The mailbag is a little light with new and interesting questions this week. So if you want a query answered in Friday's bag, now would be an opportune time to send one in, using the link underneath my ugly mug to the right.
On to this week's questions:
Eric from Tampa writes: Brian, has one loss ever hurt a program as much as the Sugar Bowl has hurt Cincinnati? Sure, we got it handed to us by Florida, and I don't want to get into the reasons/excuses for why we lost, which are numerous. But the blatant disrespect for Cincinnati this year is staggering.
Brian Bennett: That's a good question, Eric, and it reflects a discussion I was having with someone just the other day. I've seen Cincinnati picked anywhere from first to fifth in the Big East, and from inside the top 20 to outside the top 40. The range of opinion on the Bearcats is amazing, and hardly anyone is giving much respect to a team that had a 12-0 regular season and returns some serious offensive firepower.
The reason, of course, is not just the Sugar Bowl trampling, but also the loss of Brian Kelly. Some people no doubt wonder whether he was the magician at the controls and whether this program will fall back down without him. Certainly the performance against Florida didn't help dissuade that opinion. I have an extremely hard time believing that the Bearcats won't be a major factor this year, however, and I can't go along with those who see them as a mediocre club.
Terry M. from Cincinnati writes: I encourage the media to completely ignore the Bearcats in their pre-season predictions. I'd much rather the Bearcats be the fly-in-the-ointment starting sometime during the day on September 25th. It's much better to listen to the media beat up on the Bearcats because they are winning after the season starts.
Brian Bennett: As much success as this program has had the past couple of years, it seems to me that Cincinnati does embrace the underdog role. That fits its personality and stadium. So roll with it.
Nic from Lutz, Fla., writes: I've noticed in your blog that it seems like USF has a rather large number of transfers this offseason from other BCS programs (ASU,ECU,Notre Dame, Auburn,Colorado). Other than the fine academics, beaches, and weather, what do you think could be driving this migration? To me, it seems like a storm is brewing, better players, new coach, bigger games ...
Brian Bennett: Well, I think it's two things. One, there are just a whole lot of players from Florida, and when they decide to transfer from their current schools for whatever reason, coming back home usually looks appealing. Also, there's opportunity at South Florida. It's a little easier to crack the depth chart there right now than it is at Florida, Florida State or Miami, and the Bulls have all the trappings of a major BCS program to boot. It doesn't hurt that Skip Holtz seems like the type of coach players want to follow.
Evan from Syracuse writes: Hey, Brian, what do you think of having a trophy for the three tri-state teams (Syracuse, Rutgers, and UConn)? They could creatively call it the "Tri-State Trophy" and the winner would get first dibs on the Pinstripe Bowl slot for the Big East. The tiebreaker could be point differential or best record. All three schools already dislike each other, why not add bragging rights in form of hardware?
Brian Bennett: I prefer having trophies for individual rivalries, like the Keg O'Nails in the Louisville-Cincinnati game. I'd like to see the games between those three schools you mention all become trophy games. There's already the Lambert Trophy for best East Coast team (though that now includes Big East teams that stretch the definition of "East Coast"). And the Pinstripe Bowl slot is going to be decided based on the best matchups and who can sell the most tickets in a given year, not strictly on-field results.
Brian from Tampa writes: Sampson Genus AKA The GENIUS has received no coverage this offseason on these blogs. He is USF's anchor and best offensive lineman in the Big East. I don't understand how the preseason All-Big East center is not in your top 25 (even top 30 if you include the five who barely missed the cut). Do the right thing and post this in your mailbag with a few good words about the best center in college football!
Brian Bennett: You officially qualify as the biggest Sampson Genus fan I've ever heard from. What Genus did last year, especially after moving over from the defensive line, was very impressive, and I look forward to seeing what Genus can do as a follow-up. But best offensive lineman in the Big East? I wouldn't go that far, not with guys like Jason Pinkston and Zach Hurd around, to name just a couple. I also like Moe Petrus of Connecticut a little better at the center spot, though admittedly it's difficult for a layman like me to properly evaluate all that goes on in that position.
Still, I'm glad you mentioned Genus, because those guys in the trenches don't get nearly enough credit.