Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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04 Oct 2008

7th Day Adventure: Upset Fallout

by Russell Levine


The SDA Podcast

 

 

Well, that was fun.

Nothing gets a college football fan's blood pumping like a smörgåsbord of upsets such as we had last week. Following the shake-up, the Big 12 moves to the top of the heap, with Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas all in the top five.

Missouri and Texas face potentially tricky games this week, while Oklahoma gets Baylor as it waits for the enormous game against Texas in Dallas next week. But it's probably safest not to assume anything -- including wins over Baylor -- as this college football season begins to resemble the wackiness of 2007.

Come along for the ride with this week's podcast, and don't forget that this article serves as the college open thread all week long.

This Week's Guest

ESPN The Magazine senior writer Bruce Feldman was kind enough to make his third appearance on the SDA podcast. He's based in Los Angeles, and follows the USC program closely. He also spent a year embedded at Ole Miss researching the book Meat Market, which chronicled a season on the recruiting trail with former Rebels coach Ed Orgeron.

I wanted to gauge Bruce's opinion on a couple of things. First, why do games like the Oregon State contest keep happening to USC? Second, is it foolish to dismiss USC's title chances after the loss?

Everyone was quick to write the 2008 Trojans' obituary after the game, but 48 hours later, three other top-five teams had lost. Will poll voters really vote to punish the likes of USC and Ohio State, or will they do what they always do, which is knock teams down after a loss and then start moving them back up as others lose?

Bruce also weighs in on the three Big 12 powers, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, two of which have intriguing games this weekend.

I hope you'll listen in.

This Week's Games

Oregon State (+11.5) at No. 15 Utah, Thursday, 9 p.m. ET, Versus

It's good to see the Beavers gained some respect with bettors after taking down USC. Uh, not so much. Ten days later, Oregon State is a heavy underdog at Mountain West power Utah. Part of the reason for the line is the Mountain West's dominance over the Pac-10 this season, and part of it has to do with the feeling that there's no way Oregon State can repeat the kind of effort it showed against the Trojans, especially on the road against a good Utah team. I saw Utah up close when it beat Michigan in the opener, a game that should not have been as close as the final score indicated. Brian Johnson is an excellent dual-threat quarterback, but if Oregon State can get pressure with the front four the way it did against Mark Sanchez, he can be disrupted. After torching the Michigan defense in the first half, Utah barely moved the ball after intermission as the Michigan defensive line asserted itself. I like Utah, but the line is too high.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Utah | RUSSELL: Oregon State

No. 7 Texas Tech (-7.5) at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Maybe Mike Leach has this scheduling thing right. Year after year, the Red Raiders are to soft scheduling what Alaska is to pork-barrel spending. Leach and his club fatten up on a bunch of directional patsies while attrition starts to chip away at the teams above them. By the time conference play starts, Texas Tech is highly ranked -- and completely untested. But should they pull off an upset over one of the Big 12 powers, they'll be right in the thick of the BCS talk. If they falter, well, those four gimme wins have them two-thirds of the way to a bowl bid without playing anything more than a glorified scrimmage. For the record, I hate this approach, but until voters truly punish teams for soft scheduling, we're going to see more and more of it. I'd like to say Leach's club will stumble in its first game that even resembles a test, but Kansas State's defense is terrible and this is a really bad matchup for the Wildcats.

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

No. 13 Auburn (-4.5) at No. 19 Vanderbilt, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN

If the financial crisis doesn't have you packing up the ammo and heading for a compound in Montana, maybe this will: College GameDay is coming to Vandy to check out the 'Dores, who are a perfect 4-0 on the season. What was a cute early season story took on a more impressive tone when one of Vandy's victims, Ole Miss, went on to beat Florida on the road. Might the Commodores be for real? We'll find out over the next five weeks, when they play not only Auburn, but Georgia and Florida as well. Vanderbilt has been down this road before, starting 4-0 in 2005 before finishing 5-6, but this team seems different. Auburn, with its new spread offense, would love to be getting the production that Vanderbilt is getting out of Chris Nickson. Auburn's offense has been downright painful to watch the past two games, putting up a total of 17 points in a pair of wins over Mississippi State and Tennessee.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Vanderbilt (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: Auburn

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No. 5 Texas (-14) at Colorado, 7 p.m. ET, FSN

