Chat with Graham Watson
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's non-BCS blogger Graham Watson will stop by to talk college football.
Watson joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four seasons covering the Missouri Tigers and the Big 12 Conference for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She also covered college football recruiting for the Dallas Morning News.
Send your questions now and join Watson at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday!
Graham Watson (3:59 PM)
Hey, thanks for stopping by and chatting with me. Let's get started.
Rudy (Lewisville, TX)
Graham, While in Hattiesburg, what potential BREAKOUT players did you notice? Desmond Johnson? Quinton Pierce? Korey Williams?
Graham Watson (4:02 PM)
I like Korey Williams. Honestly, I didn't get to see a lot of practice. They had a two-a-day, but I saw the shorts and shells portion. But a lot of the players and coaches I spoke with spoke highly of Williams.
Brett (Winston-Salem, NC)
Will BYU choke again or will they win the close games and crack the BCS for the first time?
Graham Watson (4:04 PM)
I don't know about them choking, but they do have a much tougher route to get to the BCS than they did last year. I think they're going to have a tough time against OU and Florida State, but if they can beat FSU, stay close with OU and roll through the conference season, I think they have a case for a BCS berth.
Brett (Winston-Salem, NC)
So we keep hearing about maybe Boise St. joining the MWC. Why hasn't that happened already? What are the cons that are holding the MWC Officials back? What would it take to overcome those problems?
Graham Watson (4:06 PM)
There are a lot of logistics with that, including scheduling, which seems to be one of the major hang-ups. There's no doubt both parties are interested, I think we saw that this offseason. But that would put the MWC at 10 teams, which would put the MWC in a similar situation as the Pac-10 with non-conference games. Then you have to think of the other sports, academics, etc., that goes with moving a school to another conference.
Chuck (San Diego)
How much better can San Diego State be this season after hiring Brady Hoke and acoaching staff that includes Rocky Long, Al Borges and Brian Sipe? How long until they can get the Aztecs to a bowl game?
Graham Watson (4:09 PM)
I think it's going to take some time to get the right players in to fit the system. Hoke didn't inherit a lot of talent, but luckily for him there's a lot of fertile recruiting ground around his school. I think Hoke will be able to recruit there, how long it will take him to get the right guys in place, I can't say. Probably a couple years.
Graham, which non-BCS stadium is the hardest stadium for visiting teams?
Graham Watson (4:10 PM)
I get questions about stadiums a lot. I haven't been to every single stadium, so I can't say for sure. I think Boise State has a great home crowd. I think Utah - when it's a big game - it's one of the loudest places in the country. I still remember the press box shaking during the final touchdown of the TCU game.
Scott (Dayton, OH)
Can you envision Air Force making a run at the conference title this year?
Graham Watson (4:12 PM)
No. And I'm just being honest. I think it's tough for Air Force to compete against Utah, BYU and TCU because of the size difference and the overall athleticism. Air Force just can't recruit the same types of players those schools can.
Do you see East Carolina inproving in there offense this season as i do?
Graham Watson (4:14 PM)
I think the defense will still be the base of the team, but I think the offense should be pretty darn good with a ridiculous amount of running back talent. The think with Patrick Pinkney is he's not going to wow you with stats, but he's a great manager. That's what will make the offense better. That and the fact that ECU is used to the attention now so there's no jitters.
Graham, I think you're wrong about UCF this year. We'll surprise the nation much like we did in 2007
Graham Watson (4:15 PM)
You know what, I actually went back and forth between UCF and Marshall on that prediction, because I'm unsure whether either offense will be able to put up numbers against some of the better defenses on that side of the league. I went with UCF because of it's West schedule and some of its road games.
If TCU and Boise both go undefeated, will the BCS take two Non-AQ schools in one year? Or will one get passed by for a so called "power school" i.e. Boise St. last year?
Graham Watson (4:17 PM)
I would say that Boise State would get passed unless the WAC ends up being this dynamic conference this year (and I wouldn't rule that out). The thing is, the MWC gets a lot more respect than the WAC. And since Boise State has a relatively easy schedule after Oregon, it's not going to carry as much weight as a TCU, BYU or Utah. Or really... Houston or ECU.
Most people aren't expecting much from UCF this year but in every interview that I've seen Coach O'Leary seems to always have a wry smile on when ever the offense is brought up. There's a quiet confidence to him, does he know something we don't or is he pretending?
