NCF Nation: Mailbag 122112

Mailbag: Big 12 vs. Pac-12!

December, 21, 2012
Welcome to a quick mailbag. Headed back to the Southeast for Christmas.

By the way, you can follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter here.

To the notes!

AKDevil from Tempe, Ariz., writes: After reading the interesting article yesterday on ESPN detailing why the Big 12 is better than the PAC 12 I am curious on your thoughts. The author's main point was that the computers consistently ranked Big 12 teams higher than PAC teams and therefore the Big 12 is the better conference. Additionally he outlined the end of the year results after the Big 12's mighty 9 game in conference schedule. Isn't this point refuted by the fact there are more teams in the PAC with better records than the Big 12. Additionally, unless the Big wins all of their bowl games against the PAC is there really any sort of evidence to support the author's theory? I see no way in which the Big 12 is better than the PAC this year outside of the bowl games and yet many fans and news articles are demanding that the Big 12 should receive more respect than our glorious west coast war-zone. Perhaps this was just an article to fuel controversy and debate? I'm curious how you would respond to such a statement.

Ted Miller: Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can fuel controversy and debate at will among kindly readers. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design Pac-12 blogs are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.

This is what Big 12 blogger David Ubben wrote about the Big 12 getting an edge on the Pac-12 because of the computers:
But the computers? They factor in every team in the league, and there's no debate there. The Big 12 is the No. 1 league in college football according to the computers, and the Pac-12 is all the way back at No. 3.

First of all, this is great news. Not only do they now have computers in Big 12 flyover states, they no longer believe they are purty, lil' shiny boxes with magical, mathematically skilled leprechauns inside.

No question the Pac-12 is weaker at the bottom. I think you can make a strong case that the Pac-12 is not only superior at the top, it is stronger in the middle. The one head-to-head measure we have is Oklahoma State's 21-point loss at Arizona. The Wildcats were 4-5 in the Pac-12, and the Cowboys were 5-4 in the Big 12.

But, really, the conferences are close enough that it's a moot debate. There's no decisive way to say one is better than the other.

That said: The Pac-12 and Big 12 play three bowl games against each other: Oregon-Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Oregon State-Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl and UCLA-Baylor in the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl.

The conference that wins two -- or three -- of those games would then have some legitimacy to claims of superiority.

Rob from Santa Clara, Calif., writes: Why don't the Pac 12 and SEC have any bowl tie-ins? Until this is settled on the field, the myth of the supremacy of the SEC will be tough to destroy. There is already what seems to be a shell game that allows at least one SEC team into the championship game every year. The playoffs might even be worse -- filled with SEC teams. There's an easy way to settle this: 2 or 3 yearly major or minor bowl games between the two conferences. It is long overdue. Now espn is even insinuating that the Big 12 is the #2 conference, for crying out loud!

Ted Miller: The SEC has great bowl tie-ins. The Pac-12's are not as good. Geography is a prime culprit. The conferences are separated by 2,000-plus miles. Bowl games in Florida are more lucrative than bowl games out here, so they can throw more money at their teams.

Further, with the creation of the Champions Bowl between the SEC and Big 12, the chances are more remote for creating an A-list bowl game between the SEC and Pac-12.

The only way this is going to happen is if someone is highly motivated to match the two conferences and throws money at the SEC. Say someone builds a stadium for a new NFL team in Los Angeles and promises the SEC's No. 2 team $8 million to play the Pac-12's No. 2 team. That could do it.

Again, highly remote.

I do think the four-team playoff will increase the Pac-12's chances to prove itself versus the SEC. Sure, there might be two SEC teams in the playoff every year and just one most years from the Pac-12. But if the Pac-12 team consistently beats the SEC team, perceptions will change.

It's the same with the other power conferences, by the way.

There really isn't an SEC conspiracy here. That conference just keeps winning national championships. All the other conferences need to do is win that darn title game. This isn't rocket science.

Though Kevin did build a rocket and fly his family to Mars last weekend.

