More Mailbag (cont.)
Stewart, I know that Heisman voters may never give a defensive player the award, but isn't Manti Te'o playing better defensively than anybody is offensively? When does he begin getting consideration? What do you think a defensive player has to do to win the award?
-- Kevin, Chapel Hill, N.C.
If you were to name a four-week MVP in college football, Te'o (38 tackles, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries) would certainly be deserving of the award. So would Georgia's Jarvis Jones (4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception). The difference, of course, is that Te'o plays for Notre Dame, and therefore gets more attention. He will be on national TV every week this season. He's also a four-year starter with a great story and built-in name recognition. If you were looking to build the prototype necessary for a true defensive player (no kick returns) to overcome 77 years of Heisman history, Te'o may well be it.
More realistically, voters won't stay focused on a linebacker for 14 weeks. Linebackers don't put up eye-catching statistics like quarterbacks do. That's why West Virginia's Geno Smith (81.4 percent completions, 1,072 yards, 12 touchdowns, no interceptions) is on top of every Heisman board right now. The one glimmer of hope for defenders like Te'o or Jones is that several of the most sport's most lauded offensive stars -- Matt Barkley, Denard Robinson, Monteť Ball -- have already slipped. It may be that the exodus of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III has left an offensive void this year.
Keep in mind: Voters have already bucked history several times in recent seasons. They awarded the Heisman to a sophomore (Tim Tebow) in 2007, gave 161 first-place votes to a defensive tackle (Ndamukong Suh) in 2009 and presented last year's trophy to a player from a 9-3 Baylor team. Still, a linebacker winning the Heisman would be truly extraordinary.
If Manti Te'o played for Alabama, he'd be just another guy, right?
-- Jeff, Hyrum, Utah
I can't tell if you're suggesting that Te'o is overrated or that Alabama linebackers don't get enough credit. Either way, seeing as Te'o is a former five-star recruit and a consensus first-round NFL prospect, he'd certainly fit in with the Crimson Tide.
LSU's moribund passing offense continues. Is it time to start asking if LSU's quarterback woes are a product of its coach/system? Has Les Miles ever had a top-rated passer of his own making?
-- Steve, San Jose
What's this? A college football fan in San Jose? I'm writing these very words from a Panera Bread in San Jose and it's making me realize: I haven't come across anyone in school colors here since the season started. I'm in a bizarre vacuum.
LSU's continued quarterback woes are admittedly puzzling. Miles has in fact coached a couple of pretty decent passers in his day: Oklahoma State's Josh Fields (15th nationally in pass efficiency in 2002, though he regressed to 42nd the next year) and LSU's JaMarcus Russell (third in '06). But something's definitely been amiss ever since Jimbo Fisher left as offensive coordinator after the 2006 season. Matt Flynn, who would go on to become an NFL player, ranked just 64th during the Tigers' 2007 BCS championship season. Obviously Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson struggled for four years, and now Zach Mettenberger is off to a modest start (he's thrown for fewer than 200 yards in three of four games).
Part if it is a byproduct of the type of the conservative, run-first offense Miles wants to run. But Alabama takes much the same approach, and the Tide's quarterback, AJ McCarron, is currently the nation's fourth-rated passer. And it's not like LSU doesn't have talented receivers. It's had them in the past and it has them again now.
Mettenberger has the physical skills that prompted two different SEC schools (originally Georgia) to sign him. I'm inclined to cut him some slack for now, seeing as last Saturday's Auburn game was his first career SEC start. But if things don't improve over the course of the season, it would definitely become an indictment of the staff's ability to get the most out of that position.
As a Wisconsin alum and longtime Badgers fan, I am embarrassed that the Badgers will likely win their division and play in the championship game because Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible. They look inept at best and it's a sham they are still ranked.
-- John K, Milwaukee
No argument here -- so why are you still penciling them in for Indianapolis? Don't go sleeping on Purdue.
With Denard Robinson setting all-time Michigan records for career yardage (9,438) and interceptions (38) in the same game, what will be his legacy, or is it still yet to be written? I can't forget his truly awful performances against Michigan State last year and in bowl games, his lack of a Big Ten title and this last romp in South Bend. I also am grateful for a win against Ohio State and some memorable Notre Dame games the two years before.
-- Nick, Upland, Calif.
Robinson's career to date has certainly been all over the map, but there are still plenty of games left for him to tilt things one way or the other. At this point, it's obviously a lost cause to think Robinson will ever salvage his reputation as a passer. Last Saturday's performance was an extreme low, but it wasn't exactly out of character from his past games against elite defenses. However, he's still such a dynamic playmaker that you know he's going to register more 150-yard rushing games against overmatched defenses. Besides Michigan State, there's no defense on the Wolverines' conference schedule at the level of Alabama's and Notre Dame's. (Ohio State's should be, but it has underperformed to date.)
We'll see how things play out, but barring a drastically terrible senior season, I've got to imagine most Michigan fans will remember him for the positive more than the negative. He came along at a time when Michigan football was at its lowest point in modern history and gave fans something to be excited about. He produced some of the most spectacular individual performances in school history, particularly the 2010 and '11 Notre Dame games. He helped break an eight-year losing streak against the Buckeyes and deliver a BCS berth. There's a lot to like, even if those moments came interspersed with some alternately agonizing lows.
Thank you for the Dumb and Dumber quote. I'm a huge fan ... of you, Harry and Lloyd.
-- Dave D., Worcester, Mass.
What Dumb and Dumber quote?
Ummm, Stewart, I hate to point this out, but in your Sept. 19 column you said that Utah fans might invite you in for "tea and strumpets." Given that a strumpet is another word for prostitute, I'm thinking maybe you meant "crumpets."
-- John Ballard, Natchez, Miss.
Ah yes. That one.