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February 15, 2008

Fans still waiting for Pryor's decision

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com.
Previous mailbags
Feb. 8: Reality check
Feb. 2: One-year wonder?
Jan. 25: Fans dream big

It's such a disappointment when prized recruits don't choose your team that often the only solace is that he didn't pick the archrival, either.

But if a heralded prospect chooses to go over to the "Dark Side," it's like a punch in the gut and hurts almost as much as a four-game losing streak.

At least, that's how Michigan fans might feel if Terrelle Pryor, the nation's top-ranked prospect, chooses Ohio State when he finally makes his decision. Thus, some Michigan residents are asking if there are ways to keep Pryor out of Columbus. Another is asking why it's taking him so long to decide.

We look at those questions and a few others in this week's mailbag.

OLIN'S MAILBAG
Pleading for Pryor

I realize the impact Terrelle Pryor would have is unpredictable. But if he ends up at Ohio State, it will really suck. I hate them and would have to blame someone for his decision. Could you write something about the great opportunity he could have at Michigan and how Ohio State isn't the right fit? Maybe that Jim Tressel is going to the NFL or anything that could help us? I hope he ends up with us, but I'm just pleading that he doesn't go to Columbus. Any help would be much appreciated. You guys have a lot of pull.

Richard in Michigan (in case you couldn't tell)
-----

First of all, Richard, stop groveling. Secondly, I don't have that much pull. But I do admire your creativity in trying to sabotage the rival Buckeyes. Desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures, and four consecutive losses to the Buckeyes certainly qualify as desperate times in Ann Arbor.

Now, I do agree that Pryor would be a wonderful fit in Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's offense. Look at what Pat White has done at West Virginia, and Pryor is much bigger. He would have a good chance to start immediately, and the offense could be built around him.

But Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy in Tressel's offense, so Pryor could flourish there. Oregon's Dennis Dixon might have won the Heisman had he not gotten hurt last year, so Pryor would figure to be a good fit in Eugene. And remember what Michael Robinson did as Penn State's quarterback a couple of seasons ago? He was absolutely dynamic, and Pryor could be dynamic in his home state, too.

Worth the wait?

There has been speculation that Terrelle Pryor's decision to delay his announcement is because of self-aggrandizing reasons. Or maybe he wants to make the absolute best choice for his future. But it occurs to me that no matter his rationale, might there a strain between him and the players and coaches of his new team for drawing out his recruitment? Might the coaches at Ohio State or Michigan, after Pryor makes his commitment, see his antics as a way to get the spotlight fixed on him and a show of disrespect for the recruiting class and his new teammates? I can't see how any further delay can be anything but beneficial for his ego and his chance to be seen by big network audiences in preparation for the NFL. I would like to know your input as someone with an objective take on the recruitment process.

Stephen
-----

It's my understanding that Pryor is considering Oregon, but hasn't had the opportunity to visit yet. In that case, why shouldn't he wait to make one of the biggest decisions of his life?

I would bet there are plenty of high school seniors who aren't athletes and who still aren't sure where they will go to college. Why should Pryor have to decide on a specified date a date he did not set especially if he's uncertain where he wants to go?

Some might see that as selfish, but any future teammates probably would not. They just want him on their team. And as far the coaches at Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State or Oregon, if they have a problem with how Pryor is handling the recruiting process, they always can withdraw their scholarship offers.

That's not going to happen.

Eyeing the Irish

I am looking at Notre Dame's 2008 schedule, the apparent talent they now have on their roster (three top-10 recruiting classes in a row) and a coach who seems to be checking his ego for the betterment of the program, and I am starting to think that an eight- or nine-win season is not out of the question. Am I crazy?

Collin in Oxford
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Earlier this week, I called Notre Dame one of the nation's five most underachieving programs over the past five years because so much is expected from the country's most storied college football program. But it might not be that outrageous to expect eight victories from the Irish in 2008.

Notre Dame, which started a bunch of freshmen and sophomores last season, actually started showing progress at the end of last season and closed with back-to-back wins. Yeah, those wins were over Duke and Stanford, but after a 1-9 start, that still was progress.

