Friday mailbag: Kragthorpe angst

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Happy Friday, everybody. Hard to believe there are only about 36 hours (plus some late Cincinnati-Hawaii action) left in the regular season. Let's get to some e-mails:

Jason from Louisville writes: Brian, I understand that you believe that Steve Kragthorpe should get more time and should be retained for another few years. But as a Louisville fan, I have to ask: What makes you think that Kragthorpe will improve with time? I have seen nothing in the last two years that would suggest that Kragthorpe is remotely capable of being an even marginally competent BCS level coach. What do you believe that Kragthorpe has done to warrant being retained? To put it another way, if a new AD is hired at U of L this summer, what reason would he have to retain Kragthorpe for the foreseeable future? I don't see anything. This guy can't consistantly get his team to even show up and look remotely interested in playing.

Brian Bennett: It's hard to say many nice things about Kragthorpe this morning after that thrashing last night. I do believe, however, that great players make great coaches, and this Louisville team just doesn't have the talent and experience needed to win, especially at receiver and in the secondary. The Cardinals only brought 25 defensive players on the trip Thursday night because of attrition. Now, you can blame that on injuries, dismissals, recruiting or whatever, but the situation is bad and it's only going to get worse next year. I don't care what coach you bring in next year, he's not going to magically fix everything, so you might as well give Kragthorpe a chance to rebuild it. I don't really think motivation is an issue as you said, but I do wonder about some of the playcalling and game-management issues we've seen the past two years.

Chris from New Albany, Ind., writes: Earlier in the season, you gave the best/worst case scenarios for each team. I thought it would be interesting if I revisited at least the one for Louisville and see how you did ... wow, almost spot on. Wow, if it weren't for the win at Kansas State, you would be spot on for the worst case. When you made that prediction, did you think the injuries would be so devastating? Maybe a revisit to those best/worst case scenarios would be good for each team after the bowl season and give a best/worst case for each team's off season. Don't forget to add "Kragthorpe steps down, Tuberville gets hired" to the best case scenario. Also, as an alumnus of UofL, I can't help but hear and read all of the talk about donations lowering from other alumni based upon Jurich's decision to keep GregRobthorpe. I'm lowering my contribution by 90% this year... do you think any of the alumni's/donor's lack of giving will be effective in the next year or two? I'm not as upset with Kragthorpe on the W-L column as I am with 1) him not taking opportunities like last night to give Simms some playing time, 2) not sharing his plan to "right the ship" as he puts it. I've had tons of patience, hoping he will give us realistic hope and a clear direction of the program... I'm still waiting, getting more frustrated each day that he doesn't. What will it take to get him replaced?

Brian Bennett: Here is that Best Case/Worst Case post, if you want to check it out. Yeah, not too far off -- and I didn't even list losing to Syracuse as a worst-case possibility! Having seen this team up close in the spring and summer, I knew that a few injuries would be devastating because of the lack of depth. And that's what we saw, particularly with the loss of Scott Long and the secondary problems. It's just plain ugly, and no question this is a critical time for Louisville football, with stadium expansion set to begin this month. As for your other two questions, Kragthorpe has shown the past two years that he's not much interested in giving backup quarterbacks many reps, and judging from his recent comments about recruiting and other observations, I don't believe he feels confident in Matt Simms as the next quarterback. I do agree fully that Kragthorpe needs to lay out his plan for the future with fans. He tends to speak in overly general terms and not offer many specifics, and that's not going to cut it right now.

J.W. from Cincinnati writes: Do you think Brian Kelly will get much consideration for National Coach of the Year? I know the Big East doesn't get much love around the country, but it's still impressive to win your conference in your second year, playing five different QBs because of injury.

Brian Bennett: Kelly should be on everybody's short list, and I think most people recognize the terrific job he's done. But I don't think he has any chance of winning those awards. Nick Saban, Brady Hoke, Paul Johnson and Tim Brewster are among the leading national candidates as well.

Tony from Syracuse writes: I am getting downright scared. It is now December 5, and we don't have any clue who is going help The Orange(men) rise. Please give me a little insight and talk me off the ledge. If Daryl Gross blows this hire, it's curtains...and not those of the iron ilk.

Brian Bennett: I agree that it's a very important hire, which is why I don't mind that Gross is taking his time. There's no real rush, and from the reports we've seen, it seems as if Gross is talking to a lot of different people, as he should. Remember, too, that some coaches still have games this weekend, including Skip Holtz at East Carolina. I wouldn't get too worried yet. Hey, Alabama didn't hire Saban until early January. How'd that work out?

