Posted: Wednesday October 12, 2011 11:11AM ; Updated: Wednesday October 12, 2011 1:23PM
Stewart Mandel

Logjam could spark BCS crisis; more mail (cont.)

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LSU punter Brad Wing had his fake-punt touchdown called back due to taunting.
LSU punter Brad Wing had his fake-punt touchdown called back due to taunting.
Derick E. Hingle/US PRESSWIRE

Let me get this straight: You're defending a player taunting an opponent because he's a punter and wouldn't know the rule? So, two questions: In what universe is taunting some sacred part of football that must be defended? And, what other player, besides punters and place-kickers, should have more time to learn the rules?
-- Richard Koffarnus, Moberly, Mo.

I was surprised how many people wrote in this week in defense of the controversial taunting rule that cost LSU punter Brad Wing his touchdown. To be clear, I'm not "pro-taunting." I support sportsmanship as much as the next guy. But I do wonder whether I somehow missed the great taunting epidemic that infiltrated college football in recent years to the point where it necessitated such an extreme penalty. The infamous Miami Cotton Bowl charade was 20 years ago. I can't remember a college football Saturday in the last five years where I thought to myself: Man, these kids today with their touchdown taunting are out of control.

The part about the punter not knowing the rule was a joke, but still, I hardly think he's the villain in this. Put yourself in his shoes. You're a punter. This is the first and probably last time you will experience the thrill of running into an end zone in front of 90,000 screaming fans. Not only that, but you're outrunning an entire defense full of four- and five-star athletes. You turn and see the last two of those defenders failing to reach you. At that exact moment, no, I would not expect Wing to think to himself: "I better not say or do anything inflammatory right now or the refs may blow this play dead right here at the eight-yard-line." If that makes me a taunting enabler, so be it.

Can we officially rename Ole Miss/Clemson Syndrome "Arizona Syndrome" now? You have to admit that Arizona almost makes Ole Miss and Clemson look like Texas and USC from historical success perspective, thus firing Mike Stoops after what he's done for the program is especially egregious. Come on Stew, at least let Ole Miss off the hook.
-- Justin, Columbia, S.C.

You can certainly question the timing of Stoops' dismissal, but I have absolutely no problem with the decision. Stoops took the program to three mid-level bowl games in eight seasons, getting crushed in the last two. I don't think it's unreasonable for Arizona fans to expect the Wildcats to contend for a BCS berth at least once in an eight-year span, especially with USC down. They never came close, and now they're back at the bottom of the Pac-12 (albeit in part due to a rash of injuries). Also, don't discount the role Stoops' maniacal sideline antics played in his demise. They've always made a certain contingent of Arizona fans uncomfortable, but it was hard to complain when things were going well. When you're 1-5, that's another story.

When Arizona fires a coach less than a year after winning 10 games and producing a No. 1 draft pick, as Ole Miss did to David Cutcliffe, then it will merit consideration for a syndrome.

Now that you are in Santa Clara, why not get out and learn about the Pac-12 instead of dwelling so much on teams in the Big Ten? You might want to start with OREGON!
-- Erle Hall, Sacramento

Oregon, you say? Is that the team with the wacky play-cards and the cool-kids uniforms? I've heard a little about them. I'll go up to Eugene this weekend and investigate. In the meantime...

In a year of strange stats, would anyone have thought that Penn State would be 5-1, undefeated in the Big Ten, ranked fourth nationally in total defense, but not be in the Top 25? Is the Penn State defense and running game enough to overcome the QB issues for a 10-win season?
-- Walt Schmidt, North Ridgeville, Ohio

Penn State is starting to remind me a little bit of last year's LSU team, minus the crazy endings. It seems inconceivable that a team can keep winning with such horrendous quarterback play (a highlight from Saturday: Matt McGloin driving the Nittany Lions 90 yards only to throw a pick in the end zone), but it can if the other team can't score, either. Props to defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. I don't how he keeps doing this every year without losing his mind. Anthony Morelli? Really? That's the best you've got? Meanwhile, his octogenarian boss keeps going to news conferences and saying of McGloin and Rob Bolden: "Both of them deserve to play. It's hard for me to tell you which one would be better, but right now, I'm satisfied with the way the two kids have played." (Cue Bradley, fist in mouth to keep from screaming).

It's not realistic to think Penn State will be as dominant defensively every week as it was against Iowa, but no one's going to march up and down the field on the Nittany Lions, either. Even Alabama stud Trent Richardson had to work hard for his 111 yards. But 10 wins would require beating two of the following three: 6-0 Illinois, 5-1 Nebraska and 5-0 Wisconsin. There's also a road game at Ohio State that could well be decided by a 3-2 score. Nine wins seems like a more realistic ceiling, but the defense will have to keep playing out of its mind.

Hey Stew. At what point does Missouri become the crazy-stalker girl who is sure you made eye contact with her and have always desired her? Is it time for the conferences to take out restraining orders? (But don't worry Mizzou, your old loser boyfriend will still take you back).
-- Johnny, Austin

This may come as a shock, but I didn't run into a great deal of crazy-stalker admirers during my bachelor days -- but yes, that's pretty much the perfect analogy.

Missouri is a fine school, one that's produced some very good journalists -- and Jon Hamm. Gary Pinkel has done a remarkable job with the football program, winning at least 10 games in three of the past four seasons. But Missouri fits the SEC about as well as Stephen Garcia would a dry county. The SEC is about 90,000 seat stadiums and rabid fan bases. A ranked Mizzou team had 13,000 empty seats at its opener. The SEC is about fourth-generation Alabama and Ole Miss alums in khakis and sun dresses. Mizzou is in the Midwest, where the folks like their hoodies. The SEC is about parking your RV at the other team's stadium five days before the game. Columbia is a 16-hour drive from Gainesville. And no disrespect to Pinkel, but those 10-win seasons came in part thanks to being a member of the now-defunct Big 12 North. In the SEC Missouri would likely join the West, with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU. Enjoy the BBVA Compass Bowl.

And yet, there are apparently a bunch of powerful people in the state of Missouri who think this is a wonderful idea. Or, as one anonymous school official told the AP: "That's what's left," now that it's abundantly clear the Big Ten isn't interested. That was a regrettable thing to say without being guaranteed the votes from the SEC. And while many at the school are surely loving the attention Missouri is getting right now from making the Big 12 wait indefinitely on a decision, the Big 12 won't prosper or suffer either way. Its future was ensured the day Texas and Oklahoma agreed to sign over their grants of rights.

I don't think we've reached restraining-order territory yet, but I wonder how many times Missouri has had to ask, "So you'll call me, right?"

Now that you are relocating to the West Coast, do you think you will find the time to write more than two sentences per year on Arizona State?
-- David Armata, Chicago

You're in luck: I'll be writing an entire column from the ASU-Oregon game this weekend.

I make no promises beyond that.

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