July 15, 2009

WEISND Roundtable Summer Edition: The State of College Football (Part 1)

College football is in the air. We're about 6-7 weeks from the start of another glorious college football season, so we figured we would gather the Roundtable back together for a little look inside the state of college football as we head into the 2009 season. Our crew weighs in on the hot topics and big issues in college football. This thing is quite long, so we figured we'd break it down into two parts over the next two days. Here goes.

14. Who is the next coach from a big name school you think will be fired/resign/retire???

Jeremy: Al Groh

I had the Steve Spurrier answer all ready to go, but I don’t think he’s quite done yet. He wants everyone to know he can still coach and he hasn’t had a great season since he left the Swamp. Plus, his recent barbs at Urban Meyer show he’s still plenty feisty. Well then, I guess I’ll go with Al Groh. Fresh off another disappointing campaign for the Cavaliers, Groh will need to pull another rabbit out of his hat to stick around for another year. Groh has managed to stay alive even though he’s had 3 separate 5-7 seasons. One more disappointing year and Groh’s already hot seat will be on fire.

Dan: Randy Shannon

I have to imagine Bowden or Paterno would be the easy guess here, particularly if you count death. But the tough part is there is always one big name each year and I’m not sure either of them are done after this year. So I’ll go out on a limb with Randy Shannon. I’m not sure if they’ll fire someone after only 3 years or not. But the bottom line is that Miami should be a top flight program and they have not been since his hiring. They’ve had some off the field issues and some morale issues. If they go 5-7 (Losses: @FSU, GT, @VT, OU, @WF, @UNC, @USF), that could be it for him. In particularly, those first 4 games are the 4 games to open the season. They could be 0-4. Yikes!

Matt: Bill Stewart

The easy answer here is Bobby Bowden or Joe Pa, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Bill Stewart from West Virginia. I really hope he succeeds. The Big East needs West Virginia to be an elite program. But I just have a feeling he may be in a little over his head when it comes to recruiting and managing a program. Plus, I think Pat White is going to be severely missed in Morgantown. That guy did it all. For the record, I think the Dolphins made a tremendous pick. I don’t care that he’s never going to be a superstar. The guy is just a winner, a great athlete, and you can use him in any number of roles. Smart pick.

Mike: Bobby Bowden

Given the recent decline in Florida State program on the field and the most recent academic fraud scandal in Tallahassee, there does not appear to be much reason for Saint Bobby to stick around past 2009. More importantly, since Bowden will be forced to forfeit multiple wins in connection with said scandal, he has little incentive to continue his pissing contest (sponsored by Flomax) with Joe Paterno, especially insofar as JoePa continues to rack up wins posthumously.

Honorable Mention: Al Groh, Virginia

Doug: Steve Spurrier

The obvious answer here would be Bobby Bowden since it seems like he's one more bad year away from getting forced out at Florida State, but I think I'll go with the Ole Ball Coach. How much longer is he going to want to coach?? He's 64 years old, he's coaching in the toughest conference in the country with coaching superstars all over the place at stronger schools, and he's not really making any progress in taking South Carolina to another level. In four years at South Carolina, he's gone 7-5, 8-5, 6-6, and 7-6. Is Spurrier really going to want to trudge through another 4-5 years of .500 ball??

Spurrier was an all-time great at Florida, and now he's fighting an unwinnable battle in Columbia. If he hasn't put South Carolina on a higher trajectory by his fifth year, why would there be any reason to think he will do it now?? Florida and Georgia are not even on his radar screen, and Tennessee is recruiting and spending money at a level that will put the Gamecocks in the rear view mirror in short order.

I can't see Spurrier sticking around much longer. I'm going to predict that he retires after this season. South Carolina is a really difficult job. If anything, Spurrier's mediocre returns at South Carolina prove how remarkable of a job Lou Holtz did in his time there.

Honorable mention:

Randy Shannon - My feelings on Randy Shannon have been well-documented. I don't buy into this guy at all. I thought he was a bad hire by the politically correct police, and he's done nothing to dissuade me from that opinion. If he was such a great coach, why wasn't he getting feelers for head coaching positions before Miami??

