This week’s perception is reality… this week.

It’s fun to watch the perceptions of the pundit class change rapidly during the early weeks of any college football season – another reason why preseason and even initial season polls are essentially worthless.

Take, for example, my man Tom Dienhart’s latest assessment of Tennessee’s offense:

Tennessee needs a quarterback. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Vols QB Jonathan Crompton is victimized by interceptions in another loss. Sure enough, it happened again, as Crompton was intercepted three times in a 19-15 home loss to UCLA. It seems everyone was hyperventilating too much over Tennessee’s 63-7 season-opening win over Western Kentucky. Since when was ripping the Hilltoppers a reason to sing “Rocky Top”? The Vols’ humbling loss to a rebuilding UCLA program is indicative of the rehab project Lane Kiffin is undertaking. The sledding won’t get any easier for the Vols. Six of their next eight games are against conference foes: at Florida, vs. Auburn, vs. Georgia, at Alabama, at South Carolina, at Ole Miss. The only gimmes in that stretch are visits from Ohio and Memphis. Tennessee may be 3-7 when Vandy heads to Knoxville on Nov. 21.

Dienhart’s right:  we weren’t reading any of that stuff a week ago when UT routed the formidable Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky.  Of course, I don’t remember him warning us then, either.

He’s also giving us this breathless take of Michigan:

Michigan will be in the hunt in the Big Ten. Michigan’s 38-34 win over Notre Dame makes it official: The Wolverines are a legit Big Ten contender. A once-moribund offense has come to life in Rich Rodriguez’s second season in Ann Arbor. Thank true freshman QB Tate Forcier. And don’t read too much into Michigan yielding 490 yards to the Irish. Notre Dame has one of the top offenses in the nation and will burn many foes this fall. The Wolverines are a confident and focused team that should win its next two games and be 4-0 when it opens Big Ten play at Michigan State.

Don’t get me wrong – that was a thrilling, gutsy win for Michigan, which will get better this season under Rodriguez.  But “don’t read too much” into giving up almost 500 yards?  Greg Robinson took a crappy Syracuse defense into South Bend at the end of last year and held virtually the same Notre Dame offense to 332 total yards.  This was an overrated, mediocre Irish team that Michigan took down Saturday.  And while the nation (except for Lou Holtz) owes Michigan a debt of gratitude for exposing Notre Dame, it’s not the bellweather event Dienhart makes it out to be.

Of course, don’t tell that to Stewart Mandel, who manages one of the niftiest feats of bandwagon jumping I’ve seen by taking the Michigan win and Ohio State loss and conflating them into an argument that Terrell Pryor made a mistake in his selection of schools.  Never mind these minor details that Mandel gives all too brief lip service to:

Granted, it’s far too early to render any definitive judgments on Pryor (Vince Young, the player to whom he’s most commonly compared, didn’t truly blossom until midway through his redshirt sophomore season), and granted, he faced a much tougher defense Saturday than Forcier…

********************************************************************
UPDATE: You’ve got to love Tony Barnhart, master of understatement, for this comment - “Jonathon Crompton now looks a little shaky.” Crompton was 13 of 26 for 93 yards.  He threw three picks, no touchdowns and fumbled once in Tennessee’s loss.  I’d hate to see what kind of game a quarterback has to play in order for Barnhart to say he sucks.
*********************************************************************
UPDATE #2: In Mandel’s defense, Chris Brown halfway agrees with him about Pryor, in this rather amazing post.
About these ads

11 Comments

Filed under College Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

11 responses to “This week’s perception is reality… this week.

  1. BigOldDawg

    I vaguely remember saying last week we should ease up on Kiffy….but for the wrong reason.

    We can now ease up on Kiffy cause he will have all he can deal with the next eight weeks or so.

    My UT-fan buddy was not shocked.

  2. D.N. Nation

    Take away the absurd ESPN hype, and Michigan/ND was a lesser version of UGA/USC: A thriller between two teams still figuring stuff out.

    And that’s it.