Ryan Roberts from Scottsdale, Ariz., writes: Ted, regarding your recent blog article on Arizona's team next year, I have a question? You ask, 'can Arizona be better?' My question to you is, what do you mean specifically? Can Arizona be better or will Arizona match or exceed 8 wins? I don't know that they'll be better (though I don't think it's impossible that they could be). But with NAU, UNLV and UT-San Antonio for a non conference slate, missing Stanford and Oregon State ... and getting back Wazzu and Cal ... I think the likelihood of Arizona getting back to 8 wins is highly probable. The defense can't get any worse, with everyone coming back ... they will be better. If Anu, Scroggins or Denker can be decent at qb ... and with a very good OLine, Ka'deem and very solid receivers, I see 7-5 in the regular season as VERY attainable.

Ted Miller: You make a good point: Schedule is meaningful. Extremely so. Utah fans are tired of hearing about the Utes' good fortune in not playing Oregon and Stanford during their first two years in the Pac-12, but I suspect they'll better understand the point this fall.

When I look at Arizona's roster this year and its projected one in 2013, I'd pick this one beating that one. To me, subtracting quarterback Matt Scott is huge. I might be wrong, of course. See how Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota answered questions about his ability to replace Darron Thomas.

As for the nonconference schedule, it's far easier next season, but the Wildcats were 3-0 in nonconference games this season, so that's a push.

I see Arizona as being clearly superior only to Colorado in the South Division in 2013. I'd also probably pick the Wildcats over Utah. I see UCLA, USC and That Team From Up North finishing ahead of Arizona.

But this is me in December talking about a team in next August. A lot can happen. Shoot, I could go down to spring practices and completely change my impression.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

December, 21, 2012
A few questions and answers before the holiday weekend. Not surprisingly, many of you want to talk about Big Ten realignment possibilities and this post.

Let's get started ...

Rob from Baton Rouge, La., writes: Adam, I have been seeing a lot of people complain about the B1G diluting traditional match-ups as the conference continues to expand. I have a possible solution should the conference expand to 16 schools, which seems inevitable: create four, four team divisions. Every year the divisions pair up on a rotating basis, and every team in the paired divisions plays every other one, and the team with the best record out of each pair goes to the B1G Championship game. Add in a protected crossover and you have a complete 8 game schedule, where 4 rivalries are protected, but every school plays every other school at least every three years. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Rob, while I had some initial reservations about the four, 4-team pods when readers first suggested them, I've definitely warmed up to the idea. You can solve a lot of rivalry issues by putting Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska in the same division. You could put Michigan and Ohio State in different pods as long as you kept the crossover game, or you could put Ohio State and Michigan together and split Michigan and Michigan State (keeping the crossover). It offers a lot of flexibility that two 8-team divisions don't. My concern is how do you determine who plays in the Big Ten title game? Top two records? What are the tiebreakers? Things could get a bit tricky, and I'm not a fan of having semifinals and then a championship game within the league.

Brett from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam, Long-time reader, first time writer. Am I right to be extremely excited about this Gary Andersen hire by UW? I don't know much about him, but the guys who cover him in Utah absolutely rave about him. He sounds like the guy who could take the Badgers to the next level. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Brett, I also like the hire. Those of us who monitor the national landscape understand how difficult a task Andersen faced at Utah State. If there was an FBS program in worse shape than Utah State when Andersen took over, I'd like to know it. He won big this season at a place where I didn't think you could win big. He also has a strong defensive background, much like his predecessors at Wisconsin -- Bret Bielema and Barry Alvarez. He has run different types of offenses but doesn't seem like the type to stray from what has made Wisconsin successful on offense for so long. There are concerns here -- how well he can recruit at this level, Andersen's lack of ties to the Midwest -- but given the difficulties with this search, especially related to timing, I think Wisconsin did well.

Alan from Los Angeles writes: Have you heard any rumblings as to the new mix of B1G bowl games in 2014? I'd personally love to see us add the Holiday Bowl if they would move it to Jan 1. Some more west coast bowls would be great!

