Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Scramble Over/Unders: the Norths

The league's northern divisions pose a number of meaty questions, such as: "Is the Bears' offense due for a repeat performance?" "Why do the Lions have such pronounced splits?" and "Has Johnny Manziel made the Cleveland brass even crazier?"

24 Sep 2008

7th Day Adventure Checks on the Big Ten

by Russell Levine


The SDA Podcast

 

 

Another week, another monster matchup in the SEC. Get used to it, as the SEC will be doing the de facto elimination round-robin thing from here on in. But even though Alabama-Georgia is the obvious choice as the week's biggest game (how did that one get past CBS and onto the worldwide leader, anyway?), the SEC doesn't have a monopoly on quality contests.

Virginia Tech and Nebraska hook up in a "to the winner goes relevance" bowl in Lincoln, while Oklahoma will try to continue obliterating all comers, this time against one of the better non-BCS league schools, TCU.

We'll learn quite a bit about the Big Ten this week as well, as Penn State faces its first real test. We'll also learn if Michigan is in serious jeopardy of a bowl-less, losing season. Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt me as much as you might think to write sentence. I saw the progress at Notre Dame, even if it was lost in a haze of mostly unforced turnovers.

I recognize that not every Michigan fan feels this way, and I was curious to find out how the world's leading Michigan blogger was feeling, three weeks into what could turn out to be a long season. Which brings me to...

This Week's Guest

Brian Cook of mgoblog lives for Michigan football. And now he works for it, too, having figured out how to parlay two engineering degrees from U of M into a full-time career chronicling the school's athletic teams.

Brian is among a handful of bloggers who are offering far more in-depth coverage of their favorite teams than anything that can be found in the mainstream media. The vast majority of his energy is expended covering football, as well as publishing an annual book, Hail to the Victors: A Guide to Michigan Football. He is also the inventor of the blogpoll, of which I am a voting member.

In this week's podcast, Brian offers his thoughts on the state of Michigan, the Big Ten, the Illinois-Penn State and Wisconsin-Michigan games, and why Ohio State keeps killing the conference's reputation. We'll also continue the conversation, begun with SEC bloggers Clay Travis and Orson Swindle the past two weeks, as to how SEC fans may or may not be any different from the rest of us.

I hope you'll listen in.

This Week's Games

No. 1 USC (-25) at Oregon State, Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Let's face it: The Pac-10 is awful. Remove USC from the Pac-10 and South Florida from the Big East, and the rest of each conference is pretty equal. Everyone assumes USC is going to roll through the rest of its Pac-10 schedule, lay its annual four-touchdown whipping on Notre Dame, and cruise into the national title game. Except the Trojans have had a funny habit of sleepwalking through the occasional game against an overmatched league foe. During the Leinart-Bush years, they were usually good enough to come back and win games after spotting early leads to the likes of Arizona State and Stanford. The last couple of years, they haven't been. Oregon State got the Trojans on one of those off nights up in Corvalis two years ago in one of those games nobody saw because of the Pac-10's ridiculous deal with FSN. This time, it's going to be on national TV on ESPN, the only game in town on a Saturday night. I think that will be enough to get USC's blood pumping. The Trojans have already heard whispers about how they could get passed by a once-beaten SEC team because of conference strength. Their defense against that will be to blow teams out, especially when everyone's watching. This one is going to get ugly, and get ugly early.

THE PICKS -- FEI: USC | RUSSELL: USC (Fred Edelstein Lock)

Colorado (+5.5) vs. Florida State (at Jacksonville), 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

This was supposed to be the year that Florida State was "back." The Seminoles cruised to two straight wins over championship-subdivision schools before being put to their first test against Wake Forest last week. Now maybe Wake is really, really good, but Florida State looked awful. They looked especially bad on offense, which has been this team's Achilles' heel seemingly since Chris Weinke graduated (and immediately retired to Del Boca Vista). In comes an improving Colorado, which is riding high thanks to the contagious enthusiasm of Dan Hawkins, its big win over West Virginia, and whatever's in the air in Boulder. A win here truly puts Hawkins's club back on the map, while a loss might just grease the rails for Bobby Bowden's eventual exit. Good news for FSU: They get five suspended defensive starters back. But then again, defense hasn't been the problem.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Colorado | RUSSELL: Colorado

Arkansas (+28) at No. 7 Texas, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

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This game was supposed to be played two weeks ago before being postponed due to Hurricane Ike. Arkansas was a 23.5-point underdog then; Texas is now favored by 28. What happened in the interim, you ask? Well, Texas edged Rice, 52-10, while Arkansas was pounded by Alabama, 49-14, at home in its SEC opener. That's not a good sign for a team headed back on the road for a non-conference game. Still, there were positives for the Razorbacks. They outgained Alabama in the first half, despite trailing 35-7. If they cut down on the turnovers and mistakes they should be able to keep from getting embarrassed.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Texas | RUSSELL: Arkansas

