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College Football Mailbag (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday October 11, 2006 12:11PM; Updated: Wednesday October 11, 2006 4:16PM
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West Virginia running back Steve Slaton currently ranks third in the country with 153.6 rushing yards per game.
West Virginia running back Steve Slaton currently ranks third in the country with 153.6 rushing yards per game.

On to your questions.

Who are the two yahoos that keep voting West Virginia No. 1 over Ohio State? My guess is they are the beat writers for the West Virginia football team, but c'mon -- West Virginia, with no wins over ranked opponents, vs. Ohio State, of three wins vs. ranked opponents, including Texas and Iowa? Aren't there repercussions from the AP for being an idiot?
-- Jeff Scheid, Cleveland

First of all, I would like to point out that in any given week, I get more "Why is such-and-such team ranked ahead of/behind so-and-so team?" questions than any other subject. The reason I rarely answer them is because I don't know. I'll happily explain to you why I voted a certain way on my AP ballot, but I'm not sure how I'm supposed to tap into the minds of 64 other AP pollsters, 63 coaches or 113 Harris voters. I'm fielding this one solely to provide a public service.

Though not widely publicized, the AP does publish every voter's ballot each week on its Web site. There you will find that the two West Virginia backers actually reside in California. While I don't necessarily agree with them, I don't think they're committing any real crime, either. Why? Because, the last time I checked, the AP is an opinion poll, and if that's their opinion, so be it. It's not these guys' jobs to crunch numbers and analyze schedules -- that's why they have computer ratings. Besides, for all we know, these two guys are right and the 63 of us voting for Ohio State are wrong. You don't know unless they play each other.

Stewart, after the N.C. State loss, do you think that Bobby Bowden will be on just as hot a seat as Larry Coker is in Miami?
-- Kelly, Perry Hall, Md.

Not in the slightest. When you're the winningest coach in college football history, you're single-handedly responsible for your school becoming a national power in the first place and there's a statue of you outside your team's stadium, only you get to decide when it's time for a new coach. And unlike when Penn State was going 3-9 a couple of years back and people were calling for Joe Paterno's head, it's not like Florida State is in complete shambles. The 'Noles will still win at least eight or nine games this year.

However, I will say this: No team in the country plays beneath its talent level more than Florida State -- and that reflects directly on the coaches. The main reason Coker is on the hot seat is that he and his staff haven't recruited as well as they should have the past few years, and it shows when you look out on that field and see almost no playmakers. The 'Noles had four first-round draft picks last year. They have two tailbacks who were considered the top player at that position in the entire country when they signed. They have Greg Carr, Buster Davis, Myron Rolle, et al., and they go 8-5. Bowden should be allowed to stay as long as he pleases -- but he needs to take a cue from his pal Paterno and shake up his offensive staff this winter.

Why is Cal the only top 10 team that won't be on TV this weekend when it plays Washington State?
-- Chris, Lincoln, Calif.

When I first saw this, I assumed Chris was complaining that Cal wasn't on national TV. But no. Believe it or not, in an age of 700 cable channels, many of which are foaming at the mouth to show even the most obscure live sporting event, a college football game between two Pac-10 schools, one of them 5-1 and the other 4-2, will have not a single television camera present. And for that, Bears and Cougars fans can thank their fine conference leaders.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: As a sports entity, the Pac-10 is right up there with the Big Ten, SEC and everyone else. As businesses, however, the Big Ten and SEC are Wal-Mart and Target; the Pac-10 is the mom-and-pop shop down the street. The Pac-10's bizarre loyalty to Fox Sports Net over ESPN (supposedly because of the better time slots) kills the conference's exposure. This coming weekend, you'll be able to watch as many as five Big Ten games from anywhere in the country. You'll be able to watch three SEC games. You'll even be able to watch Louisiana Monroe at Troy. Depending on your satellite package, you could theoretically watch 28 college football games. But you will not be able to watch the No. 10 team in the country play an important conference contest.

What would the Mailbag be without a little controversy? It appears that Jim Halpert has a new love interest with Karen (Rashida Jones) at the Stamford branch. What are we going to do if she replaces Pam?! Forget debating the second-best team in college football ... WHO SHOULD JIM CHOOSE?
-- Brian, Columbus, Ohio

Well, he can't go wrong either way. You know I love Pam, but Lord almighty, Rashida Jones is so hot she actually caused to me watch Boston Public for a little while. That said, you've hit on the most disappointing aspect of The Office so far this season, which is, for a show that thrives on unpredictability, you could see the Pam-Jim-Karen love angle developing from the moment Rashida's character first spoke, and you can already tell how it's going to play out -- Jim and Karen will start dating, Pam will get jealous, something will happen that causes the two to enter each others' lives again (an office merger?) and Jim will be torn. There, I just wrote next spring's cliffhanger.

On a more positive Office note, Steve Carrell's character has never been funnier than he has these first three episodes. The way he handled Dwight's coup attempt was absolutely priceless. And while I may be alone on this one, I'm thrilled that Creed is getting more face time. I think we're going to eventually find out he has a body in his trunk.


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