Monday, April 4, 2011

Ask the Professors #4

Welcome to the much delayed release of "Ask the Professors", edition number four. This edition has four other contributors other than myself, and more will be scheduled to join forces with us for edition number five. Here are the contributors to this edition:

Kody Brannon
Kody has been with us since day one. You can read Kody's work on his site, http://www.kodyssportskorner.com/ where he specializes in sports in the state of Texas, as well as on the national scene. Check out his site today.

Cory Hedin
Cory has been with us since day one as well. Cory is a Utah Utes superfan, and specializes in knowledge concerning the Mountain West and the WAC. You won't find many folks in the nation with a deeper understanding of the region.

Nick Humbert
Nick joins us for the first time for this edition. Nick is a founding member of Global CFFL, an amazing college football fantasy site that is loaded with information. Nick is one of four founders to the site, and is the main writer. You can find a link on our homepage, and I encourage you to visit today.

Matt Chandik
Matt joins us once again, as he is an original to the piece from day one. Matt is a sports writer for the Delaware County Times, and he is also a regular contributor to the Bilo College Football Report, as he is currently reviewing the Big 10 2010 season. His Iowa recap was his latest work to post on the site, nd I strongly suggest that you check it out.

Scott Bilo
A re-introduction to myself. I am a former sports reporter from Southern California, in both TV and Radio. I am the founder of this site, having spent the last 30 years analyzing college football on every level.

Without further delay, here is the 4th edition of Ask the Professors.

Question #1
With spring practice beginning at a number of locations across the country, it's time to look forward to 2011. Who do you believe will be a surprise team or teams in 2011? Who do you think will fail to live up to expectations?


Kody Brannon
I think TCU will struggle to live up to their lofty expectations this year. They are losing their quarterback and some quality players to graduation. As for a team that could be a surprise, I would keep an eye on Arizona, Stoops is building a good program and I think this year may be the year he breaks through.

Cory Hedin
All personal bias aside, one team that I think will surprise a lot of people is Utah. It seems like many college football experts aren't quite sure how well Utah will make the transition to being a "BCS" school. I personally think that the stars have alligned very well for Utah to make a huge splash in the PAC-12. First off, their schedule could not be more favorable given that they will not have to play Oregon or Stanford during the upcoming season. Secondly, the Utes and Kyle Whittingham have made some great coaching hires in Norm Chow, Tim Davis and Chad Kauha'aha'a. While Norm Chow is the name with flashy lights around it, Tim Davis is one of the best O-line coaches in the country and Kauha'aha'a is an up-and-comer who seems to have a major fire lit under him.
I have a feeling that Auburn will be the team who fails to live up to expectations next year. I think they will find that life after Cam will not go all that well at first. They still have a very talented roster but I think that it will take some time for them to establish a new identity for themselves. While an 8 or 9 win season is considered good for most teams, I think Auburn will be very disappointed with that win total to follow up their NC.

Nick Humbert
See #5 for my surprise team.
A team that is going to have a difficult time in 2011 is the Florida Gators. They have the talent. The recruiting under Urban Meyer in 2009 and 2010 was exceptional. However, a myriad of issues await first year coach Will Muschamp. First, he has as many as five potential candidates to be his quarterback. Who will be his starter heading into the fall? The hiring of former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis gives an indication that John Brantley will be the favorite. However, with the signing of the much-hyped Jeff Driskell out of Oveido, Florida, there is a chance that a true freshman could be under center against Florida Atlantic September 3rd in the Swamp.
Speaking of the schedule, Florida better get problems ironed out early in the season. The Gators get Tennessee at home and then travel to Lexington in weeks three and four. Then the schedule gets brutal. Florida will play Alabama at home and then travel to LSU and defending national champion Auburn in consecutive weeks. After the bye week, they still have home games against Georgia and Florida State and travel to Columbia to face South Carolina.
Lastly, the recruiting cycle keeps spinning. No other state has a system of checks and balances like Florida. With three national powerhouses in the state and other quality programs vying for talent, it is impossible to remain king forever. With Urban Meyer resigning, Florida took a substantial hit in recruiting, while their rival Florida State had arguably one of the best in the country. Florida has the additional burden of staying on top in the toughest conference in the country.
There will be a learning curve for all involved in Gainesville in 2011. A new coach, coordinator and potentially a quarterback indicates there will be retooling taking place this fall.

