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Ask CFN - Has Bob Stoops Lost His Mojo?
Posted Sep 14, 2006

Has Bob Stoops lost his mojo? Can the SEC really get hosed again in the national title chase? Is Ohio State's remaining schedule really as average as West Virginia's? This and much more in the latest ASK CFN.

Pete Fiutak

Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

ASK CFNs ...
 Sept. 8

What’s the most important thing to look for when analyzing an upcoming game? I say a good running game is the key, while my friend says having a superstar quarterback makes up for everything else. Who’s right? – DJ

A: Between you two, at a collegiate level, give me the superstar quarterback. Being able to keep the chains moving with a talented signal caller is far more important. What happens if you get behind? You’d rather have the better QB than a top running game.

To me, the two most important things to look for are 1) pass rush and pass protection and 2) third down conversions. If a mid-level college quarterback has time to throw, he can dominate. In college, more often than not, a quarterback is trying to find the open receiver. In the NFL, the quarterback is usually throwing to a spot and has to hit a receiver, covered or not. If you can hit a college quarterback on a regular basis, you can totally shut down a passing game. That’s why it’s important to note the disparity between great offensive lines and mediocre defensive lines. Give me an average quarterback behind a great line and I can win. That goes hand-in-hand with keeping drives alive. Third down conversion percentage might be the most important non-scoring stat in football.

How much credit does a team get in the rankings for beating an unheralded team early in the season that ends up being very good later on?  How much of a penalty is assessed in the rankings for beating a highly ranked team that end up being not very good?  For instance how much credit would USC get for beating Arkansas early in the season if
Arkansas ends up winning 9 or 10 games?  How much would it hurt Ohio State if Texas only ends up winning 7 to 8 games?
– MM

A: The early better-than-it-looks-at-the-time doesn’t get enough credit from the pollsters, but the much-maligned computer rankings in the BCS come in handy when it comes to remembering the good wins. Pollsters don’t seem to remember big early losses or early wins. Ohio State got the credit for the Texas win and cemented itself in the number one spot no matter what. You’re right; what if Texas sucks? Shouldn’t the Buckeye win be diminish? Part of the thinking might be that Ohio State started the Texas spiral (if UT turns out to fall), but it’s still not quite fair. When it comes to timing, it’s part of the deal, but it’s not fair that the loser of USC and Notre Dame at the end of the year is punished more than the loser (possibly) of the Florida State – Miami to start the year.

Here's my question, and I know it involves a lot of ifs, but I think this could happen again. Say Auburn beats LSU and runs the table in the West and Florida runs the table in the East and beats Florida State, and the winner of that game in the SEC Championship Game goes into bowl season unbeaten. Do you think that team is left out of the Jan. 8 game if Ohio State and USC or Notre Dame (I won't say West Virginia b/c SOS would probably eliminate them) are still flawless? Would all of this REALLY happen again? – AK

A: Yup. No way, no how does Ohio State get knocked out of the top spot if it wins out, and no fricking way does an unbeaten Notre Dame or USC team not make the title game. I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m saying it’s what would happen.

What is with all the Boise State hype again? There is more talk about them crashing the BCS.  I am aware that one game a year ago doesn't define a program, but wasn't the Georgia game the trendy upset pick and Boise's chance to show that they belong at the top?  Weren't they completely dismantled?  Teams like West Virginia had their chance and
they took advantage of it and are now getting some well earned respect. What happens if Boise (or another team like it) does get into the BCS over a more deserving team and they get killed again?
– JJ

A: Everyone needs to relax a bit about the BCS concept. Yeah, playing in a BCS game gives you a chance to be the focus of the sports world for a night and gives you a chance to go up against a big boy and make a statement for your program, like West Virginia was able to do in last year’s Sugar Bowl against Georgia, but if you’re not playing in the BCS championship game, you’re playing in a glorified exhibition. I think a lot of people confuse, at least subconsciously, getting into the BCS with getting into a playoff, and obviously that’s not so. With a fifth BCS game added, if Boise State goes unbeaten, then fine. Let’s see what the Broncos can do on a big stage. Didn’t everyone want to see what Utah could do in 2004, and wasn’t everyone a bit disappointed when it didn’t get a chance against Auburn, USC or Oklahoma? It’s all about getting the shot. Oklahoma got killed in its last BCS appearance; do you want to keep the Sooners out? The 2006 Boise State team is different than the 2005 team, the 2004 team, and so on. Judge it on this year. Now, if you’re talking about an unbeaten Boise State team playing for the national title, then we’ll have to have a discussion.

