Mel will be here shortly to take your questions!
Let's get to the questions!
Which conference do you think will have the most teams in the top 25 at the end of hte season?
Most teams in the top 25 at the end of the year? I think this - 5 from the SEC leads the way. I think a team that you could see jump up in there is Arkansas. Bobby Petrino is a heckuva coach. The thing with ARkansas is they have some talent on that team. The key will be Ryan Mallett at QB. They get Mitch Petrus back at guard who missed last year. I think they could jump in there and be a surprise team.
Mel, Do you see Maryland becoming a solid team - winning 7-10 gmaes on a yearly basis?
No. I don't see that. This year, Maryland has a decent team coming back. I don't think they'll have a lot of wins. Last year, they went 8-5. They won their bowl game. Their opener at Cal is a huge game. That's a revenge game for Cal. If they can go 3-2 in their first five games, I think they can do that. To me, they're a 6-6, 7-5 team in the regular season. They had to restructure their OL. They lost Heyward-Bey. I like their running game. Alex Wujack is their best defensive player. In the Atlantic Division, Clemson and FSU are the teams there. I think BC drops off. Wake is down a little bit. Maryland could be the third best team in the Atlantic, but that's not them being better than 7-5. They have a tough time keeping their Maryland kids in the state. Two kids went to Temple. Two kids went to Buffalo. I don't see his recruiting up to being an ACC champion. His teams have struggled from the beginning. His kids haven't done as well as those from Ron Vanderlinden. Their at best a 6-6, 7-5, best case 8-4 type team.
Hey Mel. With all of the talk about Shonn Greene leaving, no one seems to be talking about the Iowa Hawkeye defense, particularly the linebackers. How do you see A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer developing this year?
That's the issue they have. They are young. They're at PSU, at Wisconsin, at MSU and at OSU. Those are four brutally tough games in the Big Ten. 3 senior starters on offense and 2 senior starters on defense and that's Pat Angerer and AJ Edds. Bryan Bulaga is their best offensive player as a junior LT who has a chance to be a future first round pick. I think this team has a chance, with their schedule, to be 7-5. But if they're 7-5 with that schedule this year, and if Bulaga comes back, that's critical for their 2010 season.
Mel, love the work and dedication you put in! I was wondering about Indiana Linebacker Matt Mayberry. The kid is a physical specimen who has to be the fastest linebacker in the country who had a good season last year. What are your thoughts on him?
I like him. I like Mayberry. He's about 6-1.5 about 248. A little more consistent. The way he hits and fills those lanes, he could be a senior LB to watch. They have two DEs, Greg Middleton who underachieved last year. Kirlew is another solid DE. The key for their defense is Nick Polk at safety. They have some talent on defense. They need Middleton to bounce back. They need Mayberry to be more consistent and Polk to show that he's 100%. Injuries destroyed their football team last year. They have 7-8 true freshman that could play. A lot of young players on the field. They play Eastern Kentucky, Akron to start the year. They have to be at worst 2-1 to start the season. 1-2 and it will be trouble.
Mel, Do you see the Big East being better than expected this season?
I don't have a problem with them. They have some very good teams. What happened with Cincinnati last year, going to win the conference and going to the ORange Bowl and losing bad. Pitt losing 3-0. But WVU beat UNC. Rutgers beat NC State in their bowl game. UConn beat Buffalo. What the conference needs is for Louisville and Syracuse to jump back up there. Syracuse was a great great program but they slid back to being awful. They need to get back. Louisville 5-7 last year, they need to get back. I think Pitt is going to be a very good team. I think the most intersting team will be WVU because they have a lot of talent. And USF is a team to watch. Rutgers has the easiest schedule. How far does UConn drop back? They lost a lot of good players to the NFL.
Do you see USC still among the top teams, despite its losses from last year?
Yeah, they'll be one of the top teams in the country. When you say top, do you mean top 5 or top 10? I think Cal could beat USC this year. To beat OSU and Cal on the road and play Notre Dame and Oregon with a freshman QB? Those are some tough road games. Maybe not top 5, but top 10.
But I tell you what, Barkley will be a special player. It just depends on how fast he matures with those road games. He has Carson Palmer written all over him.
What in your opinion would have to happen to get Clausen benched for Crist at ND this season?
He ain't getting benched. That would be the disappointment of the last 20 years for Notre Dame. He's going to build from that Hawaii game. He has arguably the best WR group in football. I wouldn't trade their WR or TE for anybody in the country. The thing about ND is keep an eye on two freshmen - Shaq Evans, WR; Theo Riddick, RB. Both of them will have an impact on offense. If you look at Claussen, he's up to 222 pounds. This is his team. If they're going to go 10-2, 11-1 this year, it's because of him. Their defense has to be better than it was. The key is their defense. Their offense will score a lot of points.
