Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Four Downs: AFC South

The Jaguars and Titans both won playoff games last year. Are the days of this division being the NFL's laughingstock over? Maybe not -- all four clubs failed to address critical weaknesses in the draft.

09 Oct 2008

7th Day Adventure: Going to See the Wiz

by Russell Levine

The SDA Podcast



The elusive perfect week continues to just exceed my grasp.

Yes, I threw a 7-1 record on the board last week to climb over .500 (barely) on the season, and I need to crow about it here and now because 3-5 marks are no doubt lurking.

In four-plus seasons of doing this column, I have yet to enjoy a perfect week -- a feat that I'm starting to view in terms of a perfect game in baseball. Of course, were I to manage an 8-0 mark one of these weeks, that would make me like Len Barker or Mike Witt -- mediocre career pitchers who nonetheless enjoyed a singular moment of greatness.

I'm still seeking my moment, but I feel good about nudging the record into plus-territory as we head into the meat of conference play.

I also want to use this space to pass along best wishes to my former SDA writing partner Vinny, who takes the plunge into marital bliss this Saturday. Coincidentally, he's tying the knot on the day Michigan plays Toledo. While that appeared to be a wise decision a couple months back, it now looks like Vin may pass on one of Michigan's best remaining chances for a win.

Best of luck Robin and Vin -- hope you have a TV handy at the reception!

This Week's Guest

Jay Christensen runs the indispensable college football blog The Wiz of Odds.

Jay's site is one of my go-to destinations for links to columns and news items from around the country and updates on the statistical minutia of the sport -- such as breakdowns of the impact of the recent timing rules. There are also lighter items like front-page pictures of various Sunday papers in college football markets and on-the-scene tailgating reports from fans around the country.

I highly recommend it you add The Wiz to your bookmarks or RSS feed.

Jay, a long-time print veteran who only revealed his online identity after being downsized at the Los Angeles Times, joined me to discuss the week's biggest games -- Texas-Oklahoma and LSU-Florida -- as well as the state of college football media coverage in the age of the blogger.

I hope you'll listen in.

This Week's Games

No. 5 Texas (+7) vs. No. 1 Oklahoma (at Dallas), 12 p.m. ET, ABC

Since the formation of the Big 12 conference, the Red River Rivalry has usually decided the South champion. One or the other has played in the league title game each of the last nine seasons. But rarely has there been as much at stake as this season, with both teams firmly ensconced in the top five and the winner having an inside track to the BCS championship game. That's not to say the winner here automatically takes the South. Unproven but dangerous Texas Tech and Oklahoma State would both like to have a say in that matter. Still, this is the game that matters, getting a surprise edge over LSU-Florida for the title of this week's Game of the Century. Both quarterbacks -- Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas' Colt McCoy -- have been stellar while operating virtually untouched behind dominant offensive lines. That will change this week as both will get their jerseys dirty before halftime. New defensive coordinator Will Muschamp needs to earn his money for Texas to win this game by finding a way to get to Bradford and throw him off. I don't think it will happen.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Texas | RUSSELL: Oklahoma

Tennessee (+12) at No. 10 Georgia, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

It's panic time in Tennessee, after the Vols dropped their first two SEC games and then squeaked by Northern Illinois, 13-9, at home last week. Phil Fulmer is skating on the thinnest ice of his career -- with legendary Vols coach Johnnie Majors deciding now was the time to remind everyone exactly how Fulmer got the job in the first place. Fulmer and his club are in desperate need of a win to quiet the critics, but playing a wounded Georgia on the road may not be the best place to get it. This contest will be a major test of Georgia's psyche, after the preseason No. 1 Bulldogs were embarrassed at home by Alabama two weeks ago. Will Georgia rally and seize its second-chance opportunity? One loss hardly eliminates it from title contention, especially with Florida also having lost. Georgia has had a week off to rest and recover -- important with star tailback Knowshon Moreno hurting with a bruised elbow. Moreno and the Bulldogs were held in check by Tennessee in a surprising 35-14 rout last season, and should be primed for revenge. I don't see this as the game where Jonathan Crompton figures out the quarterback position. Let the speculation about the next Tennessee coach begin -- or kick into overdrive.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Georgia | RUSSELL: Georgia

No. 23 Michigan State (-1.5) at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

