for that position is twofold: 1. Sutton caused a fumble on play No. 2, his last in the game; 2. Sutton is a freaking beast and no defensive player in the conference has been better this fall.

Do I think Arizona State wins if Will Sutton doesn't get hurt? No. When Kevin and I both picked Oregon to win we did so assuming both teams would be at full strength.

Before the game (with a healthy Sutton), I thought Arizona State was an eight-win team, which is well ahead of where I saw them in the preseason, when I thought it was a five-or-six-win team. What I've seen this season is encouraging for the program in general, even with that dreadful first half against the Ducks.

Before the game, I thought Oregon was a top-five team and a legitimate national title contender. I feel more confident in that position after the game.

What I've learned through the years while covering something like 160 college football games live is that they are fragile things. Dumb luck plays a much bigger role in games than folks typically allow, just as one boneheaded lapse of concentration can cause massive and irreparable hemorrhaging. And a coach can roll the dice on a scheme or play call and become a genius/idiot when he truthfully is neither.

Coaches often say one play doesn't decide a game, but I think that's frequently wrong. A Stanford fan could give you two examples over the past year.

The very best coaches are able to create winning cultures that reduce the random variables and maximize their teams' performance. Such teams dominate most days and find ways to win on the rare occasions when they are out of sync. Yes, we're talking about the Oregons and Alabamas of the world.

I think if Oregon and Arizona State played 10 times at full strength in Sun Devil Stadium, half of those games would be far more competitive than what we saw Thursday night. And I think the Sun Devils might steal one. You probably could say that about most good teams matched against great teams.

Now, let's return to the part where I remind myself and you that imaginary college football doesn't matter.

John from Lake Oswego, Ore., writes: If Oregon wins out and the only loss for the Beavs is to Oregon. Could Oregon go to the natty and the Beavs to the rose bowl or would a pac12 south team go to the Rose Bowl?

Ted Miller: Did you just use the word "natty"? For shame.

John, you are not allowed to read the answer to your own question. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office. You're fired.

Stop peaking, John. You have been sanctioned. Don't make me send Kevin after you. He's from San Diego. You know what they say about hardcases from San Diego, don't you? The mild weather makes them most unpleasant, particularly in October, when the fish tacos take an inexplicable but inevitable dip in quality.

If Oregon State finishes 11-1, and Oregon wins the Pac-12 North and advances to the NATIONAL TITLE GAME, the Beavers would almost certainly go to the Rose Bowl.

Why? Because, if Oregon finishes undefeated, there isn't a scenario where the South Division loser in the Pac-12 title game wouldn't have at least three defeats. It's difficult to imagine that any team with three defeats, including one on the last weekend of the season, would be ranked in the top 14 of the BCS standings, which is required for a team to be picked for a BCS bowl.

Even if, say, USC was 9-3 and ranked 14th, the Rose Bowl would almost certainly pick a one-loss, top-10 Oregon State team, even though the Trojans are a big ticket TV attraction.

Erik from Seattle writes: I'm a concerned Husky fan. I love the staff that [Steve Sarkisian] has built and I think he's doing a solid job recruiting. I don't doubt that he was the right guy to turn this program around post-Willingham, but I walked away from the LSU, Oregon, and USC games wondering if he's the right guy to take us to the next level. How much more time do we give him? Not to be selfish, but what if he's a 7-5, 8-4, middle of the road guy? We're not competitive with Oregon, LSU, and often on the road. I know that very few teams have been competitive w/ Oregon recently and it's nearly impossible to win in Death Valley at night, but do you see him as a next level guy? Talk me off the ledge, Ted.

Ted Miller: In the six seasons before Sarkisian was hired, the Huskies won 18 games. In three and a half seasons under Sarkisian, they've won 22.

Sarkisian took over an 0-12 team and went 5-7. The Huskies hadn't won a bowl game since 2000 when Sarkisian led the Huskies to a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska in 2010.

Further, when things didn't take a step forward in 2011, he took aggressive action to fix things, firing Nick Holt -- a longtime coaching friend -- and most of his defensive staff and hiring Justin Wilcox and luring away Tosh Lupoi from California.

Next year, Sarkisian moves his team from decrepit Husky Stadium into a newly remodeled Husky Stadium, which might be the best venue on the West Coast (we'll see).

Sure, it would be nice for Huskies fans if the program were headed for the Rose Bowl in year four under Sarkisian. But Sark inherited a major rebuilding job. He's laid a nice foundation. There are plenty of reasons for optimism.

Is he a sure thing? No. Few coaches are.

But he's a highly respected guy. He's a good recruiter. I'd advise patience. I have a hunch you might see some rewards for it in 2013.

