Daily Archives: September 24, 2007

Worth every penny.

You hope Ty Willingham has a sense of humor.  It sure seems like God has one.

Not only does Notre Dame have the distinction of being the only 0-4 Irish football squad in school history, it’s the only team from the BCS conferences and the independents not to have won a game this season. [Emphasis added.]

Anyone call that before the start of the season?

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Filed under Charlie Weis Is A Big Fat...

Was it good for you, too?

Whatever Tom Lemming smokes after coitus, it’s evidently not tobacco:

“It is OK to look ahead,” CSTV recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “In 2009, with the two classes they have on the field, with the one they’re putting together, with the great start they have on juniors, they’re going to be the most talented team in America.”

You only get one guess as to who “they” are.

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Filed under Tom Lemming Is A Feminine Hygene Product

The SEC, at the first turn

The season’s a third of the way through and every school in the SEC has played at least one conference game at this point, so I thought I’d take a look at where every team stands right now and do a little projecting. I can’t be any more off than where I started with some of my preseason projections.

I’m breaking the conference down into three overall groups: the elite; the ranked, but not elite; and the unwashed. While there are differences between the teams in each classification, they aren’t as great as between the groupings themselves. This is a look at where each stands at present, with some thought as to where they’ll wind up at season’s end.

The elite.

  • LSU (4-0 overall, 2-0 SEC). Not just the best team in the conference, but the best in the country right now. The Tigers simply toyed with Spurrier and his Gamecocks on Saturday. Florida may be better offensively, although I’m not sure about that, but no one is close to this team on the defensive side of the ball. The only question I’ve got today is whether the inexplicable brain fart that’s affected LSU the last two seasons under Miles occurs.
  • Florida (4-0 overall, 2-0 SEC). Of all the schools in the SEC to provide the road map on exposing UF’s flaws, Team Orgeron is probably the last I’d pick. The Gator offense still impresses, though. As good a scheme as John Thompson – John Thompson! – came up with, let’s not forget that the Gators still racked up 500+ yards of offense. But Ole Miss (which was one of the lower ranked schools in offense going into the game) exposed the same issues on the Gator defense that Tennessee did the week before – questionable starters in the secondary besides Joiner and little pass rush outside of Harvey (and his pressure came largely from timing snap counts well). Is that enough to translate into more than one regular season loss? Probably not (although you can’t help but wonder if Tebow can continue to be the focus on offense as much as he’s been), but it’s enough to cost them two losses to LSU.

Ranked, but not elite.

  • Kentucky (4-0 overall, 2-0 SEC). I’m not ready to drink the Kool-Aid yet, but after the win at Arkansas, I’m at least willing to acknowledge that the glass is sitting on the table near my hand. The ‘Cats won a conference game on the road without going +2 in turnover margin and in fact did a pretty nice job limiting Arky’s offense in the second half when they came back to win. Still, this is a team that hasn’t played a school that has a winning record at this point. Nor is UK going to be confused with one of the conference powerhouses when it comes to playing defense. To be a player in the East this year, I still think Kentucky has to keep the magic on turnovers going. I will say that where I had UK projected at no more than seven iffy wins, it’s looking like a solid 7-8 win team right now. Confidence does matter, and Kentucky does seem to have that in spades right now.
  • Georgia and South Carolina (both 3-1 overall, 1-1 SEC). There really isn’t much of a gap between Georgia and South Carolina. I don’t think I’m being a homer here; it’s just that I see a difference between Georgia going into Tuscaloosa with doubts and coming out stronger with the win and Spurrier throwing in the towel at Baton Rouge and changing starting QBs after the loss. Either team could wind up winning as many as ten, but I think eight or nine is more likely. Georgia is just too young in too many key places and SC is too weak on offense to do much better.
  • Alabama (3-1 overall, 1-1 SEC). The four million dollar man can coach, but he can’t overcome the lack of depth – on defense especially. If Georgia had held on to a few more passes, last Saturday’s game wouldn’t have been that close. Eight wins still seems likely, which is a good start, ‘Bama fans.

The rest.

  • Auburn (2-2 overall, 0-1 SEC). The Tigers get the top slot here for two reasons: they have the only elite defense in this group (at least when they get everyone back from injuries) and you have to think that they a shot at fixing some of their problems on offense. They could be dangerous at year’s end, simply because it’s likely their season is going to come down to pride with games against Georgia and ‘Bama. Auburn won’t give up, but it’s hard to see more than seven or eight wins for this bunch right now.
  • Tennessee (2-2 overall, 0-1 SEC). Ugh. I don’t know why I’m putting the Vols here, other than inertia. In their defense (pun intended), they have played the toughest slate of games of any team in the conference, but they sure don’t have much to show for it. They can’t run the ball against good defenses, they can’t stop the run, they lack elite speed at WR and on defense and they still have lapses in punt coverage. But every time I’m ready to count Fulmer out, he seems to come up with a win that stabilizes the program (’05 excepted, obviously). Nevertheless, flaws are flaws and the Vols are going to have trouble with almost every SEC team left on the schedule. If UT doesn’t beat Georgia in Knoxville in a couple of weeks, it may be no better than a six win regular season. Could Fulmer survive that?
  • Arkansas (1-2 overall, 0-2 SEC). A season on the brink. One more conference loss and Nutt is a dead man walking. Yes, the Hogs have missed Monk, but there’s no excuse for how poor a job Herring has done as the DC so far. He doesn’t have the horses in the secondary to play the pressing defense he likes, but he won’t change – except, notably, in the second half of the ‘Bama game. The schedule is so weak that they’ll be bowl eligible, but that won’t be good enough.
  • Vanderbilt (2-1 overall, 1-1 SEC). Solid enough by their standards, but depth remains a bugaboo. While the Mississippi win was nice, I’m still having a hard time finding four more wins on the schedule – although a Vol collapse might come in handy for Vandy.
  • Mississippi State (3-1 overall, 1-1 SEC). The Auburn game told us that this isn’t a team that you can let hang around through sloppy/sub-par play. The LSU game told us that this isn’t a very good team. They do have a couple of opportunities for wins here and there, but if Croom does pull off a five win season, it’ll have been a helluva coaching job.
  • Mississippi (1-3 overall, 0-2 SEC). When it’s likely that your signature game will be a close loss to Florida, that doesn’t bode well for the season. There are two likely wins left on the schedule against cupcakes, and Georgia shapes up as a dangerous trap game, but if this team wins more than four games, it’ll be miraculous.

