Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Futures: My Expansion Franchise

You've just been awarded an NFL expansion team and must build your personnel department. How would you do it? Matt Waldman takes on the exercise.

09 Sep 2010

SDA: Monster Weekend Ahead

by Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Robert Weintraub

It was the greatest podcast you will never hear. Last night, Rob Weintraub, Bill Connelly, and Jason from Eleven Warriors (a great Ohio State blog) sat down and, over the course of about 30 minutes, talked shop about Terrelle Pryor vs. Jacory Harris, impressions from Ohio State's win over Marshall, the hard bigotry of Pryor's high expectations, Ohio State's 2002 national title, and the famous pass interference call. We also re-froze glaciers in the Arctic, solved the Middle East crisis, planted roses and love in Afghanistan, moved Missouri to the Big Ten, and gave Twitter enough bandwidth to forever rid the world of the Fail Whale. It was glorious. And then Bill's computer froze and everything was lost.

While the conversation is lost forever, just know that Eleven Warriors is a great site that should go on your RSS feed immediately (if it isn't already there).

One of these weeks, a podcast will go as planned. There will be no Internet outages, frozen Mac applications, lightning strikes, double rainbows, or other beautiful impediments. With the mourning out of the way, however, let us move on to this week's games. And what a slate it is.

No. 21 Auburn (-2) at Mississippi State (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Auburn
Has the Ball ...
When Miss. St.
Has the Ball ...
Category Auburn Miss. St.
Auburn
Off
Miss. St.
Def
Auburn
Def
Miss. St.
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
17 43
2010 FEI Rk 16 49
2010 S&P+ Rk 16 39
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 19 23 53 22
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 19 51 33 85
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 12 36 57 24
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
70.9% Run
(12th Most)
71.5% Run
(10th Most)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 24 34 31 83
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
27.5% Run
(89th)
51.4% Run
(5th)

Both SEC West squads looked impressive in their openers. Auburn celebrated the heavily-anticipated debut of new quarterback Cam Newton by crushing the Red Wolves of Arkansas State. Newton accounted for five scores and set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 171. Now Newton faces the coach he jilted when he left Florida after his well-publicized laptop tossing. Newton chose Auburn over Mississippi State and Dan Mullen, who coached Newton in Gainesville. His frisky defense, led by stud defensive end Pernell McPhee, overwhelmed Memphis in the opener and is sure to be at fever pitch for a nationally televised home game. Star recruit Tyler Russell was the backup on Saturday, but still threw four touchdown passes to tie a school record. It's only a matter of time before the offense belongs to him. This is the "magic" second season for Mullen, when things tend to fall into place (last example -- Nick Saban in Alabama, 2008). A victory over the more talented Tigers could a ignite a supernatural season for the Cowbell Clan.

No. 22 Georgia (+3) at No. 24 South Carolina (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

OVERALL When Georgia
Has the Ball ...
When S. Carolina
Has the Ball ...
Category Georgia S. Carolina
Georgia
Off
S. Carolina
Def
Georgia
Def
S. Carolina
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
12 24
2010 FEI Rk 5 26
2010 S&P+ Rk 22 24
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 35 27 34 65
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 43 10 68 35
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 65 16 45 58
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
62.7% Run
(41st)
55.1% Run
(84th)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 50 6 45 45
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
39.5%
(21st)
27.8% Run
(86th)

It's tough to win on the road in the SEC -- especially without your best player. Georgia wideout A.J. Green remains in NCAA investigatory limbo, and his status has yet to be determined. If they have the Randy Moss of the Chattahoochee, the Bulldogs have a shot against the explosive but inexperienced secondary of the Gamecocks. Without Green, freshman quarterback Aaron Murray (and his wonderboy backup, freshman Hutson Mason) will have trouble matching South Carolina point for point. That assumes that the playmakers on display last week in Columbia run wild again. Georgia's defense already looks improved under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. His loud tantrum at his unit after they gave up a score to Louisiana-Lafayette drew a standing ovation between the hedges, and freshman sensation Alec Ogletree comes into the lineup at safety after a one-game suspension to help defend against the likes of Alshon Jeffrey and Marcus Lattimore. Bulldogs corner Brandon Boykin is an emerging star and will contribute at several positions. This rivalry game is severely underrated nationally and is almost always close. This one should certainly be.

