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 (1:02 PM)
Hey guys. Welcome to the non-AQ chat. I know Mel Kiper is doing a chat at the same time, so I appreciate you stopping by.
JACKSON (OCEANSIDE, CA)
DO YOU THINK JORDAN WYNN WILL LEAD HIS UTAH TEAM TO A BCS GAME???
Graham Watson (1:03 PM)
I think Jordan Wynn needs to get healthy first. I'm not sure a BCS game is in the cards for the Utes this year, but I wouldn't rule out 2011. I think Wynn has all the tools to be a star quarterback. He just needs some more experience. And he needs to stay healthy.
Ben (Sandy, UT)
Jordan Wynn goes down on the first play of non-contact scrimmage diving for a fumble, should I be concerned?
Graham Watson (1:04 PM)
Nah. It was a bruise. I think you should be impressed that he dove for the fumble in the first place, which he really should not have done.
Jake (Lindon, UT)
If Harvey Unga isn't able to return to BYU in time for his senior season what do you think that does with the QB battle at BYU? Do you think the coaches will lean more towards Nelson and his running abilities as a way to help offset the loss of Unga?
Graham Watson (1:05 PM)
I don't believe the two are mutually exclusive. Unga is a huge part of the offense, but the Cougars have a nice stable of running backs that could work by committee and be as effective. Obviously, BYU does not have a guy that can do all of the things Unga can do, but I think they have guys that can bring different things to the table and fill that role.
Curt (Warsaw In)
Graham, talking to people that see the Notre Dame football players daily comment on their gain in physical strength. I am hoping that Kelly turns them around in a hurrry. What do you think?
Graham Watson (1:07 PM)
I think he's a great fit for that program because he's a total 180 from Weis. I always thought the way Weis ran ND made the team too uptight. The Irish should be a little more relaxed this year and should have a little more fun. That will translate into a better effort on the field.
Do you think Idaho will be able to improve on the success of their 2009 campaign? And more importantly, do you think they might have a chance at upsetting BSU up in Moscow?
Graham Watson (1:08 PM)
I actually think Idaho will be about the same. They don't lose a lot on offense and I don't see their defense getting drastically better. In the WAC, offense is all that matters and Idaho has enough to keep pace in the conference and even against some of their OOC competition. As for beating Boise State? Not going to happen.
John (St. Louis)
Graham, big fan since your days at the P-D. What do you think of Mizzou's chances in the Big-12 north this year? Can their defense finally step up and will Kemp be the go-to wide receiver they need him to be after losing Alexander?
Graham Watson (1:10 PM)
The defense is going to be the key. I think Mizzou has the offensive weapons and style to play with anyone in the North, but the defense has been lacking since guys like Ziggy Hood and William Moore left. There's some good depth on the defensive side of the ball, but it has to come to play. The North will be between Mizzou and Nebraska.
Mike D (Portland, OR)
The more and more I look at conference expansion, the more I realize it could really hurt the MWC/WAC. What are your predictions of how conf realignment will actually play out?
Graham Watson (1:13 PM)
You're right, it will probably hurt the MWC and the WAC. One of the Houston TV stations had a short story about the teams the BCS conferences are considering for expansion (its in my links) and the majority of those schools come out of the MWC and WAC (really just the MWC). I've said all along that if the WAC loses one or two of its big schools and can't add Boise State, the dream of an AQ berth is gone.
So, Ohio St comes into the season as a preseason favorite for the #2 spot in the nation. do they play Alabama in the National Championship?
Graham Watson (1:14 PM)
I think that's the popular choice, but I think both teams will have to go undefeated to make that happen especially with Boise State breathing down their necks (with an easier overall schedule).
What do you think the chances are of Houston going undefeated this year and breaking into a BCS bowl?
Graham Watson (1:15 PM)
Slim. I know Houston has a new defensive coordinator, but I'm not sure whether that team will play any defense. The offense will be the same and Keenum will likely lead the nation in total offense, but the defense, especially in a C-USA West that's going to score points, is the weak link of that squad.
With all this recent super-conference talk... what does the Big 12 do? Everyone is already assuming Mizzou is out... if the Big 12 can hold on to UT and A&M, what schools do they reach out to to fill the conference up to 16 teams? TCU + 4 more?
Graham Watson (1:18 PM)
There's no telling whether they'd even go to 16 teams. Scheduling with 16 teams (and this goes for any conference) is a nightmare because you'll inevitably have one team do well but there will be controversy because it didn't play another team that also did well. Too much of a headache. You already see that in some of the conferences with 12 teams and it would be a disaster with 16. BUT... TCU, Houston... could be interesting choices for the Big 12 depending on what it decides to do and if Mizzou or anyone else leaves.
David (Denver, CO)
Do you see Boise State getting an invite to the Mountain West in the coming weeks? Maybe even Fresno State and Nevada to move to 12 teams?
