Posted: Wednesday November 23, 2011 11:36AM ; Updated: Wednesday November 23, 2011 1:52PM
Stewart Mandel

Another BCS controversy building; more mailbag (cont.)

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Oklahoma State joined the list of contenders to have kicking issues as Quinn Sharp missed a potential game winner against Iowa State.
Oklahoma State joined the list of contenders to have kicking issues as Quinn Sharp missed a potential game-winner against Iowa State.
Charlie Neibergall/AP

Stewart, seemingly every year, we continue to see title-contending teams lose their chance at a championship due to the lack of a reliable kicker. This year alone, Alabama, Oregon, Boise State and Oklahoma State have all lost games they easily could have won had kickers made very makable field goals. Why can't upper-echelon programs recruit and develop quality kickers?
-- Justin Busbey, Columbus, Ohio

It's an excellent point. I wrote last January about how coaches and recruiting services so grossly devalue the importance of kickers. One of the analysts I spoke to even said: Why are you writing about kickers? It's because of exactly what we saw the past couple of weeks. I'd be quite the contrarian if I were a coach compiling a recruiting class. My top three priorities would be: 1) Quarterback, 2) Offensive and defensive line and 3) Kicker. They're that important.

There are other factors beyond recruiting. Kickers get almost no individual coaching once they get to campus. Go to a typical football practice and you'll see the kickers and punters practicing by themselves on a side field while the rest of the team goes through drills. About the only thing they can do is get experience, and sometimes that's hard to come by. Oregon, by nature of its explosive offense, doesn't kick a whole lot of field goals. Alejandro Maldonado, the Ducks sophomore who attempted the ill-fated, last-second 37-yarder against USC, had 10 career attempts going in. Maldonado was rated the 24th-best kicker in the country two years ago by Maybe Chip Kelly could have signed one less track-speed running back and gone harder after No. 23.

Stewart, many people are saying Penn State should follow in the footsteps of Miami and self-impose a bowl ban. It would seem to me that the players would be punished for the horrendous acts done by a former coach and nothing that they did. What are your thoughts on them going to a bowl game?

-- Garret, Sacramento, Calif.

There's no reason whatsoever for Penn State to ban itself from a bowl game, first and foremost because this scandal has nothing to do with on-field football. There are going to be ample penalties issued to parties accused of wrongdoing, but they're going to be issued by judges, the federal government, and a former FBI director, among others. Where applicable, they're going to involve far more serious penalties (like jail time) than an NCAA bowl ban.

I read Mark Emmert's tersely worded letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson informing him of an "inquiry" into the school's institutional control. I'm guessing this was done for appearance sake. The president of the NCAA doesn't have the latitude to investigate a school (and the NCAA was adamant this is not yet an actual enforcement case), and surely he realizes what a slippery slope he'd be navigating if he did. His letter basically says that the NCAA can define anything it wants to as "unethical conduct." Does that mean Missouri will be appearing before the Committee on Infractions for Gary Pinkel's DWI? Should it issue similar inquiries to any school that has too many player arrests? The NCAA busts coaches for sneaking recruits into barbecues or lying on a compliance form. Higher authorities can handle a possible cover-up of child molestation allegations.

How much longer do you think Florida State fans will have to tolerate Jimbo Fisher? I hated his hiring and will love his firing. Are there any chances that Florida State's athletic director will find a clue and hire Mike Leach?

-- Brian Fry, Austin, Texas

Wow, that changed in a hurry. All I heard for nine months was how Fisher was the savior. In the meantime, I'll add Florida State to the list of schools someone has connected Leach to, which, at this point, is around 105.

Stewart, consensus preseason No. 1 Oklahoma is out of the title race not due to crippling injuries, but because the defense failed to show up against both Texas Tech and Baylor. Stoops won his only national title with defense first, offense second. But ever since Mike Stoops walked away and K-State put a licking on OU in the 2003 Big 12 title game, the Sooners have been all offense and have nothing to show for it despite numerous preseason predictions of greatness. Will Bob go back to Mike now? Will he at least do SOMETHING to address what is obviously the weak link in the program?

-- Stephen, Wichita, Kan.

I know Bob would love to have Mike back, but he's also got tremendous loyalty to Brent Venables, who's been on his staff since Day 1. Perhaps in Bob's ideal world, Venables would finally get a head coaching gig this offseason and he could bring back Mike as a replacement (assuming OU can afford him). But I can't see him pushing out Venables to bring in his brother. He has too much respect for Venables, and frankly so do I. While I don't disagree that Stoops has largely failed to return to the level of defensive dominance he enjoyed under Mike, I'm not sure that's even possible in today's Big 12.

Ironically, it was Stoops' first Mike Leach-coordinated offense in 1999 that helped bring about the conference's current identity, which can best be described as a week-in, week-out video game. One week you're facing Robert Griffin III, the next week Brandon Weeden, the next Seth Doege. Four of the top eight leaders in pass attempts -- Doege, Weeden, Landry Jones and Ryan Tannehill -- reside in the Big 12. OU has plenty of talent on defense and in fact ranks second in the league in total defense, yet that's good for only 62nd nationally. Even the best defense is going to give up a ton of yards facing those offenses every week. But OU plays the same wide-open, up-tempo style as those other teams, and it's hard to win a shootout week after week. You need a defense that simply doesn't give up big plays, and there's only a few of those in the entire country.

We readers still miss the Mailbag Crush -- the selection process, getting to know her ... everything. I suppose you probably quit eating turkey on Thanksgiving, too. You probably eat tofu with a side of whole-grain stuffing. Shame on you.

-- Lyndon, Martinsville, Indiana

Never. Andy Staples would never let me get away with it. But if you find yourself with an abundance of free time this holiday weekend, use your cable's on-demand system to catch up on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes. Kaitlin Olson has been on fire this season. And for that we can all be thankful.

Have a great holiday, everybody.

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