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Ask CFN - Is Temple the Worst Team Ever?
Posted Sep 28, 2006

That remains to be seen, but it has a chance to be among the worst teams in the last 25 years. Which teams have been the worst? Why do some top QBs make it in the NFL and some college stars don't? More on the Bama-Arkansas game, punting, and if USC is overrated 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.)

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 Sept. 8 | Sept. 15 | Sept. 22

Why do some players make it and others don't? If we were to compare Vince Young's last year at Texas with Michael Bishop's last year at Kansas State - Both were Big 12 quarterbacks. Both could run and throw. Both finished runner-up to great running backs for the Heisman Trophy. Both led their teams to undefeated regular seasons.

Their statistics? First we have Vince Young.
Passing: 212-325, 3,036 yards, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
Rushing: 155 carries, 1,050 yards, 12 touchdowns.
Then there's Michael Bishop.
Passing: 164-295, 2,844 yards, 23 touchdowns, 4 interceptions.
Rushing: 177 carries, 748 yards, 14 touchdowns.

Young came into the NFL with hype galore, while Bishop now splits time between Canada and the Arena Football League. I always thought that Bishop was the prototype running/throwing quarterback, even before Michael Vick...but no one ever mentions him. Is it because he never made it in the NFL?
- marc  Seoul, south korea

A: There’s a heck of a lot more that goes into being a pro prospect than just looking the part. First of all, players get hot from playing big in big games. Despite all the scrutiny and all the scouting, when a player has a game like Vick had in the 2000 Sugar Bowl or Young did in the 2006 Rose Bowl, that carries more weight than anything else. Young wasn’t anyone’s No. 4 pick in the draft last year at this time, he wasn’t even considered a top prospect by some before the Rose Bowl, and then he turned into VINCE YOUNG by showing off a magical quality everyone would love to capture for their team.

To be an NFL quarterback, you have to have everything from an arm, smarts, and the ability to quickly read plays and be robotic in the ability to put the ball in the same spot over and over and over again. In college, quarterbacks can simply find the open receiver. In the pros, quarterbacks have to anticipate the open receiver. That’s why some guys, like Ken Dorsey and Danny Wuerffel, who were gods in college, can’t succeed in the next level. Even if they have the smarts, they don’t have the arm or the anticipation. Also remember that most top-level college quarterbacks get ten days to throw and can’t handle the speed of the NFL game.

To make it specific for Bishop, he’s barely 6-0 and he wasn’t superfast out of college with 4.7ish speed. By comparison, Vick, who’s about the same size, was a 4.4 runner. And then there were the question marks about how Bishop could handle the workload that it takes to be an NFL quarterback. There was the classic evaluation by one NFL scout who wrote “triple dumb” in the negative column.

Just a thought, but why not use 3 officials to review and majority rules if there is any question to the call.  Let 3 different people review the play at the same time instead of just one.  I think it would help.  Just my 2 cents.  – Jim

A: That’s a LOT of officials. Most of the replays end up being right. At the end of the day, the replay guy should err on the side of keeping the original call and really stick to that whole indisputable evidence thing. Keep the one guy in the booth, and also give the referee on the field a look at the big plays. Between the two, they should be able to get things close to right.

What's your take on Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt's wild celebration, which involved climbing the band leader's ladder (a la Peyton Manning) to lead the student section in the fight song after Alabama's kicker gave away the game?  Justified since the win may have saved Nutt's job?  Or over-the-top antics for an early season victory, especially for a game in which Nutt's team was favored to win? – MP

A: Nutt’s job is safe for this year because it’s a young team that’ll be judged next year, but beating Alabama was really, really big for the team’s maturation. As far as celebrating, the rule of thumb for coaches should be that there’s no more than a slight fist pump if the team wins the game on a missed kick, dropped pass, or some other mistake, but after the game is over, go nuts. A kicker is a part of the team and gets all the love when he hits the big kicks, and while it’s OK to feel badly for Leigh Tiffin and his misses against Arkansas, it’s fine to criticize him just like you would the quarterback, corner, or anyone else who had a bad game.

