Dear, glorious Mailbag readers:
I thank you for clicking here today, for not abandoning me in the wake of my five-month hiatus. (No, I was not hiding out in Argentina, so don't bother scrounging for any sordid e-mails.)
I won't bore you with too many details, but after 10 nearly uninterrupted years in the sports-media bubble, I decided to take some time away. While doing so, I wrote some humor essays about an array of non-sports topics, most of which you can read
One of the highlights: a trip to Las Vegas for opening weekend of the NCAA tournament. If you're a college basketball fan, and if you haven't already, YOU MUST DO THIS AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIFE. For four straight days, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., I sat in an overflow ballroom at Planet Hollywood, surrounded by fans from around the country, watching every game on huge projection screens at the front of the room. As you may recall, on Friday night, both the Siena-Ohio State and Florida State-Wisconsin games simultaneously went into overtime. Every made or missed basket elicited roars from half the room and groans from the other. For me, it was cathartic, and it reminded me what I love most about my beat -- the drama.
With that, it's time to begin chronicling the impending drama of the 2009 college football season. Sometime during the past five months, I officially joined Twitter Nation, and look forward to incorporating tweets into my day-to-day coverage this season. So please, follow along (
Last week I sent out a tweet soliciting questions for this week's Mailbag -- and it worked better than I could have imagined. The 140-character limit forced people to write the kind of short, concise questions that best fit this column's format. While I promise not to do so regularly, this week's Mailbag is an (almost) all-Twitter edition. And it starts the same way last season ended: with Florida on top.
Nobody's unbeatable in college football anymore; but on paper, these Gators have as good a shot at running the table as any team in the last four years. Heading into the season, Florida reminds me very much of USC's 2005 squad (minus the "greatest team of all-time" nonsense) -- a defending BCS champ returning its Heisman-winning quarterback and a boatload of other stars, playing a schedule that, as of now, seems inordinately favorable (no Alabama or Ole Miss in conference play; Charleston Southern, Troy and FIU in nonconference).
If anything, Florida is probably better suited to repeat than were those Trojans because the Gators' strength is their defense. Amid all the hype over
That said, 2009 mirrors 2005 for another reason: Texas lurks around the corner. Lest we forget, the Longhorns were a last-second
If the 'Horns can get by the Sooners, they have just as good a shot at running the table as the Gators.
That's an awfully accomplished trio for someone to try to usurp, but it's not an impossible prospect. For one thing, Tebow and Bradford will be competing not only against the other contenders, but also themselves. As we've seen in the past, voters hold reigning Heisman winners to almost unattainable standards. Tebow was a more complete player last year than he was the year before, but because he didn't score 51 touchdowns like he did during his 2007 trophy season, he finished third in Heisman voting. Realistically, Bradford isn't going to top last season's 4,464 passing yards or 48 TDs, mostly because Oklahoma's offense figures to be more balanced, and that could hurt him.
There will be plenty of other great players this fall, Cal RB
Secondary violations have always been fairly commonplace; it's just that they're now getting more media coverage due to both the unprecedented interest in recruiting and the aggressive approaches new coaches such as
The NCAA isn't in any real hurry to "prevent" such crimes because they're just not that important. That's why they're deemed "secondary" violations and not "major" violations (i.e. paying a player or [apparently] giving away textbooks). Personally, I'd love to see the NCAA slice its rulebook by two-thirds and stop wasting both the schools' and the fans' time with these piddly violations. Washington isn't gaining any "unfair competitive advantage" by blowing a smoke machine. Meanwhile, devilish publicity-hound Kiffin has actually benefited from the fact that the media now report on almost anything involving the words "NCAA violation," even when the violation in question involves something completely trivial.
If the Big East had been able to renegotiate its bowl partnerships back in 2006, when the league's Thursday-night games were still must-see television and Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers were all top 10 teams late into the season, you might have seen a significant upgrade. As it stands now, however, the Big East isn't bringing much leverage into the great bowl shuffle that's taking place behind closed doors as we speak. (Nearly all current bowl-conference contracts expire after this season.)
Right now, the Big East's bowl fate rests largely with the Gator Bowl. The league is pushing its Jacksonville partner to end the current four-year arrangement that forced the conference to share the New Year's slot with the Big 12 (and alternate picks with the Sun Bowl). But Gator Bowl president
The Big East's continued alliance with Notre Dame also complicates matters. Having selected Texas Tech and Nebraska the past two years, the Gator is obligated to take a Big East team this season -- but that team will almost certainly be Notre Dame if the Irish are available, pushing the Big East's second-place team down to the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The league could drop its affiliation with the Irish, but could risk losing the Gator entirely if it does.
However, there's one sure way for Rutgers to reach a "decent" bowl game: win the conference. Doing so would guarantee the Scarlet Knights, who have as good a chance as anyone of winning the wide-open league this fall, a BCS berth and make them a fairly sought-after commodity due to their reach into the New York City market and likely huge travel following.
I couldn't begin to guess, but you've put an idea in my head. I am almost 99 percent certain I watched just such a halftime tribute at one of the games I covered last season, but I can't for the life of me remember which one. I do remember it opened with
It seems only right the Mailbag should do some sort of salute to the Man Who Made Weird Al's Career, so here's what I'm going to do. If you happen to be a member of the band in question (or any other college band that's performed a halftime MJ medley), and you have the video to prove it, send me the link or YouTube code and I'll include it next week.
I highly doubt it will, though not because of some moral principle. This is just my own personal hunch. I have no empirical data to support it. But I really don't think the general public cares about Bowden's career wins total. Or
This debate reminds me of a basketball piece I wrote three years back when
Similarly, whether or not the NCAA vacates those 14 wins is unlikely to impact my eventual memory of Bowden as a folksy and innovative coach who presided over the most dominant juggernaut of the 1990s, but probably stayed on about a decade too long.
Some things never change, do they? I haven't published an article since mid-February, haven't posted a top 25 since January, yet this e-mail sneaks into my Inbox June 3. Somehow I manage to be biased even when I'm not here.
I believe a team should at least do
I don't know too much about Scott, but I look forward to speaking with him once he gets settled in his new digs. We do know he comes from the Women's Tennis Association, which may seem strange at first (all the other Division I-A commissioners were previous college administrators), but I think it's good for the Pac-10 to bring in someone with more of a sports-business mindset. The league desperately needs to raise its profile nationally, particularly in regards to its television arrangements, and many credit Scott with having done just that for the WTA.
As for whether he'll be "any less of a Rose Bowl patsy" -- I'm not even sure what that means, but I assume it relates to the BCS and Pac-10's long-held opposition to a playoff. First of all, there were three other conferences -- the Big East, Big Ten and Big 12 -- that blocked a plus-one the last time it came up. Secondly, even if Scott does turn out to be more receptive to change, I can't imagine any Pac-10 commissioner would ever do anything to impinge on that conference's relationship with the Rose Bowl. Why would he? It's one of the greatest traditions in sports, it's played in the conference's backyard and the league's champ gets an annual, automatic invite. Believe me, as long as there's a Rose Bowl, the Pac-10 will be affiliated with it.
I didn't say I'm getting rid of the Crush, but I did let certain co-workers know I was
But here's the thing. Did you watch the most recent season of