College Football Mailbag (cont.)
One of my favorite features in the offseason is the list of players who seem (or who have) been around for eight years. I nominate Javon Ringer. Wasn't he part of the Michigan State team that beat the Buckeyes in 1998?
I couldn't agree more. First of all, it's been several years since I last played the NCAA Football video game (sorry to disappoint those of you who still do), but the last time I did, for whatever reason, I remember starting a "dynasty" with Michigan State and looked up their freshmen so I could plug in the names. One of them was Ringer. Random memory No. 2: Early in Charlie Weis' first season at Notre Dame, the Spartans beat the Irish 44-41 in overtime, and Ringer had at least one long run. That would have been Brady Quinn's junior year. How long ago does that seem?
As always, feel free to throw out your own candidates for the "eighth-year senior" game. Here's a few to start you out: Pat White, Ohio State tackle Alex Boone, Penn State receiver Derrick Williams, USC linebacker Brian Cushing, Clemson running back James Davis, LSU defensive end Kirston Pittman (who is, in fact, a sixth-year senior), Oregon guard Max Unger and, the logical favorite for captain of the team, Boise State running back Ian Johnson.
Hi Stewart! Just for the record, I am absolutely enamored with your book, Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls. Could not put it down and have it on my office desk at work whenever I feel the need for a quick college football fix! On a more serious note, do you foresee Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen blossoming this year to match all his recruiting hype? Or, do you think if he struggles early behind a suspect offensive line, incoming freshman Dayne Crist may get an earlier-than-expected look?
I assure you the opening to that e-mail had absolutely nothing to do with me picking Christopher's question. Really.
While it's always dangerous to read too much into a spring game, Clausen's performance was certainly encouraging. From what I saw, he looked sharp, confident and far more impressive than at any point last season. Of course, the inherent problem with judging a spring game is you don't know how much of that was him and how much was the guys he was playing against, but his fade pass to Duval Kamara on the game-winning touchdown was undeniably pretty.
It was interesting this spring to hear some of the details finally leak out -- both good and bad -- behind the Irish's offensive debacle last season. It's clear from some of Charlie Weis' comments that Clausen's elbow injury, which the coach so curtly downplayed when the news first leaked out, was far more serious than he let on at the time, and we may never have seen a truly healthy Clausen last season. Meanwhile, comments from the now-departed Demetrius Jones (who transferred to Cincinnati) indicate that Weis would have preferred to anoint his prized recruit sooner but could not because of the injury (and perhaps because, after seeing the Irish's woeful offensive line, he knew whichever QB he played he'd be throwing to the wolves).
I doubt even an improved Clausen will "live up to his recruiting hype" this season, or ever, simply because it was so lofty (much of it inflicted by his own father with that Hall of Fame/limo commitment spectacle) that anything less than a Heisman and/or national title will be seen as disappointing. Quite frankly, both seem pretty far fetched right now. But it's clear this is his team, and assuming he and his teammates (particularly his linemen) show the requisite improvement this fall, I doubt he'll be surrendering the job anytime soon.
Why is Alabama so low in your rankings? Surely you don't think Alabama will lose to Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, AND Auburn. And also, how long do you think it will take Alabama to start contending for conference and national championships again?
As you may recall, the Tide did lose to Louisiana-Monroe last season, so I'm not sure why anyone would consider it preposterous they lose to the far loftier teams you listed above. Quite frankly, it was probably a stretch to include them in the rankings at all coming off a 7-6 season, but if you look at Saban's previous track record, he produced considerable improvement in his second season at LSU in 2001 (from 8-4 to an SEC title) and I expect much the same at Alabama, particularly if several members the Tide's recently signed top-ranked recruiting class can come in and contribute right away.
Alabama is still a long way off from national-title contention, but LSU and Auburn are just vulnerable enough to think that, if the breaks fall their way, the Tide could contend for the SEC West title in the fall. John Parker Wilson and the offense should be pretty darn good, but the defense still looks awfully thin.
I would like to hereby nominate Blake Lively as Mailbag Crush for '08. She's getting more famous but is still "under the radar." More importantly, she's hot.
Nothing would give me more joy than to be able to tie in the Crush to Gossip Girl, the newfound obsession of nearly my entire office. While I get the sense the show is much bigger in New York than the rest of the country (New York Magazine proclaimed it "Best Show Ever" on its cover, yet in the Nielsens it's ranked somewhere in the 100s among network shows), if I know my audience, I'm guessing there are quite a few fellow GG fans out there, who, like me, find the show to be utterly absurd, embarrassing and unintentionally hilarious -- yet can't stop watching.
Unfortunately, none of the admittedly gorgeous women of the show fit the Mailbag Crush mold, Ms. Lively included. In real life (as opposed to the realm of Celebrity fantasy), a "Crush" is someone you can actually envision dating. Employ the "girl next door" cliché, if you must. I'm not deluded enough to envision dating an exotic goddess like Ms. Lively. Meanwhile, Leighton Meester (Blair) and Michelle Trachtenberg (Georgina) play characters so evil it's impossible to love them. And the girl who plays Jenny is 15, so stop right there.
Maybe I should retire the Crush concept altogether and replace it with a new feature this fall: weekly Gossip Girl episode recaps. Yeah, that's right. I've always been envious of the writers at EW who get to do them every week for shows like The Office and Big Love. But mostly, I'd just like to be able to drop right in the middle of a 3,000-word football column a paragraph that reads (stolen from TV.com): "Nate finds out about Blair and Chuck's affair. Everyone else also finds out what happened and Blair's life comes crashing down."