Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Sep 2008

Seventh Day Adventure: On Rocky Top

by Russell Levine


The SDA Podcast

 

 

Undaunted by my stellar 1-6 showing in last week's picks (I don't know whether or not to be thankful that Arkansas was postponed) and by Michigan's 143 turnovers against Notre Dame, I have returned for another week of college football podcasting and prognosticating.

Just as Michigan can find a silver lining in an 18-point loss to a team that couldn't get out of its own way last year or even last week, I choose to view my record last week as a place from which to improve. Given that I'm reasonably certain neither I nor any of my various writing partners or guests has ever posted an 0-8 week, I am confident in saying that I can only get better from here.

The SEC takes center stage this week, with three big games. Sure, the Georgia-Arizona State game looked like a better one before the Sun Devils went out and lost to UNLV on their home field last week, but it's still an interesting game given that Georgia almost never travels out of its time zone and is coming off a so-so showing against South Carolina last week. Elsewhere in the SEC, Florida and Tennessee renew pleasantries and Auburn and LSU get together in a game in which the over-under could be a single digit.

This Week's Guest

Last year, Orson Swindle of EDSBS.com was my guest during what he calls "Tennessee Hate Week." In the interests of equal time (and because Orson was kind enough to serve as a last-minute fill in on last week's podcast) we're going over to the Tennessee side this year.

Rabid Tennessee fan Clay Travis is an associate editor at Deadspin, where he frequently blogs about college football. Before getting the call from Gawker Media, he wrote the "ClayNation" column at CBS Sportsline. He's also the author of Dixieland Delight, which chronicles a season spent visiting all 12 SEC schools, and Man: The Book, which advises you whether that fruity drink you're holding is truly worthy of your gender.

Clay is currently working on his third book, which will follow the 2008 Tennessee season. Beyond giving him a valid excuse to attend every UT game this season, he is getting tremendous behind-the-scenes access to the players, their families, coaches, and team officials. He has a real insight into the inner workings of a big-time college football program, while maintaining the perspective of a fan.

He was kind enough to join me this week to discuss Tennessee's chances against Florida, as well as the week's other big SEC contests. We also continue the conversation (began last week with Orson) as to why fans of SEC schools are so willing to back their rivals against anyone else.

I hope you'll listen in.

This Week's Games

No. 21 West Virginia (-3) at Colorado, Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

West Virginia fans are already to take the torches to the furniture, and not in a good way, as the one-sided loss to East Carolina two weeks ago has plenty of people grumbling Rich Rodriguez's replacement, Bill Stewart. The Mountaineers (1-1) are still charitably ranked in the AP and coaches' polls, and the Thursday-night national TV spotlight gives them an excellent opportunity to wipe some of the egg off their face from the ECU loss. It won't come easily against crazy Dan Hawkins and the Buffs, who are off to a 2-0 start.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Colorado | RUSSELL: West Virginia

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Virginia Tech (+2) at North Carolina, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Virginia Tech (2-1) seemingly fell off the face of the earth after opening with a loss to East Carolina. It hasn't been pretty, but the Hokies have picked up the pieces to win two straight, including a tight game against ACC Coastal division rival Georgia Tech last week. With Frank Beamer having wisely shelved the idea of red-shirting Tyrod Taylor, the Tech offense should have a bit more pop. They might need it at North Carolina, which exploded for 44 points in a nationally-televised win at Rutgers last week. That effort was good enough to make everyone forget the Tar Heels (2-0) struggled with McNeese State in their opener. The winner will probably find itself ranked in the major polls next week.

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

Notre Dame (+9) at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Notre Dame (2-0) posted an 18-point win over an arch-rival in a bad-weather game last Saturday, and yet it's hard to know if we've really learned anything about the Irish. When it wasn't handing the ball back to Notre Dame with regularity, several times without the defense even being involved in the play, Michigan moved the ball well on the ground and through the air. Steven Threet statistically outplayed Jimmy Clausen. Still, Notre Dame was comfortably ahead nearly the entire game, so it's difficult to judge what its offensive effort showed. One area that is definitely improved for the Irish: pass protection. Last year's Notre Dame offensive line couldn't have posted two sack-free games against air. Michigan State (2-1) also played in lousy weather last week, and let Florida Atlantic hang around for a while before closing out a 17-0 win. If Sam McGuffie could put up 100-plus yards on the Notre Dame defense behind Michigan's paper-thin line, Javon Ringer should go for 200-plus. Let's just hope Michigan State can make plays, at least for the sake of a certain Detroit-area radio host.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Notre Dame (Fred Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: Michigan State

Note from Brian: "No homerism, I promise!"