South Florida (+15) at No. 8 Florida (Saturday, 12:21 p.m. ET, ESPN3.com)

OVERALL When S. Florida
Has the Ball ...
When Florida
Has the Ball ...
Category S. Florida Florida S. Florida
Off
Florida
Def
S. Florida
Def
Florida
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
48 1
2010 FEI Rk 44 1
2010 S&P+ Rk 49 2
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 60 5 35 2
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 73 3 32 15
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 78 9 21 2
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
69.5% Run
19th
64.7% Run
37th
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 57 3 35 8
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
38.3% Run
26th
38.4% Run
25th

Panic only one week into the John Brantley Era! In its opener, Florida couldn't manage that most elemental of football plays, the center-quarterback exchange, and the Gators ugly defeat of Miami (Ohio) looked more like a spring scrimmage. Florida fumbled eight times (losing three) and managed all of 25 yards through three quarters. All told, it wasn't an effort designed to improve Urban Meyer's health. New Bulls coach Skip Holtz was suffering some agita last week as well, as South Florida actually trailed Stony Brook 14-7 before whacking the Sea Wolves. Quarterback B.J. Daniels might be the best at his position in the Big East Conference, and South Florida will bring plenty of revved up guys to Gainesville who want to show that they should have been recruited by the Sunshine State's big boys. Meyer has never lost a game to an in-state rival, but this one could be a nail-biter.

Michigan (+3.5) at Notre Dame (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

OVERALL When Michigan
Has the Ball ...
When Notre Dame
Has the Ball ...
Category Michigan Notre Dame
Michigan
Off
Notre Dame
Def
Michigan
Def
Notre Dame
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
32 28
2010 FEI Rk 31 24
2010 S&P+ Rk 35 33
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 21 39 90 38
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 44 67 49 21
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 36 48 64 28
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
68.6% Run
(21st)
47.1% Run*
(110th)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 34 47 71 27
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
32.3% Run
(62nd)
27.7% Run
(87th)

* These are actually Cincinnati's Run-Pass Ratios from 2009; Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was Cincinnati's head coach last season.

The supposed Michigan 2010 quarterback crisis lasted all of about two drives last Saturday, as Denard Robinson's fleet footwork and efficient pass attack blasted Connecticut. He finished 19 for 22 for 186 yards in the air and 197 on the ground. "Shoelace" may have stolen the show, but it was the perfect beginning for Rich Rodriguez's make or break season. Brian Kelly's debut against Purdue was less flashy but equally reassuring for the fan base. The ground game was improved and the Irish defense looked more fundamentally sound than it had ever been under Weis. We can't confirm or deny rumors that the ND stadium grass has been grown out to slow down Robinson, but rain is in the forecast and might limit both offenses.

No. 17 Florida State (+8) at No. 10 Oklahoma (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

OVERALL When Florida St.
Has the Ball ...
When Oklahoma
Has the Ball ...
Category Florida St.
Oklahoma Florida St.
Off
Oklahoma
Def
Florida St.
Def
Oklahoma
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
22 8
2010 FEI Rk 18 15
2010 S&P+ Rk 27 7
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 1 3 92 88
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 20 5 72 34
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 8 2 100 67
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
54.1% Run
(93rd)
58.2% Run
(68th)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 10 5 55 16
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
27.1% Run
(91st)
23.6% Run
(104th)

It has been an uneasy week for Oklahoma fans. Against Utah State on Saturday, Phil Steele's national title pick looked, in a word, shaky. They watched a 21-3 dissipate and had to intercept a pass late in the fourth quarter to lock away a tough 31-24 win. DeMarco Murray was outstanding, rushing for 218 yards and two touchdowns (strangely, only the third-best performance by a Big 12 running back; what in the name of Marcus Dupree is going on in the Bible Belt?). Ryan Broyles was great too. Everybody else? Questionable. The Sooners now welcome a focused and dangerous Florida State squad to town. The Seminoles took care of business against Samford last weekend, 59-6, looking great in just about every way a team can look great. The Sooners have lost just two home games in the last decade and deserve to be the favorite. But the Sooner Magic and the boisterous Owen Field crowd might clam up if the Seminoles start hot.

