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 college football offseason.
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 (1:00 PM)
Thanks for stopping by the chat everyone. We'll start in just a second.
Graham Watson (1:02 PM)
OK. Back. What's up everyone? It's a beautiful day, there's basketball on the TV, and things are good. Let's get this thing rolling...
Chris (Concord, CA)
The Idaho Vandals took a nice step forward last year. Do you think they can be even better this year and win 8 or 9 games in the regular season?
Graham Watson (1:04 PM)
The Vandals had a great season last year, but they need to get better on defense this spring if they want to win on a consistent basis. The schedule isn't too tough and with 13 games, I think eight wins is possible.
Is the game between TCU and Oregon State a done deal? Why is it not on either one of their schedules? Any word on who TCU will play in the other open date on their schedule?
Graham Watson (1:05 PM)
It's pretty much a done deal. Just finalizing the contracts. I was told the other open date would be filled with an FCS team.
Jeff (Orem, UT)
Who do you see winning the starting job at quarterback this year for BYU?
Graham Watson (1:07 PM)
Honestly? Riley Nelson. He has the experience and the rapport with a lot of the players. He's a talented quarterback and will get pressure from Jake Heaps, but I think Mendenhall will go with the experience. Plus do we know whether Heaps is going on his mission? That will be a factor as well. Not sure you want to start a QB for a year and then have him leave for two. That doesn't bode well for the continuity of the squad.
Anymore news or new rumors about the MWC expansion ?, I think with the PAC and Big Ten 10 the MWC is probably on a holding pattern to see what happens
Graham Watson (1:10 PM)
The mountain West can't do anything at this point because there's too much uncertainty. Right now, according to all the reports, the MWC looks like it's going to lose two teams to the Pac-10 and Big 12. If those two teams are from the top three in the conference, the MWC will not get an automatic bid. So, there's no incentive for a team such as Boise State to go that direction when the TV exposure/money is better in the WAC. The other concern for the MWC is losing teams to the WAC.
Jimbob (Macon, MS)
I suppose your favorite pro team is the cowboys, right?
Graham Watson (1:11 PM)
Random... Why would you think that? I don't really have a favorite pro team. I play fantasy football, so whatever team my players are on is my favorite team. Now baseball, that's a different story.
Houston will be the bcs buster after polytech kills boise in the first game of the year right?
Graham Watson (1:13 PM)
It has the schedule to be that team, sure. Will it be that team? I don't know that the Cougars are going to be able to get better on defense by next season. It also has to get out of its own way. The Cougars lost some games it shouldn't have last season. And don't forget, Air Force provided a nice blueprint for keeping Case Keenum in check.
Mark (Santa Clara CA)
Hi Graham, what's the latest on the Pac-10 expansion plans? And, where do you think BYU would end up if it happened?
Graham Watson (1:14 PM)
I honestly would not be surprised to see BYU end up back in the WAC if Utah and TCU left the MWC. That would ensure BYU a strong conference with Boise, Nevada and Fresno State and keep the Cougars in the hunt for a possible BCS bowl berth.
Jake heaps has made it quite clear he doe not plan to go on a mission. Part of his coming to BYU was to fight for a starting position to play all 4 years. Heaps was instrumental in getting big name players to come to byu to play with him, would they still be excited about BYU with Nelson starting?
Graham Watson (1:16 PM)
I think the best guy is going to start regardless. I've only seen highlight film of Heaps. Never seen him play in person. I don't know how he'll adapt to the scheme or the speed of the game. With Riley, you have a guy that can lead your team to the end zone. He played well when he was in the game. I'm just saying that Riley has been made the underdog and I think that's going to fuel him this spring.
Joe (Miami, FL)
Hey Graham,I think FIU had a pretty disappointing season in 2009. Do you think with new coordinators and a new QB and RB that the Golden Panthers' fortunes can change this season? What do they have to do become bowl-eligible?
Graham Watson (1:18 PM)
You know, I really thought they were going to be better last year, too. They had some pretty key injuries, which didn't help. I do think the 2010 team has better talent and athleticism. I think it's all about staying healthy and making sure the new pieces jell with the old. On paper, this team should get six wins. I thought the same thing last year...
Terry (Denver CO)
Do you think TCU jumps to the Big 12 after Colorado jumps to the Pac-10? Not all upside: they'll probably never again sniff the BCS as long as Texas and Oklahoma are in their division. Sometimes it's better to be the biggest fish in the smaller pond.