Nick from Boise writes: I am one of those rare objective Duck fans. Among an undefeated Oregon, an undefeated K-State, a one-loss Notre Dame, and a one-loss SEC team, who deserves to play Alabama for the National Championship? My gut says the SEC team based on quality of opponents, but it is likely the computers give the edge to Oregon. And the computers are supposed to take in strength of schedule, so that must be the right answer, right?

Ted Miller: An objective Duck fan? I feel like I stepped out my front door and saw an ivory-billed woodpecker!

We've got so much football left that speculating on these sorts of scenarios is pretty useless. What if Notre Dame's one loss is a blowout defeat at USC? And what if the Big 12 starts devouring itself and Kansas State ends up with no wins over teams with fewer than three losses? And which SEC team? Not all SEC schedules are created equal.

Further, unbeaten in an AQ conference almost certainly would trump any 1-loss team in an AQ conference. If Oregon is 13-0 and the only or one of two unbeaten teams, it's almost certainly going to play for the title.

Further, the polls form two-thirds of the BCS standings versus one-third for the computers. That means if Oregon is No. 2 in both the coaches and Harris polls, its computer ranking will have to be pretty terrible for it to be eclipsed by a team beneath it in the human polls.

So, as I've said and typed before, the odds are extremely favorable that Oregon, at 13-0, would play for the national title.

Robert from Greenwood Village, Colo., writes: I just wanted to comment on the use of "curb stomp" in your article about the arizona state-oregon game. I don't think it is appropriate to use that phrase. I think by using the phrase you are paying homage to the act itself which is horrible. I think using that phrase goes right along with "oregon raped arizona state" on the level of classy that it isn't. I have heard those phrases used by young people and I think we don't need a public figure, especially one that predominately has a sphere of influence in young males, to use such barbaric language. Just keep in mind how playing football, coaching, watching and reading about football are all ways to reach people. I think that "curb stomping" is not an appropriate when considering how influential you are.

Ted Miller: I agree. A bad and pretty darn thoughtless choice of terms on my part. I winced when I re-read it.

I was writing quickly last night. Quickly and witlessly. My bad.

SEC mailbag: Breaking down the East race

October, 19, 2012
As is custom every Friday during the season, we do our best to answer your questions.

So let’s see what’s cooking this week in the SEC mailbag:

Trace in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Hey guys, suppose Florida beats South Carolina, but loses to Georgia. If all three teams win out, who wins the SEC East?

Chris Low: In that scenario, it would be Georgia. Here’s how: South Carolina would have two conference losses and be out of the mix. That would leave Florida and Georgia each with one conference loss. The Bulldogs would win the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head victory over the Gators. In other words, if Florida wins Saturday in the Swamp, the East race will almost certainly be decided next week in Jacksonville. Florida’s only remaining SEC game would be Missouri at home, while Georgia would still have Ole Miss at home and Auburn on the road. So if you’re a Georgia fan, you’re rooting hard for Florida this weekend. If South Carolina beats Florida, the Gators would then need to win out against Georgia and Missouri and hope the Gamecocks lose one of their last two conference games, both home contests against Tennessee and Arkansas. For what it’s worth, Georgia’s win over Florida last season was only the fourth time in the past 22 meetings in that series that the Bulldogs have won.

Carson in Augusta, Ga., writes: Hey Chris, I noticed in a recent article you mentioned that Alabama had both of its byes in the 2013 schedule in September. However, on closer analysis of the schedule, they have open weekends right now on Sept 7th and 21st as well has Nov 2. They still have one out-of-conference game to schedule to complete a 12-game regular-season schedule. Are you positive that both of their off weekends are going to be in September out of the three weekends they have off now? Seems to me they will probably schedule an out-of-conference game on Sept. 14th and have bye weekends on Sept. 21 and Nov. 2 (the weekend before they play LSU). Thoughts?

Chris Low: You are correct, and we’ve clarified that in our story. Alabama and LSU will both have byes the week before their showdown on Nov. 9. The Crimson Tide will have their first bye in September and are still in the process of finalizing another nonconference game for that month.

Mike in Rome, Ga., writes: Chris, how much is Alabama paying SEC commissioner Mike Slive for the cupcake schedule against the SEC East teams two years running?

Chris Low: I don’t know, probably about as much as Georgia paid him the past two years for not having to face Alabama, Arkansas or LSU from the West. No, seriously, it’s just the way the schedule falls next year, and there were a lot of variables involved. You also have to remember that next year’s schedule stands on its own, similar to this year, as the league makes the adjustment from 12 to 14 schools. The long-term schedule rotation is still to be finalized and will go into effect in 2014.

