Earlier this morning, the staff over at Crystal Ball Run got down to business, in the first of their “Meeting of the Minds,” roundtable discussions. There, they debated who they would take with the No. 1 overall pick in an imaginary college football draft. The responses were fascinating, as after most everyone agreed they’d take Andrew Luck at No. 1, a great debate broke out on “Who’s No. 2?” Names like Manti Te’o, Quinton Coples, Alshon Jeffery, Justin Blackmon and others were discussed, with each writer choosing their own personal favorite. To read the entire transcript, click here.
And with all that said, the guys are back, for their second “Meeting of the Minds,” roundtable discussion today (With more coming later this week).
Up on the docket right now, a spirited discussion on the impact that TCU will have on the Big East come 2012.
Allen Kenney: I'll go ahead and throw another topic to keep this moving:
I know everyone thinks TCU will immediately be the top dog in the Big East when it starts play there in 2012, but I'm not so sure.
The Horned Frogs have had plenty of success under Gary Patterson, who I think could do wonders at a more high-profile program. I'm a huge believer that talent eventually trumps all, and TCU falls short there. If you look at some of the recruiting sites, it's clear that TCU actually recruits on par with some of the lesser AQ-level programs.
Give Patterson a couple years once the school is getting the exposure of a BCS conference team, and he might start landing a few bigger names out of the Dallas area. Until then, I don't think the addition of the Horned Frogs is going to be the game-changer everyone expects.
Matt Yoder: But is the talent there in the Big East to really trouble TCU at the moment? I don't see Pitt having a bright future. Same for Syracuse. Or UConn post Randy Edsall. Does USF strike fear into anyone at this point? Cincy and Rutgers have had their moments on the national stage. In the past.
The only two programs from the Big East I would put on par with TCU are Louisville (on the rise with Charlie Strong) and West Virginia (who admittedly have their own rebuilding project on their hands thanks to Rooster Cogburn Stewart).
TCU hasn't had the big wins that Boise has... but you can go up and down the Mountain West and Big East and see that the conferences really aren't that different save for the bottom few teams. TCU won't win the league in a cakewalk, but they should at the very least be among the contenders immediately.
Which leads more to your point AK. TCU's move to the Big East isn't a game-changer for the Frogs... or the conference.
Aaron Torres: Matt, I couldn't disagree with you more on the talent in the Big East.
Within the last 24 months, by my count four programs have major coaching upgrades: South Florida (Leavitt to Holtz), Louisville (Kragthorpe to Strong), West Virginia (Stewart to Holgo) and Pitt (Wanny to Graham). Add in another at Syracuse the year before, and at worst, you're talking about five teams who are in better position today than they were a year ago. Not everyone will get there this year or next, but the seeds are planted for improvement across the board. I'm not saying that will make the Big East "SEC North," and all of a sudden Texas A&M will be holding secret Board of Regents meetings to join the conference tomorrow. But things will be better going forward than they were last year.
As for TCU, I'm actually not sold either, and I think there's actually a pretty good historical precedent to back it up.
Anyone remember the Big East the year after Miami and Virginia Tech got raided, and Boston College was on the way out (They were stuck for one more year)? Well, that was 2004, and it was a disaster. The conference finished in a four way tie (if memory serves me correct those four teams were Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia), and Pitt ended up getting smoked in the Fiesta Bowl by Urban Meyer and Utah.
Well with that as a backdrop, Louisville entered the next season to a near universal agreement that they were going to win the conference; some even preferring the term, "save the conference." They had a hot young coach (Bobby Petrino), a rising star at quarterback (Brian Brohm), and had gone 11-1 in Conference USA the year before. It was presumed that they were going to spend the next several fall’s stomping out the competition like roaches in a New York City apartment.
Well, umm, it didn't happen. Louisville got crushed at South Florida in Week 3, then lost an overtime thriller at West Virginia that paved the way for the beginning of the Pat White era in Morgantown. Louisville finished the year 9-3, and to date, has won a grand total of one Big East championship. Forget dominance, Louisville was happy to play in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl last year.
My point being that these things always appear easier on paper than they are in execution. It might sound easy to say, “Well damn, TCU went 13-0 last year, and beat Wisconsin. At worst, they're what an 11 win team this year? The Big East sucks. Let's just hand them the next four championships now.”
