Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

01 Oct 2007

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Carnage Report

by Russell Levine

Rutgers fans laid low by their team's performance in a home loss to Maryland Saturday, take solace. It could have been worse. You could be a scalper holding tickets to next week's Red River Shootout game between Texas and Oklahoma, both of whom lost to unranked foes on an upset-filled day.

This weekend saw as much poll carnage as any in recent memory, although outside of dealing Oklahoma's title hopes a serious blow, it did surprisingly little to alter the national-title picture. More on that later. First, the casualty report: Five of the top 10 teams in the AP poll lost, and seven of the top 13. Five of the seven losers fell to unranked teams; four lost at home. It was the worst weekend for top-10 teams since October of 2003, when five also fell.

There was nearly even more chaos. Top-ranked USC edged Washington by a field goal, losing the top spot to LSU in the process. The Tigers passed USC in the AP rankings despite looking far from impressive in a win over Tulane. Boston College got a stiff challenge from UMass. Wisconsin held off Michigan State in the final minutes. Among the top 10, only Ohio State, a three-touchdown winner over Minnesota, survived the weekend without so much as a mark.

Next week was to have been one of those days necessitating an ESPN nickname. But instead of Texas-Oklahoma and Florida-LSU headlining a "Showdown Saturday," perhaps the focus will shift to Kansas-Kansas State and Kentucky-South Carolina (combined records: 16-2).

Those four teams are all nice stories, and in the case of perennial SEC doormat Kentucky, suddenly a contender in the conference's East division, maybe more than that. Yet even the Wildcats take a back seat to what is occurring in Tampa as the year's best Cinderella tale. In a sport ruled by traditional powers, South Florida is the upstart to end all upstarts. The Bulls have been playing the sport for just 11 seasons, yet after beating then-No. 5 West Virginia Friday night, they must now be considered the favorite to capture the Big East's BCS berth.

That label might instead be worn by Rutgers today had the Knights not fallen on their face against a Maryland team that came into the contest on a two-game losing streak. Rutgers was better than a two-touchdown favorite, yet trailed much of the game despite knocking out Maryland's starting quarterback with a concussion.

Though Rutgers has yet to play a conference game, this loss revealed defensive holes which may be too great to overcome against the likes of South Florida, West Virginia, and even Cincinnati, which visits Piscataway this coming Saturday. Against Maryland, and before that, Navy, Rutgers was gashed repeatedly on the ground. Unlike Navy, Maryland is not known as a standout rushing team, yet the Terrapins rolled up 239 yards on the ground against the Scarlet Knights. Maryland possessed the ball for nearly 37 minutes and kept Ray Rice on the sidelines.

Rutgers can still have a very successful season, perhaps even better than last year's 11-2 campaign. But if there is anything to be learned from this loss it is this: It is time for Rutgers to upgrade its schedule. Games against Buffalo and Norfolk State help to pad the stat sheet, but they do little to prepare a team for the better competition to come. Rutgers no longer needs to schedule patsies just to ensure it can get to six wins and a bowl, and would be better served challenging itself more in the non-conference season.

Still, Rutgers was not the weekend's biggest loser. That honor goes to Oklahoma, which was stunned by Colorado in Boulder. Oklahoma was one of four teams (along with USC, LSU, and Florida) that appeared to have separated itself from the pack coming into the weekend. The Sooners looked like they might cruise to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the BCS title game, especially with Texas showing its vulnerability. Instead, they saw their championship dreams come crashing down as Colorado -- 2-10 a year ago -- scored the final 20 points to pull off the day's biggest upset.

The overall weakness of the Big 12 will likely prevent a one-loss Oklahoma from reaching the title game. The same can't be said of Florida, thanks to the reputation enjoyed by the SEC. The Gators fell just five spots in the new AP poll despite losing at home to unranked, two-loss Auburn. That kind of benefit of the doubt means that should the Gators pull off the upset of LSU this week, they will have an excellent chance to earn a rematch against the Tigers in the SEC championship. A second win there could propel a 12-1 Florida back to the title game, just as it did last season. LSU, on the other hand, can probably afford to lose this week as long as it runs the table and wins a presumed rematch against the Gators in December.