Why is it normally so hard for a new Coach to win out of the box the first/second year. Now I'm not talking about solid top 20 teams.  I'm talking about mid pack teams like the CUSE!!!  - Terry, Elmira NY

A: With that said, look at UTEP under Mike Price, Tulsa under Steve Kragthorpe, and Maryland at the beginning of the Ralph Friedgen years, and there are plenty of instances when good coaches can make a difference right away. Cases like those set the bar high. Bret Bielema’s situation at Wisconsin is the exception to the rule, but if there’s a new coaching hire, it’s likely because, 1) the old coach got canned because the team sucked, 2) the old coach left/retired, and the team sucked or 3) the old coach moved on to a bigger and better gig, and there’s almost no way to live up to the past success.  It takes at least a full recruiting cycle for fairly judge a new head coach, but no one gets four-to-five years to turn things around unless the program is one of the dregs. Chances are the new head coach, like Greg Robinson at Syracuse, is dealing with a limited team that doesn’t know how to win.

Who has the tougher remaining schedule West Virginia or Ohio State?  The Big Ten besides the Buckeyes is looking putrid while the Big East has been doing well out of conference so far this season. – MK

A: I sort of glossed over this question when I first read it figuring there was no way Ohio State’s schedule could be worse than West Virginia’s, but when you look at the remaining slates, it’s not a slam dunk. The Buckeyes play Cincinnati, Penn State, at Iowa, Bowling Green, at Michigan State, Indiana, Minnesota, at Illinois, at Northwestern, and Michigan. Counting the whupping over Maryland, the Mountaineers have Maryland, at East Carolina, at Mississippi State, Syracuse, at Connecticut, at Louisville, Cincinnati, at Pitt, South Florida and Rutgers.

Going to Louisville is roughly the equal of play Michigan this year. Pittsburgh is looking like a surprise team, and Rutgers has looked great so far. Ohio State’s only real games of interest are Penn State, at Iowa, at Michigan State and against Michigan. The Buckeye schedule is better, but not by much. However, you can’t just gloss over the win at Texas when looking at the big picture.

How important were Bob Stoops’ supporting cast of offensive and defensive coordinators over the years?  Do you think loosing people like Mike Stoops and Chuck Long have contributed to the recent mediocre play of the Sooners?  Stoops is a magnificent head coach, but how critical were his assistances in the program’s success and do you think Coach Stoops will be able to match the success he had in his first 7 years without them?  Did he lose his mojo or did his brother and Chuck take it with them when they left? - CD

A: If going 34-7 over the last three-plus years with two national title appearances and a Big 12 title is losing the mojo, there are at least 100 coaches who’d love to have the same problem. However, you’re right. This used to be the biggest, baddest program around with a swagger that no one outside of Miami had. Then Mike Stoops announced he was leaving, Kansas State pulled a Buster Douglas and whacked OU 35-7 in the Big 12 title game, and the aura of invincibility has been gone since. Ironically, Stoops has had more NFL caliber talent roll through Norman than ever before, but it doesn’t seem to have the same sort of killer instinct. Once again, though, 34-7 going into the Oregon game. 34-7.

How do you feel about the pre-season top 25 polls?  Shouldn’t they begin mid-way through the season?  Or better yet, shouldn’t they be based on the schedule in September? Isn’t it easier for a team like Ohio State to remain number 1 after 4 weeks of play vs. a team like Marshall who has to play possibly 3 top 25 teams in a month to open the season?  - SJ

A: Preseason polls aren’t a problem at all. They’re interesting for speculation and to generate a buzz and get plenty of discussion going. The problem lies in the voters who refuse to change their minds, or are simply to uninformed to make the drastic changes necessary based on what’s happening on the field. The top spots wouldn’t change too much in the middle of the season than they’d be at the begging of the year, and those are the only rankings that matter. On your other point, strength of schedule should be one of the biggest factors in the BCS formula, not totally ignored. Along with getting the best teams into the BCS, it’s also about who deserves to be there.

Do the new clock rules affect handicapping at all? One would think 10-15 less plays means less time to score another touchdown, therefore favoring cupcake U against a top 25 team. Are the guys in Vegas taking this into affect, or are the little guys beating the spread against top programs? – Scott

A: The over/unders will eventually go down. Fewer plays mean fewer chances for points, but if a top team is playing a cupcake, the blowout, theoretically, will be all but done after three quarters. The new rules don’t seem to be doing anything so far for the actual lines, but that might quickly change once conference play really gets going and there are fewer overall mismatches.