Boise State (+11) at No. 17 Oregon. 3:30 p.m. ET,

With Oregon quarterbacks going the way of Spinal Tap drummers of late, this game has the potential to get interesting. The Ducks (3-0), who needed a huge comeback to win at Purdue in overtime, might not be as explosive with Jeremiah Masoli and true freshman Chris Harper under center. Boise State (2-0) still has Ian Johnson at tailback and looked sharp in a 20-7 win over a decent Bowling Green team. But they won't have the Kryptonite-like powers of the blue turf to protect them at Autzen Stadium.

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

No. 4 Florida (-7.5) at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

The SEC opener could well be a make-or-break game for the Vols (1-1), while Florida (2-0) has larger battles looming. While that might give Tennessee the emotional advantage, Florida has the talent edge, although the gap is probably closer than most people think. Or maybe Clay just has me convinced. In any case, I think Tennessee keeps this a close game into the fourth quarter by pounding the ball with Arian Foster. But in the end, it'll be too much Tebow, Harvin, et. al.: The Gators win it going away.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Tennessee | RUSSELL: Florida

No. 18 Wake Forest (+4) at No. 24 Florida State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The ongoing saga of Wake Forest (2-0), which has some 4,400 undergraduate students but is somehow able to compete at the highest level of college football, is one of the undertold stories of the sport. If Wake is able to keep this up -- remaining competitive for ACC titles -- the national coach of the year trophy should be renamed for Jim Grobe. Wake Forest is riding a two-game winning streak against the 'Noles, including a 30-0 smackdown in Tallahassee two years ago. FSU fans are cautiously optimistic after a 2-0 start, but this is the team's first real test. Wake Forest has Riley Skinner at quarterback, however, and that gives the Deacons the overall edge.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Wake Forest | RUSSELL: Wake Forest

No. 6 LSU (-3) at No. 10 Auburn, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

It's not too early to say that this game could determine the SEC West. It's time for my national title pick (Auburn) to show some life on offense. Auburn (3-0) did everything but break out the mustard gas in its trench warfare-style, 3-2 win at Mississippi State last week. The much-balleyhooed switch to the spread hasn't produced much -- and now they get the LSU defense, a significant step up from Mississippi State. LSU (2-0) is still feeling its way on offense itself as it breaks in Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee at quarterback. Take the under.

THE PICKS -- FEI: LSU | RUSSELL: LSU

No. 3 Georgia (-6.5) at Arizona State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

This game sure looked at lot more interesting two weeks ago, before Arizona State went out and lost at home to UNLV. But it's still an ultra-rare non-conference road trip that involves a plane flight for the Bulldogs, and comes after a spotty performance in a seven-point win over South Carolina. Look for Georgia's defensive front to beat up on the spotty Arizona State offensive line, while Knowshon Moreno pounds the Sun Devils into submission on offense.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Georgia | RUSSELL: Georgia (Edelstein Lock)

Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
West Virginia -3 Colorado Colorado West Virginia
Virginia Tech +2 North Carolina Virginia Tech North Carolina
Notre Dame +9 Michigan State Notre Dame* Michigan State
Boise State +11 Oregon Boise State Oregon
Florida -7.5 Tennessee Tennessee Florida
Wake Forest +4 Florida State Wake Forest Wake Forest
LSU -3 Auburn LSU LSU
Georgia -6.5 Arizona State Georgia Georgia*
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI 3-4-0 (0-1-0) 7-16-0 (1-2-0)
Russell 1-6-0 (0-1-0) 9-14-0 (0-3-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 17 Sep 2008

44 comments, Last at 22 Sep 2008, 2:39pm by witless chum

Comments

1
by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 1:20pm

For recreational purposes only. I'm 5 - 3 so far this year.

Toledo +7 over Fresno State
Arizona State +6.5 over Georgia

Tennessee vs Florida in the afternoon, LSU vs Auburn at night. I love it.

2
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 4:13pm

Just because I've made fun of Russell, Vinny, the parade of co-hosts, and FEI, I'll start picking along: WVU, UNC, MSU, Boise, UF, Wake, LSU (Edelstein) and Georgia. I don't know that I've seen a second of Boise, Arizona State, FSU, or Michigan State, so humiliation may well be forthcoming. Naturally, there is no money behind where my mouth is with these selections.

9
by SKM (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:20am

I think you (and Russell) can be forgiven for bad picks at this point, since it would be impossible to tell what kind of team to expect from teams like Florida State (played no Div I-A/FBS teams yet).

