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Posted: Wednesday September 24, 2008 12:03PM; Updated: Wednesday September 24, 2008 2:53PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Rocky times for Rocky Top, mid-majors' assault on polls, more (cont.)

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Jimbo Fisher
It will be difficult for Jimbo Fisher to make a big impact on Florida State until he fully takes over.
AP
Stewart Mandel's Mailbag
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Stewart, isn't it about time that Florida State stops getting the benefit of the doubt? FSU should not be allowed to be ranked until they beat another ranked team or, at the very least, an FBS-level team. Your thoughts on Saturday night's debacle?
-- Joshua B., Deltona, Fla.

Florida State should have stopped getting the benefit of the doubt four years ago. The fact that the 'Noles entered the top 25 last week following a pair of meaningless blowouts over FCS foes absolutely floored me. Not only had the thought never crossed my mind, but I also give props to my main man Kevin Armstrong -- the guy who took over for our once-beloved monkeys -- for holding his ground and keeping FSU at No. 39 until it proved deserving of anything better.

While I know a lot of folks in Tallahassee optimistically believed Bobby Bowden's massive coaching-staff overhaul two years ago would be an instant panacea, realistically, FSU was going to need at least a couple years of improved recruiting -- particularly on the offensive line -- to rebuild. That line is still extremely young and inexperienced, and I'm not sure it would have made a difference which quarterback the 'Noles threw back there last weekend.

But the bigger, more touchy reality is that FSU will never truly change until Bowden steps aside. It's a point I first raised this summer when someone asked why I thought Miami would return to prominence sooner than the 'Noles. As you're seeing now, Randy Shannon has made an unmistakable impact at Miami, which, with the help of just a couple recruiting classes, is showing much more promise than it did during Larry Coker's latter years. Conversely, there's only so much FSU's "head-coach-in-waiting," Jimbo Fisher, can do until he's the unquestioned boss. Right now, if you're a recruit, who would you rather play for -- the program that's forging ahead or the program that's still hanging in limbo?

Stewart, what excuses will the SEC fans come up with when ASU beats Georgia and Tennessee beats Florida?
-- Mark, Denver

I don't know -- I guess we'll have to wait until next year to find out.

I must admit you were right about your forecasting of the West Virginia football demise. I sent you previous e-mails, in essence, stating you would be proven wrong and how much you irritated me. I was wrong and you were right -- unfortunately.
-- Ronald McKenzie, Jr., Charles Town, W.Va.

Normally, I enjoy getting these rare "you were right, I was wrong" e-mails, but not these. I may root for my game predictions to be right, or some preseason sleeper pick to come true, but trust me, I do not "root" for a coach to fail. If anything, I was cringing like the rest of the country watching Bill Stewart's clock-management debacle play out at Colorado last week, which was only magnified by Erin Andrews' description of "mass confusion" on the sideline.

But I can't say I didn't see this coming, which is why I criticized the hiring in the first place. Say what you want about the way Rich Rodriguez handled his departure, the ill will he generated in that state, etc., the fact is, he was a great coach. You don't win 11 games three straight years by accident.

Among the many anti-RichRod e-mails I received over the offseason, one common theme was that "Pat White made RichRod." Anyone who's watched White this season can see that wasn't the case. He's still a phenomenal athlete, and I don't blame him for West Virginia's struggles in the slightest. I blame the coaching staff that decided to try and reinvent what had been one of the nation's most explosive offenses. You watch the Mountaineers now, it's like they're playing in slow motion, and White is the guy caught in the middle. Is he supposed to pass more? Run more? I don't think even the coaches know.

After all Pat White has done for WVU, I hate that his career is going to end like this. I hate even more that you were right about Bill Stewart. My question is, doesn't AD Ed Pastilong deserve some criticism regarding his handling of this situation?
-- Scott, Morgantown, W. Va.

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. That's what I've been trying to tell you guys since January (Scroll to: "But have you ever stopped to consider that your anger is being directed at the wrong party?") Amidst the massive backlash caused by Rodriguez's departure, West Virginia fans got duped into believing the hiring of a career assistant based off one bowl game was in the best interest of the program. As I said then and I'll say again now, it was one of the most short-sighted, irresponsible decisions I've ever seen an administration make.

While it's clear that Gov. Joe Manchin turned himself into the de facto athletic director, the buck ultimately stops with Pastilong, who, in another stroke of genius that was revealed this week, signed off on a six-year contract that requires the school to pay Stewart as much as $4.125 million if it fires him. We're only three games into Stewart's tenure, so it's way too early to even start speculating about such things. The Mountaineers could still produce a decent season, and even if they don't, it would only cause the program more instability to change coaches again so quickly.

But remember that $4 million the school collected from Rodriguez? Might want to put that way for a rainy day.

Why is Charles Scott not getting any recognition/hype for the Heisman? He has put up impressive numbers so far this season, including but not limited to the 132 yards against one of the top run defenses in the nation. That is, by the way, the most yards by an LSU player against Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
-- Brad, Baton Rouge, La.

I got a bunch of e-mails like this one from LSU fans after Saturday's game. Settle down, people. There's no question the guy's off to a great start -- 131.3 yards per game, 8.95 yards per carry -- but a little perspective, please. As of three weeks ago, nobody outside of Baton Rouge knew who Charles Scott was. He ran for 324 yards last year. And nobody outside of Baton Rouge saw his first two games against Appalachian State and North Texas. There hasn't exactly been a lot of time since Saturday's game to start ringing the Heisman bell -- and even so, the recognition seems to be coming. Scott chalked in at seventh in Gene Menez's Heisman Watch this week, and I had him fifth on the weekly ballot I turn in for HeismanPundit.com.

It's a long season, and LSU will be playing in enough high-profile games for Scott to showcase himself. His two biggest obstacles will be the fact there's another, more established Heisman running back candidate in his own conference (Knowshon Moreno), and the fact that thus far much of the Heisman focus seems to be on the slew of Big 12 quarterbacks -- Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, et. al. -- putting up video-game numbers.

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