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'Power Five' could challenge NFL in December

Who are the players to watch on Saturday night?


Matt from Appleton, WI

"Without physical danger, there is no fear. Without fear, there is no excitement." I think that's called the Pro Bowl.

Yeah, and that's OK because it's a meaningless game. It's not OK for the other games. Football is a game of fear and courage. The clash between fear and courage is the ultimate human confrontation.

Alex from New York, NY

I don't understand the importance of hash marks. Why does their placement affect the way the game is played?

A boundary corner on a field of wide hash marks has less ground to cover and doesn't have to be nearly as skilled in coverage as a wide-side corner. On a field of wide hash marks, you could deploy your corners according to where the ball is positioned. Field goal angles become more acute on a field of wide hash marks. When the ball is positioned to the short side, defenses can load up against the run to the wide side. Moving the hash marks is one of the simplest and most effective ways of changing the game.

Eric from Keene, NH

What are your thoughts on the NCAA "power five" decision?

The NCAA was born when Teddy Roosevelt created a governing body to help save football from being outlawed. That governing body later became the NCAA and the NCAA gets a lot of the credit for saving football from the savageness that nearly destroyed it. Yesterday, the NCAA died. It didn't want to go through another Georgia/Oklahoma/CFA ordeal, so it surrendered to the faction in college football that wants to advance the game to a more intense level. As someone who has loved college and pro football equally all of his life, I have two distinct thoughts: 1) The NCAA allowed this to happen by failing to create a true playoff system. 2) The union of the five power conferences in college football will now become the second "pro" league. If the "power five" are able to put a true playoff system in place, they'll own December.

Rob from Boulder, CO

What players should we be looking at during Saturday night's game? I'm very interested in seeing what Sean Richardson can do.

He's one. Chris Banjo is another one. Keep your eyes on all of the players for whom this game is big. It's not big for Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, etc. It's big for the guys who've yet to fully establish their careers. For the desperate dreamers, as I like to refer to them, these games are their Super Bowl. Rule of thumb: If you don't recognize the player, watch him.

Daniel from Jerusalem, Israel

It surprises me that you, of all people, are into the idea of shortening the preseason. Don't you love watching the rookies and fringe guys competing for their jobs?

Yes, I do, but there are other ways to achieve evaluation. I'm sensitive to the fans' stake in all of this. I'd rather the fans' financial investment be directed to more meaningful games.

Ryan from Columbus, OH

Vic, how much does a GM or the evaluation staff (as opposed to solely the coaching staff) get involved with calling who gets put in, when and how many reps someone gets during a preseason game? Does this change as the team moves to subsequent preseason games?

Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson work together in providing a plan for evaluating players. It'll be the No. 1 goal on Saturday night. Coach McCarthy made reference this week to getting Thompson the looks he needs. In game three of the preseason, there'll be a greater emphasis on getting playing time for the starters. Game three is for getting ready for opening night. McCarthy and Thompson are in this together.

Eric from Amherst Junction, WI

Vic, every player you talk about is having the best camp. Help us come to reality and tell us which player … isn't having a good camp.

Eric, I count on my readers to know how to read, and I'm not talking about being able to read the words I write, I'm talking about reading the words I don't write. If I haven't written much about a guy, it's probably because I haven't seen him do much worth reporting. I don't trust my talent evaluation skills enough to boldly write that a guy isn't having a good camp, unless there is supporting comments from coaches.

Sean from Fort Collins, CO

This is an absolute embarrassment to the NFL. Nineteen flags in the Seahawks-Broncos game with 10 minutes to go in the third quarter; 60-59, here we come.

How would you like to be a defensive coordinator in this league?

Jeremy from Fort Collins, CO

Vic, I was wondering what your thoughts would be on the idea of the Packers defense switching to a 4-3 with the addition of Peppers. I'm sure Capers would never do that but I feel like we could better utilize the Peppers/Matthews combo in the 4-3. What are your thoughts on this?