E from Iowa City writes: Donald Brown is not the leading rusher (at least not yet), so why are you describing him as such? He may have a great yard per game number, but this is not how the leading rusher is figured. If we're going to do it this way, we may as well label the back with the best yard per carry as the nation's leading rusher. Simply put, if Brown is not leading the nation in rushing yards, he is not the nation's leading rusher.

Brian Bennett: Brown is listed as the nation's leading rusher according to the official NCAA statistics, and per-game average is the only way that rushing leaders are categorized by the NCAA. So, yeah, I say he's the leader. The only way you can properly compare players who have a different number of games played is based on per-game stats. Brown needs 97 yards Saturday to have the most rushing yards in the country this season.

Jim from Louisville writes: Why no national love for Scott McKillop? His name is no where to be found on any award lists.

Brian Bennett: I think it's partly because the Big East gets overlooked -- I mean, Brown and Kenny Britt have been outright snubbed this awards season -- and because McKillop isn't the flashiest guy. He's also got some stiff competition with guys like USC's Rey Maualuga and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis. But, the fact that McKillop didn't make the list of finalists for the Butkus Award is outrageous. Are you kidding me? He'll have to settle for being Big East defensive player of the year.

Brian from South Wi
ndsor, Conn., writes:
Is there any thought of possibly moving or eliminating the International Bowl next year? With the new travel rules going into effect June of next year where you'll need a passport to get back into the U.S., it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a bowl there. By the time fans know for sure that their team is going there, they won't have enough time to get a passport, and most people aren't going to spend the money on a passport based on projections.

Brian Bennett: I haven't heard any talk about the bowl being moved or shut down. I've never been to the game, so I can't really comment on the experience. But if I'm a fan of any Big East team, I would get my passport ready just in case. It's not that expensive and hey, traveling abroad is good for the soul.

Nathan from Cincinnati writes: I'm wondering why UC is ranked behind Ball State and TCU. Do you have any ideas? Ball State has not defeated a single ranked team, while UC is 3-1 against ranked teams. As of today, only 3 teams Ball State has played have winning records! TCU is 1-2 against ranked teams, again behind UC. Of the teams TCU has beaten, only TWO have winning records today! First we get screwed in the preseason rankings, then the OU loss is held against us and not TCU and now even as Big East champs we are getting blocked out of a potential top-10 ranking.... do people hate Cincinnati, the Big East or both?

Brian Bennett: Trying to figure out why people voting a certain way in polls will hurt your brain. There's very rarely any logic there. I think TCU gets elevated because of the (deserved) respect for the Mountain West Conference this year. TCU played Utah really tough and got some mileage out of smacking BYU around. As for Ball State, they're a great story, and pollsters love undefeated teams. But you're right. The Cardinals have played absolutely nobody and have no good wins on their schedule. It will be interesting to see what happens if they do indeed play Rutgers in a bowl. I think Rutgers will be favored by at least 10 points.

Jim from Pittsburgh: Quick question for you. Looking at the state of the Big East after the ACC raid; would you rather have Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College or Louisville, USF and Cincinnati?

Brian Bennett: Interesting question, and it's one we might have to explore further later on. I think in their heart of hearts, the Big East would rather have the old trio than the new. BC just makes such geographic sense, and Virginia Tech and Miami have had so much success in the recent past. But the new threesome isn't bad at all, and Cincinnati and Louisville sure add to the basketball side of things.

Matt from State College, Penn., writes: I am a Penn State fan so you might be wondering why I'm talking to you. But I was really wondering why in the world the Pitt-PSU rivalry hasn't been renewed. They haven't played each other since 2000. We used to really hate each other. The other day I was actually rooting for Pitt to win. Shocking, right! I was just wondering if there was any talk about bringing back the rivalry because I'm ready to kick some Panther butt.

Brian Bennett: My understanding of the situation is that the rivalry effectively died when Penn State joined the Big Ten. Oh, sure, they still played a few times after that, but the Nittany Lions didn't want a tough in-state game on their schedule along with the Big 10 slate. My sense is that Pitt would like the game. I'm sure Pittsburgh fans who read this blog can let me know if I'm off on this.

Jeff from Harrisburg writes: If Pitt beats UConn and they get invited to the Sun Bowl, are they automatically "pitted" against Oregon St? Please tell me theres another team out there.

Brian Bennett: Well, it will be a Pac-10 team, and most every projection I've seen has Oregon State headed to El Paso. My question is, why is this a problem for you? Oregon State is a good team that nearly won the Pac-10 and beat USC, and if Jacquizz Rodgers is healthy, that's a heck of a nice running back duel with LeSean McCoy. I'd watch that game.