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Friday, Jan. 4 at noon ET

College Football and Basketball

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Eric Prisbell and Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 4, 2008; 12:00 PM

Eric Prisbell and Marc Carig cover college sports for the Washington Post and were online Friday, Jan. 4 at noon ET to take your questions about bowl games, coaching changes and the start of college basketball conference play.

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A transcript of the chat follows.

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washingtonpost.com: We're having some technical problems that we hope to resolve before the discussion starts. Thanks for your patience.

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Marc Carig: Good afternoon folks. Let's talk college sports. But first, congrats to Mike Huckabee for his success in Iowa. And I don't mean simply winning the caucus. Look close at the front page photo of him in the Post, and over Huckabee's right shoulder you will see a smiling Chuck Norris. CHUCK NORRIS! Now, that's impressive.

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Bowie, Md.: What's the early prognosis on Maryland football for next season? Mid-pack ACC and a minor bowl bid again? Ball, Lattimore and Henderson will be hard to replace; the Fridge's offensive playcalling, maybe not so hard. I assume Turner will open spring practice as the starter, ahead of Steffy?

Marc Carig: Let's start with a Terps football question. And FYI, before I forget, Prisbell has informed me that he will be on shortly. I think he's pregaming for the big International Bowl game involving his beloved Scarlet Knights.

But back to Terps football:

Next season could be quite interesting. Yes, Erin Henderson's departure is a big loss but he may not be as hard to replace as one would think. The coaches are high on Alex Wujciak, who will be back after suffering a season-ending knee injury during fall camp. Dave Philistin and Moises Fokou had nice seasons, though they flew under the radar because of Henderson's presence. You figure that Adrian Moten will improve next season simply because you assume that the staff by then should allow him to focus on one position. So, the Terps linebacker situation is actually not bad even sans Henderson.

Now, the running backs, that's a different story. Ball and Lattimore weren't explosive but they were dependable, especially in the red zone. Da'Rel Scott, the potential replacement at RB, showed flashes of his explosiveness in a couple of spots this season. But he also showed his propensity for nagging injuries. Durability is also an issue for the next guy in line, Morgan Green. So, tailback is to me the biggest offensive question heading into next season.

As for quarterback, you'd think Chris Turner would be the guy heading into camp. But I've been in College Park long enough to know that the QB situation is never a stable situation, so I wouldn't be surprised at anything. Keep in mind that incoming offensive coordinator James Franklin recruited Jordan Steffy out of high school. And also keep in mind that Josh Portis should be eligible again. Again, I wouldn't be shocked if Friedgen and Franklin open up the competition. Again.

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Maryland Basketball: In your last chat two weeks ago, you were asked a question about the struggles of the Maryland basketball team and basically said, in so many words, "Maryland is not an elite program and is never going to be, so just deal with it."

That is nonsense. Maryland is a recent national champion, has a fertile local recruiting area and a pro-caliber on-campus arena most schools wouldn't even dream of building. At worst, Maryland should be a perennial top 10 program.

The Terps' decline isn't due to the ebb and flow of college basketball. It rests solely on the shoulders of Gary Williams and his stubborn refusal to recruit. Rather than go after elite players, he settles for easy commits, marginal ACC players and JuCos, rather than put in the hard work.

The Terps' freshman class has six players and none of them are an impact player.

It incredibly frustrating for Maryland fans to read about a D.C.-area high school basketball tournament and how it was attended, for example, by Coach K, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Maryland assistant Chuck Driessel.

Gary got lazy after the national title game and the results are on the court.

Marc Carig: Great, great, great take. Though let's give Gary some respect here. You can call him lots of things. Lazy isn't one of them. Anyway, yes, I think lots of the issues have stemmed from issues in recruiting. Scan some Big East rosters and you'll find some recruiting misses. I imagine some of it is relative instability on Gary's coaching staff. That never helps. Also, he hasn't landed the impact freshmen that other programs have. Seems to me the Terps have lots of nice pieces but not that star/impact player to rally around -- again a function of recruiting. Again, a quick scan around the country will show you a bunch of freshmen who are capable of coming in and making an impact, and I'm talking necessarily about the Gordons and Lovs of the world...

Eric Prisbell: I'll go with a little different take. Yes, recruiting is the problem. No question. I don't see any truly high-profile players heading to College Park. I've sat and watched AAU events with Gary, so I know he is there. I don't know if he chooses not to go to some. Recruiting is complicated and it involves cultivating relationships at times with questionable characters. Gary is not eager to do that at times. He likes to coach and is very good at coaching. In my opinion, that reluctance at times has hurt Maryland in recruiting.

