The post-spring, pre-fall, après-April, Memorial Day sale Top 25 posted two weeks ago generated more than one million hits, and nearly as many of you from Arizona State and Alabama wanted to hit me for not ranking the Sun Devils and the Tide.
Not to mention the loads of love from Miami and Notre Dame fans, who are not satisfied unless their team is declared No. 1 in perpetuity. And let's not forget how my pick of Ohio State at the top ended the never-ending cries of bias and bile from Buckeyes fans because we don't always worship at St. Tressel Church.
I confess here and now that I read most but not all of your e-mails. I tried. Really.
But after a while, it all began to sound like "The Llama Song," which, if you have a third-grader who can surf the web, you have heard 2,000 times:
Here's a llama, there's a llama, llama, llama, duck.
I plead guilty to not reading some of the e-mails based on the subject line, although I do have a funny story about that. A Sooners fan sent me an e-mail promising me the name of the undercover officer who arrested underage quarterback Rhett Bomar for drinking a beer at a Hornets game in Oklahoma City.
Typical myopic college fan, I thought. I have no interest in naming the cop, who was doing his or her job. I mentioned this on the new ESPNU College Football Insider podcast that has been awaiting your download since Thursday.
The fan e-mailed last night after listening to the podcast to tell me that the e-mail included a picture of the Oklahoma State mascot.
My point does have some merit. Y'all are certainly capable of outing a cop for arresting your quarterback, even if he was mentally challenged enough to go to an NBA game and pour a beer into one of the most recognizable underage faces in his state. I have come to that conclusion based on the passion of your e-mails.
Not of the passion arrived here with flames shooting out the back. You directed it toward two icons I have written about in recent weeks -- Keith Jackson and Tom Osborne. I must admit to being surprised that so few of you responded to my columns about the National Football Foundation honors given to coaches Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. The Foundation has some work to do to carve out a higher profile for these awards.
So, fresh off my triumphant viewing of the finals of the "National Spelling Bee" -- I absolutely nailed four, count 'em, four words over two hours, although one of them was yizkor, which to a Jew is like the free space on a bingo card -- I bring you a representative sampling of the various regionalized, compartmentalized, supersized ways in which I have been labeled a moron. Play away, please:
Ohio State at No. 1? With no defense? This Ohio State really reminds me of the 2005 Michigan team.
Michigan was hyped for a national championship, entering the season ranked No. 4, but the defense was suspect. The offense had great receivers [Jason Avant and Steve Breaston], a star at quarterback [Chad Henne] and a fantastic tailback [Mike Hart]. The offensive line was experienced and talented. All it really took was an injury to Hart to break the rhythm of the offense. Yes, other parts of the offense got injured too, but what killed the Wolverines [was] that the defense could not stop anyone. They were too inexperienced. The team finished with its worst record (7-5) in a long time.
With an injury or two, that could very well be OSU this year. Everyone is still riding the Fiesta Bowl high and jumping on the Ginn-Smith-Pittman bandwagon. But tell me, which national champion in recent history has not had a rock-solid defense? USC lost last year because their defense could not hold Vince Young. Texas won because they were quick and tough. And remember that the most memorable play of the Rose Bowl last year was the stop on LenDale White on fourth down. That was defense.
Previous champs -- USC, LSU, OSU, Miami, Oklahoma, FSU, Tennessee, Michigan -- some of them may have been known for their offenses, but all had stellar and experienced defenses.
So before hailing the Buckeyes, think about what wins championships.
It's quite possible that the Ohio State defense will be too young and inexperienced. But as I pointed out, Jim Tressel has built a career on defense and special teams. Michigan's defense underachieved and got hurt by the lack of offense. I don't think the Buckeyes will lack offense. Yes, they may be one injury away from disaster, but that would go for everyone else in the Top 25, if it's the right guy. Texas? The Longhorns won for a lot of reasons, Misha, but those quick, tough Longhorns gave up 38 points and 574 yards to USC. Defense ain't the reason the crystal football is in Austin. That reason is now in Nashville with a big No. 10 on his chest.
Well, the bottom half of your Top 25 does show some creative thinking for
once (except Michigan) but your top 10 is another great big yawn. When are
you guys ever going to actually take a look at all the Division I schools?
