ASK CFN - The West Virginia Schedule
Posted Oct 26, 2006

West Virginia might be great, but how many teams would probably be 7-0 with the same schedule? What are the main BCS rules that you need to know down the stretch? Is Mike Hart a Heisman candidate? What's the better conference, the Big 12 or SEC? These questions and a whole bunch more in this week's 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.)

Past ASK CFNs ...  
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

Before starting off, most of the questions this week were about the BCS and its rules and workings. To try to break through all the fine-print and mumbo-jumbo, here are the five main rules you need to know regarding the BCS that’ll hopefully answer most of the questions.

1. The champion of Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt or WAC is automatically in if it finishes in the top 12 in the BCS standings or is ranked in the top 16 and is higher than the champion of one of the six BCS leagues. This matters for Boise State, since it’ll likely have to finish in the top 12. Unless something crazy happens, all six BCS conference winners will probably finish in the top 12 when all is said and done.
2. Notre Dame is automatically in if it finishes in the top eight of the final BCS rankings, but all it has to do is finish with nine wins and be in the top 14 to be eligible.
3. The pecking order works like this: Unless it goes to the national title game, the ACC champion goes to the Orange, the Big Ten and Pac 10 champions go to the Rose, the Big 12 champion goes to the Fiesta, and the SEC champion goes to the Sugar. The bowls that lose their automatic tie-in to the national title game gets to choose from the at-large pool. Therefore, as things should play out, the Rose Bowl, likely to lose Michigan or Ohio State, will get the first pick of the at-large teams. It goes from there. If USC is in the national title game, the Rose gets a second pick. If the SEC champion gets in, then the Sugar Bowl gets the second pick. If the Big East champion gets in, it’s all open. After that, the Sugar Bowl gets the first pick, the Orange gets the second, and the Fiesta gets the third choice. That’s why you’ll likely see Boise State in Arizona playing Texas.
4. No more than two teams from the same conference can get in. So no, the SEC won’t get more than two in even though Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas and LSU have the potential finish around the top ten.
5. Rematches are frowned upon, but not forbidden. The rules can be adjusted if, for example, the Fiesta doesn’t want an Ohio State-Texas rematch and would likely keep Michigan and Notre Dame from playing each other.

What in the world is going on with Georgia?  Everyone, including CFN, hyped Georgia’s talent all over the field prior to the season but rightfully thought of the Dawgs as a third place finisher in the SEC East (maybe worse it appears) due to questions on offense with the quarterback situation and a few other youngsters on the field (plus having to play Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn).  How does a team that has had four straight ten win seasons and two of the last four SEC Championships (including last year!) decline so rapidly?  This season is rapidly spiraling into a possible 6-6 or 7-5 season which has to be considered a massive disappointment.  Is it coaching?  Are good and potentially great players not playing up to their potential?  Is it that many of the so-called top talents are really not as good as originally thought when recruited?  Leadership? – PM

A: Youth. The receivers aren’t making any big plays, and there’s a breaking in period with freshman QB Matthew Stafford still learning the ropes. Call it a cycle. The coaching is fine, the defense is decent, the team still has athletes to burn, and the recruiting hasn’t slipped. Remember, last year the offense got a huge season from D.J. Shockley making every key play in every big SEC game he played in. The margin between being an SEC champ and an also-ran is razor-thin, and Georgia fans are seeing that this year. Give the Dawgs time. The recruiting is there and Stafford has NFL talent, so don’t expect them to be out of the hunt for long. Also remember that we’re not talking about a fall-off-the-map Tennessee-2005 season here; Georgia isn't lousy.

Out of the top 10 running backs in terms of yards per game, only one averages less than 5 yards per carry...guess which one????  Mike Hart at 4.8 yards/carry.  He piles up the yards, but only because he carries 27 times per game.  This is your #2 in the Heisman race?  - KU

A: It’s much, much more than that. With issues with the passing game thanks to Mario Manningham’s knee injury and Steve Breaston not growing into any sort of a dangerous target, Hart has been a steady force all season long. His ability to always crank out yards and always keep the offense moving keeps the defense fresh. What he does might not be flashy, but it’s necessary to the way the team functions. Who leads the nation in time of possession? Michigan, by a long shot. The play of a rested D and the running of Hart have gone hand-in-hand to make the Wolverines what they are. Throw in a few haymakers from the passing game and you have a killer team.

Let's say Michigan, Ohio State, and Notre Dame remain unbeaten until their last games and Mike Hart, Troy Smith, Brady Quinn continue on as they are.  If Michigan were to beat Ohio State and Mike Hart had around 120 yards and 1 or 2 scores, Troy Smith had an average day (200 yds passing 1 TD 1 Int and sack 3 or 4 times), and Brady Quinn has a decent, but not spectacular game against USC; what would be the chances of those being the top 3 vote getters for the Heisman?  What would it take for Hart to win? is it even possible? – MB

A: Here’s how I see it playing out. If Ohio State beats Michigan and Troy Smith is impressive, or even above-average, it’s over. If Michigan wins and Hart cranks out 100 yards, Smith is probably out and the picture suddenly changes. The week after the Buckeye-Wolverine showdown, Notre Dame plays at USC. If the Trojans are unbeaten, and Brady Quinn blows up in an Irish win, he might suddenly take over in the type of high profile game that kinged Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer in recent years. No matter how well West Virginia does, it’ll be hard for Steve Slaton to rise about the number three spot with Pat White taking away some of the Mountaineer vote. To answer your question, Hart has to rock in a win over Ohio State, and Quinn has to stumble.

