Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A few minutes with...Neal McCready

If you're wondering why ASU received a first place vote in the AP poll, it's because of the influence of Neal McCready of The Press-Register of Mobile, Alabama. Neal took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with me this morning:

PitchforkNation: Do you honestly think ASU is the best team in the country, or did you just use the deductive reasoning of:

The best teams in the nation come from the Pac-10 and SEC Conferences
Arizona State is the only undefeated team in either conference
Arizona State is the best team in the nation?

Neal McCready: We don’t know who the best team in the country is right now; you can’t make a decisive argument for anyone. I’ve always looked at it week to week, and if you look at cases for #1 right now, you’re down to 4 schools, ASU, BC, USF, and Ohio State. ASU is in the strongest league, the Pac-10. ASU is explosive, I love Dennis Erickson, and Rudy Carpenter is really coming into his own. They come back after slow starts and score in bunches, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up running the table. I think the Pac-10 and SEC are both close in strength from top to bottom. Look Stanford beat USC and Mississippi State beat Auburn. Both conferences are tough week after week, and ASU is the only team that’s come out unscathed. So for me, ASU is #1.

PFN: What do you think of Arizona State's chances the rest of the season?

Neal: I like their chances. Autzen is a tough place to get a win, but I like their chances against Cal. UCLA is a winnable game at the Rose Bowl for them, they have USC at home, and I think they’ll beat Arizona. So I like their chances to go undefeated. The trip to Oregon is scary and that is a tough place to go get a W, Mike Bellotti really knows how to coach up his teams.

PFN: Have you ever given a #1 vote, before this week, to a team who seemed to be on the outside looking in?

Neal: Not that I recall. In 2004 I was one of 2 people to vote Auburn #1 midway through the season. I don’t look at it and say “what’s everyone else going to do, I’m going to follow their lead." That’s not my job. The AP wants you to cast your own vote. In '04 I thought Auburn was the best team in the country most of that year, and I didn’t have any problem voting for them. If ASU beats Cal in a week and a half, I won’t be the only one voting them #1. If they lose, they’ll be done. The same people who are criticizing for me for ASU, I can criticize people just the same who voted for Ohio State. I mean come on, who have they played? Right now you can make a compelling argument for or against any of those 4 teams LSU is a foot away from being undefeated, Auburn is 2 plays away from being undefeated; this is college football today. Teams don’t dominate anymore, kids are too suave, they read the internet. Kids go to schools to play early. The days of the big program are over. There’s going to be balance. If you have a good coach, a good quarterback and a good defense, you have a shot. Florida Basketball coach Billy Donovan told me “If you replay the NCAA tournament, you’d get a different winner everytime," and it's the same way with these football games this season. There is a lot of parity and equality amongst teams in college football now. The margin between the team that goes 6-2 and 2-6 in the SEC isn't what it used to be. Ole Miss got screwed out of a win against Alabama on Saturday, and Vanderbilt almost beat Georgia. 10 years ago those teams had no chance.

PFN: How long have you voted in the AP poll?

Neal: This is my 4th year.

PFN: Which team do you think will win the SEC?

Neal: I'll have to say LSU, it's close though.

PFN: Which teams will face off in the National Title Game in New Orleans?

Neal: South Florida and somebody, hopefully either a team from the Pac-10 or SEC and those are the best leagues. Maybe ASU, USC, South Carolina or LSU.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Enjoyed hearing him 'defend' his vote. Nice to see a voter not just follow the succession of the pre-season rankings and keep everyone in the same order until someone loses.

If the Rockies can sweep to the World Series, why not us I guess.