Chat with Graham Watson
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN.com's non-BCS reporter and contributor to the College Football Nation blog Graham Watson will stop by to preview the WAC spring season.
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 Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
Graham Watson (3:01 PM)
Hey everyone. Thanks fr stopping by the chat. This is my fourth chat in the past two weeks, so I'm giving extra credit to the most original (tasteful) question. Let's get started.
Would the NCAA the BCS and the other powers at be ever consider revamping the entire stucture of FBS football. For example, creating a league where each conference would be required to have the same amount of teams and a championship game. 8 conferences of 12 teams or 6 conferences of 16? I think making things a little more equal across the board would stifle alot of the critics out there.
Graham Watson (3:04 PM)
This is a good question. I don't know that the BCS would mandate something like that, but we are seeing the big conferences go to that on their own. I would like to see all the conference treated equally, but there isn't enough money or BCS bowl games to make that happen. Then you'd be getting into playoff scenarios and all that. In all honesty, the BCS doesn't care about its critics. This isn't a popularity contest. It's about money and if the teams and conferences are happy with the money they make (I mean the big conferences) then there isn't a whole lot of incentive to change regardless of public sentiment.
I liked your Q&A with the WAC commish. In it, he said "we need to eliminate the teams that are in the 90 to 120 range". Do you think the WAC would consider kicking out unperforming programs?
Graham Watson (3:06 PM)
I thought one of the more interesting things he eluded to was talking to MWC teams if expansion was an option. I don't see them kicking anyone out. I do believe coaches like DeWayne Walker and Gary Andersen can turn their programs around. Now, I'm not sure the WAC can consistently finish with three teams in the Top 25. Fresno could get there, but I think some changes need to be made at Nevada and Hawaii.
What can Boise State do to cement their position as a team that is expected to be top 25 every year? Are they in the conference that they should be?
Graham Watson (3:09 PM)
I think they've done that with consistency. There's no reason to think that Boise State, short of an epic collapse, won't be in the Top 25 for the forseeable future. As for their conference, that's hard to say right now. I think they make more money, have great exposure and have a great shot of playing in a BCS game in the conference they are in. If they get better nonconference scheduling, I don't see a move helping unless they go to an AQ conference. Expansion is going to be interesting to watch from a Boise State perspective because it will affect the Broncos.
Will the WAC try to get a foot in Texas again?
Graham Watson (3:10 PM)
What do you mean by this? Like try and find a team from Texas to add?
Graham, several Boise State fans seem to hold you as a public enemy. I, on the other hand, believe you are a realist in predicting a Boise State loss from time to time. Realistically, they should lose from time to time given their roster and the nature of the game. Do you think you are abandoning your gut feelings when you predict that Boise State will go undefeated in 2010?
Graham Watson (3:12 PM)
Well, I haven't predicted anything for the Broncos season yet. It's too early and so many things can happen between now and Labor Day. But I will say that I like their chances. I think the timing of the VT game is better for Boise and I'm not sold on Oregon State being as tough as it was this past year. And no one in the conference has shown the ability to beat the Broncos.
Unless the MWC gets raided during the major conference realignment, why would any MWC program want to go back to the WAC? They left the WAC for a reason...
Graham Watson (3:15 PM)
Money. As Benson pointed out, the ESPN contract is lucrative. And if the MWC loses teams such as Utah, TCU and BYU, the power starts to shift to the WAC. Boise State becomes the best non-AQ team (already is) and then teams such as Fresno State, Nevada, Hawaii, La. Tech, etc., start to look a little better than San Diego State, Wyoming, etc... If the MWC loses teams to expansion, the playing field among the non-AQs will tilt slightly toward the WAC and maybe even C-USA.
What are the chances of Utah State upsetting BYU? They play them at home and BYU have lost a lot of key starters.Also if TCU and Utah jump conferences how hard would it be for BYU to come back to the WAC? It seems like that would be best for their interest.
Graham Watson (3:19 PM)
Another great point... Thanks Greg. If TCU and Utah leave the MWC, it might be in BYU's best interest to go to the WAC for both money and exposure. I think the WAC would probably welcome BYU with open arms if that were to happen. It's an interesting thought and one that hasn't been brought up much... As for Utah State, I think it's still a year away. The offense is there, though Turbin being out is a huge blow, but the defense needs an upgrade. BYU is still going to be tough offensively.
Mike (Houston, Tx)
Yes. With all the talk of expansion and the pieces falling where they may, would the WAC look to old friends or new ones in the Lone Star State?
Graham Watson (3:21 PM)
I don't think so. I think the WAC would probably stay West. The Texas schools like SMU, Houston, etc., will probably stay in C-USA as that conference tries to position itself as one of the top non-AQ conferences.
