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ASK CFN - The Potential New Superpower
Posted Mar 29, 2007

Does South Florida, currently led by quarterback Matt Grothe, have the potential to grow into a superpower? What are the best non-BCS bowl games? Is March Madness really better than the BCS system? 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.)

Past ASK CFNs ...     
The 5 best coaching jobs
March Madness for football?
Potential Bowl Shockers
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?

Here's an off-season question: where and when did the custom of giving helmet stickers for outstanding plays originate?  I recall having heard that Ohio State started with their buckeye stickers in 1968, but I don't know about any other teams. – John

A: You’ve got it right, although there are always going to be others who claim to have started the honor, OSU get the official nod. Woody Hayes started the tradition in 1968 given mostly for big plays or top performances. It’s changed a bit over time to where Jim Tressel now gives them for a variety of merits and reasons.

What would it take for a school like West Virginia, Louisville, Michigan State, or Purdue, to turn the corner and become an elite school like Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, or Oklahoma? Could it be done in ten years on the field? If a good school finished in top 5 for 10 years running, with 2 national championships, do they gain elite status like FSU did under Bowden?  What would it take? – DH

Who out there has the potential to be a new superpower like a Michigan or USC? Not LSU or someone who’s already great. I’m talking about a bit of a sleeper. Also, what’s makes a really, really good program and an elite one? - GL

A: What would it take to become a superpower? Oh, several decades of winning at a high level, and even that doesn’t assure anything. Just over forty years ago, Minnesota got the same respect Michigan or USC gets now, but it couldn’t stay at a high level going downhill after winning the 1962 Rose Bowl.

Being considered among the elite of the elite depends on the timing. Is Alabama still considered a superpower? It’s been to one BCS-level game since winning the 1992 national title, but it’s still had a ridiculous amount of success.

How about Wisconsin? Three Rose Bowls within the last 15 years, a boatload of other good bowl wins, and a ton of national exposure, but there hasn’t even been a sniff of a national title. Would UW then be considered a superpower if it won the national title this year? How about Kansas State when it was really rolling under Bill Snyder? Colorado, until recently, could’ve been put into the superpower category for year-in-and-year-out success. So could Washington. It takes something truly special to be Teflon and win, win, and win some more throughout the ages. Michigan football will never be truly awful for a long stretch. USC will never have more than a few losing seasons in a row. Ohio State won’t ever be a last place program. They’re just too big.

To be a Florida State and break into the old boys club, a program has to be in the national title hunt for about a decade, win at least one, and be really, really, really good for about 25 years. To get there, it needs a great recruiting base, a big enough school to eventually get the support for the facilities needed to compete at a top level, and a whole bunch of luck. Keeping a superstar head coach around for a generation, like at West Virginia if Rich Rodriguez decides to never leave, would also help.

My sleeper to eventually get to superpower status is South Florida. It has the most fertile recruiting base to work with, a coach in Jim Leavitt who loves to be there and appears to have no interest in any other gig, plays in a relatively big market (Tampa-St. Petersburg) at a school with a huge student population and alumni base, is in a good league, and appears to be just on the verge of turning a corner into conference championship status. Check back in 10-to-15 years and see how it all worked out.

Rank the bowls, after the BCS championship game, in order of prestige, conference matchups, and overall importance. Feel free to leave out the bottom half.  -TheHiddenImam


A: The standard answer for the top non-BCS game is the Cotton Bowl, but my number one would probably by the Capital One Bowl. After the name changes, it certainly doesn’t have any prestige, but as far as conference matchups and overall importance, getting the number two Big Ten team and the second or third best SEC team is always going to be good. The Cotton Bowl, with the SEC’s second or third best option and the Big 12’s second or third best option is either No. 1A or the second best of the bunch.

3. Chick-fil-A Bowl - ACC No. 2 vs. SEC
4. Outback Bowl – Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC
5. Holiday Bowl – Pac 10 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3
6. Gator Bowl – Notre Dame, Big 12 or Big East vs. ACC No. 3
7. Alamo Bowl – Big 12 vs. Big Ten
8. Sun Bowl – Big 12 or Big East vs. Pac 10 No. 3
9. Champs Sports Bowl – Big Ten No. 4 of 5 vs. ACC No. 4
10. Liberty Bowl – Conference USA No. 1 vs. SEC No. 6

Time to face it:  Ohio State would be the 3rd or 4th best team in the SEC.  Michigan would be the 4th or 5th best team in the SEC.
I almost felt sorry for Kirk "Big 10" Herbstreit after Florida pounded Ohio State.  And USC pounded Michigan.  Didn't he say that Ohio State and Michigan were the 2 best teams in America?  Didn't so many so-called football experts say Ohio State and Michigan were the two best teams in America?  Weren't so many people upset that Florida somehow jumped Michigan after they won the SEC Title game? I think that FINALLY folks have come to see what we already knew:  The SEC is HEAD AND SHOULDERS above any other conference.  The Big 10 winner would be the 3rd or 4th best team in the SEC EVERY SINGLE YEAR. SEC speed dominates. – CY

A: Or, Ohio State got fat and lazy with all the time off and got its butt whupped by a tremendous team that was disrespected and ultra-motivated.

Isn’t it funny that no one seemed to say anything about how slow the Big Ten was when the Buckeyes beat Miami for the 2002 national title (and I’d love to hear some SEC fan call that Hurricane team slow)? Isn’t it funny how the sad, slow Big Ten just so happened to beat supposedly too-fast teams like Tennessee and Arkansas in bowl games?