JJ in Tumalo, Ore., writes: Guys, the SEC must start playing nine conference games. This 2013 schedule is so unbalanced on paper that it looks like The Leaning Tower. Come on! Georgia cancels out on Oregon. Vandy cancels out on Northwestern and Ohio State. If Ohio State, in particular, is a threat to an SEC team to take its place in the playoff, the first people to beef about Ohio State’s schedule will come from the southeast. If the playoff is to be meaningful, we need a uniform schedule and we do not need schools running for cover. If the SEC is all that boys, why keep running for cover? As an Oregon fan, I want a home-and-home with LSU and Alabama. It will never happen. If Georgia chickens out, why should LSU and Alabama not chicken out? Man up and play home-and-home instead of playing at a neutral site. How in a 14-team conference can you play eight conference games and call it a conference? Thanks for the great SEC takes. It is not an even playing field.

Chris Low: To your first point, I agree that it makes sense now with 14 teams that the SEC move to nine league games. I used to think that it would never happen, but there’s a little more momentum to add that ninth league game. It still may be a few years, but I can see it happening. The other thing to consider is that once the four-team playoff goes into effect in 2014, teams aren’t going to be able to “run for cover” and still be a serious contender. The selection committee will put a premium on schedule strength, rewarding those schools that go out and play a tough schedule and penalizing those schools who don’t. So if you want to blame anybody starting in 2014, blame the selection committee. As to some of the rest of your points, cry me a river. Oregon had its shot against Auburn in the 2010 national championship game and managed a whopping 19 points -- against an Auburn defense, I might add, that was not one of the best in the SEC that season. And then last season, LSU went quack, quack on the Ducks. As for Ohio State, if the Buckeyes ever beat an SEC team in a bowl game (without using ineligible players), come talk to me then. Until that time, you might want to warm up to the fact that the SEC has won the games that count, which is why SEC trophy cases are so stocked with crystal hardware.

John in Vine Grove, Ky., writes: I am an LSU fan. Disclaimer aside, LSU is not Louisiana Tech, where the Aggies escaped by two points. I think Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore would beg to differ with your comment about LSU not being able to keep up with the Aggies on scoring. I feel you are making a dangerous assumption that your beloved freshman is going to run roughshod over the No. 2 defense in the country. Good luck with that.

Chris Low: No, good luck to Johnny Manziel. He’s going to need it against an LSU defense that is outstanding. You’ll get no argument from me on that. But I do think the Aggies are explosive enough offensively to score enough points to win this game. I also haven’t seen enough from LSU’s offense to make me think that the Tigers can go into a hostile environment like Kyle Field and score enough to win. They exploded for 12 points to escape 12-10 at Auburn and belted a couple of three-run homers at Florida in their 14-6 loss. It’s not a knock on LSU’s defense. I just have to see it to believe it from LSU’s offense before I pick the Tigers in a tough road environment against a quality team.

Ted in Natick, Mass., writes: Chris, I just verified with Pat Dooley from The Gainesville Sun that from the 2008 national championship Gator football team, 21 players are now on NFL rosters. Astounding! Is there any wonder why that team beat Oklahoma?

Chris Low: Hard to overcome that kind of talent, and that was easily one of the best and most talented teams I’ve seen in the SEC. Everywhere you looked, the Gators had great players. Plus, they had a guy at quarterback, Tim Tebow, who was one of the best college football players in the history of the game. That said, without Percy Harvin, I’m not sure the Gators would have won it all that season. He was the ultimate game-changer and really the difference in that title game against the Sooners.

Corey in Marietta, Ga., writes: I'm curious about redshirt eligibility after seeing that Florida tight end Kent Taylor caught a pass against Vandy. I was thinking that he and Colin Thompson were going to redshirt, making for a formidable tight end crew for the next few years. Is Taylor's redshirt already gone? How much can a player play and at what point in the season is the redshirt gone? Is there an unofficial threshold beyond the regulations where waivers are regularly granted?

Chris Low: According to NCAA rules, if a player plays a single play in a game, that player has used that year of eligibility. However, players are also granted redshirt years (or an extra year) for medical reasons, but only if you play less than 30 percent of the snaps in the first six games and sustain a season-ending injury. Then, you’re eligible to get that year back. But you’re not going to get that year back if you’re injured in Game 7 or Game 8, for example. Players have five years to play four. The only way a player would get a sixth season of eligibility is if the NCAA grants a special waiver, and that usually occurs only when a player misses all or most of two entire seasons with injuries.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

October, 19, 2012
Wishing you a good weekend. I'll be on the ped mall tonight.