What about Washington State? If even one of their new JC running backs pan
out (which is probable), they're probably going to have one of the top
offenses in the nation. The defense is probably going to be better, too
(certainly can't do worse).
And what is up with you guys always over-ranking Oregon? Every single year
they start out high and then have to prove to you that they stink. Sure,
their coach can recruit but he can't coach!
Do you just look through last year's newspaper and throw darts at it?
Who told you about the darts?
Are you kidding? Not a single SEC team before No. 9? The article said Top 25, not most likely BCS finishing position. The SEC has the best teams in the country, and you don't put even one in before No. 9? The Gators at No. 12??? Are you kidding? They'll roll over FSU [your ridiculous No. 5 pick] worse than last year, especially with no defense. And as for no RB for Florida, look no further than Marcus Manson, who'll have a breakout year. I'm sick and tired of ESPN announcers other than [Lee] Corso hating on the SEC. Give it up already.
I'll believe Marcus Manson breaks out when I see it. Isn't Florida the team whose coach threatened to install a no-tailback offense halfway through spring ball? As for hating on the SEC -- and when did it become hating on? -- my press box colleagues would break ribs and a gut laughing at that one. Anthony, your researchers failed you.
You are getting hammered on the ND Web sites: how dare you not have ND in your top three???
Ivan, I am a big ND fan and am fine with your article. Basically you have to get paid and I guess it's time for another college preseason article.
I am hoping you are incorrect as to where ND finishes, and I think you have Oklahoma way too high, but I do like your prediction of USC and Cal in the top 10; you are showing some [guts] here. I am 44 now and have lived in California since I was 20. I am of the opinion that the East Coast bias does exist and that Pac-10 basketball is overrated and that Pac-10 football is underrated.
I can't stand the Trojans but they should be in the top 10 for another five years just based upon recruiting. [Pete] Carroll has done a great job as long as he can keep them out of the pokey.
WVU should be ranked that high because its schedule is a cakewalk. If they wind up playing any of the top eight teams you have listed in a bowl game, they are going down in flames.
Anyway, nice article. One last thing: Never bet on Clemson to fulfill expectations.
Huntington Beach, Calif.
If there's an East Coast bias, why is the media "in love" with all things Trojan? It's either one conspiracy or the other, isn't it?
I'm not angry at you [well, maybe I am]. Just curious as to why
Alabama didn't receive mention in the Top 25 or even the "also
Let me guess: it's because
1. It's going to be almost impossible to replace seven starters on defense
and achieve the same results as the past two years.
2. No Brodie [Croyle] and possibly no [Tyrone] Prothro plus the fact that last year the
offense stunk worse than rhino dung.
3. No one believes [still] that Mike Shula can coach.
4. The killer road schedule (at Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and LSU)
Offer me your insight. I know it's very early and there is still a lot
of room for Alabama to improve from now until Sept. 2. What
are major concerns heading into the fall? What needs to improve, what can they do to get better, etc.?
Richard D. Lee
5. This is the last season that the NCAA probation will have an effect on the Tide. The loss of a special class of seniors, without a lot of juniors and seniors to replace them, will be an issue.
Ivan: I have one correction to your feature on
ESPN.com. Oklahoma's record last year was 9-3 not
8-4. OU won the Texas Tech game -- Tech did not score
on the last play.
Anyone who looks at the replay can plainly see the
ballcarrier was down at the 2. They stretched the
ball across. The TV replays clearly show this. The
shot from behind and above the end zone [which was
mysteriously not shown during the telecast, but was
shown on ESPN] again clearly shows the ballcarrier was
down on the 2.
The side judge either is blind, or is a Tech\Texas
Sun Prairie, Wis.
Man, I love college football fans.
Ivan, Ivan, Ivan
Not putting Arizona State anywhere on this list [not even among the others receiving consideration???] is a complete crock. The defense will be better than last year [by how much I admittedly am uncertain], and the offense will be just as ridiculous [in an averaging 40 points a game sort of way] as it was last year. Also, what's up with all you ESPNers jumping on and off Iowa's bandwagon every year? They are always top 15 until of course they wet the bed in the first five games. I have never heard of another team that all the sportswriters wanted to be ranked so bad. You guys might want to buy some ankle braces before the season starts, so you are ready to leap come Week 3.