3
by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 8:34pm

1. The folks in Boulder do not know how to do a blackout.

2. The Buffs running onto the field with Ralphie is a great, underrated tradition.

3. Nothing against either guy, byt Cody Hawkins playing QB at Colorado is a huge conflict of interest.

8
by zlionsfan :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 8:48am

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about live animals on the sidelines at football games, but I'll tell you what, it is pretty impressive to watch Ralphie on TV. I can't imagine what it would be like in person.

Did you see the CU-CSU game, when the sideline reporter was running along with them (well in front)? Pretty interesting. I was surprised he was able to make it the length of the field and still talk afterward. I guess not everyone is built like Siragusa ...

4
by Rocco :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 10:44pm

WVU may still win tonight, but something is horribly wrong with that offense.

5
by navin :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 10:45pm

I just wanted to comment on Georgia last week. Yes, the South Carolina-Georgia game was ugly, but that's what happens when two good defenses play each other--they make the other team look bad. The series also has a history of ugly, low scoring games. For some reason South Carolina's defense always gives Georgia problems.

6
by Brian Fremeau :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 12:01am

Bill Stewart wants this week's JLS Trophy. Two minutes left in the game and two timeouts, WVU ambles downfield with no urgency, no running out of bounds, lets the clock drift all the way to :04 just past midfield, only uses one of the two timeouts and ends regulation with a half-hearted Hail Mary that is easily batted down. WVU clangs the upright in overtime and loses to Colorado 17-14.

7
by Tarrant :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 1:20am

Agreed on the idiocy of West Virginia. The announcers kept wondering "What the heck is West Virginia doing?" as time ticked away. They seemed to have zero urgency, taking the full play clock to call a play, running the ball, doing nothing.

From the coaching staff to the players it seemed like there was just...nothing. They were completely and utterly unprepared for the end of the game - in fact, it was such a clock management blunder it'd almost be right for a temporarily brought back from beyond Mike Martz Award.

Two timeouts, two minutes, and they get to the 50 yard line. They doink a kick off the upright in overtime, and Colorado wins it.

10
by Yinka Double Dare :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:22am

I'm waiting to see how West F'n Virginia fans blame this on Rich Rodriguez. I think maybe they might now understand why everyone thought the kneejerk hiring of Stewart was a pretty bad idea.

11
by Tom Gower :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:59am

I thought White, Devine, and the rest of the Mountaineers would be enough to overcome to awesome craptacularity of Bill Stewart. I was wrong.

For the record, though, while WVU did indeed butcher the end of 4Q scenario, waiting until :04 (or less) to call the TO after failing on 3D was, I'm pretty sure, the right decision.

15
by Travis :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 2:34pm

A slightly riskier, but probably more optimal strategy would have been to take the clock down to 10-or-so seconds before calling timeout, which would have allowed West Virginia time to complete an underneath pass or run an incredibly surprising QB draw to get in makeable FG range.

Failing (it was 4th and 2) would have allowed Colorado time to try a Hail Mary of their own, but just 10 yards would have been enough to make the at-altitude FG attempt reasonable - WVU was at the Colorado 48 and had had a non-altitude 52-yarder earlier in the year.

12
by DMP (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 12:47pm

As Michigan and Michigan State fans know, the parallels between WVU 2008 and MSU 2000 are alarming right now. Both teams coming off their best season in a generation the year before, capped by emotional bowl victory wins over established huge programs right after losing the super-hot coach du jour (MSU2000=Saban, WVU2008=Hodriguez), then stupidly promoting the interim HC/formerly-position-coach-whose-real-strength-was-recruiting-and-just-generally-being-very-likable (MSU2000=Bobby Williams, WVU2008=Stewart). Said promoted interim coach goes on to display innability to run the details of game preparation and a program as a whole and goes on to squander the talent accumulated in the build-up years in the following two. Program is in even worse position because the stupid act of promoting the interim guy because the kids like him (whereas that person's previous job was exactly to make sure the kids liked him), ultimately ends up in the program losing a good coach AND a good recruiter. WVU fans: it's not too late to make a run for John L. Smith for the 2010 season. He'll be available.

PS: The announcers comments last night about how Hodriguez wanted to get players into hyperbaric chambers to prepare for this game, while Stewart scrapped the plan because he didn't think altitude made any difference in performance and he's a self-declared "old-school guy" tells you everything you need to know about the difference between the two and why WVU football is going to hell while Stewart is around. One guy is a maniac looking for every advantage, no matter how ludicrous. Selling his sould to the devil is always an option. The other is near-buffoon, likes to smile and be a caricature of himself. Also does not care for basic precepts of science.

