College Football Mailbag (cont.)
Mr. Mandel, how can you not name Fresno State as a possible BCS buster this year? They have a great core returning on both sides of the ball and have winnable BCS games against Wisconsin, Rutgers and UCLA. The games against Rutgers and Wisconsin should get the Dogs a lot of love from the East Coast voters if they can pull them out.
Because Fresno State is the Clemson of mid-majors: A big tease. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Pat Hill fan, but how many times have we seen this movie before? The Bulldogs go out and slay a giant or two (Colorado and Wisconsin in 2001; Kansas State in '04; a near-stunner against USC in '05), jump up into the polls -- then lay an egg in conference play. In fact, they have not won a WAC title since 1999. So you'll have to excuse me if I'm not jumping on the bandwagon.
In fairness, the Bulldogs do have the makings of a pretty solid team: They went 9-4 last season, finished with a late-season rout of Kansas State and a bowl win over Georgia Tech and return 17 starters, including QB Tom Brandstater. But let's be realistic here. If you had to pick one WAC team to not only win the conference but crash the BCS, are you going to go with notorious choke artist Fresno, or Boise State, five-time league champion prior to Hawaii's crown last season. Boise plays tough non-conference games at Oregon and Southern Miss but gets both the Bulldogs and Warriors at home.
Hi Stewart, I have been a fan your mailbag since I developed interest in football. What do you think about USC's tailback situation? Last year, Emmanuel Moody left before the season. Do you see such a thing happening again this year given that any of their tailbacks could be a starter for another team?
I will be very interested to see how this plays out. The stable has cleared out a bit since last season with not only Moody's transfer to Florida but the graduation of Chauncey Washington, Hershel Dennis and Desmond Reed. However, if you figure the most they can reasonably expect to rotate (barring injuries) is three -- about what LSU has done the past several seasons -- there's going to be at least one unhappy camper. And that's without including freshmen Marc Tyler and Broderick Green, both of whom redshirted last season with injuries and are unlikely to see the field anytime soon (at least on offense).
When healthy, Stafon Johnson showed last season he can be a No. 1 tailback. And I fully expect Joe McKnight to have a breakout sophomore season, provided he keeps his grades up (no sure thing), a la Reggie Bush in 2004. You could see that in the Rose Bowl. C.J. Gable, who took a medical redshirt last season, never wowed me as a freshman starter in 2006, but the coaches love him, and in a spring practice I attended he looked much more explosive than before. And then you've got Allen Bradford, who, with the glut of tailbacks, would seem liable to move to defense (he came to USC as a safety) but kept making long runs throughout the spring.
My best guess is that McKnight and Gable will see lots of carries. If Johnson plays like he did against Nebraska and Illinois, he'll also figure into the mix, but I could also see him fading to the back of the pack, especially if Bradford starts getting more action. Either Johnson or Bradford would be the best bets to depart if they get lost in the shuffle, but I'm guessing that would not come until after the season.
After several years of riding high because of West Virginia's win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, will we finally see the Big East fade back to ignominy and stop getting so much undue respect from the media? It's ridiculous to see any of their teams in the top 10 when their best team would finish in the middle of the pack at best in any of the other five BCS conferences.
Right, because the Big East's champion looked so outclassed against a top-five, Big 12 champion last bowl season. That makes three straight BCS wins for the league, by the way -- or two more than the ACC has in 10 tries.
The better question is ... when am I finally going to stop getting questions like this? And will it happen before or after either A) the NCAA announces the "findings" of its Reggie Bush investigation or B) the Big Ten Network is made available in my apartment.
Stay tuned ... possibly for several more years.
It's been hailed as "the definitive guide to the current state of college football." Order Stewart Mandel's book Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football.