Except, stuff happens. Injuries happen. Coaching changes happen. Up and down cycles happen. And they happen in every conference in college football. Two years ago Florida was the defending National Champion and was one win away from playing for a third title in four years. Now they're rebuilding under a new coach. Three years ago USC was college football's West Coast darling. Now Oregon has literally run right past them. Again, stuff happens.
Understand that I'm not comparing Florida and USC to TCU "big picture." What I am saying is that these things never work out as quite as easily as everyone expects.
I expect TCU to enter the Big East and be competitive from Day 1, maybe even as the conference favorite next year. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here either.
Michael Felder: I think everyone is going to benefit from this move by TCU. The Frogs get an easier route to the BCS in that, they will no longer b dropped from the Fiesta or Orange Bowl berth because of a midseason brain fart loss, and the Big East gets to add a football team to their ranks that everyone in their right mind respects.
On the field though I don't expect to see the boys from Texas Christian take the Big East by storm. The Louisville example was a damn good one and I think we're looking at a similar circumstance. We'll get to see our biggest qualm with Boise State play out; is this team built to play week in and week out. Folks can ridicule the Big East all they like but top to bottom the league is still well ahead of the Mountain West. Sure TCU and no defunct Utah have had more BCS success recently than some Big East champions. But there are no Colorado State, UNLV or New Mexico's on the schedule to pad the resume with either.
Week in and week out they'll be facing, on average, a better team and that takes a toll on bodies. Now TCU does have one of the finest strength and conditioning programs in the land but will they stand the test for this transition?
We'll find out in a year.
Tom Perry: There is no question that TCU was a nice addition by the Big East and it's clear that all of the dominoes have yet to fall in potential expansion/contraction of the conference.
Aaron hit on many of the points that I would have made as to why TCU isn't going to waltz into the Big East and dominate. The conference has earned a lot of the negative press that comes with being an AQ, but the Big East is set up for these seasons when there are three- and four-way ties because of the scheduling and balanced talent. This year you are going to see a stronger Big East, most likely led by West Virginia. But I believe South Florida, Louisville and Syracuse are all on the rise. Pitt is going to dip a little, but with Todd Graham the Panthers will be much better in the long run than with Dave Wannstedt.
I don't have a real feel for how UConn is going to do with Paul Pasqualoni in charge, but he was a much better coach at Syracuse than he gets credit for. He went 107-59-1 in 14 seasons with the Orange.
TCU is going to be among the top three in the Big East right away, but just handing the Horned Frogs the championship is a bit premature. How will the Horned Frogs do in the long run? The Big East has more talent than it is given credit for, but the top programs need to start winning more out of conference games to make the claim. If South Florida could upset Notre Dame in Week 1 and WVU could knock off LSU later in September ... then the perceptions begin to change and everyone will realize TCU is not going to dominate.
Matt Yoder: It's foolish to hand TCU the Big East title when they walk into the conference, but let's be honest. The Big East is far and away the worst of the BCS conferences. Sure, cakewalks like New Mexico and Colorado State aren't on the schedule anymore for the Frogs. Looking at the big picture though, TCU will be a favorite in nearly every conference game they take the field. I need to see consistent improvement in programs like Syracuse, Pitt, and USF before I believe they can really give TCU a problem.
Another interesting subplot is this - if TCU does waltz into the Big East and go unbeaten, do they then receive due respect from the voters and the computers? Or, do they get the Cincinnati treatment and brushed off as winning the weakest of the BCS conferences.
Michael Felder: Matt, if they played games in a vacuum I'd buy what you're selling but they don't. There is the element of residual damage sustained on bodies on a week in and week out basis. That's what separates a BCS league schedule from a non-BCS schedule. Florida didn't lose to Ole Miss in 08 because the Rebs were some awesome force. It was because they played Miami and Tennessee the week before, and just didn't have the strength to slam the door in The Swamp.
Bodies don't get second halves or fourth quarters to rest. Teams don't have a "break" or the opportunity for a brain fart game. Ask the 2007 West Virginia team about how you can get snug up on by anyone on your schedule.
Tom Perry: Michael's point is so true.
