Senior College Football Columnist

Mailbag: More reason for 'Noles to leave ACC? Vol expectations & Big Ten's best

Here is this week's mailbag. As always, send your questions via Twitter @BFeldmanCBS:

From @lemmer40: With the SEC/Big 12 announcement, could that push FSU to Big 12? Looks like ACC is left out.

I wouldn't rule anything out at this point because we've seen plenty of crazy things happen surrounding conference realignment in the past 18 months. I still suspect it is going to be sticky for FSU -- perhaps too sticky -- to exit the ACC after the conference and ESPN did that multi-billion dollar TV deal a few days ago.

People look at FSU football being down because it hasn't played like an elite program on the field in the past seven or eight years, but the Noles, similar to Miami, still do extremely well as TV brand drawing big ratings. FSU football was a big factor in the ACC getting as much as it got from ESPN. So let's say FSU bolts and then the Big 12 is looking for a TV deal. Is ESPN going to turn around and bid essentially against itself? I know other networks are players in the mix, but this is an interesting dynamic especially if you look at how many mixed messages you're getting from FSU folks and the way the president's comments came out earlier this week to try and squash some of the firestorm the Noles BOT chair created last weekend.

The news that broke earlier this morning by colleague Tony Barnhart about the SEC/Big 12 bowl partnership certainly appears that it has moved the threshold that used to exist beyond the Big 6 BCS AQ (automatic qualifier) conferences and the “mid-majors” has now shifted to some degree behind the top four leagues, which are clearly now the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12. The Big East already had plummeted in status, but now it seems the ACC has been taken down a peg as well especially since they are now on an island, as Dennis Dodd put it. Oliver Luck, the AD at WVU, must be laughing the most about this. Last fall, the Mountaineers couldn't get the ACC to touch them when the Big East was collapsing around them. They catch a life raft to the Big 12 and now it turns out they are apparently in a much more stable place.

Does that mean if an ACC team runs the table that it has similar hopes that say a Boise State or TCU did or Utah of the old MWC? No, I don't think the edge is that sharp. The speculation that has kicked up wildly in the wake of the SEC/Big 12 deal might be getting overstated some. Maybe not. We'll have to see exactly what unfolds if and when the football playoff is detailed and how the money is broken up later down the road once we have all of the pieces in place. It sure does seem like the Big 12 has some leverage now, which is a radical 180 from where we were about a year ago.

From @cujobrews: How much longer will Chris Petersen be coaching at Boise St?

For all the speculation whenever any “big” head-coaching job opens up, Petersen's name is always thrown in, I'll believe he's leaving Boise when I see him being announced by some other school. I've spoken to him several times over the years about the potential for him to move on and he's been very blunt in talking about how he knows he has a very good situation for him and his family in Boise. He's also seen how other coaches have left BSU for greener or “bluer pastures” as he put it and it hasn't worked out for them.

I just don't know what job and what situation would tempt him enough to leave. It's not like he wasn't working for a program that wasn't existing in the margins before. Bypassing bigger jobs seems like it has become something of a virtue for him.

Boise's had dramatic turnover on his staff losing OCs, DCs and his special teams coordinator the past few years, but he's the one constant. Now, he has to replace the great Kellen Moore and the core of his defense while the conference realignment world swirls around them. The Broncos will be an intriguing team to watch this fall.

From what he's told me in the past, Peterson doesn't see himself as the kind of guy who coaches into his 60s. My hunch is Petersen, 47, could be the rare exception of the modern-day college coach who may retire at the one place where he's been a successful head coach.

From @MaxMandel21: with the loss of two starters to the NFL, will any of Stanford's highly-rated incoming freshmen start on the line this year?

There's a pretty good shot of that if any of these guys are as mature mentally and physically as I've heard. When I visited Stanford a few weeks ago, I talked to several Cardinal coaches who expect these guys to compete right away for spots on the two-deep.

Stanford seems to have more options among the veterans at guard, where they're trying to replace David DeCastro compared to on the outside where they need to replace Jonathan Martin.

The guy who seems to have the best shot is Andrus Peat for the vacated left tackle spot although fellow newcomer Kyle Murphy also is very gifted. People up there rave about the group of incoming O-linemen, especially Peat. If he or Murphy is to win Martin's old spot, they'll have to beat out Brendon Austin and probably David Yankey too.

From @BrianCubik: Can the Vols surprise some people this year?

It depends on where the expectations are for most people about Tennessee in 2012. I think it would surprise people if the Vols won the SEC East. If they won eight? Probably not. At least it shouldn't.

If you look at their talent and experience on offense: a 3-year starting QB (Tyler Bray); two big, athletic WRs who enter their third seasons in the program (Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers), capable tight ends and an O-line featuring a lot of guys who also will be three-year starters – also factor in hyped big JC WR Cordarrell Patterson, assuming he gets eligible, this has the potential to be a Top 25 team because of all of that firepower.

The defense is a concern although there are some promising young LBs in Curt Maggitt and A.J. Johnson that have the potential to be difference-makers, but a big key will be how consistent and reliable will those former JC guys be on the D-line? These guys sound and look great as JC guys but then when they show up, if they show up, you never really know if they have the maturity and focus and discipline to make an impact. Or are they headaches and distractions? If that D-line steps up, the Vols would be an SEC East title contender.

On the sidelines, the bigger question surrounds Derek Dooley: Can he finally win some big games and beat some good teams? His record at La. Tech, even before he arrived in Knoxville was mediocre. He has to show there is reason for people to buy in to give him more time.

There are probably eight games this team should be favored in: NC State, Ga. State, Akron, at Miss. State, Troy, home for Mizzou, at Vandy and Kentucky. I'd put at MSU on the border. Then again, they're host to a Florida team that is rebuilding. If Dooley doesn't get the Vols to eight wins this season, I've heard from people around that program who say he'll be gone. Winning eight or nine games with their experience and talent against this schedule, where they probably face only three legit Top 20 teams (at UGA, Alabama and at South Carolina), is realistic. The Vols can win nine games this year without beating a ranked team.

They are a more talented team than NC State. The Vols should win that game. They host a Florida team that was horrible on offense last year. Beating these Gators won't be as impressive nationally as it would've been knocking off some of Urban Meyer's tougher squads, but at least locally beating UF will resonate. If UT loses that game, it'll be almost impossible for Dooley to keep things together.

From IceCold53: who has the best offense/defense unit in B10?

I'll go with Michigan as having the best offense in the conference this season. The Wolverines were No. 2 in the conference in scoring last season and that was despite making the transition from Rich Rodriguez' offense to Al Borges' system. Denard Robinson is back for his senior season. He's still the most dynamic running QB in the country and he should be more comfortable with what Borges is looking for after another off-season. Fitz Toussaint proved last year that he was a very dangerous runner, going over 1000 yards and averaging almost six yards per carry. The WRs aren't terrific but Ray Roundtree is capable and Jeremy Gallon can make some plays. The biggest question mark is replacing David Molk, the anchor of the O-line.

Wisconsin's O should again be strong, but I suspect there will be some drop-off from the dual-threat skills of Russell Wilson to Danny O'Brien and the offensive line lost more quality beef inside.

Defensively, I'm going with Michigan State. As I said last week, DC Pat Narduzzi is as good as there is in the business. They led the Big Ten in sacks, INTs and run defense last year. They have difference-makers at all three levels, a budding superstar in DE Will Gholston and a leader in Max Bullough. The next-best D could be Ohio State, which returns a lot of talent and experience.

 
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