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Wednesday, September 18
 
The Big 12 and Big Ten are struggling

By Lee Corso
Special to ESPN.com

Is it just me, or is all the talk about the Big 12 just that: talk? Colorado has shown it is mediocre at best, Nebraska has not looked good, and Oklahoma has not shown an offense good enough to make it an elite team.
Brad Taphorn, Waverly, Iowa

Absolutely right! What happened was that all the talk about the Big 12 was based on the last couple of seasons and the teams are just not playing as well as they have in recent seasons. All the teams you mentioned have problems and are not living up to the hype.

Editor's Note
Lee Corso and the rest of the GameDay crew can't get to every campus this season, so ESPN.com has given fans another option: It's called "Lee-Mail." Lee has an opinion on just about anything related to college football. So, go ahead and send him a question. He'll answer questions each Wednesday during the season in "Lee-Mail."

Coach, all I keep hearing about in the ACC is Chris Rix. Why does a quarterback with numbers like N.C. State's Philip Rivers get darkhorse status when talking about the Heisman? Nothing against Rix, but if Rivers were wearing a Florida State jersey he would be a leading candidate for the Heisman. Am I missing something?
Stewart Woodley, Greenville, N.C.

I couldn't agree more. Philip Rivers deserves a lot of national recognition but he hasn't gotten it because the Wolfpack hasn't played any tough teams yet. They go to Texas Tech this weekend and Rivers goes against Kliff Kingsbury, and if Rivers has a big game you can be sure he'll get some national publicity. And I think Rivers is as good as, if not better than, Chris Rix.

Kansas State is 3-0 in a typically easy non-conference schedule and USC is traveling to Manhattan as one of the hottest teams around. Do the 'Cats have the talent and poise to produce the upset?
Darren Nelson, Cedar Falls, Iowa

We'll see on Saturday. That's why they play the games!

Coach, Chris Fowler said after the Washington State-Ohio State game that it was a classic case of Big 10 power over Pac-10 finesse. There may be some truth that, but there may also be some truth to the fact that the Big Ten lacks the passing games and the speed and talent of the the Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC. Aside from the OSU win and Michigan beating Washington this doesn't look like a banner year for Big Ten. What's happened to the conference?
Mike William, Eugene, Ore.

The Big Ten is lacking in quarterbacks and there is not a lot of good skill people with speed, and that is what keeps it from being the best conference in all of football. The wins the Big Ten had last week were not against teams you would call national powers (Illinois over Arkansas State, Purdue over Western Michigan, Wisconsin over Northern Illinois).

Hey Coach, how do you feel about the halo infraction penalty on punts being ten yards this year? I know it is supposed to protect the punt returner but it also seems to give him an edge. Returners are getting good runs because the defenders seem to be so worried about the halo that they are not paying attaching to the returner or the ball. If I were coaching I would just try to punt it deep out of bounds.
Tony Chrismont, Washington, N.C.

The first thing to understand is that the protection of the player is what's most important. And secondly, that rule is in there to add some excitement to the game. It's just boring to see a team punt the ball and have the returner fair-catch the ball all the time. The problem with just wanting to punt it deep and out of bounds every time is that most punters can't do that. Most guys shank and pull their kicks when they try that, so you have to get a guy who punts the ball high and gets hang time.

I know Auburn isn't a top 10 team, but what I don't understand is how they could not be a top 25 team. They lost to now-No. 11 USC, which destroyed a then-top 20 Colorado last week. The Tigers also made a case by winning the next two games. What do they have to do?
Michael Hatway, Montgomery, Ala.

The first thing they have to do is beat Mississippi State this week. They beat two cupcakes in Western Carolina and Vanderbilt. Beat good football teams and then they'll get some respect.

Craig Bohl
Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl isn't working with the same tools as in years past.
Lee, as a Husker fan I am worried. In Nebraska's last three big games they have faced three different types of offenses and were killed by all three. Do they just not have the dominant players any more or is there a problem with Craig Bohl's scheme.
Dan, Nebraska

I don't think Craig Bohl is the problem. I've watched the Cornhuskers and they are fundamentally sound, but they just don't have the same players they used to. Nebraska was spoiled by the old scholarship rules that allowed it to stockpile good players, but now they don't have all the great players deep on the roster. This is the the same thing that happened at Penn State in the last two years, but the Nittany Lions have recovered.

Lee, how tough will it be for Notre Dame to go into East Lansing and get a win against Michigan State?
Joe Wagner, Laporte, Ind.

Michigan State has won five straight in the series so the Spartans have the psychological advantage, but they didn't look very good last week against California. If MSU can rally, get its game face on and play with some enthusiasm the Spartans should win this game because they have great talent.

Mr. Corso, after seeing John Navarre's mental errors against Notre Dame many Michigan supporters were calling for him to be pulled in favor of Spencer Brinton or Jermaine Gonzales. But after their performances in the 2002 Citrus Bowl, I don't think either would be a decent replacement. Is there any hope?
Michael Long, North Miami, Fla.

Navarre's problem is that he is hot and cold, and I think the more he plays this year the better he will get. He looked very good on the last two drives in the win over Washington, so have patience this early in the season. In my opinion Navarre is the right quarterback for Michigan and the Wolverines should stick with him because he will get better.

My question is about the "under the radar" Arkansas Razorbacks. This team has manhandled two good mid- majors at home (Boise State, South Florida), and given their dominance in those games how do you see the rest of their schedule shaking out?
Scott Krug, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Some people think Arkansas is the cream of the crop in the SEC West and I think the Razorbacks are a pretty good team. But when you beat Boise State and South Florida a lot of people around the country are going to say "So what?". Once they play some good teams, in the non-conference schedule or the SEC, then we'll know about the Hogs.

How do you see the Virginia Tech-Texas A&M matchup this weekend at Kyle Field? Do you think that VT can put together enough of a passing attack to put some points up against the Aggie defense?
Greg, Washington, D.C.

I think this game is going to be decided in the kicking game and that gives the Hokies a tremendous advantage. Virginia Tech is going to try and run the ball but you're right in saying that Tech will have to throw the ball some to keep the defense off-balance or the Hokies are not going to score much. But on the other side, the A&M offense won't score a lot against Tech, either. The Aggies have great success in College Station and they have a great stadium and great fans, so this game is a tossup right now and I don't know who is going to win.

Lee Corso is an analyst for ESPN College GameDay. His "Lee-Mail" column appears every Wednesday.







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