Graham Watson (4:20 PM)
I've read the same interviews and I think as a UCF fan you have to love that quiet confidence in a coach. Contrary to popular belief, I don't want to see any of the teams I cover do poorly. But UCF has a tough road and really never showed any improvement on offense last season. And lost its best player. Now, all this was eight months ago. UCF could shock us all and O'Leary could tell every he knew it was going to happen all along.
Kevin (Greenville, NC)
Who do you see emerging as the main ball carrier for the Pirates?
Graham Watson (4:22 PM)
Probably Lindsay when it all shakes out, but I know they're high on Jackson, too. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if ECU was one of the top rushing teams in the country and none of the rushers had more than 600 yards.
What do you think the best CUSA match up is this season? ECU- Souther Miss? Houston-Tulsa? And what about best OOC game?
Graham Watson (4:24 PM)
I like ECU-Southern Miss. That will decide the East and both teams are so similar. As far as OOC, I'm looking forward to Oklahoma State-Houston. Lots of offense in that one.
Graham, Vol fan here since Tennessee plays Ohio what can I expect to see from the Bobcats this season?
Graham Watson (4:28 PM)
You know, I'm looking forward to seeing the Bobcats this year. I like both of their quarterbacks and their top receiver Price. I think they were hit and miss last year, but I talked to a couple of their players and they seem to have more confidence. I can't say they're going to beat Tennessee, but I think they'll give the Vols a better game than they would have last season.
Ray (College Park, MD)
Graham, in the situation you addressed above, do you think a second non-AQ like Boise St. would get passed up again, like last year, even if their undefeated resume was going up against a team like 9-3 Illinois in 2007?
Graham Watson (4:30 PM)
There's no precedent for this, so it's hard to say. The champs of the conferences have their automatic bids and then there's an at-large spot. I think you also have to worry about ND this year. It's guaranteed a spot if it's in the top eight. So already, that gives the non-AQs the short stick.
Have you seen the two Utah QB's in person? What were your impressions of their play?
Graham Watson (4:32 PM)
I saw them play in the spring and at that time, I was really impressed with Cain and lukewarm about Wynn. If you would have asked me then, I would have told you Terrance Cain would ultimately be the starter. I will say that both Cain and Wynn throw a beautiful ball. That was the biggest difference I noticed between them and Corbin. They both had better vision and better zip.
Denver (Hartford, CT)
Do you see Chris Peterson staying at Boise much longer? If I was at a BCS school I would go after him and give him whatever he needed.
Graham Watson (4:36 PM)
When he was being courted last season by the Pac-10, one of the things I heard was that he was talking to all of the former Boise State coaches and they were all advising him to stay put. I guess that makes sense considering not one has been as successful with an AQ school as they were at Boise State. Heck, I live in Colorado and Dan Hawkins is seeing his fanbase turn a little bit. Petersen shouldn't leave Boise State especially if it moves to the MWC or whatever conference and ends up with an automatic qualifier.
Is Notre Dame really a national contender like people say they are? I personally would love to see them play Texas in the championship so Texas can win buy 40.
Graham Watson (4:37 PM)
Honestly, I think Notre Dame could go either way this year. It's hard to read and it's one of those things where if they win nine games that doesn't really mean they're that good especially against that schedule. I think this is the year, with the schedule and the players, if they don't get into the BCS this year, there has to be changes.
Is this the year UNLV finally puts all the pieces together and goes bowling?
Graham Watson (4:40 PM)
I am a huge UNLV believer this year especially since New Mexico, Wyoming, SDSU and probably CSU might be a bit down. UNLV has the players to be bowl eligible. There's no doubt about that. But I think, the Rebels could be fourth or even third in the conference when it all shakes out.
So with a quality throwing QB in Utah, how do you see them doing this year? Do they beat BYU and TCU?
Graham Watson (4:42 PM)
Honestly, I've discounted them through most of the offseason, but as I continue to read reports and talk to folks there, I'm starting to really like Utah. Now, do I like them to win the conference. No. But, I do like them to win nine or 10 games, which is a lot better than I was thinking in the spring. You can't discount good coach and good recruiting no matter how many players the team has lost. I feel the same way about TCU.
Chase (Abilene, TX)
Any chance that Case Keenum can make it to New York with an undefeated season?
