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  • In this week’s mailbag, readers write in about the hot seats at Nebraska and Tennessee, how far Ohio State should’ve fallen and how high Mississippi State might climb.
By Andy Staples
September 20, 2017

At this point, some people aren’t even asking questions of me anymore. But I’ll try to answer them anyway…

From @VolRob24: My question is to Chip Kelly. Do you want to come and dominate the SEC East? We have a need for that kind of coach. Asking for some friends.

I’m not Chip, nor can I speak for him. But Butch Jones hasn’t been fired at Tennessee yet. There is still a chance for him to save his job. First-year Tennessee athletic director Jon Currie does not want to change coaches and make his program a guinea pig during the first year of the early signing period. So if Jones can turn things around this season, he still might survive.

Still, a loss to Georgia on Sept. 30 could be crippling for the Tennessee staff’s hopes. Assuming Tennessee also loses to Alabama—which it has every year since ’06—that would mean both Florida and Georgia would have to finish 4–4 or worse in SEC play for Tennessee to have a chance at winning the division. That isn’t happening.

Getting eliminated from the division race in September could wipe away what support Jones has left. Losing to Vanderbilt for a third time in five seasons absolutely would wipe that support away. 

The question is whether Kelly would want to come to Knoxville. He seemed to enjoy operating relatively under the radar at Oregon, and he didn’t seem to enjoy the intense spotlight of coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. The spotlight doesn’t get much more intense than it is for Tennessee’s coach. The Volunteers are the biggest topic of conversation for 365 days a year in Knoxville, and everyone has an opinion. That said, Tennessee’s roster is pretty attractive because Jones and his staff have done a wonderful job recruiting. If Georgia is still trying to find itself and Florida still can’t get its offense moving, this could be an attractive landing spot—if it opens.

From David: Will Mike Riley be fired if he wins five games or less? Inquiring Husker fans want to know. [Answer linked here, and in the video atop this story.]

From Ikeyo: Lots of hubbub about the lack of NFL development occurring on the college level. Do you feel this is a responsibility for CFB position coaches?

It is absolutely not their responsibility. It is their responsibility to prepare players to win games at the college level. That’s what will keep them employed or get them fired. But that doesn’t mean college coaches shouldn’t strive to develop their players as best they can for the pros. There is a huge recruiting benefit to getting players drafted and having alums performing well in the NFL.

There are two schools of thought on this. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney makes the point that NFL coaches need to adjust to what they get from the college level just as college coaches have have had to adjust to what they got from the high school level. “High school football is under attack with lacrosse and year-round baseball and year-round basketball,” Swinney said in 2015. “Guys don’t want to come out there and be a fullback and go hit the ’backer. The men in charge have had to adjust. To me, it used to be from the NFL down. The game is now from high school up. That’s your talent pool. And for the NFL, we’re their talent pool.”

Swinney’s ACC Atlantic rival Jimbo Fisher disagrees. A huge part of Fisher’s recruiting pitch is that players who come to Florida State will either play in an offense like the one they’ll play in as pros or will play against an offense at practice that looks like what they’ll play against as pros. “It’s like a law student taking law classes that aren’t preparing him to be the best lawyer he can be,” Fisher said last year. “What’s the difference? Now, coaches can say ‘We have to win games, and that’s our system.’ But I think it compromises and hinders.”

Judging by the success Swinney and Fisher have had winning games at the college level and at producing quality pros, there isn’t a wrong answer. It’s more a matter of preference.

From @HistoryOfMatt: Why is Ohio State still ranked in the top-10? They were blown out AT HOME. Will the CFP committee rank them similarly? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]

From @g8orshan: If a receiver is really good at the 50-50 ball, shouldn't it be called the 60-40 or 75-25 ball?

We need to call our friend Bill Connelly from SBNation, because I think you’ve come up with the next great advanced statistic. Advanced stats need two things: A unique insight into the game and a delightful name (think WHIP and WAR from baseball). This can have both.

We’ll call it Ball Percentage. You can call it BP for short, but I’m sure the receivers who rank the highest will want to use the full name. For example, a throw to Oklahoma State’s James Washington isn’t a 50-50 ball. It’s more like a 92-8 ball. So James Washington’s Ball Percentage is 92. Former Clemson receiver Mike Williams had a Ball Percentage around 96.

We need to get this stat into the regular rotation—STAT!

From John: Over/under on Mississippi State wins at 9 1/2. What you got? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]

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