Texas O-line outmatched, more mail (cont.)
If Mack Brown wins on Thursday does it speed up his retirement clock?
No, actually, I think it would do the opposite. I know the Will Muschamp arrangement has put that possibility in everyone's heads, but from what I've gathered, that deal (which raised Muschamp's salary to $900,000) was done more so to retain a premier defensive coordinator (Greg Robinson only stayed for one season, Gene Chizik for two) than to prepare for Brown's retirement. If Muschamp's still around when the day comes, Texas will be more than happy to anoint him. More realistically, he's going to be long gone by then because I don't think Brown, 58, is in any hurry to step down.
"I'm going to be around for a while, and Will understands that's good," Brown said at Tuesday's Media Day. "He's a very highly paid defensive coordinator and he's doing a good job with it ... But very honestly the decision was not made for today or tomorrow, it was made for down the road, and he and I are good with that."
If anything, Brown is far more content now than he was when he won the 2005 title. If you think back to that time, Brown had spent most of his first eight seasons carrying the burden of proving he was more than just "Mr. February," that he could "win the big one." He had more than his share of detractors. He also had to have knee-replacement surgery right after that season to alleviate the excruciating pain he would feel after standing on the sidelines for three hours. That following summer, he confided to me and a few other writers in his office that he'd contemplated calling it quits after that title season. But the surgery did wonders for him, his program has never been more stable, and oh yeah, by the way, he just got a humongous raise.
Stewart: Can we let go of the pretense that Cincinnati deserved a shot at the national title? I know the coach left, but to get beaten as badly as they were -- by a team that was pummeled by 'Bama -- does not say much for them. I can't imagine how a game against 'Bama would have been much better.
I feel bad for the Bearcats and their fans that their dream season ended in such nightmarish fashion, both with Brian Kelly's exit and the Sugar Bowl beatdown. But no, they were not a legitimate title contender, and that should have been apparent over the final month of the season when teams like Connecticut and Illinois -- yes, Illinois -- were racking up yards on them.
Cincinnati reminded me very much of Oklahoma last year: A team with an exciting, pyrotechnic offense but a shoddy defense. Just like those Sooners, the Bearcats eventually went up against an opponent capable of slowing down their attack. Perhaps if the Kelly thing hadn't happened, they would have played a more competitive game against the Gators as Oklahoma did the year before, but realistically, Tony Pike was never going to throw for 350 yards against Joe Haden and Co.
The problem is, voters will always put a premium on going undefeated, particularly in a BCS conference. It goes against convention to start dropping a team toward the end of the season without it losing a game, especially when there weren't even any one-loss teams left by the week leading into Championship Saturday. I do think voters recognize the importance of defense, and that's why they had TCU above Cincy in their polls, but it's hard to predict which team the computers would have spit out had Texas lost. It could have been the Bearcats. And it could have been just as ugly.
As a loyal Husker fan relocated to Tucson several years ago, I completely enjoyed the Huskers' domination of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl in person. When viewing the game on my DVR, I heard several comments about the Huskers being a top 10 team next year. I am sure the defense will be fine with Crick and Co. continuing where Suh left off, but the offense never clicked all year like it did in San Diego. Do you think it was the rest and ability to get healthy or the inept Arizona defense that made the Huskers look so good?
I'm sure there will be many articles written in Nebraska over the next eight months about the Huskers' offense looking to carry over its momentum from the bowl game, but that's being simplistic. You don't fix an utterly inept offense in one game. All of the factors Scott listed, plus some new wrinkles the coaches put in (the Wildcat; more designed runs for Zac Lee) probably played a factor in their performance. But the Huskers still need an influx of talent and/or significant improvement at the quarterback position next season if they hope to maintain that type of productivity for 12 games.
Having said that, I don't disagree that Nebraska could be a top 10 team next season, for the simple reason that they weren't that far off from it this year. The Huskers fielded one of the most dominant defenses in the country. If Tyrod Taylor doesn't complete a miraculous last-second heave in Blacksburg or the offense commits, say, half of those eight turnovers against Iowa State -- and certainly if they'd finished the job against Texas -- they'd be sitting in the top 10 right now. While Suh will leave an enormous void, I would expect we'll see Bo Pelini fielding high-caliber defenses on a regular basis going forward. Now he's just got to get the offense up to speed.
The SEC is 5-4 in bowls heading into the National Championship Game. If East Carolina (against Arkansas) and Northwestern (against Auburn) had hit their late field goals, it would be 3-6. Can somebody have the guts to say that with the exception of the top two teams, the SEC was pretty mediocre this year?
I would agree with that assessment. I've felt that way all year. But does it really matter?
The SEC's reigning status as top dog wasn't the result of Outback Bowl wins. It's all about the BCS, specifically the national championship game. So far the SEC is 5-0 in title games. If Alabama wins on Thursday, the league will have won the past four BCS championships -- with three different teams. Think about that for a second. If you went to a Vegas sports book in the summer and had to choose between betting on "the SEC champion" or "anybody else" to win the national championship, the safer bet would be "SEC champ."
But of course, that could change as soon as Thursday night. Much like the Big Ten circa 2006, right before Florida trounced Ohio State, you can tell that the rest of the country has about had it up to here with SEC hype. And understandably so. I picked up USA Today on Tuesday and there was an ad at the top of the sports section for ESPN's basketball doubleheader of Minnesota-Purdue and Texas-Arkansas. The first game had an ESPN logo next to it; the second an "ESPN on SEC" logo. (Who knew Texas joined the SEC?) But it's hard to criticize when the league keeps dominating on the biggest stage, as Florida did against Cincinnati. If Alabama beats a 13-0 Big 12 team, it will only add to the SEC's aura.
If Texas wins, I expect nothing short of an Ohio State-level backlash. Speaking of...
Well, the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes won -- can we finally tell the talking heads that they can find another league to kick around next year?
Both Ohio State and the Big Ten did exactly what they needed to this year to begin restoring credibility. Because of Ohio State and Penn State's early losses, the conference largely flew under the radar this season. There was no national-title contender. But the conference produced some good, solid teams that didn't just win bowl games, but beat four top 15 opponents (Oregon, Georgia Tech, LSU and Miami). It'd be an overreaction to think that the balance of power has suddenly shifted north, but it affirms what I've said all along: These things are cyclical, and the league wouldn't stay down forever. There will always be skeptics, however, until the Buckeyes or another Big Ten team wins another national championship.
If I hear one more person say that LSU would have beaten Penn State if the weather was nice I'm going to puke! The last time I checked, both teams had to play in the same conditions.
What is that you say? LSU/SEC apologists are making excuses for losing the Capital One Bowl?
So here's the deal, ladies and gents. Thursday night/Friday morning, Andy Staples, Joe Posnanski and I will be bringing you coverage from the BCS Championship Game. On Monday, I'll have one last College Football Overtime, followed by the last Mailbag of the season.
Let's talk then.
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