  3. Yes, Michigan-ND was the same thing as Georgia-South Carolina, save for the fact that one game featured the two winningest programs of all-time and the other featured a team that has never won a conference title.

    Senator, I think you’re selling this Notre Dame team short on a couple fronts. First, when ND lost to Syracuse last year, they were missing Michael Floyd, who is a terrific receiver. Second, while neither of us are huge fans of Charlie Weis, he has assembled a very talented team (especially on offense) and they are now experienced. They’re going to put up a lot of points this year. Whether they figure out the other side of the ball is another matter. They’re a little weak in the front seven. Michigan was also a bad match-up for them because Rodriguez’s offense does quite well against Tenuta’s defense (based on a sample size of three) and because Forcier seems to have a knack for feeling and avoiding pressure (something that Tom Brady had and Chad Henne never quite mastered).

    • D.N. Nation

      “Yes, Michigan-ND was the same thing as Georgia-South Carolina, save for the fact that one game featured the two winningest programs of all-time and the other featured a team that has never won a conference title.”

      None of which mattered worth a dang w/r/t the actual game itself. But nice troll.

      “Senator, I think you’re selling this Notre Dame team short on a couple fronts. First, when ND lost to Syracuse last year, they were missing Michael Floyd, who is a terrific receiver.”

      Ladies and gentlemen: Notre Dame Football, Defined. We had a dood out, so it’s not surprising we lost to one of the worst teams in football.

      But hey, you’re gonna make the BCS anyway, right? Herbie told me so.

    • Michael, a couple of points in response:

      – Floyd or not, in last year’s Syracuse game, ND was playing at home against a putrid (101st-ranked nationally) defense – whose coach was Michigan’s defensive coordinator this past Saturday. Surely he had some inkling of what to expect.

      – I agree with you about the talent level in South Bend. But if accumulating talent was all it took to be a successful head coach, the Zooker would still be wearing orange and blue.

  4. DN, the profiles of the two teams matter when you discuss the reaction to a game. Michigan and Notre Dame have reputations. South Carolina does not. Regarding Michael Floyd, I would normally agree with you, but ND’s offense did make a precipitous decline after he got hurt. I have no love for the Irish, but he’s a hell of a player.

    SB, I’m not going to blame Robinson for ND’s offensive outburst. He was getting no pass rush from anyone not named Brandon Graham, so Clausen (who was accurate on just about every throw) had plenty of time to find Tate and Floyd. We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m buying on ND’s offense right now.

    • D.N. Nation

      “DN, the profiles of the two teams matter when you discuss the reaction to a game.”

      Save it for ESPN Classic. UGA/USC was the better game. By far.

      The what-we-did-in-the-40s argument is used to also justify the ridiculous ND-is-a-legit-BCS-team!!!! arguments. Games on the field, please.

    • I wasn’t really blaming anybody. And Robinson’s got a good reputation as a DC, despite his unimpressive stint at Syracuse. I was responding to Dienhart’s premature dismissal of the defensive stats, but, who knows, maybe you’ll be right. Time will tell.

      I still don’t think ND was worthy of the hype it was getting going into the Michigan game, though.

  5. I’d be a fool if I wasn’t a little worried about the lack of pressure from the front four, as well as Boubacar Cissoko’s struggles against a quality receiver. Also, UM’s defense is very thin this year, so injuries to the wrong people could have a major impact. That said, the defense is better than it looked and it won’t see a better offense this season.

    I nearly climaxed when reading the Chris Brown piece on Tressel. I had a lengthy debate with a commenter this summer when I ranked Rodriguez ahead of Tressel. Brown makes the points that I tried to, only he uses way more specific points.

  6. I just figured Michigan would be vaulted into the top five after beating Notre Dame, and that Notre Dame would, at least, make the top ten for taking mighty Michigan to the wire… but what do I know. I’m just a lowly SEC fan. I don’t know how all this high-falutin’ pollstery is done. (Did y’all know they use computers now?)
    I did fail to remember that Georgia would slide in the polls thanks to a win over South Carolina with the precedent for that being set just last year. I can’t believe I missed that. I’m an idiot.