Matt Hayes is the senior college football writer at SportingNews. In what has become an almost annual event (sorry about that, Matt!), he graciously agreed to answer a few questions from fans at Gatorchatter.com and Sharp Williams at hog database.
You can follow Matt on twitter via @Matt_HayesSN, or subscribe to his rss feed on his archive page.
Normally we would accost Hayes in Hoover, Alabama, at a buffet or road house or some such, but who would we be cyber kidding?
We’re trying to avoid any other Cousin Eddie-like felonious activity to get a few words out of him. Of course, had we not broken a few state and federal laws in years gone by, he might not have ever seen that we’re really alright people and graciously agreed to answer a few questions from Gatorchatter members and hog database. No jelly-of-the-month-club bonuses for y’all! We’ve got the bonus!
Gator Fever led off: What do you realistically think it will take for Muschamp to survive after this season? Do you think Muschamp could survive a 4 loss season that included 3 later season losses to Georgia, SC and FSU?
MH (Matt Hayes): Muschamp knows he must win; he understands the magnitude of the season. The question is: who can he afford to lose to? Probably not Georgia for a fourth straight time in the context of let’s say a 7- or 8-win season. The decision will be Jeremy Foley’s, and Foley believes in Muschamp like he believed in Billy Donovan almost two decades ago.
From J_C Gator: Do you think a 2 loss SEC team could make the college football playoff with a schedule like Florida’s?
MH: No. Unless the unthinkable happens like 2007, and there’s a place for a two-loss team in the conversation, it won’t happen. In fact, I’d be shocked if this first go-round of the CFP (College Football Playoff) isn’t strictly down the middle. In other words, no multiple teams from one conference — unless it’s absolutely glaring that the results call for it.
MJMGator asked several questions: How do you see the East shaking out this year? If WM doesn’t survive the 2014 campaign, who do you see as the most likely candidates for our next HC? How big of an impact would a coaching change make on our (Florida’s) 2015 recruiting class? Who is on your short list of the brightest up and coming young coaches? Where do you see Petrino landing in a year or two? Would Shaw consider leaving Stanford for any other college gig?
MH: In order: South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky. … Most likely candidate: Larry Fedora, North Carolina … Impact on recruiting: with Florida’s brand, it doesn’t matter. … Up and coming coaches: Fedora, Bryan Harsin, Chad Morris, Philip Montgomery. … Petrino stays at Louisville. … (Shaw leaving Stanford?) Never. Shaw’s next move — if there is one — is to the NFL.
GatorJ: Based on Roper’s history what is a realistic expectation for this season?
MH: If Driskel plays as well as the staff believes he can, 10 wins is not out of reach. It’s a very talented team, but teams win big games — season turning games — because of elite play from the QB position.
Rogdochar: Mr. Hayes, in your general absorption observing college football programs does any program seem to have a better take on protecting players against injury? Mr. Hayes in the history of coaches, how many beat-down resurrection HCs have you seen reassemble into a top tough-to-beat leader? We (Gators) surely need this. The SEC and CFB need this to hold down harsh upheaval.
MH: If this were a radio show, I’d say, can you repeat the question? So I’ll just answer what I think you’re trying to say. There’s no magic pill for injuries. They happen, you deal with them, you move on. When they happen to the most important position on the field (quarterback), the struggles are magnified. When they happen at QB and at many other key spots on the field, it’s disastrous. Don’t give up on Muschamp just yet.
Rogdochar: How does a top punter suddenly falter to a poor punter in one season? What does he most probably need to work on?
MH: Confidence. It’s as simple as that. Sometimes young guys get in their own heads too much and can’t get out. It’s not uncommon. Usually, talent takes over.
Rogdochar: From his OC position can Roper and enthusiasm adopted run this UF overall Show like a totally new “acting HC partner” to transform this team into a multi-talented juggernaut? Or how much will we get of Muschamp mix with the Roper Mix?
