Chat with Graham Watson
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com's non-BCS reporter and contributor to the College Football Nation blog Graham Watson will stop by to talk about the 2009 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 Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Graham Watson (1:01 PM)
Hey everyone. Thanks for stopping by. Let's chat.
Hey Graham, love your blogs! What do you think of this conspiracy? = The BCS conferences keep hearing about a playoff, and losing their monopoly of money coming in, so they decide to shake things up for a while by shuffling teams and taking some non bcs teams too(which gets the press off of the current b.c.s. system, congress and such). In the mean time, all but guaranteeing Boise State a bad deal in the long run by not getting a playoff system. Thanks!
Graham Watson (1:06 PM)
It's funny. I was talking to a colleague and he said that maybe Craig Thompson saw all of this coming and that's why the MWC pushed so hard for a change in the system last year. I think Colorado and Utah are going to the Pac-10 if the Pac-10 expands. Those school make the most sense academically, athletically, regionally, etc. Now, the most logical fit for the Big 12 is TCU. If the MWC loses two teams, it won't get a BCS bid. here's the other kicker... The Pac-10's TV contract doesn't need to be renegotiated until this time next year, so there's no big sense of urgency to declare its expansion teams... (hold on, I have more)...
Graham Watson (1:08 PM)
To safeguard itself from losing a team, the MWC would have to invite Boise State to the conference this year so that the Broncos could be a member in 2011, one year before the end of the evaluation period. However, if you're Boise State, there's far too much uncertainty to go jumping conferences. It's basically a darned if you do, darned if you don't situation. And yes, I believe it's been manipulated by the Big Six.
attending any spring games soon? i suggest tcu's...and keep an eye out for dwight smith
Graham Watson (1:08 PM)
I haven't gotten my spring assignments yet. I should know soon.
trojanbrutha (Greenville, AL)
Graham...What are your thoughts about the MAC, SBC, and the WAC in relationship to overall upside?
Graham Watson (1:09 PM)
Do you mean in terms of becoming the top non-AQ conference? Or BCS bowls? Or just being better as whole?
Dave (Las Vegas, NV)
Let's talk a little Sun Belt: Who is your pre-spring practice darkhorse to challenge for the title?
Graham Watson (1:12 PM)
That's a good question. I think Todd Berry could do some good things at ULM. I'm trying really hard to believe in Todd Dodge at UNT, but man, they are terrible on defense. And ULL could be good if it could get its running game back on track. However, my darkhorse for the title this season is FIU. Yep. With Wesley Carroll and a healthy T.Y. Hilton, I think the Golden Panthers could be sleeper in tat conference.
What's better for the BCS: the big non-AQs (TCU, Utah, BYU, Boise St.) being split up into the big six conferences or a BCS mandated 12-team MWC (incl. Boise)?
Graham Watson (1:14 PM)
Better for the BCS? To move the top non-AQ teams. Adding another AQ conference would mean a greater split in BCS revenue. And honestly, I'm not sure all four of those teams will be AQ by the time expansion is over.
Reading a lot about Taylor Price from my alma mater sneaking into the second round. Can it really be true that for the second consecutive year a Bobcat will be taken in round 2??
Graham Watson (1:15 PM)
Taylor Price had a great combine. The ESPN Scouts, Inc. guys were raving about him. I really think he helped his draft stock immensely. I don't think anyone would be shocked to see him taken in the second round.
Any update on how my Utah boys are doing at the combine? Beadles, Misi, Sylvester, Reed...
Graham Watson (1:16 PM)
I only watched the QB, WR, RB day and Reed was getting a little buzz. He was a guy to watch and he impressed from what I heard. The others, I didn't hear anything about.
The ToKnight Show (Orlando)
Hey Graham,With a pretty soft OOC and C-USA schedule (for once), what do you think UCF's chances of finally cracking the top 25 are?
Graham Watson (1:20 PM)
I've been talking to a few C-USA coaches the past couple weeks and they seem to think that UCF might be ready to take that step this year. It's going to be all about the quarterback and offensive line. Rob Calabrese isn't the guy to take them to the next level, but perhaps the Godfrey kid is. However, the soft schedule probably won't bump them into the Top 25. C-USA as a whole doesn't get enough respect nationally for that to happen and games against Kansas State and South Dakota won't cut it. Also, the Knights will have to win seven games to be bowl eligible since they have two FCS teams on the sked.
trojanbrutha (Greenville, AL)
In overall improvement. The SBC and MAC have been the lowest ranked of the FB$ leagues and I'd like to know if you feel any movement amongst those conferences...?
