Posted: Wednesday July 27, 2011 12:21PM ; Updated: Wednesday July 27, 2011 1:48PM
Stewart Mandel

Pac-12 could be full of surprises, intriguing Week 1 games, more (cont.)

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Hate to bring up Ohio State again, but this is a slightly different angle. With OSU now in the search for a permanent coach soon, how do you think that will impact Joe Paterno at Penn State? And which job is the most coveted -- OSU or PSU? And who do you peg as the top candidate and best fit for Penn State? (You need more Penn State-related questions again.)
-- Corey Krall, Charlottesville, Va.

You can see the awkwardness coming five months ahead of time. JoePa's contract expires after this season. It would be an ideal time for him to make a graceful departure, but something tells me it could be every bit as awkward as Bobby Bowden's exit from Florida State. If the school does decide to make a change, it could indeed face an unusual situation where it's battling its own division rival and border-state school for the same candidates -- most notably Urban Meyer. He'd be a logical candidate for either, though I think Penn State would be smarter either promoting the ever-loyal Tom Bradley or hiring someone else with ties to the region, like Miami's Al Golden.

In general, Ohio State is the more coveted job of the two. For one, who wants to be the guy that follows Joe Paterno? Unless the Nittany Lions implode this season like Florida State did in Bowden's last year, whoever gets the job -- even someone as respected as Meyer -- is going to face resistance molding the program in his own vision. Meanwhile, it looks at this point like Ohio State is going to avoid major sanctions, so there's less reason for potential candidates to be scared. And Luke Fickell will have served as the buffer between Tressel and the next guy.

But that brings up another point (and I'm sorry to be swinging your Penn State-inspired question back into the Buckeye realm), but it's looking more feasible to me than it did a few weeks ago that Fickell could get the gig permanently. If the Committee on Infractions agrees with the findings that Tressel was the program's sole rules-breaker, there's less pressure the school to clean house. Of course he'll need to produce a Big Ten championship contender this fall to generate the necessary confidence (no small feat), but if he does, Penn State could have the field to itself. Or, Paterno, who turns 85 this December, will go 11-1 and write his own contract extension (again).

You wanted college football equivalents of the characters from The League, here they are. My girlfriend and I are already near-religious devotees of the show, so these are more or less airtight.

Pete is Virginia Tech: Statistically nothing special, but confident and clever enough to usually wind up a winner in the end.

Kevin is Georgia (my alma mater). Has everything going for him -- good job, nice house, smoking-hot wife -- yet at the end of any given episode he's the one muttering in frustration and pulling his hair out.

Andre is Auburn. Had that one really good season nobody can quite figure out, but as long as he thinks he can succeed simply by throwing wads of cash around (and wearing those godawful Affliction shirts), he'll be the butt of jokes to everyone else.

Ruxin is USC. Which one? Could be either one, actually -- like both Kiffin AND Spurrier, he goes out of his way to needle his competitors as much as possible.

Last but certainly not least, Taco is LSU, and specifically Les Miles. Rarely seems to elicit any evidence of a higher thought process going on in his head, yet he repeatedly falls a -- backward into opportunities the rest of us could only dream of.
-- Doug Gillett, Columbus, Ga.

Of the many, many submissions I received, this one is pretty much perfect, though I'm surprised your girlfriend didn't raise the same objection so many readers did: Leaving out Jenny. Fortunately, there was near consensus about the overlooked hanger-on who winds up beating the guys: Boise State.

Speaking of which ...

Stewart, with everyone always talking about the new Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, etc., how about we throw in the new MWC? What are you thoughts on Boise State steamrolling through the conference? It's no SEC but the MWC is definitely a lot more challenging with a great TCU team and really strong Air Force and San Diego State and potential sleeper Colorado State.
-- Mark, Denver

Agreed. Boise is not going to steamroll through its new conference. For one thing, the 2011 Broncos have far more questions than last year's heavily hyped team. Kellen Moore's still around, but no longer has Austin Pettis and Titus Young at his disposal. Boise's defensive line is still stacked (look for a monster year from senior defensive end Tyrone Crawford), but the secondary lost several key figures.

