Texas' and LSU's offensive woes; more mail (cont.)
Both I and everyone I know who follows college football understands that Boise State is a good football team. The problem is, the eighth-grade gimmick plays (i.e. the Statute of Liberty) and especially the blue Field Turf projects a bush league image. You want respect? Look like you deserve it. If your program looks like a circus, you'll be treated like a circus.
-- Andrew, Pittsburgh
I've been wondering this for a couple of years and I may be totally off base, but is seems to me that Boise State gets a big (and possible unfair) advantage having the blue field and matching blue uniforms and helmets. At times when they are showing replays going down the field, it appears as if the Boise players are camouflaged by the field. That would seem to make it hard for a quarterback to account for the defensive-back coverage.
-- Steve Kratt, Alameda, Calif.
Really? It's come to this? Bashing the Smurf Turf? No one particularly seemed to mind it when the Broncos were mostly a Friday night sideshow, but now that they're in the top three, it's "bush league?" Give me a break. First of all, there's nothing stopping anyone else from painting their field any color they'd like. (Eastern Washington's is now red.) Second of all, long before Boise began fielding a legit football team, the blue turf brought it national recognition. It's as much a part of that program's identity as the trick plays. (Incidentally, there's nothing stopping your favorite team from calling said plays, either. That's not "bush league," that's good coaching.)
I will concede that the blue does give Boise at least one advantage. As Fresno State coach Pat Hill told my colleague Austin Murphy: "It takes forever to break down Boise State film. The way the uniforms blend in, it's very hard to see the formations. You gotta click the film back 10 times to see some plays." But in terms of the actual game, a quarterback is much more likely to be distracted by the backdrop (i.e. fans) in his field of vision (which, if you've seen this week's SI cover, is orange) than the color of the field below him. I seriously doubt either comes into play nearly as much as crowd noise or other elements. What's your next excuse, Boise haters?
After watching Cal nearly take out Arizona one week after their beatdown at Nevada, I am bemused by so many of the pundits saying that Boise is off the radar now, a 12-0 team with no shot, etc. While Nov. 26 might not attract the GameDay crew to Reno, don't you think this could be a huge game between two talented and highly ranked undefeated teams?
-- Chris M, Redondo Beach, Calif.
Absolutely -- which is why I found myself on Expedia the other night checking out flights from St. Louis (where I'll be spending Thanksgiving) to Reno that Friday. Nevada is playing at a very high level right now, ranked fourth nationally in total offense (529 yards per game). Last season it went 7-0 in the league prior to facing Boise, but that team lost three games out of conference; this team spanked Cal and won at (admittedly down) BYU. But that game's a long ways away, and there's no question both teams will largely be out of sight, out of mind until then.
Stewart, Do you think the UCLA victory over Texas is going to be a "turning point" for the program or just another big isolated victory? Since 2000, UCLA has nonconference victories over Alabama (twice), Tennessee (twice), Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Yet they haven't been able to follow any of these other, potentially program-defining victories with any continued success.
-- Jason Kingston, Los Angeles
The reason UCLA wasn't able to capitalize on most of those other victories was because it was coached by Bob Toledo and Karl Dorrell. With Rick Neuheisel, I do believe the Bruins have the right guy in charge now, but I don't know that the Texas game will prove to be an immediate "turning point." It was an extremely important win for him, especially in light of the way the season started, because it should infuse some confidence in the fan base and show people that the staff does in fact have a plan in place.
Like I talked about earlier with LSU and Texas, Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow took a huge risk in committing themselves full-time to the Pistol offense. Many teams, including No. 1 Alabama, have incorporated the formation (quarterback in the shotgun with the tailback behind him), but UCLA is the first BCS-conference team to switch entirely to Nevada's patented offense. Chow told me the Bruins initially discussed going to an Oregon-style spread, but instead visited Reno and took to the Pistol because it allows for more of a traditional downhill running attack. Mind you, neither had any prior experience with this style of offense, but it sure looked good against Texas.
The Bruins still have too many talent deficiencies, and a very shaky quarterback, to make a run at the Pac-10 title, but they're well positioned to make a run in the coming years due both to their own recruiting efforts and the anticipated toll cross-town rival USC will take due to its NCAA sanctions. The Texas game may seem like an aberration later this season but it will certainly serve as a landmark moment when the program turns the corner, most likely next season.
How does Arkansas almost beat the No. 1 team in the country and then drop five spots in the AP poll?
-- Jamie, Dallas
Please don't view the inclusion of this question as an excuse to start bombing me with complaints about your favorite team's ranking, but this one brings up a particular pet peeve of mine. If you're a pollster and you genuinely believed, going into Saturday, that Alabama was the No. 1 team in the country and Arkansas the 10th best, then the Razorbacks performed as well, if not better, than they should have. If anything, it validated their ranking. Yet any team that loses to anyone automatically drops five or six spots. Where's the context?
Because voters place such a premium on the "0" in your loss column, the Razorbacks fell behind a Wisconsin team that's beaten Arizona State (barely) and three nobodies, an LSU team with one of the nation's worst offenses and a Utah team whose opponents to date are a combined 3-12. For a more sensible way to fill out an AP ballot, see my colleague Andy Staples, who has Arkansas 14th -- the same place he had the Razorbacks last week.
Speaking as a fellow Northwestern alum, it seems to me the 4-0 'Cats have a shot at winning their first eight games. I only mention that because it seems to me that as good as Denard Robinson and Terrelle Pryor have been, there is another QB in the Big Ten who should be getting some attention. Dan Persa (the nation's third-rated passer) has played way beyond expectations.
-- David, Rockville, Md.
Indeed, the first half of Northwestern's Big Ten schedule -- at Minnesota, vs. Purdue and Michigan State and at Indiana -- sets up where anything less than 7-1 would be considered disappointing. And because the Big Ten's schedule-makers seem to have a permanent soft spot for the Wildcats, they miss both Ohio State and Michigan. But the school makes its own nonconference schedule, so I view NU the same way I would any team that chose to start against Vanderbilt, Illinois State, Rice and Central Michigan -- as a squad that's yet to prove anything.
Persa does look pretty good, though.
You had a great weekend with your picks (going 9-1). You even picked the NC State upset. Congrats!
-- Andy McCall, Dallas
Wow, someone besides my editor actually noticed. And when I say someone -- I literally mean one person. Thanks for the e-mail, Andy.
From Stewart Mandel's College Football Mailbag, 9/22/10:
"When my sweet 10-year-old daughter saw SI's @slmandel predict Texas Tech would beat #UT 27-24, she said 'He gets paid to be that dumb??' Amen." (Bill Morrison, Austin, Texas)
"Texas' defense? It's so freaking good ... But can Texas expect to beat Oklahoma on Oct. 2 and Nebraska on Oct. 16 (I'm not that worried about UCLA this week) solely with its defense?" (You)
I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I guess you just can't win for losing.
-- Kevin Bobbett, Seoul, South Korea
No, no you can't. I didn't even include Texas-UCLA in my picks because it seemed like such a foregone conclusion. Well, at least I can take comfort in knowing Bill and his daughter got their comeuppance. Take that, you know-it-all 10-year old.
(Wait ... have I really resorted to smack-talking 10-year-olds? That can't be a good sign.)
#DearAndy: Big Ten football, Baylor Bears, and bacon
Spring football primer: Big 12