LSU-'Bama hype; more Mailbag (cont.)
Rich Rodriguez, Brian Kelly and Randy Edsall were the three best coaches in the Big East over the past several years. Now, RichRod is out of the Michigan job after three years, Kelly hasn't improved at Notre Dame and the Edsall hire seems to be a debacle at best. What does this say about the Big East? Maybe Greg Schiano knew what he was doing this whole time staying at Rutgers?
-- Jay, College Park, Md.
The Big East has been very much like the Mountain West or MAC when it comes to coaches: a steppingstone league. Just like some mid-major coaches blossomed into successes (Urban Meyer, Gary Pinkel, Paul Johnson and Jim Grobe among others, with Brady Hoke showing potential), others flopped (Dan Hawkins, Dirk Koetter, Steve Kragthorpe). The jury's still out on Kelly, though he's certainly had a rougher second year than I expected. Rodriguez walked into a terrible situation, and though he shoulders much of the blame for his ill-fated tenure, I'd recommend reading the new book Three and Out for a good account of how so many people behind the scenes in Morgantown and Ann Arbor helped undermine him from Day 1. Edsall couldn't be off to a worse start, which is compounded by the fact that he was an unpopular hire to begin with. Maybe Schiano was indeed on to something.
But you also left two notable names off that list: Bobby Petrino and Mark Dantonio. Petrino coached Louisville to great success in both Conference USA and the Big East, and, after a brief detour with the Falcons, took Arkansas to a BCS bowl last year and is back in the Top 10 this year. And Dantonio, who laid the groundwork for Kelly at Cincinnati, is the best thing to happen to Michigan State football since Percy Snow. I think it shows that the ex-Big East coaches are no different than any others who take a step up: some succeed, some fail. It's not Big East specific.
I wrote you a few weeks before the season about the inevitable trending of phrases among analysts and announcers -- you suggested that "pushing the tempo" would become a common phrase and you nailed it. Now that we're in the thick of the season one that has caught my attention is various "pound for pound" comparisons. Are there any more that have risen to recognition in your eyes?
-- Russell, Tallahassee, Fla.
It seems like we're hearing a lot more about "the edge." Pass-rushers are constantly pressuring quarterbacks from the edge. Explosive tailbacks are beating defensive backs to the edge. Once upon a time we referred to this as "turning the corner," but now it's all about the edge. You don't want to get beat on the edge ... or at the "point of attack."
When will the farce end? JoePa hasn't been a "coach" for years and performs no play-calling or coaching duties during a game. It can only be an ego drive to keep counting wins to his column rather than the true coaches. I await your apologist answer.
-- Chris, Charleston, S.C.
Stewart, was the gratuitous JoePa shot really necessary? Do you really believe that he "may have less influence on the outcome than anyone in the stadium outside of the ushers and the sports writers?" Regardless of his current role, your statement is indefensible and he deserves better.
-- Jon, State College, Pa.
Amazing how two different people can read the same column and come away with completely different impressions, isn't it? But that was kind of my point. JoePa deserves every morsel of praise and reflection when it comes to his sterling career and unparalleled impact on the sport. However, at some point we've got to stop tap dancing out of kindness and acknowledge a legitimate question: Should Paterno be fully recognized for breaking Eddie Robinson's record when he's been nothing more than a spectator like the rest of us for those eight wins this season? Yes, he's still involved in the day-to-day preparations, and he still holds the title of head coach, so anything Penn State does, good or bad, falls under his domain. But you have to be pretty detached from reality to believe he plays any active role in those Saturday wins by sipping hot chocolate in the press box.
I'm not saying there's a right or wrong answer. It's a touchy subject. But I think it's telling that, considering the magnitude, No. 409 didn't really garner that much coverage. It would seem disrespectful not to note the milestone, but a bit tone deaf to celebrate it as if Paterno were the driving force behind wins No. 401-409.
STOP predicting college football games. You are awful at it. How can you post 'Record last week: 4-6" and justify writing college football books. You of all people know it is near impossible to predict college football so STOP IT.
