Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
13 Sep 2007
by Russell Levine
I'm turning back the clock on this college football season, all the way to Aug. 31. I'm not hiding from Michigan's 0-2 start, mind you, it's just that I've decided not to spend another week wallowing in self-pity about it.
So I'm hitting the reset button and trying to recapture the frame of mind I had all of two weeks ago, when my first thought each morning was, "How many more days until football season?"
The worst thing about Michigan's situation is that it threatens to rob me of that excitement. This is college football season! I can't let it slip away just because my favorite team may have nothing to play for.
Especially this week. This is clearly the best week of the early-season schedule, and maybe the entire season. To help me recapture my mojo, I'm joined on this week's podcast by Orson Swindle of Every Day Should be Saturday.
Orson is a rabid Florida fan, but his blog has become a must-read for college football fans of all stripes. If you're not a regular of EDSBS, you either A) Have no sense of humor; B) Have the last name "Fulmer;" or C) Hate America. Remember, kids, if we don't laugh at Houston Nutt, the terrorists win.
Orson's not just here on a mission of mercy to pick me up, either. His Gators play Tennessee on Saturday, which is where the "Hate Week" title comes from. The color orange and checkerboard end zones stir unique passions in a Florida fan. Listen to this week's podcast to find out what Orson has riding on the game (hint, it's a personal humiliation wager). He also compares and contrasts the relative evils of Bobby Bowden and Phil Fulmer, and ruminates on the topic of whether or not Papa Bowden supported the reconstruction of Europe following World War II. If you weren't already sure, Orson is not your average college football fan.
Florida-Tennessee is just one of three SEC games on this week's docket. So get ready to play fast and break down all the week's biggest games, including:
We'll know a lot more about Florida's chances of defending its national title after the Gators take on the Vols Saturday. Florida may have defensive issues, but Tim Tebow is quickly putting concerns about his passing ability to rest.
A loss here would drop Tennessee to 1-2, and bump Fulmer up a few notches in the hot-seat ratings.
Washington has been one of the surprising teams of the early season. Ty Willingham's Huskies throttled Syracuse on the road (admittedly, not that impressive a result) and then beat Boise State by two touchdowns at home last week.
Willingham is threatening to return Washington to glory -- at the same time as Notre Dame looks very much like, well, Notre Dame under Ty Willingham -- but talk of that will go no further if the Huskies are routed by Ohio State this Saturday.
The player to watch is Washington quarterback Jake Locker, whom Orson dares to compare to Vince Young. Ohio State's defense is ferocious, but the Buckeyes have looked pedestrian, or worse on offense.
Sure both teams are 0-2 and unranked, and only Michigan's gigantic early season stink bomb has managed to keep the focus of the college football media completely off Notre Dame.
Many people who don't live in South Bend believed the Irish would struggle this season, but I think they expected more than zero offensive touchdowns and minus-eight rushing yards after two games. Jimmy Clausen showed poise, but not much production, in his first start at Penn State last week. Expect Charlie Weis to open up the playbook a bit more against Michigan's awful defense.
Michigan starts freshman Ryan Mallet, a 6-foot-7 giant who has a JaMarcus Russell-like arm but didn't show much touch when he relieved the injured Chad Henne in the second half against Oregon last week. The winner here has a fighting chance for a moderately respectable season. That is, if you want to call the Motor City Bowl respectable. The loser could be headed for 2-10.
Alabama plays its first SEC home game under Nick Saban after an impressive 2-0 start. Saban has become quickly beloved among the "Roll, Tide!" set, but things might cool off a bit if Arkansas pulls the upset on the road to cool 'bama expectations.
Arkansas can't throw the ball at all, particularly with top receiver Marcus Monk still out with a knee injury, but the Razorbacks are as good a one-dimensional offensive team as you'll ever see with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in the backfield.
Our third and final SEC stop is the Bluegrass State battle between Louisville and Kentucky. If you love offense, this should be your favorite game of the week. Both starting quarterbacks -- Louisville's Brian Brohm and Kentucky's Andre' Woodson -- are sure to be high draft picks next April, and neither team bothers to play much defense.
Louisville has designs on a return to the BCS, but the Cardinals won't get anywhere near the marquee bowls if they play the way they did in allowing 42 points in a win over Middle Tennessee State. The Big East now features at least four other teams -- West Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, and Cincinnati -- that are capable of knocking off anyone in the conference, so Louisville really needs to emerge from the non-conference season unscathed.
The nation's top-ranked team (at least according to the AP and coaches polls, but not the BlogPoll) is at Nebraska in the back-end of a home-and-home series.
Nebraska played to not get embarrassed last season, running repeatedly in the second half and never showing any sense or urgency in a game they ended up losing to the Trojans by 18 points. The home crowd in Lincoln won't stand for a similar effort this year.
This is the game transfer quarterback Sam Keller needs to prove he can run Bill Callahan's offense, because Nebraska has no chance if they stick to the ground game and Marlon Lucky.
After Oklahoma and LSU posted impressive routs in marquee games last week while USC was idle, look for the Trojans to make a similar statement.
Are these the two best teams in the ACC? Preseason favorite Virginia Tech hasn't shown anything this season and just got embarrassed at LSU. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, has unveiled a potent rushing offense to go with a defense that is one of the nation's best.
Tashard Choice ripped up Notre Dame and ran for 100-plus yards in just a quarter of work against Samford last week.
Boston College is already 2-0 in conference play, having beaten Wake Forest and North Carolina State. Quarterback Matt Ryan looks like he might be one of the best in the country, and he gets a chance to prove it against a blitz-happy John Tenuta defense.
This is an interesting matchup despite the recent struggles of both programs, and it was included for reasons other than just giving Orson another chance to kick Bobby Bowden while he's down.
Well, maybe not.
Dan Hawkins has his work cut out for him in trying to turn around the Colorado program, and his son, Cody, has struggled as the starting quarterback. He'll have a tough task against Florida State's defense, which is still loaded with NFL-caliber talent.
The Florida State offense has yet to gel under new coordinator Jimbo Fisher as the offensive line has struggled to protect inconsistent quarterback Drew Weatherford.
If FSU wins, will the Seminoles take a chunk of the Boulder turf with them to plant back in the sod cemetery in Tallahassee?
Or, alternately, download the MP3 by clicking on the icon below:
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Orson Says||Russell Says|
|Ohio State||-4||Washington||Washington||Ohio State|
|Notre Dame||+7.5||Michigan||Michigan||Notre Dame|
|Boston College||+7||Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech||Georgia Tech|
|Florida State||-4||Colorado||Colorado||Florida State|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
174 comments, Last at 20 Sep 2007, 9:40pm by Kevin 11