USC also need not worry. The Trojans remain in the driver's seat for a spot in the title game as long as they keep winning. That's no certainty, of course, not with visits to both Oregon and Cal sill to come. Following this weekend's upsets, the Trojans' trip to Berkeley on November 10 now looks like it has the potential to be the regular-season game of the year.

Yet such forecasts come with a cautionary tale. If ever there was a season that proved the folly of trying to project matchups weeks ahead of time, it was this one. Just ask anyone trying to dump a spare pair of tickets outside the Cotton Bowl this coming Saturday.

John L. Smith Trophy

The usual policy with the JLS Trophy is to avoid awarding it to winning coaches. I will dispense with the policy for a week -- and also try to make a point about my own biases as Michigan alum -- by tapping Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr for this week's honor.

Michigan's entire game plan against Northwestern was dodgy at best. Apparently by design, Chad Henne returned from missing two games with a knee sprain, but was only supposed to play the first series of each half. Indeed, Henne started the game, led Michigan on a 65-yard touchdown drive in which all but three yards came via his arm, and then took a seat on the bench.

If Henne was well enough to take the field, why is he coming out of the game? Freshman Ryan Mallett, who played reasonably well in wins over Notre Dame and Penn State, struggled badly. Michigan didn't help him much by continuing to run Mike Hart into a stacked line, constantly leaving Mallett in undesirable down-and-distance situations.

Mallett entered the game with a 7-3 lead. During his five possessions, Michigan fell behind 16-7. Only once was he allowed to throw a first-down pass, and that was after a holding penalty had backed the Wolverines up.

Henne returned to start the second half and promptly sparked the Michigan offense, which scored three touchdowns and missed a field goal on its next six possessions. He was helped in no small measure by more aggressive play-calling.

Again, I'll ask the question. If Henne was only supposed to play two series because of injury concerns, how was he suddenly well enough to play the entire second half when Michigan fell behind? And if injury wasn't a concern, why didn't he play the entire game? And when will coaches learn that the best way to protect a young quarterback is to give him easy throws on first down, and not constantly leave him in third-and-long?

Throw in the mix that Michigan called time out to contemplate going for two with a four-point lead and just under 10 minutes to play, before (correctly) opting to kick the extra point (but wasting the timeout in the process) and this week's JLS Trophy is an easy one.

I'm a Lloyd Carr guy. I have never called for his head, not even after the disastrous start to this season. He's done more than enough at Michigan to deserve to go out on his own terms. But I won't hesitate to question him anytime he does something like this. I also hope that the Michigan fans who thought Mallett should keep the job he inherited via injury took a close look at how the team played with Henne under center on Saturday. There are maybe four quarterbacks in college football who could make the 16-yard pass Henne threw to Adrian Arrington -- looking off the safety, and delivering a laser on the skinny post -- for the go-ahead score.

BlogPoll Ballot

This season, I'll again be voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment, and rankings may change based on your suggestions.

Rank Team Delta
1 Southern Cal --
2 LSU --
3 California 2
4 Ohio State 3
5 South Florida 9
6 Kentucky 7
7 Boston College 2
8 Wisconsin 8
9 Oregon 1
10 Cincinnati 5
11 Florida 7
12 West Virginia 6
13 Kansas State 13
14 South Carolina 3
15 Georgia 3
16 Arizona State 6
17 Virginia Tech 9
18 Oklahoma 15
19 Purdue 6
20 Florida State 6
21 Hawaii 2
22 Missouri 2
23 Michigan State 3
24 Illinois 2
25 Auburn 1

Dropped Out: Rutgers (#8), Texas (#11), Clemson (#12), Alabama (#19), Penn State (#21).

Rankings that may require further explanation: Umm, all of them? This is the week the polls went to hell. I would encourage you not to do too much of the "last week vs. this week" type of comparisons. Yes, Boston College moves up after skating by UMass. After what happened Saturday, where would you put them?

This was the first week I really had to judge the value of a team's loss. Thus Oregon, losing by seven and fumbling on the goal line in the final seconds to a really good Cal team, doesn't fall far. Rutgers, getting badly outplayed by a not very good Maryland in its first even semi-test, falls out altogether. Texas hasn't impressed me all year, so even though I think Kansas State is pretty good, I'm punishing the Longhorns for their entire season's worth of results. Same with Clemson.

