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 upcoming 2010 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 (1:01 PM)
Welcome to the non-AQ chat. Let's get started.
Great news about Tank Carder! Does his return mean no worries at LB for TCU?
Graham Watson (1:02 PM)
I definitely think it makes the outlook a lot brighter. Carder and Brock will be the starters, which is what TCU was hoping for all along. That's a great combination that I think will be as strong as Washington and Carder was a year ago.
Bill (Friendswood, TX)
Will it take an undefeated season for Case Keenum to have a realistic chance at the Heisman?
Graham Watson (1:03 PM)
Yeah. I think we learned last year that just putting up ridiculous numbers is not enough. Keenum needs to lead his team to an undefeated campaign, which won't be easy with the schedule the Cougars have.
What does UCF need to do to become a major player in Florida, and enter the national relevance?
Graham Watson (1:04 PM)
It needs to get better on offense. That's been the knock the past few years. The defense has been strong, but the offense has been inconsistent. UCF is hoping Rob Calabrese can fix that. His biggest hurdle is mental. He has to be able to get past mistakes and move on to the next play. The playmakers are there, they just need consistent quarterbacking and offensive line play.
Mike (Portland, OR)
It looks like the CSU QB battle is a two horse race between true freshman Pete Thomas and RS frosh Nico Ranieri. What are some positives of having a freshman QB?
Graham Watson (1:05 PM)
I think the most obvious positive is that he's fresh and responsive to the system. You usually don't have to get rid of any bad habits. I think the consensus was that Thomas was going to be the starting QB and I think the fresh face and enthusiasm will be a good thing for the team.
Gus Atkinson [via mobile]
Do you see another situation where where two Non AQ make a BCS Bowl.
Graham Watson (1:08 PM)
I think it's going to be tough this year, but the top two contenders would once again be TCU and Boise State. Both teams have to go undefeated. TCU has a much easier schedule. All eyes will be on Boise State's opener against VT. If they lose that game, it won't matter what they do the rest of the year because the WAC won't be able to help boost the Broncos SOS.
Hey Graham! With the big win over Oregon St. last bowl season, and the quality of new recruits coming in, do you see BYU breaking into the BCS anytime soon?
Graham Watson (1:09 PM)
There were a lot of question marks for BYU heading into the spring and not all of them have been answered. Obviously, the big one is at quarterback (though the Cougs have some great choices) and the others are on the offensive line and on defense. There are a lot of good players to replace on both sides of the ball. I think it will be tough for BYU to break into the BCS this year.
Is the MWC finally strong enough that a 1-loss conference champ with a good OOC schedule can get a BCS at-large bid?
Graham Watson (1:11 PM)
It's only string enough if it can maintain tree teams ranked in the Top 25 consistently. I've said all along that I wasn't sure that was going to happen with Utah's tough OOC schedule and BYU breaking in some new players. I think it also depends on what other teams from other conferences do as well as who the loss is to. I don't think, say, TCU can get into the BCS with a loss to UNLV.
Sean McKenzie (Van Wert, Ohio)
I believe the Big Ten expansion should head to the Southern part of the country with 2 teams in particular. Memphis and Louisville. Both schools bring good athletic tradtions (basketball for both schools and Memphis football is on the rise).Both are in the Top 100 schools in the country in academics (according to 3 polls I read online).Third it would bring in TV audiences in the southern US which is primarily SEC country. The added viewership in the South will in effect help the Big Ten in "recuiting". We all know Ohio State and Michigan go down to Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, but the added TV audience would also help the "mid-level" teams recruit down there as well. What is your opinion on my view?
Graham Watson (1:14 PM)
I think you make a valid point, but I think the NY market would get a look before the Kentucky/Tennessee markets. Also, the Big Ten is only going to expand by one team (last I heard) and I think they'd get more benefit out of Pitt (good in football and basketball), Rutgers (NY TV market) or Missouri (southern Midwest market and good in football and basketball).
Jay S. (Utah)
The quarterback battle at BYU seems to be stealing the limelight, but after seeing the stats all three QB's put up I'm a little more concerned with the defensive secondary. Will BYU be weak on the defensive side, or are the stats not an accurate telling of the defense?