No. 9 Wisconsin (-6.5) at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

Wisconsin is doing what Wisconsin usually does early in the season, which is win while not always looking spectacular. The Badgers spotted a couple of patsies early leads before roaring back for blowout wins, then ground out a tough win against a very good Fresno State team on the road. People are starting to talk that Wisconsin and Penn State, and not Ohio State, might be the class of the Big Ten. But the Badgers need to take care of business against rebuilding Michigan in order to mark themselves a conference contender. The Wolverines played by far their best offensive game against Notre Dame, but couldn't stop handing the ball to the Irish and lost by three touchdowns. With a week off, they should be much sharper in this game and won't be an easy out -- but that feeling is already built into the line.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Wisconsin | RUSSELL: Wisconsin

No. 24 Texas Christian (+17.5) at No. 2 Oklahoma, 7 p.m. ET, FSN

Oklahoma seems to have gotten lost in the national conversation between USC's destruction of Ohio State and the assumed preeminence of the SEC. The Sooners will have a chance to make their statement later in the season when they play Texas and Missouri, but a nice, healthy rout of TCU wouldn't hurt, either. Oklahoma is scoring almost 55 points per game and winning by an average margin of 40 -- not much more than TCU's average victory of 35.3. Oklahoma was in this position at the beginning of last season before inexplicably losing to Colorado. TCU won in Norman in 2005, so Bob Stoops shouldn't have any trouble motivating his team.

THE PICKS -- FEI: TCU | RUSSELL: Oklahoma

No. 8 Alabama (+7) at No. 3 Georgia, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Hey look, the biggest game of the week is in the SEC, who knew? This does have great game written all over it though. Nick Saban's Alabama looks like it's a full year ahead of schedule, but then again that win over Clemson doesn't look nearly as impressive as we first thought now that the entire ACC has turned out to be softer than the mortgage-backed securities market. The Tide did take Arkansas behind the woodshed last week, as mentioned above, and that should count for something. Georgia looked very strong, if unspectacular (except for Knowshon Moreno's Superman imitation) against Arizona State. I don't see Georgia as the type of team that is going to blow out good opponents. They're going to run the ball, keep it close, try to hit a big play with Matthew Stafford. I think the Dawgs might regret that trip out west last week by the time this one is over.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Georgia | RUSSELL: Alabama

Virginia Tech (+7) at Nebraska, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Nebraska has had its recent opportunities to prove it's "back," and it has failed (see last year's USC game for the most recent wildly unsuccessful attempt). While a win over a non-vintage Virginia Tech might not get the Huskers that much national respect, it would still mark one of the high points in Lincoln since before Chris Brown scored his 87th touchdown in that 2001 embarrassment at Colorado. Bo Pelini has already improved Nebraska's defense, which is playing at a higher level than at almost any point in the Bill Callahan era.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Virginia Tech | RUSSELL: Virginia Tech

No. 22 Illinois (+14) at No. 12 Penn State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Get ready for a whiteout and plenty of Zombie Nation as the Nittany Lions play their first game against an actual living, breathing opponent. Illinois is not the same team that went to the Rose Bowl last season, but they are still a lot better than the likes of Coastal Carolina.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Penn State (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: Penn State

Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
USC -25 Oregon State USC USC*
Colorado +5.5 Florida State Colorado Colorado
Arkansas +28 Texas Texas Arkansas
Wisconsin -6.5 Michigan Wisconsin Wisconsin
TCU +17.5 Oklahoma TCU Oklahoma
Alabama +7 Georgia Georgia Alabama
Virginia Tech +7 Nebraska Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Illinois +14 Penn State Penn State* Penn State
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI: 6-2-0 (0-1-0) 13-18-0 (1-3-0)
Russell: 5-3-0 (1-0-0) 14-17-0 (1-3-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 24 Sep 2008

91 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2008, 9:08am by witless chum

Comments

1
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 12:10pm

There's something really funny about a Joe Paterno-led team celebrating with a song about zombies...

6
by Anonymous (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 1:18pm

Actually, the song is "Kernkraft 400". The band is Zombie Nation.

7
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 1:36pm

OK, but given that the only audible word in the song is "zombie", it still feels like they're egging JoePa on.

Braaaaiins...

2
by Anonymous (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 12:10pm

I’m a big Tennessee Vols fan. As we’re all aware, last week Tennessee got crushed at home against Florida. Now, Florida is a monster this year, but we’d like to think the Vols could at least not get blown out. They were never in it, and looking at the big picture Tennessee has not only fallen far behind Florida in the SEC East, but Georgia as well.

The 2008 season could make 2005 seem like a fond memory. Losses to UCLA and Florida are already in the books. The Vols will be underdogs against Auburn, Georgia, and Alabama. Vanderbilt is ranked, Kentucky looks surprisingly good (again), and a trip to South Carolina is far from a gimme. Let’s say they go 2 – 4 in those games, and post wins against Mississippi State, Wyoming, and Northern Illinois.

That’s a realistic 6 – 6 finish, which would very likely spell the end of the Fulmer Era in Knoxville.