Matt Chandik
It sounds so clichĂ© to say it, but this may actually be the year that Notre Dame stops failing at football. Granted, the Irish are perpetually overrated and their fans enter every season with visions of grandeur and of the Four Horsemen pillaging opposing defenses before ending up with a mediocre record and a berth in the whogivesashit.com bowl, but this year could be special. Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees should provide some excitement in a tight QB derby all the way through fall camp and whomever the winner is projects to improve in the second season under spread guru Brian Kelly. The Irish look to have an assortment of tools (Come to think of it, Notre Dame always has tools. Ever meet a Notre Dame graduate? He or she is probably a tool. Just sayin’) on the offensive side of the ball with receivers Theo Riddick and T.J. Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert. Running back Cierre Wood is ready to live up to the Irish fans’ hype that initially had him making legends like Red Grange, Barry Sanders, Herschel Walker and Tony Dorsett look like scrubs that would get picked last in gym class.
If Notre Dame truly is going to make that jump back into a BCS bowl game for the first time since JaMarcus Russell was using the Irish defense as a springboard to a No. 1 draft spot, millions of dollars and several million calories, the biggest improvement will be on the defensive side of the ball. The Irish will have a potentially lethal front seven, led by All-American candidate linebacker Manti Te’o. As long as the defensive line can keep Te’o off of offensive linemen, especially Patrick Omameh, whom Irish fans will best remember from a little play called “Denard Robinson 87-yard touchdown run” as the guy who flattened Te’o and an Irish DB 10 yards downfield, the Hawaiian star should be able to rack up 150 tackles. Te’o is a tad overrated as he tends to jump on the pile after the play is over and walk away with a tackle to his name (see: Laurinaitis, James), but his speed, quickness and agility are phenomenal and his instincts may be even better. Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson figure to be strong players on the line and Darius Fleming, otherwise best remembered for leaving his jock on the Michigan Stadium turf after Tate Forcier went all Reggie Bush on him and left him grasping for air, could bust out as a top pass-rusher after a season that saw him rack 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
The secondary will be the biggest question, though Robert Blanton should be a top corner. The problem with the Irish is, will they live up to the hype? They get hyped every single year and seem to fall flat on their faces.
LSU is my pick for most disappointing team. The Tigers are, as always, loaded on defense and have some potential playmakers on offense, but I’ll believe that Jordan Jefferson doesn’t have shit for brains when I see it. If Jefferson can be an effective QB, LSU has a shot, especially since Les Miles walks around with a horseshoe up his ass and four-leaf clovers coming out of his ears.

Scott Bilo
Auburn is the popular choice to not live up to what people expect for 2011. I think that the real expectation is that people fell that they will sink to 8 or 9 wins. I feel that those expectations are too high. Auburn could fall as far as 6 wins in 2011. With losing such a large chunk of talent at hand, the Tigers stand to take a huge step backwards. With increasing allegations flying around about wrongdoing and NCAA violations, Auburn will find it harder to recruit, as kids will not want to risk their college careers winding up being surrounded by USC typed sanctions if the house of cards falls.
As far as the surprise team are concerned, there may be a few. The team that stands out the most to me this early on is Houston. The Cougars were doomed by major injuries to their QBs, including 2010 pre-season Heisman dark horse Case Keenum. Keenum has been allowed to return for 2011, and if his knee holds up and he can shake off the rust, he may be able tolead Houston back to where they should have been last season. Other teams to watch could be Clemson, Miami, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, Iowa State, Tulsa, Toledo, San Diego State, Utah, Mississippi State, FIU, and Lousiana Tech.

