Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

JonesJon15.jpg

» SDA: Early Playoff Elimination Round

TCU-West Virginia and Auburn-Ole Miss might as well be early playoff elimination rounds, with the losers likely knocked out of playoff contention.

31 Aug 2006

Seventh Day Adventure: Welcome Back

by Russell Levine and Vin Gauri

Russell: Vin, it's good to be back for another year of SDA. Clearly, actually being able to pick winners is not a prerequisite for this job.

Vinny: Yes, like Letterman used to say in his prime, these picks are for entertainment purposes only. Please ... no wagering ... Or at least go Costanza and do the opposite.

Russell: Although I would like to point out that I was 10-5-1 on my Fred Edelstein Locks last year. Just thought I'd mention that.

Vinny: Russ, you've failed to grasp the whole concept of the Fred Edelstein Lock; it's not supposed to be accurate. It's supposed to shake your confidence in the most dependable things in life (a cheese slice with grape soda ... stumbling across "A Few Good Men" on TNT ... Maurice Clarett found with automatic weapons, a hatchet, and an open bottle of vodka). Freddy would want it that way. Wherever he is.

Russell: Exactly. Vin, now that you're a left-coaster, perhaps you can help gives us more of a national perspective on things. I think our picks have been suffering from east coast media bias the past couple of years. Of course, you probably won't be able to make it to nine Michigan games this year, either.

Vinny: I'm not feeling much college football fever here in the Bay Area, even with the hype surrounding Cal this year. The West Coast can't compare to the South or Midwest when it comes to die-hards. There's a few sprinkled around, but it's mostly shoulder-shrugging transplants and the bandwagon types (hello, Trojan Nation). Maybe it's so pretty outside that sports seems less important. Inconceivable, I know.

Russell: Speaking of Michigan games, Vin and I are planning to be in State College for the Wolverines and Nittany Lions on Oct. 14. One small problem -- we're presently ticketless. If any SDA readers can help remedy that problem, drop us a line at russell-at-footballoutsiders-dot-com. The Peachy Paterno will be on us.

Vinny: Is Ernie still singing at The Phyrst? Arguably more importantly, is he still alive?

Russell: Alright, let's get to it.

Northwestern (-4.5) at Miami (Ohio), Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET., ESPNU

Russell: I'm sure Pat Fitzgerald is thrilled to be a head coach, but I'm also sure this isn't how he wanted to get the job -- taking over after the sudden death of Randy Walker at Northwestern.

Vinny: When Walker was negotiating a contract extension earlier this year, he mentioned Fitzgerald as his choice as a successor. Fitzgerald was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator prior to getting the keys to the program.

Russell: Fitzgerald is just 31, and man do I feel old now. Vin, we were already out of school when he was leading the Northwestern defense during its Big Ten championship years under Gary Barnett. His first Northwestern team has a great running back in Tyrell Sutton and should be able to put up some yards and points on the Miami defense.

Vinny: The Miami defense is breaking in nine new starters alongside defensive end Craig Mester and free safety Joey Card. Little guys Ryne Robinson (75 receptions for 1,172 yards in 2005) and Brandon Murphy (1,058 rushing yards) should keep the RedHawks (why no space?) in games until the defense jells.

Russell: Both teams are sketchy against the run. Both are breaking in new QBs. Miami is at home, but Northwestern will be playing on emotion, which carries the day. I'll take the Wildcats

Vinny: I like the RedHawks in this one, and not just because Red Hawks was my high school's nickname (in a controversial student government vote, it carried the day over "Pegged Jeans").

Russell: Ah, the 1990s.

South Carolina (-6.5) at Mississippi State, Thursday, 8 p.m. ET., ESPN

Russell: Steve Spurrier pulled off some remarkable feats in his first year with the Gamecocks, beating both Florida and Tennessee to get South Carolina to a Bowl. Spurrier believes his team can contend for the SEC championship, and it certainly can't afford a conference slip-up before the calendar turns to September.

Vinny: Junior Blake Mitchell appears to have won the quarterback job, but with The Visor, you know you're going to see redshirt freshman Cade Thompson and probably even true freshman Chris Smelley sooner rather than later. Whoever gets the musical chair will be happy to have running back Cory Boyd back after a season-long suspension in 2005. He and sophomore Mike Davis will be running behind a young offensive line that can't be much worse than last year.

Russell: It has been a slow process for Sylvester Croom to get players to Mississippi State, but the recruiting efforts are starting to pay off. The defense is athletic and talented, and it should slow South Carolina's stud receiver Sidney Rice.

Vinny: Croom has enough problems; the last thing he needs is a disciplinary headache. But that's what he had to deal with in the spring, when six players (including two defensive starters) pled guilty to misdemeanor assault of an off-duty police officer at a club. At least they showed some teamwork.

Russell: Good point. Mississippi State's is putrid. Things got so bad that Croom actually suited up at one point during fall camp. If he had any eligibility remaining, he could probably start for these guys. The line's a little high for my liking, but I gotta go with the ol,' Ballcoach on this one. South Carolina gets the cover.

