Chat with Mark Schlabach
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, college football reporter Mark Schlabach stops by to chat.
Schlabach joined ESPN.com in July 2006 as a college football and basketball columnist. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Mark spent nine years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covering Georgia and the SEC, as well as the NFL and NASCAR. Before joining ESPN, Schlabach spent two years at the Washington Post covering college football and basketball, and boxing.
Send your questions now and join Schlabach to chat Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Mark Schlabach (3:06 PM)
OK, sorry I'm a few minutes later. Here we go...
Patrick (Cheyenne Wy)
Hey Mark if Notre Dame is a number 15 team wouldn't USC have a pretty hard schedule with OSU at the Shoe and Notre Dame at their place was just wondering if they would crack your top ten?
Mark Schlabach (3:07 PM)
Trojans were definitely very close. Playing at Ohio State is big, and trip to South Bend might be a little more difficult than seasons past. But San Jose State isn't great, and the fact they play only three nonconference games because of the round-robin Pac-10 sked kept them off the top 10 list.
Give me an honest outlook on WVU this year...can we contend for the Big East Title?
Mark Schlabach (3:09 PM)
If Jarrett Brown is as good as Bill Stewart tells me he is, then the Mountaineers will have a chance. Tough non-Big East games vs. East Carolina and at Auburn, but they get U. Conn and Pitt at home. Road games at South Florida, Cincinnati and Rutgers are probably toss ups. Offensive line has to be good, though. They're young up front.
ColbyD (Los Angeles, CA)
Hey Mark i was wondering what you thought of the Mountain West? I think the conference is stronger than the Big East, but yet no BCS bid?? Also be ready for my ECU boys to upset the hookies in Greenville this year! Any Thoughts on that?
Mark Schlabach (3:21 PM)
MWC proved its mettle last year with some big wins vs. Pac-10. ECU will be very good again, especially with Patrick Pinkney coming back. Their schedule is pretty tough. At West Virginia, at UNC, @ Tulsa and home against Va. Tech. I'm sure the Hokies will have a chip on their shoulders after what happened last year.
Vic (Voorhees, NJ)
Temple will not be a terrible team and will give PSU fits. I am not declaring an upset but this is not the owls that got kicked in the teeth by the big east.
Mark Schlabach (3:22 PM)
Al Golden has done a heck of a job at one of the tougher schools to do it at. Penn State's schedule is still pretty pathetic. They might even stay in the hunt without the receivers and d-linemen.
Riley (Virginia Beach)
With Virginia Tech's extremely difficult schedule, do you think it is possible for them to play for a National Championship this season?
Mark Schlabach (3:23 PM)
Obviously, the Hokies will have to win the opener against Alabama, which would be a big boost for them. Get many of the ACC toughies at home, but the timing and location of the ECU game might be a trap.
Mark - what happens to the cupcake (i.e. FCS and small FBS) schools' budgets if big schools decide to schedule tough OOC games rather than paying $500,000 for these small programs to come to their stadiums? In a roundabout way, doesn't scheduling these weak teams actually help level the playing field by distributing the wealth some more and thereby allowing these schools to grow their football programs?
Mark Schlabach (3:24 PM)
I don't have a problem with one FCS opponent or Sunbelt opponent. Yes, it helps those schools' athletic departments stay in business and provide scholarships in other sports. But playing two FCS opponents or even three Sunbelt teams in the same season seems a little ridiculous.
What happens if there's a 3-way tie between Texas, OU, Ok St based on Big 12 play. but OU and Ok St. lose one of there OOC games? I really hope that Utah, Arkansas and Wisconsin all backing out on Texas doesn't come back to hurt them. Texas tried to schedule quality.
Mark Schlabach (3:25 PM)
Teams backing out of games is a growing problem. You really have to include big penalties for teams that back out after signing a contract to play a game. Yes, it could hurt Texas very much this season. Not a great out-of-conference sked.
I don't quite see the logic with Oklahoma at 4 and Illinois down at 9 on your non-conference schedule strength list. Both play one FCS school. Both play one neutral site and one away game. OU takes on good top teams from the Mountain West and Conference USA in Tulsa and BYU, plus an average ACC team in Miami, but Illinois plays a solid WAC team in Fresno St, plus the Big 12 North Champion Missouri and the Big East champion Cincinnati. Seems like these two should be much closer, perhaps with Illinois on top.
Mark Schlabach (3:27 PM)
Obviously, it was an inexact science in coming up with the rankings. I figured BYU and Tulsa would be good again this year, and Miami would be much better. I don't think Missouri will be as good without Chase Daniel, Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin, etc., and I don't think Cincinnati can duplicate what it did last year, either.
In your opinion, why does Florida schedule schedule cupcake schedules?
Mark Schlabach (3:28 PM)
I think Urban Meyer and most other SEC coaches would tell you they don't schedule tough out-of-conference games because they play such a tough in-conference sked. Florida plays FSU every year, too. Georgia still scheduled Oklahoma State and Arizona. Alabama plays Virginia Tech. Tennessee plays UCLA. LSU plays at Washington. The opportunities are still there to play at least one more quality non-SEC opponent.
Darryl (Oakland, CA)
If USC, Texas, Oklahoma and Florida each have one loss at the end of the year...again, do you think the best team (USC) will get shafted out the national title like they do every year...AGAIN! Is this even possible after even Joe Pa said USC was clearly the best team in the nation.
