Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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26 Aug 2008

Football Junkie: NCAA Season Preview

By Russell Levine

The 2007 college football season began with a stunner, as Appalachian State won at Michigan. As the weeks went forward, the upsets just kept coming. Stanford beat USC in possibly the largest point-spread upset in history. South Florida was No. 2 in the first BCS rankings. Missouri and Kansas played a game with major national-title implications. West Virginia blew a berth in the national title game by losing at home to a four-touchdown underdog. LSU lost its 12th game -- its second loss of the year -- and won the national title. Ohio St. lost its 11th game -- and still reached the Bowl Championship Series title game. Scholarship limits and the proliferation of the talent-neutralizing spread offense would suggest that similar results are to be expected this season.

Will 2008 end with an upstart like Missouri or Clemson accepting the BCS championship trophy? Both could be out of the running after tough openers on September 30. Will this be the year Ohio State breaks through? The SEC might once again have something to say about that. If last year was any indication, about the only safe assumption is that the storyline will change every single week.

Irish Redemption?

Last year was the ultimate for Notre Dame-haters, as the Irish staggered to a 1-9 start before winning their last two contests. The size of Charlie Weis' contract probably kept him off the hot seat in 2007, but another such campaign won't be tolerated in South Bend. The good news is that Weis continues to reel in top-notch talent, and this year's schedule is considerably easier, making a bowl a real possibility.

New Faces, New Places

Coaches are college football's marquee stars. There were plenty of big names on the move during this offseason, as two of the sport's Tiffany jobs (Michigan and Nebraska) came open. Here's a look at the most significant hires:

  • Arkansas: Bobby Petrino (from Atlanta Falcons)
  • Michigan: Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia)
  • Mississippi: Houston Nutt (Arkansas)
  • Nebraska: Bo Pelini (LSU defensive coordinator)
  • Texas A&M: Mike Sherman (Houston Texans offensive coordinator)
  • UCLA: Rick Neuheisel (Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator)

Tebow=Griffin?

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow made Heisman history in 2007 as the first sophomore winner. But don't assume he's going to join Archie Griffin as the trophy's only two-time honoree. All the short-yardage running Tebow did last season (23 rush TDs) left him battered and ineffective in the critical loss to Georgia. Look for coach Urban Meyer to limit his carries this fall. Here's a look at some other Heisman hopefuls:

  • Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
  • Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri
  • Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
  • Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
  • Pat White, QB, West Virginia

Our pick? Wells.

Tick-Tock

Two years ago, the NCAA attempted to speed up games with a foolish set of clock rules. The new system was so reviled that it was scrapped after a single season. For 2008, common sense has prevailed and the NCAA has opted to go with an NFL-style 25-/40-second play clock, which should help ensure a consistent pace of play. As well, the clock will be restarted after certain out-of-bounds plays. The net result should shave a few minutes off those 3:30 marathons, without leaving loopholes like the one Wisconsin's Bret Bielema so infamously exploited in 2006.

Conference Capsules

ACC

ATLANTIC
Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
COASTAL
Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Headed for the BCS: Clemson
Best Offensive Player: James Davis, RB, Clemson
Best Defensive Player: Victor "Macho" Harris, CB, Virginia Tech
Coach on the Hottest Seat: Bobby Bowden, Florida State
Team That Will Surprise: North Carolina
Game of the Year: Clemson at Wake Forest, Oct. 9

This surely isn't what the ACC had in mind when it added Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College from the Big East. Instead of a 12-team super conference that rivals the SEC, the ACC has watched as its marquee programs -- Miami and Florida State -- have sunk into a period of sustained mediocrity. At the same time, none of the conference's other members have emerged to become regular title contenders. There is no better symbol of the league's struggles than the yawning sections of empty seats at its last two championship games in Jacksonville.

The struggles of the Hurricanes and Seminoles in recent seasons are largely attributable to poor quarterback play. Indeed, the conference as a whole is bereft of talent at the position. One of the main reasons that Clemson is favored to capture its first league crown in 17 years is that it has Cullen Harper under center. The senior is coming off a season in which he threw for 2,991 yards, with 27 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The Tigers also have perhaps the nation's best running back tandem in James Davis and C.J. Spiller. They have a history of inconsistency under coach Tommy Bowden, often looking like national-title contenders one week before falling to a seemingly overmatched opponent the next.

Clemson is the clear favorite in the Atlantic Division, though it could face a challenge from plucky Wake Forest if quarterback Riley Skinner can stay healthy. Florida State remains an enigma, vastly underperforming its talent level, and the biggest drama in Tallahassee this season is likely to be the future of legendary coach Bobby Bowden. Virginia Tech has the talent to walk away with the Coastal Division, but don't be surprised if North Carolina makes a significant leap in coach Butch Davis's second season.

BIG EAST

Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia
Headed for the BCS: West Virginia
Best Offensive Player: Pat White, QB, West Virginia
Best Defensive Player: George Selvie, DE, South Florida
Coach on the Hottest Seat: Greg Robinson, Syracuse
Team That Will Surprise: Pittsburgh
Game of the Year: South Florida at West Virginia, Dec. 6

The Big East remains the anti-ACC. Four years after seemingly being robbed of its best teams, the conference is arguably more competitive than it was when Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech were still members. That is because their replacements -- Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida -- have all shown the potential to challenge for the conference crown, while West Virginia remains a national power.

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All eyes will be on Morgantown this season to see if the Mountaineers can maintain the success built by Rich Rodriguez. His replacement, Bill Stewart, had never been a Division I-A head coach before the Fiesta Bowl thumping of Oklahoma last season. Stewart still has Rodriguez's schemes, and something that Rodriguez only wishes he had in Ann Arbor: the quarterback to operate them. Pat White is the most important player in the conference. When he injured his thumb against Pittsburgh, the West Virginia offense sputtered, setting in motion the dominoes that eventually led to Rodriguez's exit. With Steve Slaton gone, White will look to get the ball to pint-sized running back Noel Devine, one of the nation's most explosive talents.

