Thursday, April 5, 2018

College Football Mailbag

By Kevin Beane

Welcome to another edition of the Slant Pattern mailbag, where this time I'm focusing entirely on college football, because I miss it and we still have just under five months before there'll be more.

As always, this column doesn't receive any questions itself, so I just poach other writer's questions. The first is from the Iowa State's SB Nation mailbag, where a guy by the handle of "seedcattleguy" asks, "Should the BIG 10 Network be able to continue the charade of calling their conference the best that's ever existed without a warning to viewers that watching such drivel can be harmful to your health?"

The actual recipient of this question admits the asker is his father, and heartily agrees that the Big Ten and its network is terrible.

This question really opened up my eyes about something. I mean, not that the Big Ten or the Big Ten Network sucks. Neither is true, and BTN is no more homer-y than the SEC Network or Pac 12 Network.

Of course, there is no Big 12 Network, and as of 2019, they will be the only P5 conference without a network. This is because the conference sold their souls to keep Texas in the fold and agreed to let the Longhorn Network be the lone conference affiliated TV network.

Anyway, the eureka moment comes from the realization that Iowa State fans must hate the Big Ten more than any other school's fan base. They live in the shadow of Iowa, which is more successful than they are, and the Hawkeyes overshadow the Cyclones in national cache and I'm guessing state cache as well. This "question" is Little Brother Syndrome spelled out on the page.

"Richard" asks Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples: "What are your thoughts on Will Muschamp and his tenure thus far at South Carolina and his trajectory going forward?"

He'd still get an incomplete grade from me. 2018 will be his third year at the helm in Columbia, and I'd say year three for just about any coach is the pivotal year with which you can start judging them.

Of course, Muschamp improved from year one, and that's about all you can ask for in year two. Better still, it was a 3-win improvement an a 2-win improvement in the SEC. Good signs.

But it's worth pointing out that their only victory against a team that finished the year in the top 25 was their opening win over NC State, and they've been very fortunate, this year and next, to avoid all of the SEC West heavies.

That won't always be the case, and a lot of work needs to be done to wrest the state from Clemson. I can't say I'm super optimistic that they'll rise again to the levels of success they found under Steve Spurrier, but we'll see.

"Jared" asks Stewart Mandel in The Athletic: "The Sun Belt and Conference USA went in polar opposite directions with their latest TV deals. While C-USA added games that are streamed free of charge through Stadium, the Sun Belt opted to place its third-tier games on ESPN's upcoming over-the-top service, ESPN Plus, an additional paywall. Are cash-strapped G5 programs better suited to chase eyeballs at any costs or should they fight to gain any type of media compensation they can find, even if it means locking games behind a paywall and potentially alienating fans?"

I hate to give a mealy-mouthed "it depends" answer but ... it depends.

In this case, the Sun Belt made the better move. This is because anything ESPN does is going to have a ton more visibility than anything Stadium does, and ESPN+ is going to be very, very affordable: $4.99 a month.

If ESPN+ was charging, say, $24.99 a month, then the pendulum would swing back to any free service, no matter how rinky-dink. But I'm looking forward to ESPN+, which besides having similar agreements with many other conferences, will have scads of boxing and all out-of-market MLS games. This is all for that $4.99 price tag.

Closing out with another Mandel question, Mark H asks:


Mandel more or less just made fun of the all-caps question, but I'll take a thoughtful stab at it.

It's impossible to predict whether or not something massive as the Great Realignment will occur again. I will say realignment on some scale is probably never going to stop happening, and there are rumblings once again that the Big 12 would like to expand.

If they do take two more, my prediction (this is pure speculation, based on zero rumors or anything I've read) naturally look towards the American Athletic Conference. The first team they will take is UConn. The addition of West Virginia proves that geography matters not to the conference, and having no one that can raise their football profile any further that's willing to join, they will look instead at a program that raises, at least in a historical sense, their basketball profile and instantly give them the best women's basketball program in the country.

The second team will come down to Houston or Temple; in the end, they'll take Temple because they want that new marktet. If they drag their feet on expansion for a couple years and UCF stays as dominant as they were last year in that time, they'll get a long look, as well.

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