Chat with Mark Schlabach
Schlabach helped choose ESPN.com choose who or what represents each Division I program in the "Face of the Program" feature, which debuted this week.
Schlabach joined ESPN.com in July 2006 as a college football and basketball columnist. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Mark spent nine years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution covering Georgia and the SEC, as well as the NFL and NASCAR. Before joining ESPN, Schlabach spent two years at the Washington Post covering college football and basketball, and boxing.
Send your questions now and join Schlabach in The Show at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Mark Schlabach (2:01 PM)
OK, hope everybody is having a great summer. Believe it or not, only a few more weeks before we unoffically kick off the 2008 season with conference media days. Preseason practice is right around the corner. Here we go....
Littlejohn: Manhattan, KS
Please name the most under-rated team going into this season. Thank you.
Mark Schlabach (2:02 PM)
Off the top of my head, Texas Tech really has a chance to do big things, although a lot of people are putting them in preseason polls. Same for Pittsburgh, which I think could really improve with Billy Stull coming back at QB. Wake Forest is always under the radar, and I think they're good enough to win the ACC again. North Carolina could get to a bowl game. How about Notre Dame? Played a lot of freshmen last year and could play its way into a bowl game after last year's disaster. Oregon State is another team that I think could surprise some people.
Lou (South Bend)
Mark since ND extended their contract with NBC, will this dose the talks of ND not being relevant? If they are not, then why did NBC sign them on for five more years? Maybe the see a Fighting Irish National Championship on the horizon?
Mark Schlabach (2:03 PM)
As long as Notre Dame has the TV contract, it's going to be relevant because the Irish will be on TV every Saturday. Again, I think Charlie Weis will probably get his team to a bowl game, could possibly even crack the top 25 at season's end. He's recruited well; now he has to transform that talent into some victories.
Carrie, Washington, DC
How do you think Dave Clawson will affect Tenneessee's offensive game?
Mark Schlabach (2:05 PM)
It's going to be pretty interesting. I talked with a UT assistant a couple of weeks ago and he thinks they'll be very multiple. They'll let Crompton run a little bit. The offensive line should be pretty good. Most of the receivers coming back. Tailbacks are pretty good. I think Tennessee is a real sleeper in the SEC East. Everybody is talking about Florida and Georgia, but don't discount the Vols. That secondary is going to be unbelievable.
Steve (Syracuse, NY)
Any chance that SU fires Greg Robinson before the season ends? I never thought I would say htis, but I miss coach P!!!
Mark Schlabach (2:05 PM)
It might happen at the end of the season. I don't see Syracuse getting back to a bowl game in 2008. In Robinson's defense, they've had some bad injuries and lost a couple of key guys because of other problems. It just hasn't worked out so far.
How many wins do you think Florida State will have this year
Mark Schlabach (2:06 PM)
I think 8-4 would be a great season for FSU. I still think they're a little short on skill players, but hopefully things will turn around for Bobby Bowden. I hate to see him go out like this...
Kevin (Durham, NC)
I know this question really doesn't have too much to do about College Football, but who do you see being Notre Dame's Athletic Director?
Mark Schlabach (2:07 PM)
Great question, and I don't know the answer. It's still a coveted job, especially with the new TV contract in place. I'm sure there are a lot of guys lining up for the position.
What is the latest out of Ann Arbor regarding the Qb situation. Is there a front runner yet?
Mark Schlabach (2:08 PM)
I think it's still status quo from the spring. Steven Threet, the Georgia Tech transfer, had the edge coming out of spring camp. I'd expect him to win the job.
Mark Schlabach (2:09 PM)
I'd be stunned if it's not Lee. He doesn't have to be spectacular for LSU to contend for an SEC title. Just can't make mistakes and needs to manage the offense.
Chris (Los Angeles)
Where do you see the Trojans stumbling this year? Seems like they always have one "Stanford" game.
Mark Schlabach (2:09 PM)
How about Ohio State? That's going to be a huge game. At Oregon State could also be a stumbling block.
Big Twelve South looks interesting this year. Who takes it?
Mark Schlabach (2:11 PM)
I think it's still Oklahoma, as long as the secondary holds up OK. They have a lot of young guys back there playing in a QB-heavy league. But Bradford should be spectacular again and both lines are very, very good. Texas Tech is my sleeper. We'll see if the Red Raider defense is as good as advertised. Texas can contend for a BCS bowl game, too, as long as the Longhorns find a tailback. Really like the hiring of Will Muschamp on defense.
