College Football Mailbag (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday November 7, 2007 12:08PM; Updated: Wednesday November 7, 2007 3:42PM
76 points! This is ridiculous. Put on your thinking cap and tell me who the next coach of Nebraska is.
The two most popular names in Lincoln right now are Turner Gill and Bo Pelini, both because of their coaching accomplishments (Gill is orchestrating an impressive turnaround in his second year at Buffalo; Pelini produces highly regarded defenses annually at LSU) and, just as importantly, because they "know" Nebraska (Gill was a former star quarterback and assistant there; Pelini was a highly successful defensive coordinator for one season under Frank Solich).
After such a negative experience with complete outsider Callahan, it's understandable why Nebraskans would clamor for one of their own this time. But with all due respect to Gill and Pelini -- neither of whom has been a head coach at the highest level -- quite frankly, Nebraska can do better. If I were Tom Osborne ... well, I'd be in the Hall of Fame, but that's another story ... I'd hire the best coach for the job, regardless of Nebraska ties. My choice: Cincinnati's Brian Kelly. He's an experienced head coach who's won everywhere he's been (national titles at Grand Valley State, a MAC title at Central Michigan, now leading a Big East title contender at Cincinnati), and his preferred style of offense -- the spread -- would be the most logical way to transition away from Callahan's disastrous West Coast experiment while running a system that fits the personnel on hand.
I don't think Nebraska needs to return to the days of the belly-option to be competitive; the spread is a sort of modern-day triple option in the way it can neutralize a more talented opponent, while the athletes Callahan already recruited at running back and receiver would benefit from the scheme greatly. In the meantime, of course, it's painfully evident that whoever the coach is needs to do some serious recruiting on the other side of the ball.
Recently, Heisman voters have been criticized for what turned out to be poor choices in retrospect (Jason White, Eric Crouch, etc.). Darren McFadden is pretty much guaranteed to be viewed favorably by history (much like Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders, Reggie Bush, etc.). While I have no doubt that Dennis Dixon is a tremendous player, I think it's safe to say that there is a little more uncertainty surrounding his football legacy. Do you think voters will take this into account at all or instead continue to repeat history's mistakes by riding the wave of the flavor of the month?
Clarke: Either you've read chapter three of Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls, or you and I share the same football wavelength, because you've pretty much hit on the entire thesis of my theory behind "Heisman busts." For the most part, voters are making perfectly legitimate choices at the time; it's just that in today's age, a football player is not truly considered a "star" unless he succeeds at the highest level, and a lot of recent Heisman winners, including the two you mentioned, were great college players whose abilities did not necessarily translate to the next level (i.e., Crouch was an option quarterback, White had no healthy knees left, etc.).
That said, you're stepping into dangerous territory to suggest Heisman voters should factor pro potential into their choice. That's not at all what the award stands for. Like you said, it's pretty obvious McFadden is a rare talent who could very well have an Adrian Peterson-like impact in the NFL as soon as next season. With all due respect to Matt Leinart, I felt at the time that Peterson should have won the award in 2004 (and voted as such). The guy ran for nearly 2,000 yards as a true freshman. (It amuses me to no end, incidentally, that so many NFL types seem so surprised by Peterson's success. For the 2,700th time -- do you people not watch college football?) But Leinart was a more traditional candidate, and certainly highly deserving. It's not like that was a no-brainer decision either way. And right now, it's looking like this year's Heisman vote could be even more vexing.
If McFadden finishes strong -- particularly if he puts up big numbers in Arkansas' big remaining games against Tennessee and LSU -- it's going to be awfully hard to deny him. But what if, more realistically, McFadden puts up good-but-not-overwhelming numbers, and what if the Razorbacks lose both those games, leaving them a 7-5 team? And what if, at the same time, Dixon keeps bamboozling opposing defenses and leads Oregon to the national title game? Or Florida works its way back to the SEC title game behind more Superman-like work days from Tim Tebow? Those two would be every bit as deserving, if not more so, than McFadden, whether or not either plays a single down in the NFL. It's going to be an awfully tough choice. I'm going to make an effort to remain 100 percent open-minded to not only those three, but plenty of others (Chase Daniel, Mike Hart, possibly even James Laurinaitis) right up until the ballot is due.
Ohio State's last game is on Nov. 17. In order to reach the BCS title game, LSU will have to win the SEC championship game on Dec. 1. Oregon's last game is Dec 1. Is that an advantage or disadvantage for Ohio State in your eyes?
It's not an issue for the Buckeyes because they're already No. 1, and, barring something truly unusual, they're not going to fall from No. 1 to No. 3 without losing a game. It would be more of a problem if, like Michigan last year, Ohio State ended its regular season at No. 2 or lower. Then the Buckeyes would risk falling victim to the "out of sight, out of mind" dilemma that ultimately helped first USC, then Florida surpass the idle Wolverines over the final two weeks last season.
I do think it would be in the Big Ten's best interest (and I know officials discussed this over the offseason) to at least extend its regular season another week. For one thing, theirs are the only teams in the country that have to play 12 straight weeks without a bye, and, with the increasing importance being placed on that last, "Championship Saturday" due to the BCS implications, it would certainly behoove potential candidates from that conference to remain part of the discussion for as long as possible.