Miami completely collapsed down the stretch for the second straight year, and their QB transferred. I know they were young, but I've seen too many shaky signs from Shannon to think he's got Miami headed back toward prominence. Just looking at their schedule this year, they open with FSU, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma. Can you say 0-4?? If that happens, Randy Shannon could be on his way out even though it's only his 3rd year.

Bret Bielema - Another guy who is still early in his tenure but really had a shaky year last year. If they hadn't eked out those wins over Minnesota (35-32) and Cal Poly (36-35), they would have gone 5-7 last year. Could you imagine Wisconsin losing at home to Cal Poly?? Yikes. That would have been a horrific loss. And then Wisky got absolutely annhilated in their bowl game by a mediocre Florida State team.

Wisky has a frighteningly easy schedule this year. If they don't have a big bounce back year, I think there will be a ton of grumbling up in Madison. They have put a lot of time and money into building that program over the last 20 years with Barry Alvarez, and I don't think Wisky fans are going to stand around and watch Bielema tear it down in the span of 3 years. They could easily go right back to where they were in the 80s as a second tier program that competes for 7th/8th place in the Big Ten. If he doesn't get it done this year, I could see them pulling the plug and even possibly bringing Alvarez back for a few years to right the ship.

Charlie Weis - Yikes. Someone had to say it though.

13. Name one college football program that has been down in recent years that you think will be considered an elite program five years from today.

Jeremy: Miami

Attractive history. Natural, close recruiting base. Randy Shannon knows his stuff, at least defensively. With the right staff around him, I think he turns Miami back into the beast of the ACC.

Dan: Michigan

But only if they don’t F it up and fire Rich Rodriguez. RR has shown he has the ability to develop programs into dangerous teams. However, he is not going to do it in 2 or 3 years. Particularly given the instability of the program he took over and the complete change of mindset he needed to undertake, it will take time. But he gets to play against the Big 10 year in and year out, has a national recruiting presence, and has only 1 tough OOC game each year.

Matt: Michigan

Michigan. Michigan. Michigan. I’m still a believer in Rich Rod. I don’t know why, but the guy has run a system and been successful everywhere. You simply can’t judge him based on one year of an offense with square pegs in round holes. I may be dead wrong here, but Michigan will be back under Rodriguez.

Mike: Nebraska

The jury is not out on Bo Pelini yet, but he showed plenty of promise during his first season in Lincoln. Also, while Nebraska may never attract the same type of elite talent as their counterparts in Austin and Norman, the Huskers should be able to dominate the rest of the Big 12 North on the recruiting trail and on the field. Look for Nebraska to reestablish itself as a perennial power in the next few years.

Doug: Florida State

This pick is purely based on whether or not Bobby Bowden is still around at Florida State. If he is still around in five years, then please scratch this pick. But if Bowden is gone and Jimbo Fisher is the real deal, FSU will be back in a hurry. And if Fisher isn't the real deal, that job will be very attractive for a big time coach.

It all comes down to one thing: TALENT. You can't win big unless you have big time talent. When you are the head coach at Florida State, you have access to so much talent down there in the state of Florida. All you need to do is step out in your backyard and there is speed and athleticism at every position. You don't even really need to recruit any other state to be successful at Florida State. The state of Florida will always be loaded with talent.

Think back for a minute to the 80s and 90s and to how dominant FSU was when they really had it going. It was incredible how much talent they had year in and year out. NFL stars all over the place. Charlie Ward, Deion Sanders, Peter Warrick, Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, etc. They were winning 10-11 games and finishing in the top 5 every single year. They could easily get back to that in a hurry. You can't get access to talent like that at a place like Nebraska or even Michigan these days.

Maybe Jimbo Fisher can't coach his way out of a paper bag, but FSU has talent and money. Every time I go down to Florida for vacation, I am amazed at how many FSU fans are down there. Florida is obviously the king pin, but FSU has a huge presence as well.