Texas has been Oklahoma-like in destroying all comers so far this season. The Longhorns hope they can avoid what happened to Oklahoma in its Big 12 opener at Boulder last season, when Colorado pulled off a stunning upset. Texas's defense is much improved under new coordinator Will Muschamp, but it is the offense that is making headlines. Colt McCoy has shaken off the sophomore slump to throw for 1,018 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception, while completing 80 percent of his throws. Colorado should have the backing of a terrific home crowd, which helped spur the Buffs to an upset of West Virginia two weeks ago. Colorado went on the road and was beaten soundly by Florida State as coach's kid Cody Hawkins threw three interceptions. He can't afford to be that loose with the ball against a Texas team that is far better than the Seminoles.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Colorado | RUSSELL: Texas

No. 24 Connecticut (+7) at North Carolina, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

North Carolina is very quietly putting together a solid season in Butch Davis's second year. Only a late-game collapse against Virginia Tech stands between the Tar Heels and an undefeated record. Both teams have injury problems at quarterback. UConn's Tyler Lorenzen broke his foot in last week's come-from-behind win over Louisville and is out for two months. North Carolina's T.J. Yates was sidelined with a broken ankle two weeks ago, leaving junior Cameron Sexton and freshman Mike Paulus to fight it out for playing time under center.

THE PICKS -- FEI: North Carolina | RUSSELL: North Carolina (Edelstein Lock)

No. 23 Oregon (+16.5) at No. 9 USC, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Who shows up for Southern Cal? Is it the swaggering team that dismantled Ohio State the last time it had the Saturday night spotlight? Or is it the overconfident one that was pushed around by Oregon State one game later? USC figures to be in a pretty salty mood by the time this game kicks off. The Oregon State loss has pushed the Trojans over some sort of tipping point for criticism about their tendency to pull a no-show at least once a year. Despite everyone's predictions to the contrary, USC is not out of the national title race, but it better put a few impressive results in the "W" column. Oregon is no pushover, no matter how banged up the Ducks are at quarterback, and a rout by USC would go a long way to burying the Oregon State game in the memory banks of the voters. Oregon beat USC last year when the tables were turned at quarterback, as John David Booty sat out the game with an injury and was replaced by Mark Sanchez. This time, it's the Ducks that are hurting at quarterback. Justin Roper is expected back, but he could be gimpy on an injured knee -- not a good situation against an angry USC defensive front. Roper's also missed practice this week with a mysterious illness, rumored to be mononucleosis. If the Trojans can't cover here, I will not ride them as a big favorite again this year. They'll be dead to me.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Oregon | RUSSELL: USC

No. 14 Ohio State (-1.5) at No. 18 Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

This game was supposed to mean so much more. Both teams were supposed to come in undefeated, and the winner would emerge still in the thick of the national title hunt. Instead, each has suffered a humiliating loss and each is trying to claw its way back into the championship picture and the poll voters' good graces. As badly as Ohio State was outplayed by USC, Wisconsin's loss to Michigan was worse. How bad was it? One of the back-breaking plays was a 58-yard quarterback keeper by Michigan's Steven Threet. The stats of the game were so astounding (Michigan's first 10 possessions generated 21 yards, one first down, and five turnovers) that they defied description. On Sunday morning, I had the following IM conversation with Orson Swindle of EDSBS:

Orson Swindle: I am looking at the box score of your game and attempting to figure out how the f@#k this happened. Steven Threet did NOT run for a 58-yard gain.

Me: I told you it was crazy. You must see the highlight (fast-forward to the 3:10 mark to see Threet's run):


Orson: That's Chris Leak-esque.

Me: Except if Chris Leak was taller, slower, ganglier, and paler.

Orson: I'm floored. The box score literally makes NO sense. I think that's the worst loss [Saturday] in terms of pure collapse.

Me: Has to be.

Orson: Florida-Ole Miss was tight the whole way. Georgia was brutalized. This was blowing a tire on the runway and rolling a 747.

Me: I like Threet. He's a potential train wreck every time he gets the snap, but occasionally good things happen too. He's got some "moxie."

Orson: Get it how you live it, playa: Slow, white, and unstoppable.

Me: I love how Threet protects the ball like 15 yards before getting tackled. He's all "where are you, defense?"

Orson: "Please tackle me. This is scary."

Me: If you look real close, you can see pieces of the leg braces flying off as he runs.