The Sun Devils' defense is depending on an infusion of transfers. I'm sure they're all the greatest players since Terrell Suggs. Funny thing about Iowa is, they keep finishing in the top 10. Sportswriters do notice that. Anyway, I'll wait to see the ASU defense produce before I tighten my ankle braces.
I can't quite understand what the infatuation is with the University of Iowa.
I suppose it could be Kirk Ferentz, but really, Iowa hasn't done much of
anything for the past two years.
Did you watch the Iowa-ISU game last year?
[Drew] Tate looked like a stiff and lost his composure to boot. [Iowa State's Bret] Meyer is a much
better QB -- taller with a better arm.
Iowa State demolished them, and I
believe will do so again this year (just like six out of the last eight years, by
the way.) Clearly, I am not an Iowa fan. I just can't stand
to see them listed on another top 10 list, like last year, when they just
don't deserve it. Frankly, it makes it look like you didn't do your
homework and just picked them because it was a lazy choice.
Shoot, I thought we just disagreed. I didn't realize I had work-ethic issues. Thanks for pointing that out. I'm going to do something about it. First thing tomorrow. No, Monday, that's it. Monday. No, not Monday well, I am going to do something about it.
I like your list. My main question is this: why does everyone have Cal at least one step behind USC in every poll?
I've never seen one person come out and say, 'Cal is No. 6, USC No. 7.' We return better starters on both sides of the ball, we return better special teams players, and [John David] Booty, [Mark] Sanchez, and [Hershel] Dennis couldn't even make it through spring practices. It certainly isn't coaching because [Jeff] Tedford, [Mike] Dunbar and [Bob] Gregory form the most formidable trio in the conference.
William H. Riedlinger
If Mike McDonald is the USC quarterback, I'll pick Cal to win the Pac-10. However, you have to remember that Nate Longshore hasn't proven he can play yet, either.
Great article. It is interesting to read about the relationships between
coaches. I think Ohio State coaches went to Miami before the 2002 season
and they would later meet in the title game. Larry Coker allowed them to come, not
anticipating they would be playing for a national championship against one
That may be the best example of one of these visits coming back to bite the host coach. In a one-play game, I wonder if it made the difference.
Great article. In these days when we hear so many bad things going on in athletics, it's good to hear about people helping one another.
That's a point I should have emphasized. Thanks for doing it for me.
I agree with your argument in the Reggie Bush case that it will be hard to
educate parents about improper benefits, and even more difficult for the
NCAA to hold them, and the schools, totally accountable for their actions.
But for Bush's representatives to argue that Bush had no idea about his
parents' deal with the agent is outright disgusting.
If Reggie walked into that house even once within the last year, he is
guilty for not turning his folks in. Case closed.
If he and his lawyers want to argue that point to save themselves, Reggie
should fire them immediately and look for better representation.
Ivan, Reggie can't walk into that 3,000 square foot home and believe his parents
can suddenly afford it, can he? I don't know their backgrounds, whether
they are poor like Willis McGahee's folks were. But Reggie spending time
in an $800,000 home and never once having the common sense to question how
his parents were paying for that month-to-month is untrue.
Unless it is true, and Reggie was oblivious to all that.
In which case,
any degree that USC ever awards Bush will totally be invalidated because of
his stupidity. Again, case closed.
I don't care about sending the Heisman to Austin, but for the sanctity of
college sports, as close to death as it is, Bush must be prosecuted by
[Myles] Brand and the NCAA for this. Sorry it had to be him.
Garrett, you make a lot of sense. And it's worth noting that yours is the first e-mail about USC from the 225 area code I've received in three years that didn't complain about the 2003 AP national championship.
There is one rule that overrides all and it is called common sense.
Does the NCAA really need to inform the Reggie Bush family that they cannot live in a $750,000 house for free from a guy who wants to make money off the Bush name?
How stupid do we have to be?
Is that a trick question?
I said at the top of that column that none of us knows the facts of that case. The only point I tried -- and evidently, failed -- to make is that it's unrealistic to hold universities responsible for the actions of parents who may live thousands of miles away. It's a flaw in a system filled with them.