Chris from Boston writes: A lot of people have defended Michigan in that their losses have been to Alabama and Notre Dame, two top five teams. I definitely see this, as most talented teams would fall to that duo. How come Wisconsin hasn't gotten at least a little bit of that. Their loss to Oregon St. was pegged an upset, but Oregon St. is in the top 10 now! And, as poorly as the Badgers played, it was still well within reach with a big play here or there. Their second loss to Nebraska (yes, I know, not top 25 currently but very talented) was AT LINCOLN which everyone knows is brutal to play at. And, again, it was winnable. I'm not defending the shaky start by any means, but as we are beginning see now, this team has top 25 talent and is starting to show it now that the team has adjusted to the offseason changes. And hey, it's not like Ohio St. blew out Indiana the so called "bottom feeders" of the Big 10. Am I being realistic here?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, I definitely think the Oregon State loss looks a lot better now than it did at the time. The Beavers are having a heck of a season. The Nebraska loss doesn't look quite as good but could look better if the Huskers have a strong second half. I think the issue with Wisconsin is not necessarily that the Badgers lost games, but how they looked in those games (no offense, poor offensive line play, etc.). It just seemed so unlike Wisconsin. Also, the Badgers weren't overly impressive in wins against Northern Iowa and especially Utah State, a game they were extremely fortunate to win. Michigan looked even worse against Alabama, and while the Wolverines played better at Notre Dame, they lost because of turnovers. I agree that Wisconsin looks like a more comfortable football team than it did a month ago, and the Badgers' offensive production certainly is on the rise. While this certainly isn't the same Badgers team we saw in 2010 and 2011, it could be a pretty decent squad by the time the Big Ten championship game rolls around.

FFXLion from DC writes: In the recent past (until last year), Iowa has shown an uncanny ability to beat Penn State, no matter what (I'd say, 'upset' Penn State). Similarly, Northwestern (Iowa's opponent next week) has shown an uncanny ability to beat Iowa. Last year, this "curse" was lifted on both teams. So, my question is, do you think that this curse is completely lifted, or that it will always be the case that Iowa beats either Northwestern, or Penn State, but never both?

Adam Rittenberg: FFX, I buy into matchups more than curses. Although Kinnick Stadium has been a really tough place for Penn State to play in recent years, how many times did the Lions have the better team in that game? They certainly did in 2008, when they came to Kinnick with national title hopes, but I'd say Iowa had the better team in 2010, 2003 and 2001. Penn State seems to match up pretty well with Iowa this season, especially with a healthier roster. While you can say Northwestern has beaten several seemingly superior Iowa teams, the gap between the squads hasn't been that wide in years like 2005, 2008 and 2010. It definitely gives Iowa confidence that it won last year against Northwestern, just like it gives Penn State a little bit of confidence against Iowa, but it still comes down to matchups. My concern for Iowa is that the offense needs to start getting better in a hurry. Both Penn State and Northwestern have better offenses than the Hawkeyes right now.

Eric from Wheaton, Minn., writes: Adam, a life-long Gopher fan here. Thanks for your guys' work on the blog. I know you and Bennett are not fans of removing North Carolina from Gophers schedule. But, I feel it is a necessary step until we have depth and are much more competitive in the B1G Ten. Like Coach Kill, says, it is all about B1G Ten Conference wins. With that said, are you more upset with the payout to get out of series ($800,000)? Or lowering the level of competition in the non-conference schedule?

Adam Rittenberg: Definitely more upset with lowering the competition level than the buyout, Eric. North Carolina isn't Alabama, USC or even Clemson, and I don't see the downside to facing one major-conference foe every September to prepare your team for eight major-conference foes from the Big Ten. In some ways, I had more of an issue with the non-league schedules in 2015 and 2016 than dropping North Carolina the next two years. The "building a program" line can fly in Year 1, Year 2 and maybe Year 3, but it won't and shouldn't by 2016. You shouldn't be aiming for 6-win seasons by Year 6, and that's the message these types of schedules send. Also, Minnesota should want to schedule some attractive games for its fans at TCF Bank Stadium. Yes, I know fans want to see a winner first and foremost, but how many people are excited about South Dakota State in 2015? Or New Mexico State and Indiana State in 2016? My real concern is Minnesota won't be adequately prepared for the Big Ten, and it'll show in those first few league games.

Josh from Gillette, Wyo., writes: Adam, The B1G has been the subject of much scrutiny this season. I understand that it has been a "down" year. But I'm very optimistic for the future. Urban Meyer and Ohio State, will almost always be a top team in the country for the foreseeable future. Michigan seems to be climbing back to power. And Nebraska will retain a powerful offense (and hopefully regain their defensive edge). Perhaps what is most exciting is the potential ta`lent of the league from top to bottom. Am I being overly optimistic in saying that the B1G could make an appearance in the final BCS championship before the playoff era?