Adam Rittenberg: Alan, I definitely would expect a bit more variety than the SEC/Big 12-heavy lineup we see right now. It's very likely the Big Ten signs on with the Pinstripe Bowl in New York, especially with Rutgers coming into the league soon. I also would expect at least one more matchup against the Pac-12 besides the Rose. I know some league officials came away impressed with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl after Illinois appeared in it last year. The Big Ten should be playing the Pac-12 more than once per bowl season. The Holiday Bowl could be a good fit, too. There will be some changes for sure.

Brandon from Portland, Ore., writes: I read your steps to follow in order to get smart about B1G expansion and tried to come up with my list of candidates. Here's the schools I think would make some sense with your guidelines in mind: Colorado, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Rice, Texas, Tulane, and Vanderbilt. Am I missing any that the B1G would consider? What two teams seem the best fits for what the conf is trying to do? Georgia Tech seems like a no brainer with the Atlanta market and I'd love to see Texas (or Rice?) added to get into that state, but don't see that happening. Do any of these others make sense and are they possibilities?

Adam Rittenberg: Brandon, I think you have several realistic candidates here (Georgia Tech, North Carolina), some candidates the Big Ten won't consider (Rice, Tulane, probably Vanderbilt), a long shot in Colorado and the dream candidate with a ton of baggage in Texas. You're missing Virginia, a school the Big Ten definitely would consider because of its location and its sterling academic reputation. Georgia Tech is very much on the radar, and I think the contiguous state thing isn't nearly as important as it used to be. We're in a new environment now, and I do think the Big Ten would be willing to add a school not in a contiguous state. The AAU component, on the other hand, remains extremely important.

Brandon from State College, Pa., writes: So I read your "How to get smart about B1G expansion" and you mentioned that Notre Dame would be an exception to the AAU requirement, and it got me thinking, what about Boston College? I don't know how they are viewed academically by other B1G schools, but they are a traditional rival of Notre Dame's, and they bring in the Boston market (if they care about college football up there, I honestly do not know). Is it totally outrageous, or just very unlikely they would look into adding BC, if it meant Notre Dame comes too? Also, would UNC really leave the ACC without Duke or does the power of money mean the destruction of another great basketball (see Big East) rivalry?

Adam Rittenberg: Brandon, the Big Ten wasn't tied to the AAU thing for Notre Dame because Notre Dame is such a unique national brand that could have added so much to the Big Ten's brand because of its football program. Boston College isn't in the same category, so I think the Big Ten would be less inclined to overlook the lack of AAU membership. To answer your question about college football in the Boston market, they don't care. But you could say the same thing about the New York market, which the Big Ten has targeted with the Rutgers addition. The Big Ten is really betting on its existing brand to resonate in the new markets. Could it work in Boston? I'm more hesitant because it's not the same type of population center you have in New York/New Jersey and Maryland/D.C./Northern Virginia. It's not the same type of recruiting hotbed as those other two markets. To your second question, a lot of people have brought up the North Carolina-Duke connection. The Big Ten would rather have Carolina than Duke, but the question could become whether it would be willing to take both to get UNC. Tough to say.

Pete from Cincinnati writes: Adam, You said you didn't think Missouri would leave the SEC because it had a good thing going there. I would contend that Missouri school officials would rather be a Big 10 member than an SEC member. From a money standpoint, it may as well be a wash or even slightly in favor of the Big 10. From an academics standpoint I think the Big 10 is a better fit. Missouri also would swap one sometime traditional opponent (Texas A&M) for another far more traditional (Nebraska). And they'd almost certainly be slotted in against schools they share more borders with, are more culturally similar to, and just plain closer. On top of that Missouri would have a much better chance of being competitive in the Big 10. So while the may not be playing Alabama, Florida and LSU every weekend, they will also not be losing 6+ games every year. I think Missouri would be happy with the Big 10 if the Big 10 were happy with Missouri. And I also think the SEC would be happy without Missouri as they could find a school that "fits" culturally a little more.

