More Mailbag (cont.)
With the Heisman talk heating up, who are the players that won't win, but if they played at a different school would be in the discussion? For example, Jordan Lynch, the quarterback at Northern Illinois, has 1,185 rushing yards, 1,984 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns for an 8-1 team. If he put up those numbers at most major conference schools he'd be up for the Heisman.
-- Keith, Oxford, Miss.
No question, where you play makes a world of difference. Case in point: Johnny Manziel. Texas A&M's quarterback is certainly fun to watch. He's putting up big numbers. But I'd contend that the only reason he's still showing up on Heisman lists is he plays in the SEC. Just two weeks ago, LSU picked him off three times and limited him to 27 rushing yards. Manziel also posted modest numbers against the only other elite defense he's faced against Florida. But as soon as he went out and lit up hapless Auburn last week, he started showing right back up on the Heisman radar. If he's a candidate, why isn't Arizona's Matt Scott, who sits one spot above Manziel at No. 2 nationally in total offense and just put up 469 yards in an upset of USC? Because he plays for Arizona, that's why.
Lynch obviously fits the bill, too. He's rushed for at least 100 yards in all but one game and has a 17-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Unfortunately, he's doing that for a MAC school. But the No. 1 guy in this overlooked category has to be North Carolina running back Gio Bernard. He's No. 3 in the country in rushing (132.9 yards per game), No. 1 in punt returns (20.8 yards per return, including last week's game-winning touchdown against NC State) and yet I've barely heard a peep about him. Bernard suffers from three hindrances. First, he was injured and missed two games. Second, he plays at a predominantly basketball school. And most of all, his 6-3 team is ineligible for the postseason. (And unlike Ohio State, he's not on national TV every week.) The good news is, he's only a sophomore, so perhaps this year can be a launching pad to a December 2013 trip to New York.
This past Mailbag all three of the e-mailers you made fun of were from the Southeast (Florida, North Carolina and Georgia) and of course verifies their perception that you dislike the SEC. However, I also noticed all three e-mailers were named Greg. I'm concerned that you have a problem with people named Greg who like the SEC and live in the Southeast. Glad my name is Bill.
-- Bill Baldwin, Clemson, S.C.
Man, I would just steer clear of the name Greg in your inbox.
-- Chris, Charlottesville, Va.
Strangely enough, I did not notice this coincidence until the Mailbag had been published and people started alerting me to it. I've always been terrible at remembering names. Apparently it's because I gloss over them the first time.
Hey Stewart, everyone seems to accept the probability that Auburn is going to fire Gene Chizik. But the question I ask everyone that no one can seem to answer is: Who would they hire in his place? Kirby Smart? Charlie Strong? I love Auburn, but I'm not sure we can make a splash hire. Your thoughts?
-- Paul Crane, Atlanta
There aren't a lot of splash hires to be had out there this year. The two candidates who fans of teams with impending coaching changes seem to be most enchanted with are Bobby Petrino and Jon Gruden. The former was fired last spring for hiring his mistress to work for the football program; the latter has never been a college head coach (but does say "that guy" with a certain flair). If Strong were to take an SEC job, it would probably be Arkansas, and I can't imagine Smart would be keen on going head-to-head with his current boss 365 days a year.
I'll say the same thing I said a few weeks ago: Somebody is going to hire Iowa State's Paul Rhoads and look very smart for doing it. Why not Auburn, where Rhoads worked for one (albeit disastrous) season as defensive coordinator in 2008? It's probably going to take a couple of years for Auburn to right that offense (i.e., recruit a quarterback), but there's defensive talent in that program for the next coach to work with. Rhoads is a fantastic defensive coach. I could see where Auburn fans would be leery of hiring a second straight Iowa State coach, but this one is 23-23, not 5-19. And hey, he won a lot of those games with Chizik's leftovers.
In light of the Marcus Lattimore injury and increased awareness in player safety, do you think college football will ever make a rule change about tackling below the waist? I know it's hard to control such a fast game, but if we are going to protect players' brains we might as well protect their legs, too.
-- Nate, Columbia, S.C.
Obviously, anything that can be done to prevent an injury as horrific as Lattimore's should be examined. However, I'm not sure what you're suggesting is realistic. From the beginning of the sport, players have been taught to tackle low. We're already trying to wean them away from tackling high. That doesn't leave a whole lot of room in between, and in fact, what makes Lattimore such a special runner is that he's so hard to wrap up. Realistically, the best hope of bringing him down is to do so below the waist, but obviously, as we saw, that can also result in injury.
Officials should clearly be on the lookout for defenders that intentionally go after a player's knees. I don't think that's what happened here. I think it was just a freakish and unfortunate consequence of a sport that revolves around 11 incredibly strong and fast players trying to run over or keep from being run over by 11 other incredibly strong and fast players. It's the side of football that we all subconsciously compartmentalize to some degree, because if we focused more on the dangers these players subject themselves to on an every-play basis, we'd have a lot harder time enjoying our favorite sport.
Hello Stewart. I have to tell you something that has been on my mind for the last five years. It's not my intention to question your intellect, but I guess that's what I am doing. Do you remember when you used to do the Power Rankings? On Oct. 16, 2007, you rated USF No. 1. I understand that you may not have necessarily believed USF would finish No. 1, but really, you ranked them above LSU and Ohio State. If it is your job to evaluate the present, then it is clear that you should have ranked Ohio State No. 1 on that day, fully knowing that Ohio State was better than USF.
-- Mike, Cleveland
We all have our regrets. I'm sorry you've been carrying one of mine around for five years.