Please leave poll feedback in the comments. This was the most difficult ballot thus far, and if you think I've overlooked something obvious, let me know about it.

Games I watched at least part of: West Virginia-South Florida, Michigan-Northwestern, Cal-Oregon, Maryland-Rutgers, Alabama-Florida State, USC-Washington, Auburn-Florida.

Portions of this article appeared in Monday's New York Sun.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 01 Oct 2007

44 comments, Last at 03 Oct 2007, 10:50am by SoonerHQ

Comments

1
by The Boilermaster (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:16pm

As a recent University of Colorado graduate, I've seen this OU-CU matchup repeat itself every two years for some time. For some reason, OU just does not ever play well in Boulder. Even the games OU has won in Boulder recently have been closer-than-the-score-indicates (read: CU lost because of terrible officiating).

Maybe Stoops just doesn't understand how to deal with altitude and hostile stadiums...Because CU fans more cheer *against* other teams than *for* our team. Gary Barnett's fault, I guess. But back to OU, they always drop games in very-hostile stadiums to non-bitter-rivals. See: many losses to Colorado, loss to Kansas State in Big12 Title game, etc.

2
by hooper (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:23pm

Thus Oregon, losing by seven and fumbling on the goal line in the final seconds to a really good Cal team, doesn’t fall far.

I'll say. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't they gain a spot in your poll?

Otherwise, great analysis. My take on Lloyd (I'm ambivalent toward UM) is that he, like JoePa, is stuck in the game of the 80's, only without the option as a staple play. The spread option was designed by weaker teams to keep up with stronger teams, and now that stronger teams are using it, it's time for defenses to seriously consider ways to combat it. Spread teams will continue to bother Michigan, throwback teams like Penn State will get owned by them.

3
by DMP (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:30pm

Well looks like you didn't watch MSU-Wisc, so you must be going by the result to keep MSU in the top 25, but perhaps you missed the penalties that kept UW's last drive going (3 really dumb ones), and the MSU offensive play calling, especially at the end.

The media in the state of Michigan was quick to rule if a "typical MSU meltdown" in the end, but I don't think that was the case. MSU had no business being in that game to begin with if not for a handful of enormous plays on offense. Hoyer is not ready yet to have the coach's confidence, still holding the ball too long, still needs to improve pocket presence. I was concerned with the number of times the safeties never covered deep, but you'd figure they'd be in closer with PJ Hill to contain. The holding calls in UW's last drive were killers, but you would expect something like that to happen at some point once a converted WR is in coverage replacing the freshman starting CB (who was ejected). The Kellen Davis personal foul was inexcusable, though, and I don't buy the pass he was given in function of not being a full time defensive player. EVERYBODY knows you can't shove the QB after the throw.

Bad decisions all the time, and good and bad teams lose by virtue of dumb penalties all the time. Witness USC at Washington, witness Miami during their championship runs, etc. I think the key for MSU is what they do AFTER giving up a game at the very end like that. Even good teams have bad games, but good coaching I think tends to translate into recovering from those bad games (or bad finishes, as was this case). So we'll see.

4
by DMP (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:35pm

The way Evan Sharpley played against Purdue, does anyone else think that there is more credence to the theory that Demetrius Jones left ND because the job was just handed to Klausen, regardless of current merit? It sure looked like the junior Sharpley was more comfortable with the system than the new arrival Klausen. I know Klausen can be much better by next year, but that game made it look like he got the job because he promised it during recruiting rather than having earned it in camp. Any Domers have any thoughts?

5
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:37pm

4: It certainly is a pickle.

Sorry, I'm going to go kick my own ass for that one.

6
by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:39pm

Why Arizona State shouldn't be top ten? What has Wisconsin done that they haven't?

If you can't stand the idea of four Pac-10 teams in the top ten, drop Oregon a tiny bit - who have they beaten? Michigan while the Wolverines were catatonic, and, uh, Fresno State?

7
by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:40pm

Should've been "Why shouldn't Arizona State be top ten?", obv.

8
by Eric (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 5:44pm

I'm kinda new to Football Outsiders and might be missing a running joke, but it seems like despite official policy, the JLS trophy gets awarded to a winning coach every week...