Graham Watson 2-23-10 (2:38 PM) Frogs because they have an easier nonconference schedule. However, I think both will lose out to BOISE STATE, which I believe will go undefeated.
Graham Watson (3:23 PM)
I think the VT game will help Boise State greatly. Oregon State might end up being a wash. It will be interesting if both teams go undefeated because TCU, if we're going on past history, will probably end up playing more ranked teams. Another team to watch for, and this is a longshot, is Houston, It return almost everyone and has a great noncon schedule. It could make things interesting if it learns to play a little defense. But I'm with you in thinking that it's going to be tough to knock Boise State from the top of the pile.
Tivi (San Francisco, CA)
Can the Fresno State Bulldogs finally topple the Boise State Broncos in the WAC this season? Is there any chance at all?
Graham Watson (3:27 PM)
I wouldn't hold my breath for this season. Boise State is stacked and will be tough. I do like Fresno State to look better than they have in the past. The roster has more athletes and more speed. I'm interested to see the transition to a more spread look and how that plays with the athleticism and speed. It's probably not going to be a one-year turnaround, but I like the direction Pat Hill has steered this team. He didn't get in his own way. He's changing with the landscape of the conference, which is good.
Austin (Fort Worth)
What do you think about the Louisiana Tech - Grambling season opener? Not only the historical aspect, but the idea of Tech getting "bodybag game" money for a tune-up game in a stadium they've played in something like 70 times (essentially a home game).
Graham Watson (3:29 PM)
I like it for fans and the history. The money is a definitely plus for Tech. And you're right, it's a good way for Sonny Dykes to start the year and get some positive things going. Louisiana Tech definitely needs something positive to build on and this game could lay that foundation. I'd like to see that game become a little rivalry. I think it would be good for that area of the state.
If re-alignment happens, what are the odds that WAC would toss hawaii or LaTech, to get a closer team?
Graham Watson (3:31 PM)
I don't think they'll toss anyone. To me, La. Tech is a good fit in C-USA, but at this point, it doesn't look like there would be any swapping of teams or anything like that.
How is this for an original question: during the expansion shake-up, the best non-AQ teams form their own conference: the PGUABC (Please Give Us A Bid Conference). Founding members are TCU, Utah, BYU, Boise State, Houston, SMU, Fresno State, and Memphis
Graham Watson (3:34 PM)
How did SMU, which has had one winning season since 1984, become a best non-AQ team? :) There's too much travel in that conference. Memphis to Fresno would be a nightmare trip (kinda like a trip to Hawaii, I guess). And there aren't enough big markets in this conference to facilitate a quality TV deal. I like the idea, but I don't think there are enough consistent football school among these conferences to facilitate an automatic bid.
How do you see the BYU players (Pitta, Hall, Tonga) fairing at the NFL combine. Also, do you think Andrew George gets overlooked at all?
Graham Watson (3:36 PM)
Out of all those guys, I think Tonga might get the best look. He's a highly sought after FB. Pitta would be the next on the list, but he has to be able to show the ability to play with his hand on the ground and block. I think the other two will be free agents. Hall might be a late pick, but there are a lot of mid-range QBs in the draft that will get looks before he does.
Mike (Portland, OR)
How was covering a basketball game at Moby? Heard the student fans were good but the community/alumni didn't show up
Graham Watson (3:38 PM)
Yeah, about 4,000 there to see the No. 10 team in the country. Kinda sad especially since Colorado State played well and it was free T-shirt night. I did enjoy sitting courtside, a lot of arenas have taken that out and give those seats to donors.
FYI = My roj statement was made, as today Ghram said she hadnt decided on Boise state this year. Yet to quote, on the 23rd she said "Graham Watson 2-23-10 (2:38 PM) Frogs because they have an easier nonconference schedule. However, I think both will lose out to BOISE STATE, which I believe will go undefeated." end quote. SO just an fyi for u all i appreciate the time, Roj
Graham Watson (3:39 PM)
Ha! OK... As I said, they should go undefeated. The schedule sets up well and they have a great team coming back. I didn't back off from that a couple questions ago. So, uh, yeah...
Hellhound (happy valley utah)
Graham, do you really think that Benson and the defiant 7 will really be able to bury the hatchet. I mean the MWC almost killed the WAC and would have if it weren't for Boise St.
Graham Watson (3:40 PM)
Eh, this is a business. And while there were some hurt feeling initially, especially the way the whole thing was orchestrated, I think that most of that can be in the past. It's all about becoming the best conference they can be and honestly, if the membership wants BYU or anyone, I believe Benson will do his best to make that happen (and take out the MWC in the process).