If West Virginia is to take the next step, it will have to solve the riddle of South Florida, the Big East's most upwardly mobile program. The Bulls have beaten West Virginia two years running, primarily because they have the athletes on defense (like lighting-quick but undersized defensive end George Selvie) to consistently get into the backfield and disrupt the spread. Rutgers kept coach Greg Schiano, who turned down Michigan, but this could be a transition year after losing Ray Rice to the NFL. It is a critical season for the Knights on and off the field, as fund-raising for controversial stadium improvements has not gone as expected.

BIG TEN

Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Headed for the BCS: Ohio State, Wisconsin
Best Offensive Player: Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
Best Defensive Player: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Coach on the Hottest Seat: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Team That Will Surprise: Iowa
Game of the Year: Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 4

A league once known as the "big two, little eight" became much deeper in the 1990s. But at the tail end of the current decade, Ohio State stands head and shoulders above its conference brethren. The Buckeyes have appeared in the last two BCS title games and have the pedigree to do so again this season. Of course, there's a big difference between "appeared in" and "won," as all SEC fans know. A third-straight BCS title loss -- possibly to another SEC squad -- would stamp the Buckeyes as the Buffalo Bills of college football.

Ohio State's 2007 success was a surprise, but this year it is expected to run roughshod over the Big Ten. A win at USC September 13 would put the Buckeyes on the fast track to the BCS title game. They are loaded on both sides of the ball, but the biggest name is tailback Chris "Beanie" Wells, the probable Heisman favorite. Quarterback Todd Boeckman is a game-manager, but look for Jim Tressel to spell him with uber-recruit Terrelle Pryor to provide a spread-option look.

The line to challenge the Buckeyes forms behind Wisconsin, which gets Ohio State at home on October 4. Penn State also appears poised for a good year with 18 returning starters, while Illinois looks to build on last year's Rose Bowl season. Iowa should be improved by virtue of a willow-soft schedule. Michigan made a splash hiring Rodriguez, but the Wolverines are facing a massive rebuilding project (one returning offensive starter). A bowl bid would mark this season a success in Ann Arbor.

BIG 12

NORTH
Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Missouri
SOUTH
Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Headed for the BCS: Oklahoma, Missouri
Best Offensive Player: Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri
Best Defensive Player: Auston English, DE, Oklahoma
Coach on the Hottest Seat: Ron Prince, Kansas State
Team That Will Surprise: Colorado
Game of the Year: Texas vs. Oklahoma (Dallas), Oct. 11

In a season of surprises, no league provided more shockers than the Big 12. From surprising teams (Missouri and Kansas) to surprising results (Colorado over Oklahoma, Kansas State over Texas), the conference opened plenty of eyes in 2007. The big question this season is, can the upstarts prove they have staying power while the traditional powers (Texas, Oklahoma) try to retain their place?

Missouri would appear to have a better chance than Kansas to be a 2008 contender thanks to its schedule. Last season, the Jayhawks had the good fortune to miss the South Division's big three: Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. This fall, they face all three, plus a road trip to dangerous South Florida. Missouri, meanwhile, has a road date at Texas but skips Oklahoma, which handed the Tigers their only two defeats a year ago. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will have plenty of chances to pad his Heisman resume while throwing to Jeremy Maclin, one of the nation's top receivers as a freshman.

It appears the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry will resume its place as the most important in the Big 12, unless Texas Tech can get in the way. The Red Raiders, who return prolific quarterback Graham Harrell and receiver Michael Crabtree, plus perhaps their best defense of the Mike Leach era, could be 8-0 when Texas visits Lubbock on November 1.

PAC-10

Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State
Headed for the BCS: USC
Best Offensive Player: Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Best Defensive Player: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC
Coach on the Hottest Seat: Mike Stoops, Arizona
Team That Will Surprise: Oregon State
Game of the Year: Arizona State at USC, Oct. 11

It is a measure of Pete Carroll's success at USC that the Trojans were seen as a disappointment in going 11-2 and winning the Rose Bowl last year. Such are the expectations surrounding a program that went 37-2 from 2003-2005, with a pair of national titles. But as dominant as USC has been, the Trojans could not overcome a banged-up starting quarterback (Mark Sanchez), and a schedule that saw them face Oregon, Cal, and Arizona State, all on the road.

Fall camp has been trying for Carroll, as Sanchez missed time with a dislocated kneecap and standout tailback Joe McKnight, the star of the Rose Bowl rout of Illinois, suffered a variety of injuries. USC is also plenty green, returning just 11 starters. Seven of those are on defense, however, where the Trojans have high-round NFL prospects at every level, including defensive tackle Fili Moala, linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga, and safety Taylor Mays.

Arizona State, coming off a surprising 10-win season in Dennis Erickson's first year, still has quarterback Rudy Carpenter and a potent offense, but the Sun Devils' leaky line must protect him. Oregon and Cal could also be in the mix if they can find consistency at quarterback.

SEC

EAST
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
WEST
Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State

Headed for the BCS: Auburn, Florida
Best Offensive Player: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Best Defensive Player: Jasper Brinkley, LB, South Carolina
Coach on the Hottest Seat: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Team That Will Surprise: Mississippi
Game of the Year: Georgia vs. Florida (Jacksonville), Nov. 1

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Georgia is getting all the preseason hype, and sits atop both major polls after crushing Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl to cap a strong 2007. But the Bulldogs have a brutal schedule, even by SEC standards. The conference slate sends them on the road to South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn, making the decision to schedule a non-conference road game against Arizona State a head-scratcher. Georgia certainly has the talent, particularly on offense with quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno.

To fulfill its promise and get to the BCS championship, Georgia will have to not only survive the killer schedule, but will have to prove that it can play consistently from week to week. Florida, on the other hand, needs to prove it can play defense, because the Gators have all the tools they need on offense (Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin) and a favorable schedule (only three SEC road games: Tennessee, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt). The Florida-Georgia game should determine the SEC East champ.

In the West, defending national champion LSU is loaded everywhere -- except at quarterback. Deficiency there, plus road trips to Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, and Arkansas could knock the Tigers down a peg. Auburn, which is moving to the spread offense, has 16 returning starters and, like Florida, a favorable schedule.

