ASK CFN - Can A&M Really Be Great?
Texas A&M RB Mike Goodson
Texas A&M RB Mike Goodson
Posted Sep 28, 2007

Can Texas A&M ever become a major superpower? Who are the ten best defensive players so far this year? Should Darren McFadden be the Heisman leader? These questions and more in the latest ASK CFN.

By 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.)

USC, LSU, Oklahoma … didn’t we just do this a few years ago? Obviously these are three of the nation’s dominant programs, but beyond the basics, is there anything about these three that make them so amazing, as opposed to, say, Florida State, Miami or Tennessee, who haven’t been able to maintain such a high level recently?  - KI

A: The quick answer is recruiting. After OU, LSU and USC were rocking and rolling in 2003, the recruiting was that much easier coming off big seasons and now those classes are maturing. Of course, these three would get the top notch talents anyway, but the BCS seasons didn’t hurt. Beyond the talent on each team, the main factors have been the lines. USC’s O line dominated Nebraska, LSU’s O line put on a clinic against South Carolina, and Oklahoma’s front five is giving a young, inexperienced quarterback (Sam Bradford) all the time in the world to throw. On the defensive side, LSU’s Glenn Dorsey and USC’s Sedrick Ellis are killing everyone, while Oklahoma quickly reloaded on the defensive front. If you can dominate on the lines, you can beat just about anyone. If you don’t have the lines, you’re in big, big trouble. Just ask Notre Dame. That’s been the downfall for Florida State and Miami, with poor play and injuries on the offensive lines over the last few years.

Past ASK CFNs ...    
- How bad is the Big Ten?
- Will Miles run to Michigan?
- Supersized Season Premier of ASK CFN
 The most loved & hated teams
- Is Miami still a power?
- CFN's West Virginia ranking
- Is Booty Heisman-worthy?
- The USC Schedule
- The Big Ten Network
- The most underrated head coach
- The Top Ten NFL receiver prospects 

- Why did Brady Quinn slide?
- The Virginia Tech situation

- Creating a MWest-WAC super-league
Mid-majors who should be in the bigs
The potential new superpower
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?

Given the SEC’s recent BCS history (controversy over LSU getting in then drumming OU, Auburn’s ’04 snub, Florida last year) could there be a debate if USC and OU finish unbeaten but LSU wins in Baton Rouge and then Florida wins in Atlanta?  - CJH

A: In your scenario, then Florida has to at least be considered, but it would never, ever happen if both USC and Oklahoma, or West Virginia or Ohio State, are unbeaten. However, I know what you’re getting at, and you have a great point. If all things are equal, and let’s say USC is unbeaten, with everyone else in the national title hunt with one loss, how do you not give the benefit of the doubt to the SEC team? I know, each season and each team has to be analyzed on its own merit, but what Florida and LSU did when given a shot has given the SEC its right to demand a spot in the title game if all the variables are equal.

Do you think a defensive player will ever win the Heisman again? The last time it happened was Charles Woodson in 97. I'm pretty sure the answer will be no especially with all of the gimmick offenses running around and QBs putting up crazy high school numbers, but I can dream can't I?
– DB

A: You could make an argument that a defensive player didn’t win it in 1997. Would Woodson have won the Heisman if he wasn’t also a top punt returner and dangerous receiver? He should've, but there was more to it than just his stellar defensive play. For it to happen again, it’ll have to be a bad year for the offensive players, and there will have to be one superstar standout defensive player who’s the main man and a catalyst for a national title run. If LSU’s defense keeps doing this, then Glenn Dorsey has to be on someone’s list.

I have heard a lot of talk about offensive players and the Heisman race already this year.  Even your Top Ten player race doesn’t include any defensive players.  Considering that we will see a slew of defenders drafted on day one in April, who have been the top defensive players so far? – AW

A: This isn’t a list of the top ten NFL draft prospects, since Miami S Kenny Phillips and DE Calais Campbell might be 1-2 on that. This is my list of the ten best defensive players so far in the early part of the season based on what's happening on the field and how they've played (at least as far as what I've seen): 1) Glenn Dorsey, DT LSU, 2) Sedrick Ellis, DT USC, 3) Jonal Saint-Dic, DE Michigan State, 4) J Leman, LB Illinois, 5) Jordon Dizon, LB Colorado, 6) Trey Brown, CB UCLA, 7) Tyrell Johnson, S Arkansas State, 8) George Selve, DE South Florida, 9) DeJuan Tribble, CB Boston College, 10) Titus Brown, DE Mississippi State

