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January 18, 2008

Many fans still pushing for playoffs

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com.
Previous mailbags
Dec 21: Wish list
Dec 14: Looking ahead
Dec. 7: Everyone has a favorite

Most indicators suggest that the majority of fans want a playoff, but the majority of university presidents do not. Clearly, fans' interests are not considered by the school presidents who actually fund the game that funds most athletic departments.

So how can the fans be heard? One fan has a few suggestions in this week's mailbag.

Push for playoffs

Is it going to take a fan uprising to force a playoff? It would be hard, but if fans want a playoff they are going to have to organize some kind of show of force to get through to the powers that be. It could be a boycott of an early season fluff game for a half, a walkout of the stands at the end of the first quarter of every game the first weekend, a sponsor boycott or something like that. If we leave it up to the presidents, we will have the same sick system 20 years from now.

Bill in Atlanta

All it will take to adopt a Division I-A playoff is for more presidents to feel their programs got hosed or were in jeopardy of being hosed by the system and therefore change their stance on the issue.

Last year, Florida President Bernie Machen advocated a playoff system. This year, Georgia President Michael Adams did, too. There are 120 teams playing Division I football, so at the current pace, we can expect a playoff to be established in about 117 years give or take a decade or two.

Actually, your boycott idea is interesting. I've always heard the basic principle of business is to give customers what they want, and a meaningless game against an overmatched Division I-AA opponent or Sun Belt patsy isn't what most fans of big-time teams want.

Judging by the e-mails I receive and surveys I've seen on the subject, the overwhelming majority of fans want a playoff. However, the power brokers seem determined not to give the customers what they want.

And why should they? They know 100,000 Ohio State fans will fill the Horseshoe to watch the Buckeyes trample Youngstown State, and they know 90,000 Texas fans will fill Memorial Stadium to see the Longhorns roll over North Texas, so why change?

Some presidents will argue that a December playoff would compromise academics, which makes you wonder if Division I-AA, II and III institutions place no value on academics because of course they do have a playoff.

Others will bring up what the bowl system has meant to college football.

But if fans did organize a boycott and colleges took a significant financial hit, presidents may decide that academics and the sanctity of college football's history won't be compromised so much.

That's not going to happen, though. College football fans, who live for autumn Saturdays, name their children after coaches and tattoo their school's logos on their bodies, aren't likely to ignore a game - not even a non-conference one.

So there won't be a playoff anytime soon. But you'll get non-conference matchups like Clemson vs. The Citadel, so that's something.

Looking for work

What is Jon Tenuta going to do? He is a great defensive coordinator.

Jeff in Atlanta

Tenuta is available after Chan Gailey was replaced as coach by Paul Johnson, who hired Dave Wommack - most recently linebacker coach at Southern Miss - as his defensive coordinator.

Rumors surfaced that Tenuta might be going to South Carolina or LSU, but Brian VanGorder was hired at South Carolina and LSU coach Les Miles is expected to promote secondary coach Doug Mallory and linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto to co-defensive coordinators to replace Bo Pelini.

There also was speculation that Tenuta would end up at Auburn to replace Will Muschamp, who recently accepted the defensive coordinator position at Texas. But Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville hired Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads.

Tenuta, who reportedly earned $400,000 as Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator, surely will surface somewhere soon. He's too good to remain available long.

In each of the past five seasons, Tenuta's defenses ranked no lower than 27th nationally in total defense and scoring defense. Consistency like that doesn't happen by accident.

Quarterback questions

With Xavier Lee leaving for the NFL Draft, where does that leave Florida State with its quarterbacks? We have Drew (Weatherford), but in case he falters or is injured, who comes after him? How will E.J. Manuel progress? Oh yeah, and with a good portion of the defense leaving, especially the front seven, will the incoming true freshmen play in the first three games?

Marlon in Rolling Fork, Miss.

Sophomore-to-be Christian Ponder, who played OK when Weatherford was injured in a loss to Virginia Tech, will get a chance to win the job.

Still, expect Weatherford to remain the starter in 2008 and Ponder to be the top backup. Manuel, tabbed by Rivals.com as the nation's second-rated dual threat quarterback prospect, may get in the mix. However, more than likely Manuel will sit out a redshirt year.

As far as the defensive line goes, there should be ample opportunity for newcomers to play early. Gene Williams of Warchant.com, the Rivals.com site devoted to Florida State athletics, suggested that incoming freshman defensive tackle Moses McCray, a four-star prospect, and junior college transfer Markus White, also a four-star prospect, could play immediately.

Commodore concerns

Why is there no athletic director at Vanderbilt like most colleges? And will Vanderbilt ever win more than four or five games?

Anonymous in Nashville

Vanderbilt's lack of an athletic director seemed to me a grandstand move by former university president Gordon Gee, who professed a commitment to lessen the emphasis on athletics.

That's fine at Vanderbilt, which doesn't put a huge emphasis on athletics in the first place. But Gee, who seemed to welcome all pats on the back for his stand on the matter at Vandy, now is the president at Ohio State. If he does the same thing in Columbus de-emphasize athletics, that is then I'll buy his commitment. I'll also buy lunch because he probably won't be employed there too long if he tries to lessen the athletic commitment at Ohio State.

As far as whether the Commodores ever will win more than four or five games well, that won't be easily done in 2008 because they lose top players such as Jonathan Goff, Chris Williams and Earl Bennett. But Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barton Simmons, a native of Nashville and the son of a Vanderbilt-educated lawyer, has $20 that says the Commodores will be bowl-eligible in 2008.

Judging Georgia

Does Georgia have a legitimate chance to win the BCS title next year?

Ed in Lincolnton, Ga.

Absolutely. The Bulldogs were arguably the nation's best team in the second half of the season, when they went 7-0 with victories over No. 11 Florida, No. 18 Auburn, No. 23 Kentucky and No. 10 Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.

The Bulldogs return quarterbackMatthew Stafford, tailback Knowshon Moreno, receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, three offensive line starters and nine starters off a defense that ranked 14th in the nation.

The biggest problem for Georgia is its schedule, which includes an early trip to Arizona State and a four-game stretch against LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn all away from Athens.

It will take improvement and some luck, but Georgia has the talent and the tactician coach Mark Richt to make a serious run at the Southeastern Conference title in 2008, which lately has been a preface to winning the national title.

Eying the Aggies

How do you think Texas A&M will do next year under the guidance of Mike Sherman? They have plenty of potential in the running game, and we saw that Stephen McGee has an arm in the Texas game. What do you think Sherman will change? What will he leave as it is?

Kyle in Houston

Expect Sherman to dump the option-oriented offense used by Dennis Franchione in favor of a more pro-style offense. Still, with McGee at quarterback, he'll implement some aspects of the zone read.

Sherman, once A&M's offensive line coach under R.C. Slocum, will upgrade the Aggies up front but it might take a year or two with only two starters returning.

Also, look for Sherman to use the tight end more than his predecessor did. Also, don't be surprised if big Jorvorskie Lane moves to fullback and actually gets the ball when the Aggies reach the opponents' 1-yard line, which will come as a great relief to Aggies fans and to Lane.

Finally, count on Sherman to dump the 4-2-5 defense A&M used the past two years and run a 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Reggie Herring.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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