Unveiling the Mailbag Crush, more (cont.)
Wow, on your ninth-year seniors list, no Jordan Shipley? He's actually been there for six!
No list of ninth-year seniors is complete without USC DB Josh Pinkard. I think he was in Carroll's first recruiting class.
The Shipley exclusion: inexcusable. I deserve the full Chase Coffman treatment from the Bengals' tight ends coach for that one. And Pinkard definitely merits a spot on the team. In fact, he was the last Trojan to try to tackle Vince Young. (Look for No. 36.)
Why is Alabama in the top five? They were so overmatched by Utah in the Sugar Bowl in every category. Clearly they will only be worse given the losses they suffered. I just don't see them being in everyone's preseason top five. I think you all are scared of Nick Saban.
Compared to Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and USC, I'm pretty sure someone would ask "why?" about any team tossed into that fifth spot.
I can't say I remember a year quite like this one, where there's a distinct group of four teams that nearly everyone seems to agree are the best -- and then a steep drop-off in confidence after that. Not a single one of the established preseason publications -- SI, Steele, Athlon, Lindy's, Sporting News -- placed a different team in its top four. Football Outsiders, which this year added a college football section to its highly regarded pro football almanac, was the closest thing to a dissenter, rating Virginia Tech fourth and Oklahoma fifth.
Alabama did wind up as the consensus No. 5 selection, but that says as much about the rest of the field as it does about the Crimson Tide. Consider: Not a single one of the publications listed above actually rated Alabama as high as fifth -- Athlon had the Tide sixth, Lindy's seventh, SI and Steele eighth, Sporting News and Football Outsiders 13th -- yet collectively, the Tide still fared better than any other team. In the AP poll, where Alabama also finished fifth, only 24 of the 59 voters had the Tide that high. This shows just how widely opinions vary right now about any team not named Florida, Texas, Oklahoma or USC.
As for me -- well, I'm no longer a voter. I gleefully handed off my AP ballot to Andy Staples this year (enjoy the e-mails, Andy), but I probably would have voted 'Bama fifth myself. I'm scared of Saban, but I certainly respect him. While the Tide may have stunk it up in New Orleans, prior to that they won 12 straight games and gave Florida everything it could handle in the SEC title game. It's possible the Tide's rebuilt offensive line will slow them down, but there isn't another team out there that doesn't have at least one equally glaring question mark.
So Jimmy, the question isn't "Why is Alabama in the top five?" It's "Who would you put there instead?"
My friend and I were arguing about whether Jake Locker would start for every Pac-10 team, whether at QB or another position. I think every Pac-10 coach would find somewhere to start him. My friend argued the Cougs would try to start him at every position, but USC wouldn't have a spot. Do you agree USC wouldn't have room for him?
As of today, I'm fairly certain he'd be the Trojans' starting quarterback.
I'm aware of Ryan Mallett moving from Michigan to Arkansas. Who are some other transfers who will be eligible this season you expect to make an impact?
Mallett is certainly the headliner. If you believe the hype and the absurd stats coming out of Arkansas' scrimmages, he could be this year's Jevan Snead. And of course, there's the year's most unique transfer, new Syracuse starting QB Greg Paulus.
Others include: Ohio State G Justin Boren (from Michigan), a potential all-conference performer; Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen, who scored 23 touchdowns in two seasons at Louisville and adds yet another threat to Paul Johnson's triple-option; Illinois receiver Jarred Fayson (from Florida), who should become Juice Williams' second target alongside Arrelious Benn; Arkansas running back Broderick Green (from USC), who brings a physical dimension to Bobby Petrino's backfield; UCLA center Kai Maiva (from Colorado), who brings much-needed help to what was one of the nation's worst O-lines last year; Washington State running back James Montgomery (from Cal), a much-needed playmaker; Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor (from Penn State), a potential standout; and Louisville quarterback Justin Burke (from N.C. State), who won the Cardinals' starting job this week.
Two other high-profile quarterback transfers, Michigan State's Keith Nichol (from Oklahoma) and Arizona's Nick Foles (from Michigan State) are still fighting for starting jobs.
True or false: EVERY college football team is completely new every four years, so why do you media types make such a B.F.D. out of how many returning starters teams have. Do you ever consider the players who come in on the second play or the second series are just as capable?
Is too much made of the number of returning-starters? Probably. It's not like there's some specific watermark -- 14? 15? 16? -- that guarantees success, and obviously there are plenty of cases where "new" starters are actually quite experienced. (For example, USC technically returns just three defensive starters this season, but seven other defenders have started at some point in their careers.)
That said, experience/inexperience is generally a pretty reliable indicator of which direction a team is headed -- as Katy mentioned, LSU lost 12 senior starters (including the kicker and punter) from its 2007 national title season, and you saw what happened. The number of returning starters is the most easily decipherable means of assessing a team's experience level.
Phil Steele, who takes this whole prognostication business more seriously than anyone out there, swears by the returning starter stat. According to this tidbit from his Web site (the numbers are a year old): "There were nine teams [in 2007] that had 18 or more returning starters, and seven of the nine improved their record from 2006. ... On the other end of the spectrum there were 33 teams last year that had 12 or fewer returning starters, and of the 33, only eight managed to improve their record."
So you see, that's why we make such a B.F.D. out of it.
With all the hysteria over swine flu, the media seems to have forgotten the REALLY important angle to the story. Will H1N1 cost a top 25 team a victory this year? If so, do you think pollsters will take that into account when casting their ballots?
I doubt it, but your question leads to another question: Why do these viruses always seem to affect Duke?
As you may have read, H1N1 took down about half the Blue Devils' roster recently. While other teams, like Tulane, have endured similar scares this preseason, Duke seemed to get hit the hardest.
It brings to mind Duke's infamous 1998 game against Florida State, in which a food virus caused half the players to start vomiting all over themselves during the game. In a case that garnered attention from the New England Journal of Medicine, the Blue Devils' players actually passed the bug to several Seminoles, who themselves started puking. (This didn't stop FSU from winning 62-13.)
What's the deal, health gods? Doesn't Duke football have enough obstacles to deal with? Or is this karmic payback for ... this.
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