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Posted: Wednesday October 22, 2008 12:28PM; Updated: Wednesday October 22, 2008 4:42PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Big 12 vs. SEC, Urban's NFL prospects and more (cont.)

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Urban Meyer
Will Florida coach Urban Meyer eventually make the jump to the NFL?
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Stewart Mandel's Mailbag
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Stewart, in years past there was always a hot coaching commodity in college football ready to ascend to the NFL and try the next level. After the debacles of Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino, you never hear about the hot list of college coaches who could soon be leaving for Sundays. Is there a coach out there who could grab the attention of the NFL? Or is the NFL afraid to go back in the water?
-- Brock, Dallas

Well, all the Bill Callahans, Chan Gaileys and Karl Dorrells of the world haven't seemed to stop colleges from hiring NFL coaches (see Sherman, Mike), so I'm sure the NFL will go back to that well at some point. There was a time when I would have thought Bob Stoops would be that guy, but he seems extremely comfortable at Oklahoma. He's been there 10 years now, and I'm not sure he'd be all that coveted at this point, anyway. There's always going to be the Pete Carroll possibility, but I'm not sure that counts since he's already done it twice before.

My leading candidate would be Urban Meyer, for two reasons. For one, he's the hyper-competitive, career-climber sort who would be intrigued by the challenge. But there's a larger reason than that. At some point, whether they like it or not, NFL folks are going to have to succumb in some way to the spread-offense world -- and not just as a gimmick like the recent "Wild Hog" craze. It's a supply and demand thing. With more and more colleges switching from pro-style to spread offenses (like Michigan), there simply aren't going to be enough 6-foot-5 drop-back passers, blocking tight ends and sculpted fullbacks to fill NFL rosters. I think you're even going to see more of a trend toward leaner, more mobile offensive linemen.

It could be a year from now, three years from now, whatever, but that day is going to come, and when it does, NFL teams will inevitably look toward colleges in search of a spread "guru." Meyer obviously fits that bill.

Which team is harder to figure out, suddenly resurgent Virginia or hot and extremely cold Maryland? Furthermore, can you say anything about any ACC team with any kind of certainty? Is the ACC the hardest conference to figure out?
-- Chad, Atlanta

The ACC is indeed the hardest to figure out because nearly all the teams seem so evenly matched. There's only a handful of matchups you could produce between any two teams where one would be more than a touchdown favorite over the other.

I do think some things are starting to clear themselves up, though. Virginia Tech is its usual self: great defense, no offense. Maryland is the best team in the conference when it wants to be and the worst when it's playing anyone it should easily beat. Georgia Tech is the team with the consistent defense and the offense that does just enough to win. Boston College is getting better as the season goes on. Wake Forest is getting worse. Virginia has improved dramatically but won't have quite enough firepower to make a run at the title. North Carolina could have been that team but has suffered too many injuries. Clemson, NC State, Miami and Duke are non-factors but pesky enough to pull off an upset in any given week.

That leaves only Florida State, which remains the conference's great mystery. We've seen signs that the 'Noles could finally be on the verge of living up to their potential. Their defense has been lights out and their offense is getting better. On the other hand, they do have that 12-3 loss to Wake on their résumé and their lone ACC wins have come against Miami and NC State. Note that FSU plays at Maryland in its last conference game of the season. I'm guessing if the 'Noles are 8-2 at that point, the Terps will beat them, but if they're 6-4, Maryland will lose.

Let me just say that I promise not all of us Georgia fans are whiny nut jobs. Some of us recognize that until we win a big game, we'll sit exactly where we deserve to in the polls.
-- Dan Kelly, Monticello, Ga.

I have to give my Georgia readers some major props this week. I admittedly took a few playful jabs at Dawgs fans last week in my rant about premature poll whining. To my pleasant surprise, instead of getting flooded with angry, indignant responses from the Peach State, I got a whole bunch of "apologetic" e-mails just like the one above. Apparently, there are actual, level-headed fans out there, and your submissions are much appreciated.

Now, if Georgia wins at LSU this weekend, I'm sure many of those same people will become poll lobbyists themselves.

Stewart -- Love the mailbag. Regarding the issue of teams running up the score, why is it such a big deal and sore spot in college football (particularly College Station)? The game is 60 minutes long, so why are teams with decent leads supposed to give up?
-- David Ray, Allen, Texas

I'm glad you brought this up, because it's become a personal pet peeve lately. First you heard it after the Florida-Miami game, now after Texas Tech-Texas A&M. I even heard people accusing USC of doing it against Washington State, which is absurd. They let the clock run out at halftime with the ball at the opponent's 12-yard line and threw one pass in the final 34 minutes. What were they supposed to do, take a knee the entire second half?

Why all the belly-aching, people? In a sport where everyone's constantly talking about "toughness" and "pride," doesn't it seem a bit ... for lack of a better word, "wussy," to ask your opponent to take mercy on you at the end? It's not like the losing team stops trying to score once the game's out of hand.

I think the problem here is that somewhere over the years we muddled the true definition of "running up the score." Once upon a time, coaches like Barry Switzer would "hang half a hundred" just because they could, or because they held a grudge against the opposing coach. You don't see too much of that anymore. I suppose what Mike Leach did against Texas A&M could fall into that category, but he's never hid from the fact that he doesn't believe in calling off the dogs, regardless of the opponent. We never got an explanation from Urban Meyer about the end of the Miami game, but it was a rivalry game. What's the fun of rubbing it in your rival's face if you have to stop rubbing it into their face at a certain score? And what does it say about the state of Miami football that their fans have been relegated to whining about the other team scoring too much?

My only gripe is if a team that's got a win in hand starts pulling out flea-flickers and such. That's just showing somebody up. For the most part, however, I can't say I blame coaches for trying to score as many points as possible. Take it from a pollster -- style points do matter. Regrettably, a lot of times voters are going on little more than the final score when they fill out their ballot. They see that a team only won 24-14, not realizing that they were sitting on the one-yard line with a chance to go up 31-14. And it works the other way too. If all you saw was that Texas beat Missouri 56-31, you might assume the 'Horns' defense wasn't that great, when in truth Texas gave up 17 points before the Tigers scored two late TDs against second stringers.

In the Midseason Crystal Ball you predicted that both Utah and Boise State will make a BCS game. Are you delusional or is this wishful thinking (or both)? Only one non-BCS conference team gets an automatic berth, even though multiple teams may be eligible. So either you are "ignorant of the law" or you actually think that one of the bowl committees will pick one of those teams over another BCS team that has a much larger fan base?
-- Nate, Columbus, Ohio

I'm well aware of the rules. I was going with an admittedly far-fetched scenario grounded in two other BCS rules: That the bowls can only select two teams per conference, and that a team has to finish in the top 14 to be eligible for an at-large berth. As you know, there are four at-large spots. In this week's BCS standings, only three BCS conferences -- the Big 12, SEC and Big Ten -- have a second eligible team. There are also three non-BCS teams.

The scenario I envisioned is probably moot now. At the time, Ohio State wasn't looking so hot, and I thought the Buckeyes might lose to both Michigan State and Penn State. But for the sake of explaining my point, let's just assume for a second Ohio State falls out of the final top 14, and that the ACC and Big East champs both move into it. You'd be left with a top 14 that consists of the six conference champs, an SEC and Big 12 at-large team, four surplus SEC and Big 12 teams and, in this scenario, Utah and Boise State. The bowl with the last at-large pick, the Orange, would have no choice but to take the second non-BCS team.

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