OTHERS

Conference-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC, Independents
Headed for the BCS: BYU
Possible Heisman Dark Horse: Dan LeFevour , Central Michigan
Coaches on the Move: Bronco Mendenhall, BYU, Turner Gill, Buffalo
Best Games vs. BCS Schools:
Hawaii at Florida, Aug. 30
East Carolina vs. Virginia Tech (Charlotte), Aug. 30
Utah at Michigan, Aug. 30
Southern Miss at Auburn, Sept. 6
Central Michigan at Georgia, Sept. 6
Wisconsin at Fresno State, Sept. 13
UCLA at BYU, Sept. 13
Boise St. at Oregon, Sept. 20
TCU at Oklahoma, Sept. 27
Tulsa at Arkansas, Nov. 1

In the annual race to get to the BCS from the non auto-bid conferences, BYU appears to have the best shot to go undefeated and claim a big-money bowl berth. The Cougars must survive a pair of tests against the PAC-10, a road trip to TCU, and a season-ending visit to Utah, which could also factor into the BCS if the Utes can escape Ann Arbor with a win over rebuilding Michigan in their opener. Fresno State has one of its better teams under Pat Hill, but a murderous schedule probably precludes an unbeaten campaign.

BlogPoll Preseason 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 I may make changes based on comments for next week. As with all preseason polls, you should take these rankings with a grain of salt.

Rank Team Delta
1 Georgia 25
2 Southern Cal 24
3 Ohio State 23
4 Florida 22
5 Auburn 21
6 West Virginia 20
7 Oklahoma 19
8 LSU 18
9 Missouri 17
10 Clemson 16
11 Texas 15
12 Virginia Tech 14
13 Wisconsin 13
14 Kansas 12
15 Tennessee 11
16 Oregon 10
17 South Florida 9
18 Texas Tech 8
19 Arizona State 7
20 Brigham Young 6
21 Penn State 5
22 Cincinnati 4
23 Fresno State 3
24 Utah 2
25 Illinois 1

Dropped Out:

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

Posted by: Russell Levine on 26 Aug 2008

59 comments, Last at 30 Aug 2008, 10:57pm by Bobby

Comments

1
by jackson rockefeller III (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 6:11pm

this is horse pockey, you got the wrong bowden in the hot seat.

2
by Feely (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 7:46pm

Didn't Ron Prince just get a big extension?

3
by Goo (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 8:18pm

No mention of GT's Paul Johnson as a significant hire? Give him 2 years and that team is going to be an ACC powerhouse... if his personal twist on the option works at the BCS-conference level, that is.

4
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 9:09pm

MY MEANINGLESS PRE-SEAON TOP 25:

1. Ohio State
2. Florida
3. Oklahoma
4. Georgia
5. Missouri
6. Southern Cal
7. Clemson
8. Auburn
9. Penn State
10. LSU
11. Wisconsin
12. West Virginia
13. Texas Tech
14. South Florida
15. Utah
16. Texas
17. Oregon
18. Tennessee
19. BYU
20. Pittsburgh
21. Virginia Tech
22. Arizona State
23. South Carolina
24. Michigan State
25. Kansas

CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT from my Top 25 are traditional superpowers Alabama , Florida State , Miami , Michigan , Nebraska , and Notre Dame.

WINNER OF THE KANSAS STATE AWARD, given to the team with the worst non-conference schedule: Indiana ’s toughest non-conference game is Central Michigan, with Western Kentucky, Ball State , and Murray State filling it out. Indiana should be down this year, and likely won’t bowl even with three “gimmies” on the schedule. Minnesota and Texas Tech get dishonorable mentions in this category. In fact, since Minnesota has scheduled a total of ONE non-conference game vs a BCS school in the past six years ( Cal in 2004) I should consider re-naming this award “The Gopher”.

HEISMAN WINNER:
1. Beanie Wells, Ohio State
2. Tim Tebow, Florida
3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
4. Matt Stafford, Georgia
5. Percy Harvin, Florida

THE BEST PRO PROSPECT: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State . He won’t go #1, since CBs don’t go that high.

THE #1 PICK IN THE 2009 NFL DRAFT: Sen’Derrick Marks, DT/DE Auburn .

SURPRISE TEAM: Pittsburgh , who has a good chance to win the Big East.

BCS-BOWL CRASHER: Utah . Anyone up for a rematch of the 2005 Utah vs Pittsburgh Fiesta Bowl? BUZZKILL!

FIRST COACH CANNED: Greg Robinson, Syracuse . Really, he shouldn’t have been given a fourth year.

IF SOMEONE COULD PLEASE get Louisiana Tech moved from the WAC to either the Sun Belt or Conference USA , I’d greatly appreciate it. Tech makes NO sense in the WAC.

IT’S NOW OR NEVER: If Clemson and Texas Tech want to win their conferences, they’ll never have a greater opportunity than this year.

BARRING CATASTROPHE, Chase Daniel will become Missouri’s all-time leading passer. That kind of stinks, as I enjoy the idea of Brad Smith being Mizzou’s all-time leading passer AND their all-time leading rusher.

OTHER PREDICTIONS:

Baylor and Vanderbilt will win four games between them. These teams will have down seasons even by their own “lofty” standards.

SMU will bowl for the first time since 1984. Ole Miss, Northwestern, Arizona , and North Carolina will all bowl.

Ty Willingham is currently 11 – 25 after three years at Washington . The Huskies will go 2-10 in 2008, and Ty will be fired. Controversy will somehow ensue.

Notre Dame will go 9 – 3.

Texas' streak of seven 10+ win seasons will be broken.

Michigan will go 5 – 7. While we’re at it, Rich Rodriguez is a bad fit for Michigan , and the next four years for the maize and blue will resemble the Bill Callahan era at Nebraska .

Final prediction: Russell will not like me for making that last prediction. :D

Glad to have FJ back. You guys greatly add to my enjoyment of the season.

