Dream 2010 BCS matchup, latest SEC QB debate; more Mailbag
Never saw Tebow's Gators vs. Carroll's Trojans, but maybe we'll get 'Bama-Boise
Brantley vs. Murray may be the next great debate for the Florida-Georgia rivalry
Plus: Impact of USC's poll ban, Dalton's Heisman hopes, ACC's TV deal and more
You know we're in the dregs of summer when the only real college football news of late has been the unfortunate, but inevitable, wave of offseason player arrests (with an athletic director thrown in this year to boot). Most of those headlines have emanated from SEC locales Georgia and Tennessee.
Next week, however, SEC coaches, players and a horde of media will convene in Birmingham, Ala., for the league's annual season kickoff circus, where talk will (mostly) turn from police lineups to projected lineups. Having attended this event several times and sat in the enormous Wynfrey Hotel ballroom, I can already predict the No. 1 question each of the conference's 12 coaches will be asked when he takes his turn at the dais.
Coach, what do you think are the biggest reasons why the SEC is so freaking good?
Hey, you can't argue with four straight BCS titles. But I do wish we could have seen a more diverse set of championship-game matchups over the past four years, which involved two SEC-Big Ten and two SEC-Big 12 pairings. Apparently I'm not alone.
As a college football coach, I have really enjoyed reading your Mailbag the last few years. I can appreciate the level-head you seem to keep with you opinions. One thing that disappointed me the past few years is that we never got to see Pete Carroll's USC teams match up with Urban Meyer's Florida Gators. Looking at the current landscape of college football, what two programs would you most like to see play this year?
-- Jerry, Cleveland
Indeed, it's a shame Carroll's Trojans never faced an SEC champion in either the BCS title game or another bowl matchup. Controversial finishes denied us the chance to see USC face LSU in 2003 or Auburn in '04, much to the chagrin of SEC fans. For USC fans, however, the single biggest missed opportunity came in 2008, when the Trojans fielded what was unquestionably the most dominant defense of the Carroll era (the unit allowed a staggering 9.0 points per game) but shot themselves in the foot with an early-season loss at Oregon State. While I still believe one-loss Oklahoma (or Texas) was a more deserving participant, it's a shame we didn't get the opportunity to see Tim Tebow at his peak face Carroll's defense at its peak.
So, what potential 2010 matchup would elicit a similar curiosity factor? I'll go with Alabama vs. Boise State.
There's no greater litmus test right now than facing the SEC's champion, and if we believe the consensus projections that Alabama will once again be that team, and that the perennial outsider Broncos are about to field their most complete team to date, what better way to settle the question once and for all as to whether Boise belongs? For once, there would be no excuses if the Broncos pulled it off. No one could say their opponent wasn't motivated (Oklahoma in the '07 Fiesta Bowl), hadn't yet rounded into form (Oregon in last season's opener) or wasn't a BCS program (TCU in last year's Fiesta Bowl). We can already predict the requisite disclaimers that will follow should Boise beat Virginia Tech in this year's highly anticipated opener -- the Hokies always lose their high-profile openers, they play in the "inferior" ACC, etc.
Even when Utah beat 12-1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two years ago, we heard that the deflated Tide didn't take the game seriously, suffered from Andre Smith's suspension, etc., etc. That's why it would take a BCS championship matchup against an actual SEC champion (because heaven knows a win over Ohio State would come with its own set of detractors) for Boise State to deliver its closing argument.
And of course, if Alabama won by three touchdowns, we'd learn something, too.
Longtime reader, first time e-mailer. I understand why USC has been declared ineligible for the coaches poll as a result of the NCAA sanctions. However, my question concerns how this impacts the Trojans' opponents. Sanctions or no sanctions, USC will be a difficult team to face on the field. Without USC being eligible for the poll, how will a game against the Trojans affect an opponent's strength of schedule, among other factors, in the BCS formula?
-- Kevin, Tucson, Ariz.
I've noticed a lot of confusion on this issue since USC's coaches-poll ban was announced. Short answer: There is no effect. The BCS hasn't included specific "strength of schedule" or "quality win" components in its formula since 2003. And the various computer ratings used by the BCS crunch straight-up wins-and-losses data, not voter-poll rankings. So USC's opponents will get the same credit for the game as they usually would.
USC's standing in the BCS rankings will obviously be affected, as the coaches poll accounts for one-third of a team's score (along with the Harris Poll and the computers), but since the Trojans are ineligible for a BCS bowl, that doesn't matter, either. The only tangible impact might come if USC finishes the regular season ranked, say, seventh in the AP and Harris polls, and, say, Wisconsin finishes 15th. The Badgers (and like everyone else ranked behind the Trojans in those polls) would finish one spot higher in the BCS standings, which, in this hypothetical, would allow Wisconsin to finish in the Top 14 and therefore qualify for a BCS at-large berth.
Stewart, why do so many national media members, yourself included, seem to think that John Brantley is a virtual lock to be a big-time, successful starting QB in his first season under center for Florida, while just up the road in Athens, Aaron Murray is viewed much more skeptically (to put it mildly) as he prepares to take over at QB for Georgia? Both were the No. 3 ranked QB's coming out of high school by Rivals in their respective years, and both were named MVP of the prestigious Elite 11 QB camp.
-- Arthur Steedman, Atlanta
There's no reason both can't be successful. Murray was ranked behind only Matt Barkley (USC) and Garrett Gilbert (Texas) in the class of 2009, just as Brantley was ranked behind only Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) and Ryan Mallett (Arkansas). But it's not hard to see why Brantley is garnering more buzz at this point. He's entering his fourth year in the Gators' program. He's played in games (albeit largely in mop-up duty). And fans got a good taste of his abilities in Florida's spring game, in which offensive coordinator Steve Addazio let him air it out (15-of-19 for 201 yards). Murray, by contrast, was a shaky 10-of-22 for 96 yards with a pick in his spring showcase, but admittedly, spring games can be deceiving. Coach Mark Richt indicated Murray performed much better in other scrimmages.
One thing's for sure: Don't be fooled into reading too much into Murray's inexperience. If you look at the trend in recent years, quarterbacks who get thrown into the fire as true freshmen, no matter how talented, do tend to struggle initially (see Clausen, Matthew Stafford, Terrelle Pryor and Barkley, among others), but that one redshirt season does make a difference (see Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck, among others). If you've got it, you've got it, and those who have followed Murray closely say he's got it. He also has a great supporting cast to lean on, including a veteran offensive line and big-time receiver A.J. Green.
If both Brantley and Murray fulfill expectations, it should add yet another chapter to the Florida-Georgia rivalry and give their fans yet another subject to debate.