Bottom line is that one of these two Florida heavyweights (Miami or FSU) is going to be back eventually. Remember the days when FSU, Miami, and Florida were all top 10 programs? Why couldn't that happen again?? It's not like there isn't enough talent in the state. Florida will be formidable as long as Urban Meyer is there, but there is plenty of room for another school to emerge as a powerhouse again. And if Urban Meyer ever leaves, the state of Florida could be back in a free-for-all. FSU still recruits well. They just need some discipline in that program.

Miami (FL) could easily become dominant, but I think they have issues. The move out of the Orange Bowl sort of killed their mystique, and they have money issues as a private school that FSU and Florida don't have. Miami is not getting fans to go to their games, and the leadership at Miami doesn't really seem to be all that committed to bringing championship football back to The U. Some interesting parallels between ND and Miami. I think the problems at both schools often go higher than the head coach.

12. Name one college football program that has been a powerhouse in recent years that you think might not be in that category five years from today.

Jeremy: Texas or USC (possibly)

Two scenarios, one somewhat realistic, the other not. First, Mack Brown will turn 58 this year. That doesn’t exactly sound “old” but Mack seems to have aged quite a bit. I remember watching some of the wall-to-wall coverage of the Horns leading up to the ’05 title game and it seemed like Mack didn’t even know his own players’ names, other than VY of course. Plus, Texas has now named Will Muschamp as his eventual successor, and Muschamp certainly wouldn’t agree to such an arrangement if Mack intended to stay on the Bowden/Paterno plan. Its not outlandish to think that there might be some issues with the transition.

Probably much less realistic is the USC scenario. Hot rumors have the Trojans in trouble for OJ Mayo and Tim Floyd’s shenanigans, with the brunt of the penalties levied on the basketball program. However, should the NCAA decide to make an example out of SC and throw some stuff at the football program for the Reggie Bush issues, Pete Carroll might finally decide to make the jump back into the NFL. Or perhaps recruits start hearing rumors about reductions in scholarships and the 5-star stable starts going up in flames. Not bloody likely, but possible I suppose.

Dan: Virginia Tech

This is a tough one. I cannot see any of the teams that have been true power houses year in and year out fading in the next 5 years. If I had to take a risk on one, I’d go with Virginia Tech. I’m not sure Beamer has 5 years left in him. I know VT isn’t exactly a “Power House” team, but they’ve been a perennial Top 10 team and have played for a BCS title. Is there any safer guarantee in college football that VT will be irrelevant once Beamer retires? I’ll say he goes in about 3-4 years (He’s 62.) and they are done in 5.

Matt: LSU

I don’t really see any powerhouse falling off the map, but if I have to give an answer, I’ll go with LSU. I was tempted to say tOSU, but in that conference and with the plethora of relatively uncontested high school talent they have access too, I just don’t see it. There’s just something about Les ‘the Hat’ Miles that I don’t fully trust. Has their recruiting been that good? I know they were hamstrung by Perriloux’s gun-toting ways last year, but he didn’t play defense and their D was atrocious for most of the year. Again, I don’t see any of the big dogs falling off, but I’ll pick LSU as a potential situation to keep an eye on.

Mike: USC

It seems inconceivable that the Trojans will ever slip from their lofty perch, given Pete Carroll’s incredible ability to recruit and motivate. Still, history suggests that even the most dominant programs can only sustain success for so long before eventually declining. Considering the scrutiny surrounding USC, there is a possibility, however remote, that NCAA sanctions may be forthcoming, which would certainly hurt the program. Also, I would not be shocked if Pete Carroll eventually gets bored with winning Pac 10 titles each year and decides to embark on a new challenge.

Doug: LSU

This one is a no-brainer for me. I have a bad feeling that the LSU that we know today will not exist in five years.