I love the effort that Javon Ringer has shown this season, but it is criminal how Mark Dantonio is using him. Two-hundred twelve carries in six games? There should be a congressional investigation of abuse. Ringer may want the ball that much, it may even make strategic sense, but I bet he feels differently when his NFL draft stock slides due to overuse. And lest you think I'm just taking shots at Michigan State, I echoed similar concerns against Lloyd Carr when he gave Chris Perry 51 carries in a game a few years ago in a win over Michigan State. The Spartans have quietly had an excellent year, not blowing teams out but pounding them into submission with Ringer. They will try to do the same against undefeated Northwestern, but I think they're due for a letdown. This is Michigan State, after all. The only thing consistent about this program the last 10 years has been the predictable meltdown at some point every season. I think it's coming in Evanston.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Northwestern | RUSSELL: Northwestern

Notre Dame (+7.5) at No. 22 North Carolina, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

If you've been following this column as well as Confessions of a Football Junkie, you probably know that I'm fairly optimistic about North Carolina. About Notre Dame? Not so much. My feelings about the Irish have to do with who they've played so far, with their best win coming over Purdue. I promise you this, Notre Dame fans, the Irish will be ranked in my BlogPoll ballot if they win this game -- which they won't. North Carolina is better on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and it's secondary will limit a harassed Jimmy Clausen.

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

No. 25 Ball State (-16) at Western Kentucky, 7 p.m. ET

People have been on me for a couple of weeks to take a look at Ball State. I finally did, moving the Cardinals into my BlogPoll ballot this week after they moved to 6-0. Quarterback Nate Davis is an NFL prospect, even without Dante Love to throw to. I like Ball State to cover the big number on the road against Western Kentucky, which is 2-4 after serving as the professional stepping stone opponent in games against Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, and Virginia Tech. Hey, Jason Whitlock -- I picked your alma mater. Will you shill for me for the next 15 years?

THE PICKS -- FEI: Ball State (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: Ball State

No. 17 Oklahoma State (+14) at No. 3 Missouri, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Interesting game here as largely unproven Oklahoma State -- yet another Big 12 team with an explosive offense -- takes on Missouri. The Tigers have been burying teams early, jumping out to big leads to neutralize opposing running games and fears about their own weak secondary. Can Oklahoma State keep things close enough into the second half to make running back Kendall Hunter a factor? If so, the Cowboys probably cover. I think it'll be too much Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, and Derrick Washington. Depending on what happens in Dallas, Daniel could move to the front of the Heisman line with a statement performance here. I think he'll do it.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Missouri | RUSSELL: Missouri (Edelstein lock)

No. 6 Penn State (-6) at Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ABC


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Penn State will be facing a desperate Wisconsin at Camp Randall on Saturday night. The Badgers suffered an inexcusable loss at Michigan two weeks ago, then couldn't finish the job against Ohio State at home last week. In two weeks, they've seen their season go from fringe national title contention to train wreck, and if they have any hope of reversing the tide, they have to win this game. Penn State, meanwhile, has been steamrolling opponents much of the year but offered an uneven performance in a 20-6 road win over Purdue last week. Wisconsin will line up and play power-run. Joe Paterno, who will likely be back in the booth for this game, has to avoid getting drawn into a trench-warfare style game. Penn State's biggest advantage is its high-octane offense, but I have a feeling, in a tight road game, he might revert to past tendencies. Advantage, Wisconsin.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Penn State | RUSSELL: Wisconsin

No. 4 LSU (+6) at No. 11 Florida, 8 p.m. ET, CBS

Had Florida not lost to Ole Miss, this would be the game everyone was talking about this week, not Texas-Oklahoma. LSU has looked like the best team in the SEC (at least the best not named Alabama) and surely isn't afraid of big games in hostile environments. Florida has looked a little vulnerable all year, failing to really put a complete game together. The Gators fans I know are not optimistic about this contest. Tim Tebow's numbers are down, Percy Harvin is banged up, and the Gators may be questioning themselves a bit. All of which makes the line for this game so strange. It opened at LSU +4 and jumped almost immediately to +6. Is this a dreaded "too good to be true" line? I don't think so. By the end of the night, LSU will have stamped itself as the team to beat in the SEC with an outright win.


Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
Texas +7 Oklahoma Texas Oklahoma
Tennessee +12 Georgia Georgia Georgia
Michigan State -1.5 Northwestern Northwestern Northwestern
Notre Dame +7.5 North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina
Ball State -16 Western Kentucky Ball State* Ball State
Oklahoma State +14 Missouri Missouri Missouri*
Penn State -6 Wisconsin Penn State Wisconsin
LSU +6 Florida Florida LSU
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI: 3-5-0 (1-0-0) 18-28-1 (2-3-1)
Russell: 7-1-0 (1-0-0) 24-22-1 (2-4-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 09 Oct 2008

41 comments, Last at 12 Oct 2008, 2:50pm by Kibbles


by Tom Gower :: Thu, 10/09/2008 - 4:29pm

Matching Russell's 7-1 (1-0) last week leaves me 14-9-1 (3-0) since I started picking along. Darned Huskies. This week's picks: Oklahoma (Edelstein), Georgia, Michigan State, UNC, Western Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Penn State, and LSU. As is always the case, no actual wagering stands behind any of these selections.

by pawnking (not verified) :: Thu, 10/09/2008 - 4:48pm

I'm going to start counter-picking FEI's picks...

by Becephalus :: Fri, 10/10/2008 - 1:33pm

I don't think that will be successful...

