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 preview the C-USA spring 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 2 p.m. ET!
Graham Watson (2:01 PM)
Hey everyone. Thanks for stopping by today. Let's get started.
Graham i asked a question about marshall awhile back and you stated they needed a better qb to compete in cusa.is willy korn that qb they needed?
Graham Watson (2:05 PM)
Marshall's QBs aren't bad and I think Doc Holiday generally likes what he's seen from them on film. But I don't think either are the type of guys to take Marshall to that next level where they're competing for a conference title. Korn could be that guy. He played well when he got an opportunity at Clemson and I think he'll have a strong chance to be the starter. It's tough to say since Marshall hasn't started spring ball yet. But I like the pickup and do think he's a C-USA title winning QB.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
Graham Watson (2:05 PM)
Little of this, little of that. Gonna watch some basketball tonight in Colorado Springs. Nice break from football, I think.
Do you think Terrell Pryor can win the Heisman trophy next season?
Graham Watson (2:06 PM)
That depends which Terrell Pryor shows up all season. If it's the one that allowed to play freely, then yes. If he's handcuffed like he's been in the past, I think it will be tough.
Towner (South Bend)
there is no question that the Irish defense has been their downfall the last couple of years. Even though they played horrible, i feel like their talent level isn't that bad. How much do you think they improve under new DC Bob Diaco while switching to the 3-4?
Graham Watson (2:08 PM)
The linebackers are the strength of the team, so I think it's a good move. Those guys have enough speed to play that system and I think it really benefits Manti Te'o. However, I don't think this is a one-year turnaround. It's going to take some time.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What is the hottest & the coldest College Football Bowl Game in History?
Graham Watson (2:08 PM)
You ask me this every week and I honestly don't know off the top of my head.
travis (lustere, montana)
is Montana a big threat to worry about, or not?
Graham Watson (2:10 PM)
In terms of what? I think it will be interesting to see how they fare without Bobby Hauck.
JL (Warrenton, Virginia)
It looked to me as if Turner Gill left Buffalo when they had the talent to do very well next year. Do you agree?
Graham Watson (2:12 PM)
I do. Not sure Zach Maynard would have stayed, which would have put him in the same boat as Quinn right now. It's going to be tough for Quinn to change that offense in a year especially with so much uncertainty at QB and receiver.
I read your interview with the Sun Belt commish, great piece! You asked him about a concept I had asked you about a few weeks ago: how much does playing games against Florida for cash really help the non-AQs like the Sun Belt? Obviously some of the athletic programs need the cash, but a program cannot gain a national prescence by starting off the season with 2 scheduled losses.
Graham Watson (2:15 PM)
What Wright Waters said makes total sense. There's no way the Sun Belt can ever be considered a legit national presence with the nonconference schedule they play. It's a lose-lose. If they win, it's a fluke. If they lose, well, it's a lose. There are some programs that are trying to shake off the trend and play some home-and-home's. Troy is in a similar situation as like Boise State because they can't get anyone to play at Movie Gallery after beating Mizzou in 2004. that tough for the Trojans because I really believe that that's the Sun Belt's best team to get ranked.
Obviously they have very different styles, but in terms of becoming a household name, does 2010 Dwight Dasher=2009 Case Keenum?
Graham Watson (2:18 PM)
Dwight Dasher is a great athlete, but I also think he was a product of being in the right system with the right coach in Tony Franklin. Obviously, Dasher doesn't lose his athleticism, but not having Franklin around will take a toll on that offense. There's not really a guy available that can replicate what Franklin brought. So right now (at least until they figure out the OC situation), I'm not sure Dasher will be much better than what we saw.
when can we expect a "what to expect from the wac" piece? just at working and needing something to look forward to :)
Graham Watson (2:19 PM)
Thursday. I'll also have a Q&A with Karl Benson. Hopefully, he can provide more insight into the threat of expansion than Craig Thompson did.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
any hope for my aggies this year?
Graham Watson (2:20 PM)
I think Utah State has improved each of the past couple seasons. It's going to be about making progress on defense this spring. If the defense gets better, I think Utah State could pull an Idaho.
Barring serious injury, do you Jordan Wynn break Brian Johnson's record for wins by a starting QB at the U?
Graham Watson (2:24 PM)
Johnson had what? 26 wins in his career? Sure, I think Wynn could break that. He's already got two and he's got three years to go. I think Utah is, at worst, a nine-win team in each of those seasons with the talent they have, the recruiting classes and the schedules.