Question #2
 Rivals.com recently ran a roundtable to ask whether or not the NCAA should have the authority to force institutions to fire coaches who are guilty of major violations. Should the NCAA have that power, and why yes or no?

Kody Brannon
Yes, the NCAA needs to have more power over its institutions, and because of the all the issues there have been going on lately, it is time that the NCAA put some teeth into it’s enforcement.

Cory Hedin
To be honest, I think the NCAA already has that kind of authority, they just have never exercised it. The way I see it, if the NCAA found a coach guilty of major violations, they could impose extremely tough sanctions on the school and simply make those sanctions conditional upon the continued employment of the coach in question. If the NCAA were to impose, say, a 5 year bowl ban and cut a schools number of available scholarships in half, how much pressure would an AD get from boosters to fire the coach if they all knew that all those sanctions could go away by simply firing the coach. No coach in America would last in that situation. So, the question I have is, will the NCAA ever have the balls to adequately punish those they find guilty of violations. I am still in awe that Cam Newton and Terrell Pryor were allowed to play in their respective bowl games. I am currently in awe that the NCAA has not acted quickly on the matter of Jim Tressel. To me, the real question is not whether or not the NCAA SHOULD have authority, it's when will they use the authority they have to clean up college football?

Nick Humbert
The NCAA has to be careful not to be judge, jury and executioner.  Too much power in one group’s hands could result in extreme backlash against the NCAA.  This is especially true when the power is being controlled by a group worth billions.  As evident with the Cam Newton controversy, there is ambiguity within the laws and how they are implemented.  If the NCAA were to get involved in direct firing of coaches, rules would have to explicitly worded to remove doubt.  There are simply too many laws.  The NCAA would have to look itself in the mirror before moving forward.  The story breaking at this moment about Jim Tressel is a great litmus test.  Would the NCAA take action against a coach as widely respected as Tressel?  Would they go after him with the same intensity as a coach in the Mountain West or Sun Belt Conference who potentially committed the same infraction?  Consistency is the major issue. 

Matt Chandik
Absolutely. The schools are governed by the NCAA, so it makes sense that the NCAA should have the power. If an athletic director is too damn dumb, stupid or arrogant to fire a coach when necessary (read: former USC AD/permanent moron Mike Garrett), the NCAA should be able to step in to ensure that major violations aren’t repeated It may cause SEC fans to eventually burn the NCAA’s headquarters to the ground, assuming they know how to read directions to get there (a pretty damn big assumption), but the NCAA should have the authority. I don’t always agree with their rules or rulings, but as long as these schools’ athletic programs are governed by the NCAA, the NCAA should have a say in eliminating problem children.



Scott Bilo
If the NCAA is going to bill themselves as being the organization that governs major college athletics, then it is time to put the big boy pants on and actually fucking do it. I have never in my life been as frustrated and disillusioned by the NCAA as I am this year. The Tressel situation, the Sugar Bowl situation, the Fiesta Bowl situation, the Auburn and Money Newton situation, agents running amock, the North Carolina situation, USC, and on and on it goes, and now it's bleeding into the FCS ranks at Texas Southern, where Johnny cole has been removed for major violations, some dating back prior to his term as head coach. Righ there you have enough to wonder what in the hell these idiots are doing? Who's actually minding the store. And at the end of the day, the only real punishment that has been severe enough to disuade anyone from repeating bad behavior was at...gasp...Texas Southern, a SWAC school that does not even participate in the FCS annual playoffs.
It's shocking to me that the events mentioned were so heinous that they bred a public outcry louder than any I have ever heard, but yet a slap on the wrist seems to justify the situation. The NCAA is out of whack, and out of line. They need to finally be who they claim to be and stop operating college athletics in name only. Corporate money has been allowed to run the roost for far too long, and if the NCAA came in and handed down some heavy punishment, including forcing member schools to drop guilty head coaches, I would sing their praises from the highest mountain. I would sing even better if they added forced blackballing of coaches who are guilty of major violations, as if a coach gets fired now, they wind up in another school, playing the same old games sometimes by the very next season. So my answer is yes, the NCAA should mandate firings for major violations, and then they should have the power to make sure that these dirtbags are never in position to do it somewhere else.