Adam Rittenberg: Pete, some good points here on Missouri. Before Nebraska became a realistic option for Big Ten expansion, I really like the idea of adding Missouri as a 12th member. And Missouri wanted in. Real bad. But if you listened to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany last month, he talked about building a bridge to the East Coast, being a conference in two areas of the country (Midwest and East Coast), creating a Big Ten satellite office on the East Coast. That all suggests the Big Ten is much more interested in moving East than West. Missouri has some nice pluses, too, but the demographic gains you get with Mizzou might not be as good as what you could get with Georgia Tech, North Carolina or Virginia.

Eric from Los Angeles writes: Since you guys are giving out subjective grades to each team for their seasons, I thought you might appreciate a subjective assessment of your work this season: Rittenberg: B+ Won the B1G Fantasy League weekly tally and Weekly Picks challenge; provided excellent video and interview footage; contributed high-profile Notre Dame stories; fair criticism of Northwestern's 4th quarter woes; chose Michigan State to win the B1G; not as hip/pop culture knowledgeable as Bennett; somewhat curt in chat sessions. Bennett: C-Lost the B1G Fantasy League weekly tally and Weekly Picks challenge; Chose Michigan State to Win the B1G; foolishly declared "play better" to teams' fans when they pointed out egregiously poor officiating and when reasonable objections to Bennett's attitude came to the mailbag, he stubbornly doubled-down on the "play better" mantra; provided excellent video and interview footage; makes excellent "Breaking Bad" and other pop culture references. Adam wins 2012.

Adam Rittenberg: An A+ for your email, Eric. One of the best of the year. Well done, sir. No issue with my grades, although I will defend the curtness in the chats (so many dumb questions) and the "play better" mantra because the officiating complaints can get a bit excessive (many were warranted this year). I'll also work on my pop culture references (sometimes better on Twitter than on the blog).

Big East mailblog

December, 21, 2012
Let's take a glance into the mailbag before we celebrate the holiday.

Chris Snow in Portland, Ind., writes: Would it be smart if the Big East continues down the path of where they are going, which is obscurity, that USF do what BYU did? Leave the conference and schedule games with all the big boys and try to impress conferences that way. I would sacrifice two or three seasons of conference play, put a schedule like Notre Dame has together, and hope that a big-five conference takes notice and adds me. What say you?

Andrea Adelson: I say -- how are you going to make money off a television deal? I hear a lot of folks wondering about whether their school should go independent. I've heard it from Boise State fans as well. BYU is a national school with its own television network, and it was able to secure its own TV deal with ESPN. USF? Boise State? The chances that they can negotiate TV deals of their own is exceptionally remote. So USF has to stick it out in the Big East and then see where conference realignment takes it.

Doug in Middletown, Conn., writes: Hi Andrea, what are your thoughts on UConn and the Big Ten? Why was Rutgers more attractive to the Big Ten then UConn?

Adelson: Bottom line: television market. The Big Ten targeted markets with large populations and large bases of Big Ten alumni. Rutgers (New York) and Maryland (Baltimore/Washington D.C.) fit the bill more than Connecticut.

Scott in Annapolis, Md., writes: With Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Geno Smith playing in their last game together, I look for the Mountaineers to go out big on this one. I know WVU's defense stinks (especially the cornerbacks), but if WVU's offense is firing on all cylinders, Cuse doesn't stand a chance. Just ask Clemson. Orange juice anyone?? WVU 55, Cuse 24.

Adelson: You just said West Virginia's defense stinks. So how exactly are these stinky cornerbacks (your words!) going to stop Alec Lemon, Marcus Sales and Ryan Nassib? Syracuse has a way better defense than Clemson -- you should be well aware of that. I will make my pick next week, but I have a hard time believing Syracuse only scores 24 points. Just won't happen.

John in Louisville writes: AA, I am confused how the Catholic schools saying they are leaving has any effect on the football teams, other than money in TV revenue. Everyone is saying that the BE could lose its BCS bid next year and I was hoping you could explain that talk to me.

Adelson: I am as confused as you are, to be honest. Before these hoops schools broke away, I was told repeatedly the Big East would remain an automatic qualifying conference in 2013. So I am not sure why that changes when NON-FOOTBALL-PLAYING schools leave. Perhaps there is a fear the entire Big East will fall apart. My bet is nothing happens to the automatic bid for next year. Now, if football schools begin to depart en masse, that could change.

