Readers' irritating poll obsession, Florida's question and more (cont.)
After reading multiple sportswriters' opinions about Tommy Bowden's departure, the general opinion seems that it was the right choice. The overwhelming opinion about Houston Nutt's departure was that it was the wrong choice. Bowden went 72-45 (.615) at Clemson, and Nutt went 75-48 (.610) at Arkansas. They have a similar history of flopping against inferior competition but winning just enough big games to remain employed. I'm interested about why you think the double standard exists?
Now that is a good question.
I'd say it comes down to timing and expectations. Most people outside of Arkansas were fairly baffled why the vultures came down so hard on Nutt right when he was coming off a 10-win season and SEC Coach of the Year award in 2006. His 2007 team did not play up to that level, despite the presence of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, and Nutt had no choice but to beat his employer to the punch and flee for Ole Miss. The question was, why? Why such a short leash when he'd so recently enjoyed success? His fall from grace had more to do with the Mitch Mustain/Gus Malzahn soap opera than it did with going 8-4.
Now, contrast that with Bowden. His team did not win two division titles, as Nutt did, despite the fact he played in a less competitive conference. While Bowden's teams consistently underachieved, I would argue that Nutt's teams overachieved more often than underachieved. When this year's team imploded out of the gate, so did Bowden's reputation.
Don't get me wrong, Nutt is no Vince Lombardi. Like Bowden, his team had a ceiling. The difference is, he had two division titles and a two-time Heisman runner-up to show for it. In his final season, he beat the eventual national champion, LSU. The highlight of Bowden's 10-year tenure was a Peach Bowl win over Tennessee. You tell me which did more for his school.
I agree with you and other analysts that the Texas-Oklahoma game was great, but I have a quick question -- why was the UT-OU game such a classic while the Louisville-West Virginia shootout from a few years ago was considered an abomination at the time? Is it just a matter of the names on the jerseys? Both games were highly entertaining affairs in which top-shelf offenses overwhelmed the opposing defenses.
I assume the game Jake is referring to was Louisville's 44-34, Thursday-night win over West Virginia two years ago in which both teams entered the game undefeated fairly late in the season. While I wouldn't call that one a classic -- if you remember, the outcome was decided in part by two Steve Slaton fumbles -- it was definitely exciting and, at least at the time, validated those teams' high rankings. (Both wound up losing later in the season.) But he's right -- the Big East was a source of major skepticism at the time, and afterward, fans of the major conferences spun the game as more of an indictment of the teams' defenses than the merits of their offenses. Never mind that Pat White, Slaton and Brian Brohm were all on the field that night.
So why was the Texas-OU game viewed differently? Because of exactly what Jake said -- those were two tradition-rich programs with long-established credibility. They play in a respected conference. They've both won national titles this decade. While I have heard some inevitable grumbling from SEC fans about the quality of the teams' defenses, even most of them would have to admit that A) We watched two indisputably talented quarterbacks in that game; and B) While there a quite a few SEC teams whose defenses I'd take over the Longhorns' or Sooners', that conference isn't exactly brimming with offensive firepower this season.
It will be interesting to see what happens if one of these powerful Big 12 offenses does end up in the national title game against a team with a menacing defense, someone like Alabama, USC or Penn State. While you might not believe it if you looked at the box score, there was some pretty good defense played in that OU-Texas game, particularly by Texas. I've always said that one of the most important hallmarks of a potential national champion is a dominant defensive line, and the 'Horns have one. They completely shut down the Sooners' running game and they pressured Sam Bradford into some sacks and interceptions without having to blitz.
I would love to have a job like yours where I could use my position to court hot prospects like Abbie Boudreau. All you have to do is name them a "Crush" and the next thing we see is a picture of you with your arm around them. Good luck with Abbie!
Easy there, Mike. Abbie received a lot of love in the inbox this week (which mercifully broke up the monotony of all those whiney Georgia e-mails), but let me make it absolutely clear: She is not the Celebrity Crush. I brought her up only in specific reference to a reader's question about the stock-market crisis (and, of course, because she's smoking hot). Lest there be any confusion, the Mailbag remains 100 percent loyal to the lovely Kaitlin Olson.
Many of you have been asking for a Crush update lately, and I promise it's coming. Kaitlin has been a little busy lately -- sadly, it involved her getting married -- but we will be catching up soon.
I see you ranked Oklahoma State No. 7 in this week's AP poll. How is it you can be rank them this high when, in your own words: "there's the inescapable reality that their head coach, Mike Gundy, is a complete clown" and, "Gundy is certifiably nuts. He's like the Ed Orgeron of the Big 12. ... What possible evidence is there to suggest that one of his teams should ever be taken seriously?"
Man -- sometimes I hate the Web. It's always causing people to look up old things you wrote and holding you accountable for them. It's the worst thing that ever happened to windbag sportswriters like myself. Darn you, Al Gore.
Oklahoma State's win over Missouri was extremely impressive. I still think Gundy is a bit of a whack job -- but now I'm starting to see a bit of genius in it. First of all, it's clear he's a heck of an offensive mind. While the Big 12 is brimming with high-scoring offenses, Oklahoma State's is the only one that's managed to maintain a consistent, powerful running attack dating to Gundy's days as Les Miles' offensive coordinator. And you can credit that to Gundy's mad-scientist approach.
The most memorable image of the Missouri game came when the Cowboys were on defense and the cameras showed Gundy tucked away behind the bench plotting his next offensive drive. He's like a more hyper Mike Leach. Or Steve Spurrier without the one-liners. I'd love to give the guy credit for the Cowboys' dramatically improved defense, but as Gundy himself admitted after the game: "I don't see any defensive plays." At least he had the good sense to hire coordinator Tim Beckman, who's coached for both Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer.
I'm excited to see how the rest of the Cowboys' season plays out, most notably their trip to Austin in two weeks. I'm certainly taking them, and their coach, a lot more seriously these days.