Unlike a lot of college football fans, I don’t yell “FIRE THE COACH!” whenever something goes wrong. But UT hasn’t been to a BCS bowl since 2000, and hasn’t won the SEC since 1999. Obviously you want to finish the season before making a final decision, but for the very first time I can honestly say that I’d rather see the Vols try something other than bringing Fulmer back.

There’s plenty of risk involved, though. Think of the Arizona fans that thought they could do better without Dick Tomey, the Syracuse fans that thought firing Paul Pasqualoni would shake up a stale program, the Ole Miss fans that thought they were better off without David Cutcliffe, etc.

So the question is, who takes over? Nobody from the inside. As much as I respect and appreciate the Vols assistants, there’s no one that should be elevated to the top at this point. Offensive coordinator Dave Clawson was brought in (allegedly) as Fulmer’s heir apparent, but if Fulmer goes at this point, so does he.

POSSIBLE CANDIDATES: they might say no, but if Alabama could get Saban and Arkansas could get Petrino, these are all realistic choices for UT to target.

BUTCH DAVIS- getting it done quickly at North Carolina, got it done everywhere else except as head coach at Cleveland. Davis deserves a lot of credit for rebuilding Miami into a monster in the late 90’s, and is said to covet coaching in the SEC.

GARY PINKEL- UT can pay more than Missouri, and Tennessee is a step up. My guess is he has eyes for the Washington job, but would be a great hire.

DENNIS ERICKSON- unfairly labeled as a mercenary coach, has won everywhere but in the NFL. Like Davis he’s said to be interested in coaching in the SEC.

JUNE JONES- not unfairly labeled as a mercenary coach, but so what? Tennessee could double what SMU is paying him, and he could breathe life into a stale Vols offense.

MARK D’ANTONIO- some feel UT needs a “no nonsense” disciplinarian, and if LSU was a step up from Michigan State ten years ago, Tennessee is now.

STEVE SARKISIAN- could be the next Bob Stoops, rising from a coordinator to a star HC for a major college. Seems almost too happy in his role as the #2 at Southern Cal, though.

GOOD COACHES THAT WOULD LIKELY JUMP AT THE CHANCE:

MIKE LEACH- was said to have had the hots for the UCLA job last year, and considered the Illinois job before Zook was hired. Seems anxious to make a jump.

BRONCO MENDENHALL- certain to be the hot name after the 2008 season. Then again, Tommy Bowden and Curley Hallman were hot names at one point. Then again again, Urban Meyer was a hot name.

BOBBY JOHNSON- wouldn’t be a flashy hire, and he has yet to have a winning season at Vandy. Still, it would be interesting to see what Johnson could do with more talent. He has state and SEC ties, so this would be a good hire.

NAMES THAT WILL COME UP, BUT I’D RATHER SEE THE VOLS GO IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION:

CHRIS PEDERSEN: call it a hunch, or concern that Boise coaches haven’t done particularly well after moving up.

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: excellent coach, but if UT fires Fulmer they need to go outside the family.

LANE KIFFIN: needs at least a year or so to recover from his post-Al-Davis trauma, and is said to be interested in coaching his alma-mater, Syracuse.

SKIP HOLTZ: really, how impressive are those wins against Virginia Tech and West Virginia? Holtz has done a good job at ECU, but nothing earth-shattering.

9
by Marcumzilla :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 4:30pm

If they hire Pinkel, I may have to cheer for them somewhat (though I won't be a fan - that's a bigger commitment); though I enjoy being at odds with local fans and being a little bit of an agitator (I recently moved to TN). I'd love to see him make it to an even bigger stage, I think very highly of him from his time at UT (I'm a Toledo grad), when he had the program as one of the most dangerous mid-majors at the time (undefeated '95, 3-1 vs Big Ten during one stretch).

3
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 12:15pm

The “Replacing Fulmer” comment was mine.

This week’s picks, for recreational purposes only. I’m 6 – 4 so far this season.

Washington -4 over Stanford
Indiana -6.5 over Michigan State

5
by The Blue Horseshoe :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 1:12pm

I sure hope your getting 8 points with the Hoosiers vs MSU (or laying 6.5 with Sparty)

I think your missing a perfect candidate for your Vols -- Jeff Tedford of Cal

8
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 2:09pm

I was taking points, and I have Indiana as a 6.5 point dog. Sorry for the miscue :)

Neither Tedford nor Wake's Jim Grobe was listed, as I don't think either one is interested in leaving the jobs they currently have.

91
by witless chum :: Mon, 09/29/2008 - 9:08am

"MARK D’ANTONIO- some feel UT needs a “no nonsense” disciplinarian, and if LSU was a step up from Michigan State ten years ago, Tennessee is now."

If you're going to steal our coach, you'll have to learn how to spell his name. (j/k)

Dantonio supposedly loves East Lansing for his family (he's got two teenage daughters) and wants to stay here in the Big 10 forever. The only job I'd worry about him leaving for would be OSU.

