A plea to President-Elect Obama, Texas' coaching plan and more
Getting a college football playoff is harder than fixing the economy
Be careful before you pencil Florida into the national championship game
Breaking down the dreadful Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State
Usually, the Mailbag consists solely of your letters to me. This week, I begin with a letter of my own.
Dear President-Elect Obama:
My name is Stewart Mandel, and I am senior writer for SI.com covering the national college football beat. Your recent televised comments stating your intent to "throw [your] weight around" to bring a playoff to college football are of obvious interest to me both as an analyst and a fan of the sport.
I can tell you from the deluge of e-mails I've received over the years as well as interactions with fans in college towns all across the country that you've unquestionably struck a nerve with millions of your constituents. According to various surveys, as many as 70 to 80 percent of college football fans want to see the same thing you do.
That being said, you may be surprised to learn just how complex an issue this seemingly simple idea can be.
I have requested that my publisher send you a copy of my 2007 book, Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy That Reign Over College Football. (Incidentally, if anyone from the Obama staff is reading this, we could sure use your help with an appropriate mailing address.) The first chapter describes in detail the deeply entrenched stalemate that exists among college football's various power-brokers, resulting in the current, admittedly flawed BCS system. It is a situation with which you are presumably all too familiar.
In the book, I compare college football's eternal postseason debate to "... the political stalemates of Capitol Hill. You have your congressmen (the conference commissioners and athletic directors), your senators (university presidents and chancellors), your lobbyists (the bowl games, the smaller-conference schools), and your fundraisers (the television networks), each exercising their respective influence on the decision-making process while at the same time seeking to protect their own best interests."
By the time you're done reading this chapter, you will likely come to the conclusion that solving the current financial crisis or revamping health care will be a walk in the park compared to bringing a playoff to college football. However, should you remain undeterred -- should you decide that "yes we can" make this playoff happen -- I would be happy to offer my services as your "Senior College Football Postseason Advisor."
I've spent the past decade covering this sport, spending countless hours chronicling the various controversies resulting from its postseason model. I have met with and interviewed nearly every one of the aforementioned power-brokers at the heart of this stalemate. To institute a playoff will require convincing all these various people to put their differences aside and "step across the aisle." Should you require assistance facilitating these conversations, again, I'm your man.
Should you wish to discuss this issue further, you can contact me through the box on the right-hand side of this page. (I would contact you myself, but I'm not sure how, what with the whole no-Blackberry thing.) Additionally, I'm sure my Mailbag audience would welcome the opportunity to hear your thoughts on the subject. Name the day, time and place and I'll conduct an interview on their behalf.
Best wishes for a happy and successful start to your presidency.
Let's go ahead and acknowledge that Florida is a great team. That being said, does it surprise you that so many people are chalking up a "W" for the Gators before they even play Alabama? When else have these two met in the SEC title game? Let's see ... there's 1992 (Alabama 28-21) and 1999 (Alabama 34-7). Me thinks the pundits should reserve judgment until AFTER the game.
Stewart, are you worried that you and EVERY other so-called college football expert will look really foolish if Alabama beats Florida in the SEC championship game? The Florida win over Alabama seems to be such a certainty for everyone it is beginning to remind me of the 1993 Sugar Bowl when Miami was absolutely going to destroy the Tide. Care to remember the result then?
As dominant as Florida has been these past six weeks, outscoring their opponents 299-63, I can't help but wonder whether the Gators have contracted the dreaded BCS "kiss of death." You may be familiar with this syndrome. It befalls at least one team almost every year. Recent victims include Ohio State (2006), USC (2005), Oklahoma (2003) and Miami (2002). All four were juggernauts whose aura caused the media to dub them untouchable. So of course, all four eventually lost.
You've also got another longstanding tradition at play here: The allure of offensive-driven teams. With Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Jeff Demps, et al., Florida has one of those jaw-dropping offenses that seem to break a big play every 30 seconds. The Gators have a pretty darn good defense, too, one that contributed as much, if not more, to their 56-6 drubbing of South Carolina last week, but when you think Florida, you think offense. Alabama, by contrast, is a more vanilla, old-school team that's more likely to put up 25 points than 50, but a win's a win -- and the Tide have yet to lose.
I can't say I've taken the time to break down the Xs and Os of a game that's still three weeks away, but I will say this much: If Alabama DT Terrence Cody is healthy, all bets are off. At the time I had to make my initial bowl projections, on Nov. 10, I had just covered the Tide's unimpressive overtime win at LSU. In that game, however, Cody, 'Bama's 6-foot-5, 365-pound freak of nature, spent seemingly half the game jogging to the sideline. He's been nursing a knee injury for the past month and has been limited in his movement. By no coincidence, LSU became the first team to successfully run the ball on the Tide.
It may seem hard to believe, but Cody has the ability to single-handedly blow up even as potent an offense as Florida's. If Tebow doesn't have time to throw, or, for that matter, make one of his zone-read handoffs, suddenly all those fast guys on the perimeter become non-factors. As for how Alabama would score on Florida? Julio Jones, of course.
All of this is very presumptuous and it may well be that Florida is just that good. I'm certainly sticking with a Gators pick for the time being. If 'Bama wins, don't say Curtis and George didn't warn you. If they lose, curse them for neglecting to mention 1993 (Florida 28-13), '94 (Florida 24-23) and '96 (Florida 45-30).