9
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 6:10pm

I'm not sure that Jones was the "right QB" for Notre Dame. Weis may have told him that early on, but ND just isn't geared for a more mobile/running QB. The personnel isn't there. I agree, however, that it's clear that handing the ball to Clausen at some point was intended, and that it was kind of a slap to Jones (and Sharpley, for that matter) to pull them so quickly in the first game. Jones was barely given the opportunity to pass the ball by the Offensive Genius, yet was pulled and never started again!

Sharpley most definitely gives ND a better chance to win now, but putting Clausen in there may help develop him for later. Which is better? For ND at the moment, I think they need to start Sharpley.

10
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 6:13pm

I wouldn't be too hard on the Spartans considering they managed to gain 321 yards on 8 plays. You don't see that very often. That it came against a Wisconsin defense that had huffed and puffed all offseason about its goal to be known as a "great defense" has most in Badger country fretting.

On a related note the best player on defense is Jack Ikegwuonu who has played poorly to begin the season and missed Saturday's game with flu-like symptoms. Reportedly he lost seven pounds overnight due to stomach issues. "Ike" missed the entire game on Saturday and Devon Thomas of MSU just tore up the WI secondary. Sloppy tackling by the safeties didn't help. As I have pointed out before, Wisconsin has two redshirt freshman playing safety and while both are more physically talented than last year's guys they simply do not have sufficient experience and regularly get themselves out of position. Add in the over pursuit of the WI linebackers and folks who cut back find lots of open field.

Wisconsin's offense is pretty capable. The special teams are legitimately good. If Wisco-disco can ever get a consistent defensive effort they will handle most teams. But that's a big IF.

11
by Dennis Doubleday (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 6:17pm

Obviously you are entitled to your opinion, but dropping Oklahoma 15 spots while dropping WVU 6 spots for a more egregious loss does not seem to be comparable.

12
by citizen jason (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 6:28pm

6: I'm a Pac-10 fan, but I'm curious what you think ASU's done to deserve to be in the Top 10--they've beaten 4 teams with losing records and Colorado. (Although obviously the Colorado victory could look better as the weeks go on.)

11: How is WVU's loss more egregious? They lost to (according to the poll above) the #5 team in the country on the road by 8 points. Oklahoma lost to a team who has won 2 games, including a 3-point win to an 0-4 Colorado State Team.

13
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 6:31pm

He obviously thinks South Florida is much better than Colorado.

14
by Russell Levine :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:00pm

Love to see so much discussion about the rankings.

As far as Arizona State goes, I unfortunately have not seen them play yet this year (I need to make a note to do that) and am hesitant to move them way up because of the schedule. Wisconsin did win 11 games last year (yes, yes, weak Big Ten and all, they did beat an OMG SEC! team in the bowl) and gets more of a benefit of the doubt.

I will say this. When a team that hasn't played anybody loses, I will drop the hammer. Witness Rutgers from #8 to out of the poll. Same with Texas. And when a team that I haven't rated highly because they haven't played anybody beats someone of significance, they will rocket up.

And yes, I do think South Florida is much better than Colorado, but that could change depending on what happens the rest of the way.

15
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:11pm

9: I agree. Clausen is dinged up, and I don't think he's learning much that's going to help him next year. He's learning skills that would help if he were ever chased by an angry mob though.

You can see it in his play, he just has no confidence that he's going to have any time to throw, and when things like an entire defensive line sacking him simultaneously have happened this season, I can't really blame him. Maybe they can rotate Clausen in every third series or so instead of just completely throwing him into the fire, and give him more of a chance to learn more by observation coupled with some playing time, but not throwing the whole weight of ND's expectations on him.

It's probably too late for that, but maybe they could do it for the rest of the year and undo some of the damage that has been done.

16
by Jesse (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:27pm

How is VaTech ranked about OU? They beat a crappy UNC team by seven, and they've looked like crap all season long. Do you really think the Sooners would lose to Arizona State?

17
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:31pm

Is it just me or has the JLS award gone to a winning coach almost every week so far? It seems like every time I've read this I see "I don't usually give this to a winning coach, but..."

18
by Russell Levine :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:34pm

Just checked the stats. This is the second winning coach to win the JLS this year, although it does seem like I mention the "unofficial policy" nearly every week.