TCU can get pumped for their one or two big games a year and have an off day against Colorado State or New Mexico. But an off day against Rutgers, Syracuse or UConn is going to be a loss. So the week-to-week pounding and preparation will take a toll on the Horned Frogs because it's a whole new ball game.
I agree the Big East is the weakest BCS Conference, but not by as much as everyone claims.
Aaron Torres: Here's another thing that has yet to be addressed here too: Yes the Big East is the weakest of the BCS conferences, I won't argue that. But it's also not nearly as bad as it was last year.
Don't let UConn fool you, the conference has had at least one, and at times a handful of teams that could compete with most in the country. In a one game scenario on a neutral field, Brian Kelly's last Cincinnati team could've played with anyone. Maybe not won, but competed (And please don't cite the Sugar Bowl loss to Florida as an example here. That team was feeling so sorry for themselves you could practically smell it in the air. The Bearcats had no chance that night.).
As for other years, we all know about the famous season in '06 when the conference had three teams ranked in the Top 10-12 to close the year. Yes that was an abnormality, but it's worth noting that with the right coach in the right place, and time to develop a system and players, this conference has churned out quality teams. As Michael referenced, a year later, the '07 West Virginia team could've beaten anyone in the country when healthy. Who knows what would've happened if they hadn't lost to Pitt in the finale.
Understand I'm not saying that the Big East is the SEC, nor will it ever, ever be. But the talent level is a lot higher than many want to suggest or admit, and only getting better.
Allen Kenney: Changing gears a bit, I looked at College Football Matrix's composite recruiting rankings for some data on this. Let's see what the numbers say:
-TCU's four-year recruiting average rank for this year is 70th in the country, second highest in the Mountain West (BYU is 60th). On the other hand, TCU would be next to last in the Big East - Connecticut ranked 80th.
-The average four-year recruiting ranking in the Big East is 51, while the average in the MWC is 85.
In other words, the difference between TCU's talent level and the average MWC team on the plus side is about the same as the difference between TCU and the average Big East team on the negative side. TCU's talent is about as far above the competition in the MWC as it is below the talent in the Big East.
TCU will catch up to the rest of the conference soon enough, and being in Dallas puts the program in possibly the best talent hotspot in the league. Even so, I expect an adjustment period of a couple of years.
Michael Felder: Here's my issue with giving TCU the city of Dallas, and I'm sure that you understand this Allen. In Dallas the Horned Frogs are behind OU and Texas by far. I don't think this Big East move does much to change that by any means. So where is the windfall of improved recruiting going to come from?
Allen Kenny: Fair question, Michael.
Obviously, I follow recruiting in that area relatively closely. Anecdotally, it definitely appears as though TCU is coming up more frequently with prospects in DFW and the rest of Texas. In talking with recruiting analysts who are active in that region, they've told me the same thing. Hell, TCU stole an OU commitment this year. How often does that happen?
Will TCU ever rival the Sooners and Longhorns in recruiting Texas? Not a chance. However, even if the Big East is the weak sister of the AQs, it will still be seen as a step up from the MWC. There's no reason to think TCU won't be able to compete with in-state schools like Baylor and Texas Tech and carpetbaggers like Missouri for talent. There will also be opportunities to poach the occasional Texas or OU commit who isn't feeling the love as well.
Tom Perry: Allen makes a great point with the recruit rankings. While I'm not a huge believer in in all of the star rankings, I do agree that if you get more 5- and 4-star recruits than everyone else then you have an advantage. Unless TCU can develop new recruiting pockets in Texas or around the southwest, then the Horned Frogs will likely slip a bit as they develop into a contender, but not a dominant program in the Big East.
I'm also learning how much Aaron and I see eye-to-eye on the Big East. The talent in the Big East has bigger swings than probably any other BCS Conference, but the league deserves its AQ status and on a given year there are teams who can play with anyone in the country. I'm partial to WVU and I still remember telling my friends the day of the Pitt game in 2007 that they can't blow this opportunity because it may be the last time any of us get a chance to see the Mountaineers play for a title. Of course, they went out and got knocked off by their rival.
Let's get one more thing straight for 2012. Every Big East team is going to be gunning for TCU next year as none of them are going to want the Frogs to win the league in the first year.
