Posted: Wednesday October 13, 2010 12:20PM ; Updated: Wednesday October 13, 2010 2:18PM
Stewart Mandel

Ohio State's No. 1 worth; more mail (cont.)

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Kentucky's Randall Cobb
Would Kentucky's do-it-all star Randall Cobb earn more Heisman consideration if he played for a top 10 team?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After Purdue's victory over Northwestern, Purdue coach Danny Hope said it was for "Boiler Nation." As a Purdue alum and season-ticket holder, I believe Boiler Nation consists of Tippecanoe County and, well, Tippecanoe County. So I'm asking, can you lead the charge against fans, coaches and fellow media members from attaching the phrase '"Nation" to every single fan group? Thank you.
-- Matthew Reimer, Zionsville, Ind.

I can see why you'd come to me with this request. I am, after all, a notorious party-pooper, railing against the use of "we" and admonishing fans who root for their hometown team against their alma mater. But Matthew, I've got to tell you -- I'm down with "Nation." If anything, the more obscure the better. During Idaho's bowl season last year, I remember seeing (and perhaps even making) references to "Vandal Nation." And surely Oregon State fans are proud to be part of "Beaver Nation."

The more, the merrier, I say. Although it would certainly be amusing if someone actually drew a physical map of Boiler Nation.

If Randall Cobb were not playing for Kentucky, but instead was on a top 10 team, do you think he would be getting any Heisman consideration right now? I mean, the guy has been absolutely doing it ALL -- four receiving touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, three passing touchdowns and one punt return for a touchdown. Your thoughts?
-- Ryan, Lexington, Ohio

There's no question he'd be getting more attention than he does at Kentucky (though the Wildcats do seem to be on TV every week playing against a top 10 team), but the Heisman would still be a challenge. Voters are so enamored with yardage -- rushing yards, passing yards, receiving yards, etc. -- that it almost works against Cobb that he doesn't specialize in one particular area. You won't see him among the NCAA leaders in any particular category besides all-purpose yards (11th, at 165.8 per game), and all-purpose yards couldn't get C.J. Spiller or Percy Harvin an invite to New York. Reggie Bush was a big all-purpose guy, but he was also a traditional running back who ran for 1,740 yards. (Do I have to remove that last sentence from the record books?)

With or without Cobb, this is becoming one of the more stacked Heisman races in recent memory. Each week, I submit my top three candidates "if the award was handed out today" for the poll. This week I had Denard Robinson, Cameron Newton and LaMichael James. I could just as easily have swapped them with Kellen Moore, Martinez and Pryor. Dual-threat quarterbacks make ideal Heisman candidates because they have the ball in their hands so often, and we've got the makings of at least three great ones this year. I doubt anyone's going to be able to run away with it.

I have a Carolina question -- the other Carolina everyone is not talking about today. UNC is a couple of plays from being 5-0. Not to play a fan's favorite game, "What if?" but: What if the Tar Heels were playing at full strength? T.J. Yates is passing the ball like two years ago, Johnny White is running fairly well and they are showing unbelievable depth across the board. Could this team have been what the ACC has looked for: a national title contender?
-- Kevin P. Rooney, Columbus, Ohio

I don't know if I'd go that far, but no question, UNC could have been the best team in the ACC and a top 10 team nationally. We knew the Heels had the potential to field one of the best defenses in the country, with projected high-round draft picks (including the dismissed Marvin Austin and permanently ineligible Robert Quinn) all over the field. The big question was the offense, specifically Yates, who's performed far better than expected even without his top receiver, Greg Little (also now permanently ineligible). Obviously the LSU game would have been a lot different, and I doubt the Heels would have lost to Georgia Tech, which means UNC could theoretically be 5-0 and ranked in the top 10 right now.

But don't mistake my analysis for sympathy. Based on the allegations reported so far at UNC, we're looking at one of the most egregious college sports scandals in recent memory. A staff member who's actively recruiting for an agent with whom he has a financial relationship? Not just for the Tar Heels, but for players at other schools? And an academic fraud scandal on top of that? One in which the tutor at the center of it had direct ties to the head coach? UNC better enjoy whatever bowl it goes to this year, because it could be its last for a long, long time.