4
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 12:37pm

I was 6-2 (1-0) in my inaugural week picking along with Russell and FEI, so I'm 6-2 (1-0) for the season. Stupid faith in Pat White and Noel Devine to overcome Bill Stewart. Stupid TJ Yates injury. I feel like I'm cruisin' for a bruisin' this week, though, as most of the lines look very reasonable. So, here goes: USC, Colorado, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma (Edelstein), Georgia, Nebraska, and Penn State. Once again, no actual money is behind these picks

10
by Tarrant :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 4:32pm

Not often you see a line like USC-25 as a Fred Edelstein Lock, but at least it isn't the dreaded Double Edelstein.

11
by Damon Selman (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 8:57pm

Well, guys the Big Ten ain't exactly that great w/o untested Penn State. Forget USC/OSU. Think Purdue's gag job against Oregon. Think Indiana's blowout loss to Ball State (Dante Love's tragic injury nonwithstanding). Think the Illinazi's luck out win against LA-Lafayette??? Ohio State squeakers against Ohio U and Troy??? Don't even mention Michigan. Heck, the only two conference deserves a B(C)S automatic ($15 million) bid is the SEC and the Big 12! Some mid major will be gipped by the Little Eleven's (overrated) history, the ACC history, and South Florida's geography (no dis on the Bulls, but the Tampa/St. Pete television market is only reason they are even a B(C)S school). If Penn State, USF, or the ACC champs go undefeated, no problem, they deserve the automatic bid. But they are at least conferences that might be weaker than the Mountain West and some that no upgrade from the WAC AND C-USA.
WE NEED A PLAYOFF!

25
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:00am

some that no upgrade from the WAC AND C-USA.

Seek help, quickly. The MWC is strong (probably stronger than it's ever been), but the WAC and C-USA are clearly still worse than the BCS conferences.

and South Florida's geography (no dis on the Bulls, but the Tampa/St. Pete television market is only reason they are even a B(C)S school).

Uh, there's another reason why teams are in conferences?

12
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 9:55pm

I know it's only 2Q 9:00, but USC's defensive line is getting pushed off the ball by Oregon State's offensive line, and USC's offensive line isn't getting any push against Oregon State's defensive line. I DID NOT expect either of those to be remotely true.

13
by Russell Levine :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:01pm

You aren't the only one.

This is what I love about college football. This is the same exact club that didn't even show up at Penn State, and tonight they are dominating both sides of the ball, and they look faster and more athletic than USC.

16
by Rocco :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:06pm

I guess it really is true- Oregon St. is a completely different team in Corvallis as opposed to on the road. They're definitely up for tonight's game.

19
by ChrisH :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:31pm

I'm most amazed by how well the OSU lines are playing. The front 7 on defense are all new starters this year, and were awful to start, but they look fantastic tonight, and putting far more pressure on Sanchez than tOSU ever did.

42
by bear goggles (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 12:03am

OSU's problem is not so much home/road. In fact, in Cal-OSU series the road team has won the last five. The problem is that OSU always sucks for their first 3-4 games, this year for only 3 obviously. Their history under Riley is littered with early season carnage, followed by late season excellence. Additional problem this year is they had to replace most of their front 7 defensively.

I like Riley because his teams overachieve and take chances (at least, defensively). If it weren't for continuing to blitz with the lead, probably wouldn't have forced that last INT that sealed the game. That RB is also good. Hiding behind O-lineman and darting into space is an excellent technique, IMHO.

14
by rjsen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:03pm

So Oregon State just made it 14-0 in the 2nd and is just plain beating them on both sides of the ball. Apparently the way to shred the great USC defense is to give the ball to someone smaller than the water boy. They might come back to win yet, but no chance they cover the 25. This game is making me wonder just how bad Ohio State really is.

22
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:48pm

It also raises the question of how good Penn State is.

Yeah, you can make explanations about home vs. away, etc., but this team looked nowhere near capable of this against Penn State just a few weeks ago.

My opinion of Penn State was shaky all throughout the season so far, but it's going up quite a notch tonight.

15
by lionsbob :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:04pm

Here will be the biggest problem for USC. Every PAC-10 is going to treat this game like a BCS championship game and USC cannot be sleeping at the wheel (plus having 2 odd bye weeks maybe played a role?)

17
by lionsbob :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:14pm

Wow, USC is just playing bad football right now. McKnight tries to do too much and fumbles the ball away and Oregon State keeps on gashing USC's defense...

18
by lionsbob :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:26pm

Wow 21-0 Oregon State. I cannot believe this.

20
by Rocco :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:41pm

I knew I should have put everything I own on Oregon St. when I saw that Russ made USC his Edelstein lock.

21
by War Eagle (not verified) :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 10:42pm

Carroll deserves criticism for letting these no effort games occur more years than not.

23
by Todd S. :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 11:14pm

USC is starting to win the battle on the line of scrimmage now. (As I'm typing this, they give up a tackle for loss, of course.)

24
by Tarrant :: Thu, 09/25/2008 - 11:50pm

Joe McKnight for USC has had a terrible game. Two fumbles, dropped passes, terrible rushing. Other USC runners seem to be doing well.

