It is Thursday, and while some of you are looking at something people call a "bracket," I'll be watching a little football. That's right, my afternoon and evening will be spent out at Mallard Creek High School watching Larry Fedora's Tar Heels put in a little scrimmage work. I win. It'll be good to watch the kids play and see all the former teammates and old heads that live in the area. Oh, and duh, we have the mailbag today, here it is!
The top five jobs conversation always gets folks fired up. Everyone thinks their job is the best job, or they overrate certain aspects of a gig. Here's my top five, in nothing but alphabetical order: Alabama, Florida, LSU, Ohio State and Texas. Obviously we differ on Florida and LSU versus Notre Dame and USC.
I think the jobs in South Bend and Los Angeles are certainly elite spots and would likely be in the top 10. Notre Dame has plenty of money, their own major network and while they can recruit nationally, having to do so adds to the difficulty of the job. Not a knock, it's just tougher to travel all over the nation getting kids together than it is to do it from your office.
As for USC, great job and they also have a ton of money. There's also plenty of homegrown California talent. However, for me, college football has largely been a game of the college town. Yes, Miami and Southern Cal both had serious strings of success, but look at the larger picture of the sport. Norman, Lincoln, Tallahassee, Ann Arbor and even now, Eugene, have an allure to them that stands out. Most football players aren't city kids, they're suburban to rural guys coming into school.
Sure, there is more to do at USC, and when you're winning, players have a quasi-rock star feel about them on the LA nightlife scene. But that's what you get in Baton Rouge and Gainesville every single day. And in those locales, both with access to high quality talent, the head coach is the face of the town. I'll take that over the crowded city scene.
I am extremely excited for Sonny Dykes. He'll bring a fast-paced attack that will put pressure on Pac-12 defenses in both the run and the pass, and he's an aggressive coach. However, he has so many pieces on offense to replace that I think they'll have some serious growing pains early in the year that might persist.
Expanding that from just the 2013 season, I think Dykes will be quite alright at Cal, provided he can play defense. Long term, he's not going to continue his rise if his team is giving up 30.8 points per game like they did in three seasons at LaTech.
Given the coaching transition at Oregon and Dykes' offensive ability to stress defenses, I wouldn't be surprised to see Cal push into the top half of the Pac-12. Washington vs. Cal is going to be the battle of who can get closer to Oregon and Stanford, one that everyone should keep their eyes on in the Pac-12 North. With Dykes on board, Cal has a much better chance of elbowing their way to the front than they had before.
I don't think he wins a Pac-12 Championship, but I also think that as he gets more successful, someone snatches him away from Cal before he has the opportunity to truly finish the drill.
I honestly don't know. I hope not, but ultimately we'll have to wait and see how he handles the spotlight. In the scope that we've witnessed thus far, it seems like he'll be able to handle it. Manziel played well in the bowl game and looked great down the stretch of the season on his way to the Heisman.
To me, the biggest issue will not be the off-the-field pressures, but rather the on-the-field pressures that determine whether Manziel sinks or swims in year two. Coaches in the SEC West are working on how to stop him, and to counteract that push by coaches and players, Manziel will have to grow in the offense.
That means hitting his check-downs instead of trying to take off running when teams are playing contain games to keep him in the pocket. It means giving the ball off to running backs instead of keeping it when the defensive end makes a beeline for him on the zone-read.
Manziel handling pressure will be interesting to watch, but seeing him deal with the live bodies trying to knock his head off in SEC play is going to be the real show this year.
Hmmmm...this is an interesting one. I'll go Notre Dame-Alabama, Southern California-South Carolina, Arizona-Michigan, Ohio State-Florida and Louisville-Oregon.
The title game rematch intrigues me to no end. I wonder how, if the game is placed in a normal game week, the Irish will look against Alabama. Sure, both sides have lost players, but I think that coming out after a week we could see a different game. Alabama would still be dominating and imposing with their game plan, but now, perhaps, Notre Dame does not shrink back into their hole. They got punched in the face by the Tide in the BCS Championship Game and failed to respond time and again. I'd like to see if the moment was just too big for Brian Kelly, or if Saban is truly just that much better.
USC versus USC has always led to intrigue by me. Throw in Steve Spurrier's recent comments on the matter (via Josh Kendall of The State), and it could be exciting. Plus you got Lane Kiffin fighting for his job against a Spurrier team that wants to get to their next big moment, a BCS Bowl game. Heisman guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Marqise Lee would be on the stage and that would help carry this game further than the simple play on the names.
Arizona versus Michigan and Ohio State versus Florida are on for the same reasons: old coaching ties. Rich Rodriguez, who had a terrible go of it with the University of Michigan, and Urban Meyer, who Florida fans are still not sure how to handle his departure.
I'd love to see the Wildcats in September, travel up to Ann Arbor and watch what unfolds. Rich Rodriguez would, without a doubt, pull out all the stops to put a hurting on the Wolverines. In the case of Florida, I'd like to see them host the Buckeyes and watch how the fans treat a guy who won them two BCS Championships.
Last, but not least, the Cardinals versus the Ducks. Teddy Bridgewater versus Marcus Mariota. These are two of the quarterbacks that really broke out in the 2013 season. Watching these guys match up would be a very interesting showing at the quarterback position. Bridgewater, the guy who is pass first but capable of getting mobile, against Mariota, a guy who uses his legs with ease and lets that help set up the pass game.