Can Wisconsin overcome something like that? Against an Ohio State team that has finally, deservedly, stapled Todd Boeckman to the bench in favor of Terrelle Pryor? I think not.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Wisconsin | RUSSELL: Ohio State

No. 4 Missouri (-10.5) at Nebraska, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Bo Pelini, the gum-chomping, bar-patrolling, penalty-getting new coach at Nebraska made some noise this week, musing about how he'd like to see his team shut out high-powered Missouri. I am officially done waiting for Nebraska to prove it is "back." The Huskers have basically failed every test since being emasculated by Colorado seven years ago. When they finally prove themselves in a big game, I will apologize and begin paying attention to them again. Until then, I'm going the other way.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Nebraska | RUSSELL: Missouri

Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
Oregon State +11.5 Utah Utah Oregon State
Texas Tech -7.5 Kansas State Texas Tech Texas Tech
Auburn -4.5 Vanderbilt Vanderbilt* Auburn
Texas -14 Colorado Colorado Texas
Connecticut +7 North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina*
Oregon +16.5 USC Oregon USC
Ohio State -1.5 Wisconsin Wisconsin Ohio State
Missouri -10.5 Nebraska Nebraska Missouri
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI: 2-5-1 (0-0-1) 15-23-1 (1-3-1)
Russell: 3-4-1 (0-1-0) 17-21-1 (1-4-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 04 Oct 2008

29 comments, Last at 06 Oct 2008, 2:22pm by witless chum

Comments

1
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 10/02/2008 - 1:12pm

I said in last week's comment thread that I wasn't comfortable about any of the picks, and my record reflected it-a dismal 1-6-1, though at least Boomer Sooner came through for me on the Edelstein Lock. That's an aggregate 7-9-1 (2-0) after two weeks.

This week, thankfully, isn't feeling like the same kind of ever-lovin' disaster, but we'll see. Picks: Oregon State, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Texas, UConn, USC (Edelstein), Ohio State, Missouri.

Oh, and some measure of sanity has returned to college football, as the closest thing FEI is picking to a crazy upset is Northern Illinois over Tennessee, and, frankly, who trusts the Vols this year? Last week's FEI crazy upset projection, which I didn't notice, was Minnesota over Ohio State.

2
by CoreyG (not verified) :: Thu, 10/02/2008 - 1:17pm

I don't know how you could have missed the miraculous simultaneous strip/interception against Miami in the end-zone that would have given Miami, in all likelihood, the win. That win was a hell of a lot closer than the collapse against VT.

3
by dvdburns@yahoo.com :: Thu, 10/02/2008 - 2:03pm

The funny thing about FEI is that even though the picks on here look bad, the overall picture is drastically better - if you've been following it, which I have. Minnesota was a 19 pt dog last week, so if you were a betting man (which I just might be), then FEI did you just fine. FEI also correctly predicted 6 road upsets against Vegas: North Carolina, UConn, Maryland, San Jose State, Va Tech, and Stanford. These teams were all underdogs on the road. So if you were a betting man (which I just might be =D), and you bet the spreads and the money lines for these games, you'd be pretty darn happy with FEI. Quite happy indeed.

4
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 10/02/2008 - 3:10pm

"after year, the Red Raiders are to soft scheduling what Alaska is to pork-barrel spending."

Alaska DOES share a close maritime border with Russia, though. THAT's a tough matchup!

Impressive record by the way.

5
by Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 10/02/2008 - 3:17pm

I agree that the off-Saturday games do allow us the opportunity to see some different games.

Going into the Florida-Mississippi (as a Gator and Tebow fan) I was concerned by a few things:

The Gators were 9-0 in turnovers. While some teams force more turnovers, eventually most fumble recoveries drift back towards 50%.

The Gators were getting about 250 yards per game. This is a huge drop from previous years. Some of this is the offensive line.

Tim Tebow was only passing about 100 yards per game. This is pathetic. Has Tebow thrown a completion more than about 12 yards? I think he has thrown a couple, but most of his long passes have been incomplete (overthrows from the strong-armed QB without sufficient air for the receiver to catch up to the ball). He throws a nice, short pass where Harvin can get 5-40 YAC. He just does not seem to be on the same page as his receivers. Some of this may be not playing as much with his receivers, but some just seems to be Tebow (he did not have a lot of great, long passes last year except for the game against Florida State).

I think that the most consistent Florida RB, Moody, should get the ball more often. This seemed to be some of the more successful plays, as well as the short passes to Harvin. Is it possible that Tebow is not hitting his 2nd or 3rd read often enough?

I think Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma could all do very well this year. Of course, as a Gator I fondly remember when Stoops was the DC for Florida. (far better than Charlie Strong, IMO)

6
by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 10/02/2008 - 5:43pm

After a hot start I'm all the way down to 6 - 6 this year.