Question 3
Who do you believe made the best hire of a head coach after the 2010 season? Which hire do you believe did not get a lot of attention but will be a surprising success?

Kody Brennan
I think the best hire could be Jerry Kill at Minnesota, just because he turned N. Illinois into a winner and had them on the national conscience for the majority of his tenure. I think the promotion of the assistant at Stanford could be a surprise, they are returning a good team with a good quarterback and end up surprising a lot of people if they have a similar season next year.

Cory Hedin
Best Hire - Brady Hoke. Having watched Hoke's San Diego State team this year and comparing it to the Aztec's pre-Hoke days, it is amazing what he was able to do with that program. That program was an absolute mess and he not got things pointed in the right direction, he got them to the point that they were a very good football team. I believe that Hoke has a good chance to be the one who finally gets Michigan football back on the map as a legit national powerhouse.

Nick Humbert
Both of these are answered by the same hire: Brady Hoke. Hoke, who was hired at Michigan, got little attention when he was announced (outside of public adornment from Jason Whitlock). However, if you look at Hoke’s track record, he is the best hire of the offseason.
First, the man won at Ball State. As someone who was in Muncie, Indiana at the same time, I was blown away by Hoke’s ability to overcome everything from what is perceived to be a lackluster athletic department and a lukewarm fan base in a basketball-crazed state to take the Cardinals to the MAC Championship. Ball State has only 6 wins (5 against FBS competition) and will be looking for their second coach in the two years since he departed. Hoke had 12 in his last season at Ball State in 2008.
In 2009, Hoke became the San Diego State coach that oversaw the development of skilled players like DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. Quarterback Ryan Lindley also developed during Hoke’s tenure. In the three seasons before Hoke’s arrival, the Aztecs were 9-27 including a 2-10 finish in 2008. Under Hoke, SDSU went 13-12 in two seasons including a 9-4 record in 2010 and their first bowl victory since 1969.
Michigan has talent in place on the offensive end. Hoke take with him a system that has proven to work. Although the Big Ten is a step up in conference, there is a lot of deadweight at the bottom of the conference. He will have Michigan closer to defeating Ohio State than a .500 record in two seasons.

Matt Chandik
Well, I’m horribly biased, but I think Michigan made a strong acquisition when they got Brady Hoke. Everyone and their mother wanted Jim Harbaugh (I mean, wouldn’t you? He’s the man.) or Les Miles (I’ll take a pass on the oversigning and bending of the rules, thank you very much), but Hoke is a low-risk, medium to potentially high-reward type. He brings back a pro-style offense, but more importantly, his hire of Greg Mattison gives the Wolverines a good defensive coordinator who can recruit like hell. When Urban Meyer calls you one of the best recruiters in the country, you’re doing something right. Mattison has already taken to calling every LB recruit “the next Ray Lewis” and recently said that Will Campbell, a bust in his first two seasons in Ann Arbor, reminds him of Ravens All-Pro Haloti Ngata, so he can go toe-to-toe with running backs coach Fred Jackson in hyperbole. However, he can also coach a defense, employs a 4-3, employs a defense that doesn’t ask 245-pound pass-rusher Craig Roh to be a coverage OLB, and generally knows his way around a defense. With Mattison and new offensive coordinator Al Borges, the Wolverines will be more Lloyd Carr, less EVIL DEATH ERA THAT WE WILL NEVER MENTION AGAIN. 


