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Tag:Alabama
Posted on: November 18, 2011 12:26 pm
 

Friday Mailbag: Honoring BC's tackling machine

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send questions via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.



From @kcflatlander Why doesn't Colin Klein get any pub for Heisman consideration?

There are three big reasons for that: first, Klein was completely off the radar before the season. No one knew or expected much from him outside of perhaps some folks in the state of Kansas. 

Second, he plays at a program that is far from a national name and gets obscured by having so many other Heisman hopefuls in his region. Going into the season, there were four such candidates at the Oklahoma schools alone. Then, Robert Griffin III at Baylor really flashed onto the Heisman picture in a big way over the first month. Klein and K-State really didn't start to get much notice until October. 

The third point is that for a QB to have a decent shot of getting into the Heisman race, he needs to either put up gaudy passing stats or play at a glamour program or, if he's a running QB, needs to put up big rushing numbers like an elite back to go with some highlight-reel runs. Klein's rushing totals are impressive. He's run for 1,009 yards (good for 26th in the nation) and has 24 rushing TDs. That last stat has prompted some Klein supporters to try and draw comparisons to Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman in 2007. The problem with that is Klein's passing numbers aren't close to Tebow's. 

Klein has a passing efficiency rating of 127 (ranking him 69th nationally) and a 10-5 TD-INT ratio. Tebow's rating was 172.5 (No. 2 in the country) to go with a 32-6 TD-INT mark, and his numbers came against tougher defenses in the SEC. Even if you use Denard Robinson's run last year, Klein's numbers are lacking. Robinson was in the top 20 in passing efficiency, was virtually a one-man offense and he still didn't win or get invited to NYC for the ceremony, and he plays at one of those few true glamour programs.


In reality, the off-the-radar guy I think deserves consideration in anything framed around the "Most Outstanding Player" talk in college football but has no shot at the Heisman is BC linebacker Luke Kuechly. He's leading the nation in tackles by three a game, which is a huge margin relatively speaking. But he plays defense and plays for a 3-7 team. Unfortunately, there is only so much a linebacker can do, even a great one. Kuechly's about the set the ACC career tackles record this weekend and it's fitting the team he's going to do it against, Notre Dame. His background is certainly worth sharing here though:


Kuechly
 was a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker at Cincinnati's St. Xavier High, a program that won a state title his junior year. He had a 4.0 GPA. He also was a lacrosse standout. "I kept telling every coach that came though here, this kid is special," St. X coach Steve Specht told me a while back. Ohio State though didn't offer Kuechly. Nor did Notre Dame or most of the top programs in the midwest. Duke was his first offer. The Blue Devils staff had a theory why other teams weren't sold: Kuechly, who wears glasses off the field, looked kinda, well, nerdy. And, he was soft-spoken. Coaches wants to see a guy who looks like Brian Urlacher, not like he could be writing computer programs. 

In his senior year, St. X was playing its rival St. Ignatius. Specht spotted Notre Dame defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta in attendance. "I'm here to see #3," Tenuta told Specht.

"My #3 (Kuechly)?" Specht asked.

"No, I'm here to see the other #3," replied Tenuta, referring to Dan Fox, a similarly-sized linebacker the Irish already had offered.

Kuechly caught a touchdown in the game and was all over the field on defense, but St. X lost in overtime and despite Specht's post-game-lobbying, the Irish still weren't interested. Kuechly opted to sign with Boston College. He was named the Eagles starting middle linebacker in his first game and has not come out of the line-up since. This year, Kuechly leads the nation in tackles for the second consecutive season and, at the very least, should take home the Butkus Award, honoring the country's top linebacker.


From @TheCBurns   Will Kevin Sumlin be coaching at Houston next year?

I'd be shocked if Sumlin is back at UH in 2012. The timing is too good for Sumlin not to make his leap to a bigger program now. The Cougars have a good shot to go to a BCS bowl this year. His QB Case Keenum is a senior and moves on after this season. Sumlin's name can't get much hotter than it is right now. There are some very intriguing jobs that are or are about to come open, which figure to court Sumlin: UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona and UNC. My hunch is he ends up in the Pac-12 in 2012.



From @ixcuincle  will urban meyer coach in the near future?


  Yes, I'm convinced the temptation to get back into coaching is too great for Meyer. He was able to recharge his batteries for a year, spend some time with his family but knowing that one of the few jobs (Ohio State) that he sees as elite is open will drive him back to the sideline. I realize there have been some reports floated that it is a done deal. I'm told by a source those reports are premature, but look for him to be running the show in Columbus very soon.

From @
jhclay  in 07 everyone was against UGA for title as did not win div/conf even though #3 and top 2 lost. But now everyone wants Bama?

First, I'm not so sure that "everyone" wants Bama. There's a lot of people who have been vocal about Alabama not getting another shot at LSU. One of the reasons you hear is that viewers were bored by the lack of offense in a game where there wasn't a single touchdown. However, keep in mind pollsters are voting for the second-best team. They're not supposed to be doing so as programmers, seeking out potentially the most entertaining match-up.