Do you think that UGA is overscheduling?
I wouldn't say overscheduled. They've had a history of playing great on the road. They've gone to some venues and won. They don't fear road games. I don't think they beat OK State. I think OSU is versatile and talented. They have a great OL. I think OSU's defense is better than advertised. Overscheduled? Well, you have to play in the SEC. If you're a quality team, you have to beat OSU. This will be a team that's on the improve over the course of the season. They have Tennessee Tech Nov. 7. And you always have to play Georgia Tech at the end of the year. Arizona State is at home.
I think OSU will be ranked in the top 3-5 early on, especially if they beat Georgia. So losing to OSU is not that bad.
Georgia went 10-3 last year, this year I say they go 8-4 in the regular season.
A tough game for them is at Arkansas Sept. 19. That's a game that Arkansas will be fired up for and ready to pull an upset.
When does the school year start in Mississippi? I have a feeling that Brett Favre dropped his daughter off at school 3 weeks early.
I've always been a big Brett Favre fan. I remember seeing his family down at the Senior Bowl. He's been phenomenal. He's been a great player. You never want to see great players retire, but you don't want to see them come back...I don't want to say half-hearted, but if he wanted to come back, you think we would have seen it much earlier. For Minnesota, it's almost as if they're grabbing at straws. I question why they went out and got Sage Rosenfels. Jackson was a Brad Childress draft pick. Giving up on Rosenfels who's been there and playing with the Minnesota WRs. I question this whole thing. If Brett Favre really wanted to play football, this would have been done weeks ago. To just waltz into camp and take this team to the Super Bowl. To waltz in, get named the starter with no training camp, I don't see it having the ending of a Super Bowl that the organization wants.
This team is built to go to the Super Bowl. I'm not excited about this whole scenario. It will be fun to see Favre against the Packers, but I'm not as excited about how good he will be with the Vikings. And I'm not excited about how half-hearted it seems. If you have to basically beg someone to come back and play for you, that's what Minnesota is doing.
The Big 10 would like to add a team and go to 2 divisions.Who do you see being the best team that would be interested in joining the Big 10?
You think about Notre Dame, but that's not going to happen. They have no reason to want to join a conference. You heard about Pitt, Rutgers. It would be a good addition for the conference. It hurts them that they don't play past Thanksgiving. That early exit and not having that championship game gets rid of that long layoff. I think it would be a big benefit if they could add that team, but I don't know who it would be right now.
I know what the Heisman has become (best QB on a top five team)...But why do you think that most voters don't have the courage to vote for the best football player (Orlando Pace, Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, etc...)?
I think they get wrapped up in the success of the team and they want a guy with big numbers on a good team. If you're a WR, you have to be a good return man as well - Desmond Howard, Tim Brown. Charles Woodson won over Peyton Manning because he played offense, defense and he returned some kicks. This year, that's what you're looking at - Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow. Sleepers might be Jahvid Best, Jimmy Clausen. If OSU has a good year, Terrelle Pryor. If OK State has a big year, Zac Robinson. The guy I like and who is one of the best players in the country is Eric Berry from Tennessee. He's not going to win the Heisman. Is he one of the best players? Yes. Ndamukong Suh is a great player at Nebraska, but he's not going to win the Heisman either.
Who wins the SEC West? Ole Miss has the advantage of schedule and QB, LSU has the advantage of special teams and balance, Bama has defense and Nick Saban.
Well, the thing with the SEC West is Ole Miss gets Alabama at home. I don't worry about homefield that much, Beano Cook does, but I don't. Alabama has a strong defense coming back. The new QB has to settle in. That's the game right there that will decide a lot. LSU is probably third. I think Arkansas is a sleeper team. I would say Alabama. I think Alabama is going to win the West, provided that they win at Ole Miss.
That will be a great matchup. Jevan Snead an outstanding QB against that defense.
Do you like the conference championship game Mel? I think its time for the Big East, Big Ten, and Pac-10 to get with it.
I like conference championship games. It works out for the Big Ten because historically it always comes down to Ohio State and Michigan. THat was basically the championship game. What hurts is they play it so early. I do think the Big Ten has benefitted because OSU and Michigan have been the two dominant teams. I do think a Big Ten championship game would be great. That game always means so much. But right now you can't add it anyway, because you don't have enough teams. I don't think adding Rutgers or Pitt wows anyone over. I don't have a problem with the way the Big Ten is right now.
