For Argument's Sake

Originally Published: September 30, 2004

From nagging questions to the latest rumors to soapbox moments, Ivan Maisel and Gene Wojciechowski continue their weekly arguments and go head-to-head to talk about the hottest topics in college football.

ESPN wise man Chris Fowler offers you a Get Out of A Preseason Pick card. Do you take it?
A year ago, when Iowa came off of its Big Ten co-championship having lost about 43 starters, I relegated the Hawkeyes to one-year wonders. With a stout defense and game-changing special teams, Iowa went 10-3.

Well, the Hawkeyes weren't going to fool me again. The entire offense had to be rebuilt again, but no big deal. Surely coach Kirk Ferentz would find another fifth-year senior quarterback, and how much could they miss tackle Robert Gallery?

It turns out that Ferentz and Iowa are human. They really do have some rebuilding to do. The 44-7 loss at Arizona State is no more indicative of the state of the Hawks than Notre Dame's loss at BYU was of the Irish. Iowa gave a more accurate picture in the 30-17 loss at Michigan. The Hawkeyes will improve over the course of the season, because Ferentz's teams always do (there I go, predicting the future based on the past). The problem is, the schedule is going to get tougher, too. Iowa closes with Purdue, at Minnesota and Wisconsin. Barring getting upset themselves, unless the Hawks upset Ohio State in Iowa City on Oct. 16, they will have to win one of those final three games just to make a bowl game.

Picking them in the top 15 may have just been a tad optimistic. I'll take that one back, if you please.

Use it? I'd knock that little rally monkey into the gong if you gave me another crack at some preseason picks.

For starters, I'd amend my Miami jones. The Hurricanes' defense is national championship quality, but quarterback Brock Berlin hasn't progressed as expected. In the old days (two seasons ago) Miami would have left tire marks on a team such as Houston. Instead, they leave town with an uninspired 38-13 win over the same team that gave up 63 points to Oklahoma and 21 to Army.

I'd also like a do-over on the Big Ten. It isn't that I'm giving up on my preseason pick, Michigan; more like giving props to Purdue, which has the best quarterback (Kyle Orton) in the conference, and possibly even the country. Michigan State coach John L. Smith, who knows a little something about the passing game, raves about Orton and told me earlier this week that Purdue now looks like the team to beat in the league. Why should you believe him? Because the Spartans don't play the Boilers this season.

Now then, can a puma challenge a lion for the rule of the jungle? No.

Has another team or teams convinced me they're better than Oklahoma and USC, my national championship game preseason pick? If you think so, say hello to the monkey.

You get to start your own program from scratch.
Who's your athletic director, coach, and one transfer player?
AD: Lew Perkins built Connecticut into a statewide phenomenon. He is an astute businessman and a relationship builder. He is a coach's friend. Since arriving at Kansas last year, he has ruffled feathers by selling the best tickets to the highest donors. That says more about dragging Kansas fans into the modern day than it says about Perkins. As for football, he hired Randy Edsall at UConn, and there has been no better marriage of coach and mission.

Coach: I'm going to take Bob Stoops here, because he can win, he can coach defense, and most important to this program architect, he's a regular guy. Stoops isn't overly impressed with himself. He isn't building an empire. He's just trying to win football games and look out for his players. He's going to do it the right way, too. I would say that I like the cut of his jib, but I have no idea what the hell it means.

Player: In an NFL draft, the teams with the first pick often take a quarterback. The idea works in this scenario, albeit for a different reason. A college coach must attract recruits, and thanks to our own beloved Internet, high school seniors are very aware of who among them commits where. A high-profile quarterback would attract other talent. The three highest-profile quarterbacks are Matt Leinart of USC, Jason White of Oklahoma and Kyle Orton of Purdue. I love White's leadership and toughness, but neither Leinart nor Orton are lacking in those departments, and I like their arms better. In the end, I'll take Leinart, for being 6-feet-5 and because he has already proven he can win championships.

This one is going to kill Ivan, who grew up singing that toe-tapper of a fight song -- "Yea Alabama, Drown 'em Tide, Every Bama man's behind you, Hit your stride" -- and could name every person in the Million Dollar Band's percussion section. But Mr. Mobile is going to have a hard time finding a Bama candidate for this question, unless he has Bear Bryant hidden away in a cyrogenics lab somewhere.

My athletic directors short list includes Illinois' Ron Guenther, Louisville's Tom Jurich, Oregon's Bill Moos, Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione, Arizona State's Gene Smith, Virginia Tech's Jim Weaver, USC's Mike Garrett, Maryland's Deborah Yow, North Carolina State's Lee Fowler, Wake Forest's Ron Wellman, Nebraska's Steve Pederson, former Northwestern AD Rick Taylor, Penn State's Tim Curley, and Texas A&M's Bill Byrne. I'm looking for someone who can raise money, isn't afraid to make difficult decisions, can appreciate what a football coach needs to do his job, and won't panic when the yogurt hits the fan. All these folks qualify.