Vinny: I'd like to believe this is the year of the Bulldogs' resurgence. But I'd also like to believe that Stewart Mandel doesn't have a myspace page. (Shuddering). Gamecocks get an easy win.

Rutgers (+5) at North Carolina, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: Well look at that, Vin. We're discussing another Rutgers game, and it wasn't even my idea this time. Could it be you've gained a new appreciation for the men of Schiano?

Vinny: Naturally, the obligatory Peter King lingo when discussing your New Jersey brethren. Well, they took Arizona State to the wire in a great bowl game, but they didn't beat anyone of note last year. I realize it's hard to do that when you don't play many teams of note in the Big East. But now it's time to take the next step and at least give Louisville a game this year.

Russell: Clearly the odds makers aren't on the RU bandwagon either. This is precisely the type of game Rutgers should win if they want to be taken seriously, but I guess it takes more than a single Insight Bowl bid to impress the guys who take book. The Knights should be able to run the ball with Ray Rice and Brian Leonard -- who is a Heisman candidate according to the Rutgers SID staff.

Vinny: It is impressive how selfless and consistent -- you can pencil him in for 800 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards right now -- Leonard has been during his career. He'll never have eye-popping numbers, but he does everything well.

Russell: North Carolina's best option at QB is Joe Dailey, who in his previous incarnation was a human interception machine while trying to run the West Coast offense for Bill Callahan at Nebraska. No thanks. Give me Rutgers and the points.

Vinny: The Tar Heel defense improved dramatically against the run last year, but it's green up the middle this year. I'll take Rutgers also.

Northern Illinois (+17) at #1 Ohio State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: Well, well, well. Look who's number one. The Ohio State freaking Buckeyes. Sorry ... those things slip out from time to time. Let me put on my impartial prognosticator hat and start over.

Vinny: Come on, Russ, at least try to pretend you're not bothered by the Buckeyes' perch atop the preseason rankings.

Russell: Well, I do have them atop my own ballot. No reverse psychology working there. We all know Ohio State can score. Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, and Co. should have little trouble pouring on the points against Northern Illinois, but the real focus should be on the Ohio State defense, which is breaking in nine new starters. The Huskies have enough talent -- especially with everyone's favorite mini-running back Garrett Wolfe -- to make this a game for a half while all the new guys get their feet wet.

Vinny: Jim Tressel always seems to have a great defense, so many believe he'll just plug in the blue-chippers he's been pulling in (I'm restraining myself -- not so well, apparently -- from making a remark about car keys here), and there won't be much drop off. But the inexperienced secondary looks to be a concern, in the early season anyway. Huskies quarterback Phil Horvath reclaimed the starting job after an injury-shortened 2005. If he has any time to throw, he'll find anyone running free.

Russell: You always have the potential for Ohio State to get caught looking ahead to Texas next week, but I can't see it happening here. Senator Tressel wants to make a statement right out of the chute. The OSU hangs a 40 on the board and rolls to a cover in the second half.

Vinny: The Huskies have 15 returning starters, but none of them on the interior of the offense or defense. Ohio State usually has a sluggish start each season before Tressel takes the wraps off the offense. But with the much-anticipated grudge match in Austin next week, this should be a focused group. I was tempted to pick Northern Illinois to make this a game, but I think the Buckeyes roll.

California (+1.5) at Tennessee, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Russell: This might be the most intriguing game on the weekend slate. Tennessee is coming of a disastrous 5-6 campaign and has turned to David Cutcliffe to resurrect its offense. Cutlcliffe presided over both the Peyton Manning era at Tennessee (as offensive coordinator) and the Eli Manning era at Ole Miss (as head coach). Perhaps embattled Vols coach Phil Fulmer is hoping for a return to the mid-90's glory days of losing to Florida and playing in the Citrus Bowl.

Vinny: Of course, one of Spurrier's better known digs at Fulmer in the late 90's was that you can't spell Citrus without "UT."

Russell: OK, so that was a cheap shot at Tennessee (by me; Spurrier's was funny). Yes, I'm still bitter that they rolled over against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl after the 1997 season, giving away half of Michigan's national title in the process. Cutcliffe should help stabilize an offense that was a mess with Fulmer playing musical QBs last season. There's no Clausen around to look over Erik Ainge's shoulder this time around, and I think it will help his play.

Vinny: Both teams will be rebuilding their offensive lines -- Cal had three offensive linemen selected in the draft, while Tennessee will have four new starters. But both staffs seem confident in their newly-constituted groups.

Russell: Cal had a very un-Jeff Tedford-like season last year, solid on defense and in the running game, but getting little production from quarterback Joe Ayoob. He's been replaced by Nate Longshore, last year's opening day starter who was lost to injury. He's got great weapons in receiver DeSean Jackson and running back Marshawn Lynch. I'm not sold the Vols are back just because it's a new year. Cal pulls off the upset.

Vinny: Would that really be an upset? Cal looks much better on paper, but it will be interesting to watch Longshore react to the Neyland madness in his first start. I think he might wilt a bit, and I can't blame him. John Chavis, one of the few assistants Fulmer didn't sack in the off-season, is usually good for some interesting defensive looks (standing defensive tackles, etc.), and will probably throw the kitchen sink at Longshore. The Vols cover.

