Morning Tailgate Mailbag: The Hype Machine And The Matt Grothe Division

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29: Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Stanford Cardinal points at a video camera as he takes the field to warm up for the game with the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 29, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Coverage of Andrew Luck has followed the Hype Life Cycle to a T, Kansas' offensive collapse leads to more Washington State comparisons, and it's time to name the Big East's future divisions.

While I typically solicit mailbag questions via Twitter, here's a good opportunity to remind you that you can also email questions (mailbag or otherwise) to me at any time.

If ESPN has to ask itself if it's overhyped Andrew Luck, hasn't it?

-- via e-mail

This question is in regard, mostly, to Phil Simms' comments about Andrew Luck this week. The former Super Bowl quarterback talked about the almost certain No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday; the money quote: "The one thing I don’t see, I just don’t see big time NFL throws. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve watched a lot of him. He never takes it and rips it in there."

Now ... never mind that it isn't hard to compile a few shots of Luck indeed "ripping it in there." (Way to go, Doug Farrar. Now Phil Simms is going to have to fight you, too. Right after he finishes up with Desmond Howard.) To me, this week marked the inevitable point in the Hype Life Cycle™ where we try to break down what we have spent months building up. If Simms didn't say something bad about Luck, then someone else certainly would have.

ESPN has certainly mastered the art of the Hype Life Cycle -- they have it down to a science at this point; they can build you up higher than others (cue Todd McShay proclaiming that Luck will receive the highest grade he's ever given an NFL prospect), and they can then stir the pot with any of about 18 professional contrarians they put on television throughout the course of their programming day. ("What view am I taking on today's show? That LeBron Tom Brady Albert Pujols anybody awesome Andrew Luck is ridiculously overrated? Got it. ANDREW LUCK IS RIDICULOUSLY OVERRATED!")

But in Andrew Luck's case, the hype has gone far beyond ESPN. Virtually nobody has had negative things to say about him as an NFL prospect yet, and the "best prospect since Peyton Manning" narrative has very much taken hold (which is odd since, at the time, many people thought Manning was the No. 2 prospect at his own position in that draft; sorry, Ryan Leaf proponents, but you did exist, whether you want to admit it or not). This means that we will inevitably spend a good portion of the next six months trying to tear him down because of a throw he made here or an incorrect read he made there. And as we saw against USC, he does occasionally make bad reads or poor throws. He is, after all, still a college quarterback. And then, after we've built as much doubt as humanly possible, Luck will still go No. 1 in next year's draft. Hooray, 24-hour television (and Internet) programming!

(I guess I shouldn't complain about massive Internet coverage, however, since it kind of pays my bills.)

What are my thoughts on Luck? Easy: he's awesome. I completely get the hype. He has a cannon (yes, Phil, he does), he has mastered the play-action game, he is smart with his audibles ... he has a certain level of brains and brawn that few quarterbacks have at this stage in college. Nobody is a guaranteed success, but I feel more comfortable in betting on Luck than I did even with someone like Sam Bradford.

I am much more likely to try to tear down Luck's Heisman hype than his NFL Prospect hype at this point, simply because the two are mutually exclusive. I don't care that he is the best prospect -- he still needs to produce the best college stats and serve as the best college player to win the award, and I'm not sure he has yet. I love what Trent Richardson has done this year, I love what Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III have done, and I'm blown away by the stats that Landry Jones, Case Keenum and Kellen Moore are posting, even if none of those players (aside from maybe Richardson and Griffin) are going to be capable of making as much of an impact in the pros as Luck. Crown him the No. 1 pick (and again, no matter what pushback he receives, he will go No. 1 barring some sort of dramatic injury/development), but don't send in your Heisman vote just yet.

I noticed from your Study Hall that KU had negative off. equiv. pts. against UT. How often does that happen?

-- @jessenewell

-- AND --

Kansas: bad, or historically bad?

