The 20 Big Questions - No. 16 to 19
- 2008 Spring Questions
No. 20 - Top 40
19. How good is this
season going to be?
With the weekly twists and turns, the colossal upsets, the all-timer
heartbreaks, Appalachian State, Missouri and Kansas playing for a
shot at the national title, a two-loss team winning it all, the Les
Miles saga, the Mike Gundy rant, the first sophomore winning the
Heisman, Notre Dame going into the tank, Hawaii's unbeaten regular
season, Illinois, Buffalo, Temple, Ball State, South Florida, Pitt
over West Virginia, Navy over Notre Dame, Colorado over Oklahoma, UL
Monroe over Alabama, and great story after great story ... how is it
remotely possible to top that?
2005 was an all-time great season, mainly because USC and Texas were
juggernauts, and then 2006 was a forgettable stinker. 2008 won't
likely drop-off from last year's fun, especially with a wide open
national title race, but there's no way the season can be any better
unless there's a ton of parity throughout the conferences while the
big boys have to quickly fill in the gaps. here's no team without an
obvious flaw, except Ohio State, and the NCAA committee is still out deciding whether or not
to allow the Buckeyes to play in another championship, so there are
at least 15 teams that can go into the season seriously thinking
about the national title.
There should be another interesting Heisman race,
there's no sure thing
in any conference chase, outside of possibly USC in the Pac 10, and
the mid-major leagues, especially the MAC and the Sun Belt, loaded
with enough experience to not only come up with great battles
against the big boys, but possessing the teams to potentially screw
up everyone's preseason picks.
How quickly can some of the big names, like Michigan, West Virginia,
Nebraska, Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Georgia Tech handle coaching
changes? Will there be another Missouri who jumps up and shines
after years of being decent, and will there be a Kansas who comes
from out of nowhere and becomes amazing? The joy of last year was
being unable to predict much of anything, and hopefully we'll all be
in for the same wild ride.
18. What are the proposed new rule changes?
These are all proposed changes, and they'll all probably go through.
There will be a few automatic calls to protect the players with the
NFL's horse-collar tackle, when a defender tackles an offensive player
from behind by grabbing from inside the shoulder pads behind the
neck, and a chop block rule whenever a block comes from below the
waist on a player already engaged with a blocker. No biggie; no one
can really complain about those. Also, the five-yard incidental face
mask penalty has been done away with, so now there's no question
about the call. A face mask call is 15 yards, and there's no other
option. The other new automatic call comes when there's no room on
the sidelines, when officials used to be able to call a sideline
warning first. Watch for every team to get tagged by that for a few
weeks before they figure it out.
The best and most fair new change revolves around replay. If a coach
successfully challenges a call, he gets another. I've always said
that a wrong call is a wrong call is a wrong call, and a coach
should never lose the right to challenge as long as he's right. Now
there will be a maximum of two challenges allowed, but it's a start.
The other nice change is on kickoffs with the receiving team getting
the option of taking the ball on the 40 if the kick goes out of
bounds. With kickoffs being moved back last year, and a major
penalty given for inaccurate boots, there should be even more big
Now with the change that'll cause the most stir: the play clock. In
the continuing effort to shorten games, the new gimmick is to go the
NFL route by starting the play clock on the snap of the ball after a
runner goes out of bounds, outside of the final two minutes. The
play clock will also go to 40 seconds, when it's not stopped, to
get the offenses to pick up the pace. This likely won't be that
big a deal, but it'll force teams to be a bit sharper and it'll
force officials to be uniform across the country when it comes to
declaring the ball ready for play.
17. Which "mid-major" team has the best shot of
busting this year's BCS?
For a team from a non-BCS conference to get into the BCS it needs
to either be really good and really creative (2006 Boise State),
have an easy schedule (2007 Hawaii), or a combination of both (2004
BYU has been on the verge of really big things under Bronco
Mendenhall, going 11-2 in each of his last two seasons, and now he
has his best team yet with almost all the key parts returning on
offense and a strong defense that should be able to fill in the gaps
in the back eight. UCLA has to come to Provo, and the
big early non-conference game is at Washington; both are winnable.
An intriguing possibility will be Fresno State. Pat Hill's program
has been a giant killer from time to time, and has always sought out
the big names to play. This year, he not only has his one of his
most talented teams, but he also has a schedule that looks like
Tarzan, but will play like Jane. If the Bulldogs really are BCS
worthy, they should be able to come up with wins at UCLA and at
Kansas State in the first two weeks of the season, and they have to
take advantage of getting Wisconsin at home on September 13th. Of
course, the big issue has been getting through WAC play without a
scratch, and that'll once again be tough if Boise State is able to
come up with a steady starting quarterback this off-season.
16. What conference other than your own should you
care about this year?
The MAC. If you're a die-hard college football fan who likes nice
storylines and competitive battles, then give at least a little bit of
love to the MAC. While there isn't a BCS buster in the group, just about
every team is ridiculously loaded with experience while there several
have killer offenses that'll be among the nation's leaders all season
Ask Minnesota (who lost to Bowling Green and needed overtime to beat
Miami University), Nebraska, who escaped Ball State by the skin of its
teeth, and Iowa, who saw its bowl dreams go bust in a loss to Western
Michigan, how good the league can be. Now it's better.
The quarterbacks alone are worthy of notice led by Central Michigan's
Dan LeFevour, the two-time MAC Player of the Year who ran for 19
touchdowns and threw for 27 last year.
Ball State's Nate Davis is growing into a decent pro prospect and a
playmaker good enough to pull off upsets by himself (after almost doing
it against Michigan and Nebraska over the last few years). Bowling
Green's Tyler Sheehan is a bomber, Kent State's Julian Edelman will be
one of the nation's top running quarterbacks, and Western Michigan's Tim
Hiller is solid veteran.
For those of you who mostly care about the bigger leagues, here are the
MAC's major upset possibilities. Guaranteed, the league will win at
least three of these games.
Aug. 28 - Vanderbilt at Miami University
Aug. 28 - UTEP at Buffalo
Aug. 30 - Bowling Green at Pitt
Aug. 30 - Northern Illinois at Minnesota
Sept. 6 - Central Michigan at Georgia
Sept. 6 - Kent State at Iowa State
Sept. 6 - Connecticut at Temple
Sept. 6 - Minnesota at Bowling Green
Sept. 6 - Akron at Syracuse
Sept. 20 - Ball State at Indiana
Sept. 20 - Ohio at Northwestern
Sept. 20 - Fresno State at Toledo
Nov. 8 - Illinois vs. Western Michigan (in Detroit)