I'm a disgruntled Bammer.  If you're Mike Shula, at what point do you give up on the field goal during the ARK game?  If a kid misses one, oh well, it happens.  After the kid misses two short, crucial FG's, why not sub in a healthy Jamie Christensen ("money") from last year who is sitting on the sideline, or go for the TD.  His super conservative play calling at the end of regulation and during the first OT was awful.  It led to 3 short missed FG's and the kid even missed an extra point in the 2nd OT.  So basically at what point do you give up the "percentages" and try something else? – SL

A: What did you want Shula to do? Of course you kick the 30-yard field goal on 4th and 13 in a tie game midway through the fourth quarter. Of course you try to kick the extra point in overtime. I do agree with you that the offense should’ve taken some shots into the end zone rather than run it three times when it was first and goal from the ten with around ten minutes to play, but the ground game was rumbling at that point.

What to make of the 2006 Temple Owls? Last year was really bad (0-11), but this year looks to be even worse. If the rest of the season plays out like the first three games, where do you put the 2006 Owls on the "Worst I-A college teams of the past 25 years" list? At the top? What is the current top 5? Also, how do you fix this mess? Just drop to I-AA or switch to a pure option attack, and run, run, run to a "respectable" 4-8/5-7 every year in an effort to become Navy-lite? – Bryan

A: I’m in total agreement with the idea of going to the pure option, and I don’t understand why more teams don’t do it. You’ll never get over the hump and get to a high level since you’re not going to get the top players to come in on the offense, but you can turn things around in a big hurry with just a few good, quick runners and a line that can move a little bit. The focus has to be to get athletes, athletes, athletes. The defense needs players who can keep the team in games into the second half, and that will only come once it has guys who can run.  

Since 1980, the worst teams I could find were:
1. 1980 Northwestern. 0-11, outscored 444 to 151. The team got better as the season went on, and battled Michigan in a 17-10 loss, but didn’t come within two touchdowns of anyone else.
2. 2005 Temple. 0-11, outscored 498 to 107. Lost 19-16 to Western Michigan and didn’t come within 30 over anyone else.
3. 1988 Kansas State. 0-11, outscored 448 to 171. Came up with some close losses, but the lowlight was a 70-24 loss to Oklahoma. The 1987 team went 0-10-1 tying Kansas but losing in the season opener to Austin Peay.
4. 1981 Northwestern. 0-11, outscored 505 to 82. Lost 21-20 to Indiana in the opener and got obliterated by everyone else. During a three game October stretch against Purdue, Michigan and Wisconsin, the Wildcats were outscored 125 to 0, and lost the last six games 305 to 32.
5. 1998 Kent State. 0-11, outscored 454 to 149 with bad, bad losses to Youngstown State, a bad Navy team, and at home against Eastern Michigan.

We haven’t done the all-time CFN Formula Rankings, but the five worst teams according to the system in the 1990s were … 1. 1998 Kent State, 0-11, 2.1998 Hawaii, 0-12. 3. 1999 Buffalo, 0-11. 4. 1994, Ohio, 0-11, 5. 1997, Northern Illinois, 0-11

Why isn't Erik Ainge getting more hype?  He has been one of the best, and for a while the best, QB's on the field.  His numbers are outstanding and way over last years totals in only 4 games.  The guy is a player and although he is just a junior, he should be in the top 10. – Tree

A: And what else have you noticed about Ainge’s start to the season? While he’s been fantastic, it’s helped to have Robert Meacham to turn short throws into big-time gains. The hype would’ve kicked in had he beaten Florida, but he only completed 17 of 32 passes for 183 yards with two interceptions, and he has thrown a pick in each of the first four games. He has been solid so far, but the big games down the road against Georgia and LSU will be what could raise his overall profile.

