May 14, 2010

Mailbag: Will pupils surpass Saban soon?

Got a question? Click here to send it to Olin's Mailbag

Had Mary Shelley, who wrote "Frankenstein," been born 150 years later, she might have written about Bill Snyder and Bob Stoops.

Her classic novel about a man who could not control the monster he created has been replayed often in Big 12 stadiums.

To explain: Stoops was an assistant under Snyder at Kansas State from 1989-1995. Then, after a three-year stint as defensive coordinator at Florida, Stoops returned to the Big 12 as Oklahoma's coach. That ensured Stoops and Snyder would clash at least twice every four years.

Since taking over the Sooners, Stoops has had monstrous success against Snyder. Stoops has six victories in seven games, although the loss was a 35-7 stunner in the 2003 Big 12 championship game.

But Stoops may yet face a monstrous challenge of his own. Bo Pelini, a Stoops assistant in 2004, was named Nebraska's coach in '08. Last season, his Huskers defeated Stoops' Sooners 10-3. More meetings, perhaps several to decide Big 12 championship, will occur in the future.

There are others outside the Big 12. For example, Cal coach Jeff Tedford was an assistant to former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti from 1998-2001. After moving to Berkeley in '02, Tedford was 4-2 against Bellotti's Ducks.

Another example may rise in Alabama, though it's not likely that Nick Saban will lose control anytime soon.

Passing the teacher

Which one of the present coaches who worked for Alabama coach Nick Saban will be the first to beat Saban and steal the headlines from him?
Mobile, Ala.

The obvious answer to that question would be first-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley because the Volunteers and Crimson Tide play annually.

But that's not likely to happen for a while. Saban has his program in full swing and coming off a national championship, while Tennessee is rebuilding and coming off a loss in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Of course, there is great hope in Knoxville that Dooley, the son of legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley, can lead the Volunteers back to prominence. But Derek Dooley's record in three years as coach at Louisiana Tech was 17-20.

Comparatively, Saban was 9-2 and won a share of the 1990 MAC championship in his first job at Toledo. Saban went on to win at Michigan State and has captured national championships at LSU and Alabama.

Who would you put your money on in that matchup?

Perhaps now that Jimbo Fisher has taken over at Florida State, he could be a threat. But that would have to be in a bowl game. Maybe the Seminoles and Tide will square off in a national championship game some day.

But would that be before Saban faces Will Muschamp, who is the coach-in-waiting at Texas ? Who knows how far off that could possibly be. Of course, with all the rumors of expansion, it's possible Texas eventually could join the SEC.

But until any of that happens, Dooley remains the most likely Saban protégé to topple his old boss. And that's not too likely.

Georgia's year?

New Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray should be a solid starter and maybe even a 3,000-yard passer if he can perform slightly better than expected. The tailback tandem of Caleb King and Washaun Ealey will take care of business, and A.J. Green could be a legitimate Heisman candidate. I think Georgia could go 10-2, with losses to South Carolina and Arkansas. What do you think about the Bulldogs?
Livonia, Ga

Georgia is one those programs that should never be underestimated. Last season was substandard, yet the Bulldogs still posted eight victories. In fact, they haven't won fewer than eight games in any season under coach Mark Richt. That doesn't happen by accident.

This season, 10 victories is a reasonable goal. But don't take it for granted by any means. Indeed, if you're predicting losses to South Carolina and Arkansas, then I'm betting no more than nine wins in the regular season because - as of mid-May - I'd take Florida in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (or whatever we're supposed to call it now).

Georgia's running game should be sound, especially if the line remains healthy and performs to expectations. And there is no argument that Green is among the most talented players in the country. But expecting Murray to pass for 3,000 yards in his first season of college football - and in the defense-minded SEC - doesn't seem realistic. Only three Georgia quarterbacks - Matthew Stafford, David Greene and Eric Zeier - ever have passed for 3,000 yards and none were freshmen when they did it.

Furthermore, last season, 25 FBS quarterbacks passed for 3,000 yards. Of those, only Oklahoma's Landry Jones was a freshman.

Still, Murray shouldn't be the primary apprehension concerning Georgia. Rather, Todd Grantham's rebuilding project on defense is a much greater issue. But, again, Georgia shouldn't be underestimated.

My guess would be eight regular-season victories and a possible ninth in the bowl game.

Second guessing

Should Donovan Warren have stayed at Michigan ? Most draft boards had him ranked somewhere among the top 15 cornerbacks in the draft, yet he was not selected. Would one more year have made that much of a difference?
Kalamazoo, Mich.

Well, there is no shortage of observers who would say Warren made a huge mistake, but only he really knows.

Perhaps Warren should have come back for his senior season. Then, maybe - maybe - he would have been selected in the 2011 draft. After all, he played under three defensive coordinators in three years at Michigan and another season under Greg Robinson might have boosted his development.

But this we do not know for sure.

Could it be that three defensive coordinators in three years had worn on Warren? Maybe he'd grown weary after consecutive losing seasons in Ann Arbor and just wanted to get out.

He still will get a shot in the NFL. He signed as a free agent with the New York Jets. If he makes the team, he can earn about $300,000 as the rookie minimum salary. Obviously, that's a far cry from the millions first-round picks receive. But ask yourself ... would you leave school early to make about $300,000?

If he makes the team, I wouldn't say he made a mistake. But he may have made a mistake in signing a free-agent contract with the Jets, who are loaded at cornerback.

Farewell to Oklahoma?

With all this talk on conference expansion and the Big 12 being stripped of teams, where would Oklahoma end up? I know it's a big program, but it doesn't have a big TV market.
Austin, Texas

Oklahoma has one of the most successful football programs in NCAA history. And though its TV audience pales compared to neighboring Texas, it's not bad. Oklahoma City is the nation's No. 45 TV market; Tulsa's is 62nd.

An expanding conference that added Oklahoma would get a football program that has played in four BCS national championship games in the past decade and one that has decent TV markets. That would seem attractive to me.

If the Big 12 does dissolve, as some have predicted, the real question concerning Oklahoma is whether the state's politicians would insist Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would be a package deal. That could potentially limit the options.

Would the SEC add Oklahoma and Oklahoma State? Would the Pac-10 want both? That remains to be seen. But you can bet Oklahoma will not be left without a conference if the Big 12 ceases to exist. That's too strong a program with too great a following to be ignored. I'd bet any conference interested in OU would accept Oklahoma State, too.

Vandy relevant?

With all the talk of SEC expansion, especially with high-octane teams, will this not end any hope of Vanderbilt being competitive or relevant in the SEC in football?
Hendersonville, Tenn.

Without meaning to be a wise guy here, Vanderbilt isn't really competitive or relevant in the SEC now.

The Commodores had a nice '08, going 7-6 and finishing tied for third in the SEC East race. But other than that season, Vandy has finished no higher than fifth in the SEC East since the SEC expanded and broke into divisions in 1992.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for He can be reached at
Got a question for Olin's Mailbag? Click here to drop him a note

FEATURED PRODUCT is your source for: College Football | Football Recruiting | College Basketball | Basketball Recruiting | College Baseball | High School | College Merchandise
Site-specific editorial/photos © Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved. This website is an officially and independently operated source of news and information not affiliated with any school or team.
About | Advertise with Us | Contact | Privacy Policy | About our Ads | Terms of Service | Copyright/IP policy | Yahoo! Sports - NBC Sports Network

Statistical information ©2007 STATS LLC All Rights Reserved.