More Mailbag (cont.)
Stewart: Has the recent and not-so-recent history of Clemson (including the dreadful verb "to Clemson") tainted the pollsters' ability to accurately and fairly judge the current strengths of the program? Since the entertaining yet disappointing loss to Florida State, a game in which the Tigers proved they could hang with the 'Noles, they've become an offensive juggernaut. Yet their reward for seven straight wins is being stuck at No. 12 in the AP Poll.
-- Tim Martin, Fox Point, Wisc.
I know that winning the Heisman isn't a real possibility, but shouldn't Clemson's Tajh Boyd at least be mentioned? He's having an incredible season for a one-loss team coming on the heels of a great 2011 season. What gives?
-- Brad Grace, Greenville, S.C.
I don't normally bite on poll conspiracy questions, but I think there's some truth to this one. Mind you, the Tigers' biggest problem is the ACC's mediocrity. They don't get the bump they might have received in the past for beating Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech. Games against Wake Forest or Maryland are not even going to get noticed. In fact, even last weekend's 62-point outburst against NC State failed to garner any buzz (perhaps giving up 48 points contributed to that). But it's almost as if pollsters are still holding last year's Orange Bowl debacle against Clemson. They're leery of buying in again like they did a year ago, when the Tigers spent much of the season ranked in the top 10. Of course, this may all be moot by Saturday. A win over top-10 foe South Carolina will boost their credibility, and a loss will reinforce how people already feel about them.
But let's talk about Boyd for a second. Last week against NC State, he notched 493 yards of offense and eight total touchdowns (five passing, three rushing). That's a bit Manziel-ian, don't you think? Boyd is first nationally in points responsible for (250), second in pass efficiency (172.7) and seventh in total offense (348.5 yards per game), respectively. I had him on my ballot for Davey O'Brien semifinalist (along with Manziel and Collin Klein), but he missed the cut in favor of Ohio State's Braxton Miller, who ranks 34th in total offense and 49th in pass efficiency. So yes, I'm a bit puzzled. It's as if Clemson and Boyd are playing football in the Bermuda Triangle.
But like I said, all of the Tigers' perceptions issues are likely to change if they beat South Carolina.
Stewart, what is it about Jon Gruden that makes so many believe he can be an excellent college football coach? Is it desperation, or is Gruden the savior waiting to happen? If he is the college savior, Iowa City is easy to find ... it's just off of I-80.
-- Steve, Knoxville, Iowa
So you're sending a question about raging Tennessee man crush Jon Gruden from Knoxville ... Iowa? Mind blown. (Yes, it does exist. I checked. Population: 7,313.)
Anyway, it's a great question, very similar to one I asked on Twitter this week: "Is the entire Gruden-to-Tennessee train based on the fact his wife was a cheerleader there? Do we even know he'd be a good college coach?" To their credit, 90 percent of the Vols fans that responded said, yes, that's pretty much it. But I do understand the fascination to some degree. The guy won a Super Bowl. People feel like they know him now from TV, especially from those Jon Gruden's QB Camp draft specials, and I bet he'd be a heck of a closer in the living room. But he's never been even a position coach at the FBS level. We know he's an X's and O's junkie, but can he handle the year-round grind of recruiting? Does he want to deal with academics, nosy parents and kids getting in trouble? Or does he want to be the next John Madden? I'm not sure even he knows.
As for getting him, or any new coach to come to Iowa. ... good luck with that. Ask whatever lawyers Maryland is employing to circumvent the ACC's $50 million exit fee if they can find a way around Kirk Ferentz's insane contract. (He's owed roughly $400 billion if fired before 2020.)
Stewart, Come on! I love reading College Football Overtime every week. Last night Stanford puts on the best defensive show of the entire year, hands down, and in four pages they show up twice. WHERE'S THE LOVE? Don't you live around here, anyway?
-- Greg Taylor, San Francisco
Congratulations, Stanford, you've arrived. Your fans are finally writing angry e-mails to sportswriters.
When does Darrell Hazell's name start getting thrown around for upcoming coaching vacancies? What he's done at Kent State is nothing short of miraculous.
-- Marcus Aurelius, Vermillion, Ohio
I concur. Hazell's accomplishments in just two years at Kent State are remarkable. And his name is already being thrown around -- but I wonder if it's too soon. We see this trend more frequently in basketball than football, but athletic directors have a propensity for jumping on a hot mid-major coach before he's been there long enough to truly know whether he can build and maintain a program. Hazell is just one of several MAC coaches likely to get a look in the coming weeks, along with Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren, Ball State's Pete Lembo and Bowling Green's Dave Clawson. All are having success, and all but Clawson have been FBS head coaches for just two years.
There's no magic formula for figuring out which mid-major coaches will succeed at a high-level program. Utah plucked a young Urban Meyer after just two years at Bowling Green and looked incredibly smart for doing so. Illinois hired Tim Beckman after three years at Toledo and is likely having buyer's remorse right now. Cincinnati snagged Brian Kelly after three years at Central Michigan, while Kansas hired Turner Gill after four years (and one good season) at Buffalo. Still, the safest bet of the bunch might be Lembo. While he's coached just two years at Ball State (improving the Cardinals from 4-8 to 6-6 to 8-3), he spent 10 years before that at two FCS programs, Lehigh and Elon, taking both to the playoffs. Clawson has a similar background, leading Fordham and Richmond to the playoffs.
Hazell took a different route, working as an assistant for Greg Schiano at Rutgers and Jim Tressel at Ohio State, so he may in fact be perfectly groomed for a Big Ten-level job. But you can't gleam that from one great season.
Stewart, Are you kidding me? You are praising the SEC for playing crap teams and getting into the title game? You must be from the South or just plain stupid. Do you also support athletes that circumvent the drug testing system?
-- Bryan, Sacramento, Calif.
Normally one would have to travel to the North Ave. Trade School to find a nerd of your pedigree, but it's good to see they raise you whining babies in the Midwest also. Why don't you babies quit your moaning and go ahead and admit a team from the SEC is going to win another title? It's not because of scheduling; it's because we have the best teams. Go watch a game.
-- Rob Dawg, Georgia
Yes, these two e-mails were in response to the same column. My work is done here.
Have a happy Thanksgiving.