October 5, 2007

Everyone just looking for love

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. This week he heads to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry.
Previous mailbags
Sept. 28: McFadden continues to shine
Sept. 21: Sometimes the system works
Sept. 14: Tigers on top?
Sept. 6: Reason for hope

College football, like life, isn't always fair.

Is it fair when your team wins, but falls in the national polls? Is it fair when one of the best running backs in the country cannot break into his team's starting lineup? Is it fair that a school with a sagging football program appears to live a parasite-like existence off the fat of a power BCS conference? Is it fair that some teams have to get by with largely obscure prospects, while having to contend with programs that annually attract many of the nation's premier recruits?

Maybe it is fair. Check the mailbag to learn why:

It's about performance

Where is the fairness in the polls? Nebraska has only one loss, to USC, the No. 1 or No. 2 team depending on which poll you go by. Yet after a good showing against Iowa State the Huskers don't move in the polls. Other one-loss teams, who lost to worse foes then USC, have not fallen as far or behind Nebraska. In all fairness, shouldn't Nebraska be the highest ranked one-loss team? Are the people putting the polls together just Nebraska-haters? I believe even when Nebraska knocks off Missouri, we will still be sitting at No. 25. Where is the justice?

Matthew in Omaha

You have a point. There are 11 teams with one loss ranked ahead of Nebraska, and only South Carolina and Virginia Tech which fell to No. 1 LSU can argue their losses were against a stronger opponent than USC.

But let's be reasonable. Nebraska's drop in the polls (the Huskers' high point was No. 16) has little to do with its blowout loss to the Trojans. Nebraska's fall is primarily based on its performance in victories. The Huskers needed a late interception to escape Wake Forest and avoided a huge upset in a 41-40 victory over Ball State only when the Cardinals missed a late field goal. And the 35-17 victory over Iowa State which has just one win was boosted by a 93-yard interception return.

Nine of the one-loss teams ahead of Nebraska fell to an opponent that is either in the top 25 or has been at some point this season. Those that haven't lost to a ranked opponent are Rutgers and Oklahoma.

Rutgers lost to Maryland, which last season posted nine wins - including a bowl victory. Oklahoma's loss to Colorado, which was 2-10 last season, looks bad on the surface. But Colorado has three victories now, and two weeks ago when Nebraska was struggling to get by Ball State Colorado defeated the RedHawks of Miami University 42-0.

Why is that significant? Earlier this season, Miami beat Ball State.

'Backs backs back?

Do you think Arkansas junior tailback Felix Jones will go pro or will he return next season as the primary ball-carrier for the Razorbacks and make his own Heisman run in 2008?

Brad in Madison, Wis.

Obviously, only Felix Jones knows that answer.

Well, his mother might know. But unlike Darren McFadden's mother, if she does know, she hasn't said anything.

The guess here is Jones will return next season.

As you mentioned, Jones finally would be the Razorbacks' featured runner assuming that McFadden enters the NFL Draft (like his mother said he would). Jones has been lauded as the nation's premier "backup" tailback, but he'd surely like the chance to show what he can do as the starter.

Plus, by coming back for his senior season, he could enhance his draft status. This year, he would be viewed as just another good running back in a highly touted group that includes Michigan senior Mike Hart and juniors Steve Slaton of West Virginia, Ray Rice of Rutgers and McFadden.

Should Slaton, Rice and McFadden enter the draft, Jones might be the nation's best returning back. Certainly, he would be among the top three or four. He wouldn't be sharing carries with McFadden next year, either.

Arkansas never has had a Heisman winner. Should McFadden get it this year, Arkansas could have a shot at back-to-back Heisman recipients.

Don't blow it

How about a little love for the Cal Bears? That was one heck of a football game in Eugene. Where do you see us by year's end?

Bill in Petaluma, Cal.

That was indeed a significant victory over Oregon, and even more impressive considering the Bears' defense was missing a couple of starters.

Let's be honest, though. During coach Jeff Tedford's remarkable regime, the Bears have had a tendency to lose games they shouldn't (Arizona last season, for example). That history and a so-so defense causes a certain amount of apprehension.

