Chat with Mark Schlabach
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, college football reporter Mark Schlabach stops by to chat about the upcoming 2009 season.
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 to chat Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Mark Schlabach (3:01 PM)
Thanks for joining the chat today. Hope everybody is excited about the start of fall camps. Here we go...
Hey Mark, is this the year the Pac 10 sends two teams to BCS bowls? I think Cal is going to be tough and Oregon has a favorable home pac 10 schedule.
Mark Schlabach (3:02 PM)
Could very well be the year. I could see two teams from SEC, Big 12 or Pac-10. USC is going to be really good, of course. Cal and Oregon right behind the Trojans. If Cal gets good quarterback play, the Bears will be a very tough out.
Eric (Sacramento, CA)
Is it just me, or is everyone drinking the Ole Miss kool-aid a little too soon?
Mark Schlabach (3:04 PM)
The Rebels have a lot of talent coming back, including an experienced QB in Jevan Snead. They have to replace Michael Oher, the LT, and their big NT from last season. The schedule sets up very nicely, too, with most of the SEC heavyweights going to Oxford. We'll see if they can handle the expectations and pressure. The SEC West is going to be a tough race, with Alabama and LSU having good teams, too.
good afternoon everyone! Mark, just wanted to ask why West Virginia University not getting much respect yet. I am not a fan of pre-season polls, but they return almost everyone on defense, and Jarret Brown is a proven winner at QB and return skill positions.. just wanted your thoughts.
Mark Schlabach (3:05 PM)
I think West Virginia and maybe Rutgers are the teams to beat in the Big East. South Florida could be in the hunt, too. Bill Stewart tells me he really likes Jarrett Brown. You know Devine will be able to run the ball, linebackers should be pretty good on defense. I would expect at least one Big East team to crack the top 15 at the end of the year. Might be West Virginia.
Garrett ((Lexington , Ky))
Real Possibiltlty of the Irish making a run at a 10 11 or 12 win season? They have usc at home and usc is going to be on a "down" year.... real intressted in the chances
Mark Schlabach (3:06 PM)
I think if Notre Dame is going to make a move, this is the year to do it. Schedule is pretty favorable. Clausen made strides last season. Two good weapons on the perimeter in Floyd and Tate. Offensive line should be better. Because it's Notre Dame, 10 wins means a BCS bowl game.
Pete (Brockport, NY)
Lets hear your Heisman pick Mark, another big XII qb or father tebow?
Mark Schlabach (3:08 PM)
I'd say top three are McCoy, Bradford and Tebow. Jahvid Best, Jonathan Dwyer in my top five, too. I think it's one of the three quarterbacks again, though.
Matt (SLC, UT)
I know you've been riding the University of Utah gravy train this summer, just curious if you really believe they're a top 20 team and if they have the talent to replace last year's stars?
Mark Schlabach (3:09 PM)
The Utes have to replace a lot of really good players from last year, including Brian Johnson. I think TCU is the team to beat in the MWC, with the Utes right behind them.
Jeff (Evans, GA)
What can we really expect out of Joe Cox this year? is he going to surprise a few people?
Mark Schlabach (3:10 PM)
I really think Joe Cox is the least of Georgia's worries. Mark Richt and Mike Bobo tell me they have a lot of confidence in him. He'll have time to throw behind what should be a pretty good OL. Good WRs to work with. Georgia has to find a tailback or two to run the ball, and it has to play better on defense. That starts with the defensive ends. I think Cox will be fine.
Tim (Evansville IN)
Which game do you think will be the best game of week 1? Georgia vs. Oklahoma State or Alabama vs. Virginia Tech or Brigham Young vs. Oklahoma?
Mark Schlabach (3:11 PM)
I think it's three really good games. All three will be very compelling to watch. I'll be at the game in Atlanta in Week One, followed by a short trip to Tallahassee for FSU/Miami.
Aunik (Los Angeles, CA)
Mark,Every year USC has had a new quarterback, it seems that there is always one game in which the team struggles (see John David Booty vs. Stanford). Do you think that Aaron Corp can avoid this seeing that he is surrounded by returning starters as well as a solid group of tailbacks?