Adam Rittenberg: Josh, while I think things will get better soon, you're being a bit too sunny about the Big Ten. Where are the quarterbacks? Where are the elite receivers? Where are the elite safeties? You have two programs -- Ohio State and Michigan -- recruiting at a nationally elite level. The SEC has about seven. If the Big Ten gets in the BCS title game in 2013, Ohio State is undoubtedly the best bet to get there. The Buckeyes will have a full season under Meyer -- and another full offseason -- and should have some of their defensive issues ironed out. Michigan's roster probably won't be national title-worthy until 2014, but the Wolverines are getting closer. Nebraska isn't in the discussion at this point. Too many bad games in the spotlight for Bo Pelini's crew. One team I wouldn't dismiss is Wisconsin, which has competed at the national level recently and, according to coach Bret Bielema, could have its best team in a while in 2013.

Keith from Kunming, China, writes: Adam, you wrote recently that MSU probably can't keep DC Narduzzi much longer. But what are the chances that this year's defensive underperformance (in comparison to sky-high expectations) actually means he won't be seen as such a hot candidate for this year's vacancies? Should this year give us hope that he stays a bit longer?

Adam Rittenberg: Keith, thanks for reading us so far away. While I understand it, I think this is wishful thinking by Spartans fans. Michigan State's defense, while not quite as dominant as some of us expected, still has been pretty darn good. Narduzzi's unit isn't the reason why the Spartans sit at 4-3. Michigan State ranks in the top 15 nationally in four of the most important defensive categories: points allowed (15.7 ppg, 14th nationally), yards allowed (270.1 ypg, 7th), rushing defense (91.3 ypg, 8th) and pass-efficiency defense (102.9 rating, 12th). Yes, the Spartans could record more takeaways or sacks, but they've been pretty good throughout the first half. If a team wants a strong defensive mind with a fiery and entertaining personality, Narduzzi should receive some calls during the offseason. He could be back in 2013, but I don't see him sticking around much longer.

Sreedhar from Greeley, Colo., writes: In the discussion involving Big 10's chances of sending 2 teams to BCS games, I think we are overlooking Northwestern. I am a hard core Hawkeye and my wishful thinking would be a scenario where the wildcats beat everyone except Iowa and Iowa runs the table to get to the Big 10 championship games and beats Wisconsin and then goes on to the Rose Bowl. Then the wildcats would be with 2 losses and have a shot at a BCS game. Unlikely but still a good chance of being ranked high. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: No way, Sreedhar, for several reasons The Big Ten's weakness as a league will prevent any 2-loss team from getting an at-large BCS berth this year. Right now, there are zero Big Ten teams in the BCS standings. To earn an at-large berth, a team must be in the top 14 of the final standings. It's going to be very difficult for any Big Ten squad to climb that high and still lose a game at some point the rest of the way. While Northwestern travels well to bowl games, it's not nearly as appealing as some of the Big Ten teams that recently have received at-large berths (Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa). Bottom line: unless the rest of the nation implodes, I don't see a scenario where the Big Ten earns an at-large berth this season.

Kev from the Nation's Capital writes: It's been interesting watching the contrast between Penn State, Ohio State and Illinois with their new coaches this season. In my opinion, it seems like Penn State players (and PSU fans/students/alumni) have completely bought into O'Brien and want to be there, playing hard. PSU may not be the most talented but they play their hearts out each and every time they are on the field (and yes, I am bias). I think the Ohio State players are similar in that they've also bought into Coach Meyer's plan and are playing on par with the talent they have - unlike last year. Illinois on the other hand is a mess. It seems as though the players just give up if something doesn't go their way. They have talented guys, there's just a marked lack of motivation between the coaches and team. With all of that said, did Illinois make a bad hire in Beckman? Did the extenuating circumstances in the cases of both OSU and PSU make the coaching transition easier - especially for O'Brien and PSU? Or did OSU and PSU just catch a lucky break on the new coaching hires?

Adam Rittenberg: Ohio State was extremely fortunate that Meyer just happened to be available after the program endured its darkest season in recent memory. The fact Ohio State came out of such a mess with Meyer as its coach is still a bit hard to believe. There wasn't much easy about O'Brien's transition to Penn State, but I do think he found himself in a position where he could rally the team and the fan base because of all the issues that took place. That certainly doesn't minimize what O'Brien has been able to do, but along with the support of a special senior class, he has Penn State buying in and playing very well. As for Illinois, I get the sense the players are just tired of all the transition and flux. The defensive players loved former coordinator Vic Koenning and seem to be struggling with the new staff. Offensively, some of the older players are in their third system in four seasons, which can be really tough. I also see a team struggling with injuries that had very little depth in the first place. Is Beckman a bad hire? The program certainly is regressing, but it's probably too soon to make that statement.

Big East mailblog

October, 19, 2012
Another week, another mailbag. Yippee!

Let's start with some of your BCS questions. Go!

Michael Resendez in Louisville writes: Two scenarios: If Louisville can go unbeaten through the rest of the season, where do you see them playing. If they lose to Rutgers, where then?

