Friday Mailbag 

May, 29, 2009
I'm leading this week's mailbag with a question about some news from the other day:

From Cliff in Houston: I've seen a lot of whining from media types about the coaches poll no longer going to be public. It's their poll, isn't it their right to do so?

Feldman: I'm surprised this wasn't a bigger story this week. I feel like if Lane Kiffin had commented on it, maybe it would have had more buzz.

The coaches had voted anonymously until 2005, when, relenting to calls for transparency, they decided to reveal their final ballots. They had been pressured into going public after 2004, when Texas and California lobbied for votes in some ersatz version of poker for spots in the Rose Bowl, with UT winning.

I think the American Football Coaches Association made a ridiculous decision by making their votes once again anonymous in their final USA Today poll of the season. If their logic really was due to the advice of the Gallup people, they got some bad advice. And if that is the truth, Gallup doesn't understand the dynamics of the AFCA, because it's overrun with agendas, back-slapping, vendettas and the spirit of self-preservation. Not to mention millions of dollars. We all know how much coaches hate being second-guessed. When their votes were public, the curtain was pulled back too much, and they simply couldn't handle it.

There were some interesting votes this past season. Two of the coaches who ranked Texas No. 1 were Iowa State's Gene Chizik, a former UT assistant coach, and North Texas' Todd Dodge, a former UT QB. Hal Mumme had Texas Tech, coached by his protégé, Mike Leach, at No. 3, one slot ahead of Texas. Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, who has seen Urban Meyer snag a couple of his recruits lately, had the Gators No. 2 behind Oklahoma. Ron Zook had Oklahoma No. 1, ahead of his old team, UF (No. 2).

Would anyone be surprised if some of the coaches downgraded teams they didn't want to see play in certain games by dropping them a half-dozen slots?

Of course, there has been talk that this is the AFCA beginning a process to get out of the BCS formula. The AFCA denies that, although I heard from one coach who said it wouldn't surprise him if the coaches were maneuvering to get in the clear. Then again, he added that this really is about the AFCA tiring of people skewering them for their decisions.

From Paul in Denton, Texas: So let's concede that this should be a great Heisman race with Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy all the front runners. Look into the crystal ball and tell me who the favorites are in 2010?

Feldman: Tough question. I think Jevan Snead will have a big year and end up jumping to the NFL. The only players I could project who have done much so far are Cal's Jahvid Best and Georgia Tech's Jon Dwyer -- and I wouldn't be surprised if they bolted after this season. Two others who kind of fit in that category are Baylor's Robert Griffin and WVU's Noel Devine. The next ones are really hunches: Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, USC's Aaron Corp, Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor and Miami's Jacory Harris. It should be a great year for wide receivers because the class that will be third-year juniors is phenomenal, but it's almost impossible for pure receivers to win a Heisman.

From Ricky in Omaha, Neb.: I heard you on the radio (this week) talking about Colorado and how hot Dan Hawkins' seat is there. Given his big talk about winning 10 games this season, what percentage would you put on him keeping his job and being the coach at CU in 2010?

Feldman: I'll go with 75 percent. But as I said the other day, I doubt CU will get to 10 wins this season. I expect the Buffs to go to a bowl game, but I don't see them doing better than 8-4. Keep in mind a couple of key factors: Hawkins didn't walk into a ripe situation in which he could rack up wins quickly, and CU probably doesn't have the money to make that coaching change unless it really feels it has to. Now, another 5-7 season might be enough cause, but this administration hired him and he has been a successful head coach before, so there's hope.

From Bob in the Bay Area: Fun little exercise for you. The most dominant team in the country is Florida, National Champs. Here is their schedule vs. the Irish's supposedly "cake" schedule. Be curious as to how many weeks Florida has an easier opponent than Notre Dame.

Nevada = Charleston Southern
Washington St = Troy
Navy = Florida International
Connecticut = Mississippi State
Stanford = Vanderbilt
Washington = Arkansas
Purdue = Kentucky
Boston College = Tennessee
Michigan State = South Carolina
Pittsburgh = Florida State
Michigan = Georgia

Now, who has the "easy" schedule again???

Also, the historical strength of most of these schools when the schedules were made (i.e. Washington), might give you a different viewpoint.

