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January 11, 2010
Monday with Mike: Big Ten, SEC shine in bowls
Before we finish talking about the 2009 season, let's take one final look at the bowls and which leagues truly stood out.
Looking at a league's postseason won-lost record can tell you some things, but it's not necessarily a good gauge unless you look more closely at the wins. And that's what we're going to do.
We're defining a "good" postseason win as one over a team that was above .500 in its Big Six league.
The pressure is on at USC
Carroll had an unreal run with the Trojans from 2001-2009, but that came on the heels of an 11-season stretch (1990-2000) that saw USC go to one major bowl (the Rose) and stay at home during the postseason five times.
The coach matters -- a lot.
Look at Alabama, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas -- every major program. The wrong coach means mediocrity or worse, so USC's hire is vital to keep things rolling along.
This is akin to what USC officials faced when John McKay left USC after the 1975 season to take over as coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Officials promoted John Robinson and the train kept a-rollin'. But when Robinson left after the 1982 season, USC went through four coaches (including a return engagement by Robinson) before hiring Carroll in 2001. Ask any USC fan about the Ted Tollner or Paul Hackett years if you want to know how important it is to hire the right guy.
One of those SEC West players made a good decision -- and it wasn't Snead.
Snead went into the season as a dark-horse Heisman contender, but he struggled the whole season, finishing with 20 touchdown passes but also 20 interceptions. Snead has some physical tools, but his mechanics and decision-making are a mess.
After the season -- and before Snead made his decision -- Rebels coach Houston Nutt said Ole Miss' quarterback job would be opened for spring ball, and perhaps that's why Snead decided to turn pro. But it's obvious from Snead's performance this season that he has a lot of work to do before he becomes even an adequate NFL quarterback.
As for Mallett, he threw for 3,624 yards, with 30 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in his first season as a full-time starter. But when you look at his performances against "good" defenses, you realize Mallett made a wise decision to return.
Mallett completed 55.8 percent of his attempts, which was 1 percentage point better than Snead but roughly the same as South Carolina's Stephen Garcia and Georgia's Joe Cox. Against the four best defenses he played -- Alabama, Florida, LSU and Ole Miss, all in the top 20 nationally in pass efficiency defense -- he completed 39.3 percent of his passes, with four TDs and two picks. Fourteen of his 30 TD passes came in non-conference games, and 10 more came against Georgia and Mississippi State, which were 10th and 11th, respectively, in the SEC in pass-efficiency defense.
With another season under Bobby Petrino, Mallett should be able to increase his completion percentage to 61 or 62 and his TD total to the high 30s, all the while keeping his interception total low.