Stewart, in one of your recent tweets, you mentioned that it seemed like players' helmets were flying off with frequent regularity. This is something that a buddy of mine and I have been noticing for a couple of years now. It seems like it coincided with the switch to the newer helmets that have the vents in the top. Regardless of the cause, it's very noticeable and happens in several games a season. Is it going to take someone getting severely injured before someone addresses this issue?
-- Paul Kemp, Birmingham, Ala.

Several games a season? Try several games every Saturday. It used to be a rare novelty when you saw a player's helmet come off during a play, but now it seems almost commonplace.

I've been seeing helmets fly off about four or five teams every weekend, and I'm only watching parts of about one-third of the games played around the country on a given Saturday. During Oregon State's game last weekend, Jacquizz Rodgers lost his helmet during a carry, which, by rule, rendered the play dead, but Rodgers kept moving, so the Arizona defender went ahead and tackled him. I don't want to imagine the consequences had his head hit the turf at full speed.

It's a serious issue, considering the increased awareness and emphasis on the dangers of concussions and other brain-related injuries, but one officials are only beginning to address. In recent articles by USA Today and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, league officials and manufacturers indicated helmet designs are fine, but that some players aren't wearing them properly, perhaps leaving a chinstrap or two unbuckled either for comfort or because it looks cool. But it could just be that we've reached a point where players are so fast and collisions so strong that even a tightly secured helmet can't withstand the force -- another sign of just how dangerous the sport has become.

Helmets have also become a growing concern in the NFL, which instituted new protective rules this offseason and now tracks how often helmets come off during play.

Here are Michigan's yards allowed per game since 2007, Lloyd Carr's final season: 335, 367, 393, 450. The last time Michigan beat a team that finished ranked? Lloyd Carr's final game, against the Tim Tebow-led Gators in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. Stewart, can you give me any hope at all that these trends are going to change in the near future? If not, why on Earth should RichRod still hold his job at the end of the season?
-- Jason, Columbus, Ohio

What -- one loss and you're off the bandwagon?

As bad as Michigan's defense has played, it's nothing we didn't see coming before the season. With the amount of attrition that program has gone through -- including losing seven defensive backs that would have played on this team in the last year alone due to injuries, disciplinary reasons, the NFL draft, etc. -- there's simply no way it could stack up numbers-wise. The Wolverines have played as many as five true freshmen on defense at the same time. Talented as they may be, they're going to be limited, and they're going to screw up. Perhaps Rodriguez should have been better prepared for this void. Perhaps he hasn't recruited well enough. Perhaps it's a lot of bad luck. It's probably a little of all of that. The only thing you can do is wait and hope the young guys get better.

As for Rodriguez's job status, even if the Wolverines don't finish any better than 7-5, it seems to me he's now got an ace in his pocket: Robinson. You want to fire the coach? OK. Who are you going to bring in who knows better what to do with a supremely gifted running quarterback? Not Jim Harbaugh. Certainly not Les Miles. Either you're going to need to replace one spread-option guru with another, or you risk squandering the talents of your most electrifying player. It's an interesting Catch 22 to keep in mind if the losses start piling up.

Mr. Mandel, do all of the empty seats at the Coliseum somewhat explain the loyalty of USC fans? Which program in the NCAA has more front-running fans?
-- Bobby, Fullerton, Calif.

It's pretty much inherent to any program in a major, pro-sports city. Miami has the same problem. If you're winning national championships, you're the toast of the town. If not ... when does the Lakers' season start? There are plenty of very passionate Trojans fans who are there through thick and thin, but it's not a place like Alabama or Nebraska where the entire community revolves around the local university.

Remember, bye-weeks do help a team prepare. I also remember the last time Alabama lost, and it was 19 games later before another loss. Beware, and may God bless the other teams in their way.
-- Karen, Alabama

See what I mean? There aren't a lot of Karens walking around Los Angeles.

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