1. Baylor +28 over Oklahoma. Baylor has looked sharp so far this year, athanks to Art Briles. Five years ago I openly mocked Houston for hiring a high school coach, but it turned out to be the right move. Oklahoma has Texas next week. They'll call off the dogs early.

2. Connecticut +7 over North Carolina. Sorry, Russell. The Heels had Miami last week, and Notre Dame next week. UConn will be solid even without Lorenzen, and UNC doesn't have much film on the backup.

7
by lionsbob :: Thu, 10/02/2008 - 11:07pm

Well there goes Beano Cook's new choice for his national championship team in South Florida. Pitt needed the win.

8
by ChrisH :: Fri, 10/03/2008 - 8:28am

Now I haven't watched the 2nd half yet (and watched the first half while watching the VP debate as well), but Oregon State made a classic mistake that other teams seem to make: Going for the 2 point conversion way too early after missing an XP. Down 20-9 at the end of the 1st half, OSU scores and then goes for 2, missed, and is down 20-15. They score again in the 3rd quarter, now 21-20, and once again go for 2 and miss it. At least once they scored another TD they only went for the XP to make it 28-20 with 2:30 left instead of going for 2, but had they just gone for the XP both times (and saying they make it), 30-20 with 2:30 left is a much better position. They could have forced Utah to try an onside kick after their TD, or they could have just run the ball 3 times after Utah's first TD to force them to burn all their timeouts instead of being tied and throwing in an attempt to win.

Coaches need to realize that going for 2 in the first half (I'd say before the 4th quarter honestly) is a losing bet since you don't know what's going to happen the rest of the game, and it leads to situations like this. I think the stats might say the odds on this are about even (since a 2 pt converts a little over 50% of the time), but the emotional swing you give the other team after you fail on a 2 pt conversion is something that I'm sure isn't factored into that equation. I'll watch the game later today and see what actually happened.

9
by Dennis :: Fri, 10/03/2008 - 9:19am

ITA. You should never go for 2 in the first half, and very rarely in 3rd quarter. Those missed points always seem to come back to haunt you.

10
by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 10/03/2008 - 7:34pm

Pitt has rebounded to 4 - 1 after the opening loss to BGSU, with wins against USF and Iowa. With the Big East wide open, Pitt is as good a pick as any team to win a wide open Big East.

I'd feel bad for the Fiesta Bowl if they got stuck with an 8 - 4 Big East team- again.

11
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 9:58am

Russell said “I am officially done waiting for Nebraska to prove it is "back."

I don’t think they’re coming back, at least not long term. Nebraska was a dominant program in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, but I firmly believe that those days are over.

Seriously, what can Nebraska offer that fifty or sixty other programs cannot?

They used to be able to sell players like Turner Gill and Tommie Frazier on the I-Formation. That’s gone. In the 80’s they had strong recruiting ties in New Jersey, in the 90’s they had ties in Los Angeles- those days are over.

They might get lucky and hire the next Ubercoach, but you could say that about Colorado, Texas A & M, Kansas State, etc.

Prediction: the glory days of Nebraska football are as finished as the glory days of SMU and Army. That’s not saying they’ll never be good again, but they’ll never be dominant in the long term like they once were.

12
by Tom Gower :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 1:07pm

I think SMU and Army is a little much-Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Michigan State, and Clemson seem like better comps to me, though without the same high peak.

17
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 5:53pm

I don’t think they’re coming back, at least not long term. Nebraska was a dominant program in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, but I firmly believe that those days are over.

Maybe, but Nebraska has had longer stretches of mediocrity in the past and come back. They were in the National Championship Game as recently as 2001.

Seriously, what can Nebraska offer that fifty or sixty other programs cannot?

Dedication to football? Football is and will continue to be priority #1 for the university and the state. There are a lot fewer than 50 or 60 places where that is the case.

Maybe you are saying that scholarship parity means that the day of the college football superpower is over, and you may well be right, but that's true of everywhere, not just Nebraska. Long term I see no reason to favor USC or Oklahoma as a football school over Nebraska.

They used to be able to sell players like Turner Gill and Tommie Frazier on the I-Formation. That’s gone.

That's funny, because in 2001 people were saying that sticking to the I-formation was killing recruiting. Now all of a sudden it was the key to their success.

20
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 7:17pm

Didn't Nebraska play in the National Championship Game in 2001?

Look where Nebraska has been since then. Maybe "what people were saying" was wrong.