What are the chances that conference realignment can trickle down to the Sun Belt and give Troy a chance to move to the Big East of Conference USA? I think that Troy's got to get out of the Sun Belt if they want to be taken seriously.
Graham Watson (2:26 PM)
If it does trickle down to the Sun Belt, I think it will be an SBC team moving to C-USA or something like that. I don't see an SBC team moving to a major conference at this time. And I think a move to Conference USA would be great for the Trojans.
Can you please verify that Rusty Smith will not be back for what seems like his ninth straight year as FAU starting quarterback?
Graham Watson (2:27 PM)
He's done. Smith played in the Texas vs. the Nation game earlier this month. It's Jeff Van Camp's show now.
Hey Reb (Las Vegas)
How much will UNLV improve with new coach Houck this coming season?
Graham Watson (2:29 PM)
I like coach Hauck and do think he'll turn things around at UNLV, but I don't think it will be in one season. The Rebels don't really have the guys to run Hauck's system right now, so I don't see a quick turnaround. Give him a couple years.
Terry (Denver CO)
Coldest game? Dunno records, but I recall a Buffs-Iowa State night game in Boulder about ten years ago that Eskimos wound have stayed home from (and not just because of the relative skills levels of the teams playing).
Graham Watson (2:30 PM)
There's also the Joe Montana Chicken Soup game in 1979. The Cotton Bowl was covered in ice.
Alex (Dallas, TX)
What are your thoughts on SMU this coming year? A tough OOC schedule with @Tech, TCU, @Navy, and they're without their starting MLB and RB among others. Is QB Kyle Padron's development enough to overcome other shortcomings?
Graham Watson (2:33 PM)
I said a couple chats ago that I thought SMU could be an eight or nine-win team and I still believe that. The OOC schedule is tough, but I'm not sold on Tech right now. They have a couple young RBs coming in that will help. I'm also not sure Padron is the guy yet. He'll be in tight competition with J.J. McDermott and Jones was raving about Steven Kaiser on signing day. SMU will be young, but Jones has recruited some great talent.
But, realistically, who can the Sun Belt pair up against for OOC games to improve itself? The BCS conferences schedule against the self because none of them want to 1) risk a (percieved embarassing) loss to the Sun Belt, and 2) no BCS teams want to go play at Troy's stadium. Where can Troy go? Should they try to schedule Boise State, TCU, BYU, or Utah, could that be the first stepping stone for them?
Graham Watson (2:35 PM)
I think Troy needs to start playing C-USA schools like Middle does. And the Big 12 is starting to play more games with the SBC. Troy can play Louisiana Tech of Houston. They probably want to stay within their region for recruiting, but those are all viable options.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
Do you ever hear rumors if teams are considering the big jump up to D1-A CFB? Montana? Villanova or Delaware? UMass? There's a once-in-generation opportunity about to happen with conference realignments and resulting fall-out open slots in non-BCS leagues. To me, it seems there's too much money at stake to not at least explore and ask the big questions.
Graham Watson (2:37 PM)
Agreed and I think some of those teams will get looks if non-AQs get poached. I think the Great West is going to get looks because it only has five football schools and it fits into the WAC and MWC regions.
What're the chances Utah makes a BCS game next season? If you had to pick one MWC team to do it next year, would you pick the Utes or Frogs?
Graham Watson (2:38 PM)
Frogs because they have an easier nonconference schedule. However, I think both will lose out to Boise State, which I believe will go undefeated.
Mike D (Portland, OR)
If you could pick any Non-AQ stadium that you haven't been to to cover a game at, which one would it be?
Graham Watson (2:40 PM)
Um, maybe East Carolina. I've heard the atmosphere there is pretty amazing and the fans are really passionate. I appreciate settings like that. I also think a packed Kibbie Dome would be fun because it's such an intimate space.
Terry (Denver CO)
Hypothetical: you're in a Vegas sports-betting parlor, so it's go-time to predict yes/no on if NCAA announces MWC has AQ status next season by risking that moth-eaten lucky $100 bill you tote around. If not next season, when?
Graham Watson (2:41 PM)
I couldn't do it until I knew whether the conference was going to lose teams to expansion. If the MWC loses two teams, I don't think they go AQ. If it's just one and Boise State joins the conference then I think it's fine.
bill (akron, oh)
Michigan committed 5 major violations, does RR get the boot soon?