Hey Mark. Who do you think is the best safety in college football and why?
Mark Schlabach (2:12 PM)
William Moore from Missouri is very good. So is Nic Harris at Oklahoma, Taylor Mays at USC, Patrick Chung at Oregon, Courtney Greene at Rutgers. But I love Eric Berry at Tennessee. Great athlete with unbelievable instincts. The Vols might use him on offense some, too. I think he's the next superstar.
Kent (South Bend, IN)
Who you got in the SEC champsion this year?
Mark Schlabach (2:13 PM)
I'm going with the UGA-Florida winner in Jacksonville. But I think Auburn might be a big surprise and could knock off Georgia late. We'll see. It should be a great race. I think Georgia is the favorite going into the season.
Out of all the hearlded freshmen, who do you see making an immediate impact for Notre Dame this season?
Mark Schlabach (2:15 PM)
Some big weapons on offense -- WR Michael Floyd and TE Kyle Rudolph might help. But they need help on defense, so DT Sean Cwynar or DE Ethan Johnson, or one of the linebackers, could help right away. It's hard for freshmen to make an impact, but the Irish need depth.
Will Georgia lose a couple early again and then start winning late when their season is already over? Seems like it happens every year.
Mark Schlabach (2:16 PM)
They always seem to slip against South Carolina, but I'm not sure how talented the Gamecocks are going to be without a proven QB. Back-to-back road games against South Carolina and Arizona State looks difficult on paper, but I think Georgia should be favored pretty heavily in both games. The real tests come later, with Tennessee and Alabama going to Athens and playing LSU and Florida in back-to-back games. It looks hard on paper, but I think they're all winable games. We'll see what happens.
Willie (Portland, OR)
CFB is just around the corner, I'm getting more and more excited every week.
Mark Schlabach (2:17 PM)
You and me both, Willie. Especially if Carlos Zambrano's shoulder injury is serious. If it is, I just lost interest in baseball again.
Is Michael Crabtree a legitimate Heisman Hopefull or should we just expect a second Biletnikoff?
Mark Schlabach (2:18 PM)
If Texas Tech is as good as I believe they might be, then, yes, Crabtree and Graham Harrell are going to be Heisman Trophy candidates. If they slip early, I'm not sure they'll be seriously considered.
Ryan (St. Louis)
What will Missouri need to improve on to get over the hump and win a conference title in 2008.
Mark Schlabach (2:20 PM)
Linebacker was a concern coming out of the spring because of some injuries, and they have to replace the nose tackle. Replacing Temple won't be easy, either. But I think Missouri is a pretty heavy favorite in the Big 12 North...
What do you think of Alabama's opeing game againest Clemson?
Mark Schlabach (2:22 PM)
Should be a great game in the Georgia Dome. I know it's already a really hot ticket. Both schools are really trying to get into Georgia to recruit, so there's a lot riding on it. Clemson has huge expectations again, and it will be a difficult early test. Alabama still needs one or two more recruiting classes, in my opinion, to really contend in the SEC West. If John Parker Wilson doesn't make huge strides, I think they might be a middle-of-the-pack team in the SEC West. But Saban has all summer to prepare. Again, should be a great game on the opening Saturday.
Mike (Los Angeles, CA)
What does your crystal ball say about Ole Miss. I smell an up & coming team here that returns a good defense, a QB in Snead, talent on the roster through Orgeron's recruiting and a coach (Nutt) with a chip on his shoulder.
Mark Schlabach (2:22 PM)
I have the Rebels going to a bowl game. For all of Ed Orgeron's faults, the guy could really recruit, so Nutt is inheriting a pretty talented roster. Getting Snead under center is the key. Orgeron never had a consistent quarterback while he was there. I think the Rebels might get to third or fourth in the SEC West in his first year.
With Percy Harvin and Chris Rainey (not to mention some kid named Tebow), will defensive coordinators in the SEC get any sleep this fall?
Mark Schlabach (2:24 PM)
As long as Harvin gets healthy -- and Rainey and Moody hang onto the ball -- the Gators are going to be very, very difficult to stop. I'll be curious to see how much Tebow runs the ball in 2008. The coaches want him to do it less, but Tebow doesn't seem willing to lessen his load. Gators have to get better on defense to contend in the SEC East, though. Defensive line and secondary have to be better.
Does Ohio State have a good shot at gettng back to the championship game if the beat USC?
