Posted: Wednesday August 10, 2005 11:22AM; Updated: Wednesday August 17, 2005 5:48PM
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.
It's nice to see you giving Iowa the praise it deserves, but why doesn't Georgia receive the same laurels? Haven't the Dawgs enjoyed at least equal success over the same period? Why is it that Iowa is definitely a top-10 team, while Georgia is around No. 15 in most writers' minds? --Rob, Woodstock, Ga.
Good question. Some crack research reveals that the Dawgs had a slightly better record (34-6) than the Hawkeyes (31-7) over the past three seasons, bring back more returning starters (13 to 12) and lost roughly the same amount of NFL-caliber talent (six draft picks to Iowa's five). I think the difference in perception shows just how much importance observers place on the quarterback position -- the Hawkeyes are returning a proven signal-caller in Drew Tate, while the Dawgs are replacing a four-year starter in David Greene. While I doubt D.J. Shockley, even at his finest, will outplay Tate (assuming both stay healthy), who's to say the rest of Georgia's personnel isn't as strong -- or stronger -- as Iowa's? Fact is, these preseason polls are about as logical as an airport flight schedule. And I'm as guilty as anyone of jamming the runway.
Let's just assume -- regardless of who ends up in the Rose Bowl -- that USC will win the Pac-10. What is the likelihood the conference will get a second team in the BCS, as it should have for the past three seasons? Also, why is it that Washington State never seems to garner the dark-horse hype it deserves after several years of surprise teams? --Mark, Los Angeles
It's funny you should say that, because I was recently preparing my Pac-10 preview (to run at a later date) and it occurred to me that I hadn't heard even the tiniest peep about the Cougars the entire offseason -- which is amazing when you consider they're a team only one year removed from a string of three straight 10-win seasons. Granted, Wazzu's remote location (Pullman has to be the single hardest major-college town in the country to get to) often makes it seem like the Cougs are cut off from the outside world, but you would think enough Rose Bowl teams and NFL quarterbacks have come out of WSU by now that they'd at least be mentioned along the same lines as an Oregon or an Arizona State.
All-around good guy Bill Doba suffered a down year in '04, slipping to 5-6, but the Cougars went into last season with just six returning starters, dealt with injuries to both their starting quarterback (Josh Swogger) and star linebacker (Will Derting), and still came within a couple of last-minute losses of going 7-4. There's no doubt in my mind they'll be back in the upper half of the conference this season.
As for a second BCS team, while Cal did barely miss out last year, remember that the league did get a second team in both 2000 (Oregon State) and 2002 (USC). Whether it will happen this year is anyone's guess, but I don't see a second team on paper with top-10 potential.
Why doesn't Hayden Fry get the credit he deserves for his amazing coaching tree? It seems every prominent conference in the country (especially the Big Ten and Big 12) has at least one of Coach Fry's protégés -- Bill Snyder (Kansas State), Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Mike Stoops (Arizona), Dan McCarney (Iowa State). Additionally, a number of current assistants who worked with Fry will be head guys in the near future (Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and, eventually, Chuck Long). --Travis, Atlanta
I think Fry is starting to get some credit, particularly following Bielema's recent promotion at Wisconsin. Both Bielema and Alvarez were asked at Big Ten media days several questions about Fry's influence . I think it's no coincidence that almost all of the guys on that list inherited and, to various degrees, rebuilt dormant programs, because they were all part of such an experience at Iowa.
Say what you will about the coaching job Kirk Ferentz has done recently with the Hawkeyes, but at least there was some track record of success when he arrived. When Fry got to Iowa in 1979, the Hawkeyes hadn't posted a winning record in 19 years and had been to two bowl games in their history. By the time he was done 20 years later, Fry had gone 143-89-6 and to 14 bowl games, including three Rose Bowls. It's one of the most amazing turnaround jobs in history, and Snyder and Alvarez in particular have pulled off similar feats.
Do you believe Marcus Vick is poised for a big season at Virginia Tech, or did he simply ride his brother's coattails into the ranks of college football? --Eric, Christiansburg, Va.