Colorado (+9) at California (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, FSN)

OVERALL When Colorado
Has the Ball ...
When California
Has the Ball ...
Category Colorado California Colorado
Off
California
Def
Colorado
Def
California
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
59 40
2010 FEI Rk 56 32
2010 S&P+ Rk 61 45
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 99 36 30 54
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 107 91 47 36
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 106 63 25 21
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
48.4% Run
(109th)
58.6% Run
(66th)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 69 65 61 98
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
24.8% Run
(100th)
36.0% Run
(39th)

Two future conference foes (whenever Colorado gets around to leaving the Big 12, anyway) meet in beautiful Berkeley Saturday afternoon. Colorado, last relevant when Gary Barnett was sticking his foot in his mouth, could take a large step toward legitimacy by pulling an upset of the speedy Golden Bears. Dan Hawkins' Buffaloes knocked off a lifeless Colorado State squad last weekend, and a win would make them 2-0 for just the second time in the Dan Hawkins era. The intriguing Buffs' defense will have to cope with a variety of California weapons. UC Davis was able to hold running back Shane Vereen (14 carries, 68 yards) in check, but gave up repeated big plays to wideouts Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones, who combined for nine catches and 201 yards in a 52-3 win. Neither team is ranked, but this game will have a big impact on the season storylines for both programs.

No. 12 Miami (+9.5) at No. 2 Ohio State (Saturday, 3:40 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Miami
Has the Ball ...
When Ohio State
Has the Ball ...
Category Miami Ohio State
Miami
Off
Ohio State
Def
Miami
Def
Ohio State
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
16 4
2010 FEI Rk 17 4
2010 S&P+ Rk 12 5
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 9 8 17 23
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 14 8 34 27
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 4 7 18 33
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
54.8% Run
(89th)
70.2% Run
(14th)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 32 4 53 52
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
35.1% Run
(45th)
44.3% Run
(9th)

Jacory Harris and Terrelle Pryor take center stage Saturday afternoon in a showdown of two of the most hyped quarterbacks in college football. Each had an easy three-touchdown performance against cupcake defenses in a week one warm-up, and each had at least one spectacular effort a year ago on a big stage. The last time these two teams met, of course, a crystal football was at stake. Both Ohio State and Miami have BCS aspirations this time around, but the Buckeyes are under much more pressure to deliver. September losses to USC disrupted the potential of each of Jim Tressel's last two seasons. Fair or not, Ohio State carries the torch for the Big Ten's reputation in every marquee non-conference game.

BYU (PK) at Air Force (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Versus)

OVERALL When BYU
Has the Ball ...
When Air Force
Has the Ball ...
Category BYU Air Force
BYU
Off
Air Force
Def
BYU
Def
Air Force
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
30 62
2010 FEI Rk 41 67
2010 S&P+ Rk 20 54
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 37 19 37 73
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 2 12 24 87
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 7 28 34 77
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
55.4% Run
(83rd)
85.7% Run
(3rd)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 26 15 37 103
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
37.4% Run
(32nd)
76.8% Run
(1st)

Air Force had one of the most underrated defenses in the country last year, ranking in the top 20 in both Passing S&P+ and Rushing S&P+. However, the architect of their resurgent defense, coordinator Tim DeRuyter, is coaching for Mike Sherman at Texas A&M this season. The Falcons' under-new-management unit will face its first test of the season when BYU comes to town. The Cougars successfully maneuvered through the hazards of a two-quarterback platoon in beating Washington last week. Junior Riley Nelson and star freshman Jake Heaps combined to complete 60 percent of their passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. They were led in both rushing and receiving by the wonderfully named J.J. Di Luigi. As their conference rivalry winds down (BYU is going independent in football soon), can the Falcons land a few nice haymakers on the departing Cougars as they walk out the door?

