What stood out in the '08 regular season, bowl criteria and more (cont.)
Will you go on record as stating that you will vote for Texas over Oklahoma in the AP poll if both teams win their bowl games, regardless of margin of victory?
Why on earth would I do that?
Look, I made my point at the time that I thought Texas deserved to play in the Big 12 title game, for several reasons that I'm not going to bother rehashing. And I kept the Longhorns above the Sooners on my final AP ballot because I'm not overly swayed by how many meaningless, fourth-quarter touchdowns Oklahoma cares to tack on its opponents.
But that ship has officially sailed. The Sooners are playing in the national-championship game. They have the opportunity to beat a Florida team that I personally believe to be the most complete team in the country (and therefore have ranked No. 1). Unfortunately for Texas, the best it can do is go out and beat an Ohio State team that ... USC and Penn State beat, too. It's unfortunate for Texas, but at the same time, it's not like Oklahoma is an undeserving national-title team. If the Sooners manage to beat the Gators, I can't see any reason why I wouldn't vote them No. 1.
Stewart, you're crazy. The Clemson/Nebraska Gator Bowl matchup will be one of television's highest-rated football games of the bowl season.
I have no doubt that it will -- in Nebraska and South Carolina.
Stewart, what are your thoughts on the Rose Bowl? Do you agree with your colleague Austin Murphy, who thinks: "We know what's going to happen ... After hearing for the better part of a month that an anti-climax awaits them; how vulnerable they are to an emotional let-down, the Trojans will take the 65-inch Liquid Crystal Display TV that is Penn State's Spread HD offense, and they will stomp and grind it into the Bermuda grass of the Rose Bowl until there is nothing left but pixels?"
Forget the football aspect for a second. Austin is a good friend and, for my money, the most colorful college football writer there is. Whether or not you agree with his premise, that "Liquid Crystal Display" line is solid gold.
I agree with Austin to some extent in that I do think USC's superior athleticism will, once again, shine through against a talented but ultimately overmatched Big Ten opponent. However, I don't necessarily think it will be the blowout most people expect.
What Austin wrote about Penn State's offense versus USC's defense is probably pretty accurate. The Nittany Lions' spread attack is successful in large part because of its speed at the skill positions, but that speed gets negated pretty quickly when you're going against linebackers such as Rey Maualuga and safeties like Taylor Mays. It could be a long day for Daryll Clark.
However, it might not be the easiest day for USC's offense, either. The Trojans have been largely unimpressive on that side of the ball to begin with, and Penn State's defense is pretty darn good. You've seen them shut down Jacquizz Rodgers and Beanie Wells. Shonn Greene got his 117 yards, but they were pretty hard earned. The Nittany Lions are fully capable of taking away the Trojans' rushing game as well; however, I do think Mark Sanchez and his receivers -- including multi-threat Joe McKnight -- will make enough big plays to win.
What do you think of the Washington hire of Steve Sarkisian? I think they could have done better and I haven't been too impressed with him since he took over the offense at USC.
There's no reason to think Sarkisian won't turn out to be a decent head coach -- but Washington certainly could have done better. I think the hire reinforced what many of us have perceived for some time, which is that Washington -- once a premier program nationally -- has basically relegated itself to second-tier status. The Huskies could have hired Mike Leach, but they either weren't willing to or couldn't afford to pay him market value. They could have made a more serious run at Gary Pinkel, but again, not enough money. And the fact that Pat Hill was even a finalist speaks volumes to the salary range they were looking at.
Sarkisian is a guy you bring in to get the program back in the right direction, hopefully get the Huskies back into bowl games and win seven or eight games a year. But just because he worked for Pete Carroll does not make him the next Carroll. Washington won't be returning to the Don James days anytime soon.
I just finished watching the Hokies knock off the Eagles for the ACC Championship. There could not have been more than 20,000 people in the stands. Given the geography of the conference, when do you think the ACC will go to a home field (for the higher seeded team) for their championship? While I'm sure the conference makes a bundle from sponsors, do ticket sales mean nothing? Furthermore, isn't it an embarrassment for the conference to have so few people attending their biggest game?
The actual attendance was 27,360, of which the two schools combined to sell 5,000. Yeah -- I'd say that's embarrassing.
From Day 1, I thought the ACC title game was a terrible idea. The SEC Championship Game is such a smashing success because it makes sense for that conference. All 12 schools have rabid fans, the game is played in a central, easy-to-get-to location and it's become akin to the Super Bowl in that region. The Big 12 Championship Game is a bit more hit-and-miss attendance-wise, but it still does pretty well in large part because at least one of the teams is often playing for a spot in the national championship game.
The ACC Championship Game doesn't work because the ACC, quite frankly, is not a football conference. That's not a reflection of the quality of play. As I've written before, the ACC, top-to-bottom, was arguably a tougher conference this season than the SEC but for lack of an elite team. It's just that most of the programs don't have SEC-like followings, and three of the ones that do -- Florida State, Clemson and Miami -- haven't been contenders lately.
It's great that Boston College has become such a competitive program, but the reality is, the Eagles are never going to send 20,000 fans to Tampa. The same holds true for many of the league's schools, particularly if the game is played so far away and if there's no national championship at stake. Logically, it would make sense to move the game to one of the team's campuses, but then the ACC would basically be admitting it's on the same level as Conference USA. So I'd say either scrap the thing, or move it to a more centralized location like Charlotte.
Which team do you feel was a bigger disappointment this season, Georgia or Ohio State? Also, why is OSU still getting no respect? The Buckeyes lost only to No. 1 USC with no Beanie Wells, and No. 3 Penn State?
Georgia was the bigger disappointment. Ohio State still earned a conference co-championship and BCS at-large berth. Georgia was the preseason No. 1 team, a team with legitimate national-championship aspirations, and not only wound up 9-3 but got crushed in its two biggest games (Florida and Alabama) and suffered the indignity of seeing its seven-game winning streak against Georgia Tech end.
Injuries along the offensive and defensive lines played a major factor, but at the end of the day, the Bulldogs wasted a golden opportunity that might not come around again anytime soon once Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno take their considerable talents to the NFL.
As for why the Buckeyes aren't getting more respect, it probably has to do with the fact their biggest win of the season was against Michigan State.
Stewart -- The Fiesta Bowl: a preview of next year's national championship game?
Only if Tim Tebow decides to turn pro and Beanie Wells doesn't.
The Mailbag, as always, is going on a three-week hiatus, because, let's be honest, I'm not expecting a deluge of questions next week about the St. Petersburg Bowl. (Though I would be curious to hear from any satisfied magicJack customers.)
I'll be back right before New Year's. Feel free to submit your questions now; just make sure to stop first and ask yourself whether they'll still be relevant come Dec. 30.
Until then ... Happy Holidays!
Stewart Mandel's book Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football, is now available in paperback.