Scott Bilo
It's all about Hoke, and that's huge for me considering that I actually respected what Rich Rodriguez was trying to accomplish. He never had a chance with most folks at Michigan, being that he never understood the culture, that he was never bred into the system there. It is what it is, and he is gone. Hoke was a home run hire, maybe even better than what Harbaugh could have been for them. Hoke's eyes are firmly planted on the college guy, he fits the bill of being a Michigan man, and his resume is absolutely incredible considering that he has won at two black hole locations known as coaching graveyards, Ball State and San Diego State. His ability to develop talent is awe inspiring, and he made all of the right hires for his staff, including my favorite OC in America in Al Borges. Greg Mattison was a genius hire for DC, as he too gets what it's all about in Ann Arbor. Michigan is on the rise for sure with this hire.
As far as a hire that could surprise someone? Try on Jerry Kill at Minnesota. Kill was not the sexy hire that most Gopher fans were clammoring for, but my inside sources in the coaching community are rwving about the guy. He is a winner to the corps, and knows how to change the culture in a place when it's necessary. Minnesota needed to strip it down and start over, and Kill is the right man for the job acording to all that I have spoken to. Don't expect immediate fireworks, but both Michigan and Minnesota could also make the list for teams that could surprise in 2011 based on their hires.

Question #4
Schools are increasingly targeting younger and younger students for the purpose of recruiting, including certain 8th graders. Is this a good practice, or is it a bad trend?


Kody Brannon
This is a horrible trend, for one thing it is taking some of the fun out of the whole recruiting process. It shouldn’t be about getting the commitments as early as possible, but finding the best recruits for the school. It is time someone step in and stop this practice of recruiting mere children.

Cory Hedin
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad...oh and by the way, it's bad. I won't even go into the ethical issues I have with recuriting kids that young. They would require more space than I have available in order to adequately address them. I also think spending time and money to recruit a kid that young is a waste of resources. How may kids who get a scholarship offer at the age of 14 will actually end up at the school that offered them that scholy? I would guess very few. Why not just stick with the Juniors and Seniors.

Nick Humbert
Recruiting younger players is more perception than reality. If a person was to look back at the last decade of the “can’t miss” players at the top of recruiting boards, it will prove that recruiting is an inexact science. Recruiting is a non-binding marriage until national signing day. Do I think coaches spend more time recruiting 8th graders than juniors? No? Will it be beneficial? No.
Take a look at the top quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers according to Scout.com the past ten years. All of the following players were considered the top players at their position in their respective classes: Mitch Mustain, Lorenzo Booker, Antone Smith, Vidal Hazelton, Rhett Bomar, Demetrius Summers, and Whitney Lewis. They far exceed standouts such as Adrian Peterson, Vince Young and Beanie Wells.
This just proves the inexact science that recruiting has always been. Courting younger players is a waste of resources with more game tape in higher grade levels. Unlike the NFL Draft, recruiting classes are more important than getting a few blue chip players.

Matt Chandik
It’s horrible. It’s bad enough that grown men salivate over 15-year-old kids’ bodies to the point where they may pass out from excitement from seeing abs that make fitness models blush, but now, they want to scout middle schoolers? Give it a rest. It’s hard enough to project who’s going to be a top-notch college player when kids are freshmen and sophomores since factoring in growth spurts, injuries and other variables is damn near impossible, but checking out Pop Warner games is a tad creepy. Stop it.

Scott Bilo
Although it's not quite a wide spread process at this point, it's heading that way, and it's all kinds of wrong. I know what already goes on in the high school game as it stands, and parents, beware. There is a ton of pressure being placed on kids to go and get those scholarships, and you have fathers and family members trying to live vicariously through their kids. The pressure that these kids are under is tremendous to say the least, and many of them crack and break under the strain. Todd Marinovich, anyone? These people are soul vampires who suck the actual purpose and enjoyment out of sports by pressing these kids in a terrible way.
And now these people are reaching down into the middle school levels. When do we finally draw the line and let kids be kids?The NCAA and the high school administrators need to not only push for rules, but they need to push for federal laws that make this kind of thing punishable by jail time. These coaches and boosters need to start feeling the pain for what is not only unethical, but totally immoral as well. If you need an example to help you see what I am talking about, look at it like this. What if it were your kidd, and some creepy coach was drooling all over him, and then when he got into high school, something happened, and all of those promises and deals went the way of the wind? Imagine the shattered dreams of your son, and the effect that it could have on his life later on. Think about it.

