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.
30 Aug 2007
by Russell Levine
This column is like my little baby. My writing partner Vin Gauri and I have nursed it through three seasons of mostly mediocre picks, some painfully bad jokes and many a missed Thursday deadline.
We've also seen an audience grow. I used to e-mail blast all my friends to encourage them to post comments, but last season we saw an average of several hundred posts each college football weekend. And even though we're way short on advanced analysis for a column that carries the Football Outsiders label, this column does share something in common with the rest of the site's content: informed readers and insightful commentary.
But lives tend to get more complex over the course of three years, and our regular readers no doubt noticed how difficult it was for Vin and I to get the piece finished in time to post each Thursday. We often resorted to posting our Thursday picks and then adding the full column on Friday, which wasn't exactly the ideal reader experience.
In an effort to improve things, we experimented with some podcasts at the end of last season. And while neither of us is going to get a call from WFAN anytime soon, they were generally well received and got better with a little repetition. Emboldened by the experience, we're unveiling a new Seventh Day Adventure format this fall.
We've set aside the back-and-forth "conversation" between Vin and myself. Instead, I will introduce the week's slate of games in written form. That will be followed by the SDA weekly podcast, where a guest will join me to break down the games and offer selections. We'll keep track of the weekly results in the column, just as we always have.
Vin isn't going away; he'll be a regular in the guest rotation -- including this season-opening edition. In the coming weeks, other guests will include some noteworthy members of the college football blogosphere. The schedule also isn't complete, so if there are bloggers/regular readers/commenters out there who might be interested in appearing on a future podcast, please drop me an e-mail at Russell-at-footballoutsiders-dot-com.
Because it's a podcast, you'll be able to listen right online or download for later. You can also subscribe through iTunes or your favorite feed aggregator. Just click one of the links in the podcast player below.
That takes care of the administrative portion of the program. Now, for some actual football-like substance.
To begin, a review of last season, in which paranormal forces and a bizarre alignment of the planets somehow managed to break -- or at least temporarily set aside -- what had become known as the Vinny-Russell Universe Altering Curse. Longtime readers of SDA know that Vin and I had a rough year with the picks in 2005. Things got so bad that anytime we agreed on the game, it was a stone-cold lock to go the other way. But 2006 was a different story. We both finished the year comfortably above .500 overall and in our Fred Edelstein locks. More impressively, following our advice was a winning proposition. Here's the big board for 2006:
Here are the games we'll be discussing in this week's podcast:
One of the best non-BCS conference teams invades Corvallis to take on the Beavers, who knocked off USC last year and return outstanding tailback Yvenson Bernard. Utah gets quarterback Brian Johnson back after he missed nearly two years with an ACL tear.
The Yellow Jackets and Irish also hooked up in last season's opener. That one was in Atlanta, and Georgia Tech might well have won had they just kept throwing the ball to Calvin Johnson. The Jackets have lost Johnson, but then again, they've also lost Reggie Ball, and Notre Dame's secondary is still very suspect.
Ron Zook has certainly upgraded Illinois's talent level, but recruiting was never a problem for him at Florida, either. His Illini open against Missouri -- a team with designs on the Big 12 North title -- at the Edward Jones Dome.
The pressure is on Mike Stoops to start delivering some results at Arizona, or to join the Ozzie Cansecos, Billy Ripkens and Keith Gretzkys of the world. His Wildcats have a tough task on the road at Provo, where BYU is another non-automatic qualifying league team with a realistic chance at the BCS.
This might be the most intriguing game on the entire opening-weekend schedule. We all know where the SEC ranks in the conference pecking order, but Oklahoma State is a program on the rise, and Georgia was a disappointment last season.
Cal rode into Knoxville for last season's opener determined to challenge for the BCS. The Bears left with their tails between their legs following a 35-18 drubbing. Cal is the favorite this year, and should be able to throw against a highly questionable Tennessee secondary.
This game is included for three reasons. First, Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan is a legitimate Heisman contender after throwing 58 touchdown passes a year ago. Five touchdowns are almost a given in this contest. Second, this is the highest line anyone can remember. Third, Northern Colorado is the school where the backup punter stabbed the starter in his kicking leg last year in an effort to take his job.
The ACC would have you believe the Miami-Florida State game was moved off its recent Labor Day evening slot because both teams felt it was unfair to play such an important contest in the opener. Don't buy it. That rivalry produced a series of boring, defensive duds in recent seasons, so it has been moved back in favor of the Bowden Bowl. Papa Bowden got off the hot seat a bit by consenting to shake up his staff, including firing his son, in the offseason, while son
Terry Tommy occupies his usual spot atop the endangered coaches list entering the season.
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Vinny Says||Russell Says|
|Georgia Tech||+2.5||Notre Dame||Georgia Tech||Notre Dame|
|Oklahoma State||+6.5||Georgia||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State|
|Northern Colorado||+59.5||Hawaii||Northern Colorado||Hawaii|
|Florida State||-3.5||Clemson||Florida State*||Florida State|
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