The Washington Times - August 12, 2008, 11:56AM

No time to waste with an intro today. Besides, the coach of the first team on the list has a lot to say in response.

55. Oklahoma State. A Q-and-A that didn’t happen, but is plenty plausible.

SEE RELATED:


Me: Oklahoma State will go 6-6 this year.

Mike Gundy: Three-fourths of this is inaccurate. It’s fiction.

Me: Oh, so you’re looking at more like 2-10?

Gundy: That’s why I don’t read the newspaper. Because it’s garbage.

Me: You’re not the only one not reading newspapers these days. But either way, you’ve got to have questions about your secondary. I mean, you’re in the same division as Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Graham Harrell. Can those defensive backs hold up?

Gundy: He goes to class, he’s respectful to the media, he’s respectful to the public and he’s a good kid. he’s not a professional athlete and he doesn’t deserve to be kicked when he’s down.

Me: Uh-huh. Didn’t know your secondary had only one guy in it. That would make things difficult, now wouldn’t it?

Gundy: Come after me. I’m a man. I’m 40. I’m not a kid. Write something about me.

Me: Very well then. If you turn in a losing record this season, you might just be looking for a new job even if you were the guy who so deftly handed the ball off to Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders in Stillwater back in the 1980s.

Gundy: That’s all I’ve got to say. It makes me want to puke.

54. Kansas State. The Prince of Manhattan can beat Texas, but not necessarily anyone else with consistency in the Big 12. But third-year coach Ron Prince does have himself a contract extension just handed out, and that might permit him to weather a likely 7-5/6-6-type season better than if he didn’t.

All right, now for the scary part: K-State signed 19 junior college transfers. That is not a misprint. Clearly, Prince inherited a situation that requires some quick fixes. But that number suggests there is fixing needed just about everywhere.

North Texas, Montana State and Louisiana-Lafayette dot a nonconference schedule straight out of the playbook of former coach Bill Snyder. Whether the Wildcats are ready for Big 12 play, though, remains to be seen.

53. East Carolina. This just in: The Pirates are going to be pretty good this year. Certainly good enough to contend for the Conference USA title. It’s not just typical coaching blather when Frank Beamer talks about being worried about Virginia Tech’s opener in Charlotte against East Carolina. It’s legitimate.

The only thing that could seriously derail the Pirates is their schedule. They get Virginia Tech, West Virginia, N.C. State and Virginia by mid-October, which would be fine if they were an ACC team. It’s certainly possible to poach a couple of those games – Virginia appears especially vulnerable – but a plenty plausible 1-5 start could lead to a surprisingly rough season in Greenville.

52. Arizona. One of the safest bets in all of college football is this: There will be some sort of press conference in Tucson on Dec. 7.

If things go right for the Wildcats, it will be to announce acceptance of the program’s first bowl berth in a decade. Arizona could be headed to any of the many garden spots in the postseason landscape and it won’t matter. It will be a gleeful day.

If things go poorly, it will be to announce the firing of coach Mike Stoops – unless the firing/resignation goes down even earlier. There will be thanks of service, talk of a national search for a replacement and all that other stuff. And somewhere in town, Lute Olson will be happy people aren’t analyzing why his program is faltering, if only for a day.

Stoops doesn’t have a winning season in four seasons. Make it five, and at most schools you earn a ticket to the unemployment line. Since Arizona is like most schools, it’s win-or-else for Stoops this season.

51. Mississippi State. Only three times since World War II have the Bulldogs beaten Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss in the same season.

1980. 1998. And 2008.

If they do it again, perhaps the denizens of Starkville will erect a statue of Sylvester Croom.

The fact Mississippi State pulled that feat off (the victories, not the statue-building) without a respectable offense could be either good or bad. Maybe with a full roster of his players, Croom will do even better this year. Or, maybe 2007 was a mirage and the Bulldogs will fall apart again.

I’m not going to take a side in this one, instead settling for a mediocre season that might land the Bulldogs in another bowl – if only because it would be fun to see Croom run around with a flag again.

Patrick Stevens