Graham Watson (1:16 PM)
Since I didn't see the scrimmage, I don't know what kind of situations the secondary was in. However, the secondary has been a question for the Cougars as has the rest of the defense. They lost a lot of guys on that side of the ball and it's going to take some time for the reserves and returning missionaries to get into the flow of being a starter.
Adam (Las Vegas)
Lets say, hypothetically speaking, that the PAC 10 is going to expand and is dead set on inviting Utah. If that is the case, would you think they might invite BYU so they would make the Holy War a PAC 10 battle? Every PAC 10 team has its rival within the conference so it would seem like a good fit.
Graham Watson (1:17 PM)
Colorado seems to be the preferred choice as of right now, however neither CU nor Utah have been publicly invited to join the Pac-10.
If Boise were to win the National Championship, how much of an impact would that have on conference expansion and the interest level of some of the BCS conferences who might be tempted to pass on Boise for another mid-major?
Graham Watson (1:21 PM)
Honestly - and we've talked about this before - there are so many other factors that go into expansion that I'm not sure that winning an NC would be enough for a major conference to invite Boise to join. You're always going to have people argue whether Boise could win against a Big Six schedule. It's academics aren't comparable to say, the Pac-10. It's facilities aren't on par with most of those schools, and its other sports aren't nearly as good s its football team. Plus, there's no TV market advantage. All of this plays a factor because when it comes right down to it, expansion is all about which team can bring its new conference the most money.
Jim (SLC, UT)
In your opinion, if TCU goes undefeated, Utah loses only to TCU, and BoiseSt. loses to VT. Does the Mountain West get two teams in? Do they deserve two teams?
Graham Watson (1:24 PM)
No, just one. Again, this depends on the rest of the teams at the top of the rankings, but we have yet to see a one-loss team get into the BCS. Although, in that situation, I'd see Utah having a better shot because Boise State's best win would be an Oregon State team that already has a loss to TCU.
Mike (Portland, OR)
If you could put a new bowl game in any stadium or city that doesn't currently have one, where would it be and which conferences would you want in it?
Graham Watson (1:25 PM)
I wouldn't mind seeing one in St. Louis so that the middle of the country got a good matchup between the Pac-10 and the Big Ten. I think that would be fun, especially if it ended up being Missouri and Illinois.
Mike (Eastern ID)
Do you see the Pac/Big-10 conferences actually making the moves to expansion? How do you see the MWC and the WAC dealing with it?
Graham Watson (1:26 PM)
Well, the Big Ten already said it was going to do it. The Pac-10 said it would look into it. I think ultimately both conference will do what's in their best financial interest and if the Pac-10 wants to secure its own TV network, it will expand.
There has been a lot of talk about teams breaking off the MWC and joining one of the big six conferences. That would put a huge damper on the MWC getting an auto bid. Who do you see taking the money and running?
Graham Watson (1:28 PM)
Utah and TCU... They'd be stupid not to. The money the Pac-10 and Big 12 can give would be more than twice what those teams made after going to a BCS game. Add a better TV package into that, a better overall academic climate, and better overall competition across all sports, and there's just no way to turn it down.
If the Big East ends up breaking apart due to expansion, do you think the MWC will get a BCS bid (via the Big East no longer having one because it no longer exists)? Even though the criteria for getting a bid isn't published, I feel like the BCS likes the number of bids currently available (6 auto bids for 10 spots).
Graham Watson (1:30 PM)
What makes you think the Big East is going to break apart? If it loses a team (Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, whoever), I think it replaces that team with a C-USA team such as Memphis or even UCF. I don't see the Big East going anywhere. Besides... The current BCS stipulates that there can be seven AQ conferences so the MWC doesn't need any conference to fall apart to get a bid if it can keep its current membership intact.
Jim (SLC, UT)
The bowl landscape is terrible for the Mountain West. Do you ever see it getting better or will we always have to suffer through our best teams playing Pac 10 mediocre teams?
Graham Watson (1:31 PM)
Eh, that's the nature of the beast right now since the MWC isn't an AQ conference. There's more money in pitting a top Big Six against another top Big Six.
Calling for Pat Hill's head seems to be an annual event in Fresno. Was Fresno State right to re-sign him?
