Readers' irritating poll obsession, Florida's question mark and more
What's the difference between Tommy Bowden and Houston Nutt?
Clearing up some confusion in the Mailbag Crush department
Addressing the ridiculously early panic in Ann Arbor
I'm afraid I must begin this week's column with a bit of a soapbox rant.
I do my best each week to make the Mailbag as enlightening and entertaining as possible. To do so, however, I rely on you, the readers, to provide me with a plethora of creative, thought-provoking questions from which to choose.
Lately, however, the vast majority of you seem to be consumed by one subject and one subject only: The polls. You want to know why Team A is rated higher than Team B, why the media is infatuated with Team C, and why there's a vast conspiracy to keep Team D down. Texas and Oklahoma played a classic game last weekend, and I barely received a single e-mail about the game. I did, however, receive dozens about the two teams' subsequent poll positions.
It's not like fans' obsession with their teams' rankings is a new development, but over the past couple of years, I've noticed an annoying shift in tone. The overwhelming majority of these e-mails come from fans of teams that have already sustained damning losses but are obsessed with repositioning their team for a return to the top. And since they have no legs of their own to stand on, they focus their attention on the misdeeds of others.
Half my inbox can be boiled down to: "Can't you see that my team screwed up less than that team?"
I've long been a proponent of parity, but suddenly I miss the good ol' days when, once your team lost, you shut your yapper about the national title and just hoped for a good bowl berth, knowing full well that two teams were probably going to finish undefeated. Now, in the era of one- and two-loss champions, we've become consumed with what is essentially a pointless debate. Ninety percent of the teams that have already suffered a loss are going to suffer another, and the final polls on Dec. 7 will barely resemble the polls of Oct. 15.
So as of today, I'm instituting a new policy. I will no longer be answering any questions about individual teams' poll status, at least until a future date when it actually matters. As a parting gift, however, I will briefly sum up what I've learned from poring through your e-mails (besides the fact that Tylenol is not nearly strong enough).
That almost every single team in the top 15 is overrated. That's right. All the teams the pollsters have anointed as being good are, quite obviously, overrated. Almost no one, however, ever bothers to suggest who should be rated in their place. Apparently we should just put Texas-Alabama (or Alabama-Texas) 1-2 and leave spots three through 15 blank.
That USC is criminally overrated. Here's what I find so amusing about this. Last year the Trojans lost to Stanford at home, yet by the end of the season, the majority of the public believed they should have played for the national championship. This year, the Trojans lose to Oregon State on the road ... and now they're terrible.
That Georgia's preseason No. 1 ranking placed a gigantic chip on its fans' shoulders. I get far more incredulous e-mails from Dawgs fans than anyone else. News flash, guys: You haven't beaten anybody yet. You got crushed by the one good team you played. Beat Vanderbilt, LSU and Florida, and I'm sure your team will be properly rewarded.
That I'm really, really sick of this subject. Can you tell?
Stewart: Granted, two games does not a season make, but it looks like Florida's offense is starting to click. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey appear to be exactly the type of backs that thrive in Urban Meyer's spread offense, and he has shown over the last two games that he is committed to getting them the ball (10-plus carries for each in the last two games). With LSU and Vanderbilt exposed as maybe a touch overhyped, and Alabama and Georgia looking shaky recently, do you think Florida has what it takes to run the table, or do you see them stumbling down the stretch?
It does seem that Meyer and Dan Mullen have orchestrated some nice reinvention of their offense since the Ole Miss loss. Tim Tebow looked more comfortable than he has all season against LSU, and we finally saw some of these other "weapons" we've been hearing about. It also helped that the Gators cut down on the silly penalties that had been plaguing them all season. I know LSU has its own issues, but 51-21 is 51-21.
However, the question I'll continue to have about this team is, what will they do the next time they find themselves in a situation like they did against Ole Miss: caught in the throes of a tight game and needing someone to grind out a couple tough yards between the tackles. It could come against Georgia. It could come against Florida State. And it could certainly come against Alabama if the two were to meet in Atlanta.
As of now, Tebow remains the only viable option in those situations. Maybe that's all Florida needs if the defense now has to account for not only Percy Harvin but also Rainey and Demps. Don't get me wrong, I have much more confidence in Florida than I did a week ago, but I would hesitate to say they can run the table.