I don't think Marcus rode any coattails. People who saw both Vick brothers as high schoolers say Marcus had a better arm and was an even better athlete than Michael at that stage. But not everyone progresses at the same rate once they reach the next level. Michael, as we all know, was absolutely explosive by his redshirt freshman season in 1999, leading Virginia Tech to the national title game. Marcus, from what I saw during his same season two years ago, was shaky, unconfident, a fair-to-average thrower and, while he may have been fast, was hesitant to use that ability. He wasn't unlike Vince Young was in 2003, though Young played more.
Two years have gone by, and presumably Marcus has learned his lesson from the embarrassment surrounding his off-the-field indiscretions and after being kicked out of school for a year. He'll finally have the reins to himself, which should help his confidence. But he has big, big shoes to fill -- and I'm not talking about his brother. Bryan Randall was a superb leader for the Hokies last season who, while primarily a passer, also made some plays with his feet to get his team out of jams. It doesn't matter whether Marcus runs for 1,000 yards or 100, whether he throws for 3,000 or 300. For Virginia Tech to repeat in the ACC, the most important thing its quarterback can do is make good decisions, complete a high percentage of passes and avoid turnovers. If he does that, there are enough weapons around him that the Hokies should have another big season, and in turn Vick will prosper.
The only thing I'm looking forward to this fall even half as much as the start of the college football is the third season of Arrested Development. To me, it is to dysfunctional families what Seinfeld was to dysfunctional singles. It'll be the only thing that makes me look forward to Mondays. How did this show almost get the ax? --Ryan, Hillsborough, N.J.
Arrested's problem is that it's too smart for network television. If the show was on HBO, it would be receiving as much -- if not more -- critical acclaim, drawing the same number of viewers as Curb Your Enthusiasm or Entourage (which are actually smaller than what Arrested gets on FOX) and would be in no danger whatsoever of getting canceled, because HBO relies on subscribers, not advertisers.
Unfortunately, networks need to reach such a big audience to appease advertisers that they wind up dumbing down their shows to appeal to the lowest common denominator, which is why 95 percent of network sitcoms are so blasé. Apparently there are millions of Americans who think Two and a Half Men is an absolute hoot, but I'm guessing most of them are left befuddled trying to watch an episode of Arrested. (I apologize in advance to the three of you reading this column who enjoy both -- I realize there are exceptions to every rule.) of the sh All we can do is be thankful FOX didn't pull the trigger on Arrested and prepare to enjoy another season of the show, which, in its new slot, should prove far more entertaining than Monday Night Football.
With all of the offseason problems that have swirled around the Kansas program, does Mark Mangino have to win the division title to maintain peoples' faith in him? Or does he just need to get back to a bowl game? I would say that if he doesn't win the title this year, it may never come. --Brian Burkett, Topeka, Kan.
If I were a Kansas fan, I'd knight Mangino if he takes the Jayhawks to a second bowl game in three years, not run him out of town. No offense, but your program doesn't exactly have a long tradition of excellence. And while I know it must feel like the Big 12 North is just ripe for the taking, if the Jayhawks reach a bowl game without winning the division, you'd still have to consider that a step in the right direction. Even if it hasn't always shown in the win-loss column, the Jayhawks have been far more competitive under Mangino than they were under predecessor Terry Allen. They came within an improbable, last-minute rally of beating Texas last year (the game, you may recall, that prompted Mangino to lash out at the BCS for supposedly controlling the officiating, not one of his finest hours). Kansas should have a really good defense this season. The Jayhawks need a quarterback to step up like Bill Whittemore did two years ago to get them over that hump.
Don't let envy rule your column. You look great in your new picture. It says: "I'm ready to party with Lindsay Lohan!" --Joemarie, Houston
Whoa there. Thanks for the compliments on the picture, but I'm going to have to substantially alter my diet -- i.e. replace nourishment with Red Bull -- before I'm capable of keeping up with Lindsay on one of her all-night club tours.
That's it for this week, folks. One programming note: Like Arrested Development, the Mailbag has changed days. Starting this week and continuing through the duration of the season, it'll run on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Just thought you should know.