Chris Columbo in New York writes: One of the big issues Cincinnati has is lack of fan support. Not being able to sell out a small and unique on-campus stadium such as Nippert when they are doing so well is a sign of weakness on many levels. I actually think they are making a mistake by expanding the facility. The money could be put to much better use by expanding their endowment and getting a higher quality of kids to attend the school. More prestigious school equals more fans as people want to be associated with winning on and off the field. I am originally from East Lansing (Michigan State) and went to school at Wisconsin. We would regularly have 70,000 people at games even when both teams were losing. Actually in Wisconsin's case, they were selling out games when they had 1-10 seasons. The reason was people wanted to be associated with the schools. For Cincinnati to have the kind of success it wants to have, the games have to be a kind of see-and-be-seen type of event. Nippert is like Wrigley Field. No one cares if the Cubs win but people go to the games for all the other social reasons.

Adelson: You bring up an excellent point. Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock was asked during his press conference earlier this week about the school's inability to sell out games. Rather than criticize fans, he essentially said the success was all relatively new for the program and he believes Cincinnati will get to a point where it can sell out games. The expansion, however, has more to do with making itself more attractive to another conference should an opportunity arise in realignment. Cincinnati has one of the smallest stadiums of any program currently in an AQ conference. Only Wake Forest and Duke have smaller capacities. Putting in more suites and club boxes brings added revenue streams and can help Cincinnati financially. So selling out games at this point is icing on the cake. The goal is to bump up capacity while bringing in more cash with suites, boxes and naming-rights opportunities.

Thanks for all the emails this week, everybody. Here's where you can reach me if you've got more to say.

Let's get to your mail.

Sam Brooks in Overland Park, Kan., writes: David, I saw in your Big 12 stock report that you have Kansas State's stock as going down, and your logic for this is very skewed. Sure, the Cats are losing two very important players with major leadership roles on both sides of the ball in Collin and Arthur, but don't think for a second that the quality of leadership will drop off. Tre Walker is more than ready to become the vocal leader of the 'Lynch Mob' (probably already was), and John Hubert and Daniel Sams have spent countless hours learning the intangibles from CK7. As for talent, they are taking a big hit on the defensive side pretty much only returning Zimmerman and Walker. However, as for the offense, look for them to be more explosive than this year. 5 returning on the O-Line, John Hubert, Tremaine Thompson, and Tyler Lockett all return, making it very plausible for D-Sams to ease into Snyder's system and put up huge numbers. The intense QB battle with Waters will only make both players better too. Combine that with a very favorable schedule (8 home games) and I believe K-State takes care of business in Austin early (as they did in Norman), and the Big 12 title will once again run through Manhattan, KS. (Cue November 16 hype [TCU])

David Ubben: It's possible, Sam, but I simply don't buy that K-State has pieces ready to just replace a guy as integral to the offense as Collin Klein and Arthur Brown. Both of those guys won their respective Big 12 Player of the Year awards on their side of the ball, and you don't simply replace Klein's experience and toughness or Brown's athleticism and instinct. Walker's a great player, but Brown held the defense together and missed so few tackles. The Sams/Waters quarterback derby in the spring will be interesting, but we'll see if Hubert continues his production without Klein and if Sams or Waters can prove to be a quarterback in the top half of the Big 12. That's a must if you're going to win the league.

Ask Oklahoma State how easy it is to replace pieces that are that important. OSU was a good team this year, but winning 11-12 games in this league is really difficult. The simple truth is next year's Kansas State team will not be as good as this year's team. Considering this year's team has a pretty solid case as the best in school history, I hardly think that's an insult.

K-State's a bowl team next year, but a Big 12 title contender? I don't buy that one bit, unless Sams or Waters just absolutely blows up next season. I expect one of them to be solid, but not one of the league's best.

