Step into my (unusually chilly) office ...
James Hanson in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Does Auburn stealing FSU's signals change the way we view the BCS championship game? When comparing the scores of before the towels went up to after ... there is a huge difference. Maybe this team was much better than thought.
Andrea Adelson: It doesn't change my view. Florida State should have probably predicted Auburn would try and do something like this with former assistant Dameyune Craig on the Tigers' sideline. I give credit to Auburn for doing what it had to do to try and win the game.
Luke in Louisville writes: Hey Andrea, Nice to be back in the same mailbag as you. I was wondering if you could try a not wholly pessimistic review of the Petrino hire? Perhaps you could, instead of portraying him as a cartoon villain, single-dimensional and unchanging, characterize him as a multi-dimensional human being capable of both making mistakes and correcting them? Or is it basically the ESPN line? I noticed that Mark Schlabach and the Grantland writer have also written essentially the same piece. And note: I'm not dissing you -- your piece as usual was solid; I'm just curious if anyone's given any consideration to the possibility of change.
Adelson writes: Nice to see you again, Luke. If you are implying that ESPN has dispersed an email giving us talking points about the Petrino hire, I have to laugh. My thoughts are mine alone, same goes for Schlabach and everybody else who has written on this subject. I would love to believe every single thing Petrino said during his press conference. If he stays for 10 years and retires a Cardinal, that would be a great time to praise him for truly being a changed man who recognized his terrible mistakes and went about fixing them not just for himself, but for his family and his players first and foremost. Until then, I have to remain skeptical about a coach who has left behind a long trail of deceit. I do wish him luck, and I do hope he has changed. If he has, then I look forward to being proven wrong.
Matt in Winston-Salem writes: AA, looking at some of the Commissioner's comments about scheduling led me to believe that A) FSU is griping that the Atlantic is disproportionately tough, and B) that the conference is going to do whatever it can to protect FSU as we move into the playoff era. The schedules were just done! How else can you explain this sudden shift in thinking? Please don't refer me to that commish-speak, either. I have a simple solution for Mr. Swofford ... if he wants flexibility, add a conference game.
Adelson: I don't think this has much at all to do with Florida State, actually. How would it protect Florida State to potentially make the ACC championship game more difficult with, say, a rematch against Clemson? I think this has more to do with griping from a lot of teams about going so long between playing games against cross-divisional opponents. Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross made very candid comments to Swofford and the league's athletic directors in an email to that end, and suggested going back to the idea of adding a ninth league game and eliminating mandated rivalry games. I am not sure abolishing divisions will solve all the problems, but there are major scheduling problems this league will face moving forward that should be discussed.
Carla in Houston writes: Just curious: How do you think the ACC will be viewed going into next year? Will the committee be impressed by a team doing well in-conference, or is the ACC still thought to be weak? On one hand we have Florida State, THE national champion! Boy it feels good to say that! The Seminoles were unstoppable this year and have a Heisman winner to prove it. Not to forget Clemson, who finally seemed to break its big-game curse! But the rest of the conference worries me. Virginia Tech underperforming yet again? Miami face-planting? Georgia Tech being unable to move the national radar for another year? We have Louisville coming in so that will be a plus, but even that might not be enough. I am worried the ACC will start being viewed as a top-heavy conference, where beating Florida State and Clemson is the *only* way a team can get respect. Thoughts?
Adelson: You bring up an excellent point, Carla. The ACC already is viewed as a top heavy conference, one reinforced by the way the 2013 season ended. I wonder whether Florida State winning the national championship gives extra brownie points, though. Remember midway through this past season, Alabama and Oregon were thought to be better than Florida State when the three were unbeaten. Would that be different in 2014, with the Seminoles as defending champs? I think it would be different. But at the same time, the overall conference schedule will not be viewed as more difficult than the SEC or the Pac-12 based on the reasons you mentioned above. As Heather wrote Thursday, it is absolutely critical for the ACC moving forward to have at least four Top 25 teams WITH a “traditional” power like Miami and Virginia Tech in that group. I think an unbeaten ACC team would be in the top four for a playoff, but I can't make guarantees about the seeding. The ACC does remain behind the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 in overall conference strength, even with BCS wins from Florida State and Clemson.
Ricky in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Good Morning Andrea, FSU season ticket holder here. Please clarify for me the following regarding the new college football playoff. If the Seminoles go the distance and make it to the NC game again next year, will I now have to pay to travel to TWO bowl locations to see them play?! Sure, the distance to even the furthest assumed semifinal location (Orange Bowl) is "driveable" (6-8 hours from Tallahassee), but there's still gas, hotel, ticket, and incidentals to pay for. Then I'd have to turn around and do it again to see the NC game??? The trip to Pasadena this year was costly enough (roughly $2,000). I don't think the average fan or students can afford to do that twice in one season. Am I missing something or does it seem like the fans are getting the short end of the stick?
Adelson: You forgot travel for the ACC championship game, Ricky. Sorry if this depresses you further. But if you are a fan who wants to see your team advance all the way in person, it will cost you more. Next season, semifinals will be held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 1. The national championship game is set for Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12. Better start saving those pennies now if you want to hit the league title game-semifinal-national championship game trifecta. But I think tough decisions are going to await a lot of students and fans who simply cannot afford to go to all these games.
Tom in Santa Monica, Calif., writes: As a Miami fan, I commend your recent piece on Coach Al Golden. The last two years have fielded the worst defensive units in the program's history. The numbers are horrific. ... The bloom is most definitely off the rose with this guy. He's made some notable improvements in terms of recruiting, strength & conditioning, and some aspects of the culture (though that has understandably dampened with all of the losing), but his game day woes continue and show no sign of abating. While at Miami, Golden is 0-9 against Top 25* teams (*teams that have ended the year ranked in the Top 25). And those contests haven't even been close -- we're losing them on an average of nearly 3 TDs a game. Outcoached and outplayed in every facet. His ShamWow infomercial talk has almost exhausted itself. He'll reel in a great class in February, and he'll continue to get a lot of mileage out of the NCAA situation (the "cloud" that wiped out his "time table"), but for those willing to look closer, as you have done with your article, Al Golden is looking more and more to be the wrong guy to return Miami to any place of actual relevance. Keep up the good work.
Adelson writes: Thanks for your note, Tom. I am not writing Golden off yet. The defense has been abysmal, and I think staff changes were warranted. But he did get this team to nine wins this year, which should count as progress. At the same time, he needs to definitively prove he is closing the gap on Florida State and can deliver more than nine wins. He's on the clock.