After conducting my second round of interviews I whittle the list to Jurich, Garrett, Taylor, Castiglione and Weaver.

Jurich continues to pick coaching winners at Louisville (though Bobby Petrino didn't exactly do himself proud during the Auburn mess late last year-no fault of Jurich's) and Papa John's Cardinal Stadium is a keeper. Garrett can be a bit ham-handed and let's face it, Pete Carroll wasn't his first, second or third choice, but nobody can question his devotion to USC or his fund-raising abilities. (We'll also give a major assist on the Carroll hire to Daryl Gross, USC's senior associate AD). Taylor is a personal favorite because of his football backround (a former head coach), his eye for talent (say what you will about Gary Barnett, but he did lead the Wildcats to a Rose Bowl), his fund-raising backround (a must at Northwestern), and his no-BS qualities. Castiglione hired Bob Stoops straight from the assistant coaching ranks (is that any good?). Weaver has been smart enough to take full advantage of the Micheal Vick/Frank Beamer glory days.

Who gets the first call?: OU's Castiglione, though Jurich and Taylor are close seconds. It's just too difficult to ignore his hiring of Stoops, his record of capital improvements, and the universal respect he receives from peers, coaches and media alike.

Flip a coin on the head coaching candidates. I'd use cell minutes to contact Georgia's Mark Richt, Cal's Jeff Tedford, Navy's Paul Johnson, Texas Tech's Mike Leach, Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione, USC's Pete Carroll, West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Purdue's Joe Tiller, former North Carolina State coach Dick Sheridan, Minnesota's Glen Mason, OU's Stoops, and Utah's Urban Meyer.

My coaching Final Four: Tiller, Tedford, Stoops and Meyer. And my first contract offer goes to Tiller -- not because the other three wouldn't kick some serious football butt, but because I think Tiller has done more with less over a longer period of time.

The list of transfers is short and sweet: Oklahoma true freshman tailback Adrian Peterson, Tennessee true freshman quarterback Eric Ainge, USC sophomore tailback Reggie Bush, and Florida sophomore quarterback Chris Leak.

If he stays healthy, Peterson is going to win a Heisman one day. It's that simple. Ainge is only three games into his career at UT, but it's obvious why coach Phillip Fulmer leapfrogged him (and fellow true freshman QB Brent Schaeffer) over two upperclassmen. The multi-talented Bush is a football prodigy. Florida's Leak is everything you'd want out of a quarterback: composed, tough as alligator skin, Mensa smart, and getting better each day.

I'd sing those dumb Bama "hit-your-stride" lyrics if any of these guys would transfer my way. But my first choice: Leak.

What will happen first: an Army win or a USC loss?
USC may not be the invincible Trojans that we first thought -- two second-half comebacks this year is, if memory serves me, two more than they made last year -- but Army won't be as bad as we expected, either. I say that in complete possession of all my faculties and the evidence of the Black Knights' first three games to the contrary. Army's problem is that it plays its least talented opponents on the road: at East Carolina (Oct. 30) and at Tulane (Nov. 13). Still, I think that's a gap that coach Bobby Ross will find a way to close.

I'm not even ruling out Homecoming against Cincinnati on Oct. 9, or the Navy game on Dec. 4. Army will not finish the season winless, and I still think that the Trojans have a good shot at making it into the Orange Bowl.

Read, "Absolutely American," a four-year account of the trials and tribulations of life at West Point by David Lipsky, and you'll find yourself rooting for anybody who wears a cadet and football uni.

Army has lost 16 consecutive games (27 of its last 28) and there's little chance it will be doing a victory lap Saturday against TCU. Or Oct. 9 against Cincinnati. Or the next week at South Florida. Or even the week after at East Carolina. No way do they beat the Zoomies. Tulane doesn't have a D-IA win this season, so the Nov. 13 game is a possibility, though the game is at the Superdome. That leaves UAB (nope) and Navy (double nope).

Meanwhile, USC faces Cal (2-0) next week at the Coliseum and Arizona State (4-0) the following week in LA. And the Nov. 27 game at home against revitalized Notre Dame is Ivan-in-a-leisure-suit scary.

Army coach Bobby Ross will figure out a way to end the losing streak, but it won't be this season. USC will be challenged, but it won't underestimate the Golden Bears, as it did a season ago. And the Trojans simply have too much talent, too much Pete Carroll mojo, and too favorable of a home schedule to do a face plant in the loss column.