Feldman: Thanks for the note. You raise an interesting point, although I do think where Michigan is compared to Georgia is pretty far off at this point. I'd say the same for FSU and Pitt. Plus, UF probably would have to beat another top-10 team in the SEC title game. That's going through four top-25 teams and probably three in the top 15 (LSU, UGA and the SEC West champ). I doubt you'll see anyone on ND's schedule in the top 25, other than USC. I'm not arguing against having traditional opponents who are now struggling, like Michigan or Washington. Like I argued that it shouldn't have been dismissed that Utah went to Michigan and won a game that was scheduled at a time when the Wolverines were a powerhouse.

In ND's case, I'm making my point that this team has a legit shot to win 10 games this season because I think it would be favored in 11. (You should see some of the e-mails I've received from fans who keep trying to remind me that Charlie Weis is still the coach and about the teams the Irish lost to in 2008.) Anyhow, if they had Florida's schedule, I probably wouldn't expect more than nine.

From Duane in Orlando, Fla.: What is up with the lovefest ESPN is having with Jevan Snead? He's decent, but he wouldn't even been second-team if he did come to Gainesville. John Brantley completed 64 percent of his passes, which is a lot higher than Snead's 56 percent and Brantley's QB rating was 163 was also about 20 points higher.

Feldman: I have heard good things about Brantley's ability and I have no doubts about him being a good college QB, but you can't gauge his worth compared to Snead's based on his performance in blowouts. Snead not only led Ole Miss to a win in the Swamp, but he also really shone late in the season after settling in and shaking off years of inactivity. He did have a 14-2 touchdown-interception ratio over the Rebels' final five games of the season.

From Jessica in Coral Gables, Fla.: How does the University of Miami not make your list of teams most likely to be improved? I know we weren't horrible last season, but this current team has the potential to win the ACC and compete in a BCS bowl with a team led by sophomores and freshmen. Last year, we finished last season 7-6, and this year we will be a disappointing season if we have less then nine wins. I think when talking about a team most likely to improve, not including a young team like the Canes, who have a ton of potential and talent, in the discussion is a disservice to the work Randy Shannon has done with this young team and all of the talent he has recruited and is starting to develop. Plus, with bringing in a guy like (Mark) Whipple, this teams offensive power is going to grow exponentially.

Feldman: I do expect Miami to be much improved this season, but I think it might be a reach to expect the Canes to do better than 9-3 this season, given their inexperience. And don't forget how tough their first four games will be. I think they'll be fortunate to do better than 2-2.

From Tony in Akron, Ohio: Why does everyone single out the Big Ten? The SEC plays only itself; and their games are no more exciting than the Ohio State/Penn State game. Secondly, if the ranking criteria was prioritized this way: 1. Win/Lost, 2. Strength of Schedule, 3. Points Allowed, I'm sure respect would be returned to the Big Ten. My final point is that there are no BCS bowl games played in Big Ten country. If so, do you think the outcomes of some of the games lost the last four years would have been the same?

Feldman: The biggest issue the Big Ten faces has been its performance in big bowl games. Pretty much everything starts with that. If Ohio State had beaten Florida in the BCS title game, most of the skepticism never would gotten legs. As for the home-field BCS edge, it's impossible to say how much it might help. My hunch is the way USC attacked the Penn State defense, it probably wouldn't have made a difference where that game was, but if it were played in a snowstorm, who knows? I suspect Vegas wouldn't have such a big point spread, though.

From Cameron in Charleston, S.C.: Here we go again! Light heavyweight belt changes hands again. Goes to prove anyone on any night can win. BTW, the new game is awesome on PS3.

Feldman:I think the rise of Lyoto Machida is good for MMA because of his unique style. Obviously the UFC keeps its fighters active, much more so than boxing does, so there is a lot more room for turnover. And I think by the nature of the sport, you get more upsets. I haven't seen the new game. I am looking forward to the new version of "Fight Night" coming out.


• Baylor keeps making noise on the recruiting trail. The latest: nabbing safety Ahmad Dixon, who previously was committed to the University of Texas.

According to JC Shurburtt, "Baylor was able to get in on Dixon because Levi Norwood -- the son of Baylor defensive coordinator Brian Norwood -- goes to Dixon's school, and the two formed a close friendship. Briles was able to convince the Waco DB to stay in his hometown by selling him on the idea that he'll be part of building something that is potentially special at Baylor, instead of struggling for early playing time at Texas with its loaded roster."

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