Jamie Hoggatt in San Antonio writes: David,I really like Baylor's chances to get to 7 or 8 wins again next year. Tevin Reese will be the go to guy and will step up like TW did this year for the departed Kendall Wright. You have the Best Big 12 Lineman ( Cyril Richardson ) the best Big 12 back ( Lache Seastruck ) and Bryce Petty will do great. On defense you get all 3 LB's back ( Lackey, Hagar and Dixon ) plus 4 other starters return. The kicking game needs improvement. Art Briles is the glue and the last year in Floyd Casey should be promising.. 4 bowl games in a row for the Bears.

DU: I definitely buy it. I think Baylor's got a lot of upside next season. The receivers won't be as good as they were the past two years, but they'll still be solid, and I think Petty will be better than Florence but not as good as RG3. I do think Seastrunk is better than any back Baylor's had under Briles, and he'll get a whole lot of touches next season. I would be absolutely shocked if Baylor didn't make a bowl next season, but in a wide-open Big 12 with tons of turnover on the offensive side of the ball, a 10-win season or a Big 12 title run would be far from shocking.

I don't think it's likely, and I do think Baylor looks more like a 7 to 8-win team, but the upside is big, and guys like Petty and Seastrunk may easily surpass expectations next year. The defense has to get better, obviously, but I think the offense can maintain yet again, despite losing Florence and Terrance Williams.

Tommy in Dallas writes: When will someone please come and take Paul Rhoads out of the conference? As an opposing team fan, I don't ever want to play his teams. I can't imagine why more teams haven't come and tried to take him away yet? Or am I overlooking how much him being an ISU alumn effects the situation?

DU: You're not alone, Tommy. It's all about finding the right fit, really. There was plenty of rumblings earlier this month that Wisconsin was interested after Bret Bielema checked out to my old stomping grounds at Arkansas, but that never really materialized into anything significant. I don't know if that's the right fit for him. Pittsburgh showed lots of interest last year but Iowa State kept Rhoads around with a contract extension and a raise.

When a truly big-time program comes after Rhoads, I do expect him to leave, but right now, that opportunity hasn't come around. Until then, he's loved at Iowa State. He loves it there, too. He's a native of the state. I don't get the feeling that he believes he can turn the program into a power like Art Briles believes at Baylor, but he's building for the future, and he's not going to leave unless he does so for a major, major step up.

Nick in Fort Smith, Ark., writes: TOP HEAVY SEC!? wow! you know, i expect BIG 12 fans to be delusional, but a sports writer? pathetic. Bama, Georgia, LSU, A&M, South Carolina, Florida. ALL ten wins or more!!! thats nearly have the league! Vandy is no push over and they AND Miss St. will possibly finish with NINE wins! Arkansas with Bobby as their coach would have challenged for the pathetic BIG-12 title this year! ALL they would have had to beat was K-State and OU!!! They already throttled K-State once this year. Get your head out of Bob Stoops rear.

DU: Hey, I respect those top six teams. They're all good. All top 15 teams, though? I think there's plenty of reason to doubt that, considering as a group, they don't have a ton of great wins out of conference play. They've inflated their ranking by beating up on the bottom eight teams in the SEC, who went 0-30 against the top six this season. That's a top-heavy league if there ever was one. K-State's probably not as good as Alabama or Georgia or maybe even Florida, but teams in the bottom half of the Big 12 like Baylor or West Virginia are far superior than the bottom half of the SEC. The Big 12 is a more balanced league, but the top half of the SEC ascended in the polls largely on the back of the league's success the past 5-6 years, not what they actually did this year.

Daniel La Frankie in Temple, Texas, writes: Dave, enjoy your columns very much.Quick question. Always hear about the "Grant of rights" like it's cement.If people can sue to get out of exit fees of 10, 20, 25, now maybe 50 million dollars, and lawyer it down to a lesser fee...............why couldn't a school sue to get out of "Grant of rights"???Thanks, Dan

DU: I'm not a lawyer, but it seems highly, highly unlikely. I'll explain. The "exit fees" are, in theory, based on recouping a conference the money that it would lose if a team left the conference. That's why the supposed $50 million exit fee in the ACC may not stand up in court. Granted, we don't know that yet. We'll see. That's only a small part of it, but that's my understanding on why some schools have gotten out of paying the full fees.

