College football mailbag (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday July 11, 2007 12:14PM; Updated: Wednesday July 11, 2007 2:48PM
Does Arkansas have to win at least 10 games before Darren McFadden has a shot at winning the Heisman?
Not necessarily. While the Heisman has become more and more intertwined with the national title race in the BCS era, there are several other factors at play. Lately, it seems like the deciding factor in the Heisman race is putting up huge performances in big, nationally televised games. Troy Smith did it. Reggie Bush did it. Matt Leinart did it. In a 12-game season, McFadden is not going to run for 150 yards and three touchdowns every game, but if the 45-yard day comes against Ole Miss in a game no one outside the South sees, it's probably not going to hurt him that much. What will hurt him is if Auburn or Tennessee shuts him down in a game of critical importance.
McFadden goes in as the preseason favorite, since he finished second last year, so he'll get the benefit of the doubt at least a couple of times. And if the Razorbacks continue to run that "Wildcat" formation for him, it's only going to help. I do think Arkansas needs to at least stay in the SEC title hunt for most of the season. They could lose a few games and McFadden could still win it if voters feel like he wasn't the reason. (Remember, Arkansas lost its last two regular-season games last year but McFadden still placed high.) If the Razorbacks sink to 7-5, however, chances are D-Mac will have stumbled himself at some point.
Any chance of an upset in the Appalachian State-Michigan game Sept. 1 at the Big House? The Mountaineers have an explosive offense and are just plain fun to watch.
I never say never to anything in college football -- but this one comes pretty close. Yes, it's a rare and somewhat intriguing scenario for a big-name, top-10 team to be opening its season against the defending I-AA (yes, I still use that designation) national champion. And yes, we've seen no shortage of I-AA over I-A upsets in recent years. But it's one thing for an upper-echelon I-AA team to knock off a bad I-A team (like New Hampshire over Northwestern or Montana State over Colorado), but when you're talking about a team like Michigan, the disparity in size and depth is just way too much. The most realistic scenario is that the Mountaineers could hang with the Wolverines for about a half, but eventually all that Mike Hart pounding would wear them down.
How about an update on the Ty Willingham rebuilding job at the University of Washington? I think the early season home game against Ohio State should be a big test. This seems like a good intersectional game that has been flying somewhat under the radar.
I think that Ohio State game has definite upset potential because it's early in the season, when it's likely the Buckeyes' untested offense will still be a work in progress. That said, Washington's offense will have to be much improved to have any success against OSU's defense. Remember, the Huskies got off to a pretty good start last year, winning four of their first five (including UCLA and at Arizona) and nearly knocking off USC before QB Isaiah Stanback went down and the season went south. Stanback was the heart and soul of that offense and a talented enough athlete to become a Cowboys fourth-round pick even after the injury.
This will be a critical year for Willingham, and much will depend on the performance of his new quarterback, redshirt freshman Jake Locker, the Huskies' savior-in-waiting the past two years. Willingham has recruited well enough and the defense should be dependable enough for Washington to be a bowl team if Locker comes through. The biggest problem, however, is going to be that murderous schedule. The Huskies could definitely use an upset against either Boise State (Sept. 8) or Ohio State (Sept. 15) early to get the momentum going. And they definitely can't afford to lose at Syracuse the first week.
Speaking of which ...
Simple question: Will Syracuse ever be good again?
This has been coming up a lot around here lately -- from our Syracuse summer intern, Mallory Rubin. Actually, I think Mallory has thrown in the towel. When I showed her this question, her response was, "Don't count on it."
I'm slightly more optimistic, which is why my simple answer to your simple question is, yes. The more difficult questions, however, are when will that be, and will Robinson still be the coach when it happens? You know I don't like to judge a coach too soon, but I can't say Robinson has offered much reason for optimism so far. Mostly what he's done is install an offense his quarterbacks weren't suited for, generate little-to-no recruiting buzz and lose his one great hope, sophomore running back Delone Carter, five months before the season even started. I understand why Syracuse hired Daryl Gross as its AD (he's the guy who endorsed Carroll at USC), I understand Gross's long-term vision, but I just don't see Robinson as a good fit. Syracuse is a uniquely Northeast institution and someone with Northeast ties would have an easier time creating enthusiasm for that program.
Is there a minimum quantity of your book we can purchase that will guarantee being published in the Mailbag?
Just mentioning it gives you a definite leg up.