Three teams that could crash, Kirk Ferentz's struggles and much more
As you know, it's debate season. Which means it's Saturday Night Live parody season. Which means I've been laughing harder than I have in a very long time (except, of course, whenever, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia comes on).
Therefore, I'm treating this week's Mailbag like a debate. In my attempt to impersonate a candidate running for office, I will be taking your questions and promptly manipulating them in order to provide answers that make me look smarter.
No more empty rhetoric! (Whatever that means.)
The season is finally getting going. The Big Ten and SEC are into their tough games, the elite of the Big 12 look strong, though they're only through their typical powder-puff early schedule. Which three teams do you think are the most overrated and which three are the most underrated?
Since I'm one of the people who "rates" the teams, I'm not going to sit here and play the "blame game" -- calling out some of my fellow voters who may have a team ranked higher (ahem, Pittsburgh) than I do. In general, I believe the current rankings are an accurate reflection of where the teams stand as of today.
But when some of those teams sitting pretty today inevitably pull a Fannie or Freddie, let it be known that Stewart Mandel was here to warn you.
Three that could crash
1) Alabama. If the Tide play like they did against Clemson and Georgia every week, they're going to win the national championship. If, however, they continue to sprinkle in Tulane- and Kentucky-like letdowns, it's going to bite them eventually. And while Nick Saban has upgraded the Tide's talent level considerably, even he admits their depth is still lacking, which makes me worry about 'Bama possibly wearing down late in the season like it did last year.
2) Georgia. The Dawgs have two decent road wins (South Carolina and Arizona State) and their only loss was to the current No. 2 team. They belong where they are at the bottom of the top 10. But if Georgia's offensive and defensive lines don't get better in a hurry, that brutal schedule we've been hearing about since April could bury the Dawgs. Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno can only do so much if no one's blocking for them.
3) Kansas. If you read Tuesday's Power Rankings, you know I've already jumped off the Jayhawks' bandwagon. Todd Reesing is a great quarterback, but this year's Kansas defense is nowhere near the same level as last year's. They've been shredded by the only two legit QBs they've faced, USF's Matt Grothe and Iowa State's Austen Arnaud. That doesn't bode well with Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell, Colt McCoy and Chase Daniel still to come.
Three that could rise
1) Florida State. The 'Noles have shown the past two weeks that their defense is pretty darn good (unless the other team calls a halfback pass or a tackle-eligible play) and, more notably, they've finally found a running game. If they keep it up and string together some W's, you'll see them back in the top 25 soon enough.
2) Cincinnati. The Bearcats keep losing quarterbacks yet keep winning. They're the only team so far that's been able to do any damage against Oklahoma's defense. In the largely unimpressive Big East, this makes them as viable a contender, if not more so, than current ranked teams USF and Pitt.
3) Arizona. The Wildcats don't deserve serious poll consideration yet because they lost to New Mexico and beat up on a bunch of cellar-dwellers, yet something tells me Mike Stoops' team could wind up finishing as high as second in the Pac-10. Willie Tuitama is playing like a four-year QB should and the defense seems to be coming around.