Even with those questions, Boise would have had a chance to steamroll through the WAC this year, what with Nevada replacing Colin Kaepernick. Hawaii would have been its one viable challenger. In the MWC, however, TCU, Air Force and SDSU will all be games that could go either way. (If CSU is a sleeper, that's news to me, but as a local, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt). The interesting question will be whether a Boise team that beats Georgia but loses one conference game can still finish ranked high enough to earn a BCS berth. Starting high won't hurt.

I have a statement followed by a question. I truly miss the old "Kickoff Classic" type of game that preceded the regular season. What I would like to see is the week before everyone else plays, two top-level teams go at it in a neutral venue. I know we have some of that today, but it is mixed in with everyone else's first game. What would be the greatest obstacles to bringing this tradition back?
-- Andy Harris, New Market, Iowa

I agree that college football needs a more dramatic kickoff than UNLV-Wisconsin or South Carolina-Southern Miss on a Thursday night. The biggest obstacle is that the schools opted to go to a 12-game schedule. That, along with conference title games, spelled doom for the Kickoff/Pigskin Classics. (The NCAA banned them starting in 2002, though it honored existing contracts through '04.) Even if you kept the 12-game limit, there would still be resistance about moving branded games like the Cowboys Classic (Dallas) and Chick-fil-A Kickoff (Atlanta) a week earlier, now that many teams' regular seasons extend into December. It's one of those selective situations where "student-athlete welfare" suddenly becomes paramount.

What I don't understand is why more high-profile teams haven't embraced that opening Thursday-night time slot. The NFL has managed to turn its Thursday-night opener into a major event, but the only notable college opener in recent years was Oregon-Boise State (and that one kicked off late on the East Coast). Meanwhile, the two biggest games opening weekend this year, LSU-Oregon and Georgia-Boise State, are kicking off at nearly the exact same time on Saturday night. Of course, before you can schedule a notable Thursday night game, you have to sign up a notable opponent, and as noted earlier, most teams prefer opening against a cupcake.

Hi Stewart, can you remind us why Texas is still part of the Big 12? They obviously have enough resources and money to run on their own, they're talented enough to play with almost anybody (I'm assuming that last year was an anomaly), and I'm sure that they could get their own seat at the BCS table. As it stands, they're already the only team with its own TV network, which is only having trouble now because they decided to stay in a conference. So what gives?
-- Moneer, Berkeley, Calif.

Maybe that's where it's ultimately headed, but there's one major obstacle: What about all the school's other teams? Basketball, baseball, tennis, etc? Notre Dame has the Big East, BYU the WCC, Army and Navy the Patriot League. It's safe to assume that if Texas bolted the Big 12 in football, a potentially decimating move, that conference wouldn't be keen on allowing the Longhorns to keep its other teams. So where would they wind up? The WAC? The Mountain West? Conference USA? There's no appealing alternative.

As it stands now, Texas is reaping the benefits of both power-conference membership and a little bit of independence. Its teams compete in a high-level league and enjoy national exposure on established networks, and now it will reap a little extra money and exposure on the side with The Longhorn Network. It's a pretty ideal setup, and whether or not the channel will ultimately be allowed to show high school games (which, considering the understandable level of resistance, it almost certainly will not) is not nearly as big a deal to the Texas brass as it's become to their rivals.

Nice call on conference realignment being completely over. Can you ever just admit you don't have all the facts about a situation instead of heading the wrong way? It really hurts your credibility and portrays a writer that isn't well connected enough to even have a hint of one of the biggest stories in college football this year.
-- Brent, Houston

Well now I'm going to sound even more disconnected, because I completely missed the news that more realignment happened.

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