-- Pavan, Guntur, India
It's unfortunate you chose to write this roughly 24 hours before I came within a Braxton Miller miracle of pitching a perfect game. I'm like the Georgia Tech of prognosticators. I'll lay an egg against Miami one week, then come back and knock off the No. 6 team in the country the next. You don't want me to stop. You want to see what happens next.
Stewart, we just finished week 9 of the season. What is the lowest ranking a team has had in the BCS poll at this point in a season and still played for the national title? I would think that the 10th on down would have no chance at this point, but just wondered what history has shown for those teams/fans still hanging on to hope.
-- Andrew, Grantsville, Utah
Some seasons are 15 weeks, not 14, so I went by the sixth-to-last poll (usually Halloween weekend or Nov. 1 or 2). The lowest-ranked team at that juncture to reach the title game was No. 7 LSU in 2003, the last of six one-loss teams that sat behind undefeated Oklahoma. All but No. 2 USC lost again. So there's hope for you yet, current No. 7 Arkansas.
A lot has been made of Boise State's schedule this year (as always) but has anybody really addressed the issue of how well Boise State has scheduled in the nonconference (a.k.a., the games they actually chose to play)? Georgia (tied for first in the SEC East), Toledo (first place in the MAC), Nevada (first place in the WAC), Tulsa (tied for first in Conference USA) and Fresno State. Considering how hard it is for them to get BCS conference teams to play them on fair terms, is this pretty much the toughest schedule Boise State could have come up with?
-- Alan Bushell, Belleville, Ontario
Because there are still so many other undefeated teams, and with all the attention right now on LSU-Alabama, I'm guessing few have even bothered to look at Boise State's schedule. We're so conditioned to bash it out of instinct. Many would be surprised to learn the Broncos have played a tougher schedule to date (according to both Sagarin and Jerry Palm's ratings) than Alabama and Stanford. Obviously that will soon change with the Tide playing LSU and the Cardinal playing Oregon. And one thing that really hurts Boise this year is the lack of a looming late-season game against a ranked opponent like it had last year with Nevada. Its three best remaining foes are TCU (6-2), San Diego State (4-3) and Wyoming (5-2), none of which are likely to be ranked come game time.
The Broncos are never going to win any strength of schedule arguments, but I do get annoyed when the critics insinuate they're voluntarily shying away from tougher competition. They only get to choose five of their opponents, and while there's obviously an element of luck involved, they did a pretty decent job this year. They played a respected SEC program in its backyard. There are no FCS teams on the slate. All five played in bowl games last year and at least four of them will again this year, several in better bowls.
A proposal: From now on, in lieu of overtime, a tie will be broken by a game of Chardee MacDennis.
-- Brock, Spartanburg, S.C.
Proposal accepted. No puzzles, no puzzles, no puzzles, no ...
What does the BCS computer system see USC as? Since it cannot be ranked by the coaches or Harris polls, are they still put into the computer rankings? USC must have some sort of ranking because of Stanford's rise in the standings on Sunday.
-- Cameron Palmer, Davis, Calif.
The Trojans are still included when calculating all six computer ratings used by the BCS so that their opponents get proper credit for playing them, but they are not included in the actual rankings. So, for example, if Massey or Billingsley determines that USC ranks 23rd this week and Texas 24th, then Stanford would be credited in their rankings with beating the No. 23 team. However, when compiling the overall BCS standings, USC is eliminated from those rankings, and Texas rises to No. 23 in its place.
What is your problem? The second sentence of your JoePa piece is so critical and condescending that it is downright rude. I read your asinine diatribes because they are out there and you do know how to write, but it is sad that you are such a smug little man. And you are a little man, both figuratively and physically. It is obvious that you've not played a down of football. You should be ashamed of yourself for the way that you have treated and are treating an icon of college football. Yes, he does need to step down, but he does not need back handed denigration from pissants such as you. By the way, start to work out a little and get rid of that gut, you out of shape little turd.
-- J.P. Stoshak, Warrior Run, Pa.
Five minutes later...
My apologies. I was so angry after reading the first few sentences that I did not finish your piece. When I did, just now, I was pleasantly surprised to find that your closing statements very much mirror my own. Your compliments to Coach Paterno were on the money and quite fitting. Again, my apologies for jumping the gun.
-- J.P. Stoshak, Warrior Run, Pa.
I love my job.