No one’s denying that the SEC year-in-and-year-out is the best conference in America, or at least second in the years when someone else is stronger. And no one can reasonably argue that the Big Ten didn’t stink last season, but there’s a huge, HUGE difference between a disrespected, superior-coached Florida team getting jacked up for the national title and what it did throughout last year.

Remember, Florida won five games by a touchdown or less, and was less than amazing against a few mediocre teams. There’s a reason, at the time, no one was doing jumping jacks over the Gators getting into the title game.

Look at the schedule. Ohio State would’ve beaten Southern Miss, UCF, Kentucky, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Western Carolina without breathing hard. If it was good enough to win at Texas with ease, it was good enough to have beaten Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia and Florida State. I think LSU would’ve beaten the Buckeyes, and at the end of the day, they likely would’ve finished 12-1 beating Arkansas in the SEC title game … just like Florida.

That Ohio State team was overrated throughout last year, and history will probably underrate it after the title game loss, but to say the Big Ten champion would be third or fourth in the SEC every year is just plain wrong. 

Where would Appalachian State rank if they were included in the CFN 119? – JD

A: If you’re talking about last season, it would’ve probably ranked around 90. It lost 23-10 to NC State in the season opener and didn’t play any other D-I teams, but with that offense, it probably could’ve beaten most Sun Belt teams and the weaker of the non-BCS squads. If you’re asking about the upcoming season, we’ll know right off the bat opening up against Michigan. With the big losses on both lines, it would probably get a preseason ranking of about 95.

You have to remember the key difference between D-I and D-IAA: depth. More scholarships means more restaurant-quality athletes to stockpile and develop, and while the best of the best D-IAAers could certainly be more than just competitive in the D-I non-BCS leagues, getting through the grind of a long season would always be an issue.

With all the excitement around the opening week of March Madness, would college football be better served to buck all the traditions and start the postseason a week or two after the season ends?  Not necessarily a playoff, just starting the bowl season earlier.  Either that, or spread the season out more (for all teams) so that it doesn't end until the second or third week of December.  When the CBB brackets are announced there is only three days until games start.  With CFB we have to wait a month and the attention goes elsewhere.  I hate that the season ends at Thanksgiving and there are very few quality games until after Christmas.  – TD

A: Traditionally, some college presidents have been against December games because the first few weeks of month are finals time, but that doesn’t seem to affect college basketball at all. I don’t mind the time off since it allows teams to rest up, heal, and regroup, but I do think the lag time is way too long for the Big Ten, who often goes five-to-six weeks between the end of its year and the January 1 bowls. Bowl season gets a bad rap, but I like the lead up to the big games. I just wish the national title game would be moved back to around the third or fourth of January.

Can we all just admit that the college basketball system is better because of March Madness? There’s just no better time of year. There’s nothing like seeing the little guy get his shot against the big boys. Don’t you agree? – BP

A: Uh, no. Everyone loves March Madness, but it’s a gimmick. I’ll always argue that college football actually comes closer to crowning a true champion, since college basketball all but throws out the regular season and any meaning it might have. As far as the tournament, I seem to be the only person in America who hates the quirky upsets. You say George Mason, I say there’s an ugly blowout just around the corner. In my world, I want the Elite Eight to be all ones and twos, and I hate it when everyone gets all excited about the late rounds being full of top seeds. If you like it so much, then do it right and cut the tournament down to 16 teams.

Why don't big-time programs take a look at successful small college coaches more often?  Let's look at the evidence:  Jim Tressel came from Youngstown State and has taken Ohio State to 3 BCS bowls and won a national championship.  Rich Rodriguez started out at Salem and Glenville State and has taken West Virginia to 4 straight New Years Day bowls.  On the other side, Dave Wannstedt coached in the NFL but hasn't even been to a bowl game after taking over a Pitt program coming off a BCS bowl, Al Groh has pretty much been a bust at UVA, and hiring coordinators away from the big boys didn't exactly turn out well for Syracuse (Greg Robinson from Texas), and Arizona (Mike Stoops). – WP

A: It requires a big-time sell job. If you’re an athletic director and your football program needs a shot in the arm, you usually want to make a big splash. If you take an unknown, there’s less of a honeymoon period and everyone’s putting their necks on the line. If you take a big name and he doesn’t work out, heck, at least you went after the hot guy. For example, Minnesota will have a lot to answer for if Tim Brewster stinks, while if Nick Saban can’t get the job done at Alabama, the fan base will likely blame Saban, not the administrators who went for the home run.

Remember, Tressel was a big-time winner at YSU. Rodriguez was a favorite son at West Virginia and one of the hottest assistants around after serving as Tommy Bowden’s offensive coordinator for several years; they were hardly unknowns in the coaching community. For the other coaches you mentioned, wait and see on Wannstedt. He’s brought in some monster recruiting classes and has the potential to turn it around in a hurry. Groh has hardly been a bust at Virginia, and Stoops and Robinson, well, let’s just say they need a big season.

After Ike Whitaker wins the QB job (now that he has his act together) do you see Va. Tech playing for the National Title considering their defense should be better than last year? Even if they lose @LSU they should run the table after that, but i see them winning a low scoring game in Baton Rouge. – Wilkerson

A: On paper, yes, even an early season loss to LSU still might mean a shot at the national title, but this is Virginia Tech. There’s always going to be one or two total meltdowns a season to screw everything up. The defense will be among the three best in America, and as long as Branden Ore is healthy, the running game will be fantastic. I wouldn’t completely rule out Sean Glennon handling the quarterback job quite yet, but Whitaker will probably be the main man early on. I love this Tech team, but I like LSU even more, especially in Death Valley.



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