ASK CFN (10/10) - The Best Coaches Going
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson
Posted Oct 10, 2008

Who are the best pound-for-pound coaches going right now? Can Ohio State really get back into the national title hunt? What's more prestigious, the Final Four or a BCS game? These questions and more in the return of 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 ...
- Violation of team rules
- What was Nebraska's problem?
- Is Jim Tressel an elite coach?
- A foolproof BCS solution

- An early look at OSU vs. USC
- 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?

First of all, I apologize for not doing more of these lately. I’ve been swamped this year, and unfortunately, this is the column that takes the hit. I’ll try to do these on a more regular basis, and in a few weeks, I’ll be doing a live chat on Thursday afternoons, so if you have a chance, blow off work (assuming we all still have jobs by then) and check it out.

The way I see it the top ten spots in the polls are occupied by just a handful of different teams every year.  My question is, can any other school become a football factory or is the limit reached.  Is there any way, say, a Purdue could hire the right people recruit the right kids to compete every year for  a Big 10 championship and occasionally play for a NC?  How did these football factories like Texas, Florida, Ohio State get to be that way? - ScottyA

A: Sure, but it takes a little while to sustain that high level, and remember, those programs like Texas, Florida, and Ohio State have had some down periods, too. Oklahoma was a disaster for several years until Bob Stoops took over. LSU was a perennial also-ran until Nick Saban and Les Miles turned things around. Penn State had a few losing seasons before getting night-and-day better over the last few years, USC was mediocre until Pete Carroll turned into a god, and on, and on, and on. So yes, it is possible, but it’s harder at a place like Purdue that might be a bit smaller, doesn’t necessarily have the fan base, and doesn’t have a great recruiting base to deal with as opposed to a program that owns a state name like Wisconsin or Illinois. The key is maintenance. Missouri is fantastic now, but what happens when Chase Daniel is done? Is Mizzou like Purdue when Drew Brees was flinging it around? It’s one thing to be good for a few years, but it’s really, really hard to maintain a high level.

The factories got to be factories by winning early, winning often, and building and building to the point where college football became part of the fabric of the school. However, this didn’t always work. Minnesota was a college football powerhouse over the first half of the century, but a few down years kicked in and the program never ascended back to its national title level. Meanwhile, a place like Florida is the big school in a football mad state. It can’t help but be good. There needs to be an element of luck, the right coach, as you mentioned, and the right timing, and the right recruiting base. That’s how Miami and Florida State got to be special, and that’s why many thing South Florida could be that sort of next-big-thing program.

So we're about halfway through the season, and Paul Johnson has his offense running pretty dang well.  It's no world-beater yet, but considering he's using players recruited for a standard offense and had to do an overhaul, it appears he's a fantastic fit at Georgia Tech and good times are coming.  Also consider that aside from our D-line, we're playing mostly freshmen and sophomores.  Help me put a cap on my expectations.  How bright is Tech's future right now? – Casey

Alright. Kind a like boxing has the best Pound for Pound fighter in the world, considering the program, who's the best Pound for Pound head coach? - JF

A: Add to the fact that no coach in America has any interest in playing against Georgia Tech. You just can’t properly prepare for the speed and precision of the option offense like Johnson runs it. What he was able to do at Navy is miraculous, only a few of those players are legit D-I talents. Now he’ll get the right guys to fit his system, and all of a sudden, everyone will realize that there really is a place for this type of attack. Since no one else is really doing it, and no team can properly practice for it, yeah, let your expectations run wild. Now here’s the real trick; can Johnson get a spread-star type of quarterback to buy into his system? The problem with what Johnson is doing is that it’ll be impossible to get a pro-caliber quarterback to step in. However, can Johnson convince a Terrelle Pryor or Tim Tebow type to run the option as opposed to the spread? This will be one of the nation’s most fun teams to watch over the next few years.

