College football Mailbag (cont.)
Can Joe Cox pull off a D.J. Shockley-type senior year for Georgia?
First of all, congratulations to "Meat." I noticed this was his first tweet, sent the day he signed up -- and it proved Mailbag. Dreams really do come true.
Now, onto the question. In 2005, Shockley, a fifth-year senior, led the Bulldogs to a surprise SEC championship after spending four years as David Greene's backup. Cox is also a fifth-year senior who spent the past three seasons backing up No. 1 draft pick Matthew Stafford. While I don't necessarily see an SEC title in Cox's future -- that would require knocking off Florida -- I would not be surprised at all if Cox and Georgia surprise some people this fall.
For one thing, Mark Richt's past two BCS bowl teams (2005 and '07) both started the season outside the top 10, and it appears this Georgia squad will do so, too. That's good news, because the Dawgs don't seem to fare as well when expectations are high (see last year). Secondly, the last time we saw Cox in meaningful action as a redshirt freshman in '06, he came in and led an impressive comeback against Colorado, throwing two touchdown passes. And finally, he'll have a good supporting cast -- no Knowshon Moreno, but an experienced offensive line, star receiver A.J. Green and the underrated Michael Moore (not the filmmaker; the guy who had six catches for 97 yards in the Capital One Bowl).
I think we can say with reasonable certainty the SEC will place two teams in the BCS, and that one of those teams will be Florida. But your guess is as good as mine as to which of four teams -- Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU or Georgia -- will be the other.
When talking about Kansas State in your July 22nd Mailbag, you asked the following: "Will they become a perennial top 10 program again?" My question: Were they ever?
The Wildcats finished in the top 10 six out of eight years from 1995-2002 (and then won the Big 12 in '03). To put that in perspective, Nebraska has currently gone seven years without a single top 10 finish. Pretty astonishing on both fronts.
I know you usually write about the powerhouses of the Big 12, but I thought I could sneak in a question on Colorado. I had high hopes with the hiring of Dan Hawkins, but have you seen any improvement? The father/son combo from Boise State hasn't really panned out the way I expected.
I had high hopes for Hawkins, too, but I knew he would need time to rebuild. Negative publicity from a litany of alleged sexual assaults by players and subsequent recruiting restrictions in 2004 decimated that program and left a fairly empty cupboard when Hawkins arrived in December 2005. But this is now Year 4, and Hawkins knows there's no more room for excuses. He went so far as to publicly predict 10 wins this season, a risky and unusual move (though one in keeping with Hawkins' personality).
On the surface, it would appear the Buffs regressed last season, slipping from an Independence Bowl berth the previous year to a 5-7 record last fall. However, there was more to it than that. Colorado showed its potential with an early season upset of West Virginia, but a rash of injuries (10 season-enders) plagued it the rest of the way. The Buffs were relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores by the end, yet still managed to give fans a tease in the season finale at Nebraska, holding a 33-31 lead until the final two minutes, when Huskers kicker Alex Henery nailed a 57-yard field goal to steal the victory.
So it's hard to say whether Colorado has "improved" to this point, but I see no reason why the Buffs can't make a breakthrough this year and perhaps even contend for a title in the wide-open Big 12 North. Sophomore running back Darrell Scott had a big spring game and seems poised for a breakout. The biggest issue may well be the father/son combo of which you speak. Quarterback Cody had a rough sophomore season, and if he struggles out of the gate again this year, there'll be problems.
Should the Pac-10 reduce its conference schedule by one game?
That's a tough one. On the one hand, I find it admirable the conference goes its own way and settles its champion on the field, thus avoiding controversies like the Oklahoma/Texas Big 12 situation last year. On the other hand, the ninth game is probably hurting the league more than it helps. As Pac-10 aficionado Ted Miller recently pointed out, the conference guarantees itself five extra losses than other leagues, thus making it that much harder to produce a BCS champion, or even a second BCS team (which the league hasn't done since 2002).
From a purely on-field standpoint, it would probably behoove the Pac-10 to take the SEC approach and replace those 10 extra conference games with 10 games against I-AA foes. Voters don't seem to put much emphasis on nonconference scheduling; if you lose, you drop, as much of the conference did last September. However, there's one challenge most Pac-10 teams face that their SEC counterparts don't: filling their stadiums. LSU fans will turn out whether the Tigers are facing Alabama or Arkansas State, but that's not the case at Arizona State, UCLA or Stanford. Those teams need as many meaningful home games as possible.
Mailbag Crush suggestion ... I mean, demand. Not sure if you're an Entourage fan, but Emmanuelle Chriqui is the New Orleans Mailbag Crush selection. You can have your own, but put us down for this simplistic beauty.
I was a huge Entourage fan -- until this season. Am I the only one who's found it borderline unwatchable? Turtle is suddenly a kept man (and a whiny one at that), Johnny Drama has had no storylines built around him (which is inexcusable), the Ari-Lloyd "challenge" should, in theory, be fantastic but thus far has provided no amusement and E ... well, E was always unbearable, so that hasn't changed.
As for the lovely Ms. Chriqui, I find it interesting that I didn't make a single Crush mention last week, yet still got flooded with nominees. Unfortunately, they're mostly all the same names I've been getting for years -- her, Jill Wagner (from Wipeout), Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), Kate Mara (various), et. al.
C'mon people, you're going to have to give me someone original (and under the radar) if you want to see our little tradition continue. Or -- I could keep the Lost updates coming. Your call.
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