Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008 | Here are three San Diego football questions to ponder.

Are the Chargers back in the hunt for the playoffs?

If the Chargers are playing as hard as they say they are — and there is no reason to doubt them — yet they have to rally from a 21-3 deficit for a 22-21 win over the 2-12 Kansas City Chiefs, what does that tell you?

It’s not only unlikely they’ll make up two games in two weeks on the Denver Broncos to win the AFC West, you have to wonder if this team is missing the talent or the coaching to turn things around during these last two weeks or even in 2009.

What I find most alarming is the players justifiably talked with pride about the character of the team that carried them to the win over the Chiefs, and about how they’ve never quit despite a disappointing season.

Players on many teams are going to make such comments, but it’s basically true with this one. The Chargers don’t have quitters or malcontents in their locker room. They don’t have a Terrell Owens splitting up the locker room.

That’s the reason I kept expecting them at midseason to snap out of yet another slow start. But it became evident when they lost five of six to Buffalo, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Atlanta that this team is on the wrong track.

The Chargers are trying to play power football without the power to drive it. They need a government bailout or a re-tooling.

For the record, here’s what has to happen for the Chargers to win the AFC West and advance to the playoffs:

If the Denver Broncos (8-6) lose this week to Buffalo while the Chargers (6-8) win at Tampa Bay, the Chargers would trail the Broncos by one game with the regular-season finale Dec. 28 between the Broncos and Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

If the Chargers were to win and tie Denver with 8-8 records, the Chargers would advance as AFC West champions based division records. The Chargers are 4-1 in the AFC West and the Broncos 3-2.

If we saw the Chargers’ best effort against the Chiefs, then that blown call by referee Ed Hochuli in the second week of the season that resulted in a Chargers dropping to 0-2 with at loss at Denver really did cost them their season.

If the Chargers had won that game, they wouldn’t have to hope Buffalo wins at Denver this week. They would control their own destiny with needing wins over Tampa Bay and Denver.

How is a football coach from Ball State in Muncie, Ind., going to recruit West Coast talent?

The same way Brady Hoke recruited San Diego for Michigan when Southern California was his turf as an assistant at the Big Ten school from 1995 to 2002.

Hoke, who guided Ball State to a 12-0 record before losing to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference championship game and earning an invite to the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6 against Tulsa, is expected to be named SDSU’s head coach today in a formal announcement.

He reportedly told his players in a team meeting Monday he is leaving for San Diego State, but there is no official word form either school. Presumably, he flew to San Diego after meeting his Ball State players.

As a Michigan assistant, Hoke landed two San Diegans for the Wolverines who ended up playing in the NFL. DeWayne Patmon of Patrick Henry High was a safety with the New York Giants in 2001 and 2002 and Leon Hall of Vista High was an All-American cornerback at Michigan who is now in his second year as a first-round draft pick with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hoke has the endorsement of Vista coach Dan Williams, who was an assistant when Hoke recruited Hall but is now the Panthers’ head coach.

“I think he’s going to be a great fit for San Diego State,” Williams said. “He brings a lot of positives with him. He’s been down and up and he’s on a roll right now. I think he can turn San Diego State around like he did Ball State.”

Williams’ campus is a regular stop for recruiters from across the country. He thinks Hoke is the kind of recruiter who can keep more San Diego talent at home.

“When he recruited Leon, we felt he was an honest guy — very sincere,” Williams said. “When you get a lot of recruiters that come through, you’re used to hearing the nickel-and-dime spiel. We felt he was a great guy that cared about the kids he recruited.”

What would be bigger than a CIF State title for Cathedral Catholic High?

Cathedral Catholic is playing for a state title when the Dons represent Southern California against Stockton St. Mary’s of Northern California in the State CIF Bowl Division II game Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

But I’m telling you a San Diego championship game between Cathedral and Oceanside Saturday would draw a bigger crowd than the Cathedral-St. Mary’s game will at the Home Depot.

The reason is the CIF State Bowl system is still too young to create a buzz. It’s long overdue for California to stage a football state championship, but San Diego is big enough that it needs a true championship game instead of five division champions.

The game every high school football fan in San Diego wanted to see was No. 1 Cathedral Catholic (13-0) vs. No. 2 Oceanside (12-0-1). It would have been the kind of match-up that created a buzz that would have attracted the high school fan that usually only sees their neighborhood school or even the non-high school fan.

Cathedral won the San Diego Division III title Friday at Qualcomm, but it is a Division II school by state standards. The Dons are led by running back Tyler Gaffney. He is believed to have narrowed his choices to USC and Stanford.

Oceanside, which won the San Diego Division II title, is led by quarterback Jordan Wynn, who is bound for Utah.

Cathedral is ranked No. 1 and Oceanside No. 2 in both the San Diego Section and the Southern California Division II rankings. But they didn’t move up to 1-2 until Lutheran of Orange lost two weeks ago.

If Orange Lutheran had won out to claim the South’s Division II bid, this week would have been a great time to play a Cathedral-Oceanside game. It’s too late to set up such a game now, of course, but the CIF should consider provisions for a true San Diego championship in the future.

It would be a money-maker, which should catch the CIF San Diego office’s attention. Just about every decision it makes is based on how much money it can earn rather than what’s best for the kids and the fans.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org‘s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions and an occasional writer for Chargers.com. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

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