The Bush story smells rotten. However, I get accused a lot of ready-fire-aim, so I'm going to wait to fire until I know what we're looking at.
The 3-point stance for today (6/1) says that three teams: Ohio St., Eastern Michigan and Miami (Ohio) will face Garrett Wolfe and Tyrell Sutton next season. You can also add a fourth team to that list: Iowa.
I knew I had missed someone, and I knew a few of you would catch it. Thanks for the assist.
I don't listen to sports talk radio, and I don't flame sportswriters I don't agree with. I'm 58 years old and I remember when it was a big deal when there was football game to watch on TV. In that context, I have to tell you what a marvelous, and to me, touching, tribute you paid Keith Jackson on ESPN.com.
There are a lot of good play-by-play guys out there, but a lot of them spend too much time making sure I know that they know what they know. In short, they get in the way.
Keith Jackson never got in the way. Listening to him was like watching a game with an old, knowledgeable friend and listening to what he had to say.
Also, he knew it was a football game and he treated it that way. It wasn't 9/11; it wasn't an assassination or surgery. It might have been Ohio State and Michigan, but it really was just a bunch of boys playin' football.
Being from Kentucky, I had the opportunity to know the late Cawood Ledford. Keith Jackson's retirement announcement leaves me with the same feelings I had when Cawood hung it up and I'm a Louisville guy! There is a comfort there. You turn on the TV, it's a college football game and Keith Jackson's in the booth. The world is in order and as it should be. We are losing that comfort. I don't think I'll feel the same way when Al Michaels decides to retire.
I was struck by the chord that Jackson's retirement struck with many of you. Fred, as for your reference to Ledford, Southern radio guys seem to have a tighter relationship with their listeners than the radio guys in other parts of the country. I think it speaks to the importance of college football in the region.
There is only one Keith Jackson. Each and every time there are three seconds on the clock and a prayer is needed for victory, Mr. Jackson's Colorado-Michigan call will always live in our memories and in our hearts.
A loyal reader,
I think all of us take the skills of play-by-play guys for granted. But every time I hear that call, I have the same reaction. It was the equivalent of a lightning strike, and Jackson's excitement came through, but he also painted the picture, got the facts right and let the viewers know exactly what happened as it happened. Very, very impressive.
With all due respect, sir, your writing and the pompous arrogance of "The Old Professor" (Keith Jackson) frankly bore us to tears. Between his bogus, chest-thumping
"Farewell Tour" in 1998, relentless outdated stories of legendary coaches that he insists on name-dropping on the air and your lame "hero worship" of this guy, many of us are left yawning. Please. Enough of this baloney already!
John had to cut his note short. He had an appointment with an elementary school assembly to tell them there is no Santa Claus.
Wanted to drop you a note and say I enjoyed your article on Tom Osborne. I was fortunate enough to be a graduate assistant coach for Coach Osborne from 1973-75 and would have to credit him and the other assistants there with much of the success I have had as a coach.
Thirty years later and I still enjoy it and often reflect on Dr. Tom's influence on me as not only a coach, but also as a person. Coach Osborne is much more personable and funny than he comes across in public. He is a really good man and was a tremendous coach. Where are the Tom Osbornes of the future to help mold our young athletes of today?
Again thanks for the good article and keep watching Dr. Tom. His story is far from over.
Arizona Rattlers AFL
Thanks for the note, Coach. It carries a lot of weight when someone of your experience says it.
Dear Mr. Maisel,
I enjoyed your article on Tom Osborne and the political battle he faces in the land that worships him. But characterizing him as "Tom Osborne, the straightest arrow who ever lived" has me in shock.
As a slightly independent sports observer out in Oregon, I will always remember Tom Osborne as the coach who reinstated Lawrence Phillips just in time to contribute to a much-desired national championship. And, in the course of his news conference, tried to make it sound as if he were making a "difficult" decision to take the moral high road! Up until that moment, I had always admired Tom Osborne. For me, it was one of the most sickening, hypocritical moments I have witnessed in all of sports.
Douglas Hamill, MD
Doc, oddly enough, that episode convinced me of Osborne's straight-arrowness. He actually believed that, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.