The grant of rights, however, isn't based on any losses. It's an agreement to hand over your media rights to the conference for "X" period of time. In the Big 12's case, it's three years. I suppose, in theory, you could sue to get out of that, but there's no doubt that those "handcuffs" are going to be a lot more strict than the Big 12's weak exit fees that Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M left in the dust.

Friday mailblog

December, 21, 2012
Go. Git. Quit working. Enjoy the holiday -- after you read the mailblog, of course ...

Colt Evans in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Good morning Heather. I have always lived here in Blacksburg, VA amongst Hokie nation but have always and will always be a GT Yellow Jacket fan! What is your opinion on CPJ as a coach overall and his future with the team? And also, how he manages to keep GT relevant with the weak recruiting classes and the emerging FBS schools getting more comfortable with the triple option?

HD: My take on Paul Johnson is that he is a very smart but surly man with a lucrative contract, and as long as he continues to win more than he loses he'll be safe, but a new athletic director could make things interesting. There's no question that rival Georgia has blown by the Jackets in recruiting, but I disagree with the notion that teams have "figured out the spread option." Clemson is sticking with its offensive philosophy, regardless of whether or not Chad Morris is on the sideline. Would you make the same argument that opposing defenses have "figured out" Clemson's offense? Has the rest of the ACC "figured out" Florida State's offense? Isn't the rest of the ACC "comfortable" against Virginia Tech's offense by now? (Don't answer that.) You get what I'm saying, though. If you have the players to execute it, it works. The bottom line is not the offense or the coach, it's the recruits.

Jon in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Hey Heather, in regards to GT's search for a defensive coach. Does CPJ's controlling nature automatically make really good potential coaches kind of steer away from GT?

HD: No, but his offense might. I know, you say, 'but the defense doesn't practice against the spread option every week, it practices against the opponent's offense.' Well what does it practice against all spring and summer? Clemson? Paul Johnson doesn't micromanage the defense. He's hardly involved in it at all. He needs to hire somebody who can run it by himself.

Sean in Raleigh, NC, writes: OK, I think I'm late to the game here, but with Syracuse and Pitt who is Atlantic and which is Coastal? Also with the commitment to an 8 game ACC schedule, will the ACC remove the permanent rivals or just remove one of the cross conference games?

HD: No worries, this is all going to take some getting used to, especially for Big East fans not used to the divisions. Syracuse is in the Atlantic, just remember they're in the same "neighborhood" as BC. Pitt is in the Coastal, the same "neighborhood" as Virginia Tech. The traditional rivals were preserved.

Hank in Durham, NC, writes: Heather, I have really appreciated your coverage on FSU this season. I agree that FSU should not have lost to NC State. I also think that FSU was a better team than UF and lost because of some poor decisions by Manuel. Anyway, my question is regarding next season. With three coordinators leaving, a crop of def players leaving (Werner probably as well), Manuel leaving, and no top ten class in recruiting (I feel like Stoops and the other two coordinators will keep us out of the top ten) at this point do you think next season we have the potential of going 11-2? That seems like a stretch at this point. Or at least the deck is stacked against us. I feel like if we won the ACC and went to a BCS bowl I would be more excited than this year. (Esp. since we should be playing Notre Dame in the National championship and be 13-0) What are your thoughts? Thanks, Hank

HD: I spoke with Jimbo Fisher about that this week, and he reiterated that even with the staff changes and the departure of EJ Manuel, the program is still heading in the right direction. He emphasized the philosophy of building a program, not a team. I don't think FSU is doomed next year by any means, but I think Clemson should be ranked ahead of the Noles heading into 2013.

Shelton Leverette in Lexington, NC, writes: The loss of Gio Bernard may not be too much for the Heels as they have a committment from the #3 all purpose back in the nation- TJ Logan. If you are interested to see what Carolina has in store next year, take a look at his recruiting videos. They are very impressive!!!!

HD: Ok, but who's gonna block for him? Not Jonathan Cooper. To me, the questions up front on the offensive line should be even more of a concern than the loss of Bernard. Look at what happened to the Hokies this year after losing David Wilson and four of their starting linemen. Ouch.