Before anyone posts in the comments section that LSU is not an "elite program," let me take a minute to point out just how great LSU has been in the last decade or so. They've won 2 national titles, had two other top 5 teams, and another team that finished #8. Five top 10 teams in the last 8 years, 3 SEC titles, 5 division titles, and a reputation for coming up big in big time SEC games. Along with Florida, LSU has been the premier program this decade in the best conference in America. If you look at the level of NFL talent that LSU has produced in the last 10 years, there would be no doubt that they are a premier program right now. If schools like Texas and OU are considered "elite programs," then LSU has to be as well. Heck, they beat OU to win the national title in 2004.

And that's why I think there is no way that they'll still be on that same plateau five years from today. I have one reason and one reason only:

Nicholas Montgomery Saban

Saban is building a superpower in Tuscaloosa right now. They are a locomotive that is picking up steam, and there is no chance of slowing them down. Les Miles is a solid head coach who has exceeded my expectations at LSU, but he is going up against one of the 2-3 best college football coaches in all of the land. The balance of power in the SEC West is shifting east, and recruiting is going along with it. Not that LSU has recruited poorly by any means (their class was ranked #2 last year behind Alabama), but Alabama has already pulled in 18 recruits and seems to be staring at another top 3 class. Saban is a recruiting machine, and it would not surprise me if he starts pulling some of Miles' top prizes out of the state of Louisiana. Plus, Saban is the ultimate taskmaster who has won big everywhere he has been.

I think LSU can still be a very good program under Les Miles, but I don't think they'll have anywhere near the same level of success that they have had in the 00s. I think they'll take a step behind Alabama as the premier program in the SEC West. Bama is going to be a juggernaut as long as Nick Saban is pacing that sideline, and everyone else in the West is going to have to get in line behind them.

11. What would be your ideal postseason setup for college football??

Jeremy: 8 team

I have yet to hear a scenario that makes much sense, but I suppose it’s a given that a playoff is the best way to work this out. 8 teams sounds good to me. Any more beyond that and it becomes something of a farce.

Dan: 8 team playoff

16 is too many, 4 too few, and the BCS sucks. Enough said.

Matt: Plus One

I go back and forth on this. I like the bowl setup as it is (or should I say as it used to be with New Years Day bowl games. As it is now, there’s like 3 bowl games on NYD. It’s ridiculous!) Anyway, I guess if I had to choose, I would say a Plus One game after all the bowls. The problem is there are just some times when it isn’t necessary (USC – Texas immediately comes to mind). So I guess what I’m really saying is I don’t have the answer.

Mike: Keep the current system

Keep it the same. Notwithstanding the tired refrain that college football must “SETTLE IT ON THE FIELD!!!” the current system is more effective at ensuring that the proper teams will play for the championship than the playoff system used in other sports. As illustrated in other sports, it is undisputable that playoffs (1) diminish the value of the regular season, (2) reward the “hot” team in a short series or single game tournament, rather than the team with the best body of work and (3) allow for undeserving teams to hoist the crown. See, e.g., 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, 2008 New York Giants.

I would wholeheartedly support other measures of reform, such as an elimination of the coaches poll and a reworking of the bowl system to bring back more New Years Day games, but college football does it better than every other major sport. There is no immutable rule that every sport “must” have a playoff and there is nothing to suggest that a playoff would enhance the sport. Besides, we already have a playoff: #1 plays #2 in the BCS Championship Game, which is played, if I am not mistaken, on a field.

Doug: 4 team playoff

I love the college football regular season, but I absolutely can't stand the college football postseason. The bowl games have become a sham, New Years Day is done as a college football holiday, and the disparity in scheduling/conference strength has created too many opportunities for a sham national title game (i.e. West Virginia vs. Missouri).

I want a postseason that will preserve the excitement of the regular season but rewards the best teams with an opportunity to play for the title. The BCS has proven that it doesn't work. It was absurd that USC did not get a chance to play for the national title last year or even the year before for that matter. I don't see how you can win the national title without going through USC (or at least by beating the team that beat USC).

For that reason, I support the 4 team playoff. Give me two Semifinal matchups on New Years Day at two different bowl locations and then a title game a few weeks later (perhaps in the week between the NFL Championship games and the Super Bowl) at another bowl location. 4 teams is all you need. There is no reason to have 8 teams in a postseason format when several of those teams have already lost to someone in the top 4 or have lost multiple games. Last year, you could have had Florida, OU, Texas, and USC. How great would that have been?

