Senior College Football Columnist

Friday Mailbag: The best coach in college football is . . .

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, you can send in questions via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS:

From @CCBsDad odds of a Bamarepeat? Saban by far the best active coach? :

Literally the odds on Bama to repeat right now range from 5-1 to 7-1 that I've seen online. The only teams that I've seen listed as more of a favorite have been LSU and USC .Considering how hard it is to repeat in college football and that the Tide has so few starters returning on both sides of the ball, and has to play at both LSU and Arkansas this year, that is quite a testament to the respect Saban's program has. :

There are several coaches at the FBS level who work wonders at lesser programs, places that don't have the resources as some football factories, but just in terms of winning and sustaining a powerhouse at the major college level, no coach is better than Nick Saban.

Why he has become the Gold Standard in college coaching: He is, among other things, an astute evaluator; a savvy recruiter, as good a teacher technically as there is among head coaches and he's also a whiz at game-planning. (I can think of coaches who are as good as Saban in some of those categories, but not on his level in ALL of those categories.) And, on top of all of that, the guy is relentless. He doesn't let seemingly smaller stuff or outside criticism affect him much, if at all. Amazing for anyone, much less a 60-year-old. :

From @polonius916 Are the Washington Huskies headed in the right direction? How far are they from a BCS berth?

Definitely. Steve Sarkisian has continued to recruit and mold the personnel to his system and expectations. Obviously, on defense they were a mess in 2011, but I really like the changes he made on that side of the ball. Justin Wilcox and Pete Sirmon are two terrific young coaches, who not only will help solidify the defense but also will help in development. Sirmon is a very good recruiter too. On top of that, Sarkisian landed D-line coach Tosh Lupoi, who is one of the best recruiters in all of college football. Lupoi will make a huge impact for this program and enable U-Dub to be a player on national recruits.

My hunch is they are a year away from seriously contending for a BCS berth. Keith Price had an excellent debut season as a starting QB. He's a good one to build around and he's got some impressive young receivers (Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins) to work with.

The problem is they lost a superb back in Chris Polk, and for as bad as the defense was, it still lost most of its top talent, including leading tackler Cort Dennison. This defense needs a lot of work just to get to being respectable, much less championship caliber.Josh Shirley (eight sacks) and Sean Parker (four INTs) are guys who do appear to be future stars though. Better still, USC, which is poised to make a BCS title run this fall, will have to replace Matt Barkley and figures to take a step back in 2013.

From @NealParsons With OSU ineligible, who do you see representing the B10 Leaders Division in Indy?

Even though Wisconsin's quarterbacking situation is very murky right now (is this the place where former Maryland QB Danny O'Brien ends up? Will Jon Budmyer be healthy enough to make a difference in 2012?), I still see the Badgers as the clear favorite among the rest. Ohio State would've had the talent on D and at QB with Braxton Miller to make a Big Ten title run in Urban Meyer's first season at OSU, but because of the sanctions, they're out of the mix. The Badgers, despite losing some very good O-linemen (they haven't had too much trouble replacing them in recent years) still is loaded in the backfield, led by star Montee Ball. They also return two very productive receivers in Jared Abbrederis and Jake Pedersen. Wisconsin's D, which was 13th in the nation in scoring in 2011, should still be very formidable led by play-making LB Chris Borland and two good safeties.

After the Badgers, expect Penn State and Illinois to be the Badgers' toughest competition in the Leaders division. It'll be fascinating to see how the Nittany Lions do under Bill O'Brien. They still have big QB issues to straighten out; most of the O-line will be new; have to replace the star of their D, Devon Still and lost so much experience in their secondary. The good news for PSU is that both Wisconsin and OSU have to visit this season. The Illini have a new coach too (Tim Beckman) and he some experience and talent to work with on offense, but I'm not sure it's enough to overtake the Badgers.

From @brentislucky Can Bray, Hunter, and Rodgers finally turn Tennessee back around?

Yes. From a talent standpoint, the Vols should be explosive in 2012, and especially so if big JC transfer Cordarrelle Patterson gets qualified and joins the team as another play-making wideout. UT has to get better at running the football, though. The Vols have a big and athletic O-line and those guys have experience but something was lacking there. New O-line coach Sam Pittman figures to be a better fit there for those guys than his predecessor who struggled to connect with his linemen, I'm told.

The other big concern for UT, and this is more of a macro issue, is can they respond in big games? Derek Dooley has a dreadful record against ranked teams. It's no stretch to wonder if that is due to the tightness that sources inside that program have said can come from too much micro-managing. The pressure around there of a place with such a proud football history is always hefty but now add onto all of that the very real prospect that if the team doesn't win eight games this season, you could be looking at a coaching change. :

From @Bsmith5481if Winston does end up at FSU could he push EJ as starter?

There's still a lot of speculation that top 2012 QB recruit Jameis Winston will end up as a pro baseballl player, but if he does in fact play football for the Noles, I don't see him overtaking E.J. Manuel this fall. Manuel is entrenched as the Noles team leader. Turning the team over to a true freshman at the expense of a respected upperclassmen, especially for a program that has been seen as a chronic underachiever the past decade would seem to risky.

Now is the short term of having a talented young guy there to challenge Manuel, I'm sure that could be a positive and the depth will help if there's another injury, but in the modern sense of being "pushed" and having to compete for a starting job, I wouldn't think that would have much impact on Manuel. It would seem like a stretch to think that if a guy isn't determined enough to improve by now, a hot-shot freshman isn't going to open his eyes.

From @esteban2go What does it say about Miami that it looks like for the 2nd yr in a row they'll have more players drafted than wins?

It is the definition of an underachieving program. There is lot of speed and athleticism, but over the past decade this program has been plagued by a lack of focus. If Miami is going to get back to being a powerhouse again, Al Golden and his staff need to make this a mentally stronger team, not just a physically stronger team. The biggest assets that made UM great under Howard Schnelleberger and Jimmy Johnson weren't just that those guys were superb talent evaluators but they developed mentally strong and tough teams.

From @bulldog992 Aaron Murray most under-rated Jr QB in recent history?

He is very good, but a big reason why you make think he isn't getting quite enough credit and isn't talked about as one of the best four or five QBs in the country is because his team just hasn't won a lot of big games. In four games against Top 20 opponents, he had some ups and downs, throwing six INTs in those four games to go with nine TDs. Against LSU, he was 16-of-40 and had a QB rating of 72.5.

Overall, his numbers (almost 6,200 passing yards, 59-22 career TD-INT) are quite impressive and he's still only gonna be a junior so there's ample time for him and his team to take another big step.
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