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November 30, 2007

College football season hitting home stretch

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. This week he heads to Texas to take in the Aggies and the Longhorns.
Previous mailbags
Nov. 23: Something to prove?
Nov. 16: What's the difference
Nov. 9: Ducks without Dixon
Nov. 2: Looking ahead

The optimism of August always gives way to the uncertainty of December, when what may have seemed like preseason destiny turns into postseason discussions.

For example, Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden was viewed as the probable Heisman Trophy recipient in the summer, but as winter looms the degree of that probability has declined.

The boasts of summer now are replaced by the questions of fall.

What bowl game will a team reach, what opponent will that team play and why isn't that team headed for a more prestigious bowl game than an opponent it defeated? We also wonder if an upstart program would be given due credit if it wins a national championship.

Who will be the next coach at (insert school here)? Which star juniors will return for their senior seasons?

It's all in the mailbag.

Let's talk Heisman

What are Darren McFadden's chances of winning the Heisman?

Josh in Rison, Ark.

He probably has about a 45 percent chance, although this season's vote might be as close as the 2001 vote, when Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch beat Florida quarterback Rex Grossman by a mere 62 points.

Heismanpundit.com polls eight well-known voters, and its last survey revealed that five of the voters were casting their first-place votes for Florida QB Tim Tebow and three were voting for McFadden.

I'm one of the five voting for Tebow.

McFadden arguably is the best pro prospect in college football this season, but that doesn't and shouldn't factor in to the Heisman voting.

In my opinion, Tebow has had the most outstanding season this year. He's accounted for 51 touchdowns and is the first player to rush and pass for more than 20 touchdowns in a season.

McFadden has had a stellar season, and his 206-yard, three-touchdown performance against LSU greatly enhanced his candidacy. But he had some pedestrian games this season, while Tebow hasn't had a bad one.

Some argue that most of Tebow's rushing touchdowns are from 5 yards or less, but nine of McFadden's 15 touchdowns runs also are from that distance.

Furthermore, Tebow has played against a better schedule.

That's why I'm voting for Tebow. McFadden is deserving of a Heisman vote, but I think Tebow is even more deserving.

Disputed champion?

All over the media, I keep hearing that Missouri and West Virginia do not deserve to be in the national championship game while Ohio State (which lost to a team Missouri beat) should be in. My question: Do you believe if either one of those teams win the national championship that it will get the respect they deserve?

Chris in Columbia

The champion, whoever it is, will get my respect.

So some people might disparage those teams. So what? There are those me included who don't think BYU deserved the 1985 national championship or that Colorado deserved the 1990 championship. But those teams still are remembered as national champions.

If I'm a Missouri fan and the Tigers win it all, I'd celebrate all year long. And if anyone questioned whether the Tigers deserved the championship, my response would be, "If it was so easy, why didn't your team win?"

I'd say the same thing as a West Virginia fan. In fact, if West Virginia wins the national championship, Mountaineers fans should save the ashes of their torched couches and put them in an urn over the fire place.

Travel plans

What bowls will Arkansas possibly play in this year and who would be their opponent?

-Gerald in Branson, Mo.

The bet here is the Razorbacks are headed to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, which should delight most Arkansas fans.

That's a relatively easy trip for Arkansans, and there are a ton of Arkansas fans in Dallas and not just those who own the Cowboys. Also, Dallas is a fun place, especially at New Year's.

The opponent will depend on how the Big 12 Championship Game plays out. If Missouri wins, then Oklahoma makes sense as the Big 12 representative in the Cotton Bowl. If Missouri loses, it likely would be Kansas.

Difficult decisions

If Ohio State does play in the national-championship game, will that affect the decisions of James Laurinaitis, Vernon Gholston and Malcolm Jenkins on whether to return for their senior seasons?

Thomas in Fayetteville, Ohio

Only they know that, of course. But there is speculation that all might be willing to return next season. If that is the case, Ohio State definitely will enter next season ranked in the top five and be a serious national-championship contender.

But all three project to be first round choices if they come out, and that's a lot of money to pass up.

Hey, school spirit is one thing. Getting set for life is another.

Besides, even if they do pass up NFL riches and come back next year, it wouldn't guarantee a championship. Just ask Michigan's Jake Long, Mike Hart and Chad Henne.

Head Husker hunting

Who do you think will be Nebraska's next head coach?

Josh in Nebraska

We keep hearing Turner Gill and Bo Pelini, and Tom Osborne - who apparently will make the decision - was the best man at Gill's wedding.

Gill has done a nice job as coach at Buffalo, which managed five wins this year its most as a Division I team.

Pelini, the defensive coordinator at LSU, would seem the right choice - if not an obvious one.

Nebraska has a lot of problems, but repairing its once-proud defense has to be the No. 1 priority. The Huskers allowed 455 points this season to rank 113th in the nation in scoring defense.

In five seasons as a college defensive coordinator, Pelini's defenses never have ranked lower than 22nd overall (this year) or allowed more than 241 points (this year).

In fact, other than this season, every defense coached by Pelini LSU in'05 and '06, Oklahoma in '04 and Nebraska in '03 ranked fourth or better in the nation in scoring defense.

Projection question

Why is Georgia predicted to get to a BCS bowl ahead of Tennessee when it lost to Tennessee and didn't even win its division?

Johnny from parts unknown

Georgia did lose to Tennessee, but the Bulldogs have won six in a row since and are ranked fourth in the BCS standings with a 10-2 record.

Tennessee is 9-3.

BCS rules dictate that a team in the top four in the final standings is guaranteed a BCS bid.

The Vols will play in the Sugar Bowl if they beat LSU in the SEC Championship Game. If not, look for them in the Outback Bowl, against Wisconsin.

Rose hopes

Where do you think Georgia will end up, bowl-wise? I would love to see them play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Do you think that is possible?

Michael in Camden

Don't book any flights in Los Angeles. The Rose Bowl wants a traditional Big Ten/Pac-10 matchup, so Ohio State and USC (if the Trojans beat UCLA this week) is the bowl's preferred game.

Ohio State could end up in the national championship game if Oklahoma beats No. 1 Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game. If that happens expect the Rose Bowl committee to extend its invitation to 9-3 Illinois, which beat Ohio State, to keep the Big Ten/Pac-10 matchup.

Count on Georgia to land in the Orange Bowl to face the ACC champion either Virginia Tech or Boston College.

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com. Click hereTo send him a question or commentfor his Friday Mailbag.

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