New Year's Day: Florida vs. Texas; Oklahoma vs. USC
Title game: Florida vs. USC

Are you kidding me? The ratings for those semifinal games would have been through the roof.

Since I know college football moves at a glacier-like pace, I'm willing to accept a "Plus One" game as a consolation prize. That works just as well for me. Have all the BCS bowls, and then pick the two most deserving teams in a "Plus One" title game. Last year, I'd be willing to bet that USC and Florida would have looked like the two most impressive teams after the bowls and would have met in the title game. That would work just fine for me. A team like WVU would have to win a big time BCS bowl game just to make the "Plus One" game, so there's an added level of credibility to the postseason if you add that game.

10. Is Rich Rodriguez the next Bo Schembechler or the next Tyrone Willingham?? What your thoughts on the Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan??

Jeremy: I have no doubt that Rodriguez could be successful at Michigan. His offenses are not terribly complex, and he’s intimately familiar with the personnel required to run them. He doesn’t require 5-star talent, but a bunch of hungry, fast-as-hell waterbugs who can create amazing amounts of havoc in the open field. While his recruiting thus far hasn’t been anything terribly special, he’s identifying and getting the types of kids he believes he needs to win. This was the blueprint that worked in Morgantown, although he wasn’t considered an offensive genius until Pat White and Steve Slaton came along. Nevertheless, given the time to develop his system in Ann Arbor, there’s no reason to believe he can’t bring Michigan back to the top of the Big Ten.

BUT, there’s a big part of me that wonders whether the Michigan fanbase will give him the chance to do so. Certainly the more reasonable Wolverine fans will understand the growing pains associated with a rebuilding job, but some rumblings suggest that 1) there’s no such thing as patience, and 2) Rich is no Bo, and he’s completely changing the face of the program. My guess is that a couple winning seasons will sort out the latter issue, and even if the UM faithful never completely warm to the thought of a West Virginia boy leading them back to the promised land, they’ll begrudgingly accept the victories anyway. Stubborn bastards.

Dan: Entirely dependent upon the fan base. See #13.

Matt: Well, I guess I already made my feelings know about this one. I suspect I’ll be in the minority on this one, and yes I acknowledge that last year was dreadful. But if Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson can lock down the spread option QB position for the next couple of years, I think the wheels will be in motion for a return of Michigan football. As an avid UM hater, I can’t say I’ll be rooting for them, but I think it’s good for college football and good for the rivalry with ND when Michigan is a good team.

Doug: I had more difficulty answering this question than any other question on this list, and I'm still not sure where I stand on the Rich Rodriguez era. When he first got hired, I was of the opinion that Rich Rodriguez was going to spend the next 10 years revolutionizing the way that football is played in the Big 10. I pictured him recruiting all kinds of speed to Ann Arbor and then running roughshod over those stodgy and slow Big Ten defenses. The wide open West Virginia attack seemed like a scary proposition for a league that prides itself (STILL!) on three yards and a cloud of dust.

Even after Rich Rodriguez went through that horrific 3-9 season last year, I was still pretty convinced that they were headed for big things in the future. He went 3-9 in his first year at WVU as well and then turned them into a 9 win team in his second year. Now that their offensive line has had a year to run that attack, it seemed like Rodriguez could easily do a similar thing at Michigan.

But now that I've had a chance to absorb how things are going up there and the more I've seen about where the college game is headed, the less I am convinced that Rich Rodriguez is going to return Michigan to prominence. One of the interesting developments of the offseason has been Urban Meyer's decision to slowly move away from the spread option offense. I think it had something to do with recruits balking about whether that offense can prepare you for an NFL career, but I also think it had something to do with Urban Meyer seeing where the game is headed. Teams are slowly starting to catch on to the spread option offense and how it works. I read a quote from Jim Tressel a couple weeks ago where he pointed out that teams are starting to figure out how to defend the spread more effectively.

