August 11, 2007

Olin's mailbag: The cost of losing

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for He will be working all summer to get you ready for the start of Fall practice.
Previous mailbags
August 3: Immediate returns
July 27: August turns up the heat
July 20: The next star
July 13: Only time will tell

At some point every college football coach has to go.

Some go to the NFL. Some go to a rival team. Nick Saban did both.

Some go home, which is what Bear Bryant did when "momma called" and he left Texas A&M for Alabama in 1957. Some go for it, like Tom Osborne did in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Some, like Ohio State's Woody Hayes, go off the deep end.

Usually they just go away, and a very successful few go on their own terms.

Florida State's Bobby Bowden deserves that privilege. So does Penn State's Joe Paterno, who's often questioned about when he will go into retirement.

"The only time it bothers me is when people decide where I should go," he joked.

Even at 80, Paterno still hasn't made retirement plans.

"It's all pure speculation," he said. "I'm healthy now and I don't bother with what people think. When I think that I can't do the job that Penn State deserves then I'll start thinking about leaving the game."

Maybe Michigan coach Lloyd Carr deserves similar control of his destiny. In 12 years as head coach he's produced 113 victories, five top-10 finishes and a national championship.

Yet some of his detractors feel it will be time for the 62-year-old Carr to go if the Wolverines lose to Ohio State and drop their bowl game this season.

Carr's departure may be more likely to happen if the Wolverines win those games.

Coaches pay for losses

If Michigan loses to Ohio State again, does (coach Lloyd) Carr's head roll like (John) Cooper's?

Tripp in San Francisco

My first thought is to say 'no', but with the huge salaries coaches make today it is definitely possible.

Four consecutive losses to Auburn certainly didn't help former Alabama coach Mike Shula's cause. R.C. Slocum is the winningest coach in Texas A&M history and never endured a losing season. However, he was fired in 2002 after the Aggies lost to Texas for the fourth time in five years. Surely other factors were involved, but a losing streak against the Longhorns was probably the final straw.

If a coach is earning well over $1 million per season, Carr reportedly earns almost $1.5 million annually, it's not too much to expect or even demand a victory over your archrival every once in a while.

Cooper was 111-43-4 in 13 seasons at Ohio State, but was 2-10-1 against Michigan.

Carr is 113-36 in 12 seasons in Ann Arbor, but only 6-6 against the Buckeyes. Unlike Cooper, Carr has a national championship (1997) to his credit. That may help him offset three consecutive losses to the Buckeyes.

Of course, it didn't help former Miami coach Larry Coker.

Actually, Carr's exit might be more probable if the Wolverines beat Ohio State. He might be inclined to walk away if he can leave on the high note of beating the Buckeyes and following up with a bowl victory.

Not far-fetched

What do you think are Boston College's chances of winning the ACC, or at least the Atlantic Division? Even though our schedule is extremely difficult, we did beat Virginia Tech, 22-3, last year.

Connor in Pelham, Mass.

Boston College finished second in the Atlantic Division last season and would be my pick to win that division this year.

Why not? BC was 10-3 in 2006, returns All-ACC quarterback Matt Ryan and has nine starters back from a defense that allowed an average of just 15.7 points last season.

More production is needed from the running game, and that could be supplied if speedy Jeff Smith emerges as a threat. If not, the Eagles still have L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender, who have been steady though unspectacular.

Yet, talent really isn't a concern for B.C. The question is this: How are the players who were recruited for Tom O'Brien's system going to fare in new coach Jeff Jagodzinski's scheme?

The last part of the season will be the biggest worry for BC. In the final five weeks the Eagles face Virginia Tech, Maryland and Clemson on the road and get Florida State and Miami at home. That's a grind, but BC went 4-1 against those teams last year.

Panthers' answer?

How good will LeSean McCoy be for Pitt this upcoming season?

Nick in Pittsburgh

He'll probably make an impact. McCoy, who has 4.4 speed, posted consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons in high school. He was going for a third as a senior when he fractured an ankle.

That injury might cause concern for his future, but he played at Milford Academy prep school last season and averaged 7.1 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling had a respectable showing last year with 893 rushing yards. However, 510 of those yards came against Syracuse (221), Central Florida (135) and Connecticut (154). Last season Syracuse's run defense ranked 110th nationally. Connecticut's run defense was ranked 105th.

The Panthers, who can boast Tony Dorsett, Craig Heyward, Curvin Richards, Curtis Martin and Kevin Barlow among their running back alumni, haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher in seven years. The last three seasons Pitt hasn't averaged more than 117.5 rushing yards per game.

The running game clearly needs a jolt. McCoy may be able to provide it.

Depends on your favorite color

Looking at the Texas A&M and Texas seasons last year, which do you see being more successful this season? A lot of people are still bringing up that Holiday Bowl (A&M's 45-10 loss to California) and saying that A&M isn't out of its slump. But what about Texas losing to Kansas State and the fact the Aggies beat them in Austin?

Ross in Dallas

Let me be clear on this: You wonder why A&M's blowout loss in the Holiday is brought up, but then bring up Texas' loss to Kansas State.

Hello kettle. This is the pot. You're black.

Considering how A&M finished the regular season (win over Texas, one-point losses to Oklahoma and Nebraska) and the amount of starters returning, I was thinking that A&M should be rated the favorite in the Big 12 South.

But that was before the Aggies were dominated by California in the Holiday Bowl. That one-sided loss, I think, raised legitimate questions about just how good the Aggies are. Sure, A&M beat Texas. But so did Kansas State.

Fans in Austin will argue that Texas' losses were due to quarterback Colt McCoy being injured. I'm not buying that one, either.

If McCoy wasn't at full strength he easily could have been replaced by Jevan Snead, who played well when McCoy got hurt in Manhattan. Texas went with McCoy against A&M and lost. No excuses.

Besides, A&M quarterback Stephen McGee had a sore arm that bothered him all of last year, too.

That's all in the past. You asked who I think will be more successful this season.

I'm picking Texas to win the Big 12 South largely based on McCoy. The Longhorns' receiving corps is among the best in the nation. The pass defense has to improve, though.

A&M on the other hand, should have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Running back Mike Goodson could be a Heisman candidate in the future. But I'm not sold on the Aggies pass defense, either.

Bottom line: Texas has won at least 10 games in each of the last six seasons. A&M has managed one nine-win season (last year) in the last five years. It will take more than one victory in Austin to convince me the tables are turning.

A little different

I am very confused about one question and receive different answers from different sources. So I am going to turn to you for the final answer. What year is (Notre Dame quarterback) Demetrius Jones? Some college football previews have him as a redshirt freshman, and you have him listed as a sophomore. I want you to do the research and figure it out, please.

WW in Dallas

Yes sir.

OK, here's the deal: Notre Dame doesn't officially "redshirt" and therefore lists each player by their academic classification. That's why when you check the Notre Dame roster Jones is listed as a sophomore even though he did not play last year.

Now, three years from now Jones can be "offered" a chance to play another season. If that is the case, he would be listed as a fifth-year senior. That is just another way of saying he redshirted.

There is no guarantee that any player will be offered a fifth year, and as of now he's classified as a sophomore by Notre Dame.

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for To send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag, click here.

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