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June 14, 2007

Mailbag: If it wasn't for bad luck ...

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He will be working all summer to get you ready for the start of Fall practice.
Previous mailbags
June 8: Odd man out
June 1: Razorbacks turmoil
May 25: Why not us?

To this day there are former Stanford players who adamantly insist that California player Dwight Garner's knee hit the turf.

Garner made the third pitch on the famous kickoff return for a touchdown which lifted California to a 25-20 victory in 1982.

Closely watched replays show that Garner probably was down, but the officials didn't make the call.

Bad calls or missed calls are a part of college football. Fans of every program can cite an example when a team was victimized by a bad call.

Some teams just seem to get victimized more than others. What are those teams?

Read on.

Playing the victim

Why is it that certain teams seem to never get the call? I mean, with Missouri, they seem to always get horrible calls. I'm sure you have heard of the fifth down with Colorado, and the kick and catch with Nebraska.

This year we had a call in the Iowa State game that cost us that game, and the Big 12 commissioner came out and said there was no hold. I was just wondering if there are other teams that rarely get the call?

Nathan in Marshall, Mo.

I feel your pain. No doubt, Missouri has gotten hosed a few times (the fifth down was atrocious).

Oklahoma was a victim of a horrendous call against Oregon last year. I also remember when a questionable clipping penalty nullified a Rocket Ismail game-winning punt return for a touchdown against Colorado in the 1990 Orange Bowl.

I'm sure fans of every program can remember instances when they were victims of unjust calls, too.

But let's get back to your point. I would say that one program has been victimized by questionable calls even more than Missouri.

Twice, disputed calls cost Miami national championships.

In 1988 the Hurricanes lost 31-30 at Notre Dame because of a terrible call later admitted by officials to be wrong. The Hurricanes picked up a key first down at the Irish 1-yard line, but possession was erroneously awarded to Notre Dame.

The Hurricanes went 11-1 that year and Notre Dame, which finished undefeated, was crowned national champion.

In the Fiesta Bowl after the 2002 season, Miami had apparently stopped Ohio State and was celebrating a national championship when a late flag was thrown. The Hurricanes were called for pass interference which was vigorously disputed and Ohio State won in overtime.

The bad calls that cost Missouri were indeed unfortunate. But Miami has more reason to be bitter when you consider the questionable calls cost the Hurricanes titles.

Big East power struggle

I was just wondering how you could pick West Virginia over Louisville? WR Harry Douglas has been impossible to handle this spring and we all know Brian Brohm is the leading QB coming into next season. I believe there will be a serious threat in the backfield with an Anthony Allen, George Stripling, and incoming freshman Dale Martin trio.

Christian in Louisville

I agree that Louisville will field a terrific team in 2007, and the Cardinals could go undefeated.

However, I don't think it's outrageous to suggest that West Virginia would win that matchup on Nov. 8.

West Virginia is 22-3 over the last two seasons, and that was with QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton playing in their freshman and sophomore seasons.

They should be better as juniors. Also, the Mountaineers have home-field advantage this season.

There is no doubt the Louisville, too, is loaded. But just a thought if Harry Douglas was impossible to handle this spring, does that raise questions about the Louisville defensive backs?

Probably not. But the fact remains at this time I'm predicting a West Virginia victory because the game is in Morgantown and I think Slaton will have a tremendous season.

Overhyped Trojans?

Why is everyone saying USC will be so good? There's all this talk about how they'll win the Pac-10 and then the national championship. Some of their road games include Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, California, and Arizona State. Notre Dame and Oregon usually have great offenses and will probably be able to outscore them. Sure, their defense will be great but their offense won't be anything special. In my opinion, QB John David Booty is a little overrated and is just getting all the attention just because he's from USC.

Joe in Arizona

Why would anyone expect USC to be good? Hmmm maybe it has something to do with the fact the Trojans have posted 59 victories over the last five seasons.

The schedule is formidable, but they've faced similar schedules in that span.

John David Booty is indeed getting all that attention because he's from USC. He's also getting it because he passed for more than 3,300 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.

Whether he is overrated is subject to debate, but he was unquestionably productive last year.

True, he won't have WRs Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith in 2007. However, USC has recruited so well in recent years a new star will likely emerge. Patrick Turner could be a well-known name by the end of the season.

Former Auburn coach Pat Dye once told me that when picking a team capable of winning the national championship look for one with a proven QB and a good defense.

Booty proved himself last year. The Trojans defense ranked 20th nationally in 2006 and returns 10 starters from that unit.

No doubt, USC qualifies.

That doesn't guarantee USC will win the national championship, or even the Pac-10 for that matter.

But that's why many observers feel USC will again field one of the best football teams in America.

Next in line at Notre Dame

Who will win the QB Job at Notre Dame? Will (Charlie) Weis use a two-QB system with (Demetrius) Jones and (Jimmy) Clausen or Jones and (Evan) Sharpley? With their ugly schedule in the beginning of the season, what are their chances of coming out of the 2007 season above .500? If Notre Dame has an ugly season will Weis be on the hot seat?

Alex in Los Angeles

Most recent reports indicate that's a three-man race between Sharpley, Jones and Clausen.

Our sources in South Bend, including Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated, believe that Sharpley will likely start the season opener.

However, Clausen - ranked the nation's top QB prospect in his recruiting class by Rivals.com - will have a chance to play. My guess is he could find his way into the starting lineup if he learns the offense sufficiently.

I wouldn't be surprised if Clausen's first year is very similar to that of Georgia's Matt Stafford. The Bulldog QB struggled early last season, steadily improved and came on strong at the end of the year.

Stafford, by the way, was also rated the top quarterback prospect in his class by Rivals.com.

Early indications

Do you think Nebraska has any shot at starting 3-0 with games against Nevada, at Wake Forest and USC? And if not, do you think the Cornhuskers can still legitimately complete for the Big 12 title even if they don't have a fabulous start to their season?

Peter in Omaha

A 3-0 start is possible, especially with two games at home. However, I expect the Huskers will start out 2-1.

Even though they play USC in Lincoln, I don't anticipate the Cornhuskers beating the Trojans. With defensive ends Adam Carriker and Jay Moore gone to the NFL, I don't foresee Nebraska applying enough pressure to rattle USC QB John David Booty.

Nebraska had coverage problems last season, and without a strong pass rush that could be magnified.

Actually, I predict Nebraska will be 4-1 going into a key game at Missouri - which will match the top two contenders in the Big 12 North. I'm picking the Huskers to win that game. I think they will finish 9-3, although 10-2 isn't out of the question.

My guess is they will lose to USC and likely fall at Texas. I wouldn't be surprised if they also lost to either Oklahoma State or Texas A&M, even though both of those games are in Lincoln.

Overall, though, I'm guessing it will be another good year for the Huskers.

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com. To send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag, click here.



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