College Football Mailbag (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday June 20, 2007 10:50AM; Updated: Wednesday June 20, 2007 12:33PM
When you picked up your copy of Athlon last week did you not see Cal at No. 11? Why is it that whenever the Pac-10 comes up everyone is talking about USC and UCLA? Berkeley is returning a veteran offense that puts up 40 points most games and is replacing Marshawn Lynch with a guy (Justin Forsett) who is No. 1 in the country for average yards per carry (6.39)?
Remember last week when we discussed the carryover effect of Oklahoma's 55-19 game a few years ago and how it affected the perception of that program? Well, I can't speak for other voters, but Cal's humiliating defeat at Tennessee last year had much the same effect for me. This is a program that, for several years, I think many of us slightly overrated in anticipation of a breakthrough that seemed to be coming following Jeff Tedford's impressive turnaround job. Much of this was based on two games -- the upset win over USC in 2003 and the near-upset of the Trojans in '04. But the fact is, in nearly every big showcase game since then, the Bears have fallen flat, from the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas Tech to the past two USC games to that Tennessee debacle. Beating Texas A&M in the bowl game last year was nice, but I didn't have that high an opinion of that A&M team to begin with.
So what I'm saying is, I'm taking a little more cautious approach to Cal these days. They'll certainly be in my preseason Top 25, but I'm not ready to throw the Bears in the national-title mix. The good news is, they have a chance to change my opinion very quickly with their rematch against the Vols opening weekend.
When you look at the talent John Blake brought to Oklahoma while the head coach and the same for Butch Davis at Miami, I wonder, what do you think they can do together at a non-traditional football power like North Carolina?
Well the obvious answer is, you're going to see the Tar Heels start recruiting at a level like you've never seen. Davis and Blake (who recruited most of Oklahoma's 2000 national title roster, served as Bill Callahan's top recruiter at Nebraska and is now Davis' recruiting coordinator) already demonstrated that last February when they managed to lure the nation's top defensive tackle, Marvin Austin, to Chapel Hill.
But I do also think that a coach's recruiting prowess can only take him so far. At some point, the limitations of a school's tradition (lack thereof) do supersede. Just look at Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. He's raised the Gamecocks' recruiting profile, without question, even signing a top-six class (according to Rivals.com) last year, but I wouldn't expect South Carolina to recruit at the same level as Spurrier's former school, Florida, on a yearly basis. Similarly, renowned recruiter Ron Zook wowed the football world by luring guys like Arrelious Benn to previously woeful Illinois, but I don't expect the Illini to become one of the game's recruiting powers. The realistic goal is that Davis will begin signing top-20 classes on an annual basis at UNC.
By the way, a random nugget pulled from UNC's Web site: Davis was Blake's high school biology teacher in the late 1970s.
With Tim Tebow taking over in Gainesville and underachievers at FSU (Drew Weatherford/Xavier Lee) and Miami (Kyle Wright), wouldn't you say that USF's Matt Grothe is the best starting quarterback in the Sunshine State?
As of right now? Absolutely. Grothe is a big-time talent who threw for 2,576 yards and ran for another 622 to win Big East rookie of the year honors last season. He pretty much was the entire USF offense. He needs to cut down on his interceptions (14 in 2006), but he was just a freshman starter last season.
While I'd take Grothe over any QB from FSU or Miami (though I do think Lee could take things to another level under Jimbo Fisher), I've seen enough of Tebow to know he's the real deal. Yes, he can pass. He plays in an offense perfectly suited for him and you can tell he has those intangibles you look for in a winning quarterback. The only question is whether he can handle the preposterous expectations that have already been placed on him in Gainesville.
Which is your favorite rivalry game trophy? The Fremont Cannon (Nevada-UNLV) is pretty cool, but I vote for Paul Bunyan's Axe (Wisconsin-Minnesota).
Both of those are unquestionably cool, but for me, it's not even a question -- the Floyd of Rosedale (Minnesota-Iowa). There's just something so uniquely collegiate about two football teams playing for the rights to a bronzed pig. It almost seems like something two rival fraternities would use as the stakes in a flag-football game. Not to mention ... it's a bronzed pig.
2 of 3