There are some differences between that Georgia team and this year's Alabama squad. That was a two-loss Georgia team that had been blown out in the middle of the season by Tennessee by three TDs. No one has blown out Alabama. The Tide has the best defense in the country and hasn't allowed more than 10 points since September. They also have a potent running game, led by the best back in college football, Trent Richardson. They have one of the better wins of the season, crushing Arkansas 38-14. They also went up to State College and blasted Penn State. 

Another noticeable difference between 2007 UGA and 2011 Alabama is, at that point, the SEC hadn't been that far along on this run of BCS titles. That benefit of the doubt that the league is going to get wasn't really there. The run of five BCS titles in a row carries a lot of weight. To a lesser extent so does the fact that Bama just won a national title two years ago. That's still fresh in people's minds. The Dawgs, meanwhile, had gone unranked the previous season in the Coaches poll and had been upset by WVU in the Sugar Bowl the year before that.

From @
jasongrant19   please discuss the disaster that is ole miss football.

It is stunning how quickly that program has fallen apart in the past two years. To go from back-to-back Cotton Bowls and then to four wins and now to a year where they're looking at 2-10 is remarkable. Ole Miss has had some clunker teams over the years, and in the two years I was around Oxford, the Rebels were really mediocre, but those teams were at least competitive in most games. This team has been thumped by Vandy and La. Tech and lost by double-digits to a horrible Kentucky team. 

Houston Nutt walked into a decent set-up when he arrived at Ole Miss: lots of young talent that actually had plenty of SEC experience because those guys were forced into action probably sooner than they should'v been.  Dexter McCluster, Mike Wallace, Shay Hodge, Cassius Vaughn, Kendrick Lewis and Jonathan Cornell and some really good linemen became the nucleus of good, fast team. Nutt also inherited a gifted transfer QB (Jevan Snead) who was sitting out but poised to take over the offense as the program's best QB, by far, since Eli Manning left Oxford. Having that triggerman was crucial. You see how awful the program has been without it. That bunch of players that Nutt inherited had been coached hard by the previous staff. Nutt came in, eased up, threw them a bone and they responded well. 

The problems started to come because Nutt didn't recruit as hard as the old staff. You're able to get away with not recruiting as hard at Arkansas than you can at Ole Miss. His first few classes were huge, but loaded with misfires and guys who never made it to Oxford or didn't last long. He also allowed MSU to take over the recruiting in the state in his first few years. Eventually that caught up with him, as did the eased-up, players' coach mentality inside the program. The team had lost whatever edge was there in the early years of Nutt's tenure. Whoever replaces him will inherit quite a challenge. There is some talent, especially in a nice group of young receivers, but there are major questions about the QB and throughout the rest of the depth chart, especially on the lines. There also are APR issues the new coach is going to have to be very mindful of because they've had so much attrition the past few years there. It looks like this team has been mailing it in on the field so if you're the next coach you better hope they haven't been mailing it in off the field too by not going to classes.

Frrom @DatBoiMattyP Will you consider Geno Smith a top 5 QB next season?

  It really depends on which of junior QBs opt to return to college football for 2012. Remember, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones all have another season of eligibility remaining. The only ones I think of that quartet who may return to college are Griffin and Barkley.

Smith has had a good season in his first year in Dana Holgorsen's system which was a radical change from what he'd run previously at WVU. Smith's fifth in the country in passing yards (350 per game) and has a stellar 24-5 TD-INT ratio. The team has also soared from 78th in scoring last season to 16th. I expect a big jump from Smith again with more experience in the system and with added seasons from an already dynamic group of receivers who all are expected back in 2012: Tavon Austin, Steadman Bailey and Ivan McCartney. Smith will come into the season as a legit Heisman contender, not a darkhorse guy.

The other top QBs for 2012: Clemson's Tajh Boyd; Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, Oregon's Darron Thomas, ASU's Brock Osweiler, Georgia's Aaron Murray, Iowa's James Vandenberg and Washington's Keith Price. Other young QBs closing in on that group: TCU's Casey Pachall, Illinois' NateScheelhasse, VTs Logan Thomas, FSU's E.J. Manuel and OSU's Braxton Miller.

From @DukeBlogMKline  probably not getting any DukeFB questions but how do you assess progress in year 4 of Cutcliffe. Closer or as far away as ever?

I realize the Blue Devils are in a 5-game losing, but Cutcliffe has things getting better in Durham. It's just that things had been so dismal there for so long, it's going to take a lot of time. Consider this: the current senior class at Duke has won 15 games in the past four years and they'll leave the school as the winningest group of seniors since 1997.

