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Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Updated: November 9, 4:55 PM ET
Just For Argument's Sake …

By Ivan Maisel

From nagging questions to soapbox moments to Heisman hype, here's a look at the hottest topics in college football.

3 Nagging Questions | Soapbox Moment | Whatever Happened To ... | Introducing
Just A Thought | How To | Heisman Hype | Power 16 | 3 Games Worth TiVo-ing

1. What will happen on the coaching front?
The current coaching rumors, along with a yes/no (mostly no, as it turns out) assessment of the likelihood that they will actually happen:

• Butch Davis to North Carolina -- Yes.
Athletic director Dick Baddour has been scarce the last couple of days. The speculation -- hey, these are rumors, so speculation is what you get -- is that he is holed up working on a contract with Davis and/or his agent, Marvin Demoff.

• Butch Davis to Alabama -- No.
Mike Shula's future is reportedly on Davis' radar screen, but Davis turned down the Crimson Tide in 2000, before he left Miami for the Cleveland Browns. Red elephants -- especially university trustee Paul Bryant, Jr. -- have long memories.

• Mike Shula out at Alabama -- No.
The depth of anger among the Crimson Tide fans and power brokers after Alabama's 24-16 home loss to Mississippi State has surprised people in and out of the athletic department. There is a sense of lost confidence in Shula, and not much faith that the Tide (6-4) can win either at LSU this Saturday or at home against archrival Auburn. But a buyout of Shula would cost more than $2.5 million, not to mention the assistant coaches. Shula deserves a chance to correct his mistakes. If he chooses not to make changes, athletic director Mal Moore will decide whether giving him another year would delay the inevitable.

• Barry Alvarez to Miami as athletic director/coach -- No.
Alvarez told my colleague Joe Schad this week that he misses coaching. But when it comes down to it, I don't think he will give up the comfort zone he has established in 17 years at Wisconsin.

• Rich Rodriguez to Miami -- No.
Miami may make a run at the West Virginia coach but you have to believe that WVU will do whatever is necessary to keep Rodriguez at his alma mater. If all things are equal, I think Rodriguez will stay.

• Steve Mariucci to Michigan State -- No.
From what I hear, the university representatives with whom Mariucci met earlier this week wanted to hear from him how much he wanted the job and they didn't hear it.

2. Who should start at quarterback for Arkansas?
Go back to the beginning of the season, when Arkansas coach Houston Nutt needed only one game to pull Robert Johnson out of the starting job and give the offense to freshman Mitch Mustain. He has gone 8-0 as a starter, technically speaking. Nutt needed only one series to pull Mustain Saturday night at South Carolina and give the offense to Casey Dick.

Casey Dick
Casey Dick threw for 228 yards and a touchdown against South Carolina.

Neither decision was as rash as it seemed. Johnson faltered against USC. Nutt felt Mustain, who enrolled this fall, knew enough to do the job. Nutt didn't need Mustain to win games. He needed Mustain not to lose games. He has sophomore tailback Darren McFadden and a big offensive line to power the offense.

Where was Dick? Unavailable. He injured his back in August. Dick started the last four games of last season and finished spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback. Once he became healthy this season and scraped off the rust, he became a more-than-viable option for Nutt.

Against the Gamecocks, Dick went 11-for-19 for 228 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Nutt said that he turned to Dick with the pressures of November in mind. And, Nutt added, "I have a quick trigger."

No kidding. Hey, the Razorbacks are 8-1 and leading the SEC West. They have beaten Auburn, so they own that tiebreaker. Dick will start Saturday against No. 13 Tennessee. As hot as Nutt has been this season, hand him the dice and get out of his way.

3. Does Paul Posluszny deserve to be an award winner?
I know, I know. It sounds like a dumb question. Posluszny is the best linebacker in college football. The 2005 Butkus Award winner has proved it down the homestretch of the season.

Paul Posluszny
Will Posluszny's late charge make him a Butkus finalist again?

But. Posluszny, after injuring his knee in the Orange Bowl, barely participated in spring practice. He said his knee didn't feel normal until the summer. The numbers and the naked eye both indicate that the Posluszny of the second half of the season is a different guy from the player who wore No. 31 in the first half of the season.

He is moving faster, which means he is covering more ground. In the first five games of the season, Posluszny made 22 unassisted tackles. In the next five games, he made 35, including two sacks. He didn't even make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage until the fifth game.

In a way, the issue is a microcosm of the annual debates over how poll voters should assess teams. Do victories at the beginning of the season mean as much as victories at the end? If this were basketball, if football had a playoff, the beginning of the season wouldn't mean as much.

The Lombardi Award named Posluszny a finalist for the second consecutive year. The Butkus Award will name its finalists Thursday. My guess is that voters will reward Posluszny for returning to his high level of achievement. He is a brand name in college football, both because of his surname and because he plays linebacker at Penn State. But if Posluszny's season-long performance is measured against the other finalists, it will come up short.

He should hope for short memories.