Possibility of a USC-OU title game, Oregon's QB curse and more (cont.)
North Carolina didn't just win Thursday, it looked great doing it. Is Rutgers down, or are the Tar Heels legit? Do they have a chance to end up in Tampa?
Obviously, Rutgers has issues, and they go far beyond losing Ray Rice. That 2006 team that won 11 games had a top-five defense. I'll never forget the way they suffocated Brian Brohm in the second half of that memorable win over Louisville. But last season and this season haven't been the same. The defense has greatly deteriorated. I see a lot of parallels between Greg Schiano's program and what's happened at Iowa the past few years. Both Schiano and Kirk Ferentz built their programs on hard-working, hidden gems until they attained enough success that they could attract actual blue-chip recruits. But sometimes those blue-chippers don't come in with the same attitude and work ethic and you actually wind up having less success with them.
All that being said, North Carolina's performance was extremely impressive. Butch Davis has himself a solid QB in T.J. Yates and a lot of weapons on offense. Their defense is probably a little further behind in terms of overall talent, but the good news is they won't face a whole lot of prolific offenses in the ACC. Do they have a chance to win their division? We'll find out Saturday. If the Tar Heels beat Virginia Tech, they'll get a leg up on what might be their biggest challenger. While Miami showed promise against Florida, I think they're still a year away from contending, and Georgia Tech's offense is still clearly a work in progress. Virginia is terrible. That leaves only one other possible threat: David Cutcliffe's 2-1 Duke Blue Devils.
If the Nov. 29 UNC-Duke game winds up being for a division title, SI might as well retire its weekly Sign of the Apocalypse feature -- because it's here.
Is it time to start looking at Penn State as the Big Ten favorite? This current team looks a lot like the 2005 team that ended number No. 3 in the polls.
The Nittany Lions have looked even better than that -- they've looked as dominant as the 1994 Kerry Collins/Ki-Jana Carter squad. The problem is, they've done it against one of the weakest nonconference schedules in the country, so it's tough to say how good they really are. We probably won't get a better sense until their Big Ten opener against Illinois in two weeks.
So while I certainly have my eyes on Penn State, the favorite at this point has to be Wisconsin. The Badgers showed tremendous mettle in going across the country in winning in a hostile atmosphere at Fresno State (and overcoming a horrendous replay reversal in the process). Bret Bielema's team seems to have much the same formula as Barry Alvarez's Rose Bowl teams: A relentless, if unflashy running game and a dominant defense. They also have the benefit of playing both Ohio State and Penn State in Madison (on consecutive weekends, no less).
Speaking of the Big Ten, this seems as good a time as any to remind everybody that we're down to the final week of the Mailbag's Conference Showdown to Benefit DonorsChoose.org. The conference of Woody and Bo currently sits atop the standings and will be officially crowned in next week's Mailbag unless fans of the SEC, Big 12 or others step up to the plate. Now is the time to not only help your favorite league win the competition but benefit public-school classrooms in your region.
Hey Stewart: There has been a lot of talk here in Orange Nation about who will be Greg Robinson's successor when (not if) he is shown the door. There have been many names bandied about, from Buffalo's Turner Gill to former SU coach Dick MacPherson to actor Dennis Quaid (who plays legendary SU coach Ben Schwartzwalder in The Express). In your opinion, who would be the coach best-equipped to turn around the train wreck that is Orange football?
I've heard a rumor that '80s hair metal band Cinderella was actually singing about Paul Pasqualoni when they penned their hit song Don't Know What You Got ('Til It's Gone). While Pasqualoni may have lacked panache, and while his program did start to stagnate during his latter years, he had one very important thing going for him: He was revered within the East Coast high-school football scene. I don't think AD Daryl Gross understood the importance of that dynamic when he rolled into town with his vision of turning Syracuse into "USC East." You can get kids from around the country to come to Los Angeles; if you want to win at Syracuse, you've got to land the best East Coast kids.
It will be imperative that whoever Syracuse hires has strong Northeast roots, which is why it would seem to me the Orange's ideal coach is sitting right in their own conference: Connecticut's Randy Edsall. He's done wonders at UConn by mining much the same recruiting area as Syracuse. Edsall was rumored to be in the mix four years ago, but Gross apparently never seriously considered him. I would put together a nice, lucrative offer to sway him this time around. If not, it might be time to look at Gill or a top-flight assistant at a Boston College or Rutgers.
Stewart, please post this:
I don't believe for a second that was written by an actual Ohio State fan.
Incompetent officiating may have made all the difference in the Ohio State-USC game. Pac-10 officials should not have officiated this game anymore than Big Ten officials, and if you had to have Pac-10 refs, how about using ones who know what a hold is and have the guts to make an out of bounds call when it is right there in front of them. Take at least 14 points away from USC for bad officiating and add at least 14 to OSU and you have at least a 28-point swing in the direction of OSU.
Now that's more like it.