Graham Watson (1:20 PM)
Here's the thing... Inviting Boise State would now be in the MWC's best interest with some of the better teams - Utah, BYU, TCU - in the expansion talks. However, if those teams (or any fraction of those teams) leave, there is no incentive for Boise State to switch conferences. In fact, it would make more sense for the WAC to prey on the remaining pieces (say, BYU) by using Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada, Hawaii, etc. as bait. Those schools are a little more attractive that New Mexico, UNLV, Colorado State, etc.
did HD get fired? she hasnt had a chat in like a month or more
Graham Watson (1:20 PM)
She's on maternity leave.
What's your take so far on the Pitt-Utah game on Sept. 2nd? How do you think the game will play out?
Graham Watson (1:22 PM)
I think that will be a pretty good game. Both teams have had good springs and return some key guys. I know it's a few months out, but Wynn's health does raise a couple concerns. Cain and Robles both had good spring seasons, but who knows? I honestly think this is the best game on the Utes OOC schedule and it's the one I'm most looking forward to.
Mike D (Portland, OR)
Any FCS eyeing a move to the FBS with realignment in full swing? Places like Montana or Idaho St?
Graham Watson (1:23 PM)
Obviously, those schools will be up for consideration. I'd look at the Great West, too, since they don't have a complete football conference and teams like UC Davis and Cal Poly are pretty popular noncon foes anyway.
hellhound (happy valley utah)
Have the BCS commisioners really forgotten the nightmare that was the 16 WAC. How are these super conferences really supposed to work from a logistics stand point?
Graham Watson (1:24 PM)
Totally agree (see answer below). Seems like a nightmare scenario unless someone can map out a plan that claims otherwise.
Ben (Sandy, UT)
Graham, if Wynn's injury is just a bruise, why are they scoping it?
Graham Watson (1:26 PM)
Precaution. Internal damage wouldn't show up on an X-ray. According to Utah, he's supposed to be good to go for summer workouts... And thanks for reminding me of that. I meant to put it up as a post earlier. I will after the chat.
John (Lewiston, ID)
Do you see Idaho going back to another bowl this year? If so, back to the H-Bowl or some other one?
Graham Watson (1:28 PM)
The H-Bowl would be a good guess since it picks its WAC participant based on proximity and I don't think Boise State will be available. Also, last year's H-Bowl was awesome, especially with Akey's halftime prediction.
So if a conference does make the jump to 16 teams (divided into two 8-team divisions)... How would scheduling shake up? 7 divisional games and 5 non-conference games? Then the winner of each division plays in a conference title game? The 5th non-conference game could mean BIG money for some teams... it could even lead to a conference showdown type series between two super conferences. Like the ACC-Big 10 challenge in hoops.
Graham Watson (1:31 PM)
I actually don't know and I'm sure it's being discussed today. It seems to me like that would be the biggest solution, but then you're getting into all sorts of other conferences complaining about the soft OOC schedule and the number of teams to go around. Like I said, it creates a tough sell across the board.
With the Big10 accelerating its expansion efforts, it sounds like this may all play out soon. Are you personally more excited or relieved to see expansion finally occur?
Graham Watson (1:34 PM)
Hmmm... I don't know what my feeling is. I think I'm eager to see what the MWC, WAC, C-USA etc., do after all this. Expansion has the potential to really make the non-AQs totally irrelevant. I mean let's look at this realistically... Yes, people who follow me are fans of every team from Boise to Louisiana-Lafayette. But nationally, only Boise State, TCU, Utah and BYU get consistent press. Houston has burst onto the scene a little and Nevada and Fresno get a little press (mostly when they're playing Boise). So, if you take out the four main teams, the non-AQs become pretty irrelevant nationally, which makes for a bad deal for "the others"
Of the 3 solid performing non-AQ's, which is in the most precarious position in the current expansion whirlwind? BYU (campus culture issues), BSU (tv market size), or TCU (tv market already owned by the Big 12)?p.s. I leave Utah out due to rumored Pac 12 attractiveness...
Graham Watson (1:36 PM)
BYU without a doubt. The other issues can be sorted out and dealt with. BYU culture doesn't mesh with some of the conference members it would be dealing with.
did you catch the Utah spring game? i did... I love Jordan Wynn, but i have to admit T. Cain and G. Robles both looked like solid backups. With Wynn proving to be a little fragile, I have to admitt it feels good to know we have reliable backups at The U this year.
Graham Watson (1:37 PM)
I read about it. And I think Utah might have the best quarterbacking corps in the country. I honestly believe that.
Do you think Temple has finally begun to show signs of being a legitimate contender in the MAC, or was last season a fluke?
Graham Watson (1:39 PM)
From what I've been hearing out of Temple's camp, they're very excited about the team this year. Sometimes all it takes is for a team to get a taste of success. Then they know what it takes to get back there. That's where Temple is now. They didn't really know what it took last year, but learned on the fly. Now, they do know and will be able to push for a division title.