Do you find it difficult to evaluate USC quarterbacks since they never face a pass rush and their receivers are always surrounded by grass? The Mark Sanchez highlights that aired prior to the draft were very concerning. He'll never play on a team that stacked in the NFL.
It's hard for USC players. All of USC's players are surrounded by great talent. Some of these players at a variety of positions are made to look better because of their talent around them. The QB is a great example. Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart. Matt Barkley has a shot at being the No. 1 pick in the draft in a few years. Sanchez went at the top of the first round. There's no bust there. Matt Leinart isn't a bust - he's playing behind a future hall of fame QB. At the other positions, we've had some WRs that have been disappointing. There have been disappointments on the defensive side of the ball. But a lot of schools have had disappointing draft picks.
Who wins opening weekend Hokies or Tide? Is that match-up decided by the feet of the punters and kickers?
I'm going Alabama. The Darren Evans injury hurts VT early on. The fact that Alabama has a great defense. They're a superior team.
Will Dennis Erickson ever get this thing turned around in Tempe?
Yeah. He's a quality football coach. He's won wherever he's been. They have some young kids too who are viewed as future stars. Brock Osweiler at QB, 6-7, 235. He's going to have a chance to be a factor in the Pac-10. Vontaze Burfict could be the next Ray Lewis at LB. They beat out USC. They have some young kids coming in there. Chris McGaha a senior WR has to bounce back. He was bothered by a variety of injuries last year. They have some players. Dexter Davis is a great pass rusher and is the only defensive player in the nation who is coming back and has had back-to-back double digit sack years. Lawrence Guy they really like at DT at 6-4, 292. They have some talent.
The defense is excellent. The kicking game in strong. The question will be offense. They are very young at offense.
They could end up being a 5-7, 4-8 team this year. They're more built for 2010, 2011. Their schedule early on gives them a chance at some wins out of the gate.
If they can get to 6-6, it's a great year. Their last 6 games are tough.
How will the Michigan Wolverines finish out this year?
That's a team in transition. The thing is QB. They have three guys battling it out. Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson. Nick Sheridan is the junior. Forcier is wearing No. 5 and Robinson wearing No. 16 are the QBs of now and the future. Robinson, they're hoping is the next Pat White. The OL should be a strength for the offense. Defensively Brandon Graham is one of the best DEs in college football. Donovan Warren is an excellent CB. They have talent on defense. They have a couple of freshman to check out Vincent Smith a 5-6 RB. Will Campbell, 6-5, 320 DT. They are a team. The schedule has some winnable games. The ND game Sept. 12 is a critical game for both of those programs. They have to get off to a good start. Their first four home games are all at the Big House, included in that are two I-AA games and ND. You hope you're 3-1 out of the blocks. I still think 6-6. That would be a great improvement over 3-9.
Taylor Mays or Eric Berry?
I like Eric Berry. He's a big play guy. He's not as physically imposing as Mays. Mays is LB size and DB speed. But Berry is an Ed Reed. He has Ed Reed written all over him. He has that knack to show up at key points in games. I think he's arguably the best defensive player in football. I like Eric Berry. He's a little more consistent tackler. The bigger hitter and more devastating hitter is Mays. But the more consistent playmaker is Berry. That's not being overly critical of Mays. Mays is in my top 10. Berry is No. 2 and Mays is 8.
Have you ever sat down and re-watched tape of guy and and said to yourself how did this guy flop in the NFL?
Yeah. I think you always have that. I go back to players all the time that you were too high on. right now you're going back to QBs like Vince Young, Matt Leinart and even Jay Cutler. Any players you made a mistake on. A big player this year will be Michael Mitchell. He went in the second round and I had him as a 6-7 rounder. He'll be a good test case. I was high on Phil Loadholt. Others weren't. He went later than I thought. I thought he should have been in the first round. Things like that are interesting to see.
Which player that not many people know do you think will be a high first round pick?
Hmmmm...Let's see. I think Arthur Jones, DT at Syracuse will be a mid-first rounder. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska will go high first round. Carlos Dunlap, Florida. Those would be some guys.
Colt McCoy is going to go very high. He could be a top 5-10 pick in the first round. You could reasonably have three QBs in the top 10 - Bradford, Snead and McCoy. Another kid that would be in the first round mix is Dan Lefevour. And Tim Tebow we have to watch to see if he has to change positions. That long delivery of his is being tweaked. We'll have to keep an eye on that. Tim Hiller and W. Michigan is another one. The heir apparent to Pat White, Jarrett Brown at WVU could go in the second round or the seventh round.
We covered a lot of bases. Next week we'll be on the doorstep of the start of the season. It's closing in. We'll do it again next week!