Graham Watson (3:43 PM)
As a side note... I think it's pretty amazing that just a few months ago we were all talking about the MWC getting an automatic bid and adding Boise State, and then the Big Ten and Pac-10 mention expansion and now we're already to disband the MWC. It's just amazing how quickly things can change in college football. As I've said in the past few chats, and several others have pointed out, this is a historic time in college football. The entire landscape could change in just a couple years and everything we've all been arguing about won't mean a thing. But I digress...
Mike (Portland, Or)
I'm sure CSU would gladly get rid of courtside press row if they had any donors.
Graham Watson (3:43 PM)
I saw three :)
It seems that you and the rest of the Boise State nation have already chalked up a win against Virginia Tech? Is that your confidence in Boise St or disregard for Virginia tech?
Graham Watson (3:45 PM)
From my perspective, I think the timing of the game is what gives me confidence in Boise. Boise State should come into that game in midseason form. There's not going to be a lot of learning this spring or fall camp, no adjusting to personnel. VT is going to be good, but it's learning some new guys, especially on defense. It's just a tough season opener. The venue helps VT, but Boise State has proven that they can be a tough team for which to prepare.
How do you see BYU's QB situation this next year?
Graham Watson (3:47 PM)
My gut feeling is that Riley will be the starter. But, I've never seen Jake Heaps live. I hope to do that this spring.
If the PGUABC can't get a bid, how can the MWC get a bid with only half of the teams of the PGUABC? Also, SMU was thrown in for historical purposes
Graham Watson (3:49 PM)
I don't think SMU will get credit for the Pony Express especially since a lot of those years were tarnished by NCAA violations.... The PGUABC (love that) would still kinda be like the MWC. A few ranked teams and everyone else.
Austin (Fort Worth)
Dykes and Franklin run the ball more than they're given credit for. Given the QB situation and current make-up of a roster recruited for a "ball-control" offense (i.e. more depth at RB than WR), do you think it will be a couple of years before Louisiana Tech truly unleases a Texas Tech style pass-heavy attack?
Graham Watson (3:52 PM)
I don't know that it will be a pass-heavy attack. As Franklin said in my story today, he'll adjust to what he has on the roster. He spoke highly of Ross Jenkins and personally, I don't think he's the quarterback of the future for that program. However, Franklin has shown the ability to make players better than they appear. It helps that he inherits a lot of players with experience and La. Tech wasn't far off in a lot of its games last year. I think La. Tech could be a five-win team this year.
Do you think Matt Asiata will have any impact on the the Utes season this year?
Graham Watson (3:53 PM)
Of course. He's a premier back and a game-changer when he's healthy. I know Whittingham is really excited to have him back. And, with Wide playing well, it gives the Utes a legit two-headed rushing attack. I think the running game will be a lot like 2008.
Thank you again for stopping by. Can we expect another Big 12-SEC bcs matchup this year or are they going to finally let boise have their shot?
Graham Watson (3:55 PM)
Boise State's national championship chances will depend on a lot of things: Other undefeated Big Six teams, how VT and Oregon State finish (stay in the Top 25) and how the rest of the WAC plays. If the WAC is bad, that will hurt Boise State's computer rankings. While Boise State could go undefeated, it might not be in charge of its own destiny.
Will Nevada show up before October 1st unlike last year?
Graham Watson (3:59 PM)
I think starting the year with Colorado State instead of Notre Dame will help. Nevada doesn't lose a whole lot on offense and I think the defense will be better under Buh. The one thing that has always struck me about Nevada is that they get in their own way at times. Against Boise State, there were times that they could have taken a lead or really put some pressure on the Broncos and they panicked. So, I think getting over the mental hurdle will be as big as getting physically prepared for the season.
So who wins for the most original (tasteful) question?
Graham Watson (4:00 PM)
Eh, nothing really caught my eye. I liked all the expansion questions. The one about BYU possibly going to the WAC sparked some interesting conversation. But overall, the competition stays open. I'll be back at my regular time on Tuesday.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Which College Football players that played in Missouri in 2009 will play in the NFL in 2010?
Graham Watson (4:00 PM)
Sean Weatherspoon, though I think Baston will get into a camp.
Larry (Glendale, CA)
If you were the commissioner of the Big XII, which teams would you acquire if Colorado left for the Pac-10 and Mizzou left for the Big Ten?
Graham Watson (4:03 PM)
Hmmm... TCU and... Hmmmm... Honestly, Utah would be my next pick. Or I'd try to get Arkansas (which won't happen). It wouldn't surprise me if Houston got a look and then the entire conference would have to realign. I'll have to think about that one. Ask me again on Tuesday.
Graham Watson (4:04 PM)
OK. I gotta go. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend. As always, if you have other questions, you can find me on Twitter @ESPN_Others