Passers and playoffs in mailbag

Originally Published: October 12, 2012
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

College football finally gets a four-team playoff in 2014.

But if a playoff were in place today, which four teams would be battling for the sport's national championship?

That question and more are tackled in this week's On the Mark Mailbag:

Eric Parks in Nashville, Tenn., writes:

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesDenard Robinson showed his versatility against Purdue.

Mark, what is your love affair with Denard Robinson? You have featured him in your "Precision Passers" column three times this year. This is a guy who has completed less than 54 percent of his passes this year; averages less than 200 yards per game; and has more INTs than TDs. In Saturday's game, he ran for 235 yards and passed for 105. Denard Robinson is many things, but a "Precision Passer" is not one of them. If you continue to prop this guy up for average-at-best passing, then please rename the list "Quality QBs."

For the record, I don't select the quarterbacks on the list; our Stats & Information department comes up with it every week. I agree that Robinson hardly fits the description of a "precision passer," but he had a heck of a game against Purdue last week. It was his fifth career 200-yard rushing game, tied with Mike Hart for the most by a Michigan player. Robinson has 3,905 rushing yards for his career, fourth-most by a FBS quarterback, moving past Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (3,895; 1998-01) and Kent State's Joshua Cribbs (3,670; 2001-04).

You weren't the only one upset with the quarterback list this week.

Steven in Davis, Calif., writes:

I don't understand how you left Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, [who is] second in the nation in touchdown passes and sixth in yardage, with only three interceptions in six games, off of your "Precision Passers" list. Please give this guy some love, especially with the Boise [State] game this week.

Carr, a junior from Bakersfield, Calif., has been fantastic this season. I thought he was better two weeks ago, when he completed 42 of 55 passes for 536 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in a 52-40 rout of San Diego State. This past week, Carr didn't throw an interception and was 25-for-39 for 217 yards with four touchdowns in a 28-7 victory over Colorado State.

PD in Germany also complains about the "Precision Passers" list:

How do you skip Matt Barkley's performance for On the Mark Precision Passers? His stats in conference on the road, under the pressure of falling behind 14 points?

Hey, I was glad the Trojans figured out how to snap him the football. Barkley played pretty well once he actually got his hands on the ball, completing 23 of 30 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38-28 win at Utah.

John Teller in Washington, Pa., writes: Talk about something that matters, like how my team lost a player this week because he was murdered. We're just a Division III team, but this should get national coverage. A great running back, but more importantly a great person, was killed over the money in his wallet. #RIP5

Thanks for passing along the note. I was unaware of the tragedy at Washington and Jefferson College, which has a great football tradition. The Presidents played California in the 1922 Rose Bowl, which was played to a 0-0 tie, and John Heisman, namesake of the Heisman Trophy, also coached there.

Tim McNerney, 21, of Penn Township, Pa., died from head trauma suffered when he and a teammate were attacked and robbed by as many as six men while walking downtown in Washington, Pa., on Oct. 4. McNerney ranked second in the Presidents' Athletic Conference and 33rd in Division III in rushing with 115.3 yards per game. For his career, McNerney ranked among the top 10 running backs in W&J history with 2,336 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns.

McNerney was buried in Middlesex, Pa., on Tuesday.

"He was that kid on the team that everyone looked up to when things were going bad," W&J coach Mike Sirianni told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's tragic. I hope this is the worst thing these 18- to 22-year-olds have to deal with -- especially with the way it happened."

Ron in New Orleans wants to know:

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Kim Klement/US PresswireCan Les Miles rally LSU to get back in the national title picture?

If LSU wins out, which would mean beating two or three top-five teams and other top-25 teams, shouldn't they have an opportunity to play for the championship with one loss over the other guys with a weaker schedule?

I think of all the highly ranked teams that lost last week, LSU might have the best chance at getting back into the BCS title discussion -- if it can somehow win out. The Tigers play No. 3 South Carolina at home on Saturday night and play No. 1 Alabama in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 3. They also play No. 22 Texas A&M on the road and No. 19 Mississippi State at home during the regular season, and would potentially play a highly ranked SEC East opponent in the SEC championship game. If the Tigers can somehow recover -- and I don't believe their offense is good enough to do it -- they'll have a chance to climb right back into the BCS title race.

Pacecar from Oregon asks:

If a playoff were to begin this year, what four teams would you pick and why?

I'd go with No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida, and No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 South Carolina. People are going to kick and scream about me having three SEC teams in there, but I just don't think West Virginia plays enough defense to be included in the top four. Of course, the new playoff model, which goes into effect in 2014, doesn't prevent three teams from the same conference being included.

Bernard Robert in Hammond, La., writes:

Is Oregon really that good this year as opposed to the last few? Washington is not a good football team. They got beat 40-3 in Baton Rouge. I feel like every year teams in the Pac-12 get hyped up and never meet the expectations at the end of the year. Just wanna know why you guys love the West Coast teams? Roll Tide!

It's still kind of early in the season, but I think this might be the most complete football team the Ducks have put on the field. They look even faster on offense, and the defense has already showed it can come up with some stops when it has to.

Chris in New York, N.Y., writes:

I get you're an SEC homer and have little or no respect for the Big East. But to completely ignore the fact that there are three different undefeated teams in the conference with all three likely having a chance to stay unbeaten until later in the year making them possible national championship contenders is pretty poor. Yes, for all three it's a long shot. But if any go 12-0 or 11-1 (a real possibility) they will be in the conversation. You should know that. … Cincy beat Virginia Tech in effectively a home game for the Hokies. Rutgers has the No. 1 rush defense in the nation and beat Arkansas in Fayetteville pretty convincingly. And the The Ville beat UNC, another ACC opponent. Not arguing we should be in the game -- but a mention of the possibility would be fair.

I gave the Big East some love earlier this week on "Final Verdict" on ESPNU, when I said its collective performance was the biggest surprise of the season. Rutgers has impressed me the most so far because of its defense. Louisville already has had a handful of close calls, but Teddy Bridgewater is easily the best quarterback in the league. Butch Jones continues to do fantastic things at Cincinnati.

Abeal in New Jersey jumps on the Big East bandwagon, too:

On the Mark? Many of these teams are overrated -- Big 12 doesn't play defense, USC stinks, give me a break. Put some Big East teams in there. Louisville and Rutgers are legit teams. No one is surprised that West Virginia is beating the Big 12 right now. They have always been over-hyped. Also, I wonder if WVU would be getting so much attention had they remained in the Big East. Outside of Andrea Adelson, you guys are all jokes.

I'll pass along your note to Andrea. Man, Big East teams win a couple of nonconference games and it suddenly thinks it's the SEC.

Mark Schlabach | email

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