Prepare for return to parity after Year of Predictability; more mail
Longtime Mailbag readers know well the select group of buzzwords I tend to frequently recycle when discussing college football -- words like "cyclical," "spread-option" and "Jordana." (That last one's in honor of
Indeed, if 2007 was The Year of Parity (from Appalachian State-Michigan right up through a two-loss national champion), 2009 was The Year of the Predictability. Before the season even started, most prognosticators -- including this one -- predicted a Florida-Texas collision course, and everything but the SEC Championship Game score played out pretty much as if scripted. The hierarchy was so clear-cut that by late November, we had six undefeated teams (Florida, Alabama, Texas, Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati) ... and a bunch of two- and three-loss teams. Even the seemingly wide-open Pac-10 race ended with Oregon finishing two games ahead of everyone else in the standings.
But I don't see 2010 being nearly as top-heavy, for several reasons. For one, the defending national champion, Alabama, doesn't look quite as loaded as Florida or Texas did heading into last season. The Crimson Tide should still be very good, but they've got enough kinks to leave them susceptible to an upset or two. Remember, last season marked the first time in four years that the national championship game featured two undefeated teams. My guess is this year will see a return to the recent trend of one-loss participants.
Secondly, we've had a massive changing of the guard at the quarterback position, with recent staples
But mostly, I think we're going to see a lot more competitive conference races. When I look at Ohio State, I see a team, on paper, that's talented and experienced across the board and an obvious national-title contender. But the Buckeyes will also be facing at least two other very good teams (Wisconsin and Iowa) on the road during conference play. They may still win the Big Ten, but I don't see them running away with it.
In the ACC, I've seen three different teams -- Virginia Tech, Miami and North Carolina -- picked to win the Coastal Division, and that list does not even include the defending champ, Georgia Tech. (Never underestimate
Finally, it's worth noting that just because last season wasn't littered with upsets doesn't mean the overriding trend of parity in the sport has dissipated. The pool of competitive programs around the country is deeper than ever, with last year's TCU-Boise State Fiesta Bowl serving as a pretty telling illustration. Not a soul would have dreamed that scenario possible a decade earlier. Meanwhile, before they went on to win 11 games and an Orange Bowl, the Hawkeyes needed two blocked field goals to survive I-AA Northern Iowa in their opener. Houston beat two respectable Big 12 foes. Longtime doormat Temple won nine games last year. Duke even won three ACC games.
But it's also true that the sport's richest powers -- Florida, Texas, Alabama, Ohio State, etc. -- will always have an inherent advantage over the rest of the country, so long as the right coach is in place. Alabama, so dominant for decades under
One of the big frustrations for colleges, the NCAA and the many rule-abiding agents out there is the fact that the pro leagues show so little interest in investigating and/or punishing agents as pertains to the recruitment of college players. Unfortunately, in both the NFL and NBA, that responsibility rests in the hands of the leagues' respective Players Associations, which are obviously far more concerned about the welfare of their current constituents than about potential future pros. Therefore, the onus falls largely on the NCAA and individual schools to monitor a sordid and tangled world of individuals who largely fall outside their realm.
As for Sharon's question: The truth is, there isn't much incentive for players to follow the rules --
Let me start with the caveat that it's hardly fair to pin Washington's record the past few years on Locker. The Huskies were dreadful, as we saw when Locker got injured two years ago and the team promptly slumped to an 0-12 finish. Five wins last year was a major accomplishment. Having said that, I don't dispute that there's an unusual disconnect between Locker's lofty reputation and his actual college production to date. If you watched a Washington game in either of his two full seasons (2007 and '09), you undoubtedly saw him use his athleticism to make some incredible plays, but you probably also saw him make a few bad reads and misconnect with receivers.
The Locker phenomenon is partly UW-driven (Huskies fans have been singing his praises to anyone who will listen since the first game of his freshman year, and the school recently unleashed a massive p.r. campaign), but it's more a reflection of how enormous the NFL draft has become. It's no secret NFL types are in love with Locker. ESPN's
The Locker hype is almost the reverse of the Tebow hype from last season -- Locker's lofty draft stock is elevating his standing in regards to the Heisman and other college accolades. I do believe Locker (provided he stays healthy) will have a big senior season, due both to his increased comfort with second-year coach
Too little, too late, I'm afraid. The NCAA explicitly states that the Infractions Appeals Committee does not weigh "new evidence," nor is it a "second chance to argue the case." Basically, USC will be trying to convince a new committee that the other committee penalized it too heavily based on the evidence that was presented. USC may bring up past case precedent as a comparison, but it can't use its own actions since the sanctions were announced as a case for mercy.
But forget about the hearing and focus on the substance of
One notable exception: The current head coach, Mr.
I'm sorry. I can't take this question seriously. I can't stop picturing Paul Dee with a bald head and pointy nose, sinisterly folding his hands and saying to his ever-obedient henchman, "Henderson, eh? ... Excellent."
I feel like this whole Mailbag is dogging on Jake Locker. What's up with that?
As for Jones, I don't think the Sooners would be garnering such lofty preseason praise (No. 1 by
Our last image of him, however, was a huge aerial performance in the Sun Bowl against Stanford -- 30-of-51 for 418 yards and three TDs -- that signaled OU may well have another Bradford,
Count me among those disappointed with O'Brien's Wolfpack tenure to date. Even with one of the most exciting dual-threat quarterbacks,
Arguably O'Brien's biggest problem is that
I would imagine it's because 99.9 percent of sports fans have cable. And if you don't ... well, then you're going to miss the