ASK CFN - Potential Bowl Shockers
Posted Feb 1, 2007

Which teams could potentially surprise and go bowling? Earl Bennett and Vanderbilt might pull off a shocker. Is UCLA going to be overrated? Is Hawaii going to be underrated? These and 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.)

Past ASK CFNs ...     
Tim Brewster?
Fox's BCS broadcasts
- Is Brady really better than Russell?
Hot & Cold Bowl Programs
- How ineffective was Reggie Ball?
- A 2007 Top 10 Mock Draft
Can Michigan win a national title?
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

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

Hey Pete, I was wondering how Wake Forest could be ranked 80th on SI's recruiting class ranking after the amazing season that they had this past season. Is this just Sports Illustrated nonsense or is there something more to it? -Ben in Austin

A: You’re complaining about being ranked 80th in the recruiting classes? Without checking, has Wake Forest ever been ranked higher? It’s not like the program has succeeded on a who’s who of four-star talents, and last year proved that if you have a veteran team full of smart players who don’t make a lot of mistakes, you can win. I wouldn’t get too hung up about it. If Wake Forest, as a team, is ranked 80th going into next year, then you have something to beef about.

How is Ron Zook able to recruit so well at Illinois with such a poor football program and out of date facilities?  I hear Illinois is going to be remodeling their stadium and facilities but why would that entice a recruit now?  Can Zook turn lead into gold or something? – Chris

A: Some coaches are simply great salesmen. Illinois actually has a lot to offer, and more than anything else, Zook can sell playing time. This was a young, young, young team last year that thrived on all the freshmen and sophomores getting plenty of work, but there’s still a long way to go. If you’re a good player from the Chicago or St. Louis area, you can play relatively close to home, and you’ll be in the mix for a starting spot from day one. Now, can Zook actually coach all this talent? That’s a whole other question.

A month or so ago some people were calling for a Michigan-Ohio State rematch for the national title. Michigan and Ohio State were dominated in their respective bowl games, and overall the big ten did not perform so well during the bowl games. Was the big ten overrated, were OSU and Michigan looking good because they were beating up bad teams in the big ten? – Greg

A: First of all, let’s be fair to the Big Ten in the bowls. While Michigan and Ohio State lost, there’s nothing that wrong about losing to USC and Florida teams that were really, really good. Iowa had a nasty matchup with Texas in San Antonio, Purdue was mediocre all year and got beaten up by a good Maryland team, and Minnesota choked as bad as a team can in the loss to Texas Tech. Even so, Iowa and Minnesota (for about three quarters) performed well. Penn State’s win over Tennessee and Wisconsin’s victory over Arkansas showed the league could play a little bit, but you’re right; the Big Ten was overrated by many (not us) all season long, and Michigan and Ohio State beat a lot of lousy teams to look so great. Then again, outside of the SEC and Big East, name the conference that had a great year? The ACC stunk, the Pac 10 was average, and the Big 12 was no big deal. These things go in cycles.

#36; that's where you rate Hawaii pre-season 2007.  I believe you are just a LITTLE off.  At the very least, they should be rated in the top 25, if not top 20.  Oh, wait, I forgot.  Hawaii is in the WAC, which is not on the east coast, so naturally you would knock them down a few notches.  We'll see where they end up at the end of 2007 at 14-0 (sure, go ahead and laugh, you probably would have laughed if someone had told you at this time last year that Boise State would finish undefeated and one of the top 5 or 6 teams in the country). – Kailua

A: Who was on the Colt Brennan for Heisman kick all year? Who gave the Warriors all due credit for being fantastic on offense? We pumped up this team more than anyone else. With that said, name the really, really good team Hawaii beat last year, and name the good team it beat on the road. Oh sure, Hawaii is a nightmare to deal with at home thanks to the long flight, the weather, the location, the beach, etc., but it’s not like the Warriors beat a who’s who of BCS teams. This year, it has to replace a ton on defense and will have a nasty time replacing RB Nate Ilaoa, who was the unsung all-around playmaker in the offense last year. Yeah, Colt and the boys will throw up 45 points a game, but most good offenses could put 50 on the board against this D. And by the way, Boise State wasn’t one of the best five or six teams in the country last year.