This program still doesn't have the depth to handle the wave of injuries that have hit. Some 20 players in their two-deep have missed at least one game this year. The bright side is Duke will return almost every significant player in the program save for one OT and a safety. They also redshirted most of their freshmen class. Team speed has definitely been upgraded. The Blue Devils should have a decent shot at getting to a bowl game in 2012.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:27 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Tuesday Top 10: MVPs of the season's first half

Over the weekend South Carolina got some devastating news: Star RB Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury. I brought up the point on Twitter that Lattimore, one of the real workhorses in the sport, might be the most valuable non-quarterback in college football. Where would he rank overall?  This week's Top 10 list: most valuable players of the first half of the 2011 season:



1-Robert Griffin III, Baylor QB: Yeah, his numbers have tailed off a bit since his incredible first month, but RG3 has still been phenomenal for what used to be such a dismal Bears program. Griffin has a 22-2 TD-INT ratio and is connecting on over 78 percent of his passes while accounting for, on average, 374 of Baylor's 550 total yards per game. Look at it this way: Griffin has been a franchise talent for this program that has been embroiled in the rough side of the conference realignment stuff. The Bears have spent several weeks in the Top 25 this season, have a shot at making a New Year's Day bowl and have been nationally relevant for more than a month despite having the 100th ranked scoring D in the country.


2-Andrew Luck, Stanford, QB: As advertised, Luck has been brilliant leading this top 10 team as it moves on without Jim Harbaugh. The Cardinal are unbeaten and no one has gotten closer than 26 points from them while they coasted past a bunch of teams that are mediocre at best. As impressive as Luck's passing numbers are: 71 percent completion percentage, 18 TDs, 3 INTs, something else is even more of a head-turner: Stanford lost three of its five starters up front from last year and they still only have surrendered two sacks all season. A lot of that is due to the big QB's guile and grasp of the offense. Luck makes it all look so easy.

More Midseason Coverage
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3-Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB: The current top guy on my Heisman list, Richardson has a better supporting cast than anyone out there. With as devastating as the Tide's defense is this season, Bama could be a top 25 team just with average talent on offense. But it's Richardson who makes the Tide such a force on this side of the ball too. He is a bruising back with outstanding speed and now everyone knows about how slick his moves are after the number he did on Ole Miss last week. Richardson is the engine of the Tide offense, which had to replace, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and QB Greg McElroy. Despite all of that turnover, Bama is actually still leading the SEC in scoring (39 ppg) and averaging almost six points more than it was at this point last year.


4-Denard Robinson, Michigan, QB: Last year at this time Robinson's act felt like a phenomenon. We've almost gotten used to it, but he is still arguably the most exciting player in college football. Robinson's performance in an amazing comeback win over Notre Dame in September was one for the ages. The Wolverines are much better on D this year, but actually not quite as prolific on offense. Robinson's passing game has regressed a bit from last year, but the load he carries is still remarkable. He is accounting for 312 of Michigan's 451 total yards of offense (69 percent). 


5-Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, RB: The SEC has a couple of great tailbacks. Whether Lattimore is actually better than Trent Richardson is debatable, but the loss of the star back on Steve Spurrier's team figures to be huge. Lattimore wasn't just a great physical runner, he also was a very capable receiver and the guy who kept the Gamecocks offense going.


6-Russell Wilson, Wisconsin, QB: The NC State transfer has fit into Badger football beautifully, taking this program to a new level. Wilson leads the country in passing efficiency and has thrown 14 TDs against just one INT. As the schedule picks up, Wilson's worth figures to continue to increase.


7-Kellen Moore, Boise State, QB: His yards per attempt and passing efficiency rating are slightly down from last year. Then again, he did have to replace two superb receivers, but Moore has still been his usual outstanding self, completing 76 percent of his passes for the Boise State powerhouse that looks like the safest bet in college football to run the table this fall.


8-Tyrann Mathieu, LSU,  CB/SLB/PR: The Honey Badger is the star of the dominating LSU D, lining up all over the field, blitzing, dropping, playing man, flying in for tackles while trying to rip the ball free. He just has a real knack for making big, momentum-swinging plays. The 5-9, 180-pound Mathieu leads the Tigers in solo tackles (29); forced fumbles (four), fumble recoveries (three) and is tied for second in INTs (two) and for third in TFLs (five).


9-Devon Still, Penn State, DT: A few years back Nittany Lion D-lineman Jared Odrick was such a handful for rival offenses that he won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Still is playing at that level and might be in line for similar honors if he can keep this up. The Nittany Lions are No. 6 in the country in scoring defense with Still anchoring their front and barreling his way into the other team's backfields consistently. Stats often can't truly measure a lineman's merits, but Still makes more than his share of plays besides the ones he creates for teammates. His 10 TFLs are among the nation's leaders and his play on a good defense has enabled PSU to go 6-1 in spite of a dreadful offense, ranked 96th in the nation.

 
10 (tie)- Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR-KR: The most spectacular freshman in football, Watkins' worth was evident last weekend when he turned in big play after big play to bail the Tigers out of a tight situation as they rallied to overtake Maryland. In that game he set a school-record with 345 all-purpose yards. On the season, he already has five plays of 60 yards or longer.



10 (tie) Robert Woods, USC, WR-KR: The Trojan offense has sputtered quite a bit this fall, but Woods is the one USC player who consistently looks like the kind of stud that this program had when it was competing for BCS titles. Woods is on pace for 120 catches and almost 1600 yards receiving for a team that is 5-1, but might only be .500 if it weren't for the sophomore wideout.

Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:29 am
 

Examining the Heisman race

We are near the midway point of the season and the Heisman race is very murky. After a few weeks with Baylor's Robert Griffin III in my top spot, I have Stanford's Andrew Luck back at No. 1. Luck has been as advertised, looking like the closest thing to an NFL QB as you'll see playing at the college level. With him, Stanford is a legit BCS title contender. Without him, the Cardinal would be struggling to get bowl eligible.

Luck has a 14-2 TD-INT ratio and is completing 73 percent of his passes, up from last year's under 71. A few weeks before the season Luck told me one of his goals was to improve five percent on his accuracy and much of that would hinge on his bettering his timing with his receivers, many of whom are new, on their routes. Even though he's only up about three percentage points from last year, he's actually up 7 percent from where he was at this same stage in 2010 (113 for 172, 66 percent, 16 TDs, 4 INTs).

Griffin has been superb, although his numbers have started to tail off just a bit. He's still completing 80 percent of his passes with a 19-1 TD-INT mark and trails only Russell Wilson in passing efficiency. Griffin's TD-INC ratio is now 19-28. If he could've led Baylor in a rally to beat K-State, RG3 would still be number one on my list.

LSU's Tyrann Mathieu is up to third on my list. No defender has a bigger impact on a game than the Honey Badger, the wild card on arguably the country's top D. Mathieu is a magnet to the football and he doesn't just get to it, he often finds a way to take it. Mathieu leads LSU in tackles (41), is second in TFLs (5.0), leads in forced fumbles (4), leads in fumbles recovered (three), is second in passes defensed (six) and is tied for the lead in INTs (two). And I can say this from being around a team that spent a week preparing for LSU, the threat of the Honey Badger is almost as destructive as the Honey Badger himself. 

Realistically, I doubt he can win it, but if Luck and Russell Wilson tail off and LSU wins the SEC and he keeps making big plays, he has a better chance than people might think.  We are in a different era of sports and awards and Mathieu can definitely get to NYC for the ceremony.

Former N.C. State QB Russell Wilson has made Wisconsin a BCS title contender. The transition to his new Big Ten team couldn't have gone any smoother. He's been brilliant, leading the nation in passing efficiency at 216.89. In three seasons at NCSU, he was at 135.5. The nimble 5-11, 205-pounder, who had never completed better than 59 percent of his passes in three seasons of ACC play, is up to 75 percent this year and burning defenses with big play after big play.

Trent Richardson is fifth on my list. The Alabama back has been at his best in the Tide's two toughest spots, shredding Florida in the Swamp for 181 rushing yards and lighting up Arkansas for 126 yards rushing and 85 more receiving. Of all the top running backs Richardson has the best shot to win the Heisman because he plays for the best team and because he will have a marquee opportunity early in November when LSU visits 'Bama.

The field: It's been a long time since I didn't have Kellen Moore anywhere on my top five, but for as sharp as the Boise State QB has been, especially after having lost two gifted wideouts to the NFL, other quarterbacks have been even more impressive.

Denard Robinson's been on my weekly Heisman list a few times this season, but for as dynamic as he's been carrying the 6-0 Michigan Wolverines, his passing (10 TDs, 9 INTs) is holding him back in light of the other elite QBs. He completed 63 percent of his passes last year and is only at 56 percent this year.

After last weekend, I'm starting to think Miami's Lamar Miller is best player on a losing team and the speedy RB may be the best tailback in the country. He has really blossomed as he's gotten stronger and learned to be more patient. Despite a nagging shoulder injury, he's gone over 100 yards every time out and last week he ran for 166 yards on the road at Va. Tech against what was the country's #2 run defense. I know Richardson, Marcus Lattimore and LaMichael James have gotten more pub, but I suspect Miller, who is as explosive as any back in the country and is also a legit 216-pounder, will prove to be the best of all of them down the road.

Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:24 am
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Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:13 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 10:24 am
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Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Mailbag: Penn St still a national power?

Time for this week's mailbag. As always, if you have mailbag questions, send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @NittanyState06  from an outsiders POV, Is Penn State still looked on as a national power? Will we begin hearing cries for JoePa to step down?

The Nittany Lions are no longer at that level and they don't look like they'll be headed back to that level any time soon. PSU did have two strong years in 2008 and 2009, going 22-4 before last season's 7-6 mark. But even in the '09 season when they went 11-2, they didn't seem like a powerhouse. They only faced one team in the regular season that was ranked (#15 Ohio State) and the Nittany Lions lost 24-7 at home. 

This year, Penn State is 4-1, but it's about as shaky a 4-1 as this program's probably had in decades. They got run over at home by Alabama and barely survived against Temple. Last weekend, they had their hands full with 1-4 Indiana. 

Obviously, Penn State still has a marquee component. The Nittany Lions have a genuine legend in Paterno and a huge fan base, but something is now missing: The on-field product. Penn State is 1-6 in its last seven games against ranked opponents (averaging about 11 ppg in those games) and five of those six Ls have come by 16 points or more. The Nittany Lions not being competitive against top teams is the biggest reason why I feel like the perception is this program no longer is a national power.