Andrea Adelson: At this point, I do not think an unbeaten Big East team can make it into the BCS national championship game. I just want to put that out there before I answer your question. If Louisville goes undefeated, I see the Orange Bowl as the likeliest destination. If they lose to Rutgers and do not finish as the Big East BCS rep, then the most likely spot would be the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla. But there are plenty of other games to be playing, including Cincinnati. Louisville cannot overlook its biggest rival!

Adam J in Silver Spring, Md., writes: Andrea, I have a slightly different BCS question. If any of the three Big East teams goes undefeated, what are the chances they get asked to a BCS game that is not the Orange Bowl? Would a 12-0 Rutgers team that won in Arkansas get asked to the Sugar or Fiesta Bowls, or are they going to get bypassed in favor of everyone else?

Adelson: The Big East champion will get into a BCS bowl no matter what. It remains to be seen which game will select the Big East champion. As you guys know, the Big East does not have a tie-in to one specific game. The Big East is an "at-large" selection. Once those guaranteed tie-ins are filled in for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, the selection order for this year is as follows: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange.

Cameron in New York City writes: Hey Andrea, Great job so far. The continuing of an undefeated season for Cincinnati, Rutgers, and Louisville is key for the success of the Big East, but for multiple teams to finish undefeated is impossible. Which scenario do you think benefits the Big East more: All three teams trading losses in a circle and all finishing very close to each other in the BCS standings making it a tough choice for who to go to the Orange Bowl or one team finishing the season undefeated coming out as a clear winner of the conference and finishing with a pretty high BCS ranking?

Adelson: Definitely one undefeated team and two others with double digit wins. It is very rare for any team to run the table, so for anyone in the Big East to be able to do so would speak volumes about that program and I think also give major props to the league itself.

Wallace on The Island writes: Just watched your video on the Bearcats' slow starts, do you believe they are playing down to their opponent when they start off sluggish or is this something much bigger? They didn't seem to start off slow against Pitt but that was week 1. I'd like to hear your take on the reason behind their slow starts?

Adelson: I think there are a few factors. 1. I do believe it is the level of competition. It is much easier to get geared up for a nationally televised midweek game against a Big East opponent than Fordham. Miami (Ohio) has played Cincinnati tough the last two years so I was not as surprised about that. I was more surprised the trend continued last week. 2. Cincinnati has a lot of young players on its team, so coach Butch Jones has to keep impressing on them you cannot just roll your helmets out and win. There is a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into beating a team, and maybe he has not gotten as much of that yet because he is not dealing with the same senior-laden bunch he had last season.

John in Cape Coral, Fla., writes: Andrea, you note in your midseason report that USF is last in the Big East in rushing defense. What isn't included is the fact that USF held Rutgers close to their average (147 in the game, 137.5 average) and that was on 42 carries with one carry going 41 yards (I feel like that run and the one in the Temple game were given up to allow for USF to get the ball back due to the fact that in both cases they had just turned the ball over and were given the option to either let them score or run out the clock). Along with this they held the sixth-ranked Nevada rushing offense, 15th-ranked Florida State rushing offense, and 38th ranked Ball State rushing offense to under their season average. The only game that was really bad was the Temple game (long run at the end of the game padded the stats in that one as well). Has anyone in the Big East faced rushing offenses like USF? I really feel like the third and long D is the real problem.

Adelson: John, I see your points, and it is worth taking into account the type of opponent USF has played. But UConn and Syracuse held Rutgers to well below its average. It is still worth pointing out that USF is giving up 3.9 yards per carry, which is second-worst in the Big East and a league-high 12 rushing touchdowns. Jawan Jamison, by the way, had his season high 151 yards rushing against the Bulls. Playing Nevada does not help the overall stat sheet, but when can you recall the defense making critical stops on rushing downs that helped swing momentum?

Scott Arnold in Pompton Plains, N.J., writes: Andrea, You've got to reconsider your Big East defensive star of the year selection at the season's halfway point. Khaseem Greene single-handedly beat Syracuse last weekend and he is on every major "watch" list for defensive players. The Rutgers linebacker is putting together a monster season, and is quickly becoming a top draft prospect. C'mon Andrea, show us New Jersey Rutgers fans some love! Greene is Ray Lewis in a Scarlet Knight uniform! Vote Khaseem!

Adelson: There is no doubt Greene is a terrific player. But I think a lot of people have Greene at the top of their mind because of his performance against Syracuse. Yawin Smallwood had a near identical game against Maryland a few weeks ago, a game UConn probably does not win if Smallwood fails to come up big. He also has been honored as Big East Defensive Player of the week twice, and has more tackles for loss. None of this takes away how impressed I am with Greene. But I think folks should recognize Smallwood has been just as terrific in the first half of the year.
Thanks for all the emails this week. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say. Until then, let's get to your mail!