Mark Schlabach (3:12 PM)
Pete Carroll seems to just plug in great quarterbacks. USC lost an awful lot from last year, but they're going to a top-10 program in the end, more than likely. Corp is the guy right now, but it will be interesting to see if he can hold off Matt Barkley.
best team in north carolina this year?
Mark Schlabach (3:13 PM)
Wow, four pretty good teams (UNC, NC State, East Carolina and Wake Forest) and a vastly improved one (Duke). I think NC State is a real sleeper if Russell Wilson stays healthy. UNC is going to be better. East Carolina might be better and plays another tough schedule. I learned to never underestimate Wake Forest as long as Jim Grobe is there. I'll take a leap of faith and say NC State.
Ken (Scottsdale, AZ)
Can you think of a more meaningless/dumb story that rivals the Tebow/Spurrier nonsense?
Mark Schlabach (3:14 PM)
Very overblown story from SEC Media Days. Maybe "Who Shot JR?"
How much do you think the Oregon schedule helps them this year? legit NC tests should make the computers like them, and Cal, SC, OSU at home... is 10-2 enough for a BCS game, or do they need to go 11-1?
Mark Schlabach (3:15 PM)
10-2 would be a great record against that schedule. Very tough opener at Boise State and three tough home games to follow. At least the Ducks get USC and Oregon State at home.
Elliott (Alpharetta, GA)
FLA is the pre-season favorite to win it all (again.) But what teams have legit dark-horse chances of making it to the BCS title game or having at least a top 5 finish?
Mark Schlabach (3:16 PM)
In no particular order: Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, USC, California Virginia Tech....Those would be the others off the top of my head, and I'm sure there is going to be a darkhorse or two that emerges...
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
What would it take for the Hokies to make it to the NC game? Who is the biggest threat along the way?
Mark Schlabach (3:17 PM)
Alabama and Nebraska will be tough games, along with Georgia Tech and East Carolina. Tyrod has to become a better passer, and the young receivers have to play better than they did last season. Defense will be very solid.
Omar (Lawton, OK)
It seems like all the talk about McCoy and Tebow is that they "make their team better" and they "will teams to win." What about Bradford? Does he not make Oklahoma better? Does he not have the "will to win?"
Mark Schlabach (3:18 PM)
Of course, Bradford makes Oklahoma better. He's as accurate as any QB in the country, and I'm sure he has the same fire in his belly as the other two QBs you mentioned.
Jon (Fairfield, CA)
Mark, why is it that USC gets NO love?! A 12-1 last year and 7 years of BCS dominance and there are still other teams being picked ahead of the Trojans. WHY?!
Mark Schlabach (3:19 PM)
USC just lost a ton of talent to the NFL. I know Pete Carroll typically reloads, but that's a ton of talent to replace. And most of the Trojans' tough games are on the road this year. We'll see. I could be wrong, but I seem them taking a small step back this year.
Lee (Easton, Maryland)
Mark, what are you top places to watch a college football game?
Mark Schlabach (3:20 PM)
Any college stadium in the country, but particularly fond of South Bend, Oxford, Austin, Athens, Tuscaloosa, Eugene, Berkeley, Blacksburg, Norman, the Coliseum, Ohio Stadium, the Big House...the list goes on and on.
What are your thoughts on the Miami Hurricanes for this season?
Mark Schlabach (3:22 PM)
Brutal schedule to start, but I think they'll be better. Jacory Harris is very good. Might be tough to overcome a slow start, though.
Will the Wolverines ever make it back from the abyss?
Mark Schlabach (3:22 PM)
Yes, but Rodriguez has to get the right talent in there to run his offense. They'll be better this year. But I don't think they'll be ready to challenge Penn State and Ohio State for the Big Ten title.
hayden (logan, UT)
Do you think the BCS is a monopoly that should be investigated by the government?
Mark Schlabach (3:23 PM)
No, I think the government has more important things to worry about right now.
