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.
11 Sep 2008
by Russell Levine
After a ho-hum slate of games last week, this week brings the first must-see game of the 2008 season. Will the Buckeyes look better than they did in squeaking past Ohio U? Can USC be as dominant as it looked against Virginia?
There are plenty of other intriguing matchups this week. See below for picks and commentary on the best of the lot.
Come kickoff time at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night, rejoin us back here on this article page for the first-ever Football Outsiders liveblog, as I host commentary about the OSU-USC contest along with FO's other college writers, Brian Fremeau and Bill Connelly. As long as you're on the couch watching the game, grab the laptop and join us. The liveblog will open up for comments a half-hour before the game, at 7:30 p.m. ET. Until then, please post your college comments here, as this article serves as the college open thread.
Orson Swindle of Every Day Should Be Saturday and The Sporting Blog, and a frequent SDA Podcast guest, was kind enough to step in at the last minute this week and give his unique insights on everything from the Ohio State-USC game, to Dog the Bounty Hunter, to mullets, to last week's Washington-BYU controversy.
Plus, we chat a bit about why SEC fans love their conference so much, and whether Steve Spurrier is now mailing it in at South Carolina. Oh, and if you're wondering why fans from Ohio are so bitter, well, Orson has some opinions on that matter too.
But Orson knows his football, and he has plenty of cogent analysis about the most problematic matchups for the Buckeyes against the Trojans, as well as his prediction.
Thanks to those of you who have become fans of the SDA Podcast page at Facebook. Please click over and check it out.
Are you going to one of the big games this week? Or any game at all for that matter? Post your photos and videos of the scene on the Facebook page. Become a fan to receive notification as soon as the newest podcast episode is posted.
Plus, I want to hear your answers to this week's Facebook Question of the Week: Which conference is better top-to-bottom: The SEC or the Big 12? Post your answers on the page. The best responses will appear in this space next week.
Last week's question, "who is your all-time favorite college football player, and why?" sparked a number of good responses, none better than this, from Tim:
I never went to a big college, but growing up, my favorite player was Larry Allen. Living close to Sonoma State, you got a chance to just read all these neat stories about him and how he was just so much better than anyone else he'd see on the field. He would literally knock people out on his blocks, and there was a story that came out today in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that talked about his legend. At the time, he was somewhat obscure, but it's nice to know that he got his shot at playing in the big time. Dude's about as nice a guy as you'll ever meet, too. So he'd be my "obscure" player.
You don't just walk into Raymond James on a Friday night and walk out with a win over the Bulls, not even if you're the defending Orange Bowl champs. South Florida nearly let one slip away against Central Florida last week, but survived to keep a tiny shred of the Big East's dignity intact. After two weeks, the conference was just 8-7 and had lost games to the MAC (twice), the WAC, and Conference USA. No such trouble in the Big 12 (aggregate record: 22-2), which wants you to know that it's better than the SEC. That remains to be seen, but a solid win by Kansas would be nice for the resume.
THE PICKS -- FEI: South Florida | RUSSELL: South Florida
This is still my column (go blue!) with an assist from Notre Dame grad Brian (boo!), so I'll include this game if I want to. Yes, mgoblog has labeled this matchup "Cripple Fight 2008," and with good reason. Michigan's offense remains a mess, and a 15-yard pass appears beyond its ability. Did you actually see Notre Dame against San Diego State? Generally I find the "what if" game to be a waste of time, but I'll play anyway: What if San Diego State doesn't fumble on the goal line and wins that game? Would we be having a serious conversation about Charlie Weis's job security this week? I say yes. I have a hard time believing that Michigan's offense can put up 24 points on anybody, but this might be the worst team Michigan has played so far. I'll swallow hard and take the alma mater. Weis's reaction? "To hell with Michigan."
THE PICKS -- FEI: Notre Dame | RUSSELL: Michigan
Oregon is always a tough team to get a read on. Right now, the Ducks look like world-beaters, but they get their first real test against Purdue. This should be a high-scoring affair, with Oregon's Justin Roper and Purdue's Curtis Painter trading touchdown passes. Take the over.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Oregon | RUSSELL: Oregon (Lock)
Programming note: This game has been postponed until Sept. 27 due to Hurricane Ike.
Sure, Arkansas is 2-0, but just by the skin of its teeth -- despite opening against Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe. If this keeps up, Bobby Petrino might actually get fired before he can quit to take a better job. I kid! I kid! Bobby, you know I love you. What would I write about if it weren't for you duping some team out of a few million bucks every couple of years? Texas looked great against UTEP and should be licking its chops against to face its former SWC foe.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Arkansas | RUSSELL: Texas
OK Georgia, here's your first chance to show us you're up to the national title talk. South Carolina may not look like much after getting run over by Vanderbilt, but the Gamecocks have a nasty defense -- one that completely contained the Georgia offense in a road upset last season. Worth tuning in just to here Verne Lundquist, and to see if Knowshon Moreno hurdles anybody.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Georgia (Lock) | RUSSELL: South Carolina
UCLA has had a week off to revel in its win over Tennessee. Hopefully, Rick Neuheisel has used that time to convince his club that it won't win many more games if it doesn't play a lot better -- starting this week at BYU. The Cougars were less-than-overwhelming in extending the nation's longest win streak at Washington last week. No need to recap exactly how they won that game here, other than to say quarterback Max Hall has been spectacular so far this season. He'll be facing a much-improved UCLA defense that was dominant at times against Tennessee. I like BYU to win, but the line is too high for me.
THE PICKS -- FEI: BYU | RUSSELL: UCLA
Make sure to listen to the podcast for more in-depth analysis of this game. It has lost a little bit of luster thanks to Ohio State's close call against Ohio U, but it's still likely to be the biggest non-conference game of the regular season, and by a mile at that. A win puts either club in solid position for the BCS title game. It is questionable whether Ohio State has a chance without an effective Beanie Wells. Super-frosh quarterback Terrelle Pryor doesn't appear to be the answer, either. Despite all the hype, Senator Tressel and the University of Ohio State kept Pryor off the field in crunch time against the Bobcats. Ohio State has to keep this a low-scoring game to have a chance, because with or without a healthy Beanie, they're not going to score a ton against a USC defense that is loaded with future first-round picks.
THE PICKS -- FEI: Ohio State | RUSSELL: Ohio State
Fresno State had a well-earned reputation as BCS-busters earlier in this decade, but things fell apart just when the Bulldogs appeared to have peaked by very nearly winning at USC in 2005. Now, Pat Hill's club has its best chance to make noise on the national scene since that game by getting Wisconsin at home. The Badgers have been taking care of business the first two weeks, but they're stepping into a hornet's nest in what should be the most raucous crowd in Fresno State history. A win puts Fresno State on the path to an at-large BCS bid, or marks Wisconsin as a serious threat to Ohio State (or even makes them the Big Ten favorite, depending on what happens in Los Angeles).
THE PICKS -- FEI: Wisconsin | RUSSELL: Fresno State
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||FEI Says||Russell Says|
|Kansas||+3.5||South Florida||South Florida||South Florida|
|Michigan||-1||Notre Dame||Notre Dame||Michigan|
|Note: Game postponed until Sept. 27|
|Georgia||-7.5||South Carolina||Georgia*||South Carolina|
|Ohio State||+10.5||USC||Ohio State||Ohio State|
|Wisconsin||-1.5||Fresno State||Wisconsin||Fresno State|
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
64 comments, Last at 14 Sep 2008, 10:12pm by Pat (filler)