More Mailbag (cont.)
Do you see yet another 10-win season for Virginia Tech? They do it more than any other school but their schedule is tougher this year as they play Pitt, UNC, Clemson, and Miami away.
-- Nick, Winchester, Va.
Of course I see the Hokies winning 10 games. It's the easiest annual prediction in college football. For eight straight years, Frank Beamer's team has won either 10 or 11 games, no more, no less. I do worry that we're putting an undue amount of faith in quarterback Logan Thomas. While the guy is a 6-foot-6, 260-pound freak capable of full-on world domination, there's a bit of revisionist history out there in regard to his 2011 season. Yes, he threw for a school-record 3,013 yards, but in the Hokies' two blowout losses to Clemson, Thomas threw one touchdown, three interceptions and managed a combined 10 rushing yards. And he was a modest 19-of-28 for 214 yards and a pick in the Sugar Bowl.
And now, Thomas is without star tailback David Wilson, four of last year's starting offensive linemen and top receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin. We can reasonably assume Bud Foster's defense will be stout (as always), but can the offense move the chains with such little experience surrounding Thomas? I've been skeptical all offseason, but I've warmed up since the start of preseason practices. It sounds like early enrollee J.C. Coleman could be Beamer's next stud tailback. Seniors Dyrell Robets, D.J. Coles, Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller are all capable receivers. And I wouldn't worry about the schedule that much. Pitt isn't on Tech's level yet, and Miami, to be blunt, is going to flat out stink. Georgia Tech, Clemson, Florida State and possibly UNC will pose problems, but split those and voila, you've got your 10 wins.
And now, we switch to the nation's hardest team to predict year-in year-out.
Is it just me, or does this have the making of typical surprising Iowa football team? It doesn't play a very tough schedule, there's a veteran quarterback returning (James Vandenberg), a potential stud for a tight end (C.J. Fiedorowicz) and the usual solid overachievers on defense. Could the Hawkeyes sneak into the Big Ten title game?
-- Tommy Roth, Prague, Czech Republic
Help refresh my memory: Is it in odd-numbered years the Hawkeyes exceed expectations, and even years they flop? Or vice versa?
On paper, I don't see much reason for optimism with these Hawkeyes. I do like the underappreciated Vandenberg (3,022 yards, 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions last season) and his receiving targets Keenan Davis and the 6-7, 265-pound Fiedorowicz. They give new offensive coordinator Greg Davis some nice pieces for his passing game. But the Hawkeyes' longstanding running back curse is just getting ridiculous. Freshman Barkley Hill's torn ACL this week -- coming on the heels of 1,400-yard rusher Marcus Coker's suspension and subsequent transfer, replacement Jordan Canzeri's torn ACL and projected No. 2 De'Andre Johnson's dismissal -- leaves Iowa with just two scholarship running backs, sophomore Damon Bullock and true freshman Greg Garmon.
Can this team really win a championship with such a perilously thin backfield? And is it really such a sure thing that another mass of overachievers will excel on defense? I see something closer to a six- or seven-win team, which means of course that Iowa will somehow find its way into a BCS game.
Cincinnati Bearcats football -- great team or greatest team?
-- John, Cincinnati
Wouldn't they best be described as Graeter's team?
OK, OK, I know I'm a homer. But looking through Tennessee's first six games, I think they have a real shot at 5-1 or 6-0 (with an upset over UGa) before heading into the Bama game. The offense is top three in the SEC, the defense looks to be improved from a terrible year, based simply on experience. Is it possible, with a few breaks, the Vols could be a sleeper top 15 team this year?
-- John Armour, Nashville
I do think Tennessee will surprise some people. Top 15 seems optimistic, but the prevailing consensus out there that Vols will go 6-6 or 5-7 again and Derek Dooley won't be wearing orange pants any longer doesn't do justice to the talent on hand. Just the passing trio of Tyler Bray, a healthy Justin Hunter and fellow receiver Da'Rick Rogers (1,040 yards last season) should scare defenses, and finally Tennessee has some veterans to protect Bray. The schedule sets up interestingly into three distinct blocks. You've got NC State, Georgia State, Florida and Akron the first four weeks. Tennessee really needs to emerge from that group with at least three wins, because the next four games (at Georgia, at Mississippi State, Alabama and at South Carolina) are brutal. Then the last four are relatively soft (Troy, Missouri, at Vanderbilt and Kentucky), but if Dooley is 3-5 going into that stretch the noise is going to be deafening and the season might crumble. Instead, I see him finishing around 8-4 and earning a reprieve.
I'm not sold that Dooley is the long-term answer there, but can we at least put one silly notion to rest? There is no chance Tennessee would hire Bobby Petrino to replace him. Not after getting burned by Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl. Besides, if my prediction is correct and Dooley holds on through 2013, Petrino will already be off the market and gainfully employed ... one state to the north.
"Eighth year senior" submission: Kansas tight end Mike Ragone, a sixth-year player and transfer from Notre Dame.
-- Joe T., St. Louis
He arrived in South Bend the same year as Jimmy Clausen. Enough said.
Other additions to last week's roster: Sixth-year Boise State tailback D.J. Harper (the Broncos' leading rusher in the LeGarrette Blount punch game three years ago), Oklahoma punter Tress Way and Mississippi State tight end Marcus Green. And a correction: Team captain Robert Marve originally committed to then-Alabama coach Mike Shula before an 11th-hour switch to then-newly hired Miami coach Randy Shannon. The guy passed on playing for Nick Saban and is now finishing his career under Danny Hope.
With C.J. Brown done for the year and Maryland down to two freshmen and one converted wide receiver at quarterback, how many wins do you honestly see for Maryland this year? One? Two? A more important question: Do you think Randy Edsall gets a pass this year (I know, it's funny to write that), no matter how abysmal this team is? Maryland can't afford to fire him, and AD Kevin Anderson would likely be following Edsall out the door, seeing as how Edsall is his guy.
-- Matt, Washington D.C.
It certainly has the makings of another ugly season in College Park. Unless new starting quarterback Perry Hills is the second coming of Boomer Esiason, it's hard to envision Maryland being much better offensively. The defense has more room for growth -- it was clear that unit checked out at a certain point last year -- and maybe that's how the Terps claw to four or five wins. (They open with the unimposing trio of William and Mary, Temple and Connecticut.) Given the low circumstances, just a little improvement in the wins column might constitute a pass for Edsall. But there's no way he'd survive a second straight 2-10 season, freshman quarterback or not. See Turner Gill at Kansas. Anderson may still save himself if he pulls the plug quickly enough.
Hi Stuart, I was cleaning out my bookshelf and came across your book Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls that I read a few years back. It reminded me of a question I had back then: Can I get my $19.99 back plus shopping and handling?
-- Chad L, Hilton Head
Drop this Stuart guy a note, I'm sure he'd be happy to refund your $20, but you may have to find someone else to do your shopping and handling for you.
SI Now: Why did Oregon get left out of Sugar Bowl?
SI Now: Rose, Fiesta Bowl preview