Question #5
With Boise State and TCU suffering major losses at key positions, and with Utah moving to the PAC 12 and BYU to the independent ranks, who stands out as a possible BCS party crasher in 2011 from the non-AQ ranks?


Kody Brannon
I think Central Florida could be a surprise team to crash the BCS party. They have been a good team and have fallen short of making a statement for the last few seasons. I would think this could be their year if they get a few bounces and have some luck along the way.

Cory Hedin
I still think that Boise State is the most likely BCS crasher. With the loss of Utah, BYU and Brady Hoke, the Mountain West Conference took a significant step backward in terms of overall conference strength. Boise still has most of their key pieces in place and they have this annoying habit of winning big games. Kellen Moore will be a Senior and when you have a QB that throws as accurate a ball as Moore, receivers with any kind of ability to get open and hold on to the ball can quickly become stars. I am not a fan of the Broncos, and I would love to be wrong, but I think that Boise will go BCS bowling again this year.

Nick Humbert
The best kept secret in the non-BCS world is a year later than expected: the Houston Cougars. The biggest development uncovered by the college football world was rewarding Case Keenum a 6th year of eligibility. Keenum, who put up gaudy numbers in 2008 and 2009, tore his ACL in the third game of 2010. Without him and replacement Cotton Turner, the Cougars were unable to recover. Keenum threw for over 5000 yards in 2009 and has Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carrier, both of who have had 1000 yard season, back at wide receiver. There is a triumvirate in the backfield with Bryce Beall, Michael Hayes and Charles Sims in the backfield. Sims, who missed all of 2010 with academic issues, ran for 700 yards and caught 70 passes for almost 800 yards as a freshman in 2009. All three backs have proven themselves and could cause mismatches on the outside.
Houston has to replace three offensive lineman, but that can be negated with the return of Keenum who gets rid of the ball and makes sound decisions.
The schedule is favorable for Houston. They open with a home game against UCLA. If they can win that, they have non-conference games against North Texas, Louisiana Tech and Georgia State. In conference, they have away games at UTEP and Tulsa, the latter is the last regular season game and may be the only true test in conference this season.
With the re-emergence of Keenum, the leadership of head coach Kevin Sumlin and a soft schedule, Houston is primed for a return to expectations assigned in 2010. Houston has won big games with Keenum at the helm. They won at Oklahoma State and against a ranked Texas Tech in 2009.

Matt Chandik
With Boise State and TCU suffering major losses at key positions, and with Utah moving to the PAC 12 and BYU to the independent ranks, who stands out as a possible BCS party crasher in 2011 from the non-AQ ranks?
I’ll believe TCU isn’t a top dog when I see it. The Horned Frogs annually rank at the top of the FBS in team defense using mostly lowly-rated recruits. Gary Patterson and his staff work wonders with kids that nobody wanted, so why should this year be any different?

Scott Bilo
There are two teams that I think are in solid position to crash the party for 2011. Those teams are Houston, who I talked about earlier, and the perennial choice of Boise State. Houston looks like a solid choice with the return of Case Keenum, and a more than favorable schedule that could lead them to the top of the board.
Boise State is what they are, but I am not 100% on the Broncos or TCU. First of all, they must play eachother in conference play. Secondly, both lost key players at skill positions. Boise is a stronger choice amongst the two, as they have Kellen Moore back, and the reality is that he will make everyone around him better in 2011. A receiver cannot help but up his game when you have one of the best QBs in America tossing the ball to you.
Tulsa would be an interesting choice, but they have have an unforgiving schedule by playing both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. UCF is another interesting selection, but they have tremendous holes to fill all over the map and still have a very young QB.

That wraps up edition #4 of Ask the Professors. Stay tuned, as a edition #5 goes into production later this week.











 

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