Posted: Wednesday October 4, 2006 12:27PM; Updated: Wednesday October 4, 2006 6:34PM
It looks like Tucson's love affair with Mike Stoops is coming to an end. Seeing someone like Tyrone Willingham rebuild Washington in a little over a year while Arizona is still stinking it up 2½ years after Stoops took over has Wildcats fans sounding like they did in the Mackovic years. Any chance that Arizona turns it around? Any chance that Mike Stoops keeps his job? -- Mike, Tucson, Ariz.
Coach Stoops, this isn't you, is it? The beginning of his e-mail address does say "bluemikey."
Without question, Arizona has been one of the biggest disappointments so far. After the promise QB Willie Tuitama showed as a freshman and with the recruiting success Stoops has had the past couple years, I really thought this was the season the Wildcats would turn the corner. But no, they're pretty much awful, ranking 86th nationally in total defense and 109th in total offense. I don't think Stoops is in any danger of losing his job before next season -- he did step into a massive rebuilding situation due to the colossal disaster that was the short-lived Mackovic era -- but he definitely needs to make some changes, starting first and foremost with his offense.
It's into Year 3, and the Wildcats are still completely inept offensively, even more so than the past two years. Part of that, of course, is they're missing star tailback Mike Bell and are inexperienced on the line, but much of the blame falls on coordinator Mike Canales' shoulders. Arizona simply has no offensive identity. The defense, despite what the statistics indicate, isn't that bad. 'Zona held high-flying BYU to 13 points and USC to 20. But when your offense is incapable of producing first downs, it's inevitable that your defense is going to wear down and give up big plays. The Wildcats have the talent to still win a few games in the Pac-10, but they have to get some semblance of production from their offense, because you can't count on 16-13 wins in the Pac-10.
In the SEC, only Florida, Georgia and Auburn are still undefeated. Each team still has to play the other two. Which has the best shot at coming out undefeated going into the SEC title game? -- James, Asheville, N.C.
You'd have to say Auburn, if for no other reason than it plays the other two at home. But I'd be highly surprised if anyone emerges from that conference undefeated. The injuries are starting to pile up at Florida. If DeShawn Wynn isn't able to go against LSU this weekend, it could leave the Gators running a one-dimensional offense against the No. 1 defense in the country. As good as Georgia's defense is, there's no way the Dawgs will make it through the season unscathed with that dreadful offense. And while Auburn is a good, sound team, it's certainly not invincible, as evidenced by last week's South Carolina game. It will have its hands full against Florida in two weeks, not to mention the season-ending trip to Tuscaloosa.
To go undefeated in that conference, you need a team like Auburn's two years ago that had no discernible weaknesses whatsoever. I'm not sure you can say that about any of this year's teams.
Your Equilibrium Theory is interesting but fails to explain WHY programs tend to stay the same over time. Is it recruiting? Reputation? Placebo effect? -- Ryan Jaarsma, Grand Rapids, Mich.
Two words: brand loyalty. College football is the one sport that operates like a true free-market economy. There is no salary cap, no draft, no league-wide revenue-sharing to help the bad teams become good. Just as companies like IBM, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, etc., established themselves over time as the most recognized brands in their industries, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, et al., did so in football, to the point where they'll always be attractive to recruits regardless of their year-in, year-out performance, whereas "brands" like North Carolina, Virginia, etc., will always have a harder sell. It makes it easier for those glamour programs to rebuild in a hurry when they have down years, and makes it harder for everyone else to both build and maintain a similarly competitive program.
That's why I have a tremendous amount of admiration for what Louisville has been able to accomplish. Most programs that have been able to "bridge the gap" over the past 10-15 years -- like, say, a Boise State -- have done so by homing in on so-called "diamond in the rough" recruits. Louisville, when it was still a Conference USA school with little to no track record, managed to go out and convince legitimate, BCS-caliber skill players that it could offer the same opportunities as Florida State, Michigan, etc. Granted, it helped that the brightest of those stars -- Brian Brohm, Michael Bush and Mario Urrutia -- came from their own backyard, but still, those guys defied the "name brands" in favor of what is essentially a start-up.
Is that enough economic theory for you? And to think I only took one econ class in college -- and got a C in it.
Mr. Mandel, I was just wondering if your head was filled with human excrement or dog excrement? Thanks. -- Travis, Macon, Ga.
I'd take offense, but if I'm not mistaken, Travis is making reference to a classic Saturday Night Live skit where John Goodman played a referee answering questions from the audience on a talk show. The questions included things like, "Are you totally blind, or just legally blind?" and "Were you watching a different game on a mini-TV during the one you were officiating?" And then, my favorite, "I was just curious -- what's inside your head, seeing as there's no brain? Is it human excrement?" Or maybe I'm just giving the guy too much credit.
Speaking of SNL, I may be the last person in America who still TiVos every episode, which means this reference will be a complete waste of time, but watching the cast introductions during the season premier, I was surprised and elated to find that Lorne Michaels finally got rid of the two unfunniest human beings ever to get an extended run on that show, Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz. The quality of the show instantly improved tenfold. Darrell Hammond, on the other hand, is back for what must be his 27th season. You've got to give the guy credit for realizing his place in life. I'm not going to be a movie star, and no one's going to give me my own sitcom like Tina Fey. I do impressions. I belong on this show until it dies or I die. If only some coaches realized the same thing. Like ...