What might be right for Nebraska may not be right for some
Posted: Tuesday December 2, 2003 1:14PM; Updated: Tuesday December 2, 2003 1:17PM
You'll have to excuse me if I seem a bit distracted this week.
I know I'm supposed to be consumed by the BCS and the coaching carousel, but what few brain cells I possess are currently devoted to figuring out the plot of that new Jessica Alba movie. From the 60-second trailer of nothing but Jessica jiggling her midriff, I've been able to ascertain that she's some kind of dancer, but in what context? Is she a small-town girl trying to make it in the big city? A stripper trying to rationalize her profession in the face of a disapproving society? Oh, it's eating me up inside.
If we must discuss football, though, I think I'll start with Nebraska. It seems to be what everyone's talking about. You'd think one of the most prestigious programs in the country just fired its coach or something.
Do you think Frank Solich should have been given at least one more year what with six new assistants? To me this decision came long before the Colorado game.
Did he deserve another year? Probably. Obviously the new staff was having a positive affect, what with the Huskers improving from 7-7 to potentially 10-3. However, you hit on an important point. AD Steve Pederson made up his mind on Solich a long time ago, perhaps as early as the day he arrived last December, certainly no later than Nov. 15, the day Kansas State went into Lincoln and won 38-9. With his mind already made up that a change was in order, why string along Solich for another year? In his explanation for the move, Pederson said, "I refuse to let this program gravitate to mediocrity. We will not surrender the Big 12 Conference to Oklahoma and Texas." I think he feared Nebraska slipping back near .500 next season under Solich, putting them even further behind the aforementioned programs and making the next coach's job that much harder.
Why is it all right for Nebraska to fire its coach but not all right for Auburn to fire its coach?
That's an interesting question. I assume you're referring to my Sunday column in which I chastised Auburn for even considering firing Tommy Tuberville while saying I felt Nebraska's decision, albeit a tad hasty, was understandable. If you've been reading this column for a while, you know one of my biggest pet peeves is fans who want to run off their coach. That's because about 95 percent of the time, a school's fans have an unrealistically high perception of their place in the football universe and therefore hold their coach to unreasonable standards.
You might call this phenomenon the "Auburn-Clemson Syndrome," or ACS. Auburn is a program that has won exactly five SEC championships in 70 years of competition, four of them during one particularly glorious stretch from 1983-89. The Tigers have a coach who's contended for the division title nearly every year he's been there, and yet fans are ready to run him off after one disappointing season. That's a bad case of ACS. Similarly, Clemson hasn't been a national force since the '80s and has a coach who's gone to a bowl game every year he's been there, yet ACS nearly got Tommy Bowden axed just weeks before he won ACC coach of the year.
Nebraska, however, is the rare school that fits into the other 5 percent. Like the folks at Auburn, Clemson and other places like them, Nebraskans feel they should be competing for a national championship more often than not. But unlike ACS patients, they have hard evidence to justify it: They've won three of them in the past decade and finished in the top 10 eight times since 1993. Now, is it realistic to expect such continued dominance in today's climate? Of course not. The Big 12 today is a whole tougher than the old Big 8. But I will say this: A 16-12 stretch at Nebraska is a lot more indicative of poor coaching than a 7-5 season at Auburn.
Do you think Nebraska will stick with the "unique system of power football" that you describe? Do you think this system can continue to be successful?
My hope would be they find some sort of happy medium. As I've said in the past, I don't think you can survive on the option alone in today's game. The defenses have become too complex, the athletes too advanced to win with a one-dimensional approach. However, I don't think bringing in a modern-day passing guru who wants to throw 40 times a game is the smart approach, either. No matter who is the coach, it's going to take a long time to overcome the Huskers' traditional image if it hopes to start recruiting elite receivers and passing quarterbacks, and it would make for a potentially rough transition.
Their best bet is someone who preaches a similar but perhaps modernized style of run-oriented football but more importantly, has the kind of energy and charisma to ignite a program. A couple of names that come to mind: Navy's Paul Johnson, who led the Midshipmen to their first bowl berth in seven years while leading the country in rushing, and Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, whose unique ground-based offense has wreaked havoc on many an ACC opponent.
Now, then. On to some real fun ...
What are you hearing about the rumors that the FBI is looking into allegations of game-fixing for personal profit by the officiating crew of the Florida-Florida State game?
Who was the informant? Adrian McPherson?
What is the bowl scenario if Oregon State upsets USC, Georgia defeats LSU and Kansas State upsets Oklahoma?
It's got about as much chance of happening as Jessica Simpson winning a Nobel Prize, but just for fun let's play it out.
Oklahoma would definitely stay in the top two, probably No. 1. No. 2 would be either Michigan or Georgia. The Bulldogs trail the Wolverines by over five points, probably too big a gap to close even by beating LSU. So the likely lineup would be:
Sugar: Oklahoma vs. Michigan
Rose: Ohio State vs. USC
Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Florida State
Orange: Miami vs. Georgia
Mike Stoops will compete for the Pac-10 title when five other teams have left the conference. Have you ever seen a Pac-10 game? How many Rose Bowls has Arizona been to? How many times has Arizona been a co-champ? Dude, get a clue!
The answers to your questions are yes (once -- a long time ago), zero and not often. Now, take a look at the answers to these questions: How many Rose Bowls had Washington State been to before Mike Price got there (one)? How many years had Oregon State gone without a bowl game before Dennis Erickson got there (34)? How many times had Oregon finished No. 2 in the country before Mike Bellotti got there (never)?
The point is times have changed and anything's possible ... dude.
How is it that Kansas and Northwestern will get bowl bids and that Northern Illinois will probably be shut out? I think the Huskies could whip both of those teams.
I don't think NIU would whip those teams. I know NIU would whip those teams. As a point of reference, Northwestern lost to the MAC's Miami of Ohio 44-14. And Kansas lost to Northwestern. But the fact is, the Wildcats and Jayhawks have the luxury of playing in conferences with the clout to land seven or eight bowl partners, while the MAC has two. Perhaps that will start to change what with the unprecedented respect MAC teams have gained this year, but I wouldn't count on it. In the world of lower-tier bowls, it matters not whether you can beat another team, it's whether you can bring more fans.
Is this finally the end of the road for Paul Pasqualoni at Syracuse? His offense is stale and recruiting has greatly declined over the years.
You know all that stuff I said earlier about schools with unreasonably short leashes on their coach? Syracuse is the exact opposite. Their AD, Jake Crouthamel, is an old-fashioned guy (witness the short sleeve dress shirts) who takes great pride in the fact that he's had the same football and basketball coach for multiple decades. I mention this only because at almost any other school, there's no question Pasqualoni would be gone if the Orangemen lose to Notre Dame on Saturday and finish 5-7. That would mean two straight losing seasons for a program that hadn't had one since 1986. Syracuse might not be Nebraska, but it is reasonable to expect better than this. And with the school already facing an uncertain future in the Big East, it becomes imperative now more than ever to have the right coach in place.
Your question about the French and bread is called the French Paradox. Not only do the French eat a lot of bread, their diet is also heavy in sauces, butter and cheese. The Paradox may be explained by the fact that the French tend to eat smaller portions, walk more and that the carbs they eat are not as refined and processed as the kinds that Americans tend to eat.
Man, the French have it made. They get to eat the greatest cuisine on the planet, drink the finest wines, walk home and wake up the next morning without gaining a pound. Throw in the amazing landscapes, the fine arts and the hopping nightlife and you've got yourself one idyllic lifestyle.
Of course, as the great Dan Jenkins once said, I could never live there. No college football.
Stewart Mandel covers college sports for SI.com.