Graham Watson (1:20 PM)
I don't think Texas AND Oklahoma would be in their division. I think, if TCU went to the Big 12, that the conference would realign and split up Texas and Oklahoma. That way, you could have a Texas-OU championship game and OU and Nebraska could resume their rivalry. Something like that.
Adam (Logan, Utah)
Utah State's offense was electric last year, and I think people forget that they were adjusting to a new system under Baldwin (and a complicated, diverse system at that.) Even with Turbin's injury, do you see USU's offense improving this season?
Graham Watson (1:23 PM)
Turbin's injury is a pretty big deal not just on the field, but mentally for the team. It's puts a lot more pressure on Diondre Borel. So, the key will be finding a new playmaker this spring. If they can do that, I think the offense has a chance to be the same. I don't see it getting drastically better with Turbin on the shelf.
Is there anything that the MWC can do to persuade their teams to stay in the conference, or is their leaving unavoidable?
Graham Watson (1:25 PM)
Probably unavoidable. If Utah goes to the Pac-10 is stands to earn almost triple the overall revenue that it earns in a non-BCS bowl year and double what it would make in a BCS bowl year in the MWC. And these are numbers that don't factor in a Pac-10 TV network. Once that's up and running, the money gets even bigger.
Jimbob (Macon, MS)
Baseball? OK, now I'm curious...I cannot imagine you cheering for the Yankees ;-)
Graham Watson (1:26 PM)
Yankees? Ick. I'm a diehard... wait for it... wait for it... Texas Rangers fan. What can I say? I'm a sucker for an underdog.
Graham Watson (1:27 PM)
Gotta take a quick break. Steve Fairchild calling... I'll be right back.
Graham Watson (1:33 PM)
James (Colorado Springs)
With the coach Fairchild calling, did he provide any tidbits from his meeting Norm Chow?
Graham Watson (1:35 PM)
Yep. I'll have that post up after lunch (Mountain time). Colorado State is like any other FBS school. It seeks out guys who can share new ideas and can expand the offense. For CSU, they looked to Norm Chow for advice on the passing game.
Josh (Laramie, WY)
The Wyoming Cowboys were a surprise team to go 7-6, and certainly to win the NM Bowl against a good Fresno team. I read your recent article about the changes from last year to this year... but looking at UW's schedule don't you think it would actually be something of another coup to go 6-6 by the end of the season?
Graham Watson (1:37 PM)
Yeah, I can see that. But I don't think it's any worse than last year really. I think 2-2 is possible in the nonconference and then it's just a matter of how the conference schedule shakes out. Like, if Wyo is playing three straight games against Utah, BYU and TCU or if those teams are spread out throughout the schedule. That kind of thing. I think the Cowboys have enough talent to beat all the teams they beat last year.
Following up on your TX OU statement: Can you really get away with splitting up TX and OU. Would they continue to play a regular season game with each other every year? The TX OU game is a big deal for a lot of people.
Graham Watson (1:39 PM)
Same question I put out to my Big 12 buddies. The other idea is to set up guaranteed games. Like OU and Texas will always play during the season and the other cross conference games will rotate. Something like that where you keep the rivalries intact.
Seems like Colorado is the key for Pac 10 expansion...Will the Buffs leave the Big 12? Won't the Big 12 perhaps "sweeten the deal" for CU to stay in the conference?
Graham Watson (1:40 PM)
Colorado has already packed its bags for the Pac-10, it's just waiting for the conference to hand them the ticket. I don't think there is anything the Big 12 can do to keep CU. There are just too many reasons why CU is a great fit in the Pac-10 both academically and athletically. The only hangup is the amount of money it will cost CU to leave the Big 12. I believe the Boulder Daily Camera had a story about that this past weekend.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
Why do you think that Texas wont play TCU?
Graham Watson (1:42 PM)
There's no advantage to Texas for doing so. If they win people will say they should have won. If they lose, it could sway recruits who are choosing between both schools. I would love to see them play each other, but I'm not holding my breath.
Larry (Glendale, CA)
Weeks ago, you asked me to ask you this question again so that you will have more time to think about ita?ŽIf you were the commissioner of the Big XII, which 3 teams would you acquire if Colorado and Utah (MWC) left for the Pac-10 and Mizzou and Iowa State left for the Big Ten?
Graham Watson (1:44 PM)
And I'm still not sure. I've actually asked some people about this and the thinking was TCU for the level of play and New Mexico and Colorado State for the TV markets. Because the Big 12 would lose Denver if Colorado left. Colorado State brings that market back. The Big 12 shares TV play in New Mexico with the Pac-10.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
CU? Really? They are crap! Take Utah pac-10!! Cmon!! right??
Graham Watson (1:44 PM)
Pretty sure they can take both.