13
by Derek (Brooklyn) (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 1:16pm

I didn't watch the entire game but I'm not surprised to see Bill Stewart being mocked after watching the sideline interview right before the game started. He kept repeating that #5 (Pat White) would take care of everything and seemed out of his depth.

On another note, as an Iowa alum, I'm looking forward to the Iowa-Pitt game tomorrow. I'd like to think we'll have a coaching advantage with Ferentz against Wannstache.

14
by witless chum (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 2:32pm

My Spartans oughta take care of business against ND. That FAU game was an outlier, because the rain in East Lansing was much heavier than in South Bend and it lasted the entire game. Brian Hoyer muffed four or five snaps and only completed one or two passes of note.

Javon Ringer never so much as bobbled the ball in his almost 50 touches, when FAU players and his teammates were all having those problems. That's an achievement almost as good as 286 yards.

16
by The Blue Horseshoe (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 5:42pm

I don't want to sound like an As****** but when is laying points on the road, at night in college football a "LOCK". I can't believe anyone thinks crossing 3 timezones playing vs hostile fans, with a 5th year senior qb at the helm is anything but a "lock". Georgia may win and cover, but by no stretch of the imagination should this be considered a lock.

17
by footballprofessor :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:25pm

I am so impressed.....a Weekly World News ad? Fantastic!

18
by Crosseyed and Painless (not verified) :: Fri, 09/19/2008 - 11:49pm

Thanks for linking to Valenti's rant about my beloved Spartans. That was one awful, awful game, even by Michigan State standards. I bought tickets I can't afford for tomorrow's game because I need to go back to the scene of the meltdown. MSU needs to win so I can bury these demons. I really wish I was exaggerating here.

19
by Tom Gower :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 2:04am

I'm kind of surprised Clay couldn't think of any examples of something where like 40 hours of work determines how you do for the entire year. Did he somehow sleep through law school, or has Vanderbilt (or wherever he went) foregone final examinations? 24 hours to determine your grades for an entire academic year makes his 40 hours seems rather generous. Oral argument, particularly at the top appellate level, has the same sort of associated pressures, only more extreme. His comparison of these "40 hours of performance" to a typical work week is disingenuous, unthinking, or just stupid.

Not, of course, that I'm trying to begrudge the pressures placed on college football players, or the need to keep what they're doing in a greater degree of context (this is why I try to write more about the pro game in a non-fleeting format), but I did get a very SEC-esque feeling of college football as of much too deadly an importance from his comments.

21
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 10:36am

Not very polite, Tom :)

43
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 09/22/2008 - 2:11pm

Maybe I was a little harsh with that last comment, but he writes for Deadspin, and about college football. He can take it. Besides, a comment from some random schlub on a message board isn't very important when it comes to the grand scheme of things (viz., a worse-than-the-score 30-6 loss to an arch-rival).

ETA: Score corrected, I forgot UF's last FG.

20
by joe football (not verified) :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 4:34am

Join a star-studded cast of your favorite FO posters for IRC football chat! cognet.catch22.org, channel #fo. Though we might be down a star or two this week, I'm afraid

Additionally, I'm ready to make public picks using my revolutionary game picking algorithm. UNC, ND, BSU, UF, FSU, LSU(L-Theory lock of the week), ASU

22
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 10:39am

UConn survived against Baylor last night.

With Baylor having a close call against UConn and beating Washington State, could the Bears be marching toward respectability? The Baylor job is probably the toughest job in the game, as there is literally no such thing as an easy game in their division.

23
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 1:00pm

I thought Wanny was growing a pair earlier - Pitt went for it on 4th and 1 from about the 30 (clearly the right call, of course), and wound up scoring a TD several plays later.

Then on the next possession, a draw on 3rd and 14. And it loses 2, because Iowa is playing the run all the way. That's just... I mean, wow.

24
by Rocco :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 1:46pm

Just based on the clip of that last INT, Casey Dick may be a worse QB than Mike Teel. It's a competition, to be sure.

25
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 3:26pm

NC State pulls off the upset.

26
by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 3:30pm

Wow, Buffalo is down 17-14 at Missouri, nearing halftime.

Is Turner Gill playing QB instead of coaching in this game? Is it the Big 8?

27
by Rocco :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 3:50pm

Um, Tyrod? If VT wanted a QB to throw horrible INTs, Glennon would still be starting. Cut that out.