Graham Watson (4:46 PM)
With an undefeated season? Absolutely. You know, Case is right up there with my favorite quarterbacks. Great young man and a heck of an arm. I think Houston is getting overlooked in the BCS scenario. I think if they get past Oklahoma State, it could get really interesting. Look at the rest of the schedule. If this team is as good as those players and coaches think it's going to be, Houston might be right there challenging for the BCS. And if they go undefeated, then there's a good debate because I think top to bottom - top to bottom - C-USA is a better conference than the Mountain West. Of course, the MWC has three of the four best non-AQ teams in the country. But top to bottom, C-USA has better overall competition this year.
Larry (Las Vegas, NV)
How much more does the MWC have to do to get AQ into the BCS? Isn't there some rule about finishing in the top 15 for 4 or 6 consecutive years?
Graham Watson (4:48 PM)
It's four years and they would be eligible to earn an automatic bid for 2012. The evaluation started in 2008 and runs through 2011. It's not just the MWC, it's all conferences. And the BCS only allows for seven automatic bids overall.
Hey Graham!Theres quite a bit of excitement for the UO vs BSU game next week any chance you'll make it out?
Graham Watson (4:49 PM)
I'll be there as will Ivan Maisel and I think Bruce Feldman. Just talked to Coach Pete and Kyle Wilson today. Should be an interesting game.
Will ECU repeat in CUSA?
Graham Watson (4:50 PM)
My Monopoly money is not on them to win C-USA this season. I like Houston and as everyone knows, I'm pretty high on Southern Miss.
Carl (North Carolina)
Ghraham, Does Eastern Michigan or Western Michigan really have a chance at beating the Lackluster Rich Rodriquez crew in Ann Arbor (UofM)
Graham Watson (4:52 PM)
I like Western. I'm a big Tim Hiller fan and the Broncos have beaten a BCS team each of the past three season - a Big Ten team each of the last two years.
Chris (Virginia Beach)
Graham,East Carolina has so much returning, how are they not everyone's run away favorite in CUSA? They won it with all of the injuries they endured last year, and we saw what they are capable of when they were healthy (VT and WVU). They should be ranked, and its kind of appalling that you wrote that long article on Southern Miss and NOT THE DEFENDING CHAMPS!! Anyway, whats wrong with the national media to not have ECU as the overwhelming fave in CUSA?
Graham Watson (4:55 PM)
ECU was my big C-USA story last season. I have to spread the love. Plus, I've written about ECU all offseason. I like ECU. I think it's defense and running game are fantastic. However, I think watching Houston, it's tough not to pick them. Overall, i think there's going to be great competition in C-USA. I'm probably more excited for the race in C-USA than any of my other conferences. There are so many teams that could surprise. It's difficult to pick an overwhelming favorite.
So Graham who do you like next Thursday, UO or BSU?
Graham Watson (4:57 PM)
No even ready to go there yet. I've been keeping up with both camps. I'm worried about the Broncos young defense against a motivated Oregon offense. But I really like Boise State's offense against a poor Oregon defense. And then there's the home field advantage... Lots to think about before I put out a prediction.
Ryan (San Jose)
If BYU's Pitta puts up numbers like he did last year, does he win the Mackey this year? What do you think his pro-potential is? I think he definitely goes in the draft. Potential first round sleeper?
Graham Watson (4:58 PM)
He's going to have a much harder time putting up similar numbers because defenses will key on him. That's where the receivers need to come in and take some of that focus away. If he plays like he did a year ago or better, he should be a Mackey finalist, but he'll get some competition for the award from Gresham.
Joe (New Orleans, LA)
if u think that Utah's stadium is loud, you obviously haven't been to Florida, LSU, Auburn, Alabama or Georgia.
Graham Watson (5:00 PM)
I think proportional to its size, Utah can be pretty darn loud. Obviously, it doesn't hold 100,000 people, though...
Graham, I think within a few years, Gary Anderson will have Utah State buzzing a bit. Do you think Anderson can revive the program? And if so, how long do you think until they make a bowl game?
Graham Watson (5:02 PM)
I almost made USU my surprise team this year because I think they have the goods on offense, it's the defense that hasn't come along as quickly. I think that's going to be a problem against some really good offensive teams in the WAC this season. But I could see, after a couple recruiting classes, USU turning some heads in that conference. I think Andersen is the right guys for the job.
Graham Watson (5:02 PM)
OK. I'm out. Thanks for the chat.