Virginia (+3.5) at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Russell: Count me among those who thought Dave Wannstedt's first Pitt team would be a lot better than it was. The Panthers got bombed by Notre Dame in the opener and never recovered. Vin, can the Wann-stache turn things around in Year 2?

Vinny: I doubt it, but I have to admit some guilty pleasure at watching him despair on the sidelines. He always looks like he's just been told that his daughter is dating Colin Farrell...

Russell: In other news, Tyler Palko is STILL the QB at Pitt. I swear he was handing off to Tony Dorsett.

Vinny: Palko could use a running game to help him out this year. The Panthers rushed for a woeful 117 yards per game in 2005. If running back LaRod Stephens-Howling stays healthy along with a returning (but thin) offensive line, this could be a decent offense.

Russell: I'm not really sure how Al Groh has kept his job at Virginia. Year in and year out, they tease you with their ability to hang with decent teams, but deliver very little. I'm not expecting things to be a whole lot different this season. Pitt wins an ugly one despite some Palko miscues. I'm taking the Panthers.

Vinny: Marques Hagens is finally gone, and it won't be easy for Virginia to replace everything he did for the offense. Christian Olsen is more of a standard drop-back passer. This is a team without any big names (star linebacker Ahmad Brooks was kicked off the team in the spring), but these ho-hum games are the ones Groh seems to win. The Cavs cover.

USC (-8) at Arkansas, 8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Russell: Strange line of the week here. I know that USC lost two Heisman winners from its backfield. But last year's game was 70-17, as the Trojans gained about six miles of offense. And yet USC is laying just eight points on the road.

Vinny: Not to mention that Hogs quarterback Casey Dick and running back Darren McFadden (SEC Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-SEC selection) are both doubtful with injuries. Felix Jones, already an All-American kick returner, can be a suitable substitute for McFadden. And there isn't much of a drop-off from Dick to Robert Johnson (again, I'm passing on the opportunity for a joke -- more restraint).

Russell: John David Booty finally gets his chance to start for the Trojans, three years after he memorably skipped his senior season -- of high school -- to enroll early. No, there's no Reggie Bush or LenDale White to hand off to, but there is Dwayne Jarrett to catch passes. I don't think USC's offense will suffer as much from the losses as everyone thinks.

Vinny: But there's just no way it's the juggernaut it was the past few seasons. You can't replace that kind of talent and experience with a snap of the fingers. Even in the watered-down Pac-10, USC has to lose at least two games this year ... don't they? Come on, seriously?

Russell: I'll give you one. This is a make or break year for Arkansas's Huston Nutt. Right about five minutes into last year's USC game, he was probably wondering why exactly he turned down $2 million a year from Nebraska. The Hogs will be improved, but not enough to hang with SC for four quarters. I like the Trojans, and I'm making this my Fred Edelstein Lock.

Vinny: The Trojans' excellent front four will crowd the line of scrimmage and shut down the Arkansas running game. After that, it's lights out. I like USC as well as my Lock.

Russell: I guess we're going to see if this is a new year after all.

Florida State (+3) at Miami, Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: I'm guessing that when ABC and the ACC decided to make this the showcase game of Labor Day weekend a few years ago, they were counting on something a little more entertaining than last year's mistake-filled, offense-free Florida State win. Yes, the defenses were good, but that was one butt-ugly football game.

Vinny: It was painful to watch Drew Weatherford and Kyle Wright trade brutal series for brutal series. And then the flubbed snap and slippery hold on that last kick (costing Miami the game) -- I'm glad I only had the game on in the background while my fantasy draft was going on.

Russell: Florida State finished 8-5 last year, falling to Penn State in the Geezer Bowl after shocking Virginia Tech to win the ACC title. I have a sneaking suspicion Papa Bowden has one more, JoePa in 2005-type year in him, but I'm not sure it's this season. Weatherford should be a lot better than he was early last year, but he'll need some help from the running game to make a dent in the 'Canes defense.

Vinny: But take a look at FSU's schedule. After this tilt, it's a virtual cakewalk. Eight home games, with trips to Duke, NC State and Maryland. It sets up awfully nice for a title run. With the 'Noles and Hokies missing each other this year, they both might as well be in the Big East. OK, that's an overstatement, but you get the idea.

Russell: Vin, you're going to have to work a little harder on your Miami material now that Willie Williams and his rap sheet are off at some community college somewhere. Larry Coker is feeling the heat, canning most of his assistants after the embarrassing loss to LSU in the Peach Bowl to end last season. The 'Canes need to be in national title contention for anyone in Miami to care about college football. I don't see it happening this year, but I think Wright and the boys have enough to beat the 'Noles at home -- even without suspended playmakers Ryan Moore and Tyrone Moss.

Vinny: I've always thought Wright has the tools to be a first-round choice, but he has been frustrating to watch. Then again, I'm the same guy who was singing the praises of Marcus Vick the last few years, so what do I know? Don't answer that. Anyway, distractions like the ones going on at Miami are nothing new. They should still have a great defense, even with the personnel hits they've taken lately. This is a toss-up, but in a rivalry always seeming to hang on a last-second kick, I'll take the 'Noles plus three.

