ASK CFN (4/25) - Ohio State vs. USC
USC QB Mark Sanchez
USC QB Mark Sanchez
Posted Apr 25, 2008

What does it take to be a strongside NFL linebacker? Who are the tweeners? Who has the advantage in the way-too-early look a the Ohio State vs. USC showdown? 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.)

Past ASK CFNs ...
- The WVU/Rodriguez situation
- Who's the team of the decade?
- Dump Mack Brown and JoePa?!
- Big East expansion
- Is Charlie Weis on a hot seat?
- The Reggie Bush situation

- Is Bob Stoops the new Lloyd Carr?
- Why LSU winning matters
- Bowl winners & losers
- Can a two-loss team play for the title?
- The five worst recent champions 
- The Flakiest Teams
- A little BCS history
- Should USC be in the title hunt?
- The best RB you don't know
- What's wrong with Texas A&M? 
- 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?

When all is said and done, what college team do you root for or make sure to watch on Saturdays? – Dave

I've been a big fan of Kirk Herbstreit. How much does this guy know, or is there someone who is doing the research for him and other analysts. It seems like he has a real passion for College Football, and he speaks in a candid tone on his take on the College Football world, but am I reading too much into his knowledge of the sport? - Matt, Malden, MA

A: Kind of like the Tom Hanks character in Saving Private Ryan keeping what he did for a living a secret until he had to diffuse an ultra-tense situation, I try to avoid talking about any allegiances past or present. Honestly, I mostly root for my picks each week, especially if I go out on a limb with a call, and I always root for whatever will create the best matchup down the line, but yeah, there are a few teams that always find their way on the office's main TV. While I’ve long ago become absolutely and totally neutral when it comes to covering and analyzing teams and conferences, I have to keep any possible rooting interests, when they're there, under wraps or else my objectivity comes into question whenever I go positive about those teams.

I’ve interviewed Kirk Herbstreit and exchanged e-mails with him so it's not like I know him, but he knows his stuff; he’s a total college football geek. He totally loves college football and is into all the nuts and bolt and ins and outs of the sport. He does his research, unlike several talking heads and writers out there.

I tied the two questions together because it points out the problem of revealing any rooting interests. Herbstreit is an unabashed Ohio State fan, and he should be considering he played for the Buckeyes and still lives in Ohio, but whenever he talks about how good they are he gets slammed for being a homer. I hear it from SEC fans, among others, about how Herbstreit talks about the Buckeyes, so I can only imagine what he has to deal with whenever he says something nice about them. I've always thought he's been objective and truly honest when he analyzes the Buckeyes, but he still gets pounded. It's not fair.

It seems like so much of what I read about this years LB either have a lot of them at weak side or in the middle. Who are the guys that could ultimately play on the strong side? Are these the DE/LB tweeners or are they bigger MLB guys? I would really appreciate any sort of explanation as to how to identify these guys. As a NYG fan, I have a feeling that LB is in their cards at 31 and Id like to be as informed as possible. – JM

A: Everyone plays a 4-3 in college, but most strongside college linebackers are a bit too small to be an elite NFL strongside defender.
USC’s Keith Rivers and Penn State’s Dan Connor are the exceptions in a down year for linebackers. That’s why most undersized college defensive ends, who lined up on the line, gets used as a hybrid in the pros. Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston is the dream tweener because of his speed and size, but he’ll mostly be used as an end. Auburn’s Quentin Groves will be there for the Giants and could do a little of everything. Purdue’s Cliff Avril and Michigan’s Shawn Crable are decent tweener prospects, while Wake Forest’s Jeremy Thompson could be the best of the mid-range lot even though he’s more of an end.

Aside from home field advantage, what are the biggest advantages and disadvantages Ohio State and USC must overcome to claim a victory on September 13th?
– PF

A: USC has to get the running game going early on since the Buckeye secondary, assuming Donald Washington, Jamario O'Neal, and Eugene Clifford aren’t suspended for whatever caused them to be on their spring double secret probation, should be OSU’s biggest advantage. I’ll believe USC receivers Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton are the real deal when they finally do something. Malcolm Jenkins and Washington form the nation’s best corner tandem and should control the Trojan passing game.

Obviously we’ll get into this big-time when the time comes, but keeping in mind that it’s still April and there are a bazillion things that will happen between now and mid-September, the only position advantage USC appears to have is at linebacker, and even that’s almost dead even if OSU can find a steady strongside defender to replace Larry Grant. USC might end up having a slight advantage on the defensive line, but I’d give the edge on quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, secondary, and kicking game to the Buckeyes. Even so, I’ll have a really, really hard time picking against USC.
Who do you see being the most productive Illinois RB this year?
– CP

A: Does Juice Williams count? The problem early on is that no one has stepped up in place of Rashard Mendenhall, and there isn’t anyone close to Medenhall’s talent. The Illini coaches have to be hoping for true freshman Jason Ford to provide a spark later this summer, because Daniel Dufrene, the No. 1 coming out of spring ball, doesn’t appear to be the type who’ll tear off 1,681 yards and 17 scores.