This is a team with major quarterback issues and you wonder if they'll be able to sort that out. As for the cries for JoePa to step down we've been hearing those on and off for years.

From @PaulPabst  Can Luck lose a game and still win Heisman? Any way Kellen Moore can win the Heisman?

Andrew Luck can. His team doesn't need to be perfect to win the Heisman. He will get a lot of benefit of the doubt from Heisman voters, who quite frankly probably couldn't name a second Stanford player. Even if they go 10-2, I suspect Luck still wins because most voters will say they probably wouldn't even have made a bowl game without him.

Moore needs a lot of help. While he's a strong candidate, the level of competition he faces each week holds him back. No one questions whether he is a great college QB. He is. But he needs others, such as Luck to fall. 

One of the guys with a legit shot of giving Luck a run is Alabama's Trent Richardson. He's coming off a huge game in the Swamp and he will have the whole country riveted in the Game of the Year Nov. 5 when LSU visits. If Richardson has a big day running all over that Tiger D, and Bama wins, he will give voters a lot to think about--especially if the Cardinal fall out of the top 10.

From @Lexvegaskid better defensive player: Tyrann Mathieu of LSU or (Melvin) Ingram for S. Carolina?

Both are true impact players, guys every offensive coordinator spends hours worrying about. Right now, I'll take Mathieu over every other defensive player in the country. He makes big plays at a staggering rate. For him to have already set the LSU career forced fumbles record less than halfway through his second season there is remarkable. He is that defense's wildcard since they can do so much with him. He's listed at cornerback but he's as much as SAM linebacker as anything. Mathieu leads the team in tackles by quite a bit and he really does set the tempo for his team with that frenetic style. Thus far it's been the Year of the Honey Badger.

From @mpodo Why isn't Jim Delany interested in expanding Big Ten right now?


The dilemma for Delany and the Big Ten is who is really worth them added? Notre Dame would be, but the Irish do NOT want any part of joining a conference unless they absolutetly have to. Mizzou makes some sense academically and geographically (linked to two strong TV markets, St. Louis and KC and wouldn't be a far trip for teams to get to) but the league didn't want to go that route last year. Pursuing teams from the Big East (Rutgers) or ACC (Maryland) who have the academics that the Big Ten says it must have don't bring much in terms of football equity. Rutgers right now is closer to Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue than it is to Nebraska or Wisconsin and Maryland just got destroyed at home by Temple.

From @J_Sweatt  how hot is mike Sherman's seat?

If the Aggies lose again this weekend, to Texas Tech, it's going to get hot. Two weeks ago Sherman seemed to be in a good spot. The Aggies were heading to the best football conference in the country and playing Top 10 football. Then they had a second-half collapse vs. Oklahoma State and they did the same thing wilting against Arkansas last week. Tech is unranked and a loss here would give a lot of folks close to the Aggies program the feeling that Sherman isn't the right guy to turn things around or lead them into the SEC. This is year four for him and even though he led A&M to the Cotton Bowl last year, he's only 21-21 there with an 11-14 conference mark. This is a loaded offense. It shouldn't be 2-3, but that'll be the record if the Aggies don't get some things figured out fast.

From @Nashville_MMA what are your thoughts on Tyler Brays progression as a sophomore? Jim Chaney has developed some outstanding QBs in his coaching career and Bray looks to be right on track. When I spoke to Chaney, the Vols offensive coordinator, he told me the light had really come on for Bray about a month before the season began where the lanky QB started to grasp what it meant to be a quarterback, not just play the position. That level of focus and preparation is often what separates the good college QBs from the decent ones.

From the tools standpoint, there is a lot to like about Bray. He's got great height, has excellent football savvy and has a gunslingers demeanor, which is a huge plus especially when you have talented targets who can go make plays for you. On paper, those strides he's made are obvious. His completion percentage has jumped from 56 percent to 69 percent and his TD-INT mark is up to 14-2 from 18-10 last year. But in truth, he really has faced only one good defense this season (Florida) and he wasn't that sharp, going 26-48 with three TDs and two picks in a loss. He did lose his most dangerous weapon Justin Hunter in that game though. He needs to show he can deliver against elite competition. This weekend's Georgia game will be a good test. The unranked Dawgs aren't great, but this is still a step up from the teams UT has handled thus far.

 

From @JayJersey14  I know I'm not the only one to ask, but what's going to happen with the Big East?

No one has much of a clue on this one. The people I've spoken to in the conference are in the dark. They're speculating, optimistically, off the speculation they are hearing. Losing TCU was a big blow after losing Pitt and Syracuse. I was told by someone who saw John Marinatto when the Big East commish learned that Pitt and Cuse were bailing for the ACC and they said it looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The league is in chaos. The best programs in the conference (WVU and Louisville) are trying to bail out to the Big 12, but they might not get the invite. If they don't and they're stuck in the Big East, there's still a real shot that UCONN also could head to the ACC.

From a football standpoint UCONN doesn't have that much cache. If you replaced UCONN with UCF I don't think you lose anything given the potential of UCF. Navy, which I'm told was ready to join the Big East in football, has cold feet after seeing the league start to erode. I imagine ECU would still love to get into the Big East and a possible hope would be to become some improved version of C-USA by taking the best of that league. It is, after all, eat-or-be-eaten in college sports right now.


