ASK CFN - Trying To Be Boise State (1/29)
Boise State QB Kellen Moore
Can another unknown program become Boise State? Why isn't Dan Hawkins succeeding at Colorado? Could Mike Leach's offense work in the NFL? These questions and a lot more in the latest ASK CFN.
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Q: Why the lackluster attempt at blocking the PAT kick by just about everyone…all the time. No effort is shown (maybe 3 lineman butt heads with the snapper and the guys to the sides of the snapper but that's it) and 5 or 6 guys take a step and then stand straight up and turn to see where the kick is. Where is the effort? Doesn't the special teams coach do anything to get a PAT kick blocked? You even see this in overtime unless the PAT kick is needed to tie the other team and force another overtime period. The same holds true on "chip shot" field goals unless the game is in the 4th quarter.
Surely some teams must put on a decent "block" play all the time but I didn't see such a team this past year.
A: They try more than you think in college than they do in the pros, mainly because several of the players in on special teams are fired up to be out there. In the pros, going after the extra point after a normal touchdown (and not one late in the game when the conversion is more meaningful) is like pressing in the NBA or blitzing in an all-star game; you just don't do it. However, I'm with you. It drives me NUTS in the college game when there isn't someone flying in from the side trying to block a kick. College kickers are hardly automatic compared to the pros and they can get rattled. Even if a defense doesn't get the block on one kick, if it's in the back of a college kicker's mind that he'll be under pressure, he could get a case of the yips on the next short kick.
Q: One of the rabid Beaver fans here (and I'm not hiding my allegiance even though my team didn't show up for the Vegas Bowl...at all). What do you think about Oregon State scheduling Boise State AND Texas Christian early in the season when they seem to start every season as The Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time-Players? I certainly admire the courage of the AD and Coach Riley, but is it a good idea?
A: Kudos to Oregon State, but unfortunately there's still a stigma when it comes to non-BCS teams, even ones as good as TCU and Boise State. That's why the Fiesta Bowl matchup sucked. At the end of the day, one non-BCS team beat another and we didn't learn anything. It's the same for Oregon State, and it's the dilemma that both the Horned Frogs and Broncos are facing. There isn't enough national splash when you beat a non-BCS team, and Boise State and TCU are good enough to play with most BCS teams. As far as the "good idea" for a team with national title dreams, no, it's a horrible move to play a beartrap team like Boise State, TCU, Utah, or BYU. If you're Oregon State and don't have a realistic shot of playing for the whole ball of wax, then yeah, you're nuts to not play some great teams in non-conference play to beef up for the Pac 10 season.
Q: In terms of scheme and coaching mentality do you think Mike Leach would work in the NFL? Rumors had the Raiders interested, though it was probably just a pipedream for people who would enjoy the overall craziness of an Al Davis/Mike Leach partnership. And do you think Chan Gailey can help the lifeless Bills? I don't know much about his Georgia Tech. achievements. - A.E.V., Aarhus, Denmark
A: Gailey is a completely separate issue from Leach. While Gailey was fine at Georgia Tech, he was solid as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and is the safe, boring choice for a team that couldn't get the top names interested in the gig.
I've had arguments on several levels (including some interesting banter with the NFL Network's Mike Mayock) saying that many NFL teams already do use the type of offense that Leach runs
to a point. The New England Patriot record-setting offense of a few years ago was spreading it out and looking very Texas Tech-like, but with far more downfield passing and the occasional use of a fullback. So yeah, if Leach could get his own ego out of the way and if he could simply be a seen-but-not-heard coordinator, I absolutely think that his system would rock in the NFL level in the hands of a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Jay Cutler. Chicago can't give away its offensive coordinator job, can't run the ball a lick, and has a franchise quarterback, but it wouldn't take Leach if he came free. If Mike Martz can't get a job anywhere, then Leach will likely have to take over some college team's offense.
Q: I know you'll get a version of this question a million times, but here goes …
If, as suspected, the Big 10 picks up a 12th team, do you think it will lead to another major shakeup of the conferences? It seems that if they take a Big East team, it will probably only trickle down to CUSA; but what happens if they get, say, Mizzou? - E.G.
