ASK CFN - Does Mark Richt Have The Fire?
Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Posted Feb 20, 2009

Is the Georgia head coach intense enough? Problems with the rankings, the overrated Big 12, Oregon State and recruiting, and even more angst from angry USC fans. This and more in this week's 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 ..
- Does Mark Richt Have the Fire?
- "CFN Hates USC"

- The Best Coaches Going
- 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?

What do you think Georgia needs to do in order to seriously compete for a national title, not just win an occasional SEC title? Granted, Mark Richt is a definitely a good coach and a strong moral role model but there seems to be an intensity missing in him that the coaches that have won national championships seem to exude…the killer instinct. Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Pete Carroll…they all go for the throat at the first chance they see an opening to blow up a game…even if it means taking some chance. As much as I think “complaining” about a coach who averages 10 wins a season like clockwork is not a good idea…I am just wondering if Coach Richt need to develop his killer instinct to a fine point for UGA to get that extra effort out of the players in the 1 or 2 games a year that always trip them up? – DJ

A: If you want to argue that Richt is too conservative, that might be true. However, while he might not be a wide-open, risk-taking head coach, don’t think for a second that Richt isn’t ultra-intense just because he’s not seen yelling and screaming on the sidelines like a raving loon who's trying to put a foot on a team's throat. Look at the highest level. Does Mike Tomlin seem like he has a killer instinct, or is he calm, cool, and composed at every turn in both play-calling and demeanor? How about what Tony Dungy was able to do? How about Pete Carroll, who is as cool and loose as they come? I thought Richt did a masterful job of “going for the throat” throughout 2007 and taking some chances. Remember the celebration in the Florida game? Georgia didn’t miss out on the national championship in 2008 because of a lack of intensity; it missed out because of early injury issues and because Florida was fantastic.

There’s a theory among NCAA basketball coaches, when it comes to March Madness and getting to the Final Four, that all you can do is consistently put out good teams. Eventually, all the breaks will come your way, it’ll all click, and it’ll be your turn. I used to think that with Georgia, but now, Florida has become truly special, Alabama is about to go from great to elite of the elite, LSU just came up with yet another major recruiting class, and Tennessee might be better than it has been over the past few seasons. At some point, Georgia has to ask the brutally unfair question: Is Mark Richt good enough to get the program over the top. Like you alluded to, it’s not right to question a guy who has won like Richt, but Georgia needs to make another step up soon.

My question relates to the pre-season rankings and the "glass ceiling" that a team like West Virginia or Utah has to face. How feasible would it be to get rid of pre-season rankings and just release all the rankings that matter (BCS, Coaches, Harris) at the same time? I know Americans are obsessed with rankings, so couldn't they just release the AP Poll as the sole pre-season ranking since it has no bearing on the BCS rankings? My reasoning comes off the observation that if you rank a team like USC, Florida or Texas in the top 5 in the pre-season, then that automatically gives them a "head start" over a team ranked 25th. I think getting rid of the pre-season rankings could go a long way to solving some of the BCS problems that everyone seems to have. Thanks. – MD

A: You bring up my single biggest problem with college football. The rankings are the rankings; don’t blame us, or anyone else, for wanting to rank the teams in July. However, blame the process when voters don’t change their rankings enough based on what’s happening on the field. Also, blame a system that puts so much emphasis on rankings put together BY PEOPLE WHO DON’T WATCH COLLEGE FOOTBALL. You think Bobby Bowden has the first freakin’ clue about whether or not Oregon is any good? You think Kyle Whittingham will be breaking down Boston College this off-season? Will Jim Tressel be watching Kentucky vs. Tennessee?

To answer your question and your point, you bring up the other huge problem. Florida will be everyone’s preseason No. 1 team and Texas will likely be No. 2. If those two teams go unbeaten, no one else, including USC, will have a shot to play for the national title no matter what. West Virginia, for example, could beat everyone by 24 and it wouldn’t be able to crack the top two because no one will drop the Gators or Longhorns if they keep winning. Also, you can all but eliminate about 100 college football teams from the national title before they start spring practice because of the way the system is set up. That’s why (I’m going to keep writing this because I’m desperate to get my system in place), the six BCS league champions, the top ranked non-BCS league champion, and the highest ranked team who doesn’t fit the first two categories. Eight team playoff. Everyone would be happy.

With the hiring of Shane Montgomery and Walt Harris, Akron coach J.D. Brookhart has compiled the most experienced and big-name offensive coaching staff in the MAC.  Will this translate into big-time recruits and MAC championships? – JC

A: And don’t forget about the new stadium coming up to help create a bit of a MAC splash. Akron should have a good team returning with QB Chris Jacquemain leading the way behind a veteran line. Step one for Harris will be to improve the defense. I’m not really sold on the 3-3-5 Akron used in the past, but the pieces are there for a strong season. As far as big-time recruits, they won’t come to Akron over a big-time program, but having Montgomery and Harris won’t hurt.