No. 18 Penn State (+11.5) at No. 1 Alabama (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Penn State
Has the Ball ...
When Alabama
Has the Ball ...
Category Penn State
Alabama Penn State
Off
Alabama
Def
Penn State
Def
Alabama
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
10 2
2010 FEI Rk 14 2
2010 S&P+ Rk 9 1
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 12 6 20 13
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 17 1 9 5
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 17 1 20 13
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
57.5% Run
(73rd)
68.9% Run
(20th)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 17 9 12 11
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
38.6% Run
(23rd)
42.4% Run
(14th)

Traditional college football fans have to be loving the revival of this intersectional rivalry, regardless of the outcome of this particular iteration. Alabama and Penn State played 10 straight seasons from 1981 to 1990, often with high stakes for at least one of the teams. Once the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten and the SEC expanded, however, those games (and other cross-divsional games across the nation) vanished. Joe Paterno does have a 5-2 bowl record against the SEC since 1992, but that's about the only thing that might work in Penn State's favor on Saturday. The offense was predictably solid in their opening weekend thrashing of San Jose State. And the reloaded Crimson Tide defense will look to attack Penn State's freshman quarterback Robert Bolden.

No. 7 Oregon (-12.5) at Tennessee (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

OVERALL When Oregon
Has the Ball ...
When Tennessee
Has the Ball ...
Category Oregon Tennessee Oregon
Off
Tennessee
Def
Oregon
Def
Tennessee
Off
2010 F/+ Rk
6 29
2010 FEI Rk 6 33
2010 S&P+ Rk 8 26
2009 Rushing S&P+ Rk 7 44 13 27
2009 Passing S&P+ Rk 22 21 26 6
2009 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 14 35 11 9
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
66.0% Run
(31st)
67.3% Run*
(25th)
2009 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 12 17 28 6
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
47.8% Run
(7th)
37.5% Run
(30th)

* These are Louisiana Tech's Run-Pass Ratios from 2009; Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley was Louisiana Tech's head coach last season.

No Masoli, no James, no problem. Oregon opened up a can last weekend on New Mexico, thanks in part to five first half Kinjon Barber touchdowns and two punt return scores from Cliff Harris. They trek out to Tennessee for a rare appearance east of the Mississippi and an even rarer match-up with the SEC. Tennessee and new coach Derek Dooley's season got off on to good start on the field, but apparently not in the locker room. The Volunteers are an F/+ preseason darling, but we don't expect them to post a stellar record with their murderous schedule. If junior running back Tauren Poole and the Tennessee ground game can keep the Ducks off the field, they should be able to hang in and keep it close.

Storylines of the Week

Rob Weintraub: Boise State dropped a gauntlet at the feet of the power programs on Labor Day night. The WAC factor isn't really the point -- under the current system, Boise is in good shape to make the BCS title game, regardless of conference affiliation. More to the point, the Broncos are a strong team with an excellent quarterback, coach, kicking game, and pass rush. Not many of the other big boys have shown that they have all those elements. This week will be a good chance for the likes of Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, and other supposed monster programs to prove that they are ready to compete with Boise State. Right now, only Alabama and Ohio State can claim the right to be favored over the Broncos on a neutral field. That could change, of course, if the recruits of the Floridas and the Oklahomas make the leap. This weekend -- when the competition starts to heat up -- will be the first true test of whether they are likely to contend for the title this season.

Brian Fremeau: I'm loving the major intersectional games of the weekend, but there are a few other matchups we didn't squeeze in here that will draw my attention as well. Thursday night's tilt between Central Michigan and Temple pits two of our top projected teams out of the MAC. And a handful of ranked teams face road games that might cause problems: West Virginia at Marshall, LSU at Vanderbilt, Stanford at UCLA. Georgia Tech ought to be licking their chops traveling to Kansas after their humiliating 6-3 loss to North Dakota State. But our numbers say one of those four ranked teams is likely to go down, and it's way too early to count anything as a sure thing.

Bill Connelly: Redemption is in the air this weekend. You can find it in the vaunted national title rematches -- Penn State-Alabama, Oklahoma-Florida State and Ohio State-Miami. Beyond that, however, title contenders like Oklahoma and Florida will be looking to redeem themselves and assuage fans' worries after iffy first-week performances. With schedules like the ones Florida and Oklahoma have (Florida plays South Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, and LSU before mid-October, while Oklahoma faces Florida State, Cincinnati, and Texas), fans won't have to wait long to find out whether their teams suffered a one-week glitch or have serious, damning issues in 2010.

Picks

A hearty congratulations to Rob for starting the season on a winning note. The F/+ projections might have done well overall (24-13-2), but in the games that counted, the computer was defeated by the human. Are we witnessing Rob's Redemption or a regression toward the mean? We shall see.