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Alexandria, Va.: Basketball question:

Where did the A-10 come from? I know it is still early, but how many A-10 teams do you see in the Tourney this year? Do you think UMass will make it?

Thanks

Eric Prisbell: I was on the A-10 bandwagon since the summer. The conference returned so many impact players. I see three or four teams making the tournament from the A-10. I did not have UMass in before the season because of they lost guys, but Ford's team has done very well. Dayton and Rhode Island are legit tourney teams. Obviously Xavier. I still like Saint Joe's to make a run in conference play.

Marc Carig: A little A-10 love I see. The conference has showed signs of getting good again. Lots of people knocked the league the last few years -- for good reason -- because its teams failed to get those signature wins. But there were lots of teams like Rhode Island, Dayton, Xavier and even GW, that weren't too far from reaching that point. Anyway, the league has at least three tournament prospects. And they will be helped come selection time by the recent restructuring of the league schedule to become more RPI-friendly especially for the upper-tier teams trying to slide into a tournament spot.

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Warrenton, Va.: Eric and Mark,

Have you noticed that college football games now take over 4-5 hours to complete. I think it is because the instant replay has been taken too far. I watched a game where they stopped play to review whether it should be 1st and 10 at the 25 or at the 28. Keep in mind the team would still have drive over 70 yards. Every replay adds 10-15 minutes to the game (5 minutes for the overweight ref to run the sidelines, 5 mins to review and then 5 mins to place the ball). Do you think the NCAA should encourage more "go with the first impression" view?

Eric Prisbell: good point on the length of the game. It's unreal. The Sugar Bowl game I covered was insane. The game was so slow, I could have gone to Jokimo's in the third quarter and been back for the start of the 4th.

I like instant replay, but there is no reason for a seven-minute replay in a blowout game, like the replay they had in the Sugar Bowl.

Marc Carig: As somebody who was forced to watch ACC football all season, I have gotten used to the marathon sessions. I like the replay rule as is. But I think some of what you are reacting to are these bowl games, which inherently take forever to play because of all the surrounding nonsense [extended halftime, media time outs, etc.]

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NW, DC: Does the NCAA need anymore proof they need a playoff? So far the most impressive teams have been USC, Missouri and WVU. All were shunned or relegated to lesser games, but they have shown they could play. Looking LSU and Ohio state they both would have problems with these teams.

Eric Prisbell: Unfortunately, a playoff is not coming anytime soon. But the plus-one model might be adopted in a few years. Having one extra game after all this might help. Would be nice to see Georgia play a really good team next week. Georgia might be No. 1 preseason next year.

Marc Carig: Yeah, no matter what happens, there will no playoff in my lifetime. The reality: The question of whether there should be a playoff is not one that will be decided by the actual competition itself. It is about the big bucks, and who controls it. The people tied into the bowl system have the control of all that money. Why in the world would they do anything that would take that control away? See, this has nothing to do with the actual football and everything to do with the big bucks.

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Arlington, Va.: Man, I was really impressed with Todd Reesing -- put up reasonable numbers against a tough, tough defense, and seemed to have learned a ton from the first half of the Missouri game. Also apparently has attended Emmitt Smith's "Getting Hit Without Getting Hurt" seminar. Some questions: Did Aqib Talib go league with that pick-six? Did offensive coordinator Ed Wariner score a head coaching gig in his first season? Will the Big XII QB wars be one of if not the biggest storyline going into next season?

Marc Carig: I got the feeling Talib wrote his ticket earlier this season, but the Prime Time impersonation didn't hurt. Moose Johnston compared Reesing to Doug Flutie during the broadcast last night, I don't disagree. He's got of intangibles that make up for the fact that he's a few inches away from doubling as an oompa loompa.

Eric Prisbell: I'll jump on the last question.

Yes, the QB battle in the Big 12 will be awesome. There are a number of great QBs back, including Bradford, Reesing, Daniel. On and on. Missouri should be better than the Tigers were this season. I would have put OU No. 1 in the nation preseason but WVU blasted them in the Fiesta.

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Herndon, Va.: Gurus: As a Big-12 fan (even though my Huskers were slightly under par in football this year), I was glad to see KU get a win last night. Biggest surprise to me -- KU at least held even in special teams play, even though that one VT punt return was a thing of beauty. The field goal KU blocked was a BIG momentum changer.