Does anyone there think that the 2008 season was simply a down year across all conferences?  I know sports writers have to make their stories interesting, but I think the parity this past season resulted from having about ten merely decent teams, and the rest were simply terrible. – CG

A: We said all year last season that everyone was down outside of the Big 12 South (at least before the bowls). The SEC was an utter disaster in non-conference play and saw LSU, Auburn, and Tennessee have major problems, the Pac 10 was a nightmare, outside of USC, in non-conference play, and the Big Ten stunk. However, while the bowls might have been a problem for the ACC, the league had a fantastic regular season and was excellent in non-conference play. There wasn’t the big, flashy win, outside of the Georgia Tech win over Georgia, but there was a whole slew of nice wins over BCS teams like Maryland over Cal, Clemson over South Carolina, Florida State beat Colorado, Wake Forest over Ole Miss, Duke over Vanderbilt, North Carolina over Rutgers, UConn, and Notre Dame, along with a whole host of other nice ACC wins.

As Bracketbusters weekend approaches us in college basketball, it has me thinking how cool this would be in football?  What if we were to get matchups like Utah vs. Boise State, TCU vs. Tulsa, ECU vs. BYU, etc... for a weekend in college football?  Bracketbusters weekend is a huge success for hoops and can do wonders for a team trying to get a little publicity (Think Kent State after their win over St. Mary's last season).  It would go a long way to telling us about conference strength, and it would eliminate pretenders trying to get BCS bids.  Thoughts?  Thanks. –DA

A: There always are those types of games, but you have to look for them a bit in the glut of bigger games. Boise State plays Tulsa, Louisiana Tech plays Navy, Nevada plays Colorado State, and there are others. I’ve always proposed that FBS teams should eliminate games against FCS teams (or D-I vs. D-IAA) so that more interesting matchups could be put together. This summer, once the schedules are finalized, I’ll do my yearly piece about the games that could and should happen instead of the Pitt vs. Youngstown States and the Florida vs. Charleston Southerns.

I’m scratching my head:  How can a school like Oregon State that wins bowl games year after year, finish in the top 25 three(?) years running, top three in the Pac-10 the past three years and yet every year their recruiting class is ranked in the 50’s (or lower) and 7 or lower in the Pac-10?  Do the “recruiting gurus” just not pay attention to the kids that aren’t being looked at by a Florida or USC, or is Mike Riley just that good at scouting and player development?  It just seems that Oregon State just never seems to get any recognition for what they’ve accomplished (and I’m sure that they’re not alone). – RD

A: That’s my beef, too, with a whole recruiting process that can be so full of beans. How can Utah blow past a team with as much talent as Alabama? How does West Virginia play so well without having the five-star guys? Wisconsin, before last year, was the poster program for producing with players who fit the system. Yeah, Riley is fantastic. For a program like Oregon State, yes, it is about punching your weight and getting the guys who will come to you, but it’s also about finding a few guys here and there who have program-changing talent. Jacquizz Rodgers, Sammie Stroughter, James Rodgers … you get a few guys like that (or a Pat White and a Steve Slaton at West Virginia), and a solid base of players who fit your system, and you can win. However, it’s harder to do. When you recruit like a Florida, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, or LSU, there’s bigger margin for error because you’re getting so many elite talents.

Can we all finally admit that the Big 12 was way overrated? After the bowl games, the conference proved how mediocre it was, and yes you, and everyone, seem to have Big 12 teams ranked really high this off-season. Oklahoma State in the preseason top five? What am I missing? – DH

A: The Oklahoma State loss to Oregon was certainly a black eye for the Big 12, and the Texas Tech loss to Ole Miss was a disaster. However, I’m not going to dog Texas too much for the game against an Ohio State that finally played like it was supposed to, and I’m certainly not going to dog Oklahoma for losing the national title in a tight battle with a team like Florida. Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri might not have looked great, but they did win their bowls.

I have a theory on the Big 12’s problems, and Colt McCoy backed me up when I interviewed him a few days ago. Great offenses, not just the Big 12’s, tend to cool off with a lot of time off. The timing isn’t quite there after a several week layoff, and teams with great defensive talent, like USC, Florida, Ohio State, and Ole Miss, are able to find a few new wrinkles and are able to have the time to break down the high-octane Os. Non-Big 12 example, Georgia Tech’s offense was unstoppable at the end of the year, but with a month to prepare, practice, and analyze, LSU was able to figure out how to stop it. The same went for the Big 12 offenses. McCoy told me he didn’t feel like his timing was right, and he didn’t feel comfortable, for about a half in the Fiesta Bowl. He also said he was “shocked” at how good and how fast Ohio State really was. If Texas plays Ohio State on December 13th, and if Oklahoma played Florida right after the Big 12 title game, it might have been a different story. With that said, it’s all about producing in prime time, and the Big 12 struggled while the Pac 10 rocked and the SEC turned in a fantastic post-season.