You're kind of late to the party on this, Jeremy, but I'll go there again. I think you'll see the Packers line up in a 4-3 with Julius Peppers as a down end, and then you'll see him stand up and move one step back so the Packers are in a 3-4, and then you'll see him with his hand on the ground in a 3-4, and then you'll see him stand up and move a step back in a two-down-linemen nickel defense. I think we're going to see Coach Capers empty his bag this year. In a league that's bound and determined to give offense every physical advantage, a defensive coordinator's greatest weapon is his ability to disguise rush and coverage. It's an absolute must. Don't be one thing. You must be multiple.

Noah from Rhinelander, WI

Why don't the defenders just wear handcuffs and stand 10 yards downfield from the play? After watching some preseason action, I am left wondering why even have defenders? They are getting flagged for just playing football. In my mind, the line has been crossed.

Not yet. How will we know when we've crossed the line? The TV ratings will decline.

Chase from Sunnyvale, CA

So what you're saying is defenses don't win championships, but they make championship teams (as long as they have the offense).

Come on, everybody, let's not get an ice cream headache on this subject, OK? Let's not chew on every word. It's real simple: This is a quarterback-driven and offense-driven league. There isn't a coach or personnel man in the game that won't agree with that statement. That's what I'm saying. Flags are flying because the league didn't enjoy the Super Bowl. That's not the kind of game it wants.

Scott from Augusta, GA

Vic, I hope you are doing well. I was wondering if you're going to bring back the in-game chat? I enjoyed participating in the chat and thought it really added to the gameday experience by providing additional insight. I was very disappointed when there wasn't one last year, so I hope you and your team strongly consider bringing it back.

I'm sorry to report the in-game chat has gone the way of the head slap, but "Ask Vic Halftime" returns on Saturday. Please join me on packers.com in discussing the first half of Saturday's game.

Dan from Herriman, UT

Vic, is there any coach you covered that his on-field personality was totally different from his off-field (personality).

All of the head coaches I've covered are the same off the field as they are on the field, which lets me know the five head coaches I've covered are all genuine men. All five are great guys. I've loved covering their teams and attending their press conferences. I'm lucky. I know beat reporters that tell a different story.

Paul from Denver, CO

Vic, I have always heard people say, and you echo it, that you don't want to show your hand in the preseason. What's the difference? On any given play players are blocking, pulling, running routes, running the ball. How much can you really hide from what a team already saw the year before and what sort of things are you actually hiding?

You're trying to hide what you might do according to formation and personnel. You don't want your opening-night opponent to have four weeks to identify the new stuff you've put in according to the formations in which you run them or the personnel you employ. For example, you might have created a new stunt or twist you want to use as a surprise on opening night. If your opponent sees you use that new stunt or twist in a preseason game, he'll know by formation and/or personnel when to expect it. It's all about disguise, as I explained above. No one is re-inventing the game. There are only so many things you can do on the field. You can run or pass. You can rush or cover. The key is making your opponent guess which it'll be.

Dustin from Fishers, IN

Vic, it's preseason so I don't expect to see anything special on either side of the ball, but how much do coaches open up their playbook to see what players can do?

They hardly open it at all. You want to close your playbook and use only the most basic plays in your arsenal because that's the best strategy for evaluating talent. Don't make young players think. Let them react instinctively. If you want to evaluate a young cornerback, isolate him on a receiver at a key moment in the game. See if he has the skill to beat his man. It might be the wrong strategy for winning the game, but it'll help you make a decision that might win a game for you when it counts.

Richard from New Glarus, WI

Vic, at 6-4, 332, Mike Pennel seems to pass the eye test. He looked good during "Family Night" practice.

Mike McCarthy singled him out for praise on "Family Night." Pennel is a guy to watch on Saturday.

Rick from Appleton, WI

Vic, it's off to Tennessee. When you travel to a road game, what matters most to you besides getting the story?

Landing. Rick, for having asked the best question of the day, I am sending you the jersey Jarrett Bush wore on "Family Night." I come bearing gifts this year, folks. I'm getting winsome.

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