Evan (West Palm Beach, FL)
Is Syracuse going to finish dead last in the Big East again?
Mark Schlabach (3:26 PM)
Probably, but I think Doug Marrone will get them turned around sooner than later. He's a good coach and really loves his alma mater. Syracuse has too much tradition to stay down for much longer.
Scott (St. Louis)
Mark, what do you see from Nebraska this year? Does Suh lead a resurgence from the Blackshirts?
Mark Schlabach (3:27 PM)
I go back and forth on Nebraska or Kansas in the Big 12 North. They were better on defense last year, and Pelini will continue to make them better. Lee has to play well at QB. I think they can match last year's record, or maybe even better.
Just how good is Jerry Hughes from TCU?
Mark Schlabach (3:28 PM)
Great, great player on a very good defense. TCU might be a BCS party crasher this season.
What are your predictions for Lane Kiffin and his Vols?
Mark Schlabach (3:28 PM)
I think the first season might be a struggle, but Kiffin and Orgeron will recruit with the best of them. I think 6-7-8 wins first season is realistic.
Rob (Orange County, CA)
What do you think happens with three one-loss teams this year? Will Florida's famously weak schedule come back to haunt them if USC and Texas go undefeated?
Mark Schlabach (3:29 PM)
If USC and Texas go undefeated, and Florida finishes with one loss, yes, the Trojans and 'Horns would play in the BCS title game. Florida plays a tough enough schedule in the SEC and with the annual game against FSU. Schedule won't keep Florida out of the big one.
Will (Metairie, LA)
The SEC West is going to be very competitive this year. You might think Ole Miss because they dont play Florida and have LSU and Bama at home, but dont sleep on LSU.
Mark Schlabach (3:31 PM)
I'm not sleeping on LSU, believe me. Everybody is talking about Ole Miss and 'Bama, but LSU will be very good, especially if Jordan Jefferson plays well at QB. Russell Sheppard and Trindon Holliday will give them a lot of speed on offense, and Charles Scott is as good as any RB in the SEC. John Chavis will make them better on defense. Tough road games at Georgia and Bama, but LSU gets Ole Miss, Florida, Arkansas and Auburn at home.
the bloggers ranked the conferences in order 1-8 where do you rank them?
Mark Schlabach (3:33 PM)
I believe I had:1. SEC 2. Big 12 3. ACC 4. Pac-10 5. Big East 6. MWC 7. Big East 8. WACI was criticized for having ACC too high, but I think several of those teams (UNC, Ga. Tech, NC State) will be better this year. A lot of good coaches in that league now, and those teams are getting better QB play.
David (Yukon, Oklahoma)
Why is everyone so high on Texas winning it all. Does not Oklahoma have the better defense this year? And if defense wins championships should not Oklahoma get the nod for the RRR, especially if the O-Line gels?
Mark Schlabach (3:33 PM)
If OU wins the RRR, doesn't that mean Texas goes to Big 12 title game? Both teams are going to be very good.
LSU plays Ole Miss in Oxford.
Mark Schlabach (3:34 PM)
You are correct. I am corrected.
Nick (Los Angeles)
What are USC's chances to run the table and play for the national title? I think their better than people think. What about you?
Mark Schlabach (3:35 PM)
The Trojans still have to play Stanford and Oregon State, right? Just kidding. Again, most of USC's tough games are on the road this year. We'll see.
Greg (San Jose, CA)
In your opinion, what non-bcs team has the best shot at making a BCS bowl this year?
Mark Schlabach (3:35 PM)
If Boise State beats Oregon in the opener, it might finish unbeaten. TCU will be in the mix, too. Notre Dame will be up there, probably.
WOW mark you put Big East twice!1. SEC 2. Big 12 3. ACC 4. Pac-10 5. Big East 6. MWC 7. Big East 8. WACI gotta know if you have the MWC or Big East higher
Mark Schlabach (3:36 PM)
Big Ten should have been No. 5.