Eric Prisbell: I was surprised to see Kansas win the game. Kansas had played a softer schedule than most, and I liked the way Tech finished the year. But I don't underestimate Reesing. I met the guy out in Lawrence and he is legit.

Marc Carig: Yeah, KU special teams outplaying Tech special teams. That was strange. But give it up to the Jayhawks. They aren't the most talented team out there, but it's hard to argue that they haven't maximized what they do have.

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Huh?: So how do mediocrities like Rutgers and Tulsa wind up playing in bowl games in the middle of the BCS schedule?

Weren't there enough open dates in December for this junk?

Eric Prisbell: I agree. Don't put these games on now. Put them in December. January games should be reserved for the teams that earned to play this late in the season. Rutgers should not be playing a few days after Georgia and USC finished their seasons.

Marc Carig: Perhaps the Canadian calendar is like a week off.... I don't know. That's my best guess.

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WVU Football: So who is right, West Virginia for hiring longtime assistant Bill Stewart directly following their great win over Oklahoma.

Or

The booster who unfairly trashed Stewart and felt WVU should have a big-name coach?

Eric Prisbell: neither, really.

But WV made a rather quick decision, and it remains to be seen whether it was the right call for the long term.

Marc Carig: Maybe after a couple of years of the Rich Rod nonsense, the athletic department at WVU wanted to go with a less high profile guy, which has its benefits too, namely avoiding all the worries about investing a bunch of money in a guy who is liable to walk at any second. we'll see.

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Why I hate FOX airing the BCS: Oh let me count the ways. They don't air a single game all season network-wise and so the commentators, sideline reporting and halftime reporting is always patchwork. Since these guys are not familiar with the college game, they become stat obsessed. During the Oklahoma-West Virginia game, one of them was actually cheering for the Sooners several times. Horrible camera work -- I especially enjoyed the first Kansas field goal last night where the camera just veered up to the sky before the kick was through. Jeanne Zelasko. Seriously, I wish baseball split their AL and NL games onto two networks so I can avoid watching her, she's loud, clueless, has big hair, and is loud. I get used to ABC and CBS airing the games and all of the sudden, FOX gets the most important games of the year? That makes about as much since as TBS showing playoff baseball games...oh, never mind.

Marc Carig: Hahaha. Dude, stop reading my mind!!! True story: As I watched the OB last night, my ears started bleeding. The presence of Chris Rose made the broadcast feel like "The Best Damn Bowl Game." And that's not a compliment. The Moose wasn't bad. But the same can't be said about play-by-play man Kenny Albert. The best moment was when Albert exclaimed "and the ball comes looses" and Johnston a few seconds later, and very kindly may I add, responded with "that was his helmet." Anyway, about midway through the second quarter I was compelled to instant message the great Patrick Stevens the following: "I need to listen to Kenny Albert about as much as I need a screwdriver in my ear."

Eric Prisbell: Marc, great reference of Patrick Stevens.

I did not watch a second of the Orange Bowl, so let me use this time to give a brief but strong summary of some of my off-field experiences here:

Jokimo's obviously great food. Port O Call has the best burger I have ever eaten. Dick and Jenny's last night was fantastic.

Been here a week. Bourbon has been just a little bit too out of hand at times.

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Wait, I figured it out:"Rutgers vs. whoever" and "Tulsa vs. whoever" are in the football NIT!

Marc Carig: Ha! The football NIT. I like it!

Eric Prisbell: The International Bowl should not be played in Jan. that much I know.

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Long(er) college games: have more to do with the network that anything else. The FOX (BCS)games are so long due to the longer and more often commercials, not to mention the longer halftime. Much of the same can be said for NBC and the Notre Dame games. The BC/ND game lasted over 4.5 hours, and the game was not that close.

ESPN/ABC does a much better job of managing the length of games vs. the other networks.

Marc Carig: Amen to that.

Eric Prisbell: There seemed like more commercials than plays in the Sugar Bowl. Hopefully the title game is not as bad, but I think it might be worse. Remember, Colt only attempted 38 passes and the game lasted 4-plus hours.

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Fairfax, Va.: Mason started off 6-1, with great wins over Dayton, Kansas St., and South Carolina, but after pummeling Drexel by almost 50 they've gone 3-3, with a bad loss on Wednesday to Georgia St. I realize Jordan Carter has been out with the bad ankle, but he played during losses to ECU and Kent St. What's gone wrong of late, and do you still see Mason as a top team this year in the CAA?

