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Five Wide Fullbacks: Texas vs. Oklahoma, Penn State’s New Coach and More

Welcome to another edition of everyone's favorite offseason discussion. Just for kicks, here are links to the previous editions (and authors):

January 13, 2012 (Mouth of the South)

January 6, 2012 (Eric Murtaugh)

December 23, 2011 (Mouth of the South)

On to the questions:

1. Notre Dame will travel to Norman to play Oklahoma next season, and will also host Texas to open the 2015 season in a few years. Which game are you most looking forward to?

To me, the choice is clear: Oklahoma. I say this for a few reasons:

  • I am a big fan of litmus tests. As of right now, there appear to be two big ones on the 2012 schedule in Oklahoma and an end-of-season showdown in LA. The October 27th showdown in Norman will be a big indication to both fans and college football pundits as to where this program is headed. Will Year 3 of Brian Kelly show continued improvement or a plateau? Oklahoma is a lock for a 9 or 10 win season (minimum) and this could one of those "signature wins" that everyone talks about.
  • This game is next year. Call me impatient, but who wants to wait 3 ½ years for a game?
  • Texas has had back-to-back mediocre seasons, and we really have no indication of where they will be in three years' time. They could be back competing for national titles or they could be a middle-of-the-pack Big XII team.
  • Norman is a tough place to play, and to this point in the season, the Irish will have played only one true road game (at Michigan State). By late October, the offense should be firing on all cylinders and the defense smothering the opposition.

2. Penn State recently hired New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator Bill O'Brien as their new head coach to replace JoePa. He has already retained two of the former assistants from Paterno's staff. What do you think of all this and do you expect O'Brien to succeed in Happy Valley?

First, let me say that Penn State completely mishandled the coaching search on this one. Clearly having the same head coach for 40+ years makes you a bit rusty.

Notre Dame had so much fun hiring Bob Davie's replacement, they decided to do it twice.

It appeared that every time a lead candidate appeared, they backed away from any speculation as fast as humanly possible. Completely understandable considering the situation.

From the outside, it appeared to me that this coaching search was very similar to what Irish fans endured after the controversial (from a media standpoint) dismissal of Ty Willingham. Notre Dame ended up with Charlie Weis, who coincidentally was New England's Offensive Coordinator and also didn't have any previous head coaching experience.

The fact that O'Brien was allowed to retain any members of the previous staff also tells me that the administration at Penn State just didn't get it. Call it guilt by association, but a full house cleaning was in order.

While I am not sure that a tanker truck of Clorox bleach would have removed any of the stain of the scandal, an effort would have been nice. Epic fail on that one.

Finally, will O'Brien be successful in Happy Valley? I would err on the side of caution here and say no. The deck is stacked against the guy, and many fans will be pining for the halcyon days of Joe Pa soon enough (which is what they have been doing for the last 15 years anyway).

The mountain that this poor sap has to climb is just too tall. Nobody wants to replace a legend, especially when said legend was ousted mid-season for lack of action on one of the largest child abuse scandals in sports history.

The one thing O'Brien has going for him is the somewhat soft schedule that Penn State plays in 2012. The schedule features OOC games against Ohio, Virginia, Navy and Temple. Conference match-ups include Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin mixed in with Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern.

Ultimately, his success depends on how well he recruits. So far, results aren't looking good. He has lost commitments from DT Tommy Schutt and CB Armani Reeves, along with what looked like a sure commitment from DE Noah Spence.

3. The NCAA has taken over the CFB postseason and is instituting an 8-team playoff with those participating teams unable to play in the bowl games. They are also shrinking the number of bowl games to a total of 12. Please tell the NCAA which 12 bowl games to keep.

Horray!!! Oh wait, this hasn't happened yet?

I actually work just a few blocks from the NCAA headquarters, and have contemplated (on more than one occasion) heading over on my lunch break to have a 1-on-1 discussion with Mark Emmert.

First, let me say that I like the idea of only having 32 teams in bowl games. This would make games far more watchable and increase the competition level across the board.

For a nice little breakdown, you can head on over to Wikipedia (assuming there is no SOPA-related self-imposed blackout protest going on). By the way, did you know that there used to be the Salad, Oil, Tobacco, Cigar and Poi Bowls? It is on Wikipedia, so I know this must be true.

Let me start with the obvious choices (5): Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, and Sun. These are all based on history/tradition/appeal.

The next tier of games would be based mostly on location (5): Citrus (aka Capital One), Holiday, Peach (Chick-fil-A), Fiesta (but I don't like it) and Hawaii.

The final two bowl games will be chosen in order to even out the map a bit. Growing up in Big Ten country, it has always been a disappointment that virtually all of the bowl games are in warm weather sites.

Final two bowl games: Little Ceasar's Pizza (but change the name please) and the Pinstripe Bowl. Basically, I would choose these because they are pretty much the only two games played in cold weather states.

You may not agree with my choices, but that is where I would start. I would love to see a warm weather team play an outdoor bowl game in the cold and snow. Wait a second...

Finally, I think the format needs a major overhaul while we are at it. Bowl games should start the day after Christmas and end on New Year's Day. The playoff system can start the weekend before Christmas, play the semi-final games during bowl week and have the championship game the following Saturday. After all, Saturdays were made for college football.

4. Over/Under for the 2012 season: Tommy Rees 10 touchdown passes, Cierre Wood 1,200 rushing yards, and Manti Te'o 150 tackles.

Tommy Rees - 10 TD passes: I take the under and bet it big. I don't see how he sees much action beyond mop-up duty in the fall.

Cierre Wood - 1200 yds rushing: I take the over, but this one will be pretty close. There is an upward trend on rushing yards per game under Brian Kelly, and is likely to continue with Chuck Martin taking the reins on offense.

The one thing that makes me a bit hesitant is how many touches Cierre will actually get in the fall. I think Riddick likely moves back to RB unless the young receivers just aren't making progress in the spring. Add to that a healthy rotation of GAIII and a little Cam McD, and CW could be looking at only ~15-20 total touches a game.

Manti Te'o - 150 tackles: I take the under here as well. That is an absurd number of tackles for anyone to have in a single season, but even more so in the 3-4.

While I certainly think he is capable, averaging nearly 12 tackles per game (assuming a bowl appearance) is a lot to ask. Also, there have been only three players in Notre Dame history to eclipse the 150-tackle mark in a single season.

5. Would you rather have Darby and Decker back, or Kiel and the Armstead brothers?

First of all, a big thanks to my name is inigo montoya for submitting this one on the Recruiting Open Thread Redux. If anyone wants us to tackle a question (pun intended) or start a discussion, by all means share. You can email any of us or submit in the comments section.

For the sake of argument, we will pretend that I answered this question prior to Gunner Kiel's surprise enrollment this week.

If I were forced to choose, I would take Kiel and the brothers Armstead over the Decker/Darby combo.

While missing out on a talent like Darby would be tough to pass on, the last time I checked three is greater than two. Taking Gunner Kiel along with Armond and Arik Armstead helps the team out long term in multiple ways.

First, you gain an elite QB prospect that fits Kelly's offense. The QB position was a huge need in the 2012 class, especially with the loss of Dayne Crist. Second, you gain an instant replacement for Ethan Johnson on the DL (in Armond) who is able to play any position along the line. Thirdly, you gain an uber-talented DE in Arik Armstead who can contribute immediately. At 6'8", he will basically be unblockable for opposing OTs due to his reach.

All of this in exchange for an elite CB and an offensive tackle who probably wouldn't contribute for a few years.

Then again, if I could really choose whatever I wanted, I would throw Darby in on top of the Kiel/Armstead/Armstead trio.