19
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:51pm

14 - Wisconsin won 12 last year. Nitpicking, sorry.

In addition to the upsets making things harder to assess, let's remember that this time of the season should be the easiest to disagree about the polls. While at the end, you're supposed to go on what a team has accomplished, at this point, it's kind of a mixture of accomplishments so far plus some assessment of its general level of play (past and future). You may not agree with that, and different pollsters or fans may have somewhat different ideas as to on what basis polls should be constructed - but there you are. After the bowls, it *should* all be about what happened, but now, it's almost inevitably going to be partly about what's expected to happen, or in other words, how good teams look, whether they are zero-loss, one-loss, or whatever. I know even after the bowls you still hear about unimpressive victories and unsubstantiated conference strength blather, but at this point there's some legitimacy to that type of thinking, because vague projections can still be corrected later once the entire schedule has been played.

20
by Jon (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 7:57pm

Rutgers fans are not happy at all about the current schedule. I foolishly refused to buy season tickets during the spring when I had a chance, only to see them sell out in a matter of days. Schedules are made a few years in advance, so hopefully things will get better. There are probably things in the works, including a rumored deal with Notre Dame. The AD is excessively secretive about this subject.As for the game itself, the defense just didn't match up well with Maryland's running game. With the inexperience up front this year, they can't really do the stunts and twists that worked so well in 2006. I had hope Jordan Steffy would give away the game, but Maryland's backup QB, Chris Turner, proved to be a much better player.The team did look rather sloppy in September. So if that loss can do anything, I hope it makes them re-focus and stop believing their own hype. They still have the chance at a very good season if they want it. Oh, and maybe, ahem, some people will stop fitting our coach for a maize and blue vest now.

21
by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 8:17pm

12: Like ASU, Wisconsin's beaten exactly one I-A team with a winning record. Unlike Wisconsin, the Sun Devils haven't been troubled, apart from one atrocious quarter against Oregon State.

18: Don't know if the Sooners would lose to Arizona State, but again: ASU 33, Colorado 14.

22
by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 8:20pm

Whoops, forgot that ASU also tanked their first quarter against Colorado (0-14). Two atrocious quarters, then.

23
by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 9:13pm

Who's that at #24? What the heck is going on? A Zook-led Illini team, ranked?

24
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 9:15pm

Repost from the previous thread:

My Meaningless Top 25:

1. LSU
2. California
3. Southern Cal
4. Ohio State
5. South Florida
6. Wisconsin
7. Arizona State
8. Boston College
9. Oregon
10. Kentucky
11. West Virginia
12. Missouri
13. South Carolina
14. Virginia Tech
15. Auburn
16. Florida
17. Oklahoma*
18. Georgia
19. Michigan State
20. Kansas State
21. Miami
22. Cincinnati
23. Texas
24. Clemson
25. Illinois

-I’m serious about Cal, and they have a strong argument to be #1. Cal has beaten Tennessee and Oregon, and USC has beaten…who?

-I’m serious about South Florida. Can you make a real case that anyone below them should be ranked above them? Heck, they could be ranked higer.

-On Friday I was talking about what a HUGE college football Saturday was coming up on October 6. With Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida all losing, not so much.

*In hindsight, I think I ranked Oklahoma too low. They lost on the road by three points to a decent CU team and were dominant before that.

25
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 9:48pm

What's fascinating about Illinois is the success despite the recent tinkering at qb. Williams sat in the fourth quarter and today Zook had to tell everyone that Juice was still the starter. Interesting.

This is a solid team. They will be sky high to play Wisconsin. But the game starts at 11 a.m. local time which means it's very likely that like most college towns the students won't be in the stands. Wisco needs to take advantage of the reduced noise/chaos early in the game.

26
by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 10:56pm

Here is the future Rutgers non-conference schedule:

2008 - a 1-AA opponent (TBA), Buffalo, at Navy, North Carolina, Army.
2009 - a 1-AA opponent (TBA), Navy, Buffalo, at Maryland, at Army
2010 - a 1-AA opponent (TBA), at Navy, North Carolina, Army, at Notre Dame
2011 - a 1-AA opponent (TBA), at North Carolina, Navy, at Notre Dame, at Army.

