Posted: Tuesday May 3, 2005 12:05PM; Updated: Tuesday May 3, 2005 1:14PM
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.
Do you think Michigan has a chance at the national title this year? --Rafael, Lansing, Mich.
Amazingly, Rafael, every team has a chance at the national title every season, so long as they're in a BCS conference and not under NCAA sanctions.
Which freshman class of 2004 had the most impact on its program, and which incoming 2005 class will have the most impact? --Rick Raber, Columbus, Ohio
Although USC relied on several freshmen (Dwayne Jarrett, Jeff Schweiger, Keith Rivers) in its national-title run, and one of Oklahoma's freshmen (Adrian Peterson) nearly won the Heisman, it's hard to argue against Michigan's 2004 class having had the biggest impact, considering the Wolverines went to the Rose Bowl with a freshman starting quarterback (Chad Henne) and 1,455-yard rusher (Michael Hart).
As for this fall, the obvious choice is Nebraska, if for no other reason than necessity. The Huskers' incoming class (which, admittedly, is not limited to freshmen), could produce as many as eight starters: QBs Zac Taylor (juco) or Harrison Beck at quarterback, RB Marlon Lucky, WR Chris Brooks, G Rodney Picou, LB Steve Octavien (juco), LB Phillip Dillard, CB Zack Bowman (juco) and TE Justin Tomerlin (juco; only if injured star Matt Herian winds up redshirting).
Have you heard anything about the changes Joe Tiller and Co. have made to their offense this offseason? Seems Tiller has taken a page from Utah and Northwestern and added in misdirection and options out of the shotgun. This is to utilize QB Brandon Kirsch's ability to run with the ball, whereas former QB Kyle Orton was almost sunk in concrete in the pocket. What is your take on this spin and what Tiller's ever-changing offense brings to the Big Ten? --Jed, West Lafayette, Ind.
I think one of the more interesting subplots this offseason has been just what a wide-ranging impact Urban Meyer's offense has had on college football. Among the teams that will be running a similar version or incorporating aspects of it this season are, obviously, Florida, where Meyer is now, and UNLV, where Meyer's offensive coordinator, Mike Sanford, took over as head coach. There's also Oregon (where ex-BYU head coach Gary Crowton is now the offensive coordinator) and, as you mentioned, Purdue.
I think it's a great idea what Tiller is doing, and, to be honest, long overdue. Tiller took the Big Ten by storm when he originally arrived in 1997, bringing his "basketball on grass" approach to the historically stodgy conference. Who can forget the game against Wisconsin in which Drew Brees threw 85 passes?
But while many of his counterparts -- Northwestern's Randy Walker, Michigan State's John L. Smith -- not only have gone to the spread themselves but taken it to new levels, Tiller's, to be honest, has become more and more predictable. He had a great quarterback the past few seasons in Orton, who did put up some big numbers at times, but for the most part the Boilers have tried to run the ball more traditionally and, when they do pass, often stick to a short, horizontal attack against their better opponents. Tiller is a proven offensive mind, though, and that's why I'm as excited as anyone outside of West Lafayette to see his new wrinkles this season.
Which lesser-known player will take the country by storm like Alex Smith did last year? --Alexander, Virginia
It should be Bowling Green's Omar Jacobs. You would think he would have done so already, what with the whole 4,002 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions thing in 2004, but since these mid-major guys play on TV so infrequently it usually takes longer than a year to become a household name. Jacobs' team is already scheduled for three ESPN Games this year.
Other possibilities: Boise State QB Jared Zabransky, who, like Smith, will be leading his team on a quest for the BCS; Memphis RB DeAngelo Williams, who could have a LaDainian Tomlinson-like senior season; and Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson, who, though he plays for a major-conference team, could be this year's version of Larry Fitzgerald when he was a sophomore.
Do you feel guilty cashing your check every week? You should. --Joe Bainbridge, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Actually, thanks to the wondrous technological advancement that is direct deposit, I no longer have that problem.
I think you need a theme song to play when people read the Mailbag. I'd love to pen something if you'd like to lyrically collaborate. --Jon Malone, Tulsa, Okla.
Absolutely! But I don't think lyrics will be necessary. I'd be happy with one of those catchy, 20-second jingles that become synonymous with your favorite TV show, like the opening credits to Curb Your Enthusiasm or Arrested Development. Let me know what you come up with.
That's it for this week. There were a whole lot of other solid questions submitted over the past month that I'll hopefully get to in the coming weeks. In the meantime, feel free to further flood my inbox.
So long, and thanks for all the fish. (Jon: Cue closing credits music.)