Realignment dust yet to settle; more mail (cont.)
Season ends today. Please explain why Kellen Moore doesn't win the Heisman. Feel free to use any and all facts you need.
-- Brian, Boise
He'd have my vote. No disrespect to Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but Moore has played against two respectable opponents (yes, I consider Toledo respectable) and absolutely shredded both of them. Moore has been doing this for four years now, but astoundingly he's managed to get even better despite losing his top two receivers from last season. Moore, quite simply, is the Drew Brees of college football. He's the most accurate downfield passer I've seen in 12 years covering this sport. He's completing 79 percent of his passes, up from 71.3 percent last year, and since his sophomore season he's got an 82-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That's absurd.
But the season doesn't end today. Much like last year, Moore and the Broncos are about to fall off the radar for a couple of months. Luck will start playing more meaningful games, Griffin may keep putting up ridiculous numbers (he currently has eight touchdowns and eight incompletions) and Russell Wilson has a huge showcase game in two weeks against Nebraska. Marcus Lattimore, Trent Richardson and countless others will contend as well. But Luck and Moore began the year with the most name recognition, and I expect they'll be in it until the end. I just hope if it comes to that, the Heisman voters pick based on who had a better college football season, not who has the higher draft stock.
Rick Neuheisel is a dead man coaching. His teams are hardly ever competitive against legit teams, and judging by his team's performance thus far I can't imagine UCLA finishing above .500 in the Pac-12. I am sure there is a logical explanation for the this, but why is it college football coaches are rarely fired during the season?
-- Jason, Ankeny, Iowa
Actually, coaches get fired during the season every year, though usually not until their team is officially out of bowl contention. Two semi-recent exceptions: Florida firing Ron Zook on Oct. 25, 2004, following a humiliating loss to Mississippi State (the Gators were 4-3) and Clemson axing Tommy Bowden on Oct. 14, 2008, with the team sitting at 3-3.
I'm similarly pessimistic about Neuheisel's chances -- and whatever those are, divide them by 10 to get Houston Nutt's odds of another year at Ole Miss -- but firing the coach three games into the season sends a terrible message to the players. UCLA hasn't even begun Pac-12 play yet. As far as the Bruins are concerned, they can still make the Rose Bowl -- and if Richard Brehaut suddenly switches bodies with Matt Barkley, they just might. My guess is Neuheisel will be given every chance to turn things around, but getting to any bowl game (which would require a 5-4 league mark) will take some miracle work.
I'm sure you won't print this, but I'm calling you out, along with Andy Staples and Mark May, as Texas haters. I guess you all now know how intelligent your "expert" analysis of the Longhorns has turned out to be. Nothing further needs to be said.
-- Randy, Baumont, Texas
Do you feel better now that I printed it?
Interesting how you picked Notre Dame over Michigan State. We Spartans feel like Rodney Dangerfield. Make sure you mention that you were wrong after the game.
-- Bill, Marshall, Mich.
Do you feel better now that I printed that?
Stewart: I am sure this question won't hold the same weight as some others you receive but I consider you the foremost expert on college football and as such I must know your opinion. In between victories I have graduated high school and college, climbed the ranks through three advertising jobs, moved out of my parents' house, and got married. By all accounts it has been a good nine years. It has also been a very difficult nine years. So ... is this the year Army finally beats Navy??
-- John L, New York
For the first time in those nine years, it's definitely a possibility. I have several Northwestern alumni friends who made the trip to West Point last weekend only to watch Trent Steelman -- Army's 28-game starting quarterback -- run all over the Wildcats. The Black Knights ran for 381 yards in that game. But Navy hasn't exactly regressed post-Ricky Dobbs. The Midshipmen went down to South Carolina and played neck-and-neck with a very talented Gamecocks team. If the game were played today Navy would still be the favorite, but the gap is certainly closing.
Any truth to the rumors that when negotiating with conferences to broadcast games, ESPN snuck in a clause allowing it to come up with stupid names for random weeks of football, i.e., Road Test Weekend?
-- Nick, Little Rock, Ark.
Not that I'm aware of. Network executives were too busy dreaming up ways to alienate an entire conference to the brink of extinction.
I'm a current grad student at Mississippi State and Illinois alum. After watching the Bulldogs get beat last week, I had a nice surprise seeing Illinois get to 3-0 and crack the AP Poll. With the current disarray of the Big Ten and newcomer Nebraska leading the pack, what are Illinois' chances of a Big Ten title?
-- Micah R., Starkville, Miss.
Of all the many wrong preseason predictions I surely made, none was more off base than my read on the Illini. My instinctive pessimism regarding anything Ron Zook touches got the better of me.
It turns out that despite losing Martez Wilson and Corey Liuget to the NFL, Illinois appears to have its best defense in years. It was quite stunning to watch the Illini completely suffocate Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler (six sacks, two interceptions) a week after he seemingly threw the ball at will against a respectable Missouri defense. Throw in the athletic Nathan Scheelhaase at quarterback and the Illini certainly have a lot going for them.
But talking about the Big Ten title requires talking about Illinois' division (without naming it of course). Unfortunately for Illinois, it's in the one with Wisconsin. While the Badgers haven't faced the stiffest competition so far (UNLV, Oregon State and Northern Illinois), they've crushed all three teams, and the backfield trio of Russell Wilson, Montee Ball and James White is just plain terrifying. If the Illini were in Nebraska's division I might give them a shot of reaching Indianapolis. The Huskers and every other team on that side have looked vulnerable to date. The Illini do get Wisconsin at home, but they have to visit Penn State and Ohio State before that. Not that those teams are particularly scary right now.
Case in point...
So Colorado is being paid $1.4 million to go to Columbus and lose. But will it? Ohio State is not exactly strong this season, and the Buffs are showing signs of semi-competency.
-- Dan, Washington D.C.
It's certainly not a "guarantee" game, but the Buckeyes are still 15-point favorites. Ohio State lost at Miami because the Hurricanes had comparable talent but far more experience, a problem the Buckeyes are going to run into several more times over the course of the season. Colorado, on the other hand, is experienced but nowhere near as talented. I don't expect Joe Bauserman to turn around from last week's two-completion game and throw for 300 yards, but I do expect the Buckeyes to perform better at home. And they'd better, because the Buffs and Indiana may be the only true gimmees left on Ohio State's schedule.
You're right about your mini-preview of Ohio State-Miami. Miami surely isn't Toledo. Toledo's better! Bucks by double digits.
-- Jason, Uhrichsville, Ohio
That's just unfortunate for everyone.