They have set an annual series with ND from 2010-2016.

http://blog.nj.com/rutgersfb_archive/2007/07/rutgers_notebook_15.html

27
by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 11:00pm

Re 25: But the game starts at 11 a.m. local time which means it’s very likely that like most college towns the students won’t be in the stands. Wisco needs to take advantage of the reduced noise/chaos early in the game.

I went to Illinois and there really wasn't any difference in the atmosphere if the students were there or not. But that was almost 15 years ago, so maybe things are different now.

28
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 11:04pm

26 set me off...

Rutgers at #21 is a JOKE. Wow, they beat Navy, Buffalo, and Norfolk State. They lost to Maryland. Yet somehow we're supposed to beleive that only 20 teams have more impressive credentials than Rutgers.

Rutgers is what Nebraska was in the late 80's- they never win any impressive games, their schedule is a joke, but they're always highly ranked anyway.

Seriously, with Buffalo and Army already on the schedule every year, this sorry joke of a program has open dates...and they're setting aside dates for D-IAA teams?

Yeah, I said it- sorry...joke...of...a...program.

29
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/01/2007 - 11:56pm

Bill Snyder says its the best way to build a program.

30
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 12:04am

29- I agree. I agreed when Snyder did it.

But like KSU did in the 90's, Rutgers has risen from the abyss. The next step on the ladder includes adding quality opponents, not D-IAAs.

Hey, Rutgers can do whatever it wants. We can't control that. What those associated with college football polls can control is where their sorry schedule is ranked.

31
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 12:14am

Yes I agree, though does part of it have to do with just getting bowl eligible and getting that money and extra practice time? They may be somewhat established, but they have just been to 2 bowl games. Though I am surprised they have a schedule out for until 2011. I swear Alabama does not even have next year's schedule out yet.

32
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 12:17am

Florida
Kentucky
Georgia
South Carolina
Tennessee
Vanderbilt

Ladies and gentlemen, the SEC East. And there can only be one winner. Should be entertaining, to say the least.

33
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 12:28am

I said to my friends before the season that Kentucky can finish 3rd in the SEC East-they may actually do better then that-the offense is that good.

Vandy is interesting-right now its just the bad case of not feeling like they can win. They play the close games, but they seem to make silly mistakes at crucial times.

I am not sold on South Carolina and Tennessee winning enough games to win the East.

Florida owns Georgia.

So uh I guess the winner is going to be Kentucky.

34
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 12:52am

25, 27:
Two thoughts on the crowd at UW-UI this upcoming Saturday...
1) Initially, I wondered how attendance would drop, with Chief Illiniwek no longer performing at halftime of games; for my last few years at Illinois (2003-2005), he was the primary reason most students even went to games (and you should have seen the crowd clear out after halftime), except for homecoming and
2) Dad's weekend, which is this coming weekend. Dad's love to drag their kids to football games, so attendance should be pretty good. Combine that with a program that finally looks promising, and the crowd should be out, even at 11 a.m.

35
by navin (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 1:08am

SC has Kentucky at home on Thursday. If they win, they are in really good shape to win the SEC East.

The entire ACC is overrated except for FSU, who is surprisingly underrated this year. BC at 7 is way too high. They seem more like the 25th best team in the country. The ACC is easily the worst of the BCS conferences. At least the Big 10 has Ohio State.

36
by wolfmanrob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 3:33am

I thought my Kentucky Mildcats were appearing in the AP top 10, merely as a middle finger to underacheiving traditional powerhouses. Then, i see a thinking fan's columnist, propping them to 6th. No Margoing way. Inflating our powderpuff 5-0 start, now, to set up an end of season "quality wins" argument for whichever team (aside from LSU)that emerges from the slaughterhouse SEC with more than one loss, is both unprofessional, and cruel.

37
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 8:17am

Inflating our powderpuff 5-0 start

With wins over Louisville and Arkansas?

Granted, neither of those teams are world-beaters, but it's not a BAD schedule. The SC game will tell us a lot.