Nathan (Santa Cruz CA)
Mark,Why are you so sure that the SEC is the best conference. They had a losing record last year vs. BCS conferences (6-9). If USC had won 3 out the last 4 NCG would that then make the PAC 10 the best conference? What is the qualification? It's certainly not the records. Didn't the Big XII have more ranked teams on the final poll? Is a certain conference riding the coattails of their best team?
Mark Schlabach (3:38 PM)
SEC schools won the last three national championships. Schools have performed very well in BCS bowl games (other than 'Bama's loss to Utah in Sugar Bowl). Ole Miss beat Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. It's an endless debate.
You need to go to Lincoln for the OU game. Best atmosphere anywhere in college football. Should be a great game too.
Mark Schlabach (3:38 PM)
I was there last year for Va. Tech. Great place to watch a game.
sure gt has a great and working offense but wouldnt good coaches or dc's figure it out and stuff it?
Mark Schlabach (3:39 PM)
Paul Johnson has been running that offense for a long, long time. Nobody has figured out how to stop it yet. The key is having enough time to prepare. LSU had time. Regular season opponents only have a few days to rep it, which makes it very difficult.
Justin (Oklahoma City)
If Tebow was in the Big 12, would you put them as the best conference?
Mark Schlabach (3:40 PM)
If Tebow played at Texas A
Sam (Salt Lake City)
Mark, Watching a BYU/UTAH game live needs to be a must see on your schedule this year.
Mark Schlabach (3:42 PM)
I saw BYU/UCLA last year. Wasn't a great game. Beautiful setting, though.
How you feeling about Ok State possibly pulling a three way tie or winning Big 12?
Mark Schlabach (3:42 PM)
Obviously, the Pokes have to get better on defense. I talked to Bill Young yesterday, and he thinks they're getting there. They're going to be very, very good on offense, obviously. We'll see. Tough division.
wayne (chapel hill)
Mark, is it me or do you get tired of see some of the big boys playing cup cake non conference schedules. Penn St, Auburn, Florida, Ohio St. (except USC) and Texas are not challenging themselves at all. In addition, teams with 8 home games have a competitive advantage. Some of these teams have a "2" schedule. Your thoughts?
Mark Schlabach (3:43 PM)
I prefer to see all of the big boys play at least one "marquee" non-conference game. Some schedules are ridiculous. And I have no problem with seven home games/five road games. But eight/four is pretty weak.
Mike (Lexington, KY)
Other than PSU, will anybody in the Big 10 step up and challenge OSU or will it be a cakewalk like recent years?
Mark Schlabach (3:44 PM)
Don't count out Iowa and Michigan State. Both could be surprises in the Big Ten.
How much weight do you give the coach poll? Is it true that coach vote without watching games?
Mark Schlabach (3:45 PM)
It's probably very difficult for coaches to see any games outside of their own, because they're always coaching their teams on Saturday. Same thing is true of the writers' poll. Most of the voters are beat writers, who cover one school and are at that team's game every Saturday. It's a popularity contest more than anything else.
Hey Mark, you have the SEC ranked as the best conference. How do we know this when they for the most part refuse to play quality teams out of conference. Florida hasnt played a non-conference game out of the state of Florida in nearly 20 years
Mark Schlabach (3:49 PM)
Here we go again....Georgia plays Arizona State, Oklahoma State (road) and Georgia Tech (road). Florida plays FSU. LSU plays at Washington (tough trip, bad team). Alabama plays Virginia Tech (after playing Clemson last year). South Carolina plays NC State (a sleeper, I'm telling you) and Clemson. Tennessee plays UCLA (after playing Cal before the Bruins in 2006-07). Auburn plays West Virginia. Mississippi State plays Georgia Tech. I can give you the list from the last couple of years. Your argument doesn't hold up....
John (Santa Rosa, California)
I know we still have two more seasons, but thus far give me a Player, Team, and a Coach for this decade.
Mark Schlabach (3:50 PM)
Player: Tebow Coach: Pete Carroll Team: Florida
Can Penn St. play for the national championship if they go 12-0 with such a weak schd?