Sean McKenzie (Van Wert, Ohio)
I think the Big Ten is looking the wrong way at the expansion talk. I think they should maybe go after a smaller school that will grow within the conference. Thereby creating rivalries, and over time bring in more money to the conference, than adding a big name school now, and end up losing money over the long haul. What do you think?
Graham Watson (1:47 PM)
I don't know that there's a good enough small school in the Big Ten footprint that would give the conference a big enough economic bounce. Central Michigan doesn't give the Big Ten a new TV market and really none of the MAC schools do. Conference USA has some options (Memphis?), but they're not really in the conference footprint. Again, expansion is all about money. Nothing else.
What are you hearing about timetables for the conference shifts to start? I get the feeling the Pac 10, Big XII, and Big Ten are waiting on each other, and then the dominoes will fall...
Graham Watson (1:50 PM)
Pac-10 plans to get this done by the time their TV deal is set to expire, which I think is after 2011-12. The Big Ten said 18 months from the time it was announced. Everyone else is in a holding pattern. I think the timing of these will be interesting because there are only two more years remaining in the evaluation period. So, if the MWC wants to make a move, it has to do it now so that Boise State (or whoever) counts in the evaluation. Otherwise, the MWC is in a lose-lose situation.
Hi Graham.Speaking of baseball. Read the story about the Cali QB (who also plays baseball) who punched his coach. Now if he doesn't get drafted (high enough) in the upcoming MLB Draft and Utah withdraws its scholarship offer (which I think they should, not only cause he punched a coach, but because apparently this guy doesn't like going to classes and showing general disrespect towards other people), do you think he could/should wind up at another Non-AQ college???
Graham Watson (1:53 PM)
To clarify, he never punched his coached. He wrestled him down. No mention of a punch. Also, he must like going to some class if he only needs one to graduate. As for what Shreve will ultimately do, I think he'll play in the minors. I think he'll get his money. I also think that there has been support for Shreve by the administration at his high school. No one there would talk, but that's what I heard from a couple sources.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
I dont agree with that. TCU is always ranked low, so if Texas lost, it shouldnt matter. I think its a travesty, Texas is scared and doesnt want to schedule a team that could beat them. NCAA comitee should make the schedules.
Graham Watson (1:53 PM)
It's perception and that's always greater than reality.
with all this conference musical chairs talk.. is there hope for a storied rivalry like the Utah v byu game to happen every year?
Graham Watson (1:54 PM)
Oh, I think so. I think it would be a nonconference game every year. Both schools would want to do that, I think.
James (Colorado Springs)
Continuing to follow up the big12 expansion & MWC... many wonder if New Mex isn't a better overall ath. dept fit compare to TCU for the big12, minus football?
Graham Watson (1:56 PM)
New Mexico is a better TV market because the Big 12 doesn't have it. And the Lobos basketball team helps, too. Again, I wouldn't be surprised if the Big 12 looked in this direction, but I think TCU is the frontrunner.
Saam (Los Angeles, CA)
Do you think it is better for the Pac-10 to go after Rice and SMU rather than Utah and Colorado? Rice offers the Houston market and SMU offers the Dallas market. Both institutions have potential to grow in their athletic programs and offer the Pac-10 a pipeline to recruit in Texas. Rice is also widely known as a prestigious academic institution while SMU has the strong and rich alumni. If not, how about Houston and TCU or any combination of 2 from the 4 schools?
Graham Watson (1:59 PM)
Honestly, I'm not sure the Pac-10 is lukewarm on Texas because it's Big 12 country and it's too far for most teams to travel. Sure, any conference would love to have the Texas TV market, but I don't think Rice and SMU would overpower Texas and Texas A&M. Plus, those teams have been mostly terrible for quite some time (expect Rice baseball).
Pure speculation incoming!!!! If the MWC gets AQ status in the evaluation period before Pac 10/Big 12 expansion takes place, what will the BCS do with an AQ conference that loses at least 2 of its top 3 teams?
Graham Watson (2:01 PM)
That won't happen. While the BCS has nothing to do with expansion, I'd be surprised if there wasn't some input going on there. I think a more likely scenario is putting the MWC in a position where it can't do anything if two of its top three teams are out the door.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear GrahamCould you see Howard Schellberger retireing?
Graham Watson (2:01 PM)
Eventually, yeah. But the guy is full of life and passion for coaching. I think it will depend on how well the Owls do this year.
Graham Watson (2:02 PM)
OK, I've got to go. Sorry this was a short chat. Hope everyone has a good week and I'll be back next Tuesday at the same time.