The Wire should win the Nobel prize for literature.

by Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 10/09/2008 - 5:31pm

Add me to the list of Gators who think the line should favor LSU. The Swamp has not been as loud in the past 10 years or so, IMO. That has nothing to do with the timing being about the same for when they banned re-entry (students often went out to nearby bars or tailgating at halftime).

Does anyone remember Tebow throwing a completed pass that was more than 12 yards, or so? Sure, he has thrown plenty of passes 5-10 yards and Harvin gets his 30 YAC.

Percy Harvin is easily their best receiver and "scat back". However, Gator fans hope that he is probable. The Gator running back (Moody, who seems to get about 6+ yards every touch) who can actually run from an I formation (change things up) is doubtful. Tebow has only run with abandon once or twice. Otherwise, it seems like he has finally "learned" what his coaches have taught him: "Remember, Timmy, to make sure you do not get hurt." In earlier games last year, Tebow ran as hard as possible to get an extra 6 inches and eventually his strength and effort helped to wear down the defense.

I think Florida's Defense is decent this year, but they still make mistakes. Against Ole Miss (and Arkansas, on the naked bootleg) the DE did not maintain their assignments to contain on the outside. And, of course, the Gator defense did have a couple of short fields after those turnovers.

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 10/09/2008 - 6:59pm

After a hot start I'm all the way down to 6 - 8. Here goes nothing:

1. East Carolina -5 over Virginia: ECU is neither as good as it looked early nor as bad as they've looked since. Despite last week's effort, Virginia stinks.

2. Mississippi State +2 over Vanderbilt. I loved this game until I saw the line...but my system says MSU. Besides, the oddsmakers must know something, right? Someone please agree....please???

Aburn fires it's OC after six games?? Did they really think the new system would be flying high right away? OK...114th in total offense is a brutal stat, but still.

Ball State does not deserve to be ranked ahead of Pitt, TCU, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and others. Having asked that, is Nate Davis a transfer from a bigger school? The name rings a bell.

by Rocco :: Thu, 10/09/2008 - 9:43pm

"Hey, Jason Whitlock -- I picked your alma mater. Will you shill for me for the next 15 years?"

Any other week and I'd say that Whitlock would curse you for jinxing his alma mater. However, since you're coming off a 7-1 week, I can't make that joke.

by Rocco :: Thu, 10/09/2008 - 11:07pm

So there's no way Tommy Bowden comes back next year, right?

by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 10/10/2008 - 7:19am

I can't see it, but who knows.

For a long time, Tommy Bowden and Clemson have seemed like a married couple that are unhappy six days out of seven, but they look back on that one day a week where things are OK, and try to stick it out.

Hard to believe Bowden's undefeated season at Tulane was ten years ago, or that this is his tenth year at Clemson. Bowden's had plenty of time, and has essentially done nothing at Clemson- no ACC titles, and yearly trips to second or third level bowls. Seriously, who here would be excited over the prospect of Bowden takingthe reins of their favorite team?

by milo :: Fri, 10/10/2008 - 12:21pm

Seriously, who here would be excited over the prospect of Bowden taking the reins of their favorite team?

If he brought Rich Rodriguez in as his offensive coordinator, it could work.

by witless chum :: Fri, 10/10/2008 - 12:08pm

Don't go too far on the 'second-half collapse' theory of Michigan State, Russell, even in the John L. Smith years, that was a function of the schedule more than anything. After this week, MSU has at most 2 games we'll likely be favored in (Purdue in East Lansing and at your place, which might be a stretch) for the rest of the year. I think we've got a good chance to beat Wisconsin in East Lansing, also.