Aaron Torres: Tom, that’s a great last point. It will be a similar element to what the Miami Heat experienced this year. When you’re the new kid on the block, and everyone tabs you as the favorite, there’s something inherent that makes fans of the opposing teams not like you, and the other teams want to beat you.
Matt Yoder: I've learned to take recruiting rankings with a grain of salt these days. Look at what happened in Pasadena against Wisconsin, or what teams like Boise State and Utah have proven against teams that had supposedly superior talent. Did anyone see Michigan State's talent sharing a Big Ten title last year?
And this may be a flawed one-game-in-a-vacuum example... but the conventional wisdom heading into last year's Rose Bowl was that TCU would be physically mauled by Wisconsin. That didn't happen. TCU isn't stepping up to the Big Ten or the SEC where I would agree with you guys that the week to week physicality and major step up in class would take its toll.
Is the talent level in the Big East a step up from the MWC up and down the league? Absolutely. Will it make TCU want to run back to the safety of their small conference days? No. I just don't see a Rutgers-Syracuse-South Florida stretch to be that much more daunting than BYU-Air Force-CSU. I'm not a believer in TCU getting tripped up by wave after wave of Big East averageness. Also, the Big East has had great teams in several years of the last decade... but conceivably who is that team now?
In the end, I think we're all closer to the same page than we think. TCU should contend for the conference title immediately, it's just a matter of how serious that challenge may be.
Michael Felder: Matt, you're talking a one game sample. Tell me to take recruiting rankings with a grain of salt when the teams who consistently get out-recruited consistently win league titles. There's a reason more often than not OU and Texas finish ahead of everyone in the Big XII. Same with Bama, Florida and LSU. Disaster seasons happen, sure. Anomalies like Wake Forest 2006 or Kansas 2007 happen, but if you hitch your wagon to a gaggle of two and three star kids, and I affix mine to a truckload of four and five star guys, I'll beat you more often than not provided my coaching is competent.
The point here is depth. When you out-recruit people, it doesn't mean your star players are better than their star players. It doesn't mean your ones (first unit) are light years better than their ones. It means your twos and threes have a smaller drop off than their twos and threes. It means a guy leaving on your line or in the linebacking corp due to NFL, graduation or injury is better absorbed. Travis Lewis going down for OU doesn't stir up the devastated season talk the way losing a Tank Carder for TCU would.
Allen Kenney: The Wisconsin game is actually a good example of what's in store for TCU. The Horned Frogs won every game last year by an average of 30 points, but they needed to fend off a two-point conversion to beat the Badgers. There will be more of those games that could go either way in the Big East.
Matt Yoder: Agreed Mike. But that's why I bring up a team like Michigan State as a team that went through a league season and won a title with an unheralded roster. Or '07 Kansas as you mention. How many top recruiting classes has it taken Notre Dame to settle in to mediocrity?
Over the long run, of course you would take the roster of four star players over the roster of three star players. But using recruiting rankings as an argument against the Frogs also undersells the job Gary Patterson has done in building the TCU program. There have been enough exceptions over the years for me not to use supposedly lower ranked recruiting classes as an immediate strike against TCU in their Big East quest.
Tom Perry: Great point on Travis Lewis at OU. Michael is right. There is a smaller drop off for a program like Oklahoma. Injuries, graduation and suspensions impact a program like TCU way more than it does even the top three of four in the Big East. WVU lost an All-American caliber lineman during the spring and they just slotted another lineman right in. Reports are that the line will be just fine.
I don't think we're trying to beat up on TCU here. I believe we are making the point though, that the Frogs are not going to have a cakewalk in the Big East like so many may predict.
Aaron Torres: Remember one final thing too: We haven't even factored in other things, like getting to known eight new teams, travel and things stuff like that. For example, TCU isn’t used to playing mid-week games. What happens when they have to travel half-way across the country to play Syracuse on a Thursday night, after playing the previous Saturday in Tampa? Hypothetical yes, and chances are that exact scheduling quirk wouldn’t come up. But these are the new things that the program isn’t used to. And there are a million examples just like it.
To wrap things up, I think the underlying point here, is that everyone agrees TCU will be good, and likely really good in time. Where we disagree is exactly how long.
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