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Stewart Mandel college.football.mailbag

The real problem with the Rose decision

AP poll voters' late switcheroos, confidential coaches votes inexcusable

Posted: Tuesday December 7, 2004 3:07PM; Updated: Tuesday December 7, 2004 4:45PM
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  Mack Brown
One coach had Texas ranked No. 2 in the final poll.
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Last week, I solicited your opinions about the Heisman race -- to which you responded so heavily that I received the dreaded "Your mailbox is over its size limit" message -- and promised to reveal how I filled out my ballot. I still intend to do that, but with the BCS still seemingly on a lot of peoples' minds, I'm going to save the Heisman for a special, bonus 'Bag on Thursday and deal with the BCS and other assorted topics today.

You're probably wondering, which was I deluged with more this week, mail from angry Auburn fans or angry Cal fans? The answer: neither. It actually has been Texas fans, angry that other people are angry that their team is going to the Rose Bowl. When they say "Don't Mess with Texas," they're not kidding.

I don't remember the Texas players spouting off about other teams when they got left out of the BCS. Aaron Rodgers should be the one to show some class. Mack Brown is all class, and no one feels worse for Cal then Mack.
-- Jon, Austin, Texas

You really don't believe any writer changed his vote because of Mack's comments, do you? All year long [writers] beat him up, and now they listen to him? Please. Cal, coming off a bye week, looked very average against a 6-5 Southern Miss team. The Pac-10 ain't the Big 12 South. Yeah, both teams had close games, and I'm not saying Texas is more deserving than Cal, or vice versa. Cal had a chance to make a statement, and it didn't when it was on the line. Mack Brown has as much pull with writers as Bob Stoops did with the ESPN-Auburn conspiracy theory.
-- Charles Bowen, Stillwater, Okla.

The whole Brown angle has been completely overblown. He didn't say anything that any other coach in his position wouldn't have. That said, I'm not going to come down on Rodgers, either. That now-infamous quote of his was from an AP story that came out literally moments after Cal got the bad news. The kid just had his dream ripped out from under him. How do you think he's going to react?

Personally, I think Cal is the better team -- both have excellent running backs and similar defenses, but the Bears have a more balanced offense. In their respective biggest games of the season, Cal was much more competitive with No. 1 USC than Texas was with No. 2 Oklahoma. However, I have no problem with anyone who looks at both teams' bodies of work -- considering the Longhorns boast the tougher schedule -- and say Texas is more deserving. That's his or her prerogative. (And if it's a her, hopefully it's Britney Spears wearing what she does in her My Prerogative video). The voters are certainly under no responsibility to uphold the Pac-10 Rose Bowl tradition.

What I do have a problem with is voters who seemed to think Cal was the better team for a month or more, then suddenly using a 26-16 victory over Southern Miss as an excuse to change their mind. So Southern Miss isn't Southern California, but they're not Southern Methodist, either. Any road game, nevertheless one 2,500 miles away, is tough, and the Bears got the "W." It was no more an indictment of the Bears than Texas' near-loss at Kansas. Voters had 10 weeks to come to the conclusion that Texas is a better team than Cal. You're telling me it finally dawned on some voters a week after the 'Horns' season ended?

And don't get me started on the Coaches' poll. According to USA Today, two coaches decided to move Texas up to No. 3 after last weekend's inaction. One already had the Longhorns No. 2! Cal picked up one third-place vote in the AP poll. Meanwhile, four coaches moved the Bears down to No. 7, two to No. 8, when last week none had them below No. 6. And unlike the AP voters, whose names and ballots were made public Sunday night, none of the coaches are held publicly accountable for their actions. Unbelievable.

MAILBAG
MAILBAG
Stewart Mandel will answer questions from SI.com readers each week in his mailbag.
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How long is the Rose Bowl contractually tied to the BCS (especially now that it will be on a different TV network)? With the Orange Bowl stealing Iowa two years ago and the Rose being forced to take Texas over a higher-ranked Cal team this year, the people in Pasadena must be livid.
-- J. Scott, Houston, Texas

They are, but there's nothing they can do about it. While it's true the Rose Bowl has a separate TV contract, its conference partners, the Big Ten and Pac-10, have signed on with the other BCS conferences through 2010, and they're not going back anytime soon. They're not going to voluntarily take themselves out of the national title picture just to appease the Rose Bowl.

The best thing the Rose Bowl can do at this point is stop living in denial and start embracing reality. And this is coming from a guy who went to a Big Ten school and is as miffed as anyone at the end of that tradition. Fact is, the Rose Bowl has a pretty darn good game this year. Texas is going to bring a sea of people. I'd hardly call it a disaster.

Steweird, why are you, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the people in the big-money areas of the U.S. WHINING for freaking crying out loud? Aaron needs to start drinking from a baby's bottle, and you should turn in your journalism license or give back the five Cracker Jack labels you sent in for it. Face it Stewpot, California didn't cut the mustard. Now, I shall wait and root for (blasphemy) Oklahoma to kick the redwood sap out of the other pretender from the Left Coast. Long live the Mid-South (Stew, look at a map before you open your pie hole. Texas and Oklahoma sit, geographically, exactly south in the U.S. See, Errand, Stewie, that's how Texas jumped Californication; voters are smarter than you two!)
-- Alestair, Columbus, Texas

I don't really have a response. I was just hoping someone could translate this for me.

