March mailbag madness!
Greg from Chicago writes: Question 1: Who is your dark horse for the Heisman in the Big East besides Geno Smith? My assumptions would be someone like Zach Collaros or Ray Graham? Question 2: If South Florida's B.J. Daniels has the same consistency this year as he did in the Meineke Car Care Bowl vs. Clemson, do you think he will be on the Heisman Radar? I think if he can pull off a win at Notre Dame opening weekend, one similar to the win at Florida State two seasons ago, he could be up for some national discussion.
Brian Bennett: First, let's state the obvious: It will be exceedingly difficult for a Big East player to win the Heisman Trophy. He would not only have to have a record-shattering year, but his team would likely have to go undefeated or suffer just one loss, while other candidates fail to impress. Smith has the best chance because of the offense he will be in and the team surrounding him. Collaros could put up monstrous numbers; I just don't think Cincinnati will win enough games. Same for Ray Graham and Pitt. Daniels is an interesting thought because of his ability to make plays both as a runner and a passer. He needs to be a whole heck of a lot more consistent to even be considered for Big East first-team honors, let alone the Heisman.
Chris from Orlando writes: The Big 12 has indicated for a while now that it has no interest in TCU (with good reason), so it appears that the Horned Frogs will likely stay with the BE for a while. Something occurred to me while reading your mailblog on Wednesday however: what if the SEC came calling? We know that they at least had a passing interest in Texas A&M, so they're clearly interested in the Texas markets. If TCU becomes a major player in the Big East and the national picture, do you think the SEC might show some interest in them 3-4 years down the line?
Brian Bennett: I don't see TCU fitting in with the mostly large, state schools with enormous fan bases in the SEC. TCU's closest comparable in that conference would be Vanderbilt. So unless the SEC saw fit to raise its academic profile with another private school, I'd say little chance.
Ron P. from Southern Md. writes: Huge fan of yours and have been reading your Blogs for quite sometime. It does bother me a tad bit (maybe I am biased), but I think Bruce Irvin was definitely a top 10 player last year in the Big East. He is probably a top 5 player this year in the Big East.
Brian Bennett: I've answered this question before, but since it has come up a lot in the mailbag, here it goes again: Irvin is a spectacular pass-rusher, but he was basically only a specialist last year. He did not start and often only came in on third downs. I preferred more complete players for my Top 25 list, and hopefully Irvin will become that this season. If so, the sky's the limit for him.
Dave from Pittsburgh writes: If you're going to quote The National, you have to rank all of the albums. For other good music mentioning Ohio, Sun Kil Moon is pretty cool.
Brian Bennett: Fair enough. 1) Boxer. 2) High Violet. 3) Alligator. 4) Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. The debut album and the EPs all tie for fifth. Lead singer Matt Berninger attended Cincinnati, by the way. Wonder if he's a Bearcats fan.
Keith from Raleigh, N.C., writes: Playing games off campus in pro stadiums seems to be an issue that some people like and others hate. Personally, I love it but I can see why some people have issues with it. Out of all the Big East teams that play in NFL stadiums which one has the best game-day atmosphere? What makes them the best and what can schools and fans do to make the pro stadiums feel more like home?
Brian Bennett: South Florida and Pittsburgh are the only two schools that play all their home games at NFL stadiums, though Cincinnati will do more of that this year at Paul Brown Stadium. I've yet to see the Bearcats play at Paul Brown, so I'll reserve judgment on that. South Florida has a good, rowdy atmosphere for big night games, while Pitt still gives off the air of a college team in a pro park. Both struggle to fill the place. The schools have done about all they can as far as signage and other touches to make it feel like a campus environment. The biggest thing, in my opinion, is to just sell the place out and be loud. That's really all it takes to create a great home-field advantage.