I think Urban Meyer looked in the mirror and decided "I'm Urban Meyer! I don't need the spread to win. I win because my teams are extremely disciplined and play with an intensity and energy level that other teams can't match. And I have talent." I don't think he wanted to become anchored to the spread as his only philosophy for winning. He went out and hired Scott Loeffler as his QB guru, and they are slowly transitioning away from the spread option. It's perfect timing for him with Tebow in his last year.

If I was a Michigan fan reading that an innovative coach like Urban Meyer is moving away from the spread option, that would scare me to death. Michigan went all in on the spread option with Rich Rodriguez. That's his baby, and he's recruited exclusively toward that system with small scatbacks and speed guys. There's really no turning back for them. Rich Rodriguez isn't suddenly going to start transitioning into a pro style offense. He's been a spread option guy through and through going back to his days at Tulane and Clemson, and that's what he's going to run at Michigan until he's no longer there.

The problem for Rich Rodriguez is that he is absolutely screwed if his offense becomes the way of the triple option and becomes defensible. If teams suddenly figure out how to shut down all that misdirection, his offense is done. And with all their talent geared toward a spread option, it would take years for them to truly go in a different direction as a program.

Yes, the spread can look really good when it is run well, but it's still a relatively new concept. Now that teams have had years to take a close look at it, it appears that holes are starting to show up. If Michigan can't run that spread attack, they could easily turn into a Big Ten also-ran for the next decade.

The other thing to keep an eye on is recruiting. Michigan had a good class in 2009, but their 2010 class is loaded with 3 stars and "unclassified" guys. They have been signing several guys who decided between Michigan and MAC schools. I don't know if Rich Rodriguez is setting the bar too low or if recruits are nervous about his offense, but Michigan should be getting better talent than WVU-type guys.

I also think Rich Rodriguez has been a victim of bad timing to some degree at Michigan. He walked into a roster with zero players who fit in with his spread offense, he missed out on Terrelle Pryor, he still doesn't have an experienced quarterback to run his system (and might not have the guy he really needs until 2010), he walked into a Big Ten that already has a top dog in Ohio State that is at the top of its game, his offense is just slightly losing favor with recruits, and he's had some really bad PR moments with Michigan alums/fans/player families that have derailed his efforts to some degree. There's just a lot of uncertainty around that program and where they are headed, and part of it has been due to some bad timing.

Would I be shocked to see them win 8 games this year and then turn into a regular BCS contender beginning in 2010?? No, not at all. Rich Rodriguez has been a very dynamic offensive coach throughout his career and may be in the process of adjusting his offense as we speak. I still remember how impressive his teams at West Virginia were. If he builds teams like that at Michigan, they will be formidable and very explosive.

But I have to say that my opinion on them has changed. I could easily see them winning 4-5 games again and completely going in the tank. They still have a ton of roster issues, and it is going to be very difficult to get all their new parts on the same page. I went from being very confident that they are going to be a regular in the top 10 to feeling like they could easily bottom out again and fire Rich Rodriguez at the end of the year.

Should be interesting. Nothing will surprise me either way. We'll find out a lot this season with them.

9. Which of these coaches is on more solid footing at their respective school: Les Miles or Mark Richt?? Will Les Miles ever win another national title at LSU??

Jeremy: Mark Richt

Extremely difficult question. The knee-jerk response would have to be Miles. A national title should act like a warm, comforting blanket. But something tells me that the folks in Baton Rouge still aren’t quite sure what they think of The Hat. On the one hand, he’s something of a novelty act. The goofy uncle who shoots from the hip, doesn’t apologize for his nutty decisions when they go wrong, and looks like an evil genius when they go right. On the other hand, LSU fans aren’t stupid, and Miles just put them through one of the more head-scratching, infuriating seasons in their recent memory. He’ll always have a nice recruiting base to keep building up the talent, but those fans have gotten a taste of the BCS title game(s), and anything less than a return trip every 4 or 5 years might make The Hat’s seat a little hot.