How much an impact does the all time wins record have on Joe Pa and Bowden’s decision to hang on?   These men have accomplished more than enough in their lives, professionally and personally, and could have quit years ago without any regrets.   I just can’t shake the feeling that they keep their positions as nominal head coach, when most of the actual coaching seems to be taken over by others, simply for the desire to have the biggest number next to their name.  Can’t blame them but it seems unbecoming of men of their stature
– PA

A: Interesting theory, but as competitive and as nuts as those two are, I honestly don’t think the win number has anything to do with them sticking around. If you’re like Bowden and Paterno and you’re at one place as long as these two have been, and have become such institutions for their universities, the football program is your life and what you’re all about. You don’t get to the point they’re at without wanting to go gently into that good night. These two legends love what they do. They love teaching, being the heads of their programs, and they still love the competition. If one decided to retire, the other wouldn’t retire the moment he assured himself of the all-time D-I win total.

Should D1A college football introduce some sort of expenditure cap? Today you have roughly the same number of BCS and non-BCS schools.  However, the non-BCS schools are getting squeezed between the football arms race on one hand and Title IX expenditures on the other.  Fresno State for example has lost their offensive coordinator (Cignetti, Hagen, and Mac) 3 years in a row to schools paying 3-4 times their salary at Fresno. I think we will quickly see the time where mid majors have to drop football or fall to D1AA.  California has already lost a number of football teams of the past 20 years.  Perhaps some think this is good for the sport.  Others perhaps do not.  I would be curious of your opinion.
– DO

A: The world needs ditch-diggers, too. There’s no need to put a spending cap on the football programs any more than there’s a need to put a spending cap on the English department. I know this is a hard concept to swallow, but it’s not like a university has to have a high-powered D-I college football program. Yes, college and universities are about more than just sports, and if you have a goofy-rich booster like a T. Boone Pickens who wants to put the athletic department ahead of the rest of the school, then that’s life. Who’s to say there isn’t a die-hard Fresno State fan out there who’s about to become a billionaire and will want to make sure his beloved football program is among the best in the game? If your program can’t keep up, then welcome to the world of survival of the fittest. I just wish that logic applied to non-revenue sports.

It seems each year there's always a team that gets a little extra love from the media  You know the "sexy" pick for the season.   Usually it's a team you don't normally see mixing it up with the big boys on a regular basis like the LSUs, the USCs, the Oklahomas,  & Ohio States of the world.   This year that team appears to be Missouri.  Don't misread me I think Mizzou is a good team, and I'm neither a Mizzou fan, nor a Mizzou hater.  This is just a casual observation, agree?  If not, who do you believe will be the team that gets that little extra umph! from a media standpoint, as long as they play up to expectations.
- Mike, Dallas, TX.

A: Missouri is certainly going to be on everyone’s watch list, and rightly so, but to twist your question around a bit, considering my call is one of the biggest of the big boys, that team might be Georgia. Don’t get me wrong, this should be one of the five best teams in the country, but the Dawgs are getting a wee too much umph! considering the schedule is nasty, the passing game is still a question mark, and with an offense that wasn’t exactly consistent. I still want to see Georgia live up to expectations when the lights are on. This is a program under Mark Richt that always seems to be at its best when it flies just slightly under the radar. Texas Tech is also on the verge of being a media darling, at least it’s the CFN sweetheart going into this year, and the media always seems ready to put Wisconsin and Clemson over the hump. 

I don't know if this subject has been broached before in your column, but I've argued with people before that Urban Meyer's Utah team that blew out the Pittsburgh in the Fiesta was his best team yet, better than the Florida team he won the national title with. Okay, that may be going a bit far, but I really think that team is underrated and gets overlooked when it comes to the best teams this decade. So, how do you think that team matches up with the '06-07 Gators? Thanks.
- Adam, Waltham, MA

A: First of all, no, that 2004 Utah team talent-wise couldn’t touch the 2006 Gators, but they would’ve hung tough in a head-to-head matchup and I’m with you that I would’ve loved to have seen Urban Meyer’s Utes play 2004 USC, Auburn or Oklahoma instead of Pittsburgh. Alex Smith ran that attack to absolute perfection, and while there weren’t many great wins, the big name victory was over Texas A&M, the Utes were never threatened all season long, no one came closer than two touchdowns. Considering how devastating the spread offense is when it’s humming on all cylinders and at a high level, I’d have given those Utes a puncher's chance against anyone that year.