Pryor ready to lead OSU to title (cont.)
Mike Leach's colorful tenure at Texas Tech produced winning teams and a passing attack that certainly gave opponents headaches. Do you see his name surfacing on major college lists after this season? Do you think he could get a high-profile job at a BCS-conference school, or do you think he would have to move his way back up the ranks by starting at a Division II or FCS school?
Much will depend on the course of Leach's pending lawsuit against Texas Tech. As you're presumably aware, what was already an ugly dispute (see some of the comments at the bottom of this recent press release for a sense of where the public stands) just keeps getting messier, with the university filing a motion last week to have the case dismissed and Leach's camp responding that the school intentionally withheld an incriminating e-mail when subpoenaed. Personally, I always assumed the sides would reach a settlement long before Leach would go looking for another job in the winter. If they don't, it could make things much more difficult for him, because few schools will want an incoming coach with such unresolved baggage.
Whether Leach wins or loses, however, I do think he'll ultimately return to coaching, most likely at the FBS level. He's certainly not the right fit for all schools. Whoever hires him must be OK with the idea that one if its most visible representatives is an odd cat who may have mistreated a concussed player. But he's also a proven winner whose teams play an exciting brand of offense -- one that is now spreading across the country (Oklahoma State, Arizona State and East Carolina will all be running variations this fall) -- and who can come in to some down-on-its luck program (Washington State? Illinois? A Conference USA school?) and energize things in a hurry.
Please explain all the preseason love for Iowa. Sure, their defense will be good, but last season they had the 86th-ranked scoring offense and 99th-ranked rushing offense and now have to replace four starters on the O-line. Do any of you sportswriters remember the beating BYU gave Sam Bradford last September after Oklahoma replaced four starters on its O-line?
I'm sure few will be surprised if Iowa falls short of the considerable (possibly preseason top five) expectations, because the Hawkeyes were never fully appreciated last season. Yet this was a team that won 11 games, came within an overtime field goal of beating Ohio State in the Horseshoe for a spot in the Rose Bowl (while playing its backup quarterback, no less), then absolutely suffocated Georgia Tech's powerful rushing attack in the Orange Bowl. It's no secret why the Hawkeyes are expected to do as well or better in 2010: They return eight starters from an already stout defense, most notably stars defensive end Adrian Clayborn and safety Tyler Sash. They also return underrated quarterback Ricky Stanzi. And that woeful rushing game of which Ron speaks should get a huge lift from the return of tailback Jewel Hampton, who was last year's anticipated starter before suffering a knee injury.
Without question, one of the biggest mistakes we prognosticators make is underestimating the impact of losing veteran offensive linemen like Bryan Bulaga and Dace Richardson. It was the primary reason I tried to warn people off Oklahoma last offseason (though I certainly didn't anticipate things going that poorly for the Sooners). But when dealing with Iowa specifically, we've got to give Kirk Ferentz some benefit of the doubt, because that's his specialty. Iowa always has the next wave of linemen waiting in the wings, and that should be the case again this year with guys like budding star tackle Riley Reiff and experienced guards Julian Vandervelde and Adam Gettis.
But the main reason I'm keen on Iowa: the schedule. Last year, to their credit, the Hawkeyes went on the road to beat Penn State and Wisconsin. This year, they get those teams, plus Ohio State, at home. That doesn't mean they won't slip up -- they barely survived Northern Iowa and lost to Northwestern in home games last season. On paper, however, it's a pretty favorable schedule, though it does include one incredibly difficult game early: at Arizona in Week 3.
Why is no one talking about Oklahoma State? The Cowboys have Brandon Weeden at QB, who played pro baseball and has a cannon for an arm. He reminds me a lot of Chris Weinke at Florida State. Then you have new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson, who learned his craft from Mike Leach. Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) is gone, Colt McCoy (Texas) is gone and Tech has a new coach. Why can't the Cowboys win the Big 12 South?
1. Mike Gundy is still their head coach.
2. They lost to OU and Texas last year by a combined score of 68-14.
3. They lost nearly their entire starting offensive line, linebacking corps and secondary.
4. Mike Gundy is still their head coach.
Was I the only one impressed by the number Wyoming's freshman quarterback, Austyn Carta-Samuels, did on Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl last December? And the job the Cowboys' defense did? What are the chances the 'Boys might threaten MWC heavyweights TCU or Utah for the top spot?
Oh, I remember Carta-Samuels well. Why? Because in our office bowl pool (no money, of course), I had my highest number of confidence points (34) on 11-point favorite Fresno State. So naturally, Carta-Samuels, who'd thrown seven TDs all season, threw three in that game, including the game-winner in overtime, and Wyoming, which came in with the nation's 109th-ranked scoring offense, doubled its season average by posting 35 points. So yes, I was impressed, but I'm always reticent to put too much emphasis on a bowl result. The Cowboys lost 52-0 to BYU and 45-10 to TCU last season. I have a lot of respect for Dave Christensen, and there's every reason to believe he'll get things going there, but realistically, they're still a year away from competing for the "top spot."
But while we're on the subject, keep an eye on another non-BCS team that delivered a seemingly out-of-nowhere bowl performance: SMU. June Jones' team made the most of its Hawaii Bowl trip, scoring a season-high 45 points in a rout of Nevada (which admittedly was missing two of its top offensive players). The Mustangs clearly improved in Jones' second season, beating C-USA champion East Carolina, taking Navy to overtime and winning eight games for the first time in 25 years. Knowing Jones' track record, I would not be surprised to see SMU take another step and compete for the league crown this year.
Stewart, regarding your decision to end the Mailbag Crush: First, I just don't get the current love for Zoe Saldana. Sure, she's hot, but not necessarily any hotter than a dozen other celebs I could name. But, personal preferences aside, I thought the point of the Mailbag Crush was to pick an "under the radar" hottie. Considering Zoe is everyone's "it" girl right now, she doesn't exactly fit the under the radar bill. What gives?
Like I said: No more "Crush." No more playful flirtations with sparkly, hilarious, up-and-coming starlets. That was so 2006-09. But c'mon -- a beautiful lady is a beautiful lady, and that said, with regards to Zoe: Take it back, sir.
I will admit, however, that I overstated things just a tad when I said the oh-so exotic Saldana had "basically rendered every other female celebrity moot." I didn't mean to diss Sofia Vergara like that. My sincere apologies, dear lady.
The Mailbag (more specifically, its author) will be on vacation next week -- Argentina, baby. But fire away with more questions because I'm coming right back with another edition on May 26.
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