The Picks
(* -- "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week�)
Visitor Spread Home Vinny Says Russell Says
Northwestern -3.5 Miami (Ohio) Miami (Ohio) Northwestern
South Carolina -6.5 Mississippi State South Carolina South Carolina
Rutgers +5 North Carolina Rutgers Rutgers
Northern Illinois +17 Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State
California +1.5 Tennessee Tennessee California
Virginia +3.5 Pittsburgh Virginia Pittsburgh
USC -8 Arkansas USC* USC*
Florida State +3 Miami Florida State Miami

Posted by: on 31 Aug 2006

69 comments, Last at 04 Sep 2006, 10:14am by Scott de B.

Comments

1
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 9:26pm

Although I would like to point out that I was 10-5-1 on my Fred Edelstein Locks last year. Just thought I’d mention that.

For readers listening, you might also be interested in knowing that he started off - what was it? 4-4? on the Locks through October, and an abysmal 19-42 in normal picks.

So the moral here is: wait until the second half of the season before trusting Russell. :)

2
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 9:28pm

Tennessee didn't lay down in the 1996 (not 1999) Orange Bowl; Nebraska was just that good.

3
by Russell Levine :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 10:04pm

Scott, we were both wrong. It was the January, 1998 Orange Bowl. I changed the sentence to clarify.

As to whether or not Tennessee gave a good effort in that game, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

4
by T. Owens (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 10:20pm

The story of the week is going to be Georgia Tech pounding Notre Dame, which is way overrated. Just ask "expert" Mark May.

And P.S., Cal clobbers the Vols.

5
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 11:32pm

My lock of the week is Georgia Tech +6 1/2 over way overrated Notre Dame.

Tennessee got smacked by Nebraska in the 1998 Orange Bowl and the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. The 1998 Orange Bowl was Tom Osborne's final game, so Nebraska was pumped.

The final score of the 2000 Fiesta Bowl was 31 - 21, but it really wasn't that close IIRC- Nebraska took control early and the Vols were never in it.

6
by Josh (not verified) :: Thu, 08/31/2006 - 11:49pm

That TN team missed out of the SEC championship via a loss to Arkansas, so going to the Fiesta Bowl was a big letdown.

7
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:08am

I recall calculating last year exactly how much money you'd have won if you just bet the opposite of everything Russell said. It was quite a decent amount through the first half of the season.

And then you guys have to go and blow it by giving the Trojans the double-Edelstein kiss of death. Couldn't do it to OSU, could you? If they lose, I'm coming for you both!

T.

8
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:20am

That TN team missed out of the SEC championship via a loss to Arkansas, so going to the Fiesta Bowl was a big letdown.

Huh?

In 1997, Tennessee won the SEC championship after beat in Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.

In 1999, Florida won the SEC East.

9
by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:29am

Decent performance by South Carolina tonight. The defense looked pretty good, but then again, it was Mississippi State. Offense was mediocre, or inconsistent if you're feeling generous.

Early nominee for John L. Smith Award is Central Michigan coach Brian Kelly. With the ball in BC territory, down 7 with less than 2 minutes to play, he busts out a brilliant gadget play, namely "Let's line up the offensive lineman on the opposite side of the field from everybody else and have them stand there the whole play." The QB is, unsurprisingly, pressured, tries to hit an open guy downfield, but misses him and is intercepted, effectively ending the game. With the success they had moving out of their base offense, that was just stupid.

10
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:50am

I don't know if I'm expecting that much improvement out of Rutgers this year. They lost a lot to graduation - the starting QB, the top WR, and I think about 75% of the defensive line, which was their strongest defensive unit last year. Mike Teel is unproven at QB, and the cornerbacks are still scary. I'll probably be satisfied (not thrilled) with a 7-5 record. (And yeah, not getting completely stomped by Louisville would be nice.)

As for this week, I'd take them and the points, but there's enough uncertainty that I wouldn't be shocked if they lose.

11
by Russell Levine :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 7:50am

2-0! Can I quit now?

And all the confusion over which Tennessee team did what is probably my fault, since the article originally talked about the Vols quitting in the "1999 Orange Bowl." I've since corrected it.

12
by Ted Max (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 8:32am

"We all know Ohio State can score."

Wow, as a Buckeye fan I have to wonder: When was the last time you heard somebody say that? After years of playing for punt position and hoping the defense will score two touchdowns, an OSU that can score would be novel indeed.

13
by Mitch Cumstein (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 9:39am

Here's my first attempt to play along with the Seventh Day home game. Missed out on two games, but oh well.

In a previous life, I used to have power rankings I used for, um, legitimate research purposes, and knew how many starters each team had returning to start the year. Not anymore. Now I am going to try to employ the strategy of a wise friend of mine who did absolutely no research. His philosophy was find those games that the line stands out to you because it is so far off, then go opposite from what you want to take.

Thus, I am going Arkansas +8, after all USC whipped them last year. I'll take Northern Illinois +17, because Ohio State is ranked #1 and there is no way the line should be this close at home. Heck, give me Florida St +3, because isn't the game in Miami, and Miami has owned the Noles recently. Tennessee struggled last year, so I will take them at -1 1/2. Pittsburgh really struggled last year, and has Wannstedt coaching, there is no way I would touch them, so they are a no brainer as a 3 1/2 point favorite. As for North Carolina, I will just go opposite and take them -5.

