March 21, 2008

History tells us Notre Dame must wait

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com.
Previous mailbags
Mar. 14: Glory days
Mar. 7: Double standard
Feb. 29: True champions?

George Santayana once wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

Let's assume he wasn't referring to college football national championships. Then, you might be doomed not to repeat it or at least have a long, long wait to do so.

We're in the ninth year of the decade, and history shows that championships won in years ending with "8" had better be enjoyed to the fullest because it will be a while before another is celebrated.

TCU was named the Associated Press national champion in 1938 the third year of the poll and even though players such as Bob Lilly and LaDainian Tomlinson have since come through Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs have not won another crown.

Michigan won in 1948 and did not win another national title until 1997, and that one was split with Nebraska. The '58 champion was LSU, which waited 45 years before celebrating another national championship.

The champions of '68, '78 and '88 also have endured long droughts, as pointed out in this week's mailbag.

OLIN'S MAILBAG
When will Irish eyes be smiling?

The 1968 national title was the last Ohio State won until 2002. The 1978 national title was the last title for USC until 2003. Notre Dame hasn't won a national title since 1988. When do you think the Irish are due for a national title?

Omar (residence not inlcuded)
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Well, the information provided indicates that after winning national championships in the ninth year of a decade, Ohio State had to wait 34 years for its next national crown and USC had to wait 25 years.

So that would seem in a best-case scenario, the Irish won't hoist the crystal football until at least 2013.

Notre Dame has high standards, but the Irish and their fans shouldn't be talking about national championships right now not coming off one of the worst seasons in school history.

The last team to win a national championship following a losing season was USC, which went 11-0 in 1962 after a 4-5-1 finish in '61. Therefore, rule out the Irish as national titlists this season.

It was clear during last season's 3-9 disaster that Notre Dame needed upgrades at quarterback and in the offensive line after ranking last nationally in total offense and sacks allowed and next to last in scoring offense.

But coach Charlie Weis has brought in five four-star rated offensive linemen in the past two recruiting classes, and quarterback Jimmy Clausen had a sore shoulder throughout his freshman season. Clausen could show substantial improvement in '08.

After its 2005 recruiting class was ranked 40th by Rivals.com, Notre Dame has put together three consecutive top-10 recruiting classes, so look for the Irish to improve as those players mature.

Here's another tidbit of encouragement for Domers. Notre Dame's 2008 class was ranked No. 2 by Rivals. The past three national champions LSU in '07, Florida in '06 and Texas in '05 had recruiting classes ranked first or second by Rivals.com four years before their championship year (Texas' class was No. 1 in 2002, Florida was No. 2 in '03 and LSU was No. 2 in '04).

So, actually, the best-case scenario for the Irish might be 2012. If not, well, look at it this way. At least you wouldn't figure to wait as long as Tennessee, which won the national championship in 1998. The current trend would suggest the Vols are looking forward to 2023.

Auburn more than an afterthought

I've been waiting to ask a question for some time now, but after Wednesday's article about Auburn's offensive changes (Auburn banking on change, March 19), it seems like the perfect time to ask what you expect from the Tigers in 2008. I respectfully disagree with your assumption that LSU will come into Auburn and win for the first time since 1998 for many different reasons. Are you still confident in picking LSU to win the West?

Tyler in Auburn
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LSU remains my pick in the SEC West, but each time a story about quarterback Ryan Perrilloux getting into trouble comes out, my enthusiasm wanes a bit.

But I like LSU because its defense even without Glenn Dorsey, Chevis Jackson, Craig Steltz and Bo Pelini still should be among the best in the country. The Tigers offense is infested with big-play guys.

That said, Auburn is an intriguing team. The feeling here is Kodi Burns will flourish in coordinator Tony Franklin's spread attack. The Tigers always play well defensively, and with eight starters back on that side of the ball, they will do so again.

If Auburn gets through a September grind of consecutive games at Mississippi State and then at home against LSU and Tennessee, then it could be a big season on The Plains.

Funny: Many teams returning eight starters on offense and defense after posting nine victories and winning its bowl the previous year would be trumpeted as championship contenders. But because of the strength of the SEC with LSU the defending national champion, Georgia hailed as a top national championship contender, Florida boasting the Heisman Trophy winner and Alabama expecting to rise in Nick Saban's second season Auburn has almost been an afterthought.

