Boise-Oregon debate, more mail (cont.)
Do you think Mark Richt is on the hot seat yet in Athens? I know he has managed to win a ton of games in his career; however, it seems to me that his teams lack discipline, constantly underachieve and have an inability to win the big game. All of these factors can usually be attributed to poor coaching.
I've noticed an interesting trend when it comes to the Richt "hot seat" discussion. Whereas a teams' own fans are usually the first to turn on a struggling coach, in this case, nearly all such speculation is coming from outside the state of Georgia (and in John's case, outside the country). Perhaps it's because we've seen other SEC schools, like Auburn, abruptly turn against previously successful coaches. But Georgia is different. For one thing, its AD, Damon Evans, is one of the sharpest guys in the profession; he'd never make a knee-jerk reaction off one bad season. And most sensible Dawgs fans, while incredibly frustrated with the current team, still revere Richt, who rescued the program from 20 years of mediocrity and boasts an 86-26 record and two SEC titles.
Right now, most fans are understandably directing their angst at Richt's coordinators, Mike Bobo and Willie Martinez. Richt isn't dumb. He knows he will have no choice but to part ways with at least Martinez after the season to show the faithful he's serious about making changes. And he'll definitely be facing pressure to return Georgia to SEC title contention next year. Florida will be Tebow-less (and most of its defensive starters will be playing on Sundays), leaving the East open to challengers. And the one thing Richt absolutely can't afford is for the new kid in town, Lane Kiffin, to win the division before he does. If that happens, then you could legitimately put Richt on the hot seat.
There are two fantastic safeties this year in Eric Berry and Taylor Mays. We had a recent debate in which I said neither one was as good as the late Sean Taylor. Please help us settle this -- if you can only take one, which one is it.
The Berry-Mays argument is a no-brainer. Berry is having another fantastic season. True to his word, Tennessee defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is using him all over the field, and while Berry came into the season most known for his run at the NCAA career interception return yardage record (sadly, he's still stuck at 0 on the year), whenever I watch the Vols I notice Berry far more often stuffing an opposing runner. Mays, unfortunately, has not had a great year. Mind you, USC uses him differently, restricting him almost entirely to a rover role, but his pass coverage has been shoddy and opponents have broken several long plays where Mays took the wrong pursuit angle. He's an incredible athlete and, as we've seen, an extremely hard hitter, but I'm no longer convinced he's an elite safety.
You know who is? Texas' Earl Thomas. He has six interceptions (two of them for touchdowns) and he'll be giving Berry a run for his money when it comes time to announce the Thorpe Award winner. Iowa's Tyler Sash (six interceptions, including that ricochet return against Indiana last week) isn't far behind.
As for the Sean Taylor comparison, that's almost impossible to quantify. Like with Berry and Mays, safeties play different roles in different defenses. And while Taylor was a supremely gifted athlete, I'm not sure you could definitively say he became the standard bearer for that position. What about Ed Reed? Or Troy Polamalu? I don't know whether Berry is better than those greats, but he certainly belongs in the discussion.
As a Sun Devil alum, I can't stand to see our football team down or playing inconsistently, both of which seem to happen every two or three years. Right now my Devils have a senior QB (Danny Sullivan) starting his first season, which means that next year there will be another steep learning curve for another new QB. I've heard some rumblings that perhaps the college game has passed Dennis Erickson by. Any thoughts on this, or is it just an overreaction?
It's possible. I certainly thought that, three years into his tenure, Erickson would be fielding a far more productive offense. That's always been his specialty. The frustrating thing about this ASU team is that it has the kind of high-caliber defense that keeps it in almost every game, but an erratic and mistake-prone offense has limited the Devils to four wins. Last week's Cal game was emblematic of their season. Heading into the final three minutes, they'd held the Bears to 334 yards. But ASU, as has been its custom, committed four turnovers and 11 penalties, couldn't run the ball (82 yards) and, clinging to a 21-20 lead with 5:46 left, couldn't gain a first down, giving the ball back to the Bears, who promptly drove down the field for the game-winning field goal.
Erickson has tried to stick by Sullivan, but working backup Samson Szakacsy into the mix last week shows even he's losing patience. I'm guessing he also realizes his offense's limitations. He hasn't had an adequate rushing game since he's been there. The problem could be recruiting. It could be conservative or outdated play-calling. Whatever the case, he needs to shake things up in a hurry, because the rest of the Pac-10 -- from Stanford to Arizona to Oregon State to Oregon -- is only getting better.
So let me make sure I have this straight. You and Andy Staples both write stories for the college football preview, and Andy's is better than yours. But seven weeks into the season, you write a piece worthy of the Pulitzer Prize, and Andy is just mucking around, doing OK, but nothing special. And your editor says, "Sorry, you can't win the prize because Andy wrote a better story than you did the first week." (And, of course, everyone improves at exactly the same rate.) Isn't that the argument for continuing to rank Boise State ahead of Oregon? Why play the rest of the games if Week 1 becomes sacred?
Props to you, Jeff. What better way to convince the jury than to make the issue personal. Are you by chance a lawyer?
But unfortunately for your analogy, neither Andy nor the Broncos have been "mucking around" this season. In fact, I'd go so far as to say Andy's gem-to-clunker column ratio has been right up there with Kellen Moore's 24-to-2 TDs-to-interceptions. (I'll let someone else try to quantify mine; just as long as it's better than Greg Paulus'.) As for your question, "Why play the rest of the games if Week 1 becomes sacred?" ... Well, why play Week 1 if we're just going to toss it out eight weeks later?
In the press box before the Oregon game last week, Chris Dufresne of the L.A. Times said something so profound -- I only wish I'd come up with it myself -- when he called the BCS "fantastically flawed." Another reader, Matt from Baton Rouge, La., wrote "the Boise-Oregon debate represents everything that is wrong with college football," before adding, "don't get me wrong -- I love it."
Now -- just imagine how much more fantastic and lovable this "flawed" sport would be under the Mandel Plan.
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