14
by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 10:57am

#13: I like the way you think.

15
by karl (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 11:32am

You call yourself a college football fan and you can't remember the year your team *won* a national title? Very weak, boyz. (that's a little tribute to witlock's weak a$$ article on jeff george).

vinny, i see you've already decided to start the year off on a bad foot, picking fsu over miami in the orange bowl. if miami(oh) losing to northwestern wasn't enough of a signal, i recommend you change that pick quickly to maintain any kind of respectability. you have made a bad decision, not my friend. a bad decision.

16
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 11:41am

4,5: I don't think that you realize how great that would be on so many levels. But Tech tends to do things like that on their way to acheiving the Chan Gailey Equilibrium (aka, exactly 7 wins per season).

17
by jack (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:04pm

As I recall, the past two ND coaches (Willingham and Bob Davie) had surprisingly good first years, with (lost) bowl games, followed by steady decline. What are the chances Weiss will follow that pattern?

18
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:41pm

You call yourself a college football fan and you can’t remember the year your team *won* a national title?

Hey, go easy on me. Nebraska won so many it's hard to keep them all straight.

Oh, you mean Russell. Sorry. :-)

19
by Russell Levine :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:45pm

Re: 13

I love it. One of the things I have actually been able to do well in picking games (there aren't many) is sniff out lines that are too good to be true and go the other way. I considered it for Arkansas +8, but I don't think that line quit qualifies.

20
by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 12:55pm

Hey, you address him as Tyler "F*cking" Palko!

You guys are my only source of information on college ball and you do good job of keeping me entertained while I get the highlights of what's going on. It's good to see you back again for the new year.

21
by Joe Pisarcik Magnet (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 1:47pm

I watched UConn demolish Rhody. Rhody had a triple option offense, but instead of the Wishbone, they used a fullback and two wingbacks, I don't really follow the college game that much so I've never seen that formation before. Has it replaced the bone? It does seem to give the running back a running start. Not that it helped Rhody going against a I-A team, instead of their I-AA compadres.

22
by Sean D. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 4:41pm

Oh man, that USC game is worth watching for the possible slip-ups alone. Dick, Nutt, Booty. I'm envisioning:

Booty is looking real good.
But Dick is just making Nutt's team look bad.
He'd better just stick Johnson in there to get through this.

23
by Mitch Cumstein (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 4:53pm

I was going to post some random college handicapping rules, such as always listen to Mark May, and then do the opposite, and never, under any circumstances, make picks after you wake up Saturday if you are still legally intoxicated 10 minutes before the games begin.

One of the other rules I was going to mention was, if you are going to pick a road team in a Big XII conference game where the line was relatively close, you better have a very compelling reason for doing so. But then I thought, was that my selective memory from being burned a few times, and was I right to single out the Big XII? So here is some data.

Here are the home team's straight up and against the spread records (in parentheses) sorted by conference, for all conference games where the game time point spread was 10 pts or less, for 2002-2005 (In other words, where the home team was somewhere between a +10 and -10):

Big XII 55-33 (53-35)
Big Ten 58-49 (60-47)
ACC 45-44 (43-46)
Pac 10 42-44 (40-44-2)
SEC 50-53 (43-59-1)

Interesting. I guess, for this one limited case, my gut was right to single out the Big XII, and I was basing that on my experiences from the late '90's, not even on this period.

It doesn't have much application to this week's games, but good info to file away for when we get to the conference season. And what does this say about whether the general public overvalues home field advantage in SEC conference games?

24
by Tom (not verified) :: Fri, 09/01/2006 - 6:37pm

Re #23
I would be curious if the HFA advantage was regular with regard to all teams from a particular conference, or if certain teams tended to be typically under-rated or over-rated ATS. My first instinct when I see CFB biases is aficionados overrating their own team, and this would explain it. With respect to the SEC, you see a disconnect between the larger, more popular football schools, and the others, yet the others have cause for optimism. In the Big XII, though, you see a historic hierarchy that tends to dull fan optimism. In the same vein, I'd look for annual records as a predictor of the next year's record, and see how last year's record does at predicting success against the lines for the next year's games.

Just some thoughts, not a gambler.

25
by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 2:35pm

I've never been that big a Mark May basher, though I know he tends to be hugely unpopular.

But he just started the halftime show with a rant about how Michigan is being outplayed by Vandy. Uh, Mark, Michigan has outgained Vandy about 3-to-1, dropped at least 3 passes, had a field goal block, missed an easy connection for a wide open TD, and turned the ball over at the Vandy 20. They're dominating, yet beating themselves. They're not being outplayed.

26
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 3:02pm

Is anyone watching Grambling-Hampton. A very nice throw by Grambling QB Brandon Landers just gave Grambling the lead for the first time today.

I also want to say that I loved last year's FSU-Miami game. I like close, unpredictable games, and I don't particularly care if they're 7-6 or 47-46. I thought the USC and Texas defenses engaged in more sloppy play at the end of the year than the FSU and Miami offenses did at the start of the year, yet everyone calls that game a classic.