Graham Watson (1:33 PM)
They agreed in principle, but I haven't seen anything (haven't checked in the past couple days) in writing yet. I know there's been some question about that. But heck, Fresno State has more games than most of the teams on its side of the country. Pat Hill's been the reason for that. It's hard to fire a guy with those credential even if he can't beat Boise State. I don't see anyone else beating them either.
Jeffrey (Marysville, Ohio)
If you had to choose between an undefeated Boise State and a 12-1 Alabama, who would you pick to play in the title v.s. Ohio State?
Graham Watson (1:34 PM)
Who is Alabama's loss to and what's that team's record? Eh... Either way I'd probably pick Boise State.
If the Big10 pulls a drastic move and expands to 14 or 16, there is no doubt that a few of those teams will be from the Big East, which could break it up. However, my question was more along the lines of: If the Big East broke up, do you think that it would make the road easier for the MWC to get a bid, or do you think they would still have to jump through hoops for the bid?
Graham Watson (1:37 PM)
Wow... I don't see that happening. To many scheduling issues. You'd either have to do away with the nonconference season (which no school wants) or some schools wouldn't play others on certain years which would create a to total word I can't write without getting in trouble. The key to the MWC is that it HAS to keep sending a team to the BCS for the next two years, keep its current membership intact, get better at the bottom of the conference, and maintain three teams in the Top 25. That's the only road that's open to get an automatic bid.
Jim (SLC, UT)
Does any conference have a chance of taking over the MWC as the top non-AQ or do you see them being on top for awhile?
Graham Watson (1:39 PM)
As of right now, I don't see that happening. The top three teams in the MWC get a ton of respect that they've earned over time. I can't see C-USA getting the same type of love and that would be the only conference that has enough quality teams to supplant the MWC. Boise State's has carried the WAC for years and I just don't see Fresno or Nevada or anyone else matching their level at this point.
Jeffrey (Marysville, Ohio)
Graham Watson (1:40 PM)
Uh.... Boise State for sure.
Ben (Sandy, UT)
Graham, I've asked this a few dozen times, but figured I'd give it another shot, why doesn't the Non-AQ have a section on espn's website anymore?
Graham Watson (1:40 PM)
I've noticed and I'd like to answer this question...
Mike (Portland, OR)
There has been a lot of talk about VTech/Boise and TCU/OSU, but what are some under-the-radar Non-AQ games that you are excited for this fall?
Graham Watson (1:41 PM)
Utah-ND or Utah-Pitt (take your pick)... Houston-Tech... BYU-Washington...
You, clearly, do not read the same Big10 expansion conspiracy theory websites/blogs that I do :P
Graham Watson (1:42 PM)
Apparently, I need to brush up on my conspiracy reading. I'm still waiting for the underground super conference to emerge and take over college football.
Thanks for your time Graham. Hypothetical. Let's say BSU blows it against VT. But let's also say TCU goes undefeated and Utah has only one loss. Assuming no other non-AQ teams are in the top 12, could the MWC pull of two BCS teams? It could be argued the MWC almost did it last year with the final selection being between BSU, VT, and BYU?
Graham Watson (1:45 PM)
Again, it's all about the other teams that are up there. I think Utah would have a strong case, but remember, the Fiesta Bowl has an obligation to the Big 12 to take its winner and its runner-up if its ranked in a certain spot (don't have that in front of me right now), which is what might have happened last year had Oklahoma State not blown it. There are just so many factors that go into this, but yes, if Utah's only loss is to TCU and Pitt and ND aren't terrible, then I think Utah would be deserving of consideration.
Do you expect any of the Little 6 in the MWC to pick up a win over the Big 3 this season?
Graham Watson (1:46 PM)
Not seeing it right now, though I think teams like CSU, Wyo and SDSU could surprise some teams this year.
Jim (SLC, UT)
I know that the BCS doesn't release this information but ... Membership has to be affected by TV and attendance, not only performance right? If the MWC were pulling numbers like the SEC they would be a BCS conference long ago.
Graham Watson (1:48 PM)
You know, I don't know. That might play a part in it, but I can't say for sure since the criteria isn't published. What we do know is that wins, Top 25 rankings and BCS bowls do play a role.
Who do you have in the C-USA championship game?
Graham Watson (1:49 PM)
If it were to be played in September? Houston and Southern Miss... I actually typed UCF first, but I need to see something from the Knights offense to be a believer.