From @mdg27x Considering Virginia Tech's best victory was close and only over East Carolina, are they really the favorites over Miami?

  Miami hasn't exactly been impressive either. The closest thing the Canes have had to a good win was against an undermanned Ohio State team that looks very shaky right now. UM's defense was run over last week by Bethune-Cookman. Lamar Miller has been terrific, but there are still huge questions about how solid Jacory Harris is and can he play close-to mistake-free football. Tech has given Miami fits in the past and it seems like Harris' career at Miami started its downturn two years ago in a monsoon at Lane Stadium.

From @hogeandrew Andrew Hoge Why isn't Matt Barkley in the Heisman talk when he beats out Luck and James for PAC 12 player of the week?


It's simple. Barkley has really only faced one decent team all year and he struggled. Throwing one TD pass and two INTs in a blowout loss at ASU. The combined record of the other four teams he's played is 7-12. Until he and USC can beat some better teams, he really won't be in the discussion.


From @Dbullsfan  is there any hope on the horizon for NC State fans?

I'll be very surprised if NC State doesn't have a new coach three months from now. And with a coaching change, you always get some aspect of hope.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 12:06 pm
 

Mailbag: Penn St still a national power?

Time for this week's mailbag. As always, if you have mailbag questions, send them to me on Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

  From @NittanyState06  from an outsiders POV, Is Penn State still looked on as a national power? Will we begin hearing cries for JoePa to step down?

The Nittany Lions are no longer at that level and they don't look like they'll be headed back to that level any time soon. PSU did have two strong years in 2008 and 2009, going 22-4 before last season's 7-6 mark. But even in the '09 season when they went 11-2, they didn't seem like a powerhouse. They only faced one team in the regular season that was ranked (#15 Ohio State) and the Nittany Lions lost 24-7 at home. 

This year, Penn State is 4-1, but it's about as shaky a 4-1 as this program's probably had in decades. They got run over at home by Alabama and barely survived against Temple. Last weekend, they had their hands full with 1-4 Indiana. 

Obviously, Penn State still has a marquee component. The Nittany Lions have a genuine legend in Paterno and a huge fan base, but something is now missing: The on-field product. Penn State is 1-6 in its last seven games against ranked opponents (averaging about 11 ppg in those games) and five of those six Ls have come by 16 points or more. The Nittany Lions not being competitive against top teams is the biggest reason why I feel like the perception is this program no longer is a national power.

This is a team with major quarterback issues and you wonder if they'll be able to sort that out. As for the cries for JoePa to step down we've been hearing those on and off for years.

From @PaulPabst  Can Luck lose a game and still win Heisman? Any way Kellen Moore can win the Heisman?

Andrew Luck can. His team doesn't need to be perfect to win the Heisman. He will get a lot of benefit of the doubt from Heisman voters, who quite frankly probably couldn't name a second Stanford player. Even if they go 10-2, I suspect Luck still wins because most voters will say they probably wouldn't even have made a bowl game without him.

Moore needs a lot of help. While he's a strong candidate, the level of competition he faces each week holds him back. No one questions whether he is a great college QB. He is. But he needs others, such as Luck to fall. 

One of the guys with a legit shot of giving Luck a run is Alabama's Trent Richardson. He's coming off a huge game in the Swamp and he will have the whole country riveted in the Game of the Year Nov. 5 when LSU visits. If Richardson has a big day running all over that Tiger D, and Bama wins, he will give voters a lot to think about--especially if the Cardinal fall out of the top 10.

From @Lexvegaskid better defensive player: Tyrann Mathieu of LSU or (Melvin) Ingram for S. Carolina?

Both are true impact players, guys every offensive coordinator spends hours worrying about. Right now, I'll take Mathieu over every other defensive player in the country. He makes big plays at a staggering rate. For him to have already set the LSU career forced fumbles record less than halfway through his second season there is remarkable. He is that defense's wildcard since they can do so much with him. He's listed at cornerback but he's as much as SAM linebacker as anything. Mathieu leads the team in tackles by quite a bit and he really does set the tempo for his team with that frenetic style. Thus far it's been the Year of the Honey Badger.

From @mpodo Why isn't Jim Delany interested in expanding Big Ten right now?


The dilemma for Delany and the Big Ten is who is really worth them added? Notre Dame would be, but the Irish do NOT want any part of joining a conference unless they absolutetly have to. Mizzou makes some sense academically and geographically (linked to two strong TV markets, St. Louis and KC and wouldn't be a far trip for teams to get to) but the league didn't want to go that route last year. Pursuing teams from the Big East (Rutgers) or ACC (Maryland) who have the academics that the Big Ten says it must have don't bring much in terms of football equity. Rutgers right now is closer to Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue than it is to Nebraska or Wisconsin and Maryland just got destroyed at home by Temple.

From @J_Sweatt  how hot is mike Sherman's seat?