Graham, With the talk of expansion becoming the big issue over the coming seasons, it seems like every conference is jumping on the expansion bandwagon trying to scramble around and pick up teams to create these "superconferences" with a championship game. Do you think there are any commissioners out there that disagree with the expansion idea and would rather go with quality over quantity? As a fan of the MWC, I believe that a 9 team conference is perfect for scheduling: 4 home, 4 away for each team. Also, a conference chamionship game just opens the door for an automatic BCS bowl birth going to a team from a weak conference "division". (almost Nebraska last season against Texas) Sorry that was long, but what are your thoughts on smaller conferences?
Graham Watson (1:42 PM)
Quality doesn't net you more money. Some of these conferences are trying to sell TV contracts and become the most attractive conference they can. I'm eager to see if the Big East is broken apart and sold off.
What are your thoughts on how Fresno St. will do this year?
Graham Watson (1:45 PM)
I think it will be about the same as the past couple years. Not good enough to beat Boise, but not bad enough to fall from the top of the WAC. I'll be interested to see a couple things with Fresno: a) Who ends up being the starting QB? b) Who replaces Ryan Mathews? c) Do they really add some legit spread schemes to the offense?
If the Big East does break, does that mean we could see USF, Louisville, and Cincy back in CUSA?
Graham Watson (1:45 PM)
Possible, though I see the Big Ten and the Big 12 gobbling up the best pieces. That would be the only reason to break the Big East up in the first place.
In a rebuilding year, how many wins will BYU get next year? Do you think they can beat Washington in Provo?
Graham Watson (1:48 PM)
Gosh, there are so many questions with BYU and they seems to keep mounting. First it's the defense then the O-line then quarterback and now Unga. It's hard to get a handle on what BYU is going to look like once this all shakes out. Mendenhall is spinning a lot of plates right now. I think QB and defense will come along. The O-line is a huge question mark and I can tell you right now that BYU doesn't have ONE guy that can replace Unga. So, the RB troops have to rally together and without an O-line, well...
Blake (Abilene, TX)
Graham I know you have som ties to the Big 12 so I want to ask you. Is the Big 12 struggeling are they going to break up? What rumers are true what are not? Thanks!
Graham Watson (1:50 PM)
I don't see the Big 12 breaking up. I see it trying to get stronger. The thing with the Big 12 is that it has a very definitive TV footprint, so it's expansion is kind of limited. I think teams like Texas wouldn't want to lose its natural in-state rivals or Oklahoma. It's the North that's vulnerable in the expansion scenario. Think SWC.
Baily, California [via mobile]
If the Pac-10 expands to 12 teams, what 2 do you think will go?
Graham Watson (1:50 PM)
Colorado and Utah
Vance (Reno, NV) [via mobile]
Do you think this is the last year we see Chris Ault on the sidelines?
Graham Watson (1:52 PM)
I actually think this is a coin toss depending on what the Pack does this year. It would be a good time to leave with Kap and Taua gone. If the Pack tanks, I think he's definitely on the firing block. But he might just be able to ride off into the sunset with a good season... And the schedule definitely sets up for one.
Any chance we see Navy and Army join a conference?
Graham Watson (1:52 PM)
I don't see that happening.
Would you like to see some of the MWC conference teams leave to a BCS conference? Or, Would you like to see Boise State join the MWC and the conference become BCS?
Graham Watson (1:56 PM)
I lean toward what's best for the teams. Teams such as Utah, TCU, etc., stand to make almost three times as much as they did during their BCS years. That's including TV contracts and the BCS money from being an AQ conference. It's hard to tell a team to do that based on the "possibility" of becoming an AQ with the MWC. Remember, that's not guaranteed and the requisites to become an AQ are not published. The BCS could easily deny the request.
Dan (San Jose)
Colorado would leave the Big 12? Why? What purpose does that serve?
Graham Watson (1:57 PM)
The way its put to me is that there's more money to be made with a potential Pac-10 TV deal. Colorado would have a better competitive advantage. It's amazing for the Olympic sports. And most of all, the presidents want it for academic reasons, which have profound funding effects on their own.
Ben (Sandy, UT)
Graham, I feel a bit stupid posting this as you know how rumors go, but among Utah season ticket holders the rumor is that Utah has the Pac-10 contract, is finalizing it and will have it signed before the season begins and announced after the season ends. Believable?
Graham Watson (1:59 PM)
I say no. It's hard to keep that type of thing a secret in this day and age.
Graham, does Utah start the season ranked? if so, where do you think they land? A big win over Pitt could really start the ball rolling for Utah early next year and help them jump up the rankings early.
Graham Watson (2:00 PM)
If they do, it will be low. I honestly think TCU and Boise State are the only non-AQs that start the season ranked.
Graham Watson (2:00 PM)
OK. I'm out. Thanks for all the questions. I'm guessing we'll have a ton of expansion to talk about next week. See you next Tuesday.