Honest Abe in Washington, D.C., writes: In celebration of Halloween, is there a team with a more mysterious and scary second half in store than Oklahoma State? They could easily lose every single game left on their schedule, just as they could (not easily) win every single one. They have the horses and coaching to play with anyone, yet they have the injuries and execution of the 9th place team in the league.

David Ubben: I'd agree with that, Abe. I definitely feel like Oklahoma State is better than their record, but the results haven't been there yet. Getting Wes Lunt back (whenever that is) will definitely help, but my gut says somebody falls and hits 5-7, leaving the Big 12 with just eight bowl-eligible teams, instead of nine. Oklahoma State and Baylor look like the two most likely candidates at this point.

Those same teams, though, aren't out of the mix of rising up to win nine games, either. Just a crazy, crazy league this year with a whole lot of parity. Completely unpredictable from week to week.

Josh in Norman, Okla., writes: Can we please stop with the "if K-State wins this weekend, the second half of the season is a coronation" talk? Would you like for me to list the Big 12 teams over the past dozen years who have gotten through the (seemingly) most difficult parts of their schedules only to stumble (sometimes inexplicably) before their season ended? Oklahoma 2002 and 2003, Texas 2006, Oklahoma 2007, Texas 2008, Oklahoma 2010, Oklahoma State 2011. Need I say more? Going undefeated is really hard and, given KSU's style of squeaking out close wins, the odds are stacked against them.

DU: Good list there, Josh. What do most of those teams have in common, though? They won a Big 12 title. Oklahoma lost in the Big 12 title game in 2003, and I don't recall any of that talk about Texas in 2006. Texas got squeezed out in 2008 because of a ridiculous tiebreaker. Point is, the odds are good for K-State to win a Big 12 title because the margin of error would be so large.

WVU and Oklahoma are the two teams with the best chance to continue winning, and K-State would hold the tiebreaker on both teams.

A coronation? Sure, maybe that's a little much. But anyone want to bet K-State doesn't win the Big 12 title if it wins on Saturday?


KB in Albuquerque, N.M., writes: Hi David, I enjoy the blog. How about a little love for KSU punter Ryan Doerr? Punts were huge in the win over ISU. In the 3rd quarter Doerr pinned ISU at their 1. ISU went three-and-out, with a shanked punt from their end zone to their 30 that gave KSU a short field for the TD that proved to be the game winner. Then Doerr pinned ISU at their 3 to start what became a futile attempt at a go-ahead last drive. Thanks and keep up the good work! KB

DU: Doerr's definitely a big talent. The Big 12's got a lot this year at punter. It was tight race between Kirby Van Der Kamp, Doerr and Quinn Sharp at OSU. Sharp's got the biggest leg, but I went with Van Der Kamp because of his consistency pinning teams inside the 20.

Brett in Houston writes: David, At this point in the season, is Terrance Williams the front-runner for the Biletnikoff Award?

DU: He's definitely my front-runner. Thing is, the Big 12 might come pretty close to earning a shutout on all three finalists for yet another year. Kendall Wright should have been in there last year, but this year, it might be Williams and the WVU duo of Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.

For now, though, no doubt in my mind: Williams is the Biletnikoff leader. Austin and Bailey aren't far behind and could have their finalists party crashed by Marqise Lee at USC, but if the voting happened today, you might see an all Big 12 list of finalists.

(Read full post)

Friday mailblog

October, 19, 2012
This is my mobile office, as I'm on my way to Clemson today.

Josh in Milledgeville, Ga., writes: Hey Heather,If GT comes out hot on defense with the new coaching staff/changes, do you think Georgia Tech can pull off a 6-0 second half of the season? A good showing against BC, BYU, Maryland would build the confidence, but will it be enough to stop UNC, Duke, and UGA with such a late change?Thanks,Josh

HD: I'm not seeing it, Josh, sorry. I agree that Georgia Tech should be able to start the second half at 2-0, but having to play three of the last four on the road is going to be tough, and Georgia is a better team. So is North Carolina. Not only that, but firing Al Groh isn't going to change the fact that the Jackets have lacked speed and fundamentals. Simplifying things during the bye week will help, no doubt, but it's a short-term solution to a much larger problem -- recruiting and instability at the coordinator level.

Dan in Coral Gables, Fla., writes:Heather,Big fan of your stuff, I think you do a great job. Question about my Hurricanes. How long is it before you think they consider self-imposing another bowl-ban? I personally would wait until losing to FSU and Virginia Tech, but at the same time, I recognize that this is not our best team and the guys we have will only grow and improve over the next few years, and it would really stink to get an extra year of a bowl ban just to play in a 2nd tier game this season.

