Chat with Graham Watson
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com's non-BCS reporter and contributor to the College Football Nation blog Graham Watson will stop by to talk about the 2009 season.
Watson joined ESPN.com in 2008 after four seasons covering the Missouri Tigers and the Big 12 Conference for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She also covered college football recruiting for the Dallas Morning News.
Send your questions now and join Watson Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET!
Graham Watson (12:59 PM)
Just finishing up a post and will start chat in a sec.
Graham, with all the talk of Big 10 expansion how do you see the conferences shaping up in the next few years? Will there be movement in the Non AQ conferences? Where will teams like Boise, Utah, TCU end up?
Graham Watson (1:03 PM)
There would have to be movement among the non-AQs to fill the holes left as the conferences started shifting. The schools that might be affected in terms of moving to AQ conferences would be Utah, TCU, Memphis, Southern Miss, East Carolina, Houston... Those would be my top candidates for the various six AQ conferences.
Graham,A lot of rumors about conference shake ups this winter... are the MWC (specifically) and WAC kicking themselves for not staying together? Would they not have a better BCS inclusion argument if TCU, Utah, Boise, Fresno and BYU were in the same conference?
Graham Watson (1:05 PM)
The original WAC was a bit of a disaster. There were too many teams. And I still don't think the MWC is better off with Boise in. I think the MWC can get an automatic bid on its own if its bottom teams pick up the slack. The bid is far more dependent on what the bottom teams in the conference do than the top and adding another top team will only add more losses to the bottom teams.
David W (Fort Worth, TX)
TCU has a problem, TOO MANY RBs!!! Have you heard anything regarding position changes, formation changes, or carry-sharing for their 4+ legit RBs?
Graham Watson (1:06 PM)
Like every year, not all of the RBs will stay RBs. Obviously, there will be an evaluation process, but I wouldn't expect all of them to stay at their current position. That's why so many guys are listed as "athletes" for TCU.
Greg (Pullman, WA)
Graham - 3 quick questions. Where would you personally rank Boise State for preseason? What do you think the AP and Coaches preseason will be for Boise State? And finally, how high a probability do you think Boise State will get an invitation to join the MWC?
Graham Watson (1:08 PM)
I'll probably have them No. 3 behind Alabama and Ohio State. I'd imagine that's where they'll fall in the AP and coaches as well. And I only think the Mountain West invites Boise State if its mandated to by the BCS. Otherwise, I'm not sure it adds enough value. There would have to be trading rather than just adding.
Brandon (Salt Lake City)
Utah and Colorado to the Pac 10? Any meat on that bone? What happens to the MWC if Utah leaves? Does TCU jump to replace Colorado? Is this what the Mayans were actually predicting for 2112?
Graham Watson (1:10 PM)
I lie in Colorado and am close with the beat writers. There's about as much merit to that as Pitt going to the Big ten tomorrow. But yes, I think TCU would be the favorite to replace any Big 12 team that left. It would have to add more seats to its stadium, which I believe it's in the process of doing. As for the MWC, if it loses a member, especially a top member, Boise State would be the first team in.
IF, Boise goes undefeated again, blows out the competition again, leads ppg again, and gets snuffed out of the championship game again by 2 AQs, then wins its bowl berth again, think there will be some major repercussions?
Graham Watson (1:12 PM)
This will all depend on the computers and the computers have hated the WAC for quite some time. I think Boise State can sell the voters, but the computers might keep it down unless the WAC - as a whole - has a tremendous season.
John W. (Greenwood, In)
Hi, Graham, Do you see ND playing Un. of Cinn on the schdule soon? Thanks have great day>
Graham Watson (1:13 PM)
Eh... probably not anytime soon. I don't think either team is ready to face the other... More specifically, I don't think that would be a good move for Cincy at this time.
Graham, I'm a Vol fan here and was wondering what you thought of Justin Wilcox taking the defensive coordinator job here? What are some things I should see from his defense?
Graham Watson (1:15 PM)
I think it's an interesting move because one of the things that makes Boise State's defense so good is that chip on their shoulder. They're small, they're not especially fast, but when they play together, they're one of the best defenses in the country. It's easy to sell that mentality to underrecruited players. We'll see how it flies at Tennessee. I think Wilcox will be a good fit there. I think his work ethic blends well with Dooley's. If he can get Tennessee's players to buy in to the team defense concept then I see it potentially being one of the best in the country.
What did you think about Tennessee hiring Justin Wilcox, and do you think he can stop SEC offenses?
Graham Watson (1:16 PM)
Honestly, he saw a lot more offense in the WAC than he'll see in the SEC... And now he has better talent, so his guys will be better equipped to face more talented players.
