Our offseason Four Downs series continues with a division-by-division look at each team's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. In the NFC North, quality wide receivers and defensive backs are in short supply.
04 Sep 2008
by Russell Levine
College football provided us a few surprises and a few emphatic statements last week. This week's slate of games on paper may not look as strong, especially not with Ohio State set to visit USC in the season's biggest non-conference game next week. But, then again, raise your hand if you thought Tennessee-UCLA and Virginia Tech-East Carolina would be the best games last week.
One theme to look for this weekend: redemption. The Big East, the Big Ten, and most notably the ACC got off to poor starts to the season, but all three have the chance to redeem themselves in noteworthy games, some of which made our list of eight below.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com, and also the author of the recently released The Maisel Report: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players, Coaches, Games, Stadiums, and Traditions in College Football. He's also probably the most esteemed guest I've had on the podcast.
Maisel's name is synonymous with college football. His 22 consecutive years on the national beat is the longest current uninterrupted tenure in America. He was kind enough to join me to review the opening-week impressions and preview this week's games, including some of the ones listed below.
Tune in to find out who impressed Maisel last week, and who needs to be on upset alert this weekend.
Thanks to those of you who have become fans of the SDA Podcast page at Facebook. I hope to see a bunch of new faces over there each week.
Remember, the Facebook page is the perfect place to post your tailgating pictures and videos, your predictions, your argument-starting message-board rants.
This week's Facebook Question of the Week is: Who is your favorite all-time college football player, and why? Most college football junkies that I know have a few sometimes-obscure players that they keep close to their heart. Click over to Facebook to see my choices, and leave your own. I'll post the best of your responses in this space next week.
Last week's question inspired only a few replies of those willing to post their BCS title-game predictions. Alabama fan Anthony Peek offered the following:
I don't think anyone makes it through the season unscathed (BCS team-wise). Of course I am going to pick one team that will then go on to lose in Week 1, making me look like an idiot. But I am going to say Missouri. They have the big game against Illinois and go to Texas, all the other games are winnable (though I do think the Big 12 North is going to be better then what it was last season, they do miss Oklahoma and Texas Tech in the regular season) and of course they have to beat someone like Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or Texas (again) in the Big 12 Championship. They have the weapons on offense and a strong defense (that held Texas Tech to 10 points last year).
The other team, USC ... because why not? They are probably the most talented team in the country. Amazingly enough, wide receiver might be a weak point for them (to the extent that they need someone to step up). They have a host of Parade All-American running backs to play in the backfield, and the defense should be healthier then what it was last season (like Brian Cushing). They beat Ohio State and the Pac-10 is good, but USC stands clearly above them.
So yes, USC-Missouri (though deep down I know Ohio State will be back in the championship game)
(For the record, I'm saying Auburn over Ohio State).
Here's this week's slate, along with start times and TV Networks, followed by my picks and those of Brian Fremeau, based on his Fremeau Efficiency Index. For more on his predictions, please check out his blog.
Steve Spurrier's defense looked awfully tough in opening shutout of North Carolina State. This week, he turns to Chris Smelley at quarterback to try and give the offense a boost.
The picks: FEI: South Carolina | RUSSELL: South Carolina
Paul Johnson's wishbone attack gets its first real test against rebuilding Boston College.
The picks: FEI: Boston College | RUSSELL: Georgia Tech
The Beavers fell flat in an opening loss to Stanford, and now travel cross-country to take on 1-0 Penn State, which enjoyed a walkover against Coastal Carolina.
The picks: FEI: Oregon State | RUSSELL: Penn State
This could be one of the weekend's more interesting matchups. Ed Orgeron left plenty of talent at Ole Miss (including former Texas quarterback Jevan Snead) for Houston Nutt to mold into a winner. Wake Forest may have to uphold the ACC's dignity in this one.
The picks: FEI: Wake Forest | RUSSELL: Wake Forest
Another game with sneaky-good potential. Brian Kelley made some great strides at Cincinnati last year. Now he gets the ultimate test against Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma.
The picks: FEI: Cincinnati | RUSSELL: Oklahoma
East Carolina, fresh off its upset win over Virginia Tech, now gets Pat White and friends, but at home in Greenville. Say one thing for Skip Holtz, he subscribes to the Pat Hill school of scheduling.
The picks: FEI: West Virginia (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: West Virginia (Edelstein Lock)
Remember when Miami, Florida, and Florida State vied annually for college football supremacy? Things haven't been the same at The U since Butch Davis left -- even though Larry Coker won a national title with the players Davis left him. Florida has a far easier path to a national title than presumptive SEC favorite Georgia, but the Gators need to dominate here.
The picks: FEI: Florida | RUSSELL: Florida
Lost in some of last week's bigger upsets was Stanford's solid home victory over Oregon State -- thought by
many me to be a sleeper in the Pac-10. Is Jim Harbaugh building something on the Farm? If Stanford can get to Rudy Carpenter, they have a puncher's chance.
The picks: FEI: Stanford | RUSSELL: Stanford
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||FEI Says||Russell Says|
|South Carolina||-10.5||Vanderbilt||South Carolina||South Carolina|
|Georgia Tech||+7||Boston College||Boston College||Georgia Tech|
|Oregon State||+16.5||Penn State||Oregon State||Penn State|
|Mississippi||+8||Wake Forest||Wake Forest||Wake Forest|
|West Virginia||-9||East Carolina||West Virginia*||West Virginia*|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
48 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2008, 2:58pm by horn