There won't be any college football games played for quite a while but that doesn't mean we are going to stop talking about the sport we love. Each week we will bring you the top stories and we will also be discussing a variety of topics in our weekly roundtable. Agree, disagree or want to chime in to the conversation then let us know in the comments. If you want to pose a question for us to answer then e-mail it to us at collegefootballzealot at gmail.com or just drop it in the comments section. Now onto this weeks questions and opinions....
Without using the words Mark Richt, Georgia or Bulldogs...give me a coach who's on the hot seat going into the 2011 season.
J Martin: Since Rich Rodriguez and Dan Hawkins have gone on to their reward (buyout, baby), I'd say Ron Zook and Dennis Erickson are the most obvious candidates to inherit their spots at 1A and 1B on the hot seat. But I'm going to go with Rick Neuheisel at UCLA. In his 3 years in LA, Neuheisel has done little convince anyone the Bruins are any closer to ending USC's football monopoly than they were before he got there, despite the Trojans landing themsleves in jail. To date, his only win over ANY California team from a BCS conference came against Stanford in 2008. Really, the only accomplishments he has to hang his hat on are an Eagle Bank Bowl win and a couple of out-of-conference wins over lousy Tennessee and Texas teams. I think he'll need to show some signs of significant progress in 2011, say, at least going 8-4 in the regular season, to maintain job security.
Kevin: Houston Nutt, Ole MIss. Yep, Mr Oversigning himself. He went 9-4 in his first two years at Ole Miss but 4-8 is hard to ignore. Did I mention that Ole Miss went 1-7 last year in the SEC and hasn't beaten Dan Mullen in his two games against his rival coach. It doesn't help that Nutt stunted his QBs growth last year by bringing in Jeremiah Masoli with the lone hope that he would help them win games and he failed to do that and Nutt's QB's got little reps despite taking it on the chin with an 8 loss season. I'm looking at the Ole Miss schedule and I'm seeing 6-6, maybe 5-7. I don't know if that's enough to keep him around, especially if Mullen's Bulldogs are as good as last year.
Ross: Dabo Swinney, Clemson. I thought Swinney might get the boot after last year's mediocre campaign, but Clemson decided to bring him back. I don't think he'll get the same courtesy if he has another .500 (or worse) season, though. Their expectations are too high -- and their recent recruiting has been too good -- to tolerate results like that. Especially in a league as wide open as the ACC. If a lame duck Maryland team can be within a few plays of being in the ACC Championship Game, Clemson has no business being so thoroughly mediocre.
The trend in football is running back by committee. Which team has the best tandem of running backs?
J Martin: I get the feeling others will point to Ball and White at Wisconsin or James and Barner at Oregon (both good answers), so I'm left with no recourse but to totally homer it up and say Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Everybody has known about Richardson since Day 1, while Lacy kinda snuck in the side door of that same 2009 signing class and has been biding his time ever since. A five-star talent with two-star grades, not many schools were willing to take a chance on him, but Bama did (zomg oversigning), and they're about to reap the rewards in 2011. Lacy is listed at 6', 212 pounds, and looks considerably bigger than that in pads, but is none the slower for it. He actually averaged more yards per carry (7.3) than Ingram and Richardson in 2010. And those aren't just garbage time numbers. He logged significant time as the #2 back when Ingram and Richardson struggled with injuries. So consider this your heads up on the Richardson/Lacy tandem.
Caleb King and Washaun Ealey. There are a couple of under the radar RB corps that I like a lot but they aren't the answer to my question. The first is TCU. They finished 10th in the Nation in rushing with Ed Wesley (1078 yards and 11 TD) and Matthew Tucker (709 yards and 7 TD) leading the way and also had a third back over 500 yards (all three guys were underclassmen last year). The second is Texas A&M who returns Cyrus Gray (1133 yards and 12 TD at 5.6 ypc) and Christine Michael (631 yards). Both of those teams will be interesting to watch this year and see how their RBs progress. But my answer to this is Wisconsin. Wisconsin finished last year with 3 backs rushing for at least 996 yards. James White missed one game last year and had four games of single digit carries but still managed to lead the team in rushing with 1052 yards as a freshman. The other returner is Montee Ball, who will be a junior. He galloped for 996 yards and really came on at the end of the season as he finished with 5 consecutive games with 100+ yards rushing including 132 yards against a tough TCU defense in the bowl game.
Ross: Oregon brings back not just LaMichael James (a Heisman finalist who rushed for over 1700 yards and 21 touchdowns), but also his talented (and very speedy) understudy, Kenjon Barner (who had 550 yards and 6 touchdowns on better than six yards a pop). That's a pretty potent duo, especially in an offense as wide-open and explosive as the one Chip Kelly runs at Oregon.
3. Outside of West Virginia and Dana Holgerson, who made the best assistant coaching hire this year?
J Martin: I like Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator at Florida. I know that hiring solicited a collective "huh?" from the football world, for a variety of reasons, but Will Muschamp was crazy like a fox when he pulled it off. Of all the problems Weis had at Notre Dame, offensive scheme wasn't one of them. He just didn't know anything about any other aspect of the game and he couldn't recruit. Boom will take care of all those things. Weis just has to draw up the plays and teach them, both of which he is exceedingly good at. When he had equal or greater talent than the competition at ND, his offenses looked sharp, almost without exception. At Florida, he'll never have to worry about a talent deficit.
Kevin: I really like the move by Texas in bringing in Boise State's Bryan Harsin. Texas was 8th in the Big 12 last year in total offense (the teams behind them were Iowa State, Colorado, Kansas, and Kansas State...not exactly the type of company Texas likes to keep) after being 5th last year and the year before. Harsin has been at Boise State for 10 years and they've had a pretty good run recently with him at the helm of their offense. Sure they beat up on inferior competition as their favorite weekend pasttime but they also finished 2nd in the Nation last year in Total Offense. I think he will bring a new fresh perspective and creativity to the Texas offense. The Longhorns fans should just hope that new OL coach Stacy Searles and co-OC Major Applewhite don't muck it up for them.
Ross: Texas' move to pluck Manny Diaz away from Mississippi State could pay huge dividends. Losing a talented defensive coordinator like Muschamp is a big blow, but Diaz is poised to be one of the Next Big Things in the assistant coaching ranks. He led an impressive turnaround at Mississippi State and given access to the sort of talent that Texas routinely brings in, he should be able to put together a nasty unit.
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