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Bayou bust? (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday June 14, 2006 10:32AM; Updated: Wednesday June 14, 2006 1:13PM
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The Big Ten is considering signing a deal with DirecTV to create its own channel, which audiences would have to pay for. Isn't that suicide?
-- Ian, State College, Pa.

It's not what you might think. If the Big Ten does create such a channel, it will, at least at first, be mostly to show lower-profile games and nonrevenue sports that wouldn't normally be on television at all. ABC and ESPN pay the conference a lot of money for the right to show its best football and basketball games, and the league isn't about to give that up.

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However, I do believe the day will come when one will have to tune into the Big Ten Network to watch, say, an Iowa-Wisconsin game. We're already seeing it in the pros, where teams are starting their own TV networks and the NFL will, for the first time this season, actually shift some of its game broadcasts to the NFL Network.

Now the trend is moving to colleges, starting with the Mountain West, which has made the audacious decision to bolt ESPN in favor of upstart CSTV, which, in addition to showing games on the network, has created a channel, "The mtn.," devoted 24/7 to Mountain West programming.

It could be a disaster at first, when teams like Utah and BYU seemingly disappear from the national airwaves this season. But in talking to league officials, I've learned that they envision a day in the not-too-distant future when fans watch games on their laptops and hand-held devices as often as they do on television. When that happens, sports leagues will want the ability to control these potentially lucrative revenue streams, and I imagine eventually the Big Ten, SEC and every other major conference will follow the Mountain West's lead.

OK, Stewart, in your first column of the new season you offered to dispense your wisdom on matters other than football, so I am going to take advantage of that offer. I am a cute (not drop-dead gorgeous, but definitely good-looking) 26-year-old who happens to love Longhorns football. I know more facts and trivia about the 'Horns than any guy I know. I have many other amazing attributes as well, but the football factor tends to get noticed more. As a result, that gets me lumped in the "friend zone" for the long haul. What I want to know is, why do the totally bitchy, totally psychotic (albeit gorgeous) women snag all the guys and end up in dysfunctional relationships, while the chill, laid-back women like me end up as one of the guys?
-- Jen, Austin, Texas

All right! Someone has finally given me the opportunity to fulfill my budding dream of becoming the male Jenn Sterger. Of course, to properly answer your question, I'd need to go to Austin to do some field research. However, my guess is you're seeking out the wrong type of guys. While it's true that most men are completely powerless against the charms of a gorgeous woman, only the most shameless and self-absorbed actually allow themselves to get manipulated into maintaining a relationship with a full-blown psycho just because she looks good in hot pants. Those of us who have some degree of pride much prefer the company of a cute, genuine woman, with the football knowledge a welcome bonus. Just make sure you're not using it as your main selling point -- we've got no shortage of dudes in our life to talk football with.

So the next time you start getting a crush on some dashing dude you met at Brown Bar, try first to ascertain whether he's actually got anything going on beneath the surface. And if he ends up taking home some hell-in-a-halter-top instead, take heart in the fact that he's going to be miserable soon enough.

Utah finished 12-0 the year before last and played in a BCS game. Then Urban Meyer went to Florida and the team fell to 7-5. Will they be good again or are they back to middle-of-the-pack status?
-- Art Smalley, Huntington Beach, Calif.

It seemed pretty much unavoidable that the Utes would take a step back last season after losing not only Meyer but also his entire offensive staff, No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith and star receivers Paris Warren and Steve Savoy. However, offense wasn't the problem last season, with quarterbacks Brian Johnson and Brett Ratliff both putting up big numbers. The defense, a huge strength in 2004, had too many lapses. The Utes played their best game of the year in the Emerald Bowl, however, stomping Georgia Tech 38-10, with Eric Weddle -- arguably the top cornerback in the country heading into this season -- holding star Jackets receiver Calvin Johnson to two catches for 19 yards.

Another 12-0 season is asking a lot, but I do expect Utah to return to the ranks of the top 25 this season and potentially contend for a BCS berth under the new, more lenient eligibility requirements. Utah is one of the few non-BCS programs I can confidently say has BCS-level talent. That said, it won't be easy getting through the conference season -- defending champ TCU is still loaded, and BYU is coming on strong.