Seriously, today everyone is going with small and quick spread offense. While everyone adjusts with a small, quick defense, the counter to that may be to go with three yards and a cloud of dust.

13
by Tom Gower :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 1:39pm

Iowa State is thoroughly outplaying Kansas so far, up 20-0. KU has turned the ball over a couple times, and the Cyclones can't throw an incompletion. KU had a little bit of success, but just punted away on 4&3 from midfield at 2Q 6:40. I'm generally not a big fan of going for it in the first half, but the Jayhawks needed something this drive, especially with a defense that hasn't stopped anything.

14
by joe football (not verified) :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 2:00pm

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

Additionally, this week has to be the worst set of public FEI rankings yet released. Down with FEI

15
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 4:06pm

I can't believe how many empty seats there are for this game.

16
by Rocco :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 4:18pm

I have the volume down- what part of Matthews landed in-bounds? It looked like he landed out of bounds on top of the Illinois corner. Did his foot scrape the grass?

18
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 6:49pm

If we want SDA to remain, we need more posts.

C'mon, guys.

19
by Tom Gower :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 7:13pm

Ah, FO won't be able to sell SDA to ESPN, few page views/comments = less load on FO's servers = winning economics for FO. C'mon, Kevin, join us in IRC and let this thread go.

22
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 7:38pm

I get a ARTEMIS.DRWILCO.NET site.

21
by Rocco :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 7:18pm

Man, Kenny Chesney looks like a ginormous runt standing next to Herbie and Musberger (neither of whom are ogres).

23
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 8:25pm

I love Musberger and Herbstreit, but they are pulling WAY too hard for Vandy.

If Tennessee loses to a Northern Illinois...poor Phil Fulmer.

24
by Spoilt Victoria... :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 9:20pm

Dear Lord how did it happen. 5-0.

Fortunately I have the Phillies losing to keep my brain from exploding.

25
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 10:51pm

Does Bobby Johnson use a washcloth as a comb?

What's up with his hair?

26
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sat, 10/04/2008 - 11:33pm

Up 44-10, and USC's committing personal fouls and pass interference? Jeez, Pete Carroll. Running up the score is fine, but when you're up 44-10 late in the 4th quarter, make sure your guys play with some dignity.

It's a little overly obvious that USC's trying to make a statement to get themselves back into title game consideration.

(And God, could the USC love from the announcers get any worse? Constantly referring to Pete Carroll as 'the winningest active coach in college football'? What does that even mean?)

27
by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 10/05/2008 - 9:26am

1. Alabama- barely clinging to #1 after a close win.
2. Oklahoma- a win next week against Texas should vault then up to #1.
3. Missouri
4, Penn State
5. Texas
6. LSU- they drop, as the win at Auburn looks less impressive now.
7. Utah- Utah beat Oregon State, and Oregon State beat USC.
8. Southern Cal
9. Vanderbilt- the question isn't whether or not they'll bowl, but how big of a bowl they'll go to. Not a BCS, but at this point New Year's Day isn't out of the question.
10. Georgia
11. BYU
12. Florida
13. Virginia Tech
14. Ohio State
15. North Carolina
16. California
17. Texas Tech
18. Boise State- no real idea where to rank this team. My guess is they'll be dropping, as the Oregon win may not look as impressive as it did when it happened, and they play literaly NO ONE for the rest of the season.
19. Illinois
20. Oklahoma St
21. Kentucky
22. Michigan State
23. TCU
24. Auburn
25. Pittsburgh

29
by witless chum :: Mon, 10/06/2008 - 2:22pm

As an MSU fan, them being ranked worries me. Northwestern gave us fits last year and our secondary got majorly banged up in the Iowa win. Whew, that was close, by the way. DT Michael Jordan created space at the line on fourth and two feet with 2:20 or so left and MLB Adam Decker shot through the gap to nail Shonn Greene for a three-yard loss. Brian Hoyer kept things exciting by fumbling a snap while we were trying to run out the clock, but it bounced underneath our left guard.

A lot of people are down on Ferentz for not kicking the 39 yard field goal when down 16-13, but Iowa has a freshman kicker and they'd been gashing the Spartan defense with Greene. Also, kicking would have left MSU time to mount a drive, but we've done that approximately zero times in the Dantonio era.

28
by Solomon (not verified) :: Mon, 10/06/2008 - 12:32am

Nothing really to add here, other than being excited over Ohio State's victory.

As someone mentioned earlier, what happened to all the posters? I thought these threads received around 200 posts on average last year.