26
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:08am

Over on foxsports.com, the GameTrax's WhatIfSports.com prediction for the Oregon State-USC game: 46-8, USC.

1) Yeah, little off there.
2) Oregon State - 8? WTF? Who scores 8 points when they're getting blown out?

33
by zlionsfan :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 7:55am

Every now and then, I've seen teams go for two in that situation. What the heck, might as well test a two-point conversion play ... besides, if the spread's 38.5 ...

27
by Tom Gower :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:08am

What does it say about Sanchez that on 3&20 deep in their own territory they throw a screen pass? They pick up 10 or 12, but on 4&8 from their own 30, it doesn't make sense to go for it and they rightly punt it away.

For the record, OrSU should have gone for it on 4&2 instead of kicking that field goal. Backup kicker, from the left hash, that kind of field position? The third down playcall of a pass didn't help either.

35
by Trogdor :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 8:53am

Exactly right on both counts. The screen call indicates they were playing for better field position after the likely punt (there was a very small chance they could actually get 20 or a defensive penalty, of course) rather than seriously trying for the first down. Not necessarily a bad call earlier in the game, but they didn't have much time left then. I thought it was rather odd.

And on the field goal, when they brought the kicker out and the announcers started talking about how shaky he is, my first thought was that they should have just gone for it then. And thinking back ten seconds, remembering they had 3rd and 2, a running game that had been fairly successful thusfar, and now knowing they had a shaky kicker, it seemed obvious that they should've run the third down play with an eye towards going for it on 4th.

28
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:16am

Wow. Game. Over.

29
by lionsbob :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:16am

And holy cow. And now USC is most likely out of the national championship game. This is why college football is so great.

30
by navin :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:22am

OSU should have taken three knees then kicked a chip shot field goal.

32
by andrew :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 7:20am

Not with that kicker. He even missed the extra point after the TD, so nothing was safe...

39
by navin :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 10:49am

Well, OSU's biggest enemy was time so they should have tried to milk the clock more. They could have easily taken it down to 1 minute left before kicking the field goal. It did work out for them, but I thought it gave Southern Cal a greater chance to win when they got the ball back immediately.

31
by Todd S. :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 12:24am

Good timeout, Carroll!

34
by Steve (not verified) :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 8:12am

@ lionsbob

I think it would be a huge mistake to count SC out of the Championship hunt. They are certainly on the outside looking in at this point, but the one rule in college football about losing is to lose early. All the other contenders in the SEC and Big 12 will be cannibalizing each other for the next 9-10 weeks. If SC gets their act together and runs they table they will certainly be in the discussion.

Of course, if SC loses again they are certainly done.

38
by Russell Levine :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 10:01am

The SDA Podcast has gone global. Checking the stats this morning, we've had listens in places as far-flung as Anchorage, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Honolulu, the Marianas Islands!?!!, Sydney, Moscow, Stockholm, Hungary, Germany, London and some place on the Manitoba-Nunavut border in Canada so remote I can't even identify a town nearby.

If you are any of these listeners, please email me: russell@footballoutsiders.com. I want to hear about how you follow college football from where you are, what teams you follow, etc.

Thanks to everyone for making this week's episode BY FAR the most listened-to SDA podcast yet!

Russ

36
by War Eagle (not verified) :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 9:57am

They may need the Big12 and SEC champions to have 2 losses though, especially if OSU piles up any more losses. The Pac 10 is so terrible that their resume may be inferior to other one loss teams at the end of the year. A one loss SEC or Big 12 champion will most likely have several more quality wins than USC. This is without accounting for an undefeated or 1 loss PSU or UW, an undefeated BYU, etc.

46
by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 2:43pm

It's not so much a matter of resume as it is one of time. The undefeated teams will more than likely lose. The voters in polls follow the unwritten rule of "Lose, and drop". It doesn't matter who you lose to, you will drop in the polls. If USC wins out, there early season loses will be overlooked. That's what happened in 2006, when they lost to an Oregon State squad that looked much worse at the time than this one does now. They still managed to pull back to #2 in the polls, ahead of every one loss team in the nation. This loss happened just late enough for USC to entrench themselves far up in the polls, but not so late as it will end their season. A loss in the last conference game of the season is unsurvivable, a loss in the first one just requires a little help to overcome.

37
by War Eagle (not verified) :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 9:59am

Above, by OSU I mean Ohio State, as they currently represent a quality win for USC that may wax or wane as the season progresses.

40
by BadgerT1000 :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 5:00pm

I must confess to being surprised at the confidence in Wisconsin. The passing game is made up of two talented tight ends but little else, the secondary relies on the D-line to get pressure since coverage is erratic and this is the first conference road game for the qb. Michigan's defensive line has been very active and fairly effective this season as it is other parts of the team falling down on the job.

Given Wisconsin's reliance on its offensive line to control the game a sterling effort by the MI d-line could generate a stalemate which given being at home likely results in a "W" for the Wolverines.