28
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 4:04pm

As a Vols fan, I was ready for a loss today. Florida is a monster, and UT simply isn't.

This, however, is ridiculous.

29
by Rocco :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 4:23pm

How would you classify fumbling on the Florida goal line- disgusting?

30
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 4:25pm

Perfect jinx timing. As Tennessee shows life for the first time today and gets inside the 5, CBS runs a montage of costly fumbles and says they're 1-4 when their running back fumbles. Cut to the snap, and the QB runs into the fullback and fumbles when trying to hand off.

31
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 4:40pm

VaTech changes course at the last second, kicks a field goal from the 2 instead of going for it, tied at 3 with North Carolina.

It's good to see Butch Davis back in the college game. He's definitely one of those coaches whose style fits it much better than the NFL. I wouldn't be shocked to see North Carolina emerge as a national power fairly soon.

42
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 09/22/2008 - 1:11pm

Not with T.J. Yates out for the years, if what Paulus has shown thus far is an accurate indicator of his level of ability.

My biggest pet peeve about the college game-it's so dependent on having a quarterback who can throw the ball to open receivers, and not to the other team. If you have a guy who can do that reliably, and a couple fast guys who can catch occasionally, you'll win 7+ games so long as your defense isn't really awful. A team at the upper part of that spectrum, and you're probably in a New Year's Day bowl game. Without that, though, you need to be really excellent in other areas.

32
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 4:44pm

Tennessee catches a major homer call. Florida has it 4th and 3, a Tennessee player jumps offsides, and they call a phantom false start. Florida still gets a field goal, they're up 20-0.

33
by Trogdor :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 5:00pm

Nice clock management from Tennessee towards the end of the half. With a first down inside the 5, over a minute left, and a timeout, they had plenty of time to run on every down if they wanted. But too much dilly dallying between plays, the clock got down to 16 seconds after second down, the play still hadn't been called, so they wasted the timeout. Inomplete pass on 3rd now that the run option was effectively blown, and a desperate throw on 4th is picked. Still 20-0 going into the half.

34
by Flounder :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 6:25pm

ND just got a pass interference on a throw that wise 3-4 yards behind the receiver. Oy.

Of course that doesn't excuse the crappy tacking that kept this drive alive in the first place.

35
by Rocco :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 6:29pm

VT's offense was vomit-inducing up until the point they went down 17-3. VT has ripped off 17 unanswered points and picked off UNC's backup QB at the VT 2. Unfortunately, Taylor is down and Glennon is warming, so the nauseous feeling came back.

36
by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 6:49pm

Rutgers is 0 - 3 after losing to Navy.

37
by Flounder :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 6:56pm

Hooray for beating ND! Javon Ringer, however, has zero chance of making it through the season. He's averaging 36 carries a game. 43 last week and 40 this week.

38
by Will :: Sat, 09/20/2008 - 9:58pm

Terrelle Pryor might have had the least impressive 4 TD game I've ever seen. It's a testament to him that he's starting, but he's going to have to work on his form if he's going to be successful as a passer.

Also, shame on the Ohio State fans for booing Todd Boeckman. Booing a college team is fine, but booing a player is crossing the line.

39
by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 09/21/2008 - 1:36am

1. Southern Cal
2. Florida
3. Oklahoma
4. Georgia
5. LSU
6. Missouri
7. Alabama
8. BYU
9. Penn State
10. South Florida
11. Wisconsin
12. Auburn
13. Boise State- is Ian Johnson the new Carlos Huerta?
14. Wake Forest
15. Ohio State
16. Utah
17. Texas Tech
18. East Carolina
19. Texas
20. Virginia Tech
21. Kansas
22. Oregon
23. TCU
24. Miami
25. Oklahoma State

40
by Rocco :: Sun, 09/21/2008 - 8:12am

Since I mock Russ when he does horribly, I'll tip my cap to him after going 5-3 this week and nailing his lock of the week pick. If WVU could manage the clock he might have been able to scrape a push out of that game.

I imagine Schiano really wishes he took the Miami payday now. How fast is his stock falling? He's Ferentz 2.0 right now.

41
by Harris :: Sun, 09/21/2008 - 9:47am

Did Ringer bang Dantoni's wife? More than 120 carries in three weeks? The kid will be dead by mid-season.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

44
by witless chum :: Mon, 09/22/2008 - 2:39pm

The hell of it is that Ringer's backup, redshirt frosh Andre Anderson, has looked pretty good in limited action.

Perhaps the plan will change once the Big 10 season starts this weekend at Indiana.