The "lords of political correctness" have actually already got to one of your potential games. The Red River Shootout is now the Red River Rivalry.
-- Alok Vasudev, Austin, Texas

Thanks to the several hundred people who wrote in to point this out. Where was I when that happened? Not in Dallas, obviously.

The refusal by Michigan's athletic department to host night football games is bad business, as it's missing an opportunity to promote Michigan to a much wider audience than its preferred noon Saturday slot. Virginia Tech is a perfect example of a program that has benefited significantly from this exposure. Agree?
-- Michael Leporati, Ridgefield, Conn.

I agree that night games -- particularly weeknight games -- have been tremendously beneficial to upstart programs such as Virginia Tech and Louisville, but do you really think Michigan is hurting for exposure? The Wolverines are on national TV every week. They sell out a 110,000-seat stadium. I'm pretty sure the coaches don't have any trouble getting in the door of most big-time recruits. While there's no question Michigan's program is stuck in the stone ages in a lot of areas (sorry to break it to you, Lloyd, but the Rose Bowl is not your fans' ultimate goal anymore), I don't think refusing to play night games is doing any kind of disservice.

What are the chances of Maryland bouncing back this season? Many of last season's starters are returning on both sides of the ball, and the schedule makes an eight-win season seem realistic. What do you think?
-- Eddie, Salt Lake City

What's up with the guy from Salt Lake asking about Maryland while a guy from California asks about Utah?

I don't know what exactly to make of the Terps. Ralph Friedgen is supposed to be an offensive mastermind, but his initial success there was due largely to tremendous defense, and the past two seasons his offense has been flat-out horrific. Plus, supposedly he's recruiting much better players than the ones who were there during the three straight 10-win seasons, yet they keep going 5-6.

The good news is that Maryland should have a solid running game with Lance Ball running behind a talented line. The bad news is that quarterbacks Sam Hollenbach and Jordan Steffy are still the same big question marks they were two years ago. Personally, I think your eight-win prognosis is a bit optimistic with a schedule that includes both Miami and Florida State as well as trips to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Boston College. If one of the QBs steps up, however, maybe they'll pull off a couple of upsets along the way.

In response to the question about a possible heir to Keith Jackson as the voice of college football, I think you may have overlooked an important person: Kirk Herbstreit. With his new deal with ABC, do you think he could potentially rise up to the likes of Brent Musburger or even Jackson?
-- Matt Schlichting, Orlando

Herbie and I have had our differences in the past (I called him out in print for jumping up and down on the Ohio State sideline at the 2003 Fiesta Bowl; he voiced his displeasure when I made an appearance on his Columbus radio show a year and a half later.) But I'm the first to acknowledge that he's the most reasoned and informed college football analyst on television. I sometimes wonder whether he goes home at night and punches a wall after having to listen to Lee Corso, Mark May and Lou Holtz for 12 hours.

However, Kirk is an analyst; the gentlemen you refer to are play-by-play guys. Invariably, whenever someone talks about the "voice" of a sport or a team, they're referring to the play-by-play guy, be it a Vin Scully, a Jack Buck or a Larry Munson. So while I have no doubt that Kirk's Q-rating will continue to grow on ABC, I'll stick to my original contention that in today's oversaturated TV market, it will be impossible for any one person to create as large a legacy as Jackson did.

Excellent choice for celebrity crush. Pam is a hottie in the hot-girl-next-door mold.
-- Adrian Y., Lancaster, Pa.

Good news, Adrian. She's only a couple hours away from you, in Scranton. Maybe stop by Dunder-Mifflin after work one day and see if she's up for a Chili's run.

Stewart! You couldn't have picked five worse candidates for Mailbag Hottie honors. Granted, I wouldn't kick any of these women out of bed for eating crackers, but they're not even the hottest girls on their respective shows!
-- Toby Cole, Houston

Toby, are you suggesting that the actresses who play Angela or Phyllis are hotter than Jenna? I think a trip to the eye doctor may be in order for you.

Jenna Fischer is married. Shouldn't the love interest be attainable?
-- Mark, Columbus, Ohio

And Pam is engaged, but that didn't stop Jim from initiating a little sneak-attack, did it? Don't worry -- she'll see the light. In fact, there's an extra Journey/Def Leppard ticket with your name on it if you happen to be in the neighborhood, Jenna. Don't worry, I won't make you slow-dance to Faithfully.

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