Mark Schlabach (2:25 PM)
I think they might declare Ohio State Big Ten champions before the season even begins. I don't see anybody outside of Wisconsin really challenging them. That roster is loaded with returning starters and upper classmen. If Ohio State wins at USC, I don't see how they won't be in the BCS title game. And....they're might be an SEC team (Georgia, Florida, Auburn, LSU) waiting for them again.
David (Gainesville, FL)
Whats your top 5 players you are most excited to watch in the upcoming season!
Mark Schlabach (2:27 PM)
1. Tim Tebow, Florida 2. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia 3. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri 4. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech 5. Eric Berry, Tennessee 5. Mark Sanchez, USC 5. LeSean McCoy, Pitt 5. Pat White, West Virginia 5. Chris Rainey, Florida 5. Chris Wells, Ohio State (I cheated at the end)
Mark, Thoughts on the U and their freshmen? Can they win the ACC?
Mark Schlabach (2:28 PM)
I think Randy Shannon is probably still a year away, but I love the job they've done with recruiting. I think they'll improve a lot this year, and there's a lot of room to move up in the ACC. Not a lot of great teams in that league this year.
JL (Warrenton, VA)
Of the many new coaching hires this year, who is the one to watch? Who has the best long-term and short-term promise?
Mark Schlabach (2:30 PM)
The aforementioned Houston Nutt could have a really big impact at Ole Miss this year. Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech will be really interesting to watch. He's a great coach, but it might take one or two years to get the right personnel. Same for Rich Rodriguez at Michigan. June Jones won't win big at SMU this year, but he'll have the Ponies running again before too long. Same for Rick Neuheisel at UCLA. Get him the right QB and the Bruins will be winning big again.
Who will be the first quarterback taken in next years draft?
Mark Schlabach (2:31 PM)
Everybody says it's Matt Stafford from Georgia, but I'd like to see more consistency from him. Georgia doesn't ask him to do too much in the passing game, but they might open it up more with better receivers. Tebow might be the guy if he comes out, but he's got to show he's more of a passer, especially in two-minute situations. Chase Daniel at Missouri will probably be highly regarded. I keep hearing great things about Hunter Cantwell at Louisville. The guy sat behind Brohm for three years, but has a great arm and NFL-type body.
Penn State returns a lot of seniors, can they surprise some people? Is Joe Pa still as good as ever?
Mark Schlabach (2:33 PM)
Losing Sean Lee really hurt. He was going to be the leader of that defense. We'll see what Clark or Devlin do at QB. They have to have someone who can consistently get the ball to those receivers. Line is back intact, and d-line is very good, too. They could jump to second or third in Big Ten, which might get the heat off Joe Pa.
Do you think UCONN has enough to overtake WV for the Big East title?
Mark Schlabach (2:34 PM)
We'll see how the transition goes in Morgantown. The Mountaineers will be explosive on offense with White and Devine, and Bill Stewart told me he's really excited about his linebackers. I think Pitt is probably No. 2, with South Florida and U. Conn right there.
How much PT do you see Terrelle Pryor getting under center for the Buckeyes this year?
Mark Schlabach (2:35 PM)
I can see them using him like Florida used Tebow two years ago. Boeckman needs to eliminate the turnovers and mistakes that plagued him at the end of 2007. Wells will carry that offense, but Pryor could give them more speed on the field, which is never a bad thing to have.
Reece (Huntington, WV)
Mark, How do you see things panning out in C-USA (Who are your dark horses, favorites to win the conference, and teams you expect to underachieve)
Mark Schlabach (2:36 PM)
It's probably going to be a wide-open race. I think Tulsa is still the team to beat because of its offense, although they have to replace Paul Smith and three LBs. Memphis could be a surprise. Central Florida should be a contender. East Carolina has a lot of guys coming back on defense, but Chris Johnson is gone. Houston has a lot of quality skill guys and a new coach. Marshall might be ready to make a move, but they have two new coordinators and a lot of underclassmen playing key roles.
Tim: (Columbus, OH)
Do you think OSU can compete with the top of the SEC? --Don't let the fact that you're a bulldog influence your objectivity. :)
Mark Schlabach (2:38 PM)
I think this Ohio State team is capable of beating any team in the SEC. Until the Buckeyes do it, though, most people will have their doubts. Again, that Ohio State team is loaded with upperclassmen. That tends to lead to a conference championship and potential national title. Wells, Laurinaitis, Boone, Jenkins, etc., are as good as any players in the country. They just have to win a BCS title game to prove they're that good.