5
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 9:56pm

I see your Indiana and raise you a LSU: Non-conference slate of Appalachian State, Troy, North Texas, and Tulane. Indiana is at least a fringe bowl team that needs the wins, LSU is a powerhouse.

6
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 10:35pm

Lionsbob, I see what you're saying. Troy, North Texas, and Tulane are more traditionally respectable than anyone Indiana is playing.

Then again, LSU is supposed to have it's bar raised higher than Indiana's. One reasonable NC foe would be nice.

7
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 11:08pm

#4: The interesting thing about that Top 25 (and Russell's) is that once again, Penn State's listed above Florida State.

Why is this interesting? Because Paterno's been creeping back up on Bowden since 2005 in total wins: Bowden has 373, and Paterno has 372.

That's right - just one win separate them at this point. If Penn State has a strong season, and Florida State has a mediocre season, Paterno will take back the title of college football's winningest coach.

Personally, I'm amazed by that. I'm even more amazed I've barely heard about it anywhere. If you had gone back to 2004 and told someone that, they would've called you bat$#!+ insane. In 2003 and 2004 Penn State went 3-9 and 4-7. The Seminoles went 10-3 and 9-3 in those years. At that point, it looked like Bowden was pulling away from Paterno - gains of 7 wins, 5 wins a year, etc. It was really unthinkable that Paterno would catch up to Bowden.

8
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 08/26/2008 - 11:15pm

(reply to myself: thanks to Wikipedia, apparently, that one-game difference between Paterno and Bowden is entirely due to the fact that Paterno declined to accept a victory for a forfeited game, and Bowden accepted one. Talk about weird. Technically, they both only have 372 victories on the field.)

9
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:02am

What did Bret Bielema do in 2006? My former career required me to work Saturdays that season...

10
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:03am

Wisconsin has new receivers, an untested quarterback, an injury-prone defensive line and new kickers. And lest anyone has forgotten the Badgers defense was pretty horrible for most of the season. They gave up 20 yard plus plays by the bushel in 2007. If they are the second best team in the Big Ten the conference has REAL issues.

And Russell, give it a rest on the Wisconsin-Penn State game. Infamous? Only you, me and Pat remember the particulars. Pat and I because our teams played and you because you have some bizarre code of conduct akin to baseball managers which if violated makes the guilty party a war criminal.

11
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:15am

Post 9:

Thank you for proving my point.

Short story, the rules in effect at the time had the clock start as soon as the ball was kicked as opposed to when it was touched including on penalties.

From the Journal-Sentinel archives:

With 23 seconds left, the Badgers' kickoff team crosses the line of scrimmage well before junior Taylor Mehlhaff's kickoff. Penn State's A.J. Wallace returns the ball to the Nittany Lions 12. Nine seconds go off the clock. The Badgers are called offside. Penn State accepts the penalty. UW must re-kick.
With 14 seconds remaining, UW repeats the tactic and is called offside. Penn State off-sets the penalty with a holding penalty of its own. No play. Ten seconds run off the clock.

With 4 seconds left, Mehlhaff's squib kick is recovered by Penn State's Patrick Hall, who returns the ball 15 yards before UW's Ben Strickland forces a fumble. Badgers sophomore Josh Neal recovers the ball at the Nittany Lions 39. No time is left in the quarter. Halftime.

That's it. BB took advantage of the rules and a few people had a hissy.

Look, I personally don't LIKE BB. Guy talks defense and the defense hasn't REALLY been that special with him calling the shots. He hasn't acted as quickly as I would like in dealing with some character issues.

But he is a COACH. And while somewhat annoying this was a tactic to neutralize the Penn State return game. And it WORKED.

And Russell had a meltdown ranting that BB was a "douchebag" among other choice comments.

And like I said, there ain't but ten people who remember what happened and most of them are dead......

12
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:16am

Alabama is going to be an odd team this year. The Clemson game might be telling of their season (or nothing at all, perhaps the young guys play better as the season goes on).

J.P. Wilson is probably the 3rd best returning QB (behind Stafford and Tebow), but that is like Kitna being the best returning QB in the NFC North. The running game should be better, so should the OL. The receivers are young, but they have the potential to be great (2006 Rivals top 100 player Brandon Gibson is not even listed amongst the 8 WRs) and Julio Jones might actually be worth the hype. Nick Walker is actually a good receiving TE.

The defense is the big question mark. It probably has more talent then it did last season, the problem is that everyone is so freaking young (the best player in the front 7 is true sophomore Rolando McClain). Alabama's problem last season was playing against the power running game. We need the front 7 to step up. But I am also concerned about the secondary beyond Rashad Johnson and Kareem Jackson. Justin Woodall, is a left-handed flame-throwing pitching, who turned the money to finally start for Bama (not being able to beat out Marcus Carter might be a concern).

The schedule is what is going to kill Alabama. The home games besides Auburn are all winnable (and need to be won).

13
by NY expat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:31am

re: 9

Bielema ran off the last seconds of the first half of a game against Penn State by having his players intentionally go offsides on a kickoff. The rule at the time was that the clock had to start as soon as the ball was kicked, not received. The rule was changed the following season. (The link claims Bielema did it purposely to get the rule revoked, but Paterno was not amused.)

14
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 1:15am

My favorite moment of the 2008-09 season will be unbeaten Ohio State playing unbeaten Oklahoma or Clemson in the BCS Championship Game, and all the whining from fans of (pick 2 of LSU, Auburn, Georgia, and Florida) about how losing 2 or 3 games in the SEC means they're better than those teams before they then drop the Outback Bowl and Capital One Bowl to Illinois and Wisconsin.

Oh, and James Laurinaitis is my early nominee for the Craig Steltz Award for the overrated white player on a national championship contender who gets praised for his intangibles despite not playing as well as he did when he first became a starter. Seriously, it looked like Ohio State's gameplan against LSU was attacking Steltz, and they looked at sea after he went out. Laurinaitis is a better NFL prospect than Steltz, but the guy's career path is looking like Katzenmoyer's minus the eligibility difficulties (unless I've missed something, which is possible).

See comments in the SDA thread linked in name beginning at #130 for Bielema's kickoff shenanigans.