I enjoyed your coverage.  What is your final evaluation of Washington State WR Jason Hill??  Too many WR's coming out so I imagine that hurts him (he's often injured!!)  Quality kid and I hope he gets some $$$$'s. - GO COUGS, Mick

A: From what I hear, some are in love with his potential and some are indifferent. I like him more than Anthony Gonzalez and some of the others starting to creep up the boards, but he didn’t go lights out at the Senior Bowl. His strength is as a deep threat, and no one really pushed the ball deep during practices, and couldn’t in the sloppy game. I see him going in the third round and making a great impact as a number two receiver if he can stay healthy and if he times really, really well.

If it is determined that Reggie Bush accepted gifts while at USC, and he is deemed ineligible, the NCAA would probably force USC to forfeit the games that he played in. Should this happen, and should the BCS and AP take back the national titles do you think they would leave the titles vacant, or award it to Auburn or Oklahoma? – GT

A: I keep getting this question, so I’ll keep answering it. I don’t believe in the forfeit after the fact for taking improper benefits (by whatever that means according to the NCAA). If you want to force a team to forfeit games after it discovered some of the top players were on steroids, or some performance enhancers that actually changed the game itself, then I have no problem with that. If you want to keep players who take benefits out of games, then the NCAA can do that. But that’s it.

Oklahoma and/or Auburn didn’t win the national title on the field in 2004, and they shouldn’t get it handed to them if Bush is guilty. Should OU give up past wins because Rhett Bomar ended up taking payments from a car dealership? That 2004 Auburn team was 100% squeaky clean … yeah, right. Take away some USC scholarships, maybe punish them after the fact, but just by making the games with Bush not count on the record books does absolutely nothing. Everyone will still consider the 2004 Trojans the real national champions.

UCLA in the top 25? Give me a break. UCLA beat USC, but lost a lot of games. That was a bad Florida State team that beat them badly in the Emerald Bowl. They will be no better this year. Look for 6 wins if they get lucky. – DP

A: Don’t like UCLA in the top 25? How about, possibly, the top ten? The team is loaded with experience, and as shown against USC, it has the all-around athleticism. Now it needs to put it all together and be consistent from one week to the next. Most of the key players are back on both sides of the ball, and there’s an abundance of riches at the skill positions.

Six wins aren’t going to be a problem; nine should be the goal. As far as the Emerald Bowl, that was a bad Florida State team throughout last year, but it got better late in the year pushing Florida and getting Lorenzo Booker more involved against the Bruins.

Acknowledging that my Wolverines will be overrated to start next year, why do prognosticators always seem to rate teams with great offenses higher than teams with great defenses? - Wolverine fan in Canada.

A: Because it’s what they know. It’s hard to fill in the blanks and realize how some teams, like Ohio State last year, can fill in the gaps, and it’s hard to get too excited about defenses unless there are a ton of obvious stars. Quick, name a LSU defensive player returning in 2007? How about a Virginia Tech Hokie defender? Now, who are the top quarterbacks coming back? You could probably list off ten without blinking, and everyone knows who the Michigan skill players are, just like everyone knew the Notre Dame skill guys going into last season. I don’t think Michigan is going to have a lousy defense next season, after all, it is Michigan. It’ll replace great players with other great players.

I know it's really early, but do you have any teams that will totally shock us by gaining bowl eligibility? – Eric

A: The schedule is a bear, but I really like Vanderbilt to be like Kentucky of last year. Nine starters return on offense while the defense should be even better. The team was just this close to being in the post-season in the last two years, and if it can pull off a few monster road upsets, it should get an extra game this year. Connecticut gets 17 starters back and should be far more consistent on offense. Is that enough to get to six wins? Maybe.

For a deep sleeper, Illinois and Indiana have the potential to shock and get to a bowl. Both teams have dangerous skill players and should have better overall defenses. From the mid-major ranks, SMU could pull a Rice and be the Conference USA stunner thanks to QB Justin Willis and a fantastic group of running backs. For a San Jose State from the WAC, watch out for New Mexico State. Hal Mumme’s team is loaded with offensive experience and should crank out 450 yards and 30 points a game. The defense won’t stop anyone, but at least eight starters are back.