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Posted: Wednesday May 7, 2008 11:24AM; Updated: Wednesday May 7, 2008 12:29PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >

College football mailbag (cont.)

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LSU's defenisve line should be as stout as the '07 unit with the likes of end Tyson Jackson.
LSU's defenisve line should be as stout as the '07 unit with the likes of end Tyson Jackson.
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Stewart Mandel's Mailbag
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.

With Ryan Perrilloux out at LSU, how have your spring rankings changed? Surely you are not keeping LSU in the Top 10.
-- Jason, Atlanta

It's funny how everyone seems to think LSU is going to plummet in the rankings because of Perrilloux's dismissal. Even The Advocate in Baton Rouge wrote: "You have to figure the Tigers will start well outside the top 10 ..."

Take another look at that list, and tell me: Which 10 teams would you put ahead of LSU?

I'll give you six: Georgia, Ohio State, USC, Missouri, Oklahoma and Florida. But then who? Auburn? The Tigers have their own quarterback issues. Texas Tech? I love Michael Crabtree, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable placing a perennial 9-4 team ahead of the defending national champs. So who else? Wisconsin? Clemson? Tennessee? Kansas? By all means, give it a shot.

While quarterback play is certainly crucial to a team's success, it's not the only factor I weigh when looking at a team in the preseason. In fact, two equally important components in my book are the offensive and defensive lines, and LSU happens to be stacked on both sides. The quarterback situation may cause LSU to struggle early, but barring a disaster, I'm guessing the Tigers will be back in the top 10 when all is said and done.

Stewart: I'm of the belief that college football benefits from the presence of a perennial powerhouse to root for/against. This role has been filled recently by USC and, to some degree, Oklahoma and LSU. Do you see any team asserting itself in the next few years and filling the role?
-- Marc P., Somerville, Mass.

I'm pretty sure that team already exists -- and it's The Ohio State University.

In nearly a decade covering this sport, I've never seen such universal animosity toward a program (Notre Dame notwithstanding) than what currently surrounds the Buckeyes. Based on some of the e-mails I receive, you would think Jim Tressel has been caravanning around the country egging houses.

It's pretty interesting when you think about it. Normally, people root against the teams that win a lot; in this case, the ill will has been generated entirely by the Buckeyes having lost in consecutive national championship games.

The good news is, this should all be resolved fairly early this season. As mentioned earlier, Ohio State plays at USC the third week of the season. If they win, no one will be able to accuse the Buckeyes of "backing into" the title game this time. (By the way, what's with the short-term memory, people? With the amount of complaints I receive about Ohio State's schedule you would never guess they played Texas as recently as 2006.) If the Buckeyes get crushed again, I give you my word as a pollster they will quietly disappear into the night.

Ohio State should now be permanently banned from the top five. If not that, at least keep them out of the top two. They DO NOT belong there.
-- Kevin Flagg, Alpharetta, Ga.

See what I mean?

Is there going to be a Mailbag Crush this year? Please say yes.
-- Ben, Indianapolis

Hi, Stewart. Last season's proposition to have two Mailbag Crushes was out of bounds because you had already picked Jordana, but I think another year of Ms. Spiro would be great. She gets it. What about you? Any thought to team-up J&J as proposed last year, or could there be a completely new crush on the way?
-- Chip Lee, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

True story: I was standing on the sideline at a USC spring practice last month when one of the spectators recognized me, approached me and struck up a conversation. It started out Trojans-related, when all of a sudden, he says: "You know, I didn't agree with your choice for the Mailbag Girl at first but I've definitely come around."

Clearly, the Mailbag Crush has taken on a life of its own. Maybe I'll start soliciting sponsors. Personally, I would love nothing more than another year of Jordana. While she hasn't catapulted to the same kind of fame and fortune as Jenna Fischer did shortly after her coronation (I'm still awaiting my finder's fee), she bought into the concept from Day 1 and has been nothing but cool throughout.

But I know that's not how it works. I think we'd have a full-on mutiny if I didn't pass the torch to a new, fetching femme for 2008, so, as of this moment, the floor is officially open for nominations. You know the main criteria: Under the radar.

We all have our fleeting crushes. I myself have two right now -- Iron Man's Pepper Potts (not so much Gwyneth Paltrow, per se, as her actual character) and, in the guilty pleasure department, Sarah from the new season of Real World (What can I say? She's a fellow journalist) -- but those will probably pass by next week. The actual Mailbag Crush has to stand the test of time. Go to work.

I see you leave out the University of Michigan in your spring rankings. Even with the new coach, the new system and a question mark at QB, you don't see them as a top 25 team?
-- Aaron Wolfgang, Ft. Jackson, S.C.

Isn't that like saying, "Even with the ongoing mortgage crisis, plunging stock market and $4-a-gallon gas, you don't see the economy doing well?"

If they haven't already, I would strongly advise all Michigan fans to significantly lower their usual expectation level this coming season. I saw it for myself this spring, and I've talked to fellow writers who visited Ann Arbor as well. All of us came away with the same impression that it's going to be pretty ugly for the Wolverines in Rich Rodriguez's first season. (Rodriguez has insinuated as much himself.) They have no quarterback, no offensive linemen, no experienced receivers, and because it's a completely new system, none of them have any idea what they're doing out there.

Fortunately Michigan has enough talent on defense to avoid a Notre Dame-level meltdown, but a 6-6 year is a very real possibility. These things are often inevitable whenever there's a coaching change, and that's why I'd advise Michigan followers to lower their immediate expectations. Take heart in the fact that Jim Tressel went 7-5 his first season in Columbus (though he did beat Michigan), Pete Carroll went 6-6 his first season at USC ... and Rodriguez went 3-8 his first season at West Virginia. All three won at least five more games the following year.

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