Crowded Heisman field; more mail (cont.)
Am I right in thinking that not inviting Kellen Moore to the Heisman ceremony would be a travesty? This is a kid has won more games than any other NCAA quarterback, had incredible stats and has beaten marquee teams throughout his career. If Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy can get "lifetime achievement" invites their senior years, why not Moore?
-- Daniel, Washington D.C.
I feel bad for Moore. If not for a missed field goal last year, he might have played in the Rose Bowl. If not for a missed field goal this year (though this time he didn't do much on the last drive himself), he'd almost certainly be playing for the national championship -- and if that were the case, he'd probably be going to New York. I realize what I just wrote doesn't sound fair, but that's how things work.
It's just such a crowded field this year. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Case Keenum and Trent Richardson are all virtual locks to get invites, and all have done as much if not more than Moore has this season. The final spot is probably going to come down to Montee Ball (if he has a big night in Saturday's Big Ten championship game) or Matt Barkley. The first is shattering touchdown records; the second has stats on par with Moore's against a tougher schedule. Moore is also a victim of his own success. He's thrown for 3,194 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions -- all impressive -- yet he's not going to match his yardage from last season (3,845) and already has more picks than last season's six. But lest we forget, Moore did get a trip to New York last season. He got to experience that. And I don't think falling short this year will lessen his legacy in the slightest.
If Virginia Tech thoroughly beats Clemson this weekend, why shouldn't the Hokies be playing for the national title?
-- Trevor, Kalamazoo, Mich.
When the second-highest rated team you've beaten to this point is Arkansas State, you're not going to the national title game.
In terms of available resources vs. job expectations, what is the worst coaching job in college football?
-- Ron, Indianapolis
Two words: Ole Miss. I feel bad saying that because I've made cracks about that fan base's deluded expectations before, but in all seriousness, it's a graveyard job. Despite residing in a small state, despite constant struggles to recruit elite athletes who qualify academically, despite one of the smallest football budgets in the conference (slightly more than Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and about half of Alabama's) and despite playing in a division with three of the past five national champions, two of the Rebels' past three coaches (David Cutcliffe and Houston Nutt) have been fired within two years of Cotton Bowl appearances.
Nutt's program was obviously trending downward, but even in a solid state, the Rebels were never going to keep winning nine games every year. And a couple of 7-6 seasons probably would have scored Nutt maybe one extra year. The next coach will be given a year or two to rebuild, then expected to contend for a New Year's bowl, all while the SEC adds two more schools to recruit against and implements stricter rules about oversigning (which Ole Miss leans on as heavily as anyone) and the NCAA stiffens academic entrance requirements (which means even fewer kids will qualify). Personally, I'd ask for a contract that at least allows me to partake in the Grove before games to help ease the misery.
How come Montee Ball is not in the Heisman discussion despite his stellar numbers? He has more yards on less carries and nine more touchdowns than Trent Richardson.
-- Patrick, Rochester, N.Y.
I think it speaks to what the Heisman has become over the past 10-15 years: an award tied directly to the national title race. If Ball were producing the exact same numbers for a 12-0 team instead of a 10-2 team, he'd not only be leading the Heisman race, he'd probably be garnering discussion as one of the all-time greats. Barry Sanders' 1988 season has long been regarded as the gold standard for running backs, and while Ball is nowhere close to Sanders' yardage, he's now scored more touchdowns in a season (34) than any player in history aside from Sanders. He's five away from tying Sanders, albeit with the benefit of extra games. Usually NCAA records help vault a Heisman candidacy, but in this case it seems only to have gotten Ball into the discussion.
That's not the only reason, though. For one thing, Wisconsin has another record-star, quarterback Russell Wilson, who's on pace to break the NCAA pass efficiency record. Obviously Wilson garnered the bulk of Wisconsin's buzz upon his arrival, and the school launched an aggressive Heisman campaign on his behalf, perhaps at Ball's expense. There's also the notion that Ball may be a "system running back," since we're numb at this point to Wisconsin running backs putting up big numbers. I'd argue Ball is having an exceptional year even by Badgers standards. And last but not least: Trent Richardson is a heck of a running back. He might not be exactly on par with Ball statistically, but he's in the same ballpark, while playing in bigger games and popping off more SportsCenter highlight plays. As I said before, it's a crowded field. They're both worthy candidates. One advantage for Ball: He gets an extra showcase opportunity Saturday night against Michigan State.
How can you put Michigan ahead of Michigan State when State beat Michigan?
-- Jane Pallas, Dowagiac, Mich.
Yep, two weeks later, I'm still getting these e-mails.
What happens if Southern Miss upsets Houston this weekend? As long as Southern Miss and TCU stay below No. 16 in the BCS standings, there would probably be no bid to a non-AQ school -- or would Boise get an at-large invite to the Sugar?
-- Doug W., Natick, Mass.
I must admit, I had not considered this possibility until seeing this e-mail. I just assumed TCU would get in to the Top 16, but if Baylor beats Texas this weekend, it's not going to happen. I do think Boise would get the call in that situation. Assuming Georgia doesn't upset LSU, the Sugar, needing to sell tickets, would probably still take Michigan to replace the SEC champ. The Fiesta would go next and take Stanford. Then it's back to the Sugar, which would likely have the following choices: 11-1 Boise, 10-2 Kansas State, possibly 10-2 Oklahoma State (on a two-game losing streak) and the Big East champ. Boise is a bigger national draw, and would have a higher national ranking, than any of the other possibilities.
All this will be moot, though, because Houston is going to beat Southern Miss by four touchdowns.
What is the relationship between a bowl game and the venue in which it is played? I'm asking specifically about the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which is predicted to host yet another Auburn-Clemson game. The two not only played earlier this season but also open next season in Atlanta. Can the Georgia Dome folks influence who the bowl picks?
-- Charles Roberts, Birmingham, Ala.
Actually, the bowl and its executive director, Gary Stokan, run both events, and I'm surprised myself they seem to keep floating Auburn-Clemson as the most likely matchup for the very reason you mention. Do we really need to see three Tiger-fests in less than 12 months? Do their fans want that? I doubt it. But it also looks like Auburn will be the only viable choice for the bowl's SEC slot, unless it takes 6-6 Florida, and the other ACC choices aren't appealing. I'm projecting 8-4 Florida State to avoid the rematch/prematch, but the 'Noles played there last year, and it's well known the Champs Sports Bowl desperately wants to pit FSU and Notre Dame.
Of course, the only way Clemson is even available is if it loses to Virginia Tech on Saturday, which would give it a three-game losing streak that might turn off bowl organizers.
In 1916, Cumberland College lost to Georgia Tech 222-0. Is that how bad you think LSU would need to lose to Georgia and/or Alabama in order that the Razorbacks "finish at least 10 spots higher than LSU in the final poll?"
-- Kevin Allison, Plano, Texas
I knew these e-mails would pour in, deservedly so, as soon as last Friday's game ended. Kudos to Kevin for getting creative and not just cutting and pasting that quote.
In your August 10, 2011 preseason Mailbag, you wrote: "Mark it down here: The Razorbacks will finish at least 10 spots higher than LSU in the final poll." What do you have to say for yourself now?
-- Bryon McDonald, Houston
I love Les.
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