27
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 3:11pm

It's sad how Chris Spielman has turned into a typical cliche-spewer. When he started as an announcer he had a very analytical and contrarian style. Now, when he sees Michigan go for it on fourth-and-1, he tells us that it's all about establishing toughness and showing confidence in the offense. Uh, no. It's about a strategic calculation that the benefit of a first down deep in opposing territory makes it worth the risk of getting stopped.

28
by black (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 4:08pm

the change in clock operations is going to be huge throughout the season.

29
by Tom (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 5:07pm

tOSU-Northern Illinois, after 3 offensive possessions for each team:
Troy Smith still looks pretty good. So does Teddy Ginn. And Anthony Gonzalez. And the Buckeye pass protection. Antonio Pittman's not as good as Mike Hart, but he doesn't have to be. Garrett Wolfe got about 30 yards on a nice screen, but the next 2 drives went 3-and-out. 3:15 to go in the first quarter, so it could be a long day for the Huskies.

30
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 5:09pm

Sigh. Northern Illinois isn't even putting up a fight against Ohio State. It'll look like a blowout - it's already 21-0 in the first quarter - but it's NIU's special teams which killed them. They've punted three times, for a net of 18, 26, and 11 yards, and only one of them was even returned.

Anyone could've scored at least 2 touchdowns with that field position.

31
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 5:14pm

Purdue gave up 35 to Indiana State.

I may have to re-think my picking them as my "surprise" team.

32
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 6:26pm

Quick first half thoughts.

1) tOSU - like the offense. Pretty encouraging so far. Although I thought on their first drive the option on 2nd and goal from the 2 was silly - why not just cram it down their throats? I like versatility and all, but sometimes you can get too cute. Excellent route by Ginn on the TD though, that was the kind of play he'd never have made last year. Hopefully he's developed into a receiver instead of just a really fast, elusive guy who can also occasionally catch.

2) Wolfe is good.

3) The defense. I realized they lost 9 starters, but they showed a graphic listing the NFL teams of all 9. I don't know if all of them made the final cut, but if so, wow. That's a ton of talent to replace.

Anyway, so far they've been good, but some of the little things you get with inexperience have reared their ugly heads. For example, NIU's best plays have been screens - they've managed to sniff out a few, but for the most part they're still getting suckered by them. That has to improve, and fast. And the tackling that was so good last year has been OK at best so far - several misses that Hawk and co. would have wrapped up have turned short gains into bigger ones. That was one big area of concern, and while they're not exactly horrible, it's a drop from the high level I've come to expect.

4) This year, if the choice is between a field-position punt, long FG, or going for it, don't expect Tressel to choose the field goal.

I know it's only half over, but I already can't wait for next week.

33
by Dylan (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 6:33pm

AHHHH!!!! Why is Paul McGuire on the Cal/Tenn game? They couldn't put him on Grambling/Hampton?

34
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 6:51pm

Freshman mistake, fumbling near the goal line. Wells will have to learn to get over that, for sure. On the plus side, several years ago they had some other hotshot freshman back who had fumbling problems around the goal line - he fumbled twice against Illinois, one of which was returned for a TD, and basically cost them a big game - and I think he turned out OK. Anyway, it's just once, we'll start to worry if it ever happens again.

So far I like the way Wells runs. He's big enough, certainly, but he has some elusiveness as well, and hasn't really been hit solidly yet. We'll see how he does against better competition, but I hope it's a Bettis-like trait, being big enough to move the pile but agile enough to not need to. But I'm getting way ahead of myself here.

35
by jebmak (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 7:07pm

Man, Garrett Wolfe from Northern Illinois is unbelievable.

36
by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 7:10pm

Rutgers absolutely stoned North Carolina on 4th & goal from about 3 inches out. A LB lept over the pile and hammered the RB, then a DE stripped the ball and went about 20 yards the other way. I suspect that play broke NC's back.

37
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 7:21pm

Wow. They read the screen perfectly, had three guys unblocked against Wolfe, and he beat them all, splitting two and bowling past the third. This guy's good.

OK, Zwick was clearly down before the fumble. Why are the announcers not talking about challenging? For that matter, why is Tressel not challenging?

38
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 7:26pm

Three minutes left in a game that was over 15:05 into it. Why is Ginn still back there returning punts?

39
by Tom (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 7:41pm

Because if Mike Shula can have Tyrone Prothro and Brodie Croyle out there with 10 minutes left in a blowout when they're his only good offensive skill players, dammit, Tressel can have Ginn out there.

40
by Michael David Smith :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 8:24pm

Can someone explain how the hell Northern Illinois gets guys like Wolfe and Illinois doesn't? Illinois doesn't have anyone who could put up 275 scrimmage yards against Ohio State in two games.

41
by Travis (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 8:38pm

Either Cal is really, really overrated or Tennessee is the best team of all time. Somehow, I think it's the former.

42
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 8:53pm

40- Former Illinois coach Ron Turner had a rep as a guy that overrated his own genius, to the point where he acted as if getting quality athletes was unimportant. The other Big-10 coaching staffs would laugh at Turner and his staff making it a priority to be home for the holidays, while they'd be out working and recruiting circles around the Illini.

