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January 17, 2010

Roundtable: Looking ahead to 2010

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. This weekend, we will take one final look back at the 2009 season and start to look ahead to 2010 by asking questions each day. Here are today's questions:


Olin Buchanan's answer:
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins is a great guy and the CU athletic department isn't in the best financial shape, so Hawkins was given an extra year even though the Buffaloes haven't managed a winning record in any of his four seasons. The Buffs seemed to get better as the season progressed, with each of their last three losses coming by eight or fewer points. But moral victories won't buy any more time next season. Hawkins needs to win this fall. A runner-up pick here is North Texas' Todd Dodge, who has been told by the athletic director that he has to have a winning record in 2010 to keep his job.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
It has to be Michigan's Rich Rodriguez. In two seasons, he has yet to make a bowl and is a combined 8-16 overall and 3-13 in the Big Ten. Adding additional pressure is that Rodriguez will be working for a new athletic director. What's it all mean? RichRod needs to at least deliver a bowl bid this season, or a change in Ann Arbor may be coming.

David Fox's answer:
When it comes to a coach's job security, the only worse sign than a vote of confidence from an athletic director is replacing both coordinators. After Illinois went 3-9, I was mildly surprised Illinois kept Ron Zook. Since a Rose Bowl appearance after the 2007 season, Illinois is 8-16 overall and 5-11 in the Big Ten. The '07 season remains Illinois' only winning record under Zook, and the 2010 season doesn't appear as if it will be much better. That might be enough for Illinois to part ways with the Zooker.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Dan Hawkins, Ralph Friedgen and Rich Rodriguez are under the most pressure to get it done. Given that he coaches at Michigan, I'll go with Rodriguez as occupying the hottest seat. A poor first season almost should've been expected in 2008, what with the installation of an offense ill-suited for a lot of the guys on hand. But the problems in 2009, especially on defense, can't be explained away so easily. The Wolverines need to show some real progress in 2010, like making a postseason appearance, if RichRod wants to be in Ann Arbor in 2011.

Steve Megargee's answer:
The move from Lloyd Carr to Rich Rodriguez and his spread-option offense was dramatic enough that Michigan undoubtedly was going to undergo some growing pains. But now that he will be in his third season on the job, Rodriguez has to start delivering results. Michigan's 3-9 record in 2008 was somewhat understandable because West Virginia also struggled in its first season under Rodriguez. The difference is that WVU started winning the following year and Michigan went just 5-7 in 2009. Michigan's late-season collapses is a major concern. Rodriguez proved at West Virginia that he's a very good coach, but if Michigan struggles for a third consecutive season, it's going to lend plenty of credence to the notion that this just isn't the right fit.


Olin Buchanan's answer:
Some seem to fail to realize or just overlook that Navy has posted at least eight wins for seven consecutive seasons. During that span, the Midshipmen twice have posted 10 wins, including this season. I think they will have a good shot at a double-digit victory total again in 2010. Sure, Navy must replace 11 starters, including seven on defense. But it's the offense that makes the Midshipmen so dangerous, and returning on that side of the ball are three starting linemen as well as the team's leading rusher, passer and receiver. Of course, the leading rusher and passer is the same guy -- QB Ricky Dobbs, who exceeded 1,000 yards in both categories last season. Dobbs is an exciting quarterback who is perfect for Navy's triple-option offense. Navy is easy to overlook, but isn't easily defeated -- just ask Ohio State, Notre Dame or Missouri.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
Where is Georgia? Just one SEC East team in the top 25? I think the Bulldogs will be much improved on defense with the hiring of coordinator Todd Grantham, who brings an NFL savvy to the position. And the Georgia offense is packed with returning starters who will be motivated to get the program back on track following an 8-5 season. The big key: finding a quarterback.

David Fox's answer:
Leaving West Virginia out of the top 25 wasn't necessarily an oversight; at that point, I figured either Noel Devine or Jock Sanders -- or both -- would declare for the NFL. Since both say they will stay, I think West Virginia has a good chance of finishing ranked in 2010. That doesn't mean I think there will be four Big East teams in the top 25. I think the Mountaineers could leap-frog Cincinnati or Connecticut in the conference. Devine can be a Heisman contender if he gets the ball enough, especially behind a veteran line. The defense could be the best in the league behind seniors Chris Neild, Pat Lazear, J.T. Thomas, Brandon Hogan and Sidney Glover. Whether the Mountaineers can win the Big East depends on new QB Geno Smith.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Missouri probably reached its ceiling this season by going 8-5, but I think the Tigers could be a nine-win team next season and thus finish in the top 25. The Tigers lose three key starters: WR Danario Alexander, G Kurtis Gregory and LB Sean Weatherspoon. But nine starters return on offense and eight on defense, and the toughest non-conference game will be either Illinois or San Diego State. The Tigers won't be better than Nebraska, but they should be the second-best team in the Big 12 North.

Steve Megargee's answer:
West Virginia seems worthy of a top-25 ranking now that RB Noel Devine and WR Jock Sanders have announced they plan to return to school for their senior seasons. Devine could have a huge season while running behind a line that features four returning starters. WVU is counting on Geno Smith to emerge as a suitable replacement for Jarrett Brown at quarterback, but the return of Devine and Sanders should take some of the pressure off the first-year starter. I still believe Pittsburgh will enter the 2010 season as the Big East favorite, but West Virginia also merits a spot in the top 25.

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