15
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 2:11am

In one of my hockey leagues where if one team was up by 6 goals the last period is running time I called a 60 sec timeout with 50 secs remaining after they had just scored to make it 6-5. BB I salute you!

16
by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 2:18am

re. 4:

One thing, Since when was Central Michigan a gimme for Indiana? I'd bet that CMU will win that game.

As for Russell? When will Oregon State stop being the team that suprises, and start being the team you expect to go bowling?

17
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 2:41am

10,
What happened in the game?

18
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 5:22am

The Badgers are called offside.

That's the understatement of the decade. The entire team was downfield by a good 5-10 yards before it was kicked. It was pretty much the definition of unsportsmanlike behavior.

And Russell had a meltdown ranting that BB was a “douchebag” among other choice comments.

Because he was. First, that trick had nothing to do with football at all. Second, it's just insulting to the other players.

It's funny that you start off by saying that only a few people remember it. You don't put a reference to something that pissed you off only if people remember it. You especially put it in if people don't remember it.

And you're still wrong that I only remember it because a team I root for was involved. I remember it because it's insulting to the game itself. There are plenty of similar situations that I remember that have nothing to do with Penn State.

I really, really don't get people defending the guy for those actions. It's college football. These are kids, playing on national television. Probably the only chance in their life to perform on a stage like that. And he goes and decides "eh, I don't feel like playing football. Instead, I feel like f*!(ing around because I think, after reading the rulebook in my mom's basement for days, that this trick will work."

(Yes, that was over the top.)

19
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 5:30am

To quote from the aolsportsblog link:

As you might imagine, Joe Paterno wasn't too happy about Bielema's gambit. It wasn't very sportsmanlike, but let's face facts. The rule needed to go, and it's not like the 2006 Nittany Lions (who finished 8th in the conference in total offense) were going to move the ball 60-80 yards in 23 seconds anyway.

It's this attitude that pisses me off. A lot. One, the guy admits: yes, it was unsportsmanlike. But then two, the guy goes and says "eh, c'mon, Penn State's offense sucked, it's not like it mattered." Yeah. That's a great attitude. It's college football - places where everyday kids can shine on a national stage. Where anyone can be a national star, even if they're not the guy getting drafted by the NFL next year.

So yeah, who cares if we eliminated the possibility of some kid putting up a great play to win a victory? Making a freaking political point is way more important.

This isn't the same as someone taking a knee at the end of a game. Everyone going into that game knew that you can take the play clock down by taking a knee. I guarantee no one had an idea that you could bleed the clock with repeated penalties.

Note that I'm not even saying that he screwed over Penn State players. He screwed over Wisconsin players, too. Some kid could've had a brilliant defensive stop on that drive. We won't know, because Bret Bielema was just too freaking smart for the NCAA. Good for him. Jackass.

20
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 5:38am

Oh, and I'm pretty sure I'm the one who called Bielema a douchebag, not Russell.

21
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 6:19am

Pat:

Normally I follow your reasoning because you are a smart guy.

But I am lost on this one.

Like I wrote, not a BB fan. But I don't grasp how this was such an egregious action.

And I ALWAYS look askance when someone starts ranting how something is "insulting" to the game.

Sorry. Guess I am lacking in a moral center.

22
by witless chum (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 8:03am

Re: 16

CMU has got decent players on offense, outside of Lefevour who'd start for most Big 10 teams, but they don't have guys who can cover much on D. I know everyone watched the Motor City Bowl like I did and saw them and Purdue in a track meet.

I think Lefevour and Kellen Lewis might set some kind of record.

Will their be a podcast this year?

23
by ChrisH (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 8:07am

Re: 16: When everyone that was alive during the 29 years that Oregon State went without a winning season is gone, it might get better. Oh, and no one wants to be like SI was in 2001 and promote them as the #1 team in the nation (I still have that issue). Also, if Perry was totally healthy, I'd be feeling much better about our game with Stanford this week. I'm hoping he's just making sure he's ready for the game at Penn State, but I do worry he won't play all year.

At least Mandel at SI gave OSU some more respect and put them in the Top 25 this year, which I think is about appropriate.

24
by NFL power rankings (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 8:24am

I believe that Florida will win again. Yes, Ohio State is becoming the runner up. They will get 3 peat this time.

25
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 8:29am

7- I read the entire reason Bowden is ahead of Paterno is that they count his wins as head coach at Samford, which is 1-AA.

26
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 8:33am

I'm a Packers fan and Wisconsin native, though I live in Missouri now. I rarely follow college football. This is the first I had heard of the Penn State-Wisconsin "travesty". Let's get real here. At least it happened in a game of little consequence. Can you imagine the uproar had that tactic had been used in a BCS bowl game or conference championship? Be glad the stupid rule is off the books.

27
by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 8:34am

There are several teams that should be guaranteed a spot at the top if they win out: Ohio State (most likely to do so, if they get past USC), USC (I consider the PAC-10 right now to be somewhat tougher than the Big 10), Georgia (may be toughest schedule in the country), Florida (close behind Georgia, depending on Miami and Florida State).

I might drop Florida in my expectations due to the number of injuries. They lost their second-best receiver (TE Ingram) and their leading receiver (WR/RB Harvin) is still not fully recovered from last year's injury and surgery. They kept the Defensive Coordinator, Charlie Strong, who put in place the "Holy Grail" ("Run Away! Run Away!", aka game-long prevent defense that only sort-of worked well with Reggie Nelson) of Defenses. I think Florida should have kept the co-Defensive Coordinator who helped them win the championship with that great Defensive Line. To top it all off, several of their starters in the secondary are injured and the Gators may have two (True?) Freshman on the Defensive Line.

Georgia may have dropped from #1 to #2 (behind Ohio State) for me as a result of losing Sturdivant, their best Offensive Lineman. Yes, Knowshawn helped them do well in the second half, but the real hero here I think was the Offensive Line and Sturdivant last season.

28
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 9:17am

7- I read the entire reason Bowden is ahead of Paterno is that they count his wins as head coach at Samford, which is 1-AA.