Mark Schlabach (3:29 PM)
If USC loses to Oregon State or Stanford again, yes, it could happen again. I think the two best teams in the country (and Texas would have been the third) played in the BCS title game last year.
You should really adjust how you rank these schedules. tOSU has played a TOP 3 non conference regular season game in 4 outta 5 years. I would be much more confident in winning out against Illinois non conference than against ours with USC coming to town. And for that reason, USC going to tOSU and to Notre Dame should by far rank them as the toughest schedule. Who cares who else they play! tOSU has shown the ability to consistantly beat teams that they are supposed to beat. I would feel more confident against a schedule of teams ranked from 15-25 than a bunch of cupcakes and one against a USC/Florida/Texas type.
Mark Schlabach (3:31 PM)
Not sure I understand your question, but Ohio State's non-league schedule was prety bad a couple of years ago and besides the USC game isn't great this year, either. Navy is better than most people give them credit for. I give the Buckeyes credit because they'll always play at least one non-Big Ten team like Texas or USC. Penn State used to do it.
Bernard (Princeton, NJ)
Mark, not sure where you are getting your PSU's lack of DLine depth info from. All returning DTs, a returning DE, and another soph DE with playing time from last year. Now if you want to bring up the OLine, that is fair.
Mark Schlabach (3:33 PM)
Sorry, meant O-Line. Losing Shipley and two other starters.
Wouldnt Miami's schedule make your top 10. Their 1st four games are crazy, 3 against the best teams in the ACC and one against heisman winner and national champ contenders oklahoma, than 3 non-conference games in the state of Florida. Any games between any florida teams are no gimmes...?
Mark Schlabach (3:34 PM)
It was non-conference schedule rankings. Miami's schedule overall is definitely one of the toughest in the country -- if not the most difficult.
Philip Denny (Blacksburg)
The ACC is improving as a conference but is still not considered a dominant conference by many experts. How long do you think it will be until the ACC has two teams playing in BCS bowls like the other conferences?
Mark Schlabach (3:35 PM)
I think the ACC will be much better this year. There will be more depth. Virginia Tech and FSU could be top 10 teams, depending on how things shake out early. Georgia Tech is much better under Paul Johnson. UNC and NC State are getting better. So is Duke. You know Wake Forest will be pretty good as long as Jim Grobe is there. Miami has better talent. It won't be long before two BCS contenders emerge from the league.
Mark, Montana to the University of Washington, what do you think? how good can he be?
Mark Schlabach (3:36 PM)
Surprising choice given his choices of schools. But give Sarkisian a lot of credit for landing him. Haven't seen him play in high school, but his reputation is very good.
Devan (Farmigton, AR)
Hw is Arkansas in the top ten. I know we dont play anyone good really but we have to make up for our bonecrushing conference schedule.
Mark Schlabach (3:37 PM)
I think I pointed out that the Hogs' SEC schedule was ridiculously difficult. Non-conferene foes, not so much. And I don't blame them given the SEC road games they'll play.
Gouthum Chiluvuri (Austin TX)
Hey mark, do you think the big ten is falling because they are not challenging themsleves to better competition
Mark Schlabach (3:38 PM)
Could have something to do with it. I think it's interesting that Ron Zook scheduled two out-of-conference games at the end of the schedule. Those kind of games might catch people's attention and help their bowl chances -- if they win those games, of course.
Can Vanderbilt make school history and go to a post season bowl for the second straight year?
Mark Schlabach (3:40 PM)
They'll have a chance with 19 starters coming back, but it's going to be difficult to improve on last year's 7-6 record. They should beat Western Carolina, Miss. State, Army and possibly Rice. Have to beat Kentucky and steal at least one more against Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, etc. It's doable as long as Bobby Johnson is coaching there. Vandy fans getting greedy. I love it.
Garren (Troy, AL)
Hi Mark! Bama vs. V-Tech is going to be a huge game for both schools. Who do you have winning and what can a victory in this game do for that school?
Mark Schlabach (3:42 PM)
Let's wait until after preseason camp to make predictions. But the winner will be a top-five team after Week 1 and have a lot of momentum. It's never good to lose a big opener. Look at what happened to Clemson last year. There's so much buildup and excitement and a loss can be pretty deflating for a team.
Mark - should the emphasis really be on OOC scheduling or just overall SOS? For example if Team A plays 4 ranked teams in-conference and Team B plays 1 ranked team in-conference and then 2 ranked teams OOC, then Team A still has the tougher OOC. In other words, shouldn't the onus on tough OOC scheduling only be on those teams that need it to toughen up their schedules?
Mark Schlabach (3:45 PM)
We're going to look at overall schedule strength in August, once we get closer to the season...
We all know about Teebow, Bradford, and McCoy, but who are some players that you're really excited to see play this year that many people may not know about?
Mark Schlabach (3:51 PM)
I'm anxious to see guys like Da'Quan Bowers at Clemson, Jermaine Thomas at FSU, Dion Lewis at Pitt, Dan Herron at Ohio State, Graham Zug at Penn State, Cody Johnson or Chris Whaley at Texas, Adron Tennell at Oklahoma, Aaron Corp at USC. I want to see if those guys are ready to take it up a notch.
Mark Schlabach (3:51 PM)
OK, folks, have to run. Have a great summer and thanks for joining the chat. We'll talk to you soon.