And now, the fun of yet another week of USC fans thinking I hate their program …

Why do you hold USC to a higher standard than everyone else? Your biased idea that USC has to win every game to win the national championship is just stupid, and so are you. Go to hell.
– KF

How is it that exactly that you demand a national title out of USC?  By holding us to a "higher standard"?  Answer this, just who on our schedules is it that USC COULD lose to and still be in the NC?  In other words USC has to have one fewer loss than SEC or Big12 to play for the NC.   Add to this the fact that you are ONE of the people keeping us out of NC appearances.
– AW

A: You wonder why USC hasn’t been playing for the national title, you get mad about it, I tell you why, and I'm biased?!

Fact: Florida and Oklahoma had a better strength of schedule than USC this year.

Fact: The Pac 10 was awful in out of conference play, before the bowls, and had no national respect with so many bad losses. The SEC sucked out of conference, too, but after winning the last two national titles, and three of the previous five, winning the SEC title carried more weight than winning that Pac 10. Florida’s blasting of Georgia and beating No. 1 unbeaten Alabama, along with the utter destruction of everything else in its path, made up for the loss to Ole Miss in the eyes of the voters. USC wasn’t able to overcome its loss to Oregon State because the Pac 10 was so awful before the bowls. Also, this year, winning the Big 12 was more prestigious than winning the Pac 10 title.

Fact: Had USC beaten Oregon State, it would’ve played for the national title. If USC didn’t lose at home against Stanford two years ago, it would’ve played for the national title. If USC goes unbeaten this year, it’ll play for the national title unless both the SEC champion and Texas finish unbeaten. No one else in America can say that.

Does any of that mean I’m biased? If you’re going to continue to throw that word around, actually give me something that I’ve written that’s factually incorrect.

USC is the best team in the Pac 10 by far. No one is even close to being as talented from top to bottom. No one in the league can come close to bringing in the players that USC can (although UCLA is starting to make a run at it). Meanwhile, there are always about 3-to-5 teams at the same high talent level in the SEC, Oklahoma and Texas area always about the same, and there’s usually one other killer in the mix per year. In other words, USC should win all its Pac 10 games because it’s better than everyone by far, while that’s not the case in some of the other leagues. If Florida or Texas were in the Pac 10, I’d say the same thing. With Penn State reloading a bit, I’ll be saying the same thing for Ohio State now that it’s becoming head-and-shoulders more talented than everyone else in the Big Ten.

And no, I’m not keeping USC out of the national title; USC is. That’s part of the point. The Pac 10 was so awful out of conference during the regular season that there was no margin for error for USC. Don’t blame me. Blame the Mountain West for kicking Pac 10 butt. Blame Boise State for beating Oregon in Autzen. Blame Oregon State for getting obliterated by Penn State.

USC continues to be the best team in America every year, and because you hate USC, you can’t seem to see that. If you don’t realize USC was the best team last year, and that it should’ve been playing for the national title, and that is should’ve been in over a two-loss LSU team two years ago, then you’re an idiot. – RK

A: THAT’S THE POINT. If USC is so great, which it is, then it should beat the teams it's supposed to and then there’s no question mark at the end of the year. And yes, there is a double standard because the SEC, for example, has more than earned the benefit of the doubt for the last decade with so many top teams. When was the last time the Pac 10 has had a second team deserving of being in the BCS? Of course, USC has also earned the benefit of the doubt, but it also comes down to the deserve factor. USC didn’t deserve, based on what happened as the season played out, to be in. Utah deserved to be in over USC. A case could’ve been made for Penn State over the Trojans, and Texas, that’s a whole other can of worms. That's not even bringing in Florida and Oklahoma in the discussion. As far as the 2007 national title and LSU getting in over a two-loss USC … Stanford 24, USC 23.

You keep ripping on the Pac 10, but we play an actual out of conference schedule. We don’t play the cupcakes like everyone else does. The SEC is awful and a bunch of wusses who don't take challanges. – KR

A: Arizona threw an Idaho on the slate, Arizona State played Northern Arizona, Washington State played Portland State, and there are others. However, there’s no question about it; the Pac 10 deserves credit for always stepping up in the scheduling more than anyone else by far. And then there’s the nine-game conference slate that determines a true champion, unlike the gimmicky championship games of some of the other conferences and the Big Ten, with each team missing two other teams.

The Big Ten is probably the biggest offender among the top leagues as far as non-conference cupcake schedules, and the Big 12 isn't far behind, but many e-mailers wanted to focus on the SEC. The SEC plays its share of lightweights, but give credit to the league for almost everyone having one nasty game on the slate (LSU’s non-conference schedule sucked last year), along with the brutal conference schedule. Florida plays Florida State every year, and played Miami, Georgia plays Georgia Tech every year, and travelled to Arizona State, Ole Miss went to Wake Forest, and so on. This year, Auburn plays West Virginia, Alabama, who started off last year against Clemson, plays Virginia Tech, Arkansas is playing Texas A&M in Dallas, Florida plays FSU, Georgia goes to Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech, Kentucky plays Louisville (yes, it is a BCS game), LSU goes to Washington, Mississippi State plays Georgia Tech, South Carolina goes to NC State and plays Clemson, Tennessee plays UCLA, and Vandy plays Georgia Tech.


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