This is Ron Zook's second year au UI, and his rep is that he's the anti-Turner: a strong recruiter, but a weak tactical coach.

43
by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 9:07pm

I didn't see any of OSU, unfortunately. Sounds like Wolfe had a great day in the loss.

The Rutgers game was really entertaining. Not that UNC is any great team, but that's still a really good win for Rutgers coming off the first bowl season in forever.

Cal - argh. Not exactly helping the Pac-10's rep for being soft. Way to show up.

Michigan was hardly great today ... lots of mistakes and Henne was shaky at times, but the defense looked really good and the running game was outstanding. I'll take it. They get another warmup against Western Michigan before heading to South Bend.

44
by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 9:28pm

And ohio state vs. Northern Illinois is a push. Way to go Vegas.

45
by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 9:33pm

Or not, as 22 does not equal 17. Math (-5) vs. Nathan.

46
by Mitch Cumstein (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 9:55pm

I would definitely lay the points on math.

and TD GA Tech.

47
by Mitch Cumstein (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 9:59pm

Watching Cal was causing flashbacks to having to watch the Chiefs pass D over the last few years. They struggled in tackling, but made up for it by blowing coverages and letting guys run free as well.

48
by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 11:05pm

Can someone explain how the hell Northern Illinois gets guys like Wolfe and Illinois doesn’t? Illinois doesn’t have anyone who could put up 275 scrimmage yards against Ohio State in two games.

Now, if NIU could just get someone who could punt, that game would've been a heckuva lot closer.

Man. What a horrendous game by their punter.

49
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 11:51pm

22 does not equal 23 either.

My favorite punt was the one he shanked to his own 20. Granted, there was great pressure from the right outside, and at first glance it looked like his blocker may have even been shoved into him, but man, that was awful. Oddly enough, that was the most difficult of OSU's first few TD drives - I had a "no team can turn incredible starting field position into a mere field goal quite like the Buckeyes" post ready before they figured things out.

50
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 09/02/2006 - 11:59pm

... incomplete pass ruling...

They were freakin' holding the WR off the line (pointed out on replay)... why can't they review the play for an illegal contact penalty?

51
by Michael David Smith :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 12:10am

The combination of badly written rules and bad officiating is slowly deteriorating my love of football. As Matthew notes, it is totally nonsensical that a Georgia Tech first down is negated on replay when the same replay clearly shows a Notre Dame player committing an infraction that would give Georgia Tech an automatic first down. I would vote for just getting rid of replay entirely, but if we have to have it, could the rules at least make sense? These long replay delays that often yield the wrong result have marred an otherwise enjoyable day of watching football.

52
by james (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 12:52am

1st week trends.....
Every game that russell and vinny picked together covered. In every game that they disagreed the favorite covered. HOwever this could be a product of 6 out 7 favorites covering.

Man I hate gambling. 0-3 this weekend

53
by Tom (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 2:40am

Re #52
I was going to do my own picks, but the first week isn't a great one to make money. I tell you one thing, though, I wouldn't have picked Stanford to beat Oregon like Kirk Herbstreit did.

54
by Russell Levine :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 9:45am

Shhhh. Not talking about my start to the year. Not ... gonnna ... do ... it ....

I'm with MDS. The concept of college replay is a good one; nobody wants to see games decided on clearly blown calls. But the execution of it in college is horrendous. The idea that "every play is reviewed" is a joke. Then they'll take five minutes to decide a play that could be decided in 15 seconds. And I maintain the replay officials don't know the rules nearly as well as the on-field officials. They routinely overturn plays that aren't anywhere near "indisputable".

55
by CurtWarner (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 12:04pm

I hate instant replay too. The game is played and coached by humans. It should be officiated by humans. I understand keeping it around to overturn a blatant injustice, but that's all it should be for.

Anyway, these rules are why God invented the DVR. I never believed in the whole divine thing until the DVR came along, but there's proof of the existence of a higher power right there.

56
by Vinny (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 1:21pm

I agree whole-heartedly with MDS on Spielman -- he used to provide some pretty analysis, like what he would be thinking as the MLB on the field from the offensive formation (e.g., "every time the back is that deep, it's going to be the counter play"). It's almost like the producers just pound these guys into submission until they've dumbed-down their comments to the Paul McGuire level.

Speaking of whom, I heard the exclamatory phrase, "Look at this! Watch this play!" during the UT-Cal game and immediately felt a shooting pain in my forehead. ESPN has made good on its threat to pit McGuire on college football fans when it finally broke up the vaunted Theismann-McGuire-Patrick team. Bastards.

57
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 1:41pm

how does Chan Gailey still have a job?

58
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 3:30pm

Not sure why Gailey should be fired.

To blow the dust off the old Bill Parcells saying, you are what you are. Georgia Tech has high academic standards, plays in a killer conference, and doesn't have the name brand value of a Miami or a Florida State. A Tech fan should be happy with an average of 7 or 8 wins a year, with the once in a decade or so BCS season.