Marc Carig: Sounds like a classic case of a team hitting a peak way too early. Nobody should beat a good league rival by 50 that early in the season. But I like this Mason team. I like the mix of players. I figure they'll be fine once league play gets rolling.

Eric Prisbell: I would not judge the season by the Drexel game. I also would not judge it by the recent struggles alone. I still think the CAA will come down to VCU-Mason, but don't expect the winner to make a Final Four run. Maybe only one local team in the NCAAs: G-town.

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Gainesville, Fla.: Can we put to rest the notion that any Big-10 team is in the same league as the SEC? Had the refs called a fair game, Florida would have beat Michigan by 20. Will LSU get the same shabby treatment from the refs?

Marc Carig: It depends. Are ACC refs calling the national title game?

Eric Prisbell: I'm not addressing the refs, because I still think speed is a big factor in the game. It was last season when Florida routed OSU and it may be again. Both teams have athletes, but LSU has more overall speed.

OSU, however, has a better mentality heading into this game. You can tell from talking to some of the players.

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In Gary's Defense?: Have any recent champs (except for 'Cuse) won with these hotshot one-and-done freshmen? Maybe Gary's counting on his ability to coach 'em up for three or four years and win with less-highly-touted juniors and seniors. It's worked for Donovan and Calhoun.

Marc Carig: Good point. But I don't think the one-and-done freshmen are the answer at Maryland. Again, I think it's about landing freshmen who can at least make some kind of an impact. Part of the Terps problem this year is that of the six freshmen on the roster, none of them are the type who can come in and make a big contribution right away, especially when it comes to scoring, which has also been a major problem.

Eric Prisbell: I think you win the national title with a few NBA-quality juniors who, for whatever reason, have chosen to stay in school. That's why Kansas and NC are both favorites. The other way you have a chance is with an overwhelming freshman, like an Eric Gordon.

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Boston: How have the TV ratings been for all the bowls? Do you get the sense that the generic sportsfan's interest in the bowls has decreased in recent years? If so, have the bowls been devalued by the BCS controversy highlighting how meaningless all the bowls are except for the national championship?

Marc Carig: All those points make sense. And perhaps it is true that the average sports fan is inundated with meaningless bowl games, and thus not that interested. But, it seems that the number of these bowl games does nothing but keep growing! Tells me SOMEBODY is watching/going to these things. At the very least, it tells me that somebody is making a buck off these things. So long as it stays that way, don't expect the number of bowl games to decrease. If anything, expect more of them! (Which, I agree, is kind of a sad thing.)

Eric Prisbell: Sometimes it's hard to predict which games are worth watching. The Boise-OU game last year got a very low rating. few thought it would be good. I expect LSU-OU ratings to be very high because of the teams that will be playing.

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Washington, D.C.: The so-called spread offense seems to have been exposed in some respects this weekend. I am not a fan of Florida, but to my surprise Michigan demolished them. It really showed the limits of the offense and Tebow. Kansas offense was not necessarily great either, but they won. WVU did play exceptionally well, but Pat White is the apparent difference. The Arkansas version was just pathetic. Nonetheless, the offense is not dynamic. I see it's the new hot thing, and copy cats abound. However, what is the glamour associated with the offense when it really seems to show limited coaching ability? it brings putting the ball in your best player's hands to a new level. Florida's offense is all about get Harvin the ball and let him make a play. When he needs to rest they get No. 5 the ball. How does Tebow learn how to throw outs, seam routes and develop as a QB in this system? When they needed to run actual pass plays and routes they could not do it. To me, it really showed how the players will not grow in these systems. Harvin is being groomed for being a punt returner more than a pro WR!

In many cases it's really an wishbone option from the shotgun. they even do it from 3 and 4 WR sets.

Marc Carig: I think you answered your own question: "it brings putting the ball in your best player's hands to a new level." But I do agree somewhat in that the spread isn't the end all. And you bring up some of its limitations. But there's no disputing this: The spread offense can turn things around quickly because landing the personnel required to run it well isn't that difficult. I think it was Craig James who told me earlier this season that if he had to take a college football program and start from scratch, he'd run the spread for that reason. I think that explains plenty of its appeal. Out curiosity, what kind of offense do you prefer? Are you a West Coast guy? Old-school option?

Eric Prisbell: I think the glamour is that it is fun to watch, fun to play in and hard to defend. More and more teams will turn to it.

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Eric Prisbell: Thanks for all the questions, everyone. Sorry I was a little late. We'll be back next week to start talking about basketball season. Take care.

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Marc Carig: So good to chat with everyone again. Here's to a watchable national championship game...

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