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Posted: Wednesday August 19, 2009 12:39PM; Updated: Wednesday August 19, 2009 4:37PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Injury bug won't stop ACC, more mail (cont.)

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Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin headlines the Mailbag's annual
Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin headlines the Mailbag's annual "ninth-year seniors" team.
Bob Rosato/SI

George Selvie and Matt Grothe are both back at South Florida for what seems like their ninth year. Are you going to do another edition of your "ninth-year seniors" segment? Along with the worst coaches, it's the item I miss the most.
-- Mark, Indianapolis

Man, how could I forget? Your first batch of 2009 ninth-year seniors include (but are not necessarily limited to): Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner, Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller, Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, Kansas receiver/former QB Kerry Meier, Southern Miss running back Damion Fletcher, LSU receiver Brandon LaFell and kick returner Trindon Holliday, South Carolina linebacker Eric Norwood, Notre Dame tackle Sam Young and our team captain -- a guy who I truly cannot believe has only been in school four years -- Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin. If you told me Tiffin kicked a game-winner against Arkansas in 2003, I would believe you.

As for the worst-coaches list, sorry, almost all of my bad coaches got fired last year. I guess Al Groh has the list all to himself now.

Stewart, in the current BCS environment, what is the motivation for teams to schedule tough out-of-conference games when going undefeated is king and would almost guarantee entry into the championship game? Taking this season for example, a two-loss Virginia Tech (which plays Alabama, Nebraska and East Carolina) or Georgia (which faces Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Arizona State) would arguably be just as deserving (if not more so) than an undefeated or one-loss Notre Dame, Penn State or any number of other teams. Yet both would be locked out of any discussion of the title game.
-- Jay, Atlanta

If schools focused solely on the national-title race when determining their schedules, you'd never see a single marquee out-of-conference game for the very reason you mentioned: Historically, going undefeated has always been the single most important criteria in voters' minds. You saw that last year, when Texas Tech rose to No. 2 in the polls despite playing Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU and UMass prior to Big 12 play.

Every school has its own reasons behind its scheduling philosophy, but until the day the voters/computers bypass an undefeated major-conference team in favor of two one-loss teams, you'll probably see fewer and fewer teams take on schedules like Virginia Tech's and Georgia's. That said, we also seem to be in the midst of an era where undefeated seasons are becoming increasingly rare. In seasons like the past few, where at least one of the title spots comes down to a jumble of one- or two-loss teams, teams may actually be rewarded for scheduling tougher foes.

LSU benefited tremendously from its early-season rout of eventual ACC champ Virginia Tech in 2007. That game contributed to voters' season-long respect for the Tigers, which paid off the last weekend when 11-2 LSU vaulted from seventh to second. Meanwhile, Oklahoma's nonconference games last year against TCU and Cincinnati likely made the difference when the BCS computers vaulted the Sooners over the Longhorns (whose toughest nonconference foe was Rice) and into the Big 12 title game.

But remember, there are only a handful of schools that realistically feel they have a shot at the national title on a regular basis. Many factors play into a school's schedule -- budgetary concerns, filling seats, television, which dates are available. Impressing BCS voters is generally not one of them.

While reading your article on the new Big Ten/Gator Bowl deal it was all I could do to keep from sliding into a boredom-induced coma. My friend's Facebook update that he "is bored and sitting on the couch" was more important. When are you going to abandon the idea that seeing a game between two mediocre teams from two different conferences is some kind of nostalgic postseason reward? It's so obvious that they DON'T MATTER to anyone outside of a university's accounting department.
-- Jeremiah L., Nashville, Tenn.

Hey, no one put a gun to your head and told you to click on the link (or did they?). It's worth noting, however, that last year's Gator Bowl drew 67,000-plus spectators for a game between two unquestionably mediocre teams, 8-4 Nebraska and 7-5 Clemson. So clearly someone still cares. Heck, this attendee even found the experience "super awesome!"

I suggest your friend start watching Mad Men. He won't have to leave his couch and, quite frankly, it's "super awesome."

Stewart: In regard to the recent furor over Terrelle Pryor's 40 time: You would think with all the high-tech analysis available, someone could definitively lock down what Usain Bolt's 40 time was on the way to his 100-meter record. Ditto for any Olympic class sprinters. What do you say to once and for all blowing the 40 myth out of the water?
-- Paul Schlichting, Green, Ohio

Gladly. The following link contains the work of someone far more versed on track and field matters than myself. Mind you, this was posted before Bolt's most recent record-shattering performance, but based on the splits from his 100-meter performance in Beijing, the author calculated Bolt ran a 40 time of 4.35. Pryor, you may recall, clocked in at 4.33 (as his coaches and teammates recently reaffirmed.)

However, the comparison is more complicated than that. The author, a track coach in Canada, notes a 100-meter runner does not accelerate out of the block as quickly as someone running a 40 because that runner has to sustain his speed longer. Therefore, he likely reaches his top speed after the 40-yard mark (around 36 meters). To account for that, the author subtracts the "reaction time" from Bolt's score and estimates he reached 4.22 in Beijing.

If true, obviously that puts him in another category than Ohio State's quarterback. However, there are still a handful of college football players out there who, if we believe their 40 times, are capable of hanging with Usain Bolt. As of last year, Florida's Chris Rainey had been clocked at 4.24, and USC safety Taylor Mays has been credited with a 4.25. If these times were remotely accurate, then we would have to assume there's only a hair of difference between the fastest sprinter in the world and the nation's fastest college football players.

Instead, let's debunk this 40 myth once and for all by pointing out that Gators running back Jeff Demps, who the New York Times last year dubbed the "fastest man in pads," set the national high school record in the 100-meters when he clocked a 10.01 at the U.S. Olympic trials. That's still nearly a half-second slower than the 9.58 Bolt posted in Berlin last weekend. However, according to that same Times article, Demps was timed at a 4.21 in the 40 in high school -- four-hundredths of a second faster than Bolt's top speed in Beijing.

My advice: Whenever you read or hear about a college player's otherworldly 40 time, automatically add at least one-tenth of a second for a more accurate reading. That, or assume Bolt actually runs a 3.9.

While reporting about future bowl tie-ins is a legitimate part of college football discussions, don't you think SI (and others) are scraping the bottom of the news barrel by publishing mid-August predictions of 2009-10 bowl matchups?
-- Steve, Greenville, N.C.

Oh, I don't know. It seems like pretty harmless fun. When we start staking out Jon and Kate's front lawns to get their bowl projections, that's when you'll know we've officially thrown in the towel.

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