41
by Tom Gower :: Fri, 09/26/2008 - 5:37pm

For the record, my pick of Wisconsin is based much more on the play of the Wolverines than that of the Badgers. What I've seen of Michigan's D tells me the Badgers can get to 20, and what I've seen of Michigan's O tells me that if the Badgers get to 20, they have a pretty good shot at covering.

83
by DMP (not verified) :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 12:24am

Badger, incredible foresight on your part. Wisconsin offense looked nothing short of horrible. When they were up 19-0, I was thinking to myself "Ok, Michigan is giving this one up comically, I could not be more delighted. Also delightful: Wisconsin's offense is taylor-made to fall to my Spartans on a home game. We are going to beat a top 10 team."

Little did I know, the Wisconsin offense was taylor made to fall to Michigan too. This was a surreal loss for a Wisconsin fan, I hope everyone realizes that.

84
by DMP (not verified) :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 12:25am

Badger, incredible foresight on your part. Wisconsin offense looked nothing short of horrible. When they were up 19-0, I was thinking to myself "Ok, Michigan is giving this one up comically, I could not be more delighted. Also delightful: Wisconsin's offense is taylor-made to fall to my Spartans on a home game. We are going to beat a top 10 team."

Little did I know, the Wisconsin offense was taylor made to fall to Michigan too. This was a surreal loss for a Wisconsin fan, I hope everyone realizes that.

43
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 9:49am

UConn is now 5 - 0 after topping Louisville last night. IMO UConn's football program has a ceiling every bit as high as it's basketball's. There's talk that Syracuse could come hard after coach Randy Edsell after the season; while that would be a move a UConn coach would have jumped for a few years back, right now it seems lateral at best. However, Edsall is a Syracuse grad, so one never knows.

Meanwhile, the sharp decline of Lousville football continues to surprise. If it's not too early to wonder if West Virginia made the right hire with Bill Stewart, I don't blame Cards' fans for wondering if Steve Kragthorpe is the right guy for them.

44
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 12:21pm

Miami looks good, little lost in the hype of Alabama being back, but Miami might be back as well.

45
by joe football (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 1:56pm

Join a star-studded cast of your favorite FO posters for IRC football chat! cognet.catch22.org, channel #fo.

47
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:03pm

Florida is losing to Ole Miss right now, partially because Florida cannot hold onto the football.

Ole Miss is a solid team with lots of athletic talent, I figured they would be good for one upset this year (especially with Nutt coaching them) and it might be today.

48
by Androo :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:04pm

5:46 left, Maryland 20 - Clemson 17. Terps just stopped QB sneak on 4th and a foot or so. Bowden challenges the spot but denied.

Clemson rush and defense were dominant in the first half but turnovers kept Maryland hanging around. Of course Maryland returned the favor by repeatedly only converting the turnovers to field goals. Game is in Death Valley, this could be a huge win for the Terps and put those Deleware/Middle Tenn St. games behind them.

49
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:08pm

Suddenly Vanderbilt's win over Ole Miss looks a lot better.

North Carolina pulls ahead of Miami late.

51
by Androo :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:21pm

That 4th down stop proves to be the difference as Maryland kills the last 5 minutes and holds on for the comeback win. Schedule sets up pretty well with both Wake and Florida State at home for the Terps to play ACC Atlantic darkhorse.

50
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:18pm

After upsetting Iowa, Northwestern joins the 5 - 0 club.

The Brad Banks era seems so long ago for the Hawkeyes.

52
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:26pm

Ugh, thanks Clemson I was hoping for a solid rest of the season to help Bama's SOS.

Florida is going to pull this one most likely. But Ole Miss is definitely not a team that anyone should sleep on this year.

And Miami is not back. I am sorry for thinking otherwise.

Good for Northwestern, I thought they had a good chance to be 9-0 going into I do believe is the Ohio State game.

53
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 3:37pm

And again, don't listen to me. Ole Miss stops Florida and then completes a big (85 yards) TD pass to take the lead with about 5 minutes to go in the game. Yes it is going to be one of those seasons again.

54
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 4:02pm

Ole Miss blocks the extra point. Florida gets the ball back and drive to the 31 and opt to go for it on 4th and 1 instead of the field goal. Tebow gets stopped and we have another top 5 team lose this week.

55
by Will :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 4:26pm

Wow is Michigan ever bad. This team can't get first downs, much less touchdowns. I thought going in to the season they would be lucky to win 6 games, now I'm thinking 4 might be a stretch.

Will

56
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 6:27pm

Auburn's offense has been looking terrible, well as it has for the entire season so far.

The good news for Auburn is that Jonathan Crompton is a terrible, terrible QB.

57
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 6:27pm

Just eight days ago people talked about ECW running the table and playing in a BCS bowl, and maybe even for the National Championship. Then they lost to NC State.

And as I type this Houston is blowing them out.

58
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 6:27pm

Sweet merciful crap, Wisconsin is putting on a clinic for how to blow an unlosable game to a craptacular team.

59
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 6:53pm

Let's see - you've got an awesome running game and a really, really shaky quarterback. Said QB has been extremely nervous in the pocket all day, and has shown no feel for how to handle the pass rush. You're down 8 with under two minutes to go, and have it 2nd and goal from the 5. The obvious call is a slow-developing pass with minimal protection, right?