A fan can't follow college football without enduring early season Heisman hyperbole.  The term is often thrown around, but are there really "Heisman candidates"?  How does this thing work?  Is there is formal watch-list of players that voters are supposed to follow, or is anyone currently on a D-I roster technically a "heisman candidate"?   - CN

A: No, there’s no formal watch list of any sort. The Heisman is a pure public relations creation, and a chance for the various sports information department to pump up their players and bring attention to the program. Do Boise State’s Ian Johnson or Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell have any realistic shot to win it? No, but when they’re promoted as a “Heisman candidate” going into a game, it gives everyone something to talk about.

I’m not an Arkansas fan, but if Darren McFadden doesn’t get the Heismen, they need to quit giving it away.
– JPatten

A: It depends on how you view the Heisman. To me, it’s about who the signature player is in a given college football season, and not who the number one NFL prospect is. There’s no denying that McFadden has to be considered for the MOP (Most Outstanding Player), but can he be in the MVP race? After all, take him out of the mix, and Arkansas has the same record it has right now. As good as he has been, right now, is he the signature player of the 2007 season? Not really, but that can quickly change. After all, look at Mike Hart and the way he has taken Michigan on his back and carried the team back to among the living. From the guarantee, to the workhorse game against Penn State, he’s been a signature player, even though he hasn’t been as good as McFadden. Does that make any sense? That might not be fair to McFadden, it's certainly not his fault Arkansas lost to Alabama and Kentucky, this is the Heisman race and not for an All-America spot. It’s early. Let’s let the season play out before getting mad over McFadden not winning it.

Over the past few years it seems that any mid-major coach that turns a program around in a short time is quickly recruited to a larger school. (Meyer, Kragthorp, Dantonio, Harbaugh) My question is why are some coaches that have done well with a new
school in the past few years been seemingly passed over, such as BYU's Bronco Mendanhall.  I am a Stanford fan and I know it is to early to judge coach Harbaugh's (he didn't even have D-1 experience) accomplishments, but I have never heard coach Mendanhalls name mentioned in any coaching possibilities.  He has done well at a good sized program why hasn't he been approached by a bigger program?
– DK

A: Or how about TCU’s Gary Patterson? The thing about Mendenhall is that BYU really might be his be-all-end-all job, and he really might not be there for the courting at the moment. One thing about the other guys you mentioned is that they were considered hot innovators in some way. Eventually, Mendenhall will get someone pushing to hire him, but BYU doesn’t think of itself as a Utah, Tulsa, Cincinnati or San Diego. This is a place that believes it’s a major program, playing in a non-BCS league.

Are those broadcasting college football paying less attention to the game and more attention to themselves?  I’ve watched too many games where time-of-possession favored inane booth chatter by 3 to 1.  Then comes the uncontrollable urge to talk with parents in the stands, old jocks on the sidelines, and ask colorless questions of coaches as they move to the locker room.  Lost in this flotsam of silly talk is what happens on the field.  Feel free to discuss this, but please, not while the game’s on.
– Don

A: I blame the new wave of Monday Night Football that started when it brought Dennis Miller into the booth a few years ago. All of a sudden, it became about pumping up the latest shows, interviewing Jim Belushi, and getting to the filler material as soon as humanly possible. Of course, all broadcasts are about entertainment, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the game. Now things have gotten worse with an out-of-his-element Tony Kornheiser stinking it up, and it’s tricking down. However, not all broadcasts have been affected. I might be in the minority, but the Brent and Kirk ABC Saturday night tandem has been terrific with just the right mix of fun, honesty (they were killing Wisconsin and Iowa for playing a horrible offensive game) and filler. Here’s one simple solution: ditch the sideline reporters. The good ones, like a Holly Rowe or Erin Andrews, are able to get the injury inside info, but when things bog down and the human interest stories come out, then it becomes time to change the channel.

