Posted: Wednesday August 16, 2006 1:39PM; Updated: Monday August 28, 2006 3:04PM
What do you think Arizona State's chances are of winning the Pac-10? Is having two returning 2,000-yard passers (Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter) a good thing, or could that be a quarterback controversy? -- Brady, Denver
I don't think the QB situation will be a distraction. While it may seem like a waste to keep either guy on the sideline for an entire season (both have used their redshirt years), coach Dirk Koetter has made it abundantly clear that there's going to be a clear starter and backup. And because both guys are proven commodities, I would hope (perhaps naively) that the ASU faithful won't be calling for the chosen one's head at the first sign of trouble.
That said, the Sun Devils are never going to win a Pac-10 title until they develop some semblance of a defense. It seems like every year we hear that this is the season their defense is finally going to rise to respectability, and every year it fails to materialize (ASU ranked 114th out of 117 teams in total defense last season).
In some ways, ASU's pass-happy offense actually works to its detriment in that the offense scores so quickly, the defense has to go right back out there, often in that scorching desert heat. (I was at the USC game last year where they played admirably in the first half, then wilted in the second.) The belief in Tempe is that transfers Tranell Morant (Florida), Michael Marquardt (BYU) and Loren Howard (Northwestern) will transform the D-line from deplorable to dominant. Maybe so, but is it enough to overtake USC/Cal/Oregon? I remain skeptical.
On his list of most embarrassing college football moments, Tim Layden mentioned the SMU death penalty in 1987. In it, he quoted current coach Phil Bennett as saying, "It's never going to be done again." Do you think that the NCAA would ever use this punishment again? If so, how badly would a program have to flaunt the rules to bring the NCAA to do it? -- Dennis Vann, Memphis
No, I don't think there will ever be another death penalty in major college football, and it's not just because of the ultra-severe damage it did to SMU. The entire culture of compliance has changed. Back then, schools like SMU would not only blatantly cheat, but when the NCAA came sniffing, they'd also try to be as evasive as possible. Nowadays, at the first sign of even the slightest NCAA infraction, schools bend over backward to cooperate with investigators in an effort to show that they're on top of the situation and to help minimize potential punishment.
If ever there was a case that could have merited the death penalty, it was the Alabama/Albert Means scandal, because of the staggering amount of money involved and because the school, like SMU, was a "repeat violator" over a short period of time. In handing out the verdict, however, NCAA officials cited 'Bama's cooperation as one the main reason for its "leniency."
Is Ron Prince of Kansas State losing control of the program? Three quarterbacks (Allen Webb, Kevin Lopina and Allan Evridge) have asked for their release since Prince was hired. -- Josh Peterson, Omaha
No, I just think they could see that their days were numbered, because Prince is going to build his program around vaunted freshman Josh Freeman, who most believe will be starting by some point this season. Prince has yet to decide between Freeman and senior Dylan Meier, the only two healthy scholarship QBs remaining on the roster, but both were considerably ahead of Evridge when he decided to leave last week.
I can see your logic in not including Texas on your "contenders" list, but do you think there will ever be a freshman quarterback who can lead his team to a national title? What do you think it would take for something like that to happen? -- Matthew Grover, Austin
Well, Michael Vick came awfully close in 1999, but he happened to be one of the most gifted athletes to ever play the sport. So, to answer your question, that's what it would take -- someone whose physical talents are so astronomical as to compensate for the significant disadvantages of having so little experience. While most of us remember Vick for what he did with his feet that season, he also led the nation in pass efficiency as a redshirt freshman despite being extremely raw and playing largely off instinct.
Many of you also asked who was the last freshman quarterback to accomplish the feat. That would be Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway, a true freshman, in 1985. Nothing against Holieway, who was a phenomenal athlete, but he was a wishbone quarterback who didn't have to read the complex pass defenses of today. There's a reason you see guys like Vince Young and Troy Smith struggle early on, then explode in their third or fourth year -- it takes that much repetition to reach the point where such stuff comes naturally.
How do you justify/reconcile having Georgia Tech on your list of contenders while concurrently having Chan Gailey on your worst coaching list? Seems bad coaching is good enough for at least one loss. -- Alex, Atlanta
For the most part, I've given up trying to explain the Wide Open concept, but this one's certainly a valid question. If there was one thing I wish we'd done a better job of explaining, it's that I did my best not to interject my own opinions into choosing those teams. As objectively as possible, we applied the criteria mentioned in the article -- experienced quarterback, strong offensive and defensive lines, favorable schedule -- to every team that finished at least 7-5 last season, and Georgia Tech happened to be one of the teams that met those minimum standards.
Now, as for my personal opinion, do I think a Chan Gailey-coached team can win a national championship, even with the aforementioned ingredients in place? Not in a million, bijillion years. Though I have been wrong before.
When "pretender" Penn State wins the national championship this year, I want you to suggest to never open your mouth ever again? -- D-Will, State College, Pa.
This e-mail sounds familiar. Oh, that's right, I received others just like it in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003....