The next time I talk to you guys, I'll be in Newport for Big East media day, where we'll have some meaty football issues to discuss.
On to the last mailbag of July:
Bob from Houston writes: Should we expect a well-articulated plan of how/when the conference is attempting to rework its current football contract with ESPN? Or would ESPN (and probably any other network) be more likley to opt for a "wait and see," in lieu of a possible Big 10+2 or A-She-She raid of the Big East?
Brian Bennett: While it's possible that commissioner John Marinatto might lay out some more specifics on the Big East's plans going forward, I doubt it. Marinatto and the league have taken the stance that they'd rather formulate their strategy in private without offering many details. And remember that the ESPN contract still has a few more years on it, so there's no rush to make changes to the deal.
Grant from Louisville writes: In looking at U of L's schedule this year, do you think that if Charlie Strong's team can go 6-6, we'll get a shot at a bowl, or do we probably need seven wins? I'm looking at it, we should have a shot to win the first two games (UK, EKU), then we'll probably drop one to Oregon State, have a shot at Arkansas State, beat Memphis, potentially split the Cincinnati and UConn games at home, lose to Pitt, maybe lose to Syracuse, split USF & WVU, pull an upset at Rutgers. Basically what I'm saying is we'll have to split the home game stretches to have a shot. Do you agree with that?
Brian Bennett: Getting to a bowl at 6-6 really depends on what other teams do and what bowl slots will be available. I have said 6-6 is the ceiling for this team, and with Louisville's solid reputation for traveling to postseason games, I think some bowl game would love to have the Cardinals.
However, as you laid out in your scenario, an awful lot has to go right. Louisville will not be favored to beat Cincinnati, UConn or West Virginia, and beating Rutgers on the road looks very difficult as well. USF might be the best chance for a conference upset, especially given how well Louisville has historically played against the Bulls at home.
Tom from Rochester, N.Y. writes: Entering Year 2 with Doug Marrone, there is a lot more optimism amongst 'Cuse fans. Where do you see the program heading down the road, three years, five years? Recruiting is starting to pick up, Greg Robinson's leftovers are leaving the program, will Syracuse once again be competing for the Big East title? Or has the Robinson period limited the peak?
Brian Bennett: I like the direction Marrone is taking with this program. Recruiting is getting better, but it still needs to reach another level for Syracuse to have the type of talent needed to win a Big East title. I think the Orange should at least contend for a bowl berth this season, with the postseason being a realistic expectation in 2011 and 2012. Robinson left a smoking crater in Syracuse, so it's probably at least another four-to-five years before the Orange can be considered legitimate conference title contenders. The good news is that it's easier to rebuild in the Big East than elsewhere.
Dylan S. from Scotch Plains, N.J., writes: Do you believe that the Pinstripe Bowl is a perfect fit for Rutgers this year? It seems like everyone has been predicting it, so what is your take?
Brian Bennett: Put it this way: If Rutgers gets bowl eligible and does not win enough games to claim the BCS bid or the Champs Sports Bowl berth -- which is exactly what I think will happen -- then I'll be shocked if the Scarlet Knights are playing anywhere but Yankee Stadium this postseason. If I'm a Rutgers fan, I'm already making plans for that game (refundable deposits only, of course).
Newman from Clifton writes: This might be the most ridiculous question I've ever sent you, but hear me out. If he were still around, would Mardy Gilyard start for the Bearcats this year? I would put Vidal Hazelton and Armon Binns ahead of him. Kenbrell Thompkins impressed in the spring game, DJ Woods is still maybe the best small-play possession reciever on the team, and Dyjuan Lewis is expected to push for time. Brandon Carswell just transferred here from USC too.
Brian Bennett: I think you've had too much sun this summer. Mardy Gilyard is one of the best, big-game players in "new" Big East history (since 2005). Newman!
Jim C. from New Brunswick, N.J., writes: I noticed in your last mailbag that someone had suggested a "Tri-State" trophy series. While this would be interesting I, like you, enjoy a one-on-one trophy game better and have been thinking that one is in dire need of happening: UConn-Rutgers for the Jasper Howard Trophy. After the events of last year (especially how exciting the game was with Tim Brown catching that spectacular game winning TD with "Jazz" written on his eye black because he and Howard were best friends growing up) I think it could be one of the classiest trophy games around.
I know as a Rutgers fan we more or less already consider UConn one of, if not our biggest rival, so this would add just a touch more of that college football mystique. Any thoughts? Any way you could suggest this to some people who could get it done?
Brian Bennett: I love this idea. I know a lot of people at both schools read this blog. Consider it submitted.
Lane from Indianapolis writes: I love a good lobster (or a couple) ... How do you fare in a good lobster-eating contest against the other media attendees at the Big East Media Clambake? What's the number of lobsters you're targeting to eat during the event? Maybe you guys can do this Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest style ...
Brian Bennett: I'm lucky to finish one. It's usually the only lobster I eat all year, but it's an annual highlight. Besides, you don't want to linger too long in that buffet line when those big ol' offensive and defensive linemen wade through. You might lose a finger.