Graham Watson (2:45 PM)
I think the fact that RR didn't provide an "atmosphere of compliance" is a big one, and that they misled NCAA investigators. I'm not sure RR is gone tomorrow, but I think the leash is incredibly short.
All the talk of Boise St. needing to leave the WAC...Don't you think they have it good right where they are as long as they are PERFECT?
Graham Watson (2:48 PM)
Yeah, but why put that pressure on your team? AQ teams don't have to be perfect to play in a BCS game. I think Boise State, while it doesn't want to lose, would like to have the flexibility. But the big thing with switching conferences has to be money. If Boise State can join an AQ conference, it will make a lot more money that it does now. It does great with its ESPN TV contract and some of its guarantee games, but it's nothing compared to the money they'd get as an AQ.
How do you think the new coaching staff at ECU will pan out? Do you think McNeill, Riley and Co. can install that "air raid" offense without the expense of losing defensive quality?
Graham Watson (2:49 PM)
You're going to lose some of the defensive quality, at least initially, because of the speed of the offense. The offense wants to get more plays, so it's going to move fast and the rest time for the defense will lessen. I think if you look back to the defenses of any team that transitioned to this offense, you'd see the defense struggled the first year or two.
With Shaky Smithson moving back to WR full time, do you see Lucky Radley getting some playing time this year?
Graham Watson (2:51 PM)
That will depend on whether Asiata gets a sixth year. If he does, it will be him and Wide as the top backs and guys like Radley and Shakerin getting spot time.
Mike (San Diego)
G-Dub, what can you tell me about Brady Hoke, and where can SDSU be this year? Bowl game...finally???
Graham Watson (2:52 PM)
San Diego State is my top surprise team for 2010. He's starting to get the pieces and I really believe he can put together a six-win season. Not sure that will be enough to make a bowl, but I expect significant improvement from the Aztecs. Hoke is a great recruiter, coach and motivator. He'll turn that program around.
With the conference realignment, couldn't the big loser end up being Boise State? Predictions are being made all over the internet that the BCS conferences are looking at Utah, TCU, and BYU. There are talks as well that if the Big East loses teams, they'll look to C-USA. Boise State seems to have been completely lost in the shuffle. If the MWC implodes, Boise State may lose any chance to be in a BCS conference (because the MWC wouldn't have gotten a bid).
Graham Watson (2:56 PM)
It's possible, yes. Basically, if what many are predicting happens, Boise State would be best served staying in the WAC where it can still play for BCS bowls and earn money from the TV contract. The MWC's TV contract won;t pay the school nearly as much. There would be no reason for Boise to move to another non-AQ conference. As someone said earlier, expansion and realignment is going to be a pivotal time in college football history.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
does FB rule discussions about realignment or is BBall a big factor?
Graham Watson (2:59 PM)
Football is a huge part because it's the biggest money maker. Then basketball, academics and nonrevenue sports. All of it plays a part. There are also a whole lot of intangibles to consider like region, television markets, size of stadiums, etc. It's not just about football wins and losses.
Terry (the 'Burgh)
Aside from TCU, Boise and Utah (too easy), which non-AQ schools are most ready to jump to a BCS conference? Especially schools east of the Mississippi. The Big East constanty uses the "none" excuse for not upgrading its CFB roster. To me, UCF, Memphis, Southern Miss, and ECU are ready now, maybe even UAB.
Graham Watson (3:02 PM)
Memphis is definitely ready in basketball, but I think it's a wait-and-see approach with football. Porter was specifically brought in to help make Memphis more attractive to C-USA. Mike Tranghese also joined the school as a consultant to help develop a model to make it attractive to the Big East. Out of the schools you mentioned, I think Memphis will get the first look.
Jared (New Mexico)
So after your chat with coach Locksly, New Mexico's surprisingly really good results on signing day and a pretty high reputed coaching staff...what are your predictions on this upcoming year on these guys?
Graham Watson (3:03 PM)
I still think he's got a ways to go. I think it will be better this year, but I wouldn't expect a bowl game out of New Mexico. There are too many question marks still and I think the MWC is going to be strong with Wyoming, San Diego State and Colorado State pushing the traditional top four.
Graham Watson (3:04 PM)
OK. I've got to go. I'll be back chatting on Thursday. Hope you'll join me then.