A: I'm not as sold as others are that the Big Ten can simply take a Big 12 team just by asking, but I do believe that the head honchos are thinking far bigger than just adding a 12th team and might be looking at adding three schools. If I had to throw down a longshot wager, knowing how progressive the head honchos are trying to become, I'd bet the Big Ten will end up with Syracuse, Rutgers, and Pitt to expand the scope east into bigger TV markets while trying to upgrade the basketball side of things. Football-wise, getting Missouri, Nebraska or Colorado might seem great for football fans, but they don't do as much for the Big Ten revenue-wise and in terms of academic prestige, while taking over Iowa State does nothing outside of creating a few decent conference rivalries with Iowa and Minnesota. New York City is an untapped college football market, and the Big Ten could make a dent by making Syracuse and Rutgers bigger players on a national scale; both programs would jump at the chance to leave the Big East. Pittsburgh just makes sense from every angle.
To answer your question, I don't think the Big Ten will pick and choose from
separate leagues if it goes the 14-team route. If the Big Ten does take a Big 12 team, I think the Big 12 takes over TCU and goes on about its business, or else it makes a power play and gets TCU, BYU, and Utah to make its own 14-team league. The Big East would be in a bigger pickle if it loses teams. UCF? East Carolina? Maybe, but that won't do anything to move the needle if the league loses some of its top programs.
Q: How is that Dan Hawkins had a ton of success at Boise State and has had virtually none at Colorado? Even after setting aside the first two years (theoretically for the transition from the mess Gary Barnett left behind), it's been a disaster (5-7 in '08 and 3-9 in '09). Did the Hawk get dumber? Is it that much tougher to coach in the Big 12 than the WAC?
Is Colorado a school that no longer can expect to be a top 25 player?
A: Don't gloss over what a complete and utter mess the program was when Barnett left it and try to remember the timing of his success. The scandals his teams were involved in happened just as Missouri was becoming a player and Kansas was starting to look decent, but more importantly, the North in 2004 and 2005 was awful. Colorado was playing for Big 12 titles just when Kansas State was starting to suck and Nebraska was trying to find itself again, but yes, Barnett did do a nice job early on. Colorado went to the Big 12 title game in 2002 helped by a win over a fantastic Kansas State team, but that was at home and Nebraska stunk. In 2001, the Buffs stunned an unbeaten Husker team in the classic 62-36 steamrolling, but Kansas State was mediocre. I'm not trying to dismiss the success, but it's not like trying to win in the Big 12 now.
Colorado has to face a far better Big 12 North just as the program continues to try to rebuild. Hawkins hasn't been able to bring in the top players and the lack of success has made it that much harder to get the talented prospects needed to become a player. Even when he did hit a home run on a star, like top running back recruit Darrell Scott, the results haven't worked out well. Now, because he's essentially a lame-duck coach, he's REALLY not going to be able to get the stars. It really is all about the players. Colorado had 21 players drafted from 2000 to 2006 and just five in the last three years. Three of those players, including a kicker, Mason Crosby, were taken after the sixth round.
Also, it's not like the Hawk has forgotten how to coach, but it's possible that his tenure at Boise State was slightly overrated to begin with. It's not like his Bronco teams crushed and killed a bunch of BCSers. The Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma,
and the true launching of the program as a
powerhouse, came on Chris Petersen's watch.
Q: You are always critical (rightly so) of BCS-level teams playing a sub-par non-conference schedule. There are certain schools that are willing to meet the competition but have a hard time getting others to play and have to go looking for a "schedule-filler". Case in point: I understand that Nebraska asked Boise ‘anyone-anytime-anywhere' State to play a 2-1 series and there has been no response. What's a school to do when people don't want to play them? There are bowl tie-ins. What about non-conference tie-ins for a few years? - BB
A: I don't know if I'm a fan of a basketball-like ACC vs. Big Ten challenge with forced non-conference games because it's hard to make it fair and equitable (Ohio State has to play, say, Virginia Tech but Indiana gets Duke), but you're right when it comes to Nebraska in this case. For all the belly-aching Boise State has been doing about not getting anyone to play them, it's not exactly jumping at the chance to play the Huskers partly because it's not considering itself just another non-BCS program anymore. Give Boise State credit for not underselling itself now that the brand name strong, but on the flip side, Nebraska doesn't have to bend over backwards to schedule anyone nasty when it's already doing a solid job of trying to put together schedules with at least one good non-conference game. There are always games out there to be had against other FBS teams, as I point out every year in a column showing how the schedules could be changed so no one has to face an FCS team.