Pryor may start on bench

Terrelle Pryor is going to bring a much-needed boost to Ohio State's offense and perhaps a few national titles with the recruits coming in from Florida, Georgia and Texas. Do you think he's going to start right away? Also, do you know when the Ohio State spring game is?

Steve in Atwater, Calif.
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When Pryor, the heralded quarterback from Jeannette, Pa., announced he would attend Ohio State, the Buckeyes' 2008 recruiting class immediately rose to No. 4 in the Rivals.com rankings.

But don't expect Pryor to immediately rise to No. 1 or even No. 2 on the Buckeyes' quarterback depth chart.

As good as Pryor projects to be, he still will be a true freshman quarterback. Few of those are ready to step in and play Division I-A football immediately.

Ohio State is loaded and will be in the national championship hunt this fall. One of the reasons is that senior Todd Boeckman returns at quarterback. No doubt, Boeckman needs to improve, especially on his showing in the last three games of 2007. But for the most part, he was solid last season.

Boeckman won't take over games, but he doesn't have to. With good receivers and a runner like Chris Wells in the backfield, the Buckeyes need only a steady, sure quarterback who can successfully manage the game - just as Craig Krenzel did in 2002.

If Pryor doesn't redshirt, look for him to be used similarly to how Florida coach Urban Meyer used Tim Tebow as a freshman in 2006 in specific, favorable situations.

The Buckeyes will hold their Spring game on Apr. 19.

McGuffie full of potential

Why is Sam McGuffie from Texas not in the Rivals 250? He runs a 4.32 40-yard dash and has a 41-inch vertical jump. Did you guys miss him?

George in Chicago
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Recruiting really isn't my field, so I asked our recruiting analysts this one. McGuffie, an all-purpose running back from Cypress-Fairbanks High School near Houston, was rated a four-star prospect, which Rivals.com defines as a prospect with All-American potential.

Consider there are probably upward of 500,000 high school senior football players each year, and Rivals.com listed McGuffie among the top 300 in the country. That's listing him among the top 1 percent. I don't see any disrespect there.

McGuffie is an impressive athlete. He could be intriguing in coach Rich Rodriguez's spread.

Ducks remain strong

Since Dennis Dixon graduated and Jonathan Stewart left early for the NFL, do you think Oregon will have at least a season close to last year's? I know there are still some players on that roster who are good, but it seems like Dixon and Stewart were leading them. Are the Ducks going to be OK without them?

John in Salem, Ore.
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If Dixon hadn't gotten hurt last season, I believe he would have won the Heisman Trophy and Oregon might have won the national championship. That's how good he was.

Stewart was one of the best running backs in the nation, and now is a possible first-round NFL choice. Replacing players like that won't be easy.

Still, the Ducks, who finished 9-4 last season, don't figure to fall too much. Justin Roper's four touchdown-pass performance in a 56-21 victory over USF in the Sun Bowl provided some encouragement that the loss of Dixon won't be too devastating.

Also, Jeremiah Johnson was a productive backup for Stewart last season before getting hurt. If he's healthy, the Ducks figure to be strong at tailback again.

But few programs can lose players of Dixon's and Stewart's caliber without consequence. Coach Mike Bellotti always fields a competitive team, and that doesn't figure to change in 2008. The guess here is the Ducks won't reach last season's victory total.

On both counts, I'll have to see it to believe it.

Can FSU find offense?

Who do you see winning the job at quarterback for Florida State? And with a season under offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, how does the FSU offense fare this year? Will this be the breakout year that Florida State has been waiting for?

Marlon in Rolling Fork, Fla.
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Drew Weatherford begins the spring as the first-team quarterback, but sophomore Christian Ponder has a legitimate shot at winning that competition. We'll have to wait and see how that unfolds.

Expect FSU's offense to be better in its second season under Fisher. It definitely needs to be after the Seminoles averaged just 23.3 points to rank 90th in the nation in scoring offense.

The Seminoles need to get a boost from newcomers on offense and need to build depth and get better play from the secondary on defense.

If that happens, expect the Seminoles to make strides. I wouldn't go as far as predicting a double-digit victory total, but don't be surprised if they're able to improve on last season's seven wins.

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




 

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