1) It's early, but thus far, which offseason change or changes in college football are you most excited about?
Besides the N.C.A.A.'s "don't ask, don't tell"-like backpedaling from its asinine Indian mascot quasi-ban?
If North Carolina's sports teams were called the Silverheels instead of the Tar Heels, U.N.C. wouldn't have received a bid to this year's N.C.A.A. tournament.
Naturally, I am a big fan of the fact that the 12-game regular season schedule becomes a permanent fixture of college football in 2006 after a two-year trial run (due to a quirk of the calendar) in 2002 and 2003. The extra contest enables traditional rivalries like Georgia-Clemson to be revived and generally adheres to the principle that too much of a good thing is an even better thing. More college football is better.
Related to this is the fact that I agree with Orson Swindle that "[t]he continued blossoming of interconference scheduling" is a major plus for the sport. Obviously, Ohio State's trip to Austin next fall headlines this series of games, but, after years of receiving just criticism for weak out-of-conference scheduling, the S.E.C. has upgraded its non-league opposition in a major way. Next stop: Georgia-Michigan!
2) With spring practice underway, what are the three concerns about your team that are causing you the most anxiety?
I'll tell you the one that isn't causing me anxiety: the quarterback battle. A quick look at what has happened to Georgia's and Florida State's respective Q.B. situations since Mark Richt moved from Tallahassee to Athens convinces me that the right man for the job will be brought along and installed in the position. When Coach Richt taps a signal caller and says, "This is our guy"---that's our guy.
The most visible area of concern is the receiving corps. Sean Bailey is out for the season, a puff of white smoke will signal Leonard Pope's selection in the upcoming N.F.L. draft, and Mohammed Massaquoi can't bring the Bulldogs to the mountain all by himself. Nowhere does untapped potential need to become on-field performance more desperately than on the hands team.
To Leonard Pope! He's 10 feet tall, weighs two tons, showers in vodka, eats hammers, and can take a shotgun blast standing!
Perhaps less obvious, yet even more critical, is the offensive line. Depth is a major concern, particularly if anyone else decides to pull an Ian Smith.
Speaking of which, my third area of concern doesn't have to do with any particular position, but with the Bulldogs' maddening annual tendency to become involved in penny-ante incidents that amount to nothing. Don't get me wrong . . . I'd rather deal with suspended licenses and underage drinking citations than the sort of stuff that went on with Barry Switzer's Sooners, Jimmy Johnson's Hurricanes, Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys, Barry Switzer's Cowboys, and . . . hey, I'm sensing a pattern here.
Every year, guys lose games to suspension over stupid childish nonsense like unpaid parking tickets or typically poor judgment calls by 19-year-olds who don't seem to get that they aren't typical 19-year-olds. Such foolishness causes needless distractions, embarrasses the program, and results in shuffled personnel assignments that interfere with teamwork. Every moving violation by a Georgia player makes me absolutely nuts.
3) Care to take a stab at a preseason top five?
No. No, I don't. Oh, all right, fine.
Brian already beat me to the punch on this one, but I'm more inclined to start with a preseason not top five. Southern Cal lost everyone of significance on offense. Ohio State lost everyone on defense, significant or otherwise. West Virginia won't be able to sneak up on anyone this season and the Mountaineers' two star players are due for sophomore slumps. Notre Dame hasn't strung together consecutive quality seasons in over a decade. Florida will be improved, but the Gators aren't yet ready to make the quantum leap into the top five. Where does that leave us?
Hoss Cartwright won't be smiling quite so broadly at the end of the next season. (I still can't believe we lost to those guys!)
- Texas---While I do not discount the importance of Vince Young's departure, the defending national champions finally have the swagger to go with all that talent.
- Louisiana State---The Tigers overcame the greatest natural disaster in American history and Les Miles's coaching to win 11 games and demolish Miami in the Peach Bowl. The Bayou Bengals could be scary nasty good next season.
- Oklahoma---None of us ever had the Sooners ranked right last year. O.U. was overrated in the early going and underrated at the end of the year. Oklahoma lost to some solid teams and, but for a blown call against Texas Tech, the Sooners would have ended the season on a winning streak, capped off by a bowl victory over favored Oregon. The Red River Shootout should be the epic game in 2006 that Notre Dame-Southern Cal was in 2005.
- Auburn---They're talented, they're seasoned, and no coaching staff in the country received a bigger offseason upgrade than the Plainsmen's huge boost at defensive coordinator. No game on Georgia's schedule has me more nervous than this one. I hate Auburn.
- Michigan---Call it a crazy hunch.