38
by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 10:09am

As a Gator fan I really question how Florida (Gators) looks defensively. Auburn under Tuberville has consistently played the Gators well by taking advantage of Charlie Strong's defense, particularly with short passes. Ever since Zook (and Stoops) left I have not liked the style of defense. I was talking to my wife and showed her how the cornerbacks are often 5-10 yards off the line of scrimage and running backwards when the ball is snapped. I pointed out that they were almost yelling, "Run Away! Run Away!". My wife noted the reference, so we have since started calling this the Monty Python (Holy Grail reference) defense.

Another problem with the Gators was their offense. Tebow consistently only ran behind the Left Guard. In the late 2nd half he finally had some success making the big transition to running behind the Right Guard. While the RG may be a Rookie, this has been too consistent a trend to overlook in past games. Something else I noticed was that a quick handoff to dive up the middle (Kehstahn Moore?) tends to consistently earn 5-8 yards.

I wonder if Andre (Bubba) Caldwell and Cooper (the "deceptively fast" receiver who was rusty and turned in rather than out on a long pass and did not get another look for the rest of the game) will be able to contribute for the LSU game. These two players tend to have good hands and run good routes in previous games that seemed to open up the game downfield.

39
by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 10:12am

Florida does not "own Georgia". Georgia's receivers just cannot catch the ball (easily half a dozen drops in almost ever game) and they do it at the worst times against the Gators.

It could be interesting if Florida loses to LSU. Who will win the East? Georgia? South Carolina? Kentucky?

40
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 11:03am

re: 28
Wait, we're talking about RUTGERS, right?
"always highly ranked"?

What alternative universe are we talking about here? Correct me if I'm wrong, but before last season, the last time Rutgers was ranked at all was sometime in the mid-70s...

Maybe Rutgers is good and maybe they're not. But they certainly are not historically overrated. Aside from the past couple seasons, they've been historically rated as "crappy", which was pretty much appropriate.

Why are they playing teams like Army, Navy, and Buffalo? Well before last year, nobody would have denied that this was about the level Rutgers football was at. In many recent years, Rutgers not only was playing Army and Navy, but losing to them.

The administration would like to see Rutgers rise to a prestige level of West Virginia and Penn State. As an alum, I think that would be fine, but we have to keep in mind that they really aren't there yet. I totally support Russell's decision to drop Rutgers from the top 25 altogether.

41
by The Boilermaster (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 4:24pm

Considering the way the OU-CU game went, and how badly OU underperformed in the second half... I honestly would not be suprised if @CU was OU's only loss this year.

They'll probably sweep the rest of the Big 12, get into a BCS bowl as the 3rd or 4th ranked team, and (as OU always does in Bowls) lose because it's not the national championship game.

42
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/02/2007 - 7:28pm

Recent history has shown that it does not matter if its even a national championship game for Oklahoma-they will lose the game.

43
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/03/2007 - 2:26am

“always highly ranked�? What alternative universe are we talking about here?

You're right- Rutgers is becoming what Nebraska was, but they're not there yet.

Why are they playing teams like Army, Navy, and Buffalo? Well before last year, nobody would have denied that this was about the level Rutgers football was at. In many recent years, Rutgers not only was playing Army and Navy, but losing to them.

But now that Rutgers has risen to a higher level, is it too much to wonder why they're planning to schedule 1-AA teams over the next four years?

44
by SoonerHQ (not verified) :: Wed, 10/03/2007 - 10:50am

#42: Guess it depends on what you define as recent. Under Stoops, OU is 4-4 in bowl games, 2-3 in BCS bowls, and 1-2 in NC games. In other words, within one game of .500 in each category - about what you'd expect when two evenly matched teams play each other with a month to prepare. Yes, OU has lost 3 of their last four bowls, but they have won 4 of the last 7 - you can draw a line wherever to get the result you want to see.

One trend that is apparent, considering both bowls and reg season games, is that the Sooners under Stoops play better as underdogs than as favorites. They are 1-3 in bowls as the favorite, but 3-1 (with a NC) as underdogs, and almost all of their reg season losses have been as favorites. Of course, they have been favored in almost every reg season game since thw 2000 NC, so that skews the data.

"Big Game" Bob never really existed - he started off with a bang, going 3-1 in bowls with a NC, but that was hardly a reasonable sample size. Since then his bowl record has been average - but he has guided the Sooners to 5 BCS bowls and 3 NC games in 8 yrs. Still a pretty good ball coach, IMHO.