Later in this column, we're going to take a trip down memory lane and revisit a prominent figure from Mailbags past. Hint: It's a lady.
In the meantime, looking back at more recent history, the first Mailbag mention last year of a possible Alabama-LSU rematch
News flash: USC was never the country's lone non-SEC team capable of winning a national championship. The reason it may seem that way is because several other viable contenders have yet to play their first meaningful game.
Oregon, overlooked all preseason amid the USC hype, has continued to fly under the radar thanks to three opening games against non-AQ opponents. This week the third-ranked Ducks face No. 22 Arizona, and if Chip Kelly's team hangs half a hundred on Rich Rodriguez's Wildcats (Oregon is averaging 54.0 points), I expect Oregon will become a standard part of the conversation. No. 4 Florida State plays a showcase game against Clemson this week. If it wins, people are going to start looking at the Seminoles' schedule and realizing just how few obstacles they have the rest of the way. No one's really seen No. 6 Oklahoma play yet, but they will against No. 15 Kansas State this weekend. In fact, it feels like the entire Big 12 has had a bye to this point. I'm eager to see No. 8 West Virginia and No. 12 Texas face tougher conference competition.
And as vulnerable as USC looked last weekend, I wouldn't rule the Trojans out just yet, either. They lost on the road to a team that went 23-3 over the last two years. It happens.
It's entirely possible Alabama and LSU are indeed the cream of the crop again. The Tide have outscored their first three opponents (including two preseason top-10 teams) 128-14, and a purportedly inexperienced defense has pitched consecutive shutouts. I'm certainly not picking against them anytime soon. Meanwhile, the Tigers have won their first three games by a margin of 145-31, but I'd like to see them play someone better than Washington, which has the look of a 6-6 team, before fully jumping on board. This week's opponent, Auburn, might not be any better.
That brings up a different point. One reason to feel confident in Alabama and LSU running the table outside of their head-to-head meeting is the rest of the SEC West, which doesn't look nearly as imposing as it did before the season. In fact, it's pretty darn bad. On the other hand, the East may produce a champion this year (possibly Georgia) with an actual chance of winning in Atlanta.
Finally, at the risk of looking stupid again, I'd be willing to bet three months of Andy Staples' barbeque expenses that voters will not allow another SEC rematch this year. There was too much backlash to last year's game, and even though it's not voters' fault the second game was lopsided (Alabama may well have beaten a different opponent by far more than 21 points), the dissatisfaction is still going to factor into their thought process this time. The people desperately want to see the SEC play someone else, and they're going to get their wish. I don't know who that team will be, but you might want to tune in this weekend for possible clues.
The migration of more big games to prime time began six years ago when ABC figured out it could draw better ratings on Saturday nights by showing college football instead of scripted dramas or second-rate reality shows. We had previously counted on the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) to show the biggest games in the afternoon, with evening spots primarily reserved for ESPN's SEC and ACC broadcasts or Fox Sports Net's old late-night Pac-10 games. But with FOX joining the fray this year, yet another marquee game moves from 3:30 p.m. ET to 7:30 or 8 (like Kansas State-Oklahoma). Even NBC is even doing it now, with Michigan-Notre Dame this week.
The result, unfortunately, is that fans are now forced to pick and choose between high-profile matchups. Last year in Week 3, ABC garnered a very good 5.8 rating for its prime time game, Oklahoma-Florida State. A year earlier it notched a 4.7 for Texas-Texas Tech. This year it got just a 3.2 for Notre Dame-Michigan State. ESPN's Florida-Tennessee broadcast, which overlapped during the second half, produced a 3.1, and FOX's USC-Stanford showing netted a 2.5. Granted, there was a lot more buildup leading into that Oklahoma-Florida State game last year, but networks can usually count on Notre Dame to draw a big audience, especially against a top-10 team. However, if you combine the ratings for the head-to-head ABC and FOX games you get 5.7 -- almost identical to ABC's number last year.
On the bright side, the afternoon options should improve once teams get into conference play and there are multiple games of interest in each league. Unfortunately, though, the cluttered prime time lineup is here to stay.
It's a good question. Miller is already starting to pop up in the
My guess is if Miller has a truly spectacular season, his team's postseason status won't affect him very much. Ohio State needs to win, and he needs to perform well in big games. Other than that, he plays for one of the most visible teams in the country, and the votes are tallied before the bowl games. And lest we forget, Tebow's team lost three regular-season games the year he won the Heisman. Florida was playing for the Capital One Bowl by late October, yet he still ran away with the trophy. Miller could do the same, but he'd have to truly distinguish himself. If, for example, Geno Smith keeps putting up the same gaudy numbers and West Virginia contends for the Big 12 title, the advantage goes to Smith.
If I know Utah fans like I think I do, they'll invite me right in for tea and strumpets.