Upcoming back-to-back road games at UCLA and Arizona State obviously will be critical. I wouldn't be surprised if Cal loses one of them. But should the Bears get through those unscathed, I'd anticipate a Nov. 10 showdown with USC to determine the Pac-10 championship and a likely berth in the BCS national-championship game.

Based on recent performances Cal's win over Oregon, USC struggling to beat Washington at this point I'd take the Bears in that matchup. I would be more confident in that pick if linebacker Zack Follett and defensive end Rulon Davis are back from injury and playing up to their ability by then.

Private property

I know that TCU lost a game they should have won against Air Force, but they still killed Baylor. With that said, do you think there is any chance that TCU replaces Baylor in the Big 12 in the near future? I think everyone who isn't a Baylor fan in Texas is thinking the same thing.

Drew in Houston

Sorry, I just don't see that happening.

Baylor is spending millions to upgrade its facilities to "Big 12 standards," and there could be legal ramifications if the conference simply booted the Bears.

Besides, if the Big 12 wanted to replace Baylor, it probably wouldn't want another private school. When that subject is discussed, the speculation is the Big 12 would try to lure Arkansas away from the SEC.

Of course, I've followed college football long enough to know that anything is possible. Rumors are that the Big 12 could eventually lose Missouri or even Texas to the Big Ten.

But, to me, the notion that the Big 12 would dump Baylor is unlikely. True, Baylor is dead weight in football, but it has been competitive is other sports. Baylor has given the Big 12 its only women's basketball national championship, produced an Olympic gold medalist in track (Jeremy Wariner), sent a team to the College World Series and typically fields an elite tennis team.

In addition, never underestimate how much the other teams in the conference value an almost-sure football victory.

Success the key

Hey, Olin, if Kentucky wants to compete on a national level with the USCs, LSUs, Oklahomas, etc., doesn't it need to upgrade the players it recruits? Sure, UK has found some gems in recent years, but I don't see it competing with the Floridas or LSUs until it starts going after NFL-caliber athletes.

Moses in Oklahoma City

I'm sure Kentucky has diligently recruited high-profile prospects every year, but getting them to sign is the problem.

The state of Kentucky doesn't produce top-level prospects in mass quantities like California, Florida, Texas and Ohio. The few top prospects in the Commonwealth also are courted by other SEC schools, Louisville and Ohio State, among others.

That has forced Kentucky to search out the so-called diamonds in the rough, and obviously coach Rich Brooks' staff has done that pretty well.

Consider that since 2003, Kentucky has signed just six prospects that were rated at least a four-star recruit: quarterback Andre' Woodson (four-star in '03); offensive lineman Micah Jones (four-star in '04); defensive tackle Corey Peters (four-star in '06); running back Demetrius Goode (four-star in '06); defensive end Micah Johnson (four stars in '06) and defensive end D.J. Stafford (four stars in '07).

Compare that to Florida, which had 20 players rated at least four stars in its 2007 class alone.

But as the Wildcats improve, they figure to attract more highly ranked prospects.

How much do you want?

Why is Missouri still not getting more respect? Illinois is doing very well and Ole Miss could have beaten Florida. We beat Illinois and won easily in Mississippi. Do you think Mizzou will take out Nebraska?

Kyle in Kansas City

No respect? Mizzou is ranked No. 17. How is a top-20 ranking a sign of disrespect?

Perspective is such a curious thing. Some look at Illinois' 4-1 record as proof that the Big Ten is in a slump, while Mizzou fans see it as proof that the Tigers should be ranked higher apparently much higher than No. 17.

Just be patient.

Should Mizzou win its next two games, against Nebraska and Oklahoma, the Tigers will be on the brink of or in the top 10.

In the offseason, I felt Nebraska was the favorite in the Big 12 North and would beat Missouri on the Tigers' home field. But after the Huskers' lackluster showings against Ball State and Iowa State, I think Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will have a big game and the Tigers will win Saturday.

But I don't think they will win in Norman the following week. No disrespect intended; OU just rarely loses at home.

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

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