Regarding your statement, "there really isn't anything they [Auburn] could have done differently": Don't you think scheduling tougher non-conference opponents could have easily made a difference? It's a gamble Auburn made, obviously not knowing how good it might be this year, but it backfired in this case. Put a couple of bowl teams on the schedule, and the Tigers jump over Oklahoma in the BCS rating -- no doubt about it.
-- Marty Ray, Mountain Home, Idaho

In the end, I don't think Louisiana-Monroe and The Citadel made a whole heck of a lot of difference. If the Tigers had played a non-conference schedule comparable to Oklahoma's (Bowling Green, Oregon and Houston), it might have helped them pass the Sooners in the two computer ratings where Oklahoma was second and Auburn third, but that wouldn't have made up for the substantial difference in the human polls, which are weighted twice as heavily. And it's not like the pollsters made their decisions based on the teams' non-conference schedules.

Do you know that you are a joke? You honestly think that Bowling Green vs. Memphis is a better matchup than the Peach, Cotton or Gator Bowls? And you think Boise State-Louisville is the second-best game? Ha, ha, ha. I tell you what. You take the money made from commercials for that Division II matchup, and I will take the cash from any other of the top 14 games. And I could buy you. You are completely mad.
-- Nathan Bowling, Richmond, Va.

This may come as news to you, Nathan, but they're playing football these days in all parts of the country. Believe it or not, the players at Bowling Green, Memphis and Boise State can actually run, jump pass and catch as well as a lot of the players at ACC and SEC schools. And they don't even have to wear leather helmets! Tell you what, you have a good time watching Chris Rix tear up the Gator Bowl while the rest of us enjoy Stefan LeFors, Jared Zabransky and Omar Jacobs.

In your rankings of the bowl games, how can you rank the Peach Bowl so low? This game is for the State Championship of Florida (both the Gators and the 'Canes beat FSU). And the Hurricanes need this win to prevent the season from being a total disaster.
-- Jake Hannaway, Tampa, Fla.

I think I speak for the residents of the other 49 states when I say, let us know how that all works out.

USC may lose Norm Chow or Matt Leinart (or both) next year. Which is the greater loss?
-- Joe, Bloomington, Ind.

Leinart is a fantastic quarterback, and obviously it would hurt to lose him. But I don't think anyone's going to feel too sorry for the Trojans. Leinart replaced a Heisman-winning quarterback himself in Carson Palmer and they didn't miss a beat. Plus, USC's next quarterback is likely to be either redshirt sophomore John David Booty or incoming freshman Mark Sanchez, both of whom are the top-rated quarterbacks from their respective recruiting classes.

Losing Chow, on the other hand, would be a major blow. The fact that the Trojans have had another dominating offense despite coming into the season with both an inexperienced offensive line and receiving corps is a testament to Chow's work. He knows how to play to a team's strengths, which this year meant relying more on the running game and working tight ends Alex Holmes and Dominique Byrd into the mix while still developing young receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett. Chow's offense is one of a kind, and USC pays him as such, to the tune of about $500,000 a year, which is why he's not as much of a guarantee to bolt as one might think.

Now that the regular season is over, can you give us your top five games of this season?
-- Josh Lavan, Hollywood, Fla.

Sure, but keep in mind this list is going to be slanted heavily toward games I covered, and may leave out some that probably could have made the list (like Michigan-Michigan State) that I didn't get to see live because it conflicted with a game I was at.

1. Miami vs. Louisville, Oct. 14. It had everything you could want from 60 minutes of football, and the atmosphere in the Orange Bowl during the 'Canes' second-half comeback was electric.

2. Cal vs. USC, Oct 9. A once-in-a-lifetime performance by Rodgers and a thrilling goal-line stand that turned the traditionally docile L.A. Coliseum into one of the loudest stadiums I've ever heard.

3. Auburn vs. LSU, Sept. 18. This was the first chance most of us had to see the new Jason Campbell as he led his team to the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes.

4. Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M, Nov. 6. A wild, back-and-forth shootout, with a vintage Jason White performance in which he converted one big play after another in the second half.

5. Purdue vs. Wisconsin, Oct. 16. Obviously it seemed a lot bigger at the time, but Erasmus James was a one-man wrecking crew, and Kyle Orton's last-minute fumble may have been the momentum-turning play of the season.

Just read your column by chance from Oct. 7, 2003. Nice call on Urban Meyer going to Florida! Check it out folks (the third-to-last question). Stewart's the man!
-- Scott Ball, New Orleans

Thank you, thank you very much. Now if only I hadn't gone and declared him the next coach of Notre Dame three days before my prediction came true.

Stewart Mandel covers college sports for SI.com.

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