Graham Watson (1:23 PM)
I don't think those conferences are going to improve their standing among the non-AQs anytime soon. In the SBC, the nonconference schedules are too tough. Even if say Troy beat Florida, it would be declared nothing more than a fluke. And the MAC gets the same rap. While the nonconference isn't as tough as it used to be, the conference as a whole isn't consistent enough to warrant serious national attention.
I sincerely doubt that the Big Six Conferences are concerned with Boise State. Each conference is its own entity which wants to maximize its individual revenue. The Big10 getting another team and a conf. champ. game adds alot of money to the Big10. The Pac10 wants to set up a TV Network like the Big10, and I'm sure it's looking to expand its footprint to help out its future TV Network in its early years...
Graham Watson (1:27 PM)
Not just Boise State, any of the non-AQs. They're expanding because they have to and, according to all the published reports, Boise State doesn't figure into that mix. It's really a sabotage move. Boise State and the MWC likely cannot win in the scenarios that have been presented. The only way those two entities can come out on top is if the Big 12 pulls a crazy move and takes New Mexico instead of TCU. And that's not really all that far fetched considering the Big 12 already has the Dallas/Fort Worth market. Tapping into New Mexico, or even taking Colorado State, would give the Big 12 a new television market. I guess it would depend on what the biggest criteria is for filling that Big 12 spot.
Stan (Franklin, KY)
Concerning the non-AQ teams, are you hearing any noise about a new conference formation or realignment of teams in current conferences? Something like a combo of some CUSA and Sunbelt teams to allow better geographic rivalries?
Graham Watson (1:28 PM)
I don't think anything will happen until the Big Ten and Pac-10 make a move. I think more info will start coming out after the Fiesta Frolic in the summer. That's an even put on by the Fiesta Bowl in which, commissioners, ADs and coaches get together in Arizona to discuss, well, everything. And drink heavily.
Hey, Graham! Do you think Jamie Hampton (If he's the starter) can be as efficient as Levi Brown was this past year for Troy, and can Dwight Dasher continue his success without Tony Franklin as Middle's OC? Go Trojans!
Graham Watson (1:32 PM)
I think Jamie Hampton can be as effective. I think the year off gave him a chance to gain more confidence in his arm. As a freshman, Hampton was a little too quick to tuck and run. I think the extra year of watching and learning will do him well. As for Dasher, I'm not sure. I heard Mike Schultz is going to be the new OC at MTSU. Schultz went from TCU OC to Illinois OC. TCU's offense got better this year while Illinois' got worse. Not saying it's all on Schultz, but it's hard to be confident that he can carry on what Franklin established at MTSU.
Ryan (New Mexico)
Graham, UNM landed 4 star prospect Calvin Smith. Do you think that pick up with tell future players that New Mexico is a great place to play football, or will players still look at New Mexico as a "basketball school?"
Graham Watson (1:34 PM)
I think Calvin Smith fell in love (so to speak) with the position coach there that had ties to the Florida area. That's how he landed at New Mexico. Getting good recruits is always going to come down to winning. So, until the Lobos start winning on a consistent basis, it's going to be tough to sell the school.
Boyd (Fort Collins, CO)
Graham: Is there any chance that Colorado State can overtake U of Colorado and become the #1 football team in the state anytime soon? Right now Colorado is broke, has a crappy coach, has players leaving, poor recruiting, etc. Can Colorado State overtake them as the right place to go in Colorado?
Graham Watson (1:37 PM)
I don't think so. It's not in an AQ league and the stadium is smaller. It's further away from Denver than Boulder. And really, it's not treated with the same respect as the Buffs. If the Rams went to a bowl this year and CU fired Dan Hawkins, guess which program would get more press?
Mike (Portland, OR)
Which Mountain West player is under the most pressure in spring practices?
Graham Watson (1:39 PM)
Player? Wow, that's a tough one. Um, maybe Jake Heaps, since everyone expects him to come in as a freshman and keep BYU at a high level. I would think that's a lot of pressure out of high school.
Am I crazy? As a Utah fan, I don't want the PAC-10 anymore. Potential money aside, I think Utah gives the PAC-10 (today) more that the PAC-10 gives Utah. Assuming the MWC becomes an AQ conference, the MWC seems to have a better recruiting footprint. And the move to the PAC didn't really do a lot for the AZ schools. So why would Utah fair different? (Big Fish medium sized pond vs. medium fish in big pond arguement.) I think the same thing could be said about TCU and BYU. ***SO HERE IS MY QUESTION*** Is there anything that the MWC (schools) could do to keep the conference intact? Or is this simply a power play by the AQ conferences (pp to kill the MWC)?