It's always seemed to me that losing early in the season is better than losing late in the season due to the timing of being able to make up ground in the polls if you lose early.  That said, how long does a team have to win before media types stop holding early season losses against them?  Perfect example is Georgia.  They are a very young team that lost at home by 4 to a more experience, but less hyped, SC team in the second game.  Now my thinking of UGA is that they will continue to improve each week.  History tells us that Mark Richt's teams play MUCH better at the end of the season than at the beginning.  The team that beat Bama on the road is vastly improved over the team that lost to SC at home.  So when does the SC loss "go off the books" as an indicator of how good or bad this team is?  
- JM

A: I don’t think losing to South Carolina actually goes off the books, at least in terms of the national title race, unless the Gamecocks go on a big roll and beat some of the top teams. However, if the Dawgs keep on winning, beat Florida, win the East, and upset LSU, then yeah, because they were a young team early on with work to do, the South Carolina loss doesn’t look as bad. The pollsters have short memories. If Georgia starts to rock, then the rankings will play along accordingly. The same goes for someone like Miami, who could quickly be seen as a team that needed some tweaking under a new coaching regime, rather than one that got bombed by Oklahoma. That’s why the computers are so important in the BCS formula; they don’t care when you lose.

Should Notre Dame just give up on the rest of the season and zero in on USC? Yeah it probably doesn't matter how much time they spend studying up on USC and they would get completely slaughtered, but why not give it a try? Their season is already a lost cause so if it were me I would just go for the biggest upset of the season (hell the way ND is playing it may be a bigger upset than App State over Mich).
– Paul

A: Maybe zeroing in on USC is short-sighted, but for a program like Notre Dame that makes every year BCS or bust, the rest of this season has to be about how to get better for next year. You’re right, the season is already lost, so while beating USC might be an epic upset, and could be marked as a moment when things changed back to the way it was during the first two years of the Charlie Weis era, it wouldn't do a whole bunch of good outside of quieting down the alumni. It could also end up backfiring. Say Weis actually can't recruit and put together a strong team on his own, but beats USC on the way to a 4-8 season. You just bought yourself an extra year or two of a bad coach based on one big performance. What happens if the season revolves around beating USC, and then the Trojans win 55-10? 2007 should be about developing Jimmy Clausen, and getting something out of him and the receiving corps to work with for the future. The young players need to keep taking their lumps, and every game has to have something positive to build on. Wins and losses for the Irish are immaterial now. At this point, the season is the preseason for next year. "Is this going to help us win a national title?" Notre Dame has to ask itself that with every move from here on.

And it happens again. Texas A&M loses another one of its "national recognition games". Is A&M really that bad? A lot of fans are starting to point fingers at the coaches (again), so does Fran really deserve to be on the "hot seat"? It seems to me that A&M has some pretty decent players but they never pull through with the big win (with the exception of Texas in '06).  I would like to hear what you think the problem is.
-Ben - College Station

A: The kiss. A&M’s three regular season losses last year were by a combined total of six points, to suggest the program wasn't that far away from epic things. The kick. It’s Texas A&M, and not Texas or Oklahoma. That’s not to say A&M can’t become a superstar program at some point, but like I said at the time Dennis Franchione was hired, just because A&M got a good coach, that didn’t mean Texas and Oklahoma were going to fold up shop. It's always going to be hard for A&M to be a yearly superstar, and for that reason, yes, Franchione does deserve to be on the hot seat. He’s been there long enough for this to be a more dangerous team year in and year out, and if he can't do it there's plenty of money around to be thrown at someone who'll be happy to give it a try. Now, if they pull it off and somehow win the South for the first time since 1998, then everything changes.

Here’s the part A&M fans don’t like. What is there to suggest the program is anything other than what it currently is? It’s a good program that’ll take advantage of easy schedules from time to time, like last year, but this isn’t an elite program at the moment, and it doesn’t appear on the verge of being one in the near future. Sure, it pulled off a near-miracle against Kansas State in 1998 to win a Big 12 title, but this has been nothing more than a merely average program ever since, with no double-digit win seasons in the last eight. Even though Texas and Oklahoma are still Texas and Oklahoma, there’s still no reason the program can’t be in the hunt for a ten-win campaign, and there’s no excuse to look so poor in the win over Fresno State and last year’s squeaker against Army. On sheer talent, A&M should get its doors blown off by Texas and OU. Of course, that hasn't happened, since there are good enough Aggie players to win a few big games, but there's still a gap.