Q: Considering you watch all the sports that you do and all the football you do, do announcers really matter that much? To me, announcers should be like great officials: not noticed. We were having the lunch time discussion about this and I wanted to hear your take. - SF
A: Play-by-play guys, outside of the true greats like Brent Musburger, are at their best when they call the game like they've called a thousand other big games before, while color analysts are at their best when they
stick to explaining X and O aspects that you probably can't notice on TV. Announcers are bad when they seem like they're trying too hard, and there's nothing worse than when a big moment is biffed by an underskilled announcer, most notably Skip Carey's nightmare performance in the baseball playoffs last year. So yeah, the announcers really do matter that much.
In a current example, take the Australian Open. I don't always go out of my way to make tennis appointment television, but when Dick Enberg is calling a match (even though he's slipping a lot) and with Chris Fowler involved, the telecast takes on another level. Throw John McEnroe in the mix for the other majors and tennis becomes more interesting because of the announcers. On the flip side, I can't do any baseball game with Joe Morgan or Tim McCarver involved, while Bill Walton made the NBA more unwatchable than it already is.
Q: "Wait, aren't all games really exhibitions?" I'm not trying to be nihilistic and say no game really matters in the grand scheme of things. What I mean is, what games do "matter" in this world of the BCS and no playoff? What makes a game an exhibition? An interconference game? Neutral field? Isn't every FBS vs FCS game an exhibition too? I'd like your thoughts.
A: First let me take another hit and turn down the Floyd before setting the
dial to pith. None of these games actually matter,
which is sort of why they're so much fun. The only
people outside of the United States who know
anything about college football are the kids that
got circumcised by Tebow, while no one under the age
of 30, cares one lick about Bear Bryant, Keith
Jackson, Archie Griffin, or the 1984 Orange Bowl.
What I mean about the exhibition aspect of bowl games is that they don't matter in terms of determining a champion;
they're not playoffs. That gets lost on many (trust
me, it does) who get all up in arms about the idea
of a Boise State or a TCU getting into the BCS
instead of a Penn State or an LSU. So to directly answer your question, the games that do truly matter in college football are the ones that have an outcome on conference championships or the national title chase.
With that said, don't equate exhibition with irrelevance.
The Fiesta Bowl might not have mattered to this
year's national title chase, but based on the win by
Boise State, it sure does matter for the 2010 race
with a stronger preseason ranking meaning
Q: Over the course of the last 20 years, Boise State has transformed from a successful DI-AA school to a school capable of competing at the BCS level. What is the formula for this to happen, and how was Boise State able to capitalize on it? Would this sort of success be possible for teams like Grand Valley State or Montana?
A: Playing in the WAC has certainly helped.
Remember that this has been a long, long process for the program to get to this point and it was hardly an overnight success story. Boise State was a good Big West team that managed to come up with some gaudy records by being plucky, aggressive, and air-tight when it came to mistakes on both sides of the ball, but even with some bowl wins (at home), it's not like there were any wins of true note until a Humanitarian Bowl win over Iowa State in 2002.
That was the only win over a BCS team during this great run (a previous win over Louisville was when it was in Conference USA) until a pasting of Oregon State in 2004. But don't dismiss all the wins over all the WAC teams, along with a BYU thrown in here and there.
Wins are wins, and if they were so easy to get in a
non-BCS conference, then why didn't anyone else,
like Fresno State, have the same success?
Boise State had some tremendous coaches like Dirk Koetter and Dan Hawkins, who were innovative,
gutsy stars who did the most with the talent they had, and it got to the point to where Boise State just didn't lose. The Sun Belt is sort of seeing the same thing with Troy, who came from out of nowhere to be special, and the MAC got a great run from Central Michigan over the last four years, so I do think Montana, if it got to an FCS level, could absolutely be a non-BCS power with a little bit of time. But give Boise State credit for being unique and special for being able to keep this run going for more than a decade. It's not like a slew of NFL stars have flowed through the place (but that's changing), yet few programs have been able to come up with the