MH: Please see previous answers on Driskel. I can tell you this: Muschamp relayed a story to me at SEC Media Days, when he said he had Mike Mularkey, a former NFL head coach (and Gator) visit one of his practices last fall camp. First thing Mularkey told Muschamp was, “You have a first round talent at QB.” Again, if Driskel plays as well as the staff thinks he can, Florida can beat anyone on the schedule.
Rodochar: What can you add to explain or counter the dropping of “live” attendance for CFB games? Will it be cyclic or ongoing? What can colleges do?
MH: The overload of games on television. If you can sit in your home in front of a 60-inch plasma television and see an unfiltered picture with replays, why would you want to fight the crowds and parking and getting home at 5 am Sunday morning? The best thing colleges can do is put out a better product around the game itself. Run highlights of other games around the nation, and keep the game more like what fans get when they’re at home. It’s not just about that one game in front of them.
Rogdochar: Mr. Hayes, do you think CFB offenses and defenses have gotten more entertaining?
MH: Without question both have. The difference is, the rules are geared more toward the offense. That has led to more points and more problems for defenses. It’s cyclical; defenses will find a way to stop the offenses. They always do.
From TallyGator: Do you think a 4 team playoff is really going to be the answer, or is it just the first step in the right direction?
MH: I don’t like the playoff. I prefer the BCS. Why break something that wasn’t broken? CFB has never been more popular, and that’s because of the BCS. But that argument is long gone, and I’m afraid four teams is only the beginning for this playoff model. At some point, I think it will move to eight teams — but that’s way down the road.
Deuce Coupe: Will the SEC remain the top Conference or has the shift of power already started?
MH: The SEC has been and will be the No.1 conference for one reason: players. The talent is miles ahead of the rest of CFB.
t-gator asked: What is your assessment of Jeff Driskel (relative to the other SEC QBs)?
MH: Please see other Driskel-related questions. He was asked to not screw up in 2012, then asked to do it all in 2013 — and never got a chance to do it. A lot of Florida fans think of Driskel in the Miami game — and he made a couple of critical mistakes — and forget about the Driskel who won at Tallahassee the year before (his best game as a Florida QB).
Sharp Williams, hog database asks:
Sharp: What are your impressions of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee?
MH: I like the makeup of the committee, and have no doubt of its commitment and integrity. That said, when push comes to shove and they have to make a choice for that No.4 spot and there are three viable alternatives, don’t think for a second politics won’t play into the decision.
Sharp: One question that looms is whether play on the field will change because of the college football playoff. Do you believe that different game decisions will be made? On a different front, do you believe that because humans are solely making the decisions, that margin of victory will creep into the decision whether it’s supposed to or not?
MH: We certainly could see teams running up the score to impress the committee, but there are no specific metrics for margin of victory in the committee decision-making process. That’s the beauty (or madness, depending on your point of view) of the new system: it’s 13 people in a room and we have absolutely no idea how they’re going to make their decisions.
Sharp: In your opinion what are the biggest impediments to the 5 power conferences gaining autonomy? Do you think they should have autonomy?
MH: I do think they should have autonomy. And the biggest improvement will be better non-conference games. Hopefully we get to the point where the Power 5 leagues all play each other in non-conference games. No games against Group of 5 teams (the other conferences) or FCS teams.
Sharp:: Who are your top three teams in the SEC West and SEC East?
Sharp: In your estimation is the SEC “down” at the quarterback position this year?
MH: No. Just a lot of young guys getting their first shot at playing. A lot of young, talented guys.
Sharp: Do you think Arkansas wins an SEC game or games this season? What is your prediction for the Hogs?
MH: Absolutely. The Hogs should have won two last season. Qualifying for the postseason (6 wins) would be a huge step for the Hogs and Beilema.
And that, football fans, concludes this year’s interview with Mr. Hayes. We may all have different takes on his opinions, but it’s refreshing to get the benefit of informed insight regardless of our various perspectives.
Many thanks go to Sportingnews’ senior college football writer Matt Hayes for the generous gifts of his time, his expertise, and his patience!