59
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 3:51pm

After the Rutgers game yesterday, I'm all for instant replay! Although I kind of wish Andre Ware hadn't been able to see so clearly that the touchdown call should be reveresed, because then I could say he's a completely useless announcer. So, he's a 98% useless announcer.

Two other things:
1) Rutgers has progressed to the point that when the other team is marching down the field to take the lead late in the game, I no longer expect it to happen. I'm still afraid it will happen, but I'm not certain. That's a difference.
2) Beautiful shot by ABC of the one guy in a Rutgers jersey in the middle of the N.C. student section with about 3 minutes to go. (He was expecting them to blow it.) You just know they'd been waiting all game to use that.

60
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 7:28pm

21: That's the flexbone, and it's been option formation of choice for several years now (see Air Force, Navy, Ga Southern, et al).

58: The problem with your reasoning is that Gailey will win seven and only seven games per season (if they start off 7-0, he will find a way to lose the next 5).

61
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 7:41pm

Proper Terminology Note: Bill Curry, I think, during the Mississippi-Memphis game, not only identified a reverse correctly, but also pointed out that some people would refer to it incorrectly as a double reverse ...

62
by Michael David Smith :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 8:23pm

Memphis, down 11 with five minutes left, just concluded a beautiful drive, marching down the field 77 yards for a touchdown. It was really a great drive; they went no huddle because they need two scores, but they never panicked because they knew they had enough time to score twice. And the best part was it was clear that every player on the offense knew that they were going for two and that they had a specific play in mind for the conversion attempt, which was successful. Very good coaching by the Memphis staff and we should have an exciting finish to this game.

63
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 10:25pm

Did anyone think there was a lot of poor sportsmanship going on this weekend? From the games I was watching today... there were a few shoves and extra kicks on some TCU-Baylor plays (none were called); plenty of players jawing the face of others; twice where a player pointed out a penalty for the officials (Baylor did it successfully, GT did not); and this is all before FSU Miami has even happened.

Comments on TCU-Baylor: If the ball is pinned against your body, is that "possession"? I always thought they gave receivers the benefit of doubt when they caught the ball, but they didn't give the benefit to the runner. Had the ball knocked loose, it was pinned against his arm, and came out again when he hit the ground... but ruled a fumble... tough break that probably cost Baylor the game.

Why can't we get the Sky-Cam on ESPN2 and the Isolation on ESPN-U? I'd much rather watch the sky cam, but I'll probably end up DVR'ing the deuce.

I've got a college football stomach-ache today... wall to wall yesterday, more of the same today, and a Monday Night game?! I think this is why I focus on the pros... too much to keep track of!

64
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 11:53pm

The Michael Bush injury really hurts Louisville down the road.

That, and neither they nor Kentucky seem to want to play defense. When Louisville plays someone who actually has a functional offense, they're going to get smoked.

65
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sun, 09/03/2006 - 11:57pm

Someone should let Kentucky's defense know that the game started several hours ago, and they should feel free to show up any time now. I haven't seen the entire game, but it looks like their biggest defensive success has been forcing a field goal. Hey, they just forced another attempt - and Louisville missed! Way to go! (Oh wait, apparently Louisville's punted twice - still, they're making it look too easy.)

Of course, the game itself takes a backseat to Bush breaking his leg. Huge loss for Louisville. Granted, they only have two games this year, but it sure would have been nice to have him for those two. The backups look pretty good, but they're each supposedly about 35 pounds lighter than Bush - that's a huge adjustment they're going to have to make.

66
by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 09/04/2006 - 1:41am

Bush meant so much to Louisville. The closest example I can think of what Faulk meant to the Rams c. 99-01--with him, they had a power running game to complement their potent passing attack, but they lost that when he went out and it cost 'em. Strickling and Smith have decent speed, I guess, but I haven't seen anybody from Louisville other than Bush I'd trust and 3rd-and-1 against a decent team.

As to the defensive lapses, most of them came from the big play. I wonder if they didn't respect UK's pass attack at all, or just figured their pass rush wouold get there too fast to burn DBs who aren't special. It'll be interesting to see them against Miami in a couple weeks, particularly if the Canes O-line can keep Kyle Wright upright against the Seminoles tomorrow.

67
by Russell Levine :: Mon, 09/04/2006 - 8:54am

Brual loss of Bush. Meanwhile, could Rich Brooks look any less interested in the procedings? What a mistake by the Kentucky athletic dept. to have hired him in the first place (I believe he'd been out of coaching for two years when he got the job over, among others, Sly Croom) and to have stuck with him for this long. Even if there were some signs of life in the program -- and I'm not sure there are -- he's not exactly young. It's not like he's going to be there long enough to turn things around. Every year they stick with him is another wasted year in terms of recruiting, building up some positive momentum, etc.

I know UK is and always will be a basketball school. But that doesn't excuse the Brooks hire nor sticking with him this long.

68
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 09/04/2006 - 9:59am

Also, when did black become one of Louisville's primary colors?

BTW, I'm remaining as unbiased about Louisville as I can, as I've hated them since the Metro Conference...

69
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/04/2006 - 10:14am

I hate instant replay too. The game is played and coached by humans. It should be officiated by humans.

Aren't the replay officials humans?