Of course. Fumble, and Wisconsin's failure is nearly complete.

60
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 6:57pm

My goodness. I almost added a snarky comment to the last one about how, after stopping three runs, Wisconsin just needed to fumble the punt. So of course, the returner fumbles the punt, but this time is lucky enough for it to bounce straight out of bounds.

And the QB takes a sack to begin the drive. Perfect.

Ooh, looky here. With 30-ish to go, a throw goes right through the defender's hands and is somehow caught, Wisconsin has it down to the 35. Could they somehow tie it up still?

63
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 7:06pm

The Maizeout was awesome.

64
by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 7:12pm

It's great to be a Michigan Wolverine!!!!

Wow, I did not see that coming. I was at a daytime wedding, didn't get home til halftime. I was about the fire up the DVR from the beginning when I made the mistake of checking my cell. Text from SDA emeritus Vinny: "This is unbearable".

At that point, I just decided to turn on the TV and proceeded to witness an unbelievable comeback win.

I don't really care what happens the rest of the year. OK, that's a lie. But RichRod has the defining win of his first season.

61
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 7:00pm

Michigan pulls it out of there behind it looks like.

62
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 7:02pm

Wow! Evridge spends the whole day sucking, but rifles a perfect pass right on target on the post, touchdown Wisconsin with 13 seconds to go!

And a great pass on the 2-pointer, we're going to overtime. Uh, wait...

Penalty on Wisconsin for ineligible downfield - looks like an illegal formation. Re-try from the 8, no good. Sigh...

65
by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 7:13pm

Oh, and I'm off to an 0-4 start this week and I do not care!

66
by War Eagle (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 8:18pm

I think I let Glen Coffey have the ball on third and 1, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

67
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 9:20pm

If someone would have told me my team was up 31-0 at halftime against the #3 team in the country, I would not believe it at all. But I will take it. Totally awesome.

68
by Solomon (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 9:47pm

Russell -- I mentioned previously that I disliked your podcast with Orson Swindle (sp?), but the last two podcasts were much better. Maybe I will listen to a few more. I live in Ohio, so I am not one of the far-flung listeners. Nunavut -- who would have guessed that one?

Ohio State finally played a decent game against a 1-A team this year (not that Minnesota is that great). It was 34-6 before Minny scored some garbage points. Boeckman played a little in the second half and looked decent. Most of y'all probably missed the game, as it aired on the Big Ten Network. Hopefully, good OSU is back (as in the one that wins most of its conference games and not the bad OSU that showed up vs. Florida & Southern Cal). Looks like OSU might get a rematch w/ Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.

What a crazy week -- OSU beats USC (the wrong OSU, though), Florida loses, and Alabama is throttling Georgia 31-0 at the half!

It was bizarre watching the last few minutes of Wisky-Michigan. I thought it would help Ohio State more if Wisky lost, but I could not bring myself to cheer for Michigan.

69
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 10:14pm

I HATE HATE HATE Alabama.

Now that that's out of the way, someone tell me how they're not the #1 team in the nation.

This is why I love college football. Being #1 has meaning, and who would have even dreamt Alabama would or should be #1 before the season started?

70
by Dales :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 10:20pm

As a fan of the God-awful Razorbacks, who have gotten slaughtered by Alabama and Texas back-to-back, I can say that my opinion is that Texas is better. We actually could do things against Alabama, but kept having pick-6s and other crap that we brought on ourselves make it a blowout. Texas just plain skunked us.

71
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 10:39pm

No offense, but Texas hasn't posted wins as strong as those against Georgia and Clemson. Even though Clemson lost to Maryland...Texas' non-conf schedule is an embarrassment.

Texas has nothing to worry about, though. If they run the Big-12, they will have a chance to play for the National Championship.

72
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 10:39pm

Alabama special team's sucks so bad so far this year.

But we make enough plays to win this game. I love it. We aren't the best team in the country by a long shot, but we only have 10 seniors as well.

73
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 10:57pm

Alabama played a bad 2nd half, but Georgia had everything to gain and Alabama came out flat.

Biggest win for Bama since 1999 at the Swamp (when Florida had a huge win streak at the Swamp at the time).

74
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:11pm

LionsBob, no disrespect, but I hate Bama.

The detached pollster in me says they are #1. If you disagree, tell me who. Oklahoma? I see the argument. But Alabama blowing out Georgia and Clemson trumps OU beating TCU and Cincy.

77
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:26pm

I don't know if Bama is #1. They are good, but I have not seen Oklahoma play yet and I think Missouri and Oklahoma will give Alabama fits right now.

The special teams have been bad which is the most upsetting.

Still a lot of football to play-and there are teams like Kentucky and Ole Miss that I am concerned about and road games to Tennessee and LSU. Plus we still have the Auburn monkey on our back. I am just along for the ride right now.

75
by War Eagle (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:12pm

This is the stupidity of pre-season polls. No one has a resume even close to Alabama's, but they won't be #1.