Samford was an independent, not associated with any division, when Bowden coached there from 1959-1962. (The NCAA didn't have the Division I classification until 1973 or the I-A classification until 1978.)

That said, some of Bowden's victories in those years were against questionable competition. These include wins over Tennessee Tech Freshmen, Gordon Military College, and the University of Mexico.

29
by CoreyG (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 9:52am

none of the conference’s other members have emerged to become regular title contenders.

Since when does being involved in the conference championship 3 out of the 4 years in total that you've been in the conference, and winning it twice, NOT make you a regular title contender?

30
by Harris (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:07am

I will be perfectly satisfied if ND goes 9-3 and wins a New Year's Eve/Day bowl game against a mid-level team from a power conference -- Illinois, maybe, or Arkansas. What I don't want is a repeat of 2006 -- where through a bizarre combination of talent, luck, opposition stupidity and spite from the Football Gods -- they go 11-1 only to get shattered in a BCS game. Sadly, I think that's entirely possible. They're at Michigan State where they seem to win games they should lose and Michigan is a mess. The 2nd best team on the schedule is Pitt, and I have every belief that the Wannstache is perfectly capable of losing any game. If the Irish show up at Boston College and Navy looking like anything but the Slavering Hounds of Hell, Charlie should be beaten with a tire iron, or worse, forced onto a low-carb diet. I have suddenly made myself a lot more worried about this season.

31
by TheWedge (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:11am

re: 22
Fun Fact: Lefevour is my cousin. I don't know why I'm sharing this.

32
by Aaron (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:22am

To be precise, the University of Spoiled Children only has one national championship (1.5 at best) not two. No matter what the media likes to pretend, USC won the AP poll, not the national championship in 2003.

33
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:25am

ike I wrote, not a BB fan. But I don’t grasp how this was such an egregious action.

And I ALWAYS look askance when someone starts ranting how something is “insulting” to the game.

Sorry. Guess I am lacking in a moral center.

In my opinion, any coach that instructs a player (or a team) to intentionally commit a penalty is acting out of bounds. In my "sports world", a penalty should always leave a team in a worse position than it was in prior to committing the penalty - or at least try to make it some sort of negative. In this case, Wisconsin was better off after committing the penalty than they were prior to it - and, indeed, therefore committed it again and again.

This, actually, is why I have trouble with watching basketball at times, because so often there's the concept of "What a great time to foul him!" Or, "Why didn't he foul there?" Or, as Bill Simmons once said "I don't understand why, when up by 3 with a few seconds left and another team has the ball, players don't immediately go up and foul a guy - he only gets two shots, and then you win!"

This is also why I have a hard time with pass interference rules in general. I sometimes dislike the college rule (15 yards), because if a defender is burned deep it's to his advantage to simple tackle the receiver and take the 15 yards. However, the NFL rule can result in horrendous penalties if the contact is minor or doesn't really fit the definition of pass interference. My preferred solution, though, would be to have the NFL rule, but enforced in a more intelligent way, than to make pass interference the "Get out of Touchdown Free (or for only 15 yards)" that it can sometimes be in college football.

34
by Flounder (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:33am

Having never heard of the Wisconsin / PSU thing before, it certainly seems understandable to have a problem with a rule that allows such tactics, but I don't understand why someone would have a problem with a coach employing it.

The goal is to wins games, and the coaches job is to do everything he can within the rules to makes that happen. Frankly, I think the Wisconsin coach would have been derelict in his duties as a coach if he hadn't done it.

35
by Flounder (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:41am

"In my opinion, any coach that instructs a player (or a team) to intentionally commit a penalty is acting out of bounds."

I don't understand this at all.

Under that logic, a coach should say to his left tackle "look, if you get beat bad off the snap, you just have to let the DE go. Just try to yell "incoming!" so our QB gets some warning."

THAT would be derelict coaching. Any coach will tell their left tackle to drag the guy down any way he can, because a 10 yard penalty and replay the down is better than an 8 yard loss, loss of the down, and potentially a turnover or hurt QB.

The point of penalties isn't so much to ensure the offending team is put in a worse position, but to present a cost-benefit analysis. Other than something pre-snap like a false start or illegal motion, every penalty is worth it in certain situations.

36
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 11:14am

I don't have any problem w Bielema's decision. It was a dumb rule and he called attention to it in the most effective way possible, while not altering the flow or the outcome of the game that much, or putting anyone at greater risk for injury. And the rule was repealed. So bully for BB.

37
by Rocco (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 11:36am

Not to nit-pick, but the 30th is a Saturday. Russ, I'm guessing you mean the Podcast will be back on the 28th.

VT is planning on redshirting Tyrod Taylor this year and going with Glennon full-time. Either Beamer is a)crazy, b) giving up on the year already (and to be fair, 8 wins is probably this team's ceiling), or c) tanking to get a higher draft pick.

38
by witless chum (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:08pm

30:

In East Lansing, we like to think that the old screwyness of MSU left with John L. Smith, so we'll win the games we're supposed to win. Dantonio did have the team playing with fewer peaks and valleys last year. If the Spartans go 7-5 again, it should count as improvement because the schedule is much less cakey (Cal > Pitt, EMU > UAB (240 LB D tackles last year) FAU > Bowling Green, ND 2008 > ND 2007) If MSU wins at Cal, 8,9 wings should be very possible.

32:

Really? What about when a team intentionally takes a delay of game penalty to have a bit more room to punt?

38
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:08pm

I have no college loyalties at all (mainly a fan of the pro game), except a slight ingrained instinct to root for BC and root against USC. And I didn't see the infamous offsides.

But I have read about it, and I think I have to disagree with Pat here, which is rare, and also with Tarrant.

I disagree with the idea that Pat is putting foreward, that a coach's primary responsibility is to provide good entertainment and give as many college kids as possible a chance to shine with a big play. A coach's primary responsibility is to win. If he finds a way to increase his team's chances of winning within the scope of the rules, even slightly, he has a responsibility to do it.

This isn’t the same as someone taking a knee at the end of a game. ... I guarantee no one had an idea that you could bleed the clock with repeated penalties.

