Here is this week's mailbag. As always, send your questions to me via Twitter to @BFeldmanCBS:
From @NMStefan: Will ND see more consistent success on the field and stay strong in recruiting even if they lose?
This season's success should be something the Irish can really build off. Not just from a recruiting standpoint, but also in terms of the examples that it sets for the younger players in the program. The proverbial culture that Brian Kelly wants, is now set. That's a big thing.
By all accounts, ND is recruiting very well this year. Then again, Notre Dame always seems to recruit well. But in past years, those four- and five-star prospects haven't proven to be elite players. Under Kelly's staff, they do seem to be developing the talent better. And there are lots of promising young players in the pipeline beyond just an exciting redshirt freshman QB Everett Golson.
I remember talking to ND AD Jack Swarbrick just minutes after the Irish beat USC to clinch a spot in the BCS title game, and he told me how everyone inside of the program actually figured this (a BCS title game berth) would happen next year. So that sentiment bodes well for the future. The one wild card in this is whether Kelly opts to stay in South Bend. As I reported earlier this week, several NFL teams have Kelly on their short lists of coaching candidates. They know the guy has won at every level.
If the Irish win on Monday night, it would cap a great rebuilding job and maybe Kelly gets tempted by the NFL. Either way, expect Notre Dame to try to sweeten its' financial commitment to Kelly and his program.
From @bamabopp: How do you rate Notre Dame's big-play abilities? Any real deep threats for Bama D to be concerned with?
The Irish have some legit firepower on offense, and Bama DC Kirby Smart wasn't kidding when he said Notre Dame has a lot of speed. Start with Golson's play-making ability. He can extend plays and break people down and has the arm strength to burn a defense. In Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson, Smart said they have three dynamic, explosive, fast backs. And all three can catch the ball and be factors in the passing game. Wood is averaging seven yards a carry. He'll be one of the better backs that Bama has faced this season. But Notre Dame's best weapon is TE Tyler Eifert, who is a towering target and has great ball skills.
"I don't think we have [seen anyone like him]; he has size and speed at the same time," said Bama LB Nico Johnson. "So we're going to have to be on our P's and Q's, technique, when we're guarding him, making sure we're not too high or too low on him."
In eight games this season, Eifert has had at least one catch of 20 yards or longer, he's a go-to-guy for Golson and if he has a big game, Bama could be in trouble.
From @DougGreenB: I am a biased big Ten "homer" but can we at least say that this year the mighty SEC was not as deep or as dominant? Please...
The subject of the SEC being way overrated has come up a lot, especially since the Sugar Bowl, where Louisville, a 14-point underdog, handily beat Florida. Is the SEC overrated? Yeah, probably to some degree. There are some elite teams in the conference, more than in any other league, but where things get bulky are when you have some other teams that get elevated by being in the league and piling up wins against mediocre programs before being exposed by top 15 teams. (Yes, Miss. State, we're looking at you.) And there are other examples of teams that are pretty good but not really elite but get more than the benefit of the doubt by being SEC teams. But that stuff tends to happen when your conference wins an unprecedented six BCS titles in a row. That fact is the ultimate argument ender.
If you work from the premise that the SEC is overrated, well, which conference is underrated? I guess you could say the Big East, but that's in large part because that league has become such a punching bag for the power brokers who run the sport.
I feel like the Big 12 is the second-best conference, but that league's results have been pretty underwhelming so far this bowl season: K-State got blown out by Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl; WVU got drilled by Syracuse; ISU lost by two TDs to Tulsa; TCU lost to Michigan State. The good news: Oklahoma State routed Purdue, Texas found a way to beat Oregon State, Texas Tech beat Minnesota and Baylor hammered UCLA. The biggest win would be if OU can beat Texas A&M on Friday night.
The merits of the depths of the SEC for the 2012 season is a TBD at this point. If Notre Dame beats Bama and OU defeats Texas A&M, it'll certainly diminish the notion that the top of the SEC was so much better than everyone else this season given the Florida performance and LSU losing to Clemson. But as long as Alabama wins the biggest game, the one that matters most, the SEC will still be the king of the sport.
From @barrett24: Is there a QB in this year's draft that Chip Kelly would want if Kelly jumps to NFL?
In terms of quarterbacks considered first-round potential guys, I don't think there is one that would seem to be an ideal fit for the running side of what Kelly does scheme-wise unless Clemson's Tajh Boyd were to come out.
From @UnlimitedDennis: Thoughts on how Gus Malzahn has done in putting together a staff at Auburn?
It keeps getting more impressive by the week. The last two additions: special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig are excellent.
I know many guys who have coached with Bisaccia who think the world of the guy as a teacher and motivator. Craig, the former Auburn standout QB, comes from the FSU staff, where I'm told his reputation as a recruiter in Atlanta and the state of Alabama are "golden."
Ellis Johnson, the veteran DC, also was a great starting point for Malzahn.
From @Brett_Ross: Is Garcia untouchable at FIU? The Cristobal firing and Turner hiring are baffling. Wonder what Garcia has to do to get fired.
No, I don't think FIU AD Pete Garcia is untouchable. From what I'm hearing, there are some internal issues at the school that could be very problematic for Garcia related to some personal matters that the school is examining.
From @MarkusF81: Who has surprised you this bowl season?
The biggest one would be how Louisville jumped all over Florida and stayed on top of the Gators. As good as Teddy Bridgewater is, this was still a Cards team that was blown out by Syracuse and lost to a UConn team that only won one other Big East game all season.
Three other things that were pretty eyebrow-raising:
-- The Baylor D shutting down UCLA, and the Bears blowing the Bruins off the field in the Holiday Bowl.
-- The level of ineptitude from a USC team that managed just seven points against Ga. Tech, which had been mediocre all season.
-- SMU thumping Fresno State by 33.