Jeff (Phoenix, AZ)
Let's stop the Buckeyes from even thinking about getting their hopes up. They will lose soundly to USC.
Mark Schlabach (2:39 PM)
See, people have their doubts.
Adam (Las Vegas, NV)
Hey Mark, who is your pick for the best non-BCS Conference team who will go to a BCS bowl?
Mark Schlabach (2:40 PM)
I really like BYU's chances. A lot of starters coming back, and Max Hall is a really underrated QB. Fresno State could be the team, but the early schedule is tough with a road game at Rutgers and home game against Wisconsin.
Will there be an early upset similar to the App State-Michigan game and what game will it be?
Mark Schlabach (2:40 PM)
App. State opens at LSU, and Armanti Edwards is still playing QB. Just a thought....
What kind of year to do you expect from Jake Locker? Is th is the year he explodes onto the scene and helps save Ty his job?
Mark Schlabach (2:42 PM)
I thought he exploded last year. Great, great QB, who can make plays with his arm and feet. Not a lot of experience on the defensive line, receiver or tailback. Tough schedule. At Oregon and home games against BYU and Oklahoma to start the season. What were the UW people thinking when they made that schedule?
Ken (Tarzana, Ca)
Was Georgia scheduling a road game in Tempe a clerical error or did they actually decide to join the rest of the country and schedule tough non-conference road games?
Mark Schlabach (2:43 PM)
Are we going to get into the SEC out-of-conference schedule debate again? Georgia has played Clemson, Boise State, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Colorado in recent years. Florida plays FSU, Hawaii, etc. Alabama plays Clemson. Auburn plays West Virginia. Tennessee played Cal and picks up UCLA. Mississippi State played West Virginia. You're going to lose the argument.
Chris (Orlando, FL)
Will FSU contend for an ACC title this year or will we have to wait until next year?
Mark Schlabach (2:44 PM)
I think it's wait until next year. I think eight or nine wins is a possibility. Maybe that's enough to win the ACC, if the 'Noles win the right games.
what's the ACC gonna look like this year, is there a real favorite in either division
Mark Schlabach (2:45 PM)
Clemson and Wake Forest in the Atlantic. Virginia Tech in the Coastal.
Don: Baton Rouge, La
Mark, How come they put Nick Saban on a pedestal? I mean, you don't pay a coach that much money to lose La Monroe. He is no Bear Bryant, Tom Osborne, and he isn't the best coach out there today! Do you think he will last, with a couple of lack luster years? and how long?
Mark Schlabach (2:46 PM)
I think he's there for a while. He won a national championship at LSU and recruited most of the players who won the title last year. Alabama doesn't have great players; and it's not Saban's fault....The guy can coach. I don't agree with some of the decisions he's made, but you can't deny the guy knows how to build a program.
Mark, Auburn grad here who's not sold on "the spread" (even though "the spread" has become lazy shorthand for any 'O' that lines up in the shotgun with more than 2 receivers). Any thoughts?
Mark Schlabach (2:47 PM)
I think Tony Franklin will do a nice job on the Plains. If Todd is healthy and wins the job, you're going to be a lot more interesting to watch. Defense will be solid under Rhodes. Again, I think the Tigers are a real darkhorse again.
Who do you consider are the top coaches?
Mark Schlabach (2:48 PM)
Guys who have won national championships: Carroll, Saban, Spurrier, Fulmer, Tressel, Brown, Meyer, Stoops, etc.
John (Las Vegas)
Can Steve Spurrier win any championship at South Carolina? Liberty Bowl champions do not count.
Mark Schlabach (2:49 PM)
It's a tough place to win big. Not a lot of great players in South Carolina and you're usually sharing them with Georgia, Tennessee, Clemson, etc. If he can't win there, I'm not sure who can. And I don't know if he'll win big there, either.
Ken (Tarzana, Ca)
FYI, Georgia has not scheduled a non-conference road game outside the southeast since the sixties. Look it up.
Mark Schlabach (2:50 PM)
First trip west of the Mississippi since 1943 Rose Bowl, right? Haven't played north of the Mason-Dixon line since Michigan in the 1960s. They play football in the South, too.
Brian (Bridgeport, WV)
Do you think Miami, Va Tech and BC regret leaving the Big East? As a Mountaineer fan, its been enjoyable to watch the ACC struggle.
Mark Schlabach (2:51 PM)
I think the Big East would love to have them back...
Mark Schlabach (2:52 PM)
OK, folks, I gotta go. Have a great summer and talk to you soon.