It's exactly the same as taking a knee at the end of the game. The rules allow you to bleed clock, so he did. Just because no one knows about a way to use the rules doesn't change whether it's right to use them. Most people don't realize that a missed FG can be returned...should the Bears (or whoever it was) that took advantage of that a few years ago have just skipped that whole exciting play, because it was unsportsmanlike because the other team didn't know it? Or how about the rule that if a returner catches or touches a kickoff with one foot out of bounds, it's a penalty on the kicking team? That was not generally realized until a couple of years ago when some clever coach (Dungy, I think?) started coaching his returners, if a ball came down or rolled near enough to the sideline, to intentionally step out of bounds and then touch the ball to incur a penalty. That evil coach! Depriving us of potential kickoff return excitment!

If a rule encourages coaches to engage in a particular behavior that is contrary to the spirit of the game, or unentertaining to the viewers, than it is a bad rule and should be changed, not a bad coach that should be chastised.

And for the record, some people do know that you can bleed clock with penalties. I remember reading (at Bill Krasker's website?) that there is a supposedly a loophole in the Pro rules that allows exactly that, but that no pro coach has ever tried it (until the final 6 minutes of the game, the clock restarts and the playclock resets after a penalty, so a team with the ball could in theory just keep false starting, getting infinitely closer to their own goal line, until the 6 minute mark, running off the third and most of the fourth quarter). Don't know if that actually works, or if it has been corrected, but I do know that Krasker wrote an entire article on comitting penalties to help manage the clock.

In my opinion, any coach that instructs a player (or a team) to intentionally commit a penalty is acting out of bounds.

Every O-lineman is coached to hold as much as he thinks he can get away with, and if the refs aren't calling it, to hold more. Every DB is coached to bump the recievers and get in their way as much as they think they can get away with, and if the refs aren't calling it, to blatantly interfere with the WR's. Why do you think teams research what ref crew will be working their games? Players are constantly extolled for taking a "good penalty" because the penalty isn't as bad as the outcome if they didn't take a penalty. Holding a pass rusher, tackling a WR, all good examples.

40
by Coach Dave (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:13pm

Can Indiana be accused of creampuff scheduing when in fact they are a creampuff team? If they win 2 games in the B10, I would be shocked...and I'm an IU alum.

41
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:22pm

39 EXACTLY...no idea what all the indignation is about.

42
by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:35pm

38 (witless chum): Really? What about when a team intentionally takes a delay of game penalty to have a bit more room to punt?
That's a different story; the opposing team can easily decline that penalty without benefit to the team that committed the penalty. On the Wisconsin kickoffs, Penn State had two choices: accept the ball at absolutely terrible field position or let Wisconsin kick again.
For the record, I definitely remember that game, and I'm neither a Penn State nor a Wisconsin fan (I-L-L...). I think Bielema's kind of a dick, and not that great of a coach, but you can't really fault him for exploiting the rule. His job, after all, is to win. He could have taken the high road, but that's not a prerequisite (especially in college football, where there are so many rule infractions across the country).
I blame the NCAA rules committee, who obviously didn't think about the rule's side effects when it happened. Just one week into the season that year, it was already obvious the rule was crap. I'm sure if they had polled 100 intelligent college football fans, 95 of them could have pointed out at least one loophole or unintended consequence of the rule, including the one Bielema exploited.

43
by DB (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:56pm

RE #29 - I believe he meant national title contender, not ACC championship contender. And whatever you may feel about VT (I'm a Hokie myself), they aren't "regular" national title contenders. Although they might have played in the title game last year, if they hadn't lost to BC at the last second.

RE #42 - I don't think you can decline a delay of game penalty. Not every penalty needs to be accepted or declined.

44
by Dennis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 12:58pm

Bielema did nothing wrong in that game. His job as a coach is to win the game, and he used the rule to his advantage to win the game.

I still think that starting the clock when the ball is kicked is a good rule. The NCAA should have just closed the loophole instead of tossing the rule completely.

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 1:02pm

while not altering the flow or the outcome of the game that much, or putting anyone at greater risk for injury.

Yeah, you didn't watch the game, I'm betting.

The entire coverage unit left early, and was about 5-10 yards ahead of the kick. Running at full speed, they slammed into Penn State's kick return unit.

There are many things you can say about that decision, but it's impossible to say he didn't put anyone at greater risk for injury. He most certainly did.

46
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 1:22pm

I remember reading (at Bill Krasker’s website?) that there is a supposedly a loophole in the Pro rules that allows exactly that, but that no pro coach has ever tried it (until the final 6 minutes of the game, the clock restarts and the playclock resets after a penalty, so a team with the ball could in theory just keep false starting, getting infinitely closer to their own goal line, until the 6 minute mark, running off the third and most of the fourth quarter).

The NFL rules are quite clear that repeated delays of game constitute unsportmanlike conduct. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1:

There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others: …

(n) More than two successive 40/25 second penalties (after warning) during same down.

Also, everyone should re-read the thread linked in #14. It discusses all of this in detail.

47
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 1:50pm

The irony, if you will, is that the only person from the PSU-WI game who got injured was Joe Paterno. So despite the WI's coach willful disregard for the sanctity of the game and the safety of the players it is the PSU coach who is punished.

Those football gods have some weird sense of retribution!

But on a serious note and as I pointed out in the original thread BB didn't have the team do that "thing" just to prove a point. The 2006 WI team had HORRIBLE coverage units. And Penn State had(s) GREAT special teams. There was real concern that Wisconsin would give up a big play in that situation.

Again, just providing context. If folks are going to be annoyed that I am relaying facts I don't know what else to say or do.

48
by Russell Levine :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 2:18pm

OK, a couple things here.

A) The Bielema thing was a throw-away line that I didn't expect to generate this kind of response. Yes, I thought it was classless at the time, but I didn't call him a douchebag (I may have thought it, though, so no offense taken). I thought it was classless because I perceived that it risked injury to the Penn State players, as you had Wisconsin kick-coverage guys with a 20-yard head start running down to make the tackle on an unsuspecting return unit.