If the Aggies lose again this weekend, to Texas Tech, it's going to get hot. Two weeks ago Sherman seemed to be in a good spot. The Aggies were heading to the best football conference in the country and playing Top 10 football. Then they had a second-half collapse vs. Oklahoma State and they did the same thing wilting against Arkansas last week. Tech is unranked and a loss here would give a lot of folks close to the Aggies program the feeling that Sherman isn't the right guy to turn things around or lead them into the SEC. This is year four for him and even though he led A&M to the Cotton Bowl last year, he's only 21-21 there with an 11-14 conference mark. This is a loaded offense. It shouldn't be 2-3, but that'll be the record if the Aggies don't get some things figured out fast.

From @Nashville_MMA what are your thoughts on Tyler Brays progression as a sophomore? Jim Chaney has developed some outstanding QBs in his coaching career and Bray looks to be right on track. When I spoke to Chaney, the Vols offensive coordinator, he told me the light had really come on for Bray about a month before the season began where the lanky QB started to grasp what it meant to be a quarterback, not just play the position. That level of focus and preparation is often what separates the good college QBs from the decent ones.

From the tools standpoint, there is a lot to like about Bray. He's got great height, has excellent football savvy and has a gunslingers demeanor, which is a huge plus especially when you have talented targets who can go make plays for you. On paper, those strides he's made are obvious. His completion percentage has jumped from 56 percent to 69 percent and his TD-INT mark is up to 14-2 from 18-10 last year. But in truth, he really has faced only one good defense this season (Florida) and he wasn't that sharp, going 26-48 with three TDs and two picks in a loss. He did lose his most dangerous weapon Justin Hunter in that game though. He needs to show he can deliver against elite competition. This weekend's Georgia game will be a good test. The unranked Dawgs aren't great, but this is still a step up from the teams UT has handled thus far.
  From @JayJersey14  I know I'm not the only one to ask, but what's going to happen with the Big East? No one has much of a clue on this one. The people I've spoken to in the conference are in the dark. They're speculating, optimistically, off the speculation they are hearing. Losing TCU was a big blow after losing Pitt and Syracuse. I was told by someone who saw John Marinatto when the Big East commish learned that Pitt and Cuse were bailing for the ACC and they said it looked like he was about to have a heart attack. The league is in chaos. The best programs in the conference (WVU and Louisville) are trying to bail out to the Big 12, but they might not get the invite. If they don't and they're stuck in the Big East, there's still a real shot that UCONN also could head to the ACC.

From a football standpoint UCONN doesn't have that much cache. If you replaced UCONN with UCF I don't think you lose anything given the potential of UCF. Navy, which I'm told was ready to join the Big East in football, has cold feet after seeing the league start to erode. I imagine ECU would still love to get into the Big East and a possible hope would be to become some improved version of C-USA by taking the best of that league. It is, after all, eat-or-be-eaten in college sports right now.


From @mdg27x Considering Virginia Tech's best victory was close and only over East Carolina, are they really the favorites over Miami?

  Miami hasn't exactly been impressive either. The closest thing the Canes have had to a good win was against an undermanned Ohio State team that looks very shaky right now. UM's defense was run over last week by Bethune-Cookman. Lamar Miller has been terrific, but there are still huge questions about how solid Jacory Harris is and can he play close-to mistake-free football. Tech has given Miami fits in the past and it seems like Harris' career at Miami started its downturn two years ago in a monsoon at Lane Stadium.

From @hogeandrew Andrew Hoge Why isn't Matt Barkley in the Heisman talk when he beats out Luck and James for PAC 12 player of the week?


It's simple. Barkley has really only faced one decent team all year and he struggled. Throwing one TD pass and two INTs in a blowout loss at ASU. The combined record of the other four teams he's played is 7-12. Until he and USC can beat some better teams, he really won't be in the discussion.


From @Dbullsfan  is there any hope on the horizon for NC State fans?

I'll be very surprised if NC State doesn't have a new coach three months from now. And with a coaching change, you always get some aspect of hope.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:25 pm
 

The Mailbag returns: RG3's Heisman hopes

Before I joined CBS, I had a regular Friday mailbag each week. I'm resuming that here. Send your college football questions to me via Twitter @BFeldmanCBS.
 
From @GoBearsGo95 how many wins would Baylor need for RG3 to win the heisman.
 

Griffin has taken over my top spot in the too-early Heisman rankings after his spectacular first month, throwing 13 TDs and 0 INTs. The most impressive part is that he has actually thrown more touchdowns than incompletions (12). That is staggering. Even more jaw-dropping is that this is a guy who came to Baylor known primarily for his World Class speed, not is passing skills. There is no way, he can keep that ridiculous pace up, but given the way he lit up well-respected Gary Patterson's D on national TV in the opening week, Griffin has gotten off to the start he needs to at least get invited to NYC for the ceremony.

Then again, last year, around this same time, I didn't think Cam Newton could sustain his fantastic pace for a whole season, and he did. Not only that, Newton actually got better as the pressure increased. Newton, though, also had a better supporting cast and arguably the top impact defender on his team too (Nick Fairley). 

