College Football 2013: Questions and Answers

USA TODAY Sports

This August, I wrote a column asking a few questions to be answered in college football this year. Not only is it bye week, but it's November: those questions are due to be answered. So let's get at it.

Will Gus Malzahn be a great head coach, worse than Chizik, or somewhere in between? Chizik and Malzahn are linked by more than just the school at which one replaced the other. They're both from the relatively small group of guys who got terrific national buzz as coordinators at a big program, leading to lots of speculation about their head-coaching prospects. Recent members of the group who have gotten their shot also include Jimbo Fischer and Will Muschamp. As always, it's hit or miss with these guys; some of ‘em segue into great success and make it look easy, and some of ‘em get eaten by the Peter Principle, the theory that individuals in a merit-based system tend to "rise to the level of their incompetence."

Obviously Auburn is doing well, and Malzahn is getting a little coach-of-the-year buzz. But as I pointed out pre-season, "no team in the nation underperformed like Auburn in 2012, and with the players on hand it should be easy for Malzahn to look good in 2013, especially since most of the offense was recruited to fit his scheme." Even though improvement was expected, this is big improvement, so while the jury should probably continue to deliberate, the early results are undeniably favorable.

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Can Cam Cameron get Zach Mettenberger to play against everybody the way he played against Alabama last year? The short answer is "yes," or at least "almost." Mettenberger was a mediocre quarterback in 2012 (except against us). In 2013, he's one of the best quarterbacks around. It's a good thing for the Bengals that Cameron gets one more star in his quarterback-development crown, too, because their defense has taken a turn south this year.

The series of shootouts that has resulted from this confluence of events has seemed out of place in Baton Rouge. LSU and their opponents have combined for over 50 points in 8 of 9 games played, all but the Florida game; over 60 in 5 of 9 games; over 80 twice.

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Will Western Kentucky average 40 a game under Petrino? I have to confess, I thought the answer to this question would be a resounding yes. As I pointed out pre-season, "[t]he Hilltoppers return CFPA Running Back Trophy Watch List tailback Antonio Andrews and his 1733 yards rushing, Andrews' backup, six receivers with over 100 yards receiving in 2012, and an astonishing 105 career starts on the offensive line. Bobby Petrino is, of course, a proven winner, an offensive whiz, and a college quarterback developer with few if any equals."

Apparently Bobby Petrino is a proven winner, an offensive whiz, and mailing it in this year. Despite all the offensive talent returning, WKU is 5-4 and averaging 30.8, and on Saturday they let 0-9 Georgia State keep it competitive into the 4th quarter. Nothing special appears to be going on at Bowling Green.

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Will Lane Kiffin apply for the Western Kentucky job after Petrino's one-year regime? Obviously this question was a bit facetious, but the real implication was that neither Kiffin nor Petrino would be in their current job after 2013. Clearly I had a point with Kiffin, but crap, I guess I shouldn't have based two of these questions on Petrino unless I had some idea what I was talking about, don't y'all think?

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Is Robert Nkemdiche the next Jadaveon Clowney? Not yet. Nkemdiche, if anything, is even more impressive than Clowney athletically, but with 15 tackles, 4 TFLs, and no sacks, it is highly unlikely that Nkemdiche will reach Clowney's freshman numbers of 36 takles, 12 TFLs, and 8 sacks. Bama's 'Shawn Robinson is thumping Nkemdiche across the board with 23 tackles, 5 TFLs and 4 sacks.

Don't close the door on this guy, though.

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Will Mack Brown have any luck copying Alabama? In the spring, I mentioned a few ways that Mack Brown has tried to turn his organization at Texas into a copy of Nick Saban's outfit in Tuscaloosa, including hiring Major Applewhite as his co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Is it working? What do y'all think?

Copying Nick Saban's organizational moves is a sign of nothing other than native good intelligence but hiring Applewhite was, as I called it in the spring, a sign that "the Mack Brown regime at Texas is in its last, flailing stages and desperate." Give Mack about $.05 credit for steering the ship back into the stream here mid-season, but it won't do him any good. This is his last year in Austin.

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How much are we going to wish Jameis Winston had rolled with the Tide? Not that there would be any impact on the starting situation, but as I said in August, "our backup quarterback situation would be looking about 1000% better if we had managed to hook up one more home-state guy. How the heck did we let this guy get away?"

Nick Saban doesn't miss out on the recruiting trail very often, and when he does miss out on a gold-plated prospect he almost always has a silver-plated backup plan. Quarterback recruiting two years ago was an exception. Not only did the Tide choose to focus primarily on Gunner Kiel instead of Winston, but wound up striking out on both and bringing in only Alec Morris, a guy who may not be around much longer if rumors are to be believed. It's not a pretty story.

And if y'all already think the answer to this question is "a lot," just wait 'til next year when we'll be looking for more than a backup.

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