I have 2 questions, first question is, What would it take for the WAC to improve to challenge Boise St? and Does moving the VT game to Labor Day weekend hurt Boise St. the same way playing Oregon last year as the season opener? People always seem to write off openers unless you play Georgia like we did in 2005.
Graham Watson (1:18 PM)
The WAC just needs to get better. None of those teams are good enough to play Boise State. None of them. They need to start getting on par with the Broncos to at least prove some sort of challenge. And I think the world will be glued to that Boise State-VT game. I don't think it hurts at all. It's on the road, which gives a win more credibility and VT will be a top 10 team. The only worry about VT is that they tend to have that point in the season when they suck it up. That could hurt Boise State especially in the computer rankings.
Brandon (Salt Lake City)
Graham you stated that adding BSU to the MWC would "add more losses to the bottom teams". Don't in-conference wins and losses balance out for the conference overall? Mathematically, isn't it just OOC wins that matter overall, and hence matter to the BCS inclusion formula?
Graham Watson (1:21 PM)
The BCS inclusion formula has not and won't be published and from what I've heard, is subject to change. The only things that are known for sure are end of the season rankings and BCS berth. But the one consistent criticism of the Mountain West has been the lower half of the league. Outside of Utah, BYU and TCU, the conference is just OK and some of it is downright bad. So, the biggest hurdle is showing that the rest of the conference can play with some of the upper echelon of teams.
Scott (Dayton, OH)
Graham, Air Force has a serious chance to make a run for the MWC title next season, but it seems most folks are content to put them in their perrenial "4th spot" in the MWC. What say you?
Graham Watson (1:22 PM)
Third or fourth. I still don't think AFA is going to be good enough to beat TCU or Utah and I'm not sold that they can beat BYU either.
Mike (Portland, OR)
How did CSU have such a highly rated recruiting class (Top-4 in MWC, better than CU) after such a poor season?
Graham Watson (1:25 PM)
You could ask the question, "How did New Mexico get the No. 20 DE in the country after finishing 1-11?" Some kids are just sold on certain coaches and certain systems. You can't really analyze what's going on in a 17-year-old's head.
hy would BSU join a MWC that didn't have Utah and TCU in it? For all intents and purposes it wouldn't be any better than the WAC.
Graham Watson (1:27 PM)
Well, I think that there would be some major restructuring if both teams left. If it's just one, Boise State would come on its own. But if the MWC lost two of its top teams, then I'd see a full scale restructure adding maybe Nevada, Fresno State as well.
James (Colorado )
Were you surprised to see all of the recruits from FL. ending up at Colo St? Plus, why don't the rams do a better job of collecting in-state talent?
Graham Watson (1:29 PM)
You know where all the in-state talent went? Wyoming. Wyo did a great job of securing those Colo kids and that's a credit to Dave Christensen and Austyn Carta-Samuels. Usually, CSU does a decent job of keep kids in state, but this year they went for more speed and athleticism and that came from Florida.
"Utah and Colorado have better academics than BYU. That will be a key factor."Are you serious? Please tell me you're kidding...
Graham Watson (1:30 PM)
Does BYU have a medical school...?
Bradford (Boise, ID)
Graham, what are your thoughts on Boise State's new DC Pete Kwiatkowski? Thanks.
Graham Watson (1:31 PM)
I think he's been there a long time and has a lot of experience in that defense. I like the fact that BSU made a quick hire so he could get working right away. The in-house hire also creates continuity, which will be good for the program. Yeah, BSU will miss the creativity of Wilcox, but I don't think there will be too much of a slip.
How do the non-AQ conferences feel about the possible conference realignment that may be occurring? As in, whas in the overall tone? Are certain conferences nervous about getting raided? Are others excited about possibly getting a quick leg up into a BCS conference?
Graham Watson (1:33 PM)
I don't think any conference is worried about being raided. That likely won't happen. Realignment happens. Conferences change. It's part of the game. As a commissioner, you have to hope that the rest of your conference is good enough to withstand that change. In the case of the WAC, losing Boise State would be catastrophic.
YOu've done some in depth articles on some CUSA teams, MWC teams, but nothing other than surface stories on BSU. Why is that?
Graham Watson (1:34 PM)
I spent like two weeks at Boise State last spring. There are some good articles there. Otherwise, it's about access.
Graham, typically in conferences, you have the top few good teams and then rest of the teams. For instance, the Pac-10 has USC and Oregon, and then the rest of the conf (which are definitely starting to catch up now). Why is it ok for the Pac-10 to sell itself as a football powerhouse, but conferences like the MWC can't get away with it (with TCU and Utah at the top, and everyone else lagging behind)?
