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Program pecking order (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday August 8, 2007 1:02PM; Updated: Wednesday August 8, 2007 2:21PM
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I understand that Colt Brennan is a great quarterback. I also understand that June Jones has that offense primed to put a bazillion yards up this season. I am also familiar with the fact that, based on where they are located, not everyone gets to catch the Warriors' games. That being said, how good would Hawaii be against the BCS-conference teams? I know that Boise State beat Oklahoma, but is Hawaii really cut from the same cloth?
--Buddy, Tyler, Texas

Well first of all, Hawaii's offense under Jones has consistently been much more dominant on the island than the mainland. So its chances of knocking off an Oklahoma would probably depend greatly on where the game is being played. However, it's not like we don't have any prior reference from which to assess Brennan and the Warriors. Hawaii closed last season with three straight games (all at home) against BCS-conference bowl teams, beating 8-5 Purdue (42-35) and 7-6 Arizona State (41-24) while losing to a 10-4 Oregon State team (35-32) that had previously beaten USC. In those games, Brennan threw for 1,394 yards (an average of 464 per game), 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. Not too shabby.

So, to answer your question, I think Hawaii enters this season right where it should be: on the low end of the top 25. I think the Warriors are perfectly capable of beating any of the teams ranked below them or maybe even right above them, but I've seen no evidence yet they'd stack up with a top-10 type team. At some point, you do have to play some defense.

Stewart, Mike Bellotti's Oregon Ducks have been very inconsistent, and often fall apart down the stretch. Why is that? And which team should we expect to see this year: another BCS-caliber squad like 2005, or the underperformers of 2004 and 2006. If it's the latter, what does it mean for Bellotti's tenure?
--Bill, Seattle

It's that cushy locker room! Those guys get so pampered they wind up taking the second half of the season off.

Actually, I'm as puzzled as you by the recent pattern. The Ducks were very consistent and had some great success early in Bellotti's tenure, most notably the 2001 season when they finished No. 2 in the country with Joey Harrington, but the past five years have been mostly mediocre (with the exception of that one '05 season). And last year's Las Vegas Bowl blowout against BYU was just plain embarrassing. I can think of at least one explanation: the five-year period in question began as soon as then-offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford left for Cal, and things didn't heat up again until Bellotti brought in Crowton (now at LSU) two years ago. But that doesn't explain last year, when Crowton was still there and yet his quarterbacks struggled all season.

Bellotti still has plenty of support there, considering he's taken the program to greater heights than it ever previously enjoyed, so I think it would take more than just another 7-6 season for the administration to turn on him. However, the reality is there may be only one person whose opinion actually matters: Phil Knight. It's no secret the Nike czar is not only the Ducks' primary benefactor but also a bona fide super-fan (when Oregon reached the Elite Eight in St. Louis last March, Knight and his entourage were right behind me in the post-game press conferences). If at some point Knight feels it's time for a change, I'm sure he'll make his opinion known -- and I've got to believe the school would listen.

Stewart: With the recent lackluster seasons of Miami and FSU, I would have thought some of the "other" Florida I-A schools would have benefited, but FAU and FIU are terrible, UCF is mediocre and USF is just OK. Are the other Florida schools other than the big three doomed to seventh-place Sun Belt finishes forever?
--Chris, Sunrise, Fla.

That's certainly a valid observation; however, for one thing, I don't think you're giving USF enough credit -- that's a program that didn't exist a decade ago and now sits on the cusp of the top 25. I also think UCF will see its profile raise here soon what with its new stadium and the presence of George O'Leary. As for FAU and FIU, the problem is exactly what you pointed out -- the Sun Belt. Yes, there's more than enough talent in Florida to go around -- but you've got to be pretty low on the totem pole if your only option is the Sun Belt.

In actuality, the schools that have benefited most from FSU and Miami's struggles -- or perhaps have contributed to them -- aren't actually in the state of Florida. More schools than ever are making a concerted effort to recruit Florida hard, most notably Rutgers, which has marketed itself there as if it was part of the state. Florida talent has also dispersed in large numbers to such unlikely destinations as Louisville, Minnesota and N.C. State. The University of Florida, both under Ron Zook and Urban Meyer, has done a nice job of protecting its home turf -- hence why they just won a national championship. I'm sure that's already priority No. 1 amongst Miami and FSU's new staffs.

I think you have to stick to one Mailbag crush. Having more than one devalues the title. It's like having more than one national champion. Umm ...
--Rich Swank, Orlando, Fla.

I think multiple Celebrity Crushes would cheapen the "award." Here is Jordana, who's got to be feeling special to be selected, and not two months pass before you want to move on to a newer model? Shame on you, Stewart.
--David, Birmingham, Ala.

Are you crazy? I just On Demanded (if that's actually a verb) five episodes of Jordana. She's a perfect crush! Plus, you can't propose some convoluted multiple crush scheme if you are regretting your first choice. Players have to sit out a year if they transfer. Do you think you're better than them?
--Nick, San Diego

OK, OK -- don't worry, I'm not doing it. I must say, in all the time I've been writing the Mailbag, I'm not sure I've written anything the audience so universally rejected as the multiple-Crush idea. What can I say? I got greedy -- at least until this week's Big Love episode. After watching Bill have to lobby his own wives to gain enough votes for approval to buy a company that he already owned, I decided his gig isn't that cushy after all.

I apologize profusely to Jordana for even thinking of straying. And I apologize to the talented young actress who was given false hope of becoming the third Crush (and whose identity will now forever remain a mystery).

I just wanted to let you know that not everyone in Bulldawg Nation is insane, and we really do appreciate how lucky we are to have Mark Richt as a head coach. You are also correct about UGA being more of a regional power, but I think (and sincerely hope) that AD Damon Evans is taking steps to create a more national schedule and presence.

Also, while I am an SEC homer, I live on the West Coast and appreciate Pac-10 football. Honest.
--Robert, Portland, Ore.

Robert: It sounds to me like you're a rational, grounded, open-minded SEC fan.

Please ... see a doctor.

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