B) The date for the first SDA podcast is fixed. It is indeed tomorrow, the 28th.

C) Paul Johnson should have been included on the noteworthy coaches list. My bad.

D) Welcome back everybody! Can't wait for college football to start. I hope you'll all tune into the SDA podcast and join our community over at facebook.

49
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 2:22pm

Russell:

Well, at least you know folks really read your articles. Ha!

I will suggest you reconsider Wisky's ranking. This is not the typical fan pessimism. The team just isn't that good. And with the early season schedule being so frontloaded I doubt they will "gell" in time to have a good season.

Maybe if they started out some softies they might improve enough to have a puncher's chance against an OSU or some such. But as it looks, I think by the time some of these guys get their "sea legs" the team will be 1-4 in conference.

50
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 3:56pm

The thing about pre-season rankings is that they're only a guess. Mine can change radically early in the season.

Wisconsin definitely has some challenges, but my guess is that Wisconsin would be favored in eleven of those twelve games if they were going to be played this weekend.

Then again, Fresno State and Iowa could be landmines.

51
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 5:44pm

But on a serious note and as I pointed out in the original thread BB didn’t have the team do that “thing” just to prove a point. The 2006 WI team had HORRIBLE coverage units. And Penn State had(s) GREAT special teams. There was real concern that Wisconsin would give up a big play in that situation.

Exactly. Which means that he didn't do it to prove the point and get the rule eliminated. He did it to gain a competitive advantage. That just makes it worse.

There was no comparable situation in all of football. It was obviously a complete and utter rules gaffe. Sure. Great for him that. But taking advantage of an obvious screwup like that (and he took advantage of it in a way such that the officials wouldn't be sure whether or not to call unsportsmanlike conduct) is just classless, and unsportsmanlike. You don't get to avoid being called unsportsmanlike if you craft your actions so they don't look blatant.

I don't have any problems if people say "What he did was fine. He's a coach. He should find any way to win, including unsportsmanlike tricks, traps, mental games, bending the rules, etc." That's fine. That's your belief. But I don't see how anyone can see what he did as not unsportsmanlike.

52
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 5:48pm

It’s exactly the same as taking a knee at the end of the game. The rules allow you to bleed clock, so he did.

How the heck can it be the same? When you get a first down, everyone knows you have 4 downs, and everyone knows you have the play clock between them. That's football. That's the entire idea of the sport - 4 downs per drive, time with each play, etc. I don't care what level you play at, everyone knows that. It's intuitive to the entire idea of the sport.

When that rules gaffe was in place, it turned out that when you kick off, you can burn an unlimited amount of time until the officials get pissed off and tell you to knock it the heck off. That has nothing to do with the idea of the sport at all.

53
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 6:35pm

You guys are still talking about this?

;)

54
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 8:26pm

I really don't get the love for Iowa (SI seems to like them too). Yeah, they don't play Ohio State and Michigan. This was the same reason people used in '05/'06 to think Purdue might surprise, except Purdue wasn't actually any good.

Likewise, Iowa was really not good at all last year, despite not playing Ohio State or Michigan. Their offense was hoping Jake Christensen could throw accurately (he can't) and running Albert Young. Young is not there anymore. They were playing a little better at the end of the year but then lost at home to a lousy Western Michigan team with a bowl on the line. And I haven't heard anything to indicate that this team really is much better.

If Northwestern finds any semblence of a defense and avoids injuries they're going to be this year's "where the hell did they come from" team at least until about a month left in the season. Their first 9 are all quite winnable. Their toughest opponents in that span (MSU and Purdue) are at home, with roadies at Duke, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota. They ought to go 7-2, minimum, if they improved at all this year and stay healthy. I can't imagine their defense can be much worse. Of course, after their relatively easy start, they finish OSU/@Mich/Illinois

55
by Derek (Brooklyn) (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 9:46pm

I'm an Iowa fan and I have to admit that I'm not sure where the admiration is coming from either.

The defense should be quite strong (especially the front 7) but QB is a very big question mark and the RB position is far from deep.

Also, I remember the Wisconsin - PSU play as well. Not a very classy moment for Bielema perhaps but this is college football...Woody Hayes once punched an opposing player.

56
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 08/27/2008 - 10:38pm

I think it would be nice if we had a separate thread for the 2006 Wisconsin-Penn State game. IIRC, what was established at the time was that people could have diametrically-opposed views on that game, and I do not think that has changed.

I would rather see discussion about things like this ...

I think LSU's non-conference schedule is considerably tougher than Indiana's. I would argue that Appalachian State itself is more respectable than Indiana, never mind Indiana's opponents. (I don't know if it's just that no one seems to watch I-AA football, but it's still like OMG APALCHIAN OMG.)

I am looking forward to the first season after Joe Tiller retires. Unfortunately I suspect this season won't be too different than Purdue's last season under Keady.

I might even go up and see the Purdue-Michigan game, for some insane reason. I don't think I'm right in the head.

57
by Dylan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 11:23am

Full disclosure -- I'm an Iowa alum.

But the love is coming because of the schedule (although it's a bad year to miss Michigan) AND the fact that the Hawkeyes had a terrible injury/arrest stack at WR last year. As in, something like 6 of the top 7 WRs missed most of the year for various reasons.

Not sure how much I buy into this. The arrests are too worrysome. The game @Pitt in September will tell a lot about this team.

58
by Derek (Brooklyn) (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 6:31pm

I'm an Iowa alum as well. I just think schedule is a poor reason to fall in love with a team, especially one with serious depth issues.

If Dace Richardson and Dan Doering had been as good as advertised, I'd see two very strong lines and more reason for optimism. As it is, I see 9 wins as the best scenario.

59
by Bobby (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 10:57pm

What about GT winning the coastal division and perhaps the ACC championship?!? I have a feeling everyone, including footballoutsiders.com, is underestimating Paul Johnson's team. NOT EVEN ONE MENTION OF GT? I'll wait till the end of the season to say "told you so". It seems like the only people that have faith are GT fans and Playboy.