As most of you know by now,
Yet when it comes to the very real, very significant possibility of Big Ten expansion -- America's most popular source for reckless speculation -- I've suddenly lost interest. I was fully onboard when things
Like our beloved castaways, I'm ready to "move on."
So until further notice -- i.e., the arrival of actual, legitimate expansion news -- the Mailbag will become an expansion-free zone. This week we turn our attention to the leagues as they're presently constituted.
As always, it depends on your criteria. Which conference will produce the most highly ranked teams? For once, it may be -- gasp! -- the ACC (Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech and possibly North Carolina). Which will be the most competitive, i.e., feature the smallest gap between No. 1 and, say, No. 8? Definitely the Pac-10 (I could see anyone but Washington State or Arizona State winning it).
I anticipate those two leagues being "up," as the Pac-10 will be loaded with offensive star power (
The two hardest leagues to gauge are the Big Ten and Big East. The former teased us with impressive bowl wins by its top four teams (Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin), but I'm still leery of teams five through 11. The latter keeps getting better, but remains limited by its size (and somewhat stigmatized by two-time champ Cincinnati's consecutive BCS blowouts).
All that said, the SEC remains top dog until proven otherwise by virtue of its ridiculous run of four straight BCS championships -- just as Alabama and Florida remain two of the most loaded teams in the country. But I don't see there being much difference, if any, between the SEC's next six teams and their equivalents in the Pac-10, which I'd rate a close No. 2, followed by the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12 and Big East. And to show you just how cyclical these things can be, note that as recently as two years ago, I would have had the Big 12 (at No. 2) and Pac-10 (No. 5) flipped.
This is, of course, all an educated guess -- which I suppose makes it no different than the conference-expansion game. But at least it gives you something new to debate for a week.
I've dedicated a whole lot of column space over the past five years or so to documenting the rise of the spread, but I've done so knowing full well that coaching strategies are inherently cyclical, and that at some point a new "fad" would come along and supplant the spread. In this case, the "fad" may simply be more teams returning to traditional, under-center football.
Mind you, I don't think the spread is going away anytime soon, because the prototype for the typical college athlete has changed along with it. Stanford had the ultimate smashmouth weapon in
But I do wonder whether we'll one day look back at 2008 -- the year of
In the coming years, I think we'll see something of a meeting in the middle, in large part because of the current generation of coaches. At this point there is a significant contingent of mid-career coaches --
I know this is a common sentiment, but I don't happen to share it.
College football's championship race is often referred to jokingly as a "beauty pageant," but do you really want to take that analogy even further? Because that's exactly what you'd be doing if you retroactively rewarded Auburn the trophy. The Tigers would be
A vacated trophy is exactly what it sounds like -- it means that year's championship goes "vacant." However, I'm curious how the BCS would go about enforcing this
This is why I love the Internet. I must confess, I was not aware of
It's been well-chronicled that SEC teams are the most prolific abusers of oversigning -- six of the eight schools that have signed the most recruits since 2002 hail from that league -- and the conference did
Seeing as the NCAA already has a pretty clear-cut rule in place capping scholarships at 25 per year, the only realistic way I could envision eliminating oversigning is if you put in place another rule stating that a prospect can't sign with a school until he becomes academically eligible. But that's sure to meet resistance both from coaches, who might end up with unfilled scholarships, and from recruits, many of whom use the spring and summer to improve their final high school GPA and test scores.
I believe so. But then, this time last year I felt the Irish were fully capable of winning nine games, for mostly the same reasons -- and they wound up going 6-6 again. When I attended one of the Irish's spring practices in early April, I saw a team that still had a ways to go in adapting to Kelly's breakneck operating speed and transitioning into spread-offense mode. That doesn't mean it can't happen. By all accounts they got consistently better over the rest of the spring, and they've got summer workouts and preseason practices still to go. But the fact is,
My other main observation, having covered practices all over the country, is there's still a stunning lack of overall athleticism in South Bend. I know what the recruiting rankings say. And there's no disputing that guys like Floyd, Rudolph and linebacker
You're definitely on to something. Since the ACC went to its divisional format in 2005, FSU has been the
Obviously, there's a new variable in the picture this year with
So obviously, both teams have major question marks, and I'm not sure either could be considered a clear favorite in that division. Defending champ Clemson and possibly even N.C. State should be in the mix as well. But you do have to ask yourself: If BC has finished ahead of FSU for four straight seasons and both return similar numbers, what reason do we have to believe this year will be different?
I saved this one for last because it's a fascinating question -- so much so that I'd be curious to hear opinions from the readers.
Personally, I've always been drawn to the underdog. I've felt sorry at times for friends of mine who root for, say, Ohio State, for whom reaching the national title game in 2006 and '07 caused more grief than joy. The Florida fans in my office seemed downright miserable most of last season even before that Alabama loss, because nothing short of outright domination was good enough for that team. But it's also no coincidence that the teams with the largest national fan bases, whether it's Michigan and Notre Dame in football or Duke and North Carolina in basketball, are the teams that have traditionally won the most games.
So which would you prefer if picking a team from scratch: Rooting for an underdog with modest expectations for whom the occasional championship is a pleasant surprise, or rooting for a perennial power for whom championships are expected and anything less is a disappointment?
Let me know. And while you're at it ... why was Penny in the church?