-- @robweir

Not too long ago, I was talking myself into Kansas having at least semi-decent offensive potential, even if their defense looked utterly hopeless. Then they went out and produced 23 yards in their first eight drives against Texas. In their 43-0 loss, quarterback Jordan Webb averaged 1.3 yards per pass attempt (including sacks), and their previously decent foursome of running backs (James Sims, Darrian Miller, Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon) averaged 1.3 yards per carry. It was as hopeless a performance as we've seen this year. Now, the ratings are sinking. Quickly.

Kansas currently ranks 113th in this week's F/+ rankings, worse than any other BCS team (though, in fairness, they are getting strong competition from No. 111 Minnesota, No. 108 Indiana and No. 107 Colorado). Their defense ranks 117th (ahead of just New Mexico State, Navy and New Mexico), and their offense has fallen to 100th. Their current minus-21.0% F/+ rating perfectly matches what they produced last year, meaning there has not been one iota of improvement in Turner Gill's second season in charge. Gill played a ton of freshmen and sophomores last year, and those players have not improved as sophomores and juniors. I was not lying when I said "Teams don't collapse out of nowhere like this and immediately rebound with much velocity" in this summer's Kansas profile, but it was not unreasonable to expect some sort of improvement. It has not arrived.

If Kansas' minus-21.0% F/+ rating holds, it will mean that the Jayhawks will have produced two of the six worst performances for a BCS conference team in the "F/+ Era" (2005-11).

1. 2009 Washington State (-29.3%)
2. 2008 Washington State (-27.6%)
3. 2005 Duke (-21.7%)
4. 2008 Washington (-21.5%)
5. 2010 Kansas (-21.0%)
6. 2011 Kansas (-21.0%)

Paul Wulff's Washington State team took a step forward in 2010, but not much of one. When you fall into this deep a hole, it is quite difficult to dig your way back out.

As for the frequency of games in which a team produces negative EqPts (i.e. contests in which the better offensive strategy would have just been attempting a QB sneak on every single play of the game), it has happened 25 times since the start of the 2005 season, so approximately four (or so) times per season. However, it usually happens to FCS teams (nine of 25) and bad non-BCS programs taking on good BCS programs (eight). Since it is so closely tied to teams that are overmatched and overwhelmed, both in terms of talent and athleticism, it rarely happens to a BCS conference team at the hands of another BCS conference team. Here is the entire list:

2011: Kentucky versus South Carolina (-2.39 EqPts)
2006: Duke versus Virginia (-1.51 EqPts)
2011: Kansas versus Texas (-0.84 EqPts)
2011: Vanderbilt versus South Carolina (-0.29 EqPts)

That three of the four instances have taken place this year further backs up a theory I've had going for a while (and will have to write about at some point): offense has become incredibly polarized, with more great performances and more horrid ones, this year than in recent years. Kansas has nothing on the disaster that is the Kentucky offense, but considering offense was supposed to be their (relative) bright spot ... yikes.

Will a Big East East team ever beat a Big East West team?

-- via e-mail

No, no, no. With the Big East's new football lineup under development, this is the perfect opportunity to name divisions after conference legends, like the Big Ten should have done. (Really, though, the Big Ten should have done anything with their divisions aside from what they actually did.)

Unfortunately, when Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia depart the conference, they take with them most of the conference's well-defined history. So there can be no naming divisions after Tony Dorsett, or Dan Marino, or Jim Brown, or Ernie Davis, or Major Harris, or anybody else of significance. instead, I propose the following: Jared Zabransky Division and the Matt Grothe Division.

You have to admit, "winning the Zabransky Championship" has a nice ring to it, no?

Do these have to be football questions? I just wanted to know his favorite place to get a beer in Columbia, MO.

-- @maggiehendricks

The stereotypical answer: Harpo's! It's always named one of the country's top college bars, it's where goalposts always go to be hacksawed after big wins, etc. Nice place to experience if you're making your first trip to CoMo.

The real answer: McNally's, baby. It is, after all, the Official Bar of Rock M Nation. What more of an endorsement do you need? (And for those CoMo-ites reading this, R.I.P. Widman's. Loved that place.)

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