In this week’s edition of “Conversations with Clayton,” I chat with one of SB Nation’s premier college football minds, Matt Brown. Matt is SB Nation’s associate director of college brands as well as the author of a fantastic book entitled What If?: A Closer Look at College Football’s Great Questions. You should all be following him on Twitter and buying his book right now.
In a wide-ranging interview, Matt and I discuss high school press boxes in rural Ohio, Cincinnati’s greatest export, and the impending college football season.
Clayton Trutor (CT): Who you got in the College Football Playoff?
Matt Brown (MB): That’s a good question, and I know this isn’t the most creative answer, but going with chalk is pretty safe in college football. I’ll take Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington.
CT: Which new coaching hire do you have the highest hopes for entering the 2018 season?
MB: Long term, I think there’s plenty of reason to be excited about both Scott Frost and Chip Kelly, but I don’t like the immediate roster situation for either of those teams in year one. If you’re looking for just the immediate bounce-back off the bat, I’d go with Willie Taggart at Florida State.
CT: Do you see any emerging shifts in the balance of power among college football’s power conferences?
MB: I don’t put too much stock into this sort of thing, to be honest. It wasn’t that long ago that the Pac-12 had the deepest bench of coaching talent in the country and was nearly on par, depth-wise, with the SEC. Now, folks are trying to shovel dirt on it’s grave.
Generally speaking, I think it’s fair to say the SEC and the Big Ten are still the two deepest and most powerful conferences (led in part by their QB depth this year, in a year where there aren’t as many elite QBs), but there are plenty of excellent teams in the Pac-12, Big 12, ACC, and yes, even the American.
Editor’s note: While Matt did not specifically mention Cincinnati is one of those excellent teams, I think we can all read between the lines and agree that is what he meant.
CT: Are any teams from the Group of 5 going to contend for a playoff birth?
MB: No and that’s never going to happen in a four-team playoff. Not that the teams aren’t good enough, but the metrics for a worthy schedule are just impossibly high. I like Boise State as the best team in the G5 this year, with UCF and Memphis also likely to have Top 25 caliber squads. But nobody is coming close to sniffing the playoff.
CT: What is your outlook for Notre Dame in 2018?
MB: They’ll probably be fine. They’ve recruited (barely) at a blue chip level, they have some exciting defensive players, but I’m not sure what they’ll do at QB, or exactly what their offensive identity is going to be like. I’d guess around nine wins?
CT: Who would win a battle royale among the coaches in the SEC?
MB: Derek Mason would beat the hell out of everybody else.
CT: Describe the worst seats you’ve had at a sporting event.
MB: When I first started this business covering HS football in rural Ohio, I had some press box seats that were so bad I just camped out on the sidelines with a notebook, because I couldn’t see a damn thing otherwise. My official stats were ... probably not great.
CT: If you were a minor league baseball player, what would be your walk-up music?
MB: “Pony.” I work for SB Nation, after all.
CT: Describe your greatest sports video game victory.
MB: I beat the Water Temple without a walkthrough.
CT: When you hear the word “Cincinnati,” you think ________
MB: Graeter’s. Your greatest export. Keep the chili. Brag about the ice cream.
Follow Matt Brown on Twitter: @MattSBN
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