Richt, on the other hand, is the very epitome of a Southern gentleman (even though he was born in Nebraska). His teams tend to underachieve, but he very quietly has amassed 4 SEC East titles, and 2 SEC title game wins. I’ve never really gotten the impression that his seat is all that hot, even though he’s the only one amongst the SEC’s “big dog” coaching ranks (Meyer, Saban, Miles, Spurrier) without a title. I don’t think you can realistically consider a man who’s 82-22 in his career to be in any imminent danger. Suffice to say, if he somehow became available, I would give my first-born to get him to South Bend.

Dan: Mark Richt

I don’t see Georgia as the type of school that will fire a coach for being consistently one of the best teams in the country and not getting over the national title hump. I’m not sure Richt will win a national title at Georgia (though if I had to bet, I’d say yes.) But I do know that his lows will be higher than Miles’s lows. If Miles has a couple bad years in a row (entirely possible), he could find himself on shaky ground very quickly.

Matt: Mark Richt

Another one I’ve inadvertently touched on. I’ll say Mark Richt is on more solid footing. How could Georgia in their right mind ever think about getting rid of him? They have talent a notch below the big boys, and yet they’re always right in the thick of things in the SEC. Georgia is not Florida or Alabama or LSU in terms of tradition and talent. I know that Richt has some head scratching losses and sometimes they’re teams fail to live up to too lofty of expectations, but I think Mark Richt is operating on a lifetime contract at UGA if he wants it. Or at least he should be.

Mike: Mark Richt

Georgia fans may eventually grow restless with Richt, especially if he continues to play second fiddle to Urban Meyer in the SEC East, but most Bulldog supporters surely realize that Richt has enjoyed an amazing run in Athens. Richt recruits well every year and his teams have been remarkably consistent in the most difficult conference.

By contrast, Les Miles’s star has begun to fade. To his credit, Miles made a great hire by luring defensive coordinator John Chavis to Baton Rouge as a replacement for the two-headed abomination of Bradley Dale Peveto and Doug Mallory, but the overall talent level seems to have slipped at LSU from the Nick Saban years. In a conference with great coaches such as Saban, Meyer and Richt, as well as ace recruiters such as Ed Orgeron at Tennessee, it will be difficult for Miles to sustain his early success. Additionally, as others have noticed, the population losses caused by Hurricane Katrina have eroded the talent base in Louisiana, which will hurt Miles. I believe that LSU will slowly fall to the middle of the pack in the SEC under Miles.

Doug: Mark Richt

I'm going with Mark Richt, even though I could easily see Les Miles having an equal or better record. Georgia fans are an interesting bunch. While I have no doubt that they are just as passionate as any other fanbase in the SEC, it seems like Georgia fans give Mark Richt a much longer leash than some other schools in the SEC. If Florida or LSU or Bama or UT or Auburn lose a game, it seems like the world comes to an end. Meanwhile, Richt chugs along with a couple losses every year and seems to have the world by the tail down at Athens. He's only really threatened to win the national title one time in eight years at Georgia, but it seems like he pretty much has tenure down there these days.

Obviously, Richt is a great coach, but I'm surprised that he never gets even the slightest bit of heat. He had a stacked team last year that was considered one of the favorites to win the title, and completely laid an egg in their two biggest games of the year. Alabama and Florida completely destroyed the Bulldogs last year, and then they finished the year by losing at home to Georgia Tech.

Meanwhile, Les Miles has won a national title, recruits like a machine, wins big games, and has done everything possible to bring in the best assistant coaching staff that he can, and yet it always feels like he's one loss away from the hot seat. If they don't win 10 games this year, I'd be willing to bet that there will be LSU fans who turn on him and want him out. LSU fans are quite the rabid bunch.

Would it shock anyone if Les Miles ends up at Michigan someday?? Even though there are a lot reasons why that would never happen, that would not shock me at all.

Just sort of an interesting dynamic there. When you look at those two coaches, their records are very similar and Miles has actually put together a national championship team. But Richt is absolutely beloved, and Miles is sort of tolerated.