Better conference … SEC vs. Big 12 – JR

A: As a tip to all who submit questions, short and sweet have an infinitely better chance of being answered than the three-pagers I get most of the time. This one isn’t as obvious as I originally thought. At the top, and especially considering Oklahoma doesn’t have Adrian Peterson anymore, the SEC is head-and-shoulders better with only Texas ranking with Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, and Tennessee. However, I’d take Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nebraska over the next level of SEC teams, and put Texas Tech and Texas A&M in the same range with Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. Considering Baylor isn’t that bad, the Big 12 holds up better than you might imagine, but I’d still take the SEC because of the superpowers up top.

You are starting a football team. In these five cases, which of the two players do you build your team around?

1) Troy Smith or Adrian Peterson
2) Mario Manningham or Steve Slaton
3) Ted Ginn Jr or CJ Spiller
4) Tim Tebow or Percy Harvin
5) Marshawn Lynch or Desean Jackson

A: Are you building a college or pro team? If we’re talking college, I’d go with the steady playmakers that can carry a team game in game out: Smith (although, there’s no wrong choice between Smith and Peterson), Slaton, Spiller, Tebow, and Lynch. For a pro team, give me the better NFL prospect and next-level talent: Peterson, Slaton, Ginn, Harvin, Lynch.

Explain to me how a program with the facilities, fan base, TV appearances, you name Penn State can fall from the nation's elite?  What happened? – Scott

A: It’s really, really hard to stay among the nation’s elite year after year after year. Ohio State would certainly be considered elite, but it lost four games in 2004 and, outside of this year, has lost fewer than two games in a season once since 1998. Michigan is certainly an elite program, and it lost five games last year and, until this year, hasn’t lost fewer than three games since 1999. Look at other top programs like Miami, Florida State, Tennessee, Florida, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and several others and ask how hard it is to be in the championship chase. Being “elite” isn’t just about being in the national title hunt year in and year out; it’s being good and consistent so when things start to break the right way, like last year for Penn State, the program can take advantage.

But to answer your question, the loss of defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky after 1999 was a killer. A steadying force for the program, Penn State was in the national title race until early November in 1999, and had four straight losing seasons after. Also, Penn State didn’t own the recruiting wars on its turf like it used to with improving programs at the turn of the century like Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, and others picking off guys like Ron Dayne, Kevin Jones, and many more who normally would’ve been locks for Happy Valley. Be patient; great programs eventually bounce back.

I am sick and tired of reading about how WV is not playing anybody worthy to rank in your elite football programs. Get real.  The consecutive wins from last year through this year is a statement that is not being acknowledged.  The score differential is not being acknowledged.  The explosive offensive and the two Heisman candidates are being overlooked additionally. Your constant diatribe about WV not being tested or not for real, is total bunk.  Wake up and watch them play! How much longer can you guys be so stupid to continue to show your ignorance?  Please stop your football coverage as it is lacking the reality that occurs on the field. – Unsigned

A: The better question is, do you watch anyone play other than West Virginia? If you do, then you’d know the Mountaineer competition has been awful. I can say 999 positive things about West Virginia, and every time I, or anyone else, brings up that the schedule sucks or dog the mediocre defense, Mountaineer fans take it sooooooooo personally (my personal favorites are the e-mails calling me a racist for not having Pat White or Steve Slaton in my top favorites for the Heisman).

Let’s try a different approach, and you’ll have to work with me here on a college football philosophical level: West Virginia might really be one of the five best teams in America, but that still doesn’t mean it would get through a real schedule unscathed. Sorry, but no way, no how does a one-dimensional team like this, who has faced absolutely no one that can stop the run, get through an SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Pac 10, or Big 12 schedule unscathed. Don’t bring up the 2006 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. Beating the SEC champion and going unbeaten in a top conference are two completely different things.

You might think that’s ripping on West Virginia, but it’s not. It’s saying that in the top conferences, it’s next to impossible to get through all the landmines unscathed. Look at the WVU schedule so far (playing only one fringe bowl team): Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland, East Carolina, Mississippi State, Syracuse, and Connecticut. By my rough count, I came up with 39 teams (Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, USC, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Cal, LSU, Boston College, Clemson, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri, Washington State, Wake Forest, Oklahoma, BYU, Oregon, Pitt, Alabama, Hawaii, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Boise State, Miami, Texas Tech, Iowa, Penn State, UCLA, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tulsa) that I believe would have a shot at being 7-0 with the West Virginia schedule. Of those 38, figure about 28 of them would actually do it with Maryland and Syracuse decent enough to pull off wins against some of them. Is that “hating” on West Virginia? Absolutely not; it’s pointing out the obvious.

Here’s the other concept few get; the BCS championship game should be about who deserves to be in, not who everyone thinks should be in. Look, West Virginia wouldn’t beat Ohio State and Michigan and Iowa and Penn State and Wisconsin. It's about the long, week-in-and-week-out haul. It wouldn’t beat Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and a team from the SEC West like Auburn, LSU, Alabama or Arkansas. It wouldn’t beat Cal, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington and Washington State. It wouldn’t beat Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and a team from the North like Missouri or Nebraska. It wouldn’t beat Clemson, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Miami. Now, it would beat most of them, and could beat any of them in a one-game shot in the championship, but it wouldn’t beat everyone in one of the top leagues. Would a one-loss Florida team be more deserving of being in over an unbeaten West Virginia after games against Louisville, Rutgers and Pitt? We might get to debate that one in a few weeks.