And as you mentioned, the Irish will play a much more advantageous schedule in 2008 than they did in '07.

There are six teams on the schedule San Diego State, Stanford, North Carolina, Washington, Pittsburgh and Syracuse coming off seasons in which they managed five wins or less. The Irish also will play three teams Michigan, Boston College and Navy that don't figure to be nearly as good as they were last season.

That doesn't mean Notre Dame will win all those games, but 2008 shouldn't be the train wreck '07 was.

Big East backer

Your article ("Wolverines May Face Reality Check," Feb. 8) on the Big Ten being better than the Big East is based on what? The Big Ten has Ohio State, Penn State and maybe Michigan and Wisconsin. The Big East has West Virginia, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati, USF and get my point? The Big East won all five of its bowl games two years ago and has won its past two BCS bowls. When has the Big Ten won a BCS bowl? West Virginia has been in the top 10 three years in a row and Michigan was nowhere to be found. West Virginia has 11 wins three years in a row. Michigan won seven games just three years ago.

David in Flint, Mich.
-----

I never wrote that Michigan had better talent than West Virginia. In last week's mailbag, I responded to a reader's contention that Michigan did by writing, "Maybe your appraisal is correct and he (Rich Rodriguez) has more talent at Michigan than at West Virginia."

But I did write that Rodriguez will face better competition in the Big Ten than in the Big East, and I'll stand behind that statement.

I've always been a proponent of the Big East and that it is deserving of its status as a "Big Six" conference. But it's not a better league than the Big Ten. Though it's true the Big East champion has won a BCS bowl in each of the past three seasons while the Big Ten's has not, let's not overlook that Ohio State lost in the national championship game in each of the past two seasons. And three seasons ago, Michigan lost the Rose Bowl on a last-second field goal to Vince Young and Texas. To me, that carries more weight than Louisville's Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest in 2006.

Besides, the article was comparing the competition Rodriguez will face at Michigan to the competition he faced at West Virginia. In doing that, you cannot include West Virginia because as their coach, Rodriguez did not face the Mountaineers.

Yes, Louisville has fielded a strong program in recent years, but I still think Ohio State is better. And I'd take Penn State, Wisconsin and Illinois as a group over Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida.

That doesn't mean I think those Big East teams aren't legitimate programs; I just think you're not giving the Big Ten enough credit.

By the way, in 2007, Big Ten teams were 3-0 against Big East teams.

Prediction time

I know it's early, but how do you pick the conference champions for next season? Also, I would be curious about your Final Four basketball predictions.

David in Skyline, Ala.
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We don't have spring reports to provide any clues; we don't know who is going to get hurt, who will raise their game and who will stumble. But, hey, our aim is to please, so I'll take a stab at the league champs.

SEC Georgia.
ACC Clemson (though the Tigers have let me down before).
Big 12 Oklahoma.
Big East West Virginia.
Pac-10 USC.
Big Ten Ohio State.
MAC Ball State.
WAC Fresno State.
Conference USA East Carolina.
Mountain West BYU.
Sun Belt Florida Atlantic.

I have to admit I don't get to follow basketball too closely, so my predictions on the Final Four would be to take the top seeds and let it go at that. Of course, we don't know the top seeds yet.

But you want educated insight, so I put the question to Rivals.com national college basketball writer Andrew Skwara, who says UCLA, Memphis, Kansas and Connecticut.

Now, head to Vegas.

Hawkeye hopes

How do you think Iowa will bounce back from a 6-6 season?

Huy in Iowa City
-----

The Hawkeyes were overwhelmed by injuries in 2007 and still had a shot at a bowl before a season-closing home loss to Western Michigan.

Iowa must rebuild its defensive front and hope a tailback Jevon Pugh, perhaps emerges to replace the production of Albert Young.

But quarterback Jake Christensen is back, his top three receivers last season were two freshmen and a sophomore and the entire offensive line is returning, so there is reason to be optimistic.

And the main reason to think the Hawkeyes will bounce back in '08 is that they have had three consecutive seasons of seven wins or less, and Kirk Ferentz is too good a coach for that to continue.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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