To answer the second question, Johnson probably tops my list for the best pound for pound head men (and I promise, no cranks about Mark Mangino or Charlie Weis). Right now, my personal top coaches based on what they're doing with their programs and their talent level (as opposed to Pete Carroll or Urban Meyer, who'd probably be at the top of my list overall) would probably be 1) Johnson, 2) Jim Grobe, Wake Forest, 3) Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt, 4) Todd Graham, Tulsa, 5) Troy Calhoun, Air Force

The Rose Bowl is bound to lose at least one Pac-10/Big Ten team.  Do you think that they learned their lesson last year?  That is, if USC goes to Miami, and OSU is 11-1 and in the Rose Bowl, will the committee still pick a two loss overmatched Pac-10 team over a much more qualified one loss LSU/Alabama/Florida/Georgia/Oklahoma/Missouri???
– AW

A: Never. If there’s a chance to do the Big Ten vs. the Pac 10 in the Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl will do it. You and I might have desperately wanted to see Georgia play USC in Pasadena last year, but the Rose Bowl, ABC, and Joe Six-Pack wants his beer cold, his TV loud, and Big Ten vs. Pac 10 on New Year’s Day. It doesn’t matter to the powers-that-be whether or not the game is special on the field. Everyone watches, it gets the highest ratings of all the non-national title bowls by a long shot, the fan bases always pack the house, and yeah, it is the most special of all the bowl games. However, and here’s the curve ball, in today’s market and with money and travel tight, the Rose Bowl will do whatever it can to make money. If that means bringing in an SEC team that’ll pack the house with everyone who can travel, as opposed to Illinois, who might not bring the same fans a second year in a row if it against USC, it’ll do it.

Alright, I’ve heard you on the radio hinting at it over and over again. Do you REALLY think Ohio State has a shot to play for the national title? Don’t ruin my day. Tell me this joke of a program is done!

A: The issue is perception. As Terrelle Pryor gets better and better and if Beanie Wells keeps cranking out big games, there will be an underground movement that’ll notice how much different this team is from the one that got thumped by USC. Currently ranked 11th, as long as the Buckeyes keep winning, they’ll start moving up and up and up. The key now is October 25th. If you’re a Buckeye fan, you need Penn State to continue to be a monster. You need a 219-3 Nittany Lion win over Wisconsin to make that showdown that much bigger. 

Settle this debate I’m having with my co-worker. Forgetting about actually winning the national title, which carries more prestige, getting to the college basketball Final Four or getting into the BCS (not the BCS title game)?
– JB

A: My knee-jerk reaction initially was the BCS, but now, I’ll go with the extremely boring, it depends. Getting to a BCS game is tougher, you have to win ten-plus games as opposed to getting hot for four games and getting to go shoot hoops in a dome somewhere. Upon further review, I’d say in our current sports world, getting into the Final Four carries more prestige, but that quickly falls off the map when it comes to the title game. College basketball coaches are measured by the number of Final Fours they get to. People hate the BCS so they tend to dismiss how hard it is to get there.

Want to make some money? Ask a regular guy in a bar what happened in last year’s college football championship game. He’ll remember Ohio State and then he’ll punch you in the store. Then, ask him who won the last two college basketball national titles, and for a drink, ask for the loser. Trust me on this; no one outside of Lawrence, Kansas or Memphis, Tennessee will get the answer in less than three minutes, if at all. No one ever, ever remembers the college basketball national title losers.

Given the apparent strength of the Mountain West and the fact that the WAC looks pretty weak overall, shouldn't a once beaten BYU, Utah, or TCU get a BCS berth over an undefeated Boise State?
– Dave

A: No. If you’re talking about a playoff spot, then yes, strength of schedule would then mean something. The BCS games, outside of the national title, are just better paying, higher profile bowl games. Boise State has earned its stripes with the win over Oklahoma a few years ago and with a bombing of Oregon this year in Autzen Stadium. If you’re asking about a one-loss BYU vs. an unbeaten Ball State, then yeah, the Cougars probably deserve to be in.