76
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:22pm

I disagree on so many levels. Pre-Season polls will not be Alabama's "problem", and my guess is that you'll see that tomorow when they are ranked #2, very close to #1.

78
by War Eagle (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:33pm

I don't think the polls are really relevant to a "problem." I do think if only the results of this season are considered, Alabama has done significantly more than OU. Pre-season expectations stabilize the rankings among teams with the same win-loss record. Thus, OU and possibly other teams will be ranked ahead of a team that has shown more this season because of how good the pollsters guessed they'd be before the season. That is stupid.

Fortunately, most of the time this doesn't matter because the top teams lose and things sort themselves out. Sadly, sometimes they do not and teams go to the NC game because they were ranked higher in the preseason polls, as in 2004. That's less of a problem with polls, and more of a problem with the BCS I suppose. Still, it's a pretty dumb system top to bottom.

80
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:43pm

What you call "pre-season expectations" I call asking how good ther teams really are. Using your formula, eight days ago East Carolina would have been a reasonable #1. Today that would have seemed a silly and reactionary position, based on limited information.

Face it- we KNEW ECW really wasn't that good. And they weren't.

Bottom line, it all works itself out. And Auburn's 2004 had everything to do with it's embarrassing non-conference schedule and nothing to do with it's pre-season ranking.

79
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:42pm

So Penn State just scores 38 points (and probably could've scored more before kneeling it out) versus a real opponent, and one of Penn State's previous opponents now looks a lot better. One major note: the fumbling dilemma Penn State was way more under control. Also great to see Derrick Williams have a fantastic game.

Score one for the Blogpoll, where Penn State is only going to move up from #9 to #6 (presumedly), as opposed to jumping up from #12 to #6 (again, presumedly).

And at least Russell gets a push out of it.

81
by War Eagle (not verified) :: Sat, 09/27/2008 - 11:58pm

Kevin:

The flaws of a week 1, 2, 3 poll are the same as the flaws of a preseason poll: lack of information, small sample size. That doesn't mean they aren't flaws. They are flaws that should be minimized as much as possible, not exacerbated by speculation before a single game is even played.

You're pointing out that it will all work out this year. I agree. I'm pointing out that there's a bias in the system.

86
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 1:29am

You know, it's funny that you say that. Because it's testable. Just compare the final AP rankings with any of the statistical rankings, and then look for a correlation between a difference between the AP-statistical rankings and preseason-final rankings.

I'd honestly be surprised if one exists. I think by the end of the year, most preseason ideas are pretty much gone, or have been reinforced by reality.

82
by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 12:18am

War Eagle:

We agree that a September poll is flawed. It is what it is.

What I do, what Russell does, and what MGO does is that it starts over every week. The polls aren't inherently flawed, but the methodology of some that vote are.

I'm shocked that UTEP blew out UCF.

1. Alabama
2. Oklahoma
3. LSU
4. Penn State
5. Missouri
6. BYU
7. South Florida
8. Texas
9. Auburn
10. Southern Cal
11. Florida
12. Texas Tech
13. Georgia
14. Utah
15. Virginia Tech
16. Ohio State
17. Kansas
18. Boise State
19. Illinois
20. Maryland
21. Oregon
22. Wisconsin
23. North Carolina
24. California
25. TCU

90
by bear goggles (not verified) :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 5:54pm

Not bad.

But, Auburn???

85
by DMP (not verified) :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 12:33am

Just wanted to point out BadgerT1000 incredible foresight going into the Wisconsin-Michigan game, on the first page of comments. Golly gee, spot on!

And for Russell, what a gift it must have been to have only seen the second half of that game. Wow, what an incredible collapse for Wisconsin. It takes pretty tremendous collapses to impress this MSU football fan, and boy, I'm impressed.

87
by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 9:55am

For the first time in a long time I'm anxious to see the polls come out. Here's my prediction for what they look like, first place votes in parenthesis:

1. Oklahoma (27)
2. Alabama (32)
3. LSU (4)
4. Missouri (1)
5. Texas (1)

Oklahoma will be in everyone's top two, while some of the voters will have Alabama ranked lower than two. The top spot will be decided by a very small margin.

88
by lionsbob :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 2:27pm

Well the polls came out. AP Poll has Bama at 2, Oklahoma at #1. USA Today poll has Oklahoma at 1, LSU at 2, Missouri at 3, and Bama at 4. With Oklahoma having almost all of the 1st place votes.

89
by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 09/28/2008 - 3:23pm

I was right for the most part: Oklahoma is #1 with 1,599 points, Alabama is #2 with 1,565 points. That's really close.

What I didn't forecast correctly was Oklahoma getting 43 first place votes and Alabama getting 21. This indicates that most voters had Alabama #1 or #2.

Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas all control their own destiny at this point. Win out, and the National Title is yours. Georgia, Florida, Auburn, Penn State and Texas Tech *very likely* can write their own ticket by winning out. Southern Cal, BYU, South Florida, etc need help and could very well get it.