Graham Watson (1:37 PM)
I think the Pac-10 has several good teams now, and your starting to see a shift of power with USC rebuilding and teams like Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Arizona coming up. Since the MWC formed, it was BYU and Utah and when TCU joined in 2005, they were at the top too. It rarely changes. At least the teams under USC changed. It wasn't also Arizona State or Oregon or whoever. Those teams battled and they battled outside their conferences. New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV haven't done much battling in quite some time.
Graham Watson (1:40 PM)
And... In relation to the Pac-10 question. I really think its less academics and more the logistics of scheduling. That's all. BYU is a fine academic institution as is Utah and Colorado. And all three have good Olympic sports, though that seems to rotate yearly.
Rodney (Bogata - Colombia)
Should Boise State , Utah ,BYU and TCU make sure that each play each other in order to make their schudule stronger and add crediblity to their complaint that know top schools will play them?
Graham Watson (1:41 PM)
I don't think they need to make sure they play each other. I don't think it really matters in the grand scheme of things. Though I do believe Utah and BYU have nonconference games with Boise State on future schedules.
Ok, I agree with your points about the Pac-10, but when was the last time Indiana won the Big10? Or Iowa State won the Big12?
Graham Watson (1:44 PM)
Heck, you can pick the worst team from any conference and make that exact same statement. But I think you see far more rotation of teams in the other conferences in terms of winning.
The reason BYU won't be in the Pac-10(12?) is because the LDS campaigned hard against certain liberal-leaning laws, and you need all 10 members to approve new schools to the Pac-10...Cal-Berkley will not vote for BYU...
Graham Watson (1:44 PM)
Just wanted to post this thought...
Good afternoon Graham, Will the Boise-VT Labor Day Game give Boise an advantage at the timing early in the season, as VT will undoubtly grow much stronger as it"s young defense is maturing? Or, will it be a backbreaker for Boise if they fall to the Hokies? Thanks
Graham Watson (1:47 PM)
It will be a big advantage for Boise State because the Broncos should be in midseason form by then since they return almost every starter. VT will be growing and probably will be better as the season moves on. I thought the move benefited Boise State more than VT.
How necessary is it for Utah to beat Pitt this year to keep the MWC momentum going? Would a loss diminish what the Utes did to Alabama?
Graham Watson (1:49 PM)
I don't think a loss to Pitt would diminish anything. A loss to Oregon didn't change the way people felt about Utah last year. I think Utah can beat Pitt next year and that win would only reaffirm what people already know about the Utes.
It seems like people like to ask the question, "should the MWC add Boise State?", but does BSU have a ton to gain by joining the MWC if they don't have an automatic BCS birth when you factor in TV exposure, BCS accessibility, etc? It seems like Boise is doing pretty good where they are.
Graham Watson (1:53 PM)
I think that's a good point. The only thing Boise State has to gain from joining the MWC if it doesn't have an automatic bid is not getting passed by an undefeated MWC team. What I mean by that is the past two years the MWC has passed Boise State in the polls because of strength of schedule. If the Broncos were in the MWC, that wouldn't happen.
Rodney (Bogata - Colombia)
Boise State ,Utah, BYU and TCU say that they have a difficult time getting any elite teams to schedule them. Don't you think that if that is truely the case they should start with making sure that they all play each other in order to strengthen their schedule ?
Graham Watson (1:55 PM)
It's only Boise State that says that. All of those other teams have legit nonconference opponents on upcoming schedules.
Graham Watson (1:59 PM)
All right. I've got to head out and do an interview. And for the record, I didn't mean to call the academics of one school inferior to any others. I'm not a professor nor do I study academic trends. I didn't mean to offense anyone. I think some other folks hit the nail on the head about Pac-10 expansion. Regardless, it's not happening anytime soon, so speculating on it is a waste of effort. The Pac-10 has it's criteria and will pick whichever school(s) it thinks fits. One last question...
You said, and correctly so, BSU was passed last year, but Utah was ranked higher the entirety of the previous year. But, does BSU's win over TCU prevent that from happening this next year? Expecially given TCU and Utah's weak OCC?
Graham Watson (2:02 PM)
Another good question... I'm not sure how much the Fiesta Bowl will help. It will definitely help in the preseason polls, and BSU has a tougher non-AQ schedule, though I think Utah's is going to end up stronger than folks think. It comes down to conference schedules. If TCU, BYU and Utah are all ranked when they play each other, that's going to carry more weight as the season moves on.
Graham Watson (2:02 PM)
All right I'm out. Thanks for coming by.