UPDATE: And a correction needs to be made. Notre Dame and Purdue actually tied against the spread, meaning both Rob and the F/+ projections went 4-4-2.

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob F/+
Auburn -2 Mississippi St. Auburn Auburn
Georgia +3 S. Carolina Georgia Georgia
Michigan +3.5 Notre Dame Michigan Notre Dame
Florida State +8 Oklahoma Fla. St. Oklahoma
BYU PK Air Force BYU BYU*
Penn State +11.5 Alabama Alabama Alabama
Oregon -12.5 Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee
Colorado +9 California California* California
South Florida +15 Florida Florida Florida
Miami +9.5 Ohio State Miami Ohio State
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
Week One
Season Total
Rob: 4-4-2 (1-0) 4-4-2 (1-0)
F/+: 4-4-2 (0-1) 4-4-2 (0-1)

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 09 Sep 2010

11 comments, Last at 12 Sep 2010, 11:18am by zlionsfan

Comments

1
by Will Allen :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 2:46pm

I don't watch enough college football, or keep up with roster turnover well enough, to be comfortable in drawing conclusions, but watching the Badgers just horsewhip the Hurricanes on the line of scrimmage last December makes it hard for me to think of Miami as the 12th best team in the country.

2
by Travis :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:44pm

Weren't both the Pitt-Utah and Purdue-Notre Dame games last week pushes? Looking at last week's picks, I think both of you went 4-4-2.

Meyer has never lost a game to an in-state rival, but this one could be a nail-biter.

FWIW, Meyer did lose to Miami of Ohio and Toledo when he coached at Bowling Green.

5
by zlionsfan :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 7:52pm

Utah -3, won by 3; Notre Dame -11, won by 11. I was 5-3-2 last week.

Auburn, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, BYU, Alabama, Oregon, California (lock), South Florida, and Miami. I think OSU is good enough to cover the spread but Tressel doesn't coach that way.

11
by zlionsfan :: Sun, 09/12/2010 - 11:18am

damn. 4-4-2 last week. I miscounted. boo!

3
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 3:52pm

Maybe I'm miscounting, but I think both Pitt-Utah(-3) and ND(-11)-Purdue pushed last week, and Rob (1-0), F/+ (0-1), and I (0-1) all went 4-4-2. I alas picked the wrong counter-consensus game, going with UW instead of my other option of Boise State, but consensus was 2-2 last week.

This week, I'll take Auburn, South Carolina, Michigan, Oklahoma, BYU, Alabama, Oregon, Cal, Florida, and Miami. Two counter-consensus choices in South Carolina and Oregon; knowing that I'll be in the Volunteer State on Saturday, I have to pick the Fighting Spurriers.

6
by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 9:14pm

Well hell...was apparently a bit over-exuberant in giving Rob the victory...

7
by Robert Weintraub :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:20pm

And don't think I don't appreciate it! Either way, a 4-4-2 mark is enough to leave me giddy after last years debacle. Sad to see we only disagree on two games this weekend.
RW

4
by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 5:37pm

Concur with the two pushes rather than one.

Also worth noting that the authors benefited from LSU -2 pre-suspensions...when the line jumped to anywhere from 7.5 to 10 after the suspensions were announced (lifted to 7.5...bet up to 10...bet back down by NC support after it reached 10). A bit of a break needless to say since the game landed on 6. There will probably be something goofy that happens in the other direction down the road that will even it out.

So...4-4-2 with one of the wins on a line/scenario that didn't technically exist (though all Vegas bets done before the announcement would have stood, so the selections should clearly stand as well). Needed a break to go 4-4-2 and win one of the Edelstein's. First week's can be a headache with so many newcomers in impact positions.

Best of luck this week with all the marquee matchups. Should be a lot of fun...

8
by Robert Weintraub :: Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:22pm

Agree--I even noted when asked for my lock that LSU was a bit of a cheat pick, but if you laid a bet in Vegas when it was -2, you still collect despite the later change in the spread (and when I first picked, only Austin was definitively suspended). Natch, LSU and Lester made it interesting...
RW

9
by lionsbob :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 4:12pm

James Madison beats Virginia Tech. They get the chance to play Boise State in the title game now.

10
by Brian Fremeau :: Sat, 09/11/2010 - 7:53pm

This result is toublesome for next week's FEI column ...