I never got the sense that the Big Ten was a realistic option for either party during this most recent realignment wave. I understand what the ACC gains from its Notre Dame arrangement. The deal ensures a marquee television opponent for five schools each year and allows the league to negotiate better bowl arrangements in the next cycle, both in enhancing its Orange Bowl partnership (it's been reported Notre Dame will be part of the rotation as the ACC's opponent) and landing more appealing non-BCS partners. And obviously it benefits the ACC in basketball and other sports.
But the Big Ten doesn't share the same needs as the ACC. No one's threatening to leave the Big Ten, as some Florida State officials did with the ACC this summer. Its football brand is already strong and wouldn't gain much from a Notre Dame partial membership. It's got the Rose Bowl/Pac-12 partnership sewn up. And given the importance of the Big Ten Network, there's no way it would stand for one school having its own separate TV deal. It's possible Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue will be negatively affected by losing annual games with the Irish, but that can be negated by signing home-and-homes with other brand-name programs.
I think Delany's bigger concern right now is on the field: His conference may have eliminated itself from the national title race before the official start of autumn.
I see what you did there.
I wouldn't say that -- at least not yet. On-field football results may drive some realignment decisions, but they weren't near the top of the list in 2010 when the Pac-10 expanded. At that time, Larry Scott was on the brink of negotiating a new television package and was trying to make over the league. Obviously, he did not succeed in his original goal of luring Texas and Oklahoma, and there's no question Colorado and Utah are far less sexy substitutes. I've also been told repeatedly by industry sources that the conference would have gotten its sweet deal with or without those schools. Good timing played a far bigger role than expansion. Still, moving to 12 teams and adding a championship game helped create buzz for that conference. The influx of two teams also increases the number of conference games, which, in turn, creates more programming for the Pac-12 Networks.
The only way it becomes a real problem is if Colorado -- which appears to be in the throes of an all-out implosion -- sinks into an extended state of disinterest and non-competitiveness, à la Temple in the mid-2000s (when it got kicked out of the Big East). Every conference has bottom-feeders, but a league never wants things to get so bad that the program becomes an embarrassment for the conference. I don't think that will happen. As I've said a million times before, everything is cyclical. Colorado has a history of success and, now, access to the same resources as the rest of the Pac-12. It will eventually dig out of this rut -- but heaven help the 2012 Buffs when they go up against USC, Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks.
First of all, Virginia Tech was ranked a modest No. 16 coming into the season. One admittedly humbling loss to Pitt does not mean the Hokies can't rebound and finish that high. Two years ago, they lost to James Madison, came back to win 11 games and finished ... No. 16. Keep in mind, they play in a division with Georgia Tech (which they already beat), Virginia (which Georgia Tech just beat 56-20), Miami (which lost 52-13 at Kansas State), Duke (which lost 50-13 at Stanford) and North Carolina (which is already 1-2). I'll take the Hokies.
As for whether Virginia Tech is an elite program -- what, may I ask, is your definition of elite? If it's a program that regularly contends for national titles, then no, Virginia Tech is not elite. It reached the BCS championship game once, 13 years ago, with a transcendent quarterback. It has really only come close to going back on one occasion since, in 2007. But then again, how many programs would fit that specific definition right now? Maybe eight? Ohio State hasn't played for the BCS title since 2007, either. Does that mean the Buckeyes aren't elite? Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is the only program in the country to win at least 10 games in each of the past eight seasons. Since 1995, it's won more games (170) than any program except Florida (171). There are a whole lot of programs out there that would kill to be that not elite.
The amount may be unprecedented (and I'm not 100 percent sure whether it is), but the gesture is not. Florida's athletic department annually gives revenue to the university, reportedly $6 million each of the past few years. Texas donates about the same amount, plus half of its Longhorn Network revenue is slotted to go toward academics. And the revenue from Notre Dame's much-reviled NBC contract actually helps fund financial aid for the general student body. These are just a few examples; others do much of the same.
Ideally, this becomes the industry standard for major-conference programs, as nearly every league has signed a new, exponentially richer television contract in the past few years. There's no earthly way the schools could possibly spend all of their new money on weight rooms and training tables. The flip side, however, is that filthy rich programs like Texas and Florida are in the minority nationally. For the vast majority of schools, it's the exact opposite: The university subsidizes athletics. According to Inside Higher Ed, current darling Ohio, among others, spent more in 2010-11 to subsidize athletics ($19.6 million) than it spent the year before on libraries ($13.2 million). So don't be torn. If your school is one of the fortunate ones with enough athletics cash lying around to give back to the university, celebrate it.
This may come as a surprise, but they did not offer a class at Northwestern on predicting football games. Somehow I was able to overcome such meager training to successfully deliver you Ball State over Indiana. You're welcome.
One of the most frequent responses to Question 6 in last month's
So, if you're one who never dug the Crush ... no hard feelings. We'll see you next week. There happens to be a pertinent reason this week to bring it back.
On Monday, FOX debuted a new prime time drama,
What can I say? I've always had an eye for up-and-coming talent.
So purely as a service to you loyal readers -- and not at all because we once had
See -- why name a new Crush when I can just call up and take abuse from an old one?
I assure you this will not become a regular thing again, but I have to admit, this job has its perks.