HD: Thanks, Dan, I try. I haven't had a chance to talk to Al Golden about this, but here's my take on it: Why is everyone so gung-ho about the idea of it? Why do it? They did it once, showed a good-faith effort, now let the NCAA handle it. If I'm running the show there, I say let the kids play in a bowl if they make it this year.

Kyle in Lincolnton, N.C., writes:Heather, as I was looking at ESPN's Conference Power Rankings I got to thinking about how UNC's ban would affect the rankings in anyway. Are they allowed to be ranked in the polls (not that they should be or anything) or do their wins and losses help/hurt the ACC's numbers. I know their wins this year "count" but are they "all for naught" as far as conference ranks and poll voting goes?

HD: No, not for naught. Ohio State has been ranked. Same thing happened with USC. Now, you won't find them in the BCS standings, which are the ones that matter right now, but voters can still feel free to put the Heels in their polls.

Jeremy in Honolulu, Hawaii, writes:Heather,Marylands D has impressed this year. With the stats going into Saturday's game against a NC State team high off of their last win, what do you think Maryland's chances are winning this one?Thanks, love reading your stuff!

HD: Thanks, Jeremy. I think their chances are very good -- especially considering how poorly NC State has handled success in recent years and Tom O'Brien's 0-13 road record against Atlantic Division opponents. The difference, though, will be Mike Glennon. He is so much better than he was a year ago, and we saw that in the fourth quarter against FSU when he came through in the clutch. His experience in a tight game will have the edge against true freshman Perry Hills.

(Read full post)

Notre Dame mailblog: Officiating drama

October, 19, 2012
Apparently my mail this week got mixed up with Shawn Hochuli's.

L. Taylor from Memphis, Tenn., writes: Why should N. Dame be ranked so high when everyone knows that they get every controversial call, every game they play. and there's always replays and 99% of the time its going N.D. way

Chris from Denver writes: Matt, Why do you insist on calling the Usua Amanam hit on Golson "helmet-to-helmet" when replays confirm that it was, at most, a shoulder-to-helmet hit? Yes, it was flagged as a helmet-to-helmet hit, but the refs missed it (as Mike Pereira, former chief of NFL officiating and current FOX analyst, confirmed).

Scott from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Matt, why does espn keep fueling the fire about call on goaline? First and foremost these officials ARE NOT homers as they are pac-12 refs, forward momentum was stopped, whistle blown, elbow touches ground, THEN ball crosses plane. The officials made the CORRECT CALL, does espn hate the IRISH as much as the sorry little10 fans I live around?

Eric Todd from Milan, Tenn., writes: Please show this to all your colleagues to prove he was in fact down before the ball crossed.. ND deserves the credit and its not fair that everyone at ESPN is saying he was in. This clearly shows it.

Bob from Manchester, N.H., writes: The call was correct. Thomas's left elbow was down before the ball broke the plane.

Matt Fortuna: Notre Dame won last week, right? It says so right here (and here, and here, and h...). I think I even vaguely remember standing in the pouring rain on the sideline Saturday as students rushed the field to greet their victorious classmates. Look, it was not the best-officiated game. There are a number of calls that could have gone either way, and we could sit here debating them endlessly, particularly the alleged whistle that Stanford coach David Shaw said came from the crowd on Stanford's third-down play on its last drive of regulation. (That missed spot after replay before Stanford's third down in the fourth quarter was a big head-scratcher, too. Also, why aren't more people complaining about Everett Golson's third fumble? It looked like he might have stepped out of bounds before coughing it up there.)

L. Taylor, I'm pretty sure that the Golson fumble call went against the Irish, as I'm also pretty sure that the infamous "Bush Push" call went against them, too. Notre Dame is ranked highly because it has won every game it has played so far. Chris, I refer to it as a "helmet-to-helmet" hit because that's what it was ruled on the field, the same way I refer to Notre Dame as 6-0 because, at the end of all six games they have played, they have had more points than the other team.

Irish fans, I don't see what's "not fair" about a game you won. (I think I even vaguely remember ESPN's "College GameDay" being on campus Saturday, though, again, my memory is not the greatest.) Officials ruled that Stepfan Taylor's forward progress was stopped before the goal line, and replay confirmed it. It was a play that did not have enough evidence to be overturned, as the national coordinator of NCAA football officials said Tuesday. Are things different if a whistle never blows that early? Maybe, maybe not, though I am inclined to believe that Taylor would have been stopped shy of the goal line, given the fact that virtually every Notre Dame defensive player was right there.

At the end of the day, Notre Dame won, 20-13, in an overtime thriller. Stanford had four chances to punch it in from inside the 5-yard line. You have to do better than what the Cardinal did there: You have to leave no doubt. Notre Dame was the better team in overtime. Credit to the Irish.