What coach who moved on to a bigger program will you miss covering the most? Holtz, Dooley, Gill, other?
Graham Watson (1:50 PM)
Skip Holtz. He was one of the most honest coaches I've ever dealt with. Nice to speak with, never puled any punches. Dooley was like that, too. Gill was always guarded, which makes him a great choice at Kansas.
What's your take on Eastern Washington installing red turf?
Graham Watson (1:52 PM)
I think red uniforms on red turf is much more difficult than blue uniforms on blue turf. I think if teams keep going with colored turf and it provides an advantage or enough opponents complain, at some point the NCAA is going to step in and mandate green fields.
Ben (Sandy, UT)
Thanks for noticing, I do appreciate it!
Graham Watson (1:52 PM)
Just wanted to make sure you knew I wasn't ignoring you.
Terry (Denver CO)
Do you foresee the NCAA being proactive, giving MWC its overdue BCS AQ this year? Or will the NCAA wait-n-see if the MWC is still the MWC after the Pac-10 expands (and presumably raids Colorado & Utah) and the Big XII presumably follows by taking TCU?
Graham Watson (1:53 PM)
The NCAA really has nothing to do with the AQ, non-AQ process. That's all the BCS. It's the committee that oversees the postseason championship for college football. That's why it's called the BCS National Championship instead of the NCAA men's national championship like it is in basketball.
Matt (Fort Collins)
Lets say Utah joins the P10, TCU the Big 12, and BYU the WAC (as you've suggested), what do the other 6 teams do?
Graham Watson (1:55 PM)
Stay in the MWC and the MWC adds other teams. It's the ebb and flow of college football. Thw WAC didn't fold after it lost teams, it filled holes. Same with C-USA and the Sun Belt. Things change, but I'd like to think the people in charge of these conferences prepare for any situation and have plans to make sure their conferences don't fold altogether.
Hayden (Logan, Utah)
why is there no thought to kicking some teams out of a conference during expansion? ie Washington state?
Graham Watson (1:57 PM)
I'm sure there's thought to it, but there are also contracts in place for these schools. I don't know what the compensation (if any) there is for the Pac-10 schools if one gets booted without cause. You'd have to ask Ted Miller on that one.
Daniel (Greenville, NC)
Ecu's offense is looking very dangerous.. And our defense is looking surprisingly good. I am not really all that worried about UCF because we are around 8-1 all time against them, winning the last 3 or 4. I am worried about Southern Miss because they are a thorn in ECU's side. How does Southern Miss look? I also notice you never mention ECU when you talk about the Big East. We have owned Memphis and UCF, and with our stadium renovation our capacity will be 50k. Do you think ECU would get looked over? We are very competitive in every sport but basketball.. haha
Graham Watson (2:00 PM)
I actually talked to Lincoln Riley this morning and he's not exactly pleased with a couple aspects of the ECU offense. Though, he did say that he's been able to install more than he thought he'd be able to at this point. Southern Miss looks pretty good on offense and decent on defense, which is par for the course with USM. As for expansion, I mention Memphis because it's been making the hardest push to get into the Big East. I don't know anything about ECU's academics and how it fits in with the rest of the Big East. I know ECU has a god baseball team, but a poor basketball program hurts.
Be honest. Do you like the blue turf?
Graham Watson (2:01 PM)
I don't mind it. I think it's unique.
Terry (Denver CO)
Thanks for the info (BCS vs. NCAA). But my main question: will "they" wait and see about the Pac-10 before taking any action?
Graham Watson (2:04 PM)
Here's the kicker to this whole deal... If the Pac-10 Big ten, Big 12, whoever, announce they are taking a couple MWC teams after this year, the MWC is out of luck in terms of getting a BCS bid. You have to give a conference a year notice to switch. So that means, the MWC would have to invite Boise State this summer to offset the potential loss of Utah and TCU. But losing those two teams will almost certainly crush the MWC's AQ chances since they are the only ones with BCS credentials. And if you're Boise State, why would you want to take that chance? The only reason BSU goes to the MWC is to become AQ. Hope that makes sense.
Graham Watson (2:05 PM)
OK. I'm over my time, but I really appreciate all the good, thoughtful questions today. It was a great chat. See you next week.