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Playoff proponents of the world, unite!

I keep saying it: the most irritating thing about the D-1 football playoff debate is the stupidity/disingenuousness of many of the arguments for a playoff.

Even though I disagree with their goal, I can at least respect the straightforward approach of those who just say they like playoffs and brackets over the current regular season-oriented format. It’s the folks like Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post that drive me up the wall when they argue that a

… simple nagging truth is undermining the BCS: It’s bad for the game. The system actually inhibits the dramatic and competitive possibilities…

which simply means, when you translate that into English, that she enjoys watching Cinderellas win games. Bully for her.

In fact, she seems to think that it’s not even necessary for Cinderella to win the prince’s heart at the ball in order to justify Jenkins’ attack on the BCS. It’s OK if Cindy has a good time and snarfs down a few hors d’œvures and a couple of glasses of Cold Duck before she goes home dateless:

… Each week, there is another bolt from the blue on the scoreboard: tiny Troy thumping Oklahoma State, Utah pounding UCLA, Fresno State taking Texas to triple overtime, UAB actually making a game of it with Florida State, Marshall leading West Virginia at halftime. [Emphasis added.]

Hey, don’t forget the number of times an underdog scored first last week! That ought to justify a sixty four team playoff all by itself, right?

Look, upsets happen every week of every college football season. So do games that come out much closer than the pundits expected. That doesn’t change the fact that after the completion of a twelve game regular season, the rational observer of the sport has a pretty good idea of who the top eight or so schools are in college football.

So, when Jenkins goes off with something like this…

There is simply no rationale left for a system that locks out certain schools or obstructs their upward mobility. Five years ago, BCS supporters could argue the differences between the bigs and littles were too great, and that some separation between them was necessary to prevent mismatches. Even third-place teams in the major conferences, it was said, were better than the top teams of small conferences…

it comes off as little more than hyperbolic prattling, rather than the bomb she so obviously wants to throw. Yeah, Utah embarrassed UCLA a couple of weeks ago, but guess what – the Utes were shut out last weekend by UNLV. Appy State, the Upsetter for the Ages, was itself upset. (Maybe Jenkins would argue that means Wofford should get a spot in a D-1 tourney.) As much as Jenkins wishes for it, neither case justifies channeling Karl Marx and arguing for a new world order.

Besides that, her main point about the have-nots never having a chance isn’t even particularly accurate. There are a number of cases in the last 20-25 years of lesser programs hiring the right coach to elevate them to national power status. Look at what’s going on in the Big East these days, for example. That’s why we see schools regularly throw obscene amounts of money at certain coaches these days – a practice that I suspect Jenkins heartily disapproves of, by the way.

But what we’re not going to see is some lesser light roll through an extended playoff. Hell, it doesn’t happen in March Madness. George Mason was a nice story, but in the end, it went down. That’s an even more unlikely possibility in college football, where because of team size, depth is so critical. Sorry, but the truth is that Troy, at least as it’s constituted now, could never survive a six round playoff.

The most logical argument I can see in support of a D-1 football tournament is that it would help clean up a dispute at the end of the season when there are more teams deserving a shot at the MNC than there are slots in the BCS title game. That’s what the fans get upset about – not some historical diatribe about the Gilded Age (puh-leeze) and how The Man is holding down The People (she actually capitalizes that in her article – twice) by not allowing Fresno State to have a shot at a post season playoff game.  In the end, if all you’re trying to do is clean up the clutter at the top, you don’t need an extended playoff to do that.

Once Jenkins puts her raised fist down, she gets to a rather familiar place in her conclusion – familiar, that is, to those of us who think that an extended playoff would sound the death knell to what we love about D-1 football right now:

A college season ought to be a test of stamina to see who can survive the delirium, not a predetermined check-cutting ceremony. It may well be that 2007 will end with a predictable No.1 vs. No.2 confrontation between the super powers of Southern Cal and LSU. But it’s the switchbacks on the way there that are meaningful. The best seasons are those that keep us guessing until the end.

Yes, that BCS title meeting between USC and Texas left a lot to be desired.

The college football regular season already is a test of stamina. Beating Middle Tennessee State in the first round of a sixty four team tourney won’t change that.

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