Mark Schlabach (3:50 PM)
If two other teams don't finish unbeaten. Depends on how the rest of the Big Ten teams play, too.
Mark,Can you name me one (ONE!!) reason that the Big 12 gets so much respect as a conference? Other than Texas, their big teams all got beat in bowls last year. None of them had a huge OOC win (Miami, Arky were down) during the season. The defenses were proven to be severely lacking and the offenses didn't move the ball against good defenses.....in short, what's the deal!?!?!
Mark Schlabach (3:51 PM)
Come on, kind of like the SEC schedule argument. Big 12 teams didn't fare very well in the bowl games, but it's a great league. Great quarterbacks and great offenses. Defense get ripped apart sometimes, but SEC offenses are pretty bad playing SEC defenses. It goes both ways.
Nathan (Santa Cruz CA)
Hey mark,How about my argument? SEC was 6-9 vs BCS teams last year. Best conference?
Mark Schlabach (3:52 PM)
In my opinion, yes, because an SEC team won the national title for the third straight season. And the rest of the league wasn't bad, either.
Chris (Atlanta, Ga)
Any chance of the Yellow Jackets running the table this year? Seems like everytime the team gets a little national hype they disappoint.
Mark Schlabach (3:53 PM)
The Jackets have to replace the defensive line, but they're going to be very good on offense and Burnett is a stud in the secondary. I don't see Georgia Tech taking a big step back.
Nathan (Albany OR)
Does Oregon have the hardest start of the season, playing BSU, Purdue and Utah?And with The Holy Masoli as QB, will they be even better than last year?
Mark Schlabach (3:54 PM)
It's a pretty difficult start, but Miami plays @ FSU, home vs. Ga. Tech, @ Virginia Tech and home against Oklahoma. That's tough.
Nathan (Los Angeles)
Mark, do you think the Big 12 should get less respect after their conference lost three bowl games against non-conferences teams? Texas Tech loses to Ole Miss, Oklahoma State loses to Oregon, Oklahoma loses to Florida, and Texas barely wins in the last seconds against Ohio State, which could only score 3 points against USC. The Big 12 is just overrated.
Mark Schlabach (3:56 PM)
I never put too much stock in bowl games because the matchups aren't always apples to apples (for instance, No. 5 SEC team playing No. 3 Big Ten team or something like that). Plus, you never know what a team's motivation is (is Texas really excited to be playing in the Fiesta after getting snubbed for BCS title?). Those kind of things go into the equation.
UGA plays a 5-7 ASU team at home, plays a decents OkSt on the road, plays GT in the state of Georigia. Florida plays FSU each year. But when was the last time they came out to the west coast? LSU plays Washington, 0-12 last year. Alabama plays VT, quality game. SC plays NC State and Clemson, two bi polar teams. Tenn plays UCLA at home, UCLA is expected to finish 6 or 7 in the Pac 10. Auburn plays WV, decent game and Auburn will lose. Miss State plays GT and will lose. Post that.
Mark Schlabach (3:57 PM)
Georgia played at Arizona State last year and plays at Oregon State in the very near future. Dogs also play at Colorado. Tennessee played at Cal a couple of years ago and played at UCLA last year. Arkansas played USC a couple of times. So did Auburn in the recent past.
If there was a playoff system, who would be your top 8 seeds?
Mark Schlabach (3:59 PM)
Seven SEC teams and USC (kidding, of course). We're not going to get there anytime soon.
Kevin (Fort Lauderdale)
I am trying to understand why you feel Landshark Stadium is "hot" for the U. It is a 45 minute drive from their campus in good traffic, it doesn't have a college ambiance, and last year there were more UCF fans than Canes during that abysmal game.
Mark Schlabach (4:00 PM)
Love the beer ... and Buffett. And anywhere is better than the old Orange Bowl, in my opinion.
Mark Schlabach (4:02 PM)
Folks, I have to run. I'm sure I'll be back next week to talk more college football. Enjoy the rest of the week. Only a few more weeks to go and we can start talking about real games. Thanks for joining the chat.