Baylor needs to win at least 10 games for Griffin to have any shot at overtaking Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore, who are established favorites by now. The Bears have four "national stage" kinds of games remaining: at Texas A&M, Oct. 15; at Oklahoma State, Oct. 29; Oklahoma, Nov. 19 and then against Texas, Dec. 3. I think Baylor needs to win at least three of those to really have a good chance to win it.


From @RealNick_OSU How do u think Ohio St will handle head coaching job over offseason assuming OSU loses a couple more games? Meyer?


Barring the Buckeyes running the table and going 13-1, I think it'll be tough for Luke Fickell to keep this job. I realize that is an incredibly high standard to accomplish, especially given the off-field circumstances, but with the prospect of Urban Meyer, a former OSU assistant who has won two BCS titles out there, if Ohio State can get him, they almost have to go for him. 


Meyer wrote about his affinity for the Buckeye coaching job in his book a few years ago. I suspect at some point the pull of getting back into coaching is going to be too strong. And plum jobs don't come open very often. Certainly not this sweet of a gig, especially for a guy who once coached there. I'll say this I have been very impressed by Meyer as a game analyst. He is insightful and way ahead of the game. I really thought he and Chris Spielman did a terrific job last week during the ND-Pitt game, but I still can't see him, as the competitor he is, not being too wired to get back in the mix. 

From @whetherPROOF chances UF knocks off Saban in the swamp saturday?
 
 

I'll give it 20 percent. Anytime you have blazing speed, like the Gators do, and a talented D-line, like the Gators do, you have a shot. The problem is Alabama's D is so much bigger, more physical and well-coached than anything else UF has seen so far. I don't see UF being able to exploit mismatches the way they could in past games this year. Also, the Tide's O-line is very good and should be able to provide room for Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy and the big-game experience will pay off for Bama here.

From @andrewltyler Will Texas Tech's streak of bowl games attended be coming to an end this year?

Nope, look for Tech to go bowling again. The Red Raiders really don't play anyone of note till Oct. 8 vs. Texas A&M, but these wins still count. Seth Doege is a good QB and he has some pretty good weapons around him. Assuming they win at KU, which I suspect they will, they just need to find two more Ws and I think they can get that with home games against Iowa State, K-State and Baylor in Arlington.


From @2xQuickDJ  if UW QB Price wins at Utah, does the national press start looking N of Palo Alto?

I like Keith Price a lot. He is playing better than I believe many expected he would, although when I spoke to Steve Sarkisian in August, he was very, very high on him.

Quite frankly, the national media really isn't focused on Washington, though. Losing at Nebraska, 51-38 didn't help and wining at unranked Utah won't really help change that. Now, about a month from today, U-Dub plays at Stanford, if the Huskies can win there, that will get people's attention around the country.
 

From @gregbranscum Is Mike Leach interested in UK if a coaching change should happen?

For starters, I don't see UK coming open any time soon. Joker Phillips just took over. He got UK to a bowl game in year one. The 2010 season wasn't a disaster. Remember this is still a Kentucky program that has averaged five wins over the past 10 years. They're 2-2 with an outside shot to qualify for a bowl game again. Even if they don't go bowling, you have to give the guy at least four years unless it is a complete disaster with issues on and off the field. There are going to be growing pains especially when you have a first-time head coach learning at a high level.
  As for Leach, I know his family really liked Lexington, but as I said, I don't see this job coming open in 2011.

From @Jon_Roser  is Memphis the worst team ever?

Wow, does it feel like things are that awful in Memphis that it has come to this? Well, I guess so. Although Howard Schnellenberger's final season at FAU might produce an even worse squad. The Owls are 0-3, but in fairness they have faced three good teams and only lost 30-14 at Auburn after trailing just 10-6 at halftime. They are at the bottom or almost at the bottom in rushing offense, passing offense and scoring. They aren't too much better on D either (112th). But at least now their schedule eases up quite  a bit.

Other teams Memphis is rivaling in futility:  New Mexico State 2005: 0-12 although the Aggies lost one in double OT to Idaho and fell by three to Utah State in the finale. 

FIU 2006 (0-12): The year before Mario Cristobal arrived, FIU scored 23 points over the final six games, but they did lose their first two games by one point each and dropped a 7 OT game to North Texas. They were a TD underdog or less in  five games and ended up losing four of those by double-digits  and three by 25 or more. 

But my pick for the worst of recent history is Temple, 2005 (0-11). The Owls lost games by 65 (Wisconsin); 63 (Bowling Green); and 48 (UVa). Aside from a 3-point loss to WMU, the Owls didn't come within 20 of any other opponent. 

This Memphis team has looked terrible and Larry Porter is presiding over one of those "disasters" I spoke about above. To lose by 44 at Arkansas State, not Arkansas, but Arkansas State is disturbing. It's one thing for a young coach to go 1-11, as it seems like this team will do again, but it's another to get blown out of the building. The defense has been really bad and their offense has been so much worse than that.

Short of them winning against UAB in mid-November, I don't see anything better than 1-11 although by that game my hunch is Porter probably won't be coaching the Tigers any more.
 
 
 
 
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