Have you noticed the lack of ability of today’s punters, both college and pro, to execute or even attempt a coffin corner type punt. It is so frustrating to watch a punter who finds himself at that magical distance to boot it into the end zone for a net gain of 20 - 25 yards. Do special team coaches feel that with the speed of today’s players they have a better chance of catching this ball inside the 10? It must be a feeling because I would bet the house that statistically it’s a bad call. Having punted some myself back when the Romans still ruled most of the earth, Please respond before another football announcer tells me about the many changes to the end game the new clock rules have caused, whoops too late. – Tim

A: I couldn’t find any stats on putting it inside the 20 compared to past years, but I’m with you. I’ve never understood why punters can’t put it on a dime 41 yards down the field out of bounds nine out of ten times. I can’t kick anything more ten feet, so I’m not one to talk, but if all you do day in and day out is punt over and over and over again, you should be able to get it out of bounds inside the 20 with regularity. Some of the problem is philosophy with many coaches wanting to go for the deep ball inside the ten and hope for the coverage unit to come through. Maybe I’m not a gambler, but I’ll be happy every time my opponent starts a drive on its own 18.

As I read I'm hearing that USC had a couple of "sluggish" games against Nebraska and Arizona.  Could it be that USC just isn't as good as we might like to think?  Especially without Jarrett, this team is vulnerable.  Watching last week's game against Nebraska, I wasn't that impressed.  This week, holding Arizona's offense in check isn't a great accomplishment.  I just don't think USC is a top-5 team.  Top ten, maybe, definitely top-15, but I see Ohio State, Michigan, Auburn, LSU, Florida, and maybe even Texas, Tennessee, Clemson and even Cal as better teams overall.  Is this an under-achieving USC team, or should I expect them to finally bust out a big game (and don't reference Arkansas; a week after that game the starting QB is a wide receiver)??? – Nate

A: Aren’t you setting your standards just a wee bit high? Hasn’t USC won each of its first three games in a double-digit walk over relatively good competition? I write this before this weekend, when I truly believe Washington State has a shot at pulling off the upset, but USC is much, much better than you think. Even with all the injuries on both sides of the ball, there’s speed, athleticism and talent to burn. If you’re playing for USC, you could play on any team in the nation. The third stringers would start at about 90 other places.

I will reference the Arkansas game, because the Hog offense had nothing to do with USC hanging 50 points on the board. Nebraska will shock you at how good it is as the season goes on, and the Trojans were able to win 28-10 despite going through the motions. Arizona beat a pretty good BYU team, but it wasn’t close to putting up any significant points in the 20-3 loss last week. Maybe this isn’t the offensive juggernaut of last year, but the defense is far, far better. This group does all the little things right from turnovers (No. 1 in the nation), third down conversions (No. 2 behind Air Force), and time of possession (No. 3). A lot of those teams you mentioned belong on the overrated list, but I’ll get into that in a column for next week.

I don’t mean this to sound like I’m being a snot, but what makes for a college football “expert”? What makes you more of an expert than any of the talking heads out there? I read CFN religiously and I feel like I know more than the guys calling the game on Saturdays (which I guess makes you guys experts since you’re feeding me info), Do you get my question? – Dave, New York

A: I absolutely understand your question and it’s one that must be asked of people in all walks of life. You’d be stunned at how many famous sports guys know absolutely nothing about sports compared to the average Joe. There’s a great story about a former Sports Illustrated college football writer, part-time talking head, and full-time major newspaper columnist who in 1999 voted Ron Dayne for the Heisman, and then asked around the newsroom who should be ranked next. Someone suggested Georgia Tech QB Joe Hamilton, who ended up finishing second. The Heisman voter had to ask who Hamilton played for.

I think of myself more as an analyst than an expert. You’re not going to be reading this column on this site if you’re not a die-hard college football fan, and you’re probably an expert, too. Forgive me for setting the pretentious dial up to 11, but since I’m the one who takes all the info and research and puts together the final version of all the team previews, and I end up paying attention to and watching (or listening to) all 119 teams each and every week in preparation for everything I need to do, I know a lot about everyone. I can’t tell any Ohio State fan anything he doesn’t already know about his team, but I know how the Buckeye offensive line compares to Utah State’s line. I can tell you how Auburn’s linebackers would possibly handle Idaho’s running backs. Am I wrong? All the time, but at least when I have an opinion on something, it’s based on as much research and knowledge as possible.