Graham Watson (1:44 PM)
Yeah, but money is a big thing. As is the prestige. It's not just about football or even athletics, the Pac-10 has something like seven schools that are nationally accredited research schools (Utah and Colorado are also in that group) which would mean more academic prestige for the institution and in turn more money. Athletically, there's more money, better recruiting, better facilities, more money for coaches, etc. And there's no guarantee that the MWC will get an automatic bid. I've always found it strange that the BCS doesn't publish its rules for automatic bids. I've even been told by a couple commissioners that the rules are subject to change. The Mountain West doesn't even know ALL of the specific criteria to get a BCS bowl bid (I've asked). So for all we all know, the BCS could say that the bottom of the MWC didn't meet the criteria and so there will be no automatic bid. Obviously, no one knows if that will happen, but I think it's clear that the Big Six aren't exactly eager to give away some of their piece of the BCS pie to another conference.
Bruce (Columbus, Georgia)
Does the potential move of Missouri to the Big 10 depend in any way on the success of Mizzou's team this year? Pinkel had a decent year in a rebuilding year. Will a better performance this year effect the opinion of the Big 10?
Graham Watson (1:46 PM)
The Chicago Tribune had a great article today about Rutgers being a possibility for the Big Ten. I think the Big Ten wants to generate more TV revenue more than anything and getting into the New Jersey/New York market would be huge. I believe the Big Ten network is already in St. Louis.
Hellhound (Happy Valley Utah)
Graham, any word yet on the Pittsburgh Utah game as the ESPN thursday night game of the week?
Graham Watson (1:47 PM)
That game has not been announced to us yet.
Tyler (The 'Ville)
In Response to Boyd...Is CSU or CU the premier in-state place for recruits? Wyoming sure seems to sign more Colorado talent than either school. And more than that...Colorado recruits are leaving the state. Thoughts?
Graham Watson (1:49 PM)
Also agreed. Some of the best kids in the state went to Stanford and Notre Dame. And yeah, Wyoming did pluck a lot of talent out of Colorado as well. And really, other than this year, Colorado has done a good job of grabbing a lot of the top in-state talent. I think this year was tough because the writing was on the wall with Hawkins. A new coach could start up the pipeline again.
Brian (Toledo, OH)
Is it "ambitious" for Georgia State to play Alabama next year? Or, is it more "embarrassing" for Alabama to play a team in its first year of football ever?
Graham Watson (1:50 PM)
I think it's good for Georgia State recruiting honestly. And it's money for a new program. I think everyone knows this is a body bag game. It's more about Georgia State getting some exposure.
PSIdeffect (troy, AL)
If you weren't paid to do this would you still care about non-AQ schools? Or did you choose to cover non-AQ schools?
Graham Watson (1:53 PM)
I was hired to cover a different conference and I asked to move to the non-AQs for a variety of reasons. One reason was that I wanted to tell some of the stories that no one else was telling on a national level. So, I think I've come to care about the non-AQs when it's sometimes been evident that I don't know a whole lot about them. The coaches and players are great and they've really helped me learn about these schools, their fans and their traditions. Learning 50-some schools on the fly with no background on them has been challenging (for the fans, too, I'm sure), but I'm happy I chose the path that I did.
Let's say all this conference realignment takes place with Utah, TCU, maybe BYU...but if the BCS doesn't change their rules regarding non-AQ teams getting to a BCS game, doesn't it actually take some of the major competition away for the non-AQ teams for a bid?
Graham Watson (1:57 PM)
Yes and no and that depends on whether the non-AQs also realign. I think it was mentioned on Thursday, but what about BYU joining Boise State in the WAC and the WAC and C-USA becoming the top non-AQ conferences? I think something like that needs to happen for BYU or Boise State for those schools to continue getting national respect. I think it will also be interesting to see if the BCS adds another game with the new Texas Stadium or if it does away with the Orange Bowl and replaces it with the "Cotton Bowl" or whatever they'd call the game in Dallas. That also could affect the opportunities for non-AQs.
Jeff (Ft. Worth)
What do you see from the Memphis Tigers this year and new coach Larry Porter? I love the new attitude!
Graham Watson (1:59 PM)
I agree. Porter was brought in to make Memphis more attractive to the Big East because that's Memphis' end game. I think he can recruit there and turn that program around fairly quickly. They need to find a couple key guys, but the cupboard was definitely not bare.
Any chance Wyoming beats Boise State in September?
Graham Watson (2:00 PM)
I think that game will be a lot like the Tulsa-Boise State game this year. I don't think Wyoming has the athletes to stay with Boise State, but I thought the same thing about the New Mexico Bowl.
Graham Watson (2:01 PM)
All right, it's my lunchtime. Thanks for stopping by. It was fun. I'll talk to you next week.