8. Is it time for a change on the set of ESPN College Gameday, or do you want to keep it as is??

Jeremy: Am I missing something? Has Gameday become stale? Why are people talking about fixing something that’s not really broken? I can’t say I’ve watched much of Gameday in the past two years, knowing there would be little (positive) conversation involving the Irish, but Fowler, Herbie and Corso do a great job of getting people whipped into a frenzy about the big games of the week. At this point, they can probably read each other’s minds and anticipate timing, etc. That’s one objection I’ve always had with studio shows such as Baseball Tonight. The constant revolving door of hosts and guests really throws things off.

Dan: I’d yank Lou and probably Desmond. But the main three are fine. I can’t think of anyone that would be a better choice, so until I can, I think it can stay as is.

Matt: One thing I do know – it is not time for a change in the theme music. Nothing gets the juices flowing on a hungover Saturday morning like a little B and R Comin’ to Your City. As far as the crew, I could go either way. Chris, Lee and Kirk obviously have great chemistry. One thing I do find annoying is that more often than not, Herby is broadcasting the game and doesn’t make a pick. Why not? I still don’t understand how him giving an opinion is going to influence how he calls the game. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to see Lou or Mark May on site, and Rece Davis to me is no upgrade over Fowler. (BTW, is Fowler a football guy who does tennis or a tennis guy who does football? He is in his element at Roland Garros or Wimbledon and actually knows his tennis.) So let’s just leave it the same.

Doug: Part of me wants to say "Don't touch it," but sometimes I can't help myself.

Let me preface by saying that College Gameday is my favorite show on ESPN. It's the one show that ESPN hasn't watered down or ruined with dumb segments or too many analysts. I haven't watched ESPN NFL Countdown in about five years, but I watch College Gameday every Saturday when I'm at home. For the most part, you get great features, great energy from the crowd, solid hostwork from Chris Fowler, great analysis from Kirk Herbstreit, and some comedy from Lee Corso. It's the perfect formula. Even the intro music is absolutely perfect. Big n Rich was practically born for the college football demographic. Country fans, Midwesterners, Southerners, red state types....couldn't ask for a better fit.

The decision by College Gameday to go "on site" was probably the best move a sports pregame show has ever made. That show has become an institution in college football. There is nothing better than turning on College Gameday at 10am and seeing some jacked up crowd in Lincoln or Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge or Columbus going crazy. It immediately gets me fired up for college football.

So if College Gameday didn't change a thing for the next 10 years, I wouldn't really have any problem with it. All told, I watch probably 4 hours of pregame and postgame stuff on ESPN on any given college football Saturday, so ESPN would be taking a substantial risk by hurting their flagship college football program.

However, I thought about this question for a bit and wondered to myself if there is any room for improvement. There is one thing I think ESPN should start planning for over the next couple years: a replacement for Lee Corso. I love Corso, and College Gameday wouldn't be where it is today without Lee Corso. He's the John Madden of college football. How many times have you said "Not so fast, my friend" in the last 10 years?? If he ends up doing Gameday for another 5-10 years, I won't really complain about it. I still get a kick out of his predictions and mascot heads and all that.

But I do think it would be a prudent move for ESPN to start thinking about another coach from the modern era who they could groom for Corso's spot. The guy I think would be a PHENOMENAL addition to ESPN College Gameday would be Stephen Orr Spurrier. Spurrier is the type of guy who would say what he feels, and he has a good sense of humor. Love him or hate him, he's always been one of the most opinionated coaches out there. I think he would be great in the live setting with fans. Plus, Spurrier has been in the college game for the last 25 years. He probably has all kinds of stories and interesting anecdotes that an audience would eat up. Corso is great, but the only contemporaries for him still in the game are Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. Only so many stories Corso can tell these days about coaching against Woody Hayes and Dan Devine before modern fans get glazed looks in their eyes.

I think it would be great to see Spurrier in the Corso role as the ex-coach who can rile up the crowd but also entertain the viewers at home with his insights on college football.


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