What can be done to change up the current typical bowl selections.  I am a mountain west fan and feel that the past few years the bowl matchups have been boring, and it seems like nothing new to play a pac 10 team in the Las Vegas Bowl (as if the mountain west does not play enough pac 10 teams throughout the season.)  I've seen MAC teams and Conference USA teams play better teams in their bowl games then the mountain west.  Is it possible to get a mountain west bowl overhaul.
– Jake

A: The problem is the Las Vegas Bowl. The Mountain West’s No. 1 team deserves a New Year’s Day spot, like in the Gator Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl provides a nice matchup, and yeah, who doesn’t want to go to Vegas over Jacksonville, but it’s just not on the national map. The other problem is the Mountain West itself. This year the league is solid, but you’re not going to get the needle moving on a national scale by putting TCU in a high-profile bowl. Good luck trying to find ratings for New Mexico. I’m a believer that all the conference champions deserve the biggest spotlight games, and then let everyone else fight it out for spots.

One reader fired off with several questions (below) and they’re all pretty interesting. I went with them in rapid-fire format.

1.) How many games do you watch each week and those that you watch tape delayed do you fast forward through the huddles or listen to the commentary?

A: I do a little of everything. I always have a game on somehow, and I’ve perfected the art of listening to a game while working. I have a SlingBox so one game can be on my computer, and the biggest of the three TVs I have rolling is in my direct sight-line when I look up from the computer.

2.) I once had the pleasure of meeting Michael Medved, a professional film critic, who admitted that seeing so many movies removed the thrill of watching a movie that the average person gets.  He did say that the rare gem was still enjoyable.  Do you find that watching so many games becomes a burden rather than it being enjoyable?

A: It’s still enjoyable, but watching a game isn’t an escape for me like it is for the average fan. My life is like one big 24/7 pregame show, so I do want to see how all the analysis we do holds up. I’m always interested in putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. I’d almost take it a different way. I watch so much sports and so much college football, that I’m always appreciative if a good game. But if a game is becoming a blowout, However, I have a hard time giving a hoot about any non-college football game that I’m not directly involved in, like fantasy football.

3.) What is the cause of the overwhelming majority of fans thinking the world is biased against their team?

A: Ignorance and fact. All bias comes from ignorance, and if all you care about, all you read about, and all you analyze is your own team, you’re not going to know about anyone else and you’ll have a skewed view of life.. And yes, the rest of the world is biased against your team. As the t-shirt says, Your Favorite Band Sucks. The same goes for your favorite team, and basically everything else you like. 

4.) What is the cause of the overwhelming majority of fans thinking their team is underachieving?  If you could somehow condense each team's fan base into a single opinion about whether their team has met expectations over the past 5 years, instead of a split between under/overachieving I bet 100 out of 119 team's fan bases would say they have underachieved.

A: Fans know their teams and they know what these teams are capable of. If USC plays for the ownership of the world and a bag of Doritos, it beats Oregon State by three scores. Clemson is certainly better than it’s been playing.

5.) How would a playoff impact the regular season including scheduling matchups, intensity, other things the average fan would not think of?

A: It would make the regular season even better. If you’re, say, Oklahoma, and you know that you’re in the playoffs if you have to win the Big 12 title to get in, then there’s no reason not to schedule that interesting non-conference matchup. If you went with my plan of taking the six current BCS champions, put the best non-BCS team in one of the spots, and allowed one at-large bid

6.) Which teams do you think are better suited for a playoff rather than trying to run the gauntlet in the regular season and why? – SB

A: Uhhhh, there isn't a playoff. I get your point, but it all depends on the format. A plus-one? A 16-team free-for-all? What woudl itbe? Like all college football games, the team with the better offensive lines would do the best job. You can mask mediocre talents if the front five is crushing and killing. I’d prefer the battle-hardened teams like an SEC champion or a Big Ten champion over the Big East or ACC champions in a playoff, if there was one. Also, in a really, really big game, go with the better quarterback.