My Spartans should be able to bludgeon Northwestern much more successfully than we could Iowa, who held Ringer to 91 yards. The Hawkeyes ran the ball very well when they had the 'Cats in Iowa City, but turned it over five times. MSU won't turn the ball over five times (knock on wood), and they've improved their tackling in the secondary from last year, which was itself a big improvement over the dark days under John L. (Who has a radio show in Louisville these days.) Northwestern's huge performance on offense last year in East Lansing was based on big plays and I think MSU can limit those. I'm told, anyway, that Northwestern doesn't have a real burner like Jahvid Best or Marcus Thigpen, the guys who've really burned MSU this year.

by Yinka Double Dare :: Fri, 10/10/2008 - 2:28pm

It wasn't just schedule, MSU had some real howlers in there too in those years. Penn State in '04, Purdue in '05 (had lost 6 in a row I think coming in), Purdue, Minny and Indiana in '06, and losing 5 of 6 last year in the middle of the season that included a marginal Northwestern and Iowa.

by Boo Cocky :: Fri, 10/10/2008 - 5:51pm

Look at FEI projections and:

One unit for a two TD difference from spread
Two units for a three TD difference...
Three units....

Looking at the past couple weeks his projections beat most lines using just the angle of 2TD+ diff

by Tom Gower :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 12:57pm

Maybe it is better to be lucky than good, but that TD shows that Oklahoma is both, and that strikes me as best.

by Rocco :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 2:04pm

I don't think those OU players could have pulled that off in practice if they tried. Give credit to UT for pulling it together.

In other news, remember when ECU was the national flavor of the week and Skip Holtz was going to get a mega-contract somewhere? They're getting housed 28-6 by UVA. I have friends who went to UVA who are probably upset by this as they want Groh fired.

by joe football (not verified) :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 1:00pm

Be sure to join a star-studded cast of your favorite FO posters for IRC football chat! cognet.catch22.org, channel #fo

Brief tutorial for the IRC-shy:

- Download mIRC from mIRC.com
- type /server cognet.catch22.org into the status window
- type /join #fo

Additionally, I'm getting Rutgers/Cincinati on ABC right now. Thank god for shady internet streams

by lionsbob :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 2:39pm

Man alive, Oklahoma is slowly getting screwed by the refs in this game.

by lionsbob :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 3:20pm

Michigan loses to Toledo? Wow...what a terrible season.

by t.d. :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 3:23pm

The officiating in the game has been questionable, but both teams have been victimized. Its a shame it's been a good game.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 3:46pm

A couple of weeks ago CFN said that Texas was, oddly enough, a darkhorse contender for the National Title.

Darkhorse no more.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 4:33pm

The question is, how high will Texas rise in the polls. Barring a ridiculous performance by LSU or Mizzou tonight, I'm probably moving them to #1 in the blogpoll.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 5:08pm

Texas beat OU by ten at a neutral site, and has done little else. Alabama killed Georgia on the road, killed Clemson at a neutral site, and beat a good Kentucky team.

I'm not a Bama fan at all, but to me they're deserving of the #1 ranking. If LSU beats Florids tonight, they may move to #2.

No knock to Texas, who will be no lower than #4 in my poll and perhaps as high as #2, with chances to move up with this the first of a four week gauntlet against OU, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. They get through that, they'll be everyone's number one.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 5:40pm

Have you seen Clemson lately? Not sure I'd include that one.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 9:12pm

Good point.

by ChrisH :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 7:51pm

Does someone that watched ND-UNC care to explain the replay review with 1:44 left in the game that took away a first down from UNC and led to it being a nailbiter? UNC's WR clearly caught the ball, got a foot down, fell to the ground, then lost the ball. I was under the impression (and trust me, the announcers were of NO help on anything this game, bob Greise is awful) that since he had a foot down, he wouldn't have to maintain possession after hitting the ground, he would just have to keep possession on the way to the ground, can anyone correct me? I'm sure the replay will be shown since it would have iced the game for UNC, but instead it forced a punt and ND almost pulled it out.

And WSU just intercepted OSU for a TD to make it 21-13 instead of 21-0, ugh.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 8:22pm

Pretty sure that was the right call on replay.

From the NCAA Rulebook (download yours, google "2008 ncaa football rule book" and you'll find the PDF.

Anyway, under possession definnition:
a. A player “gains possession’’ when he is firmly holding or controlling the
ball while contacting the ground inbounds.

and on the next page:
c. To catch, intercept or recover a ball, a player who leaves his feet to
make a catch, interception or recovery must have the ball firmly in his
possession when he first returns to the ground inbounds with any part of
his body or is so held that the dead-ball provisions of Rule 4-1-3-p apply
(A.R. 2-2-7-I-V and A.R. 7-3-6-IV).

and ever further:
2. Loss of ball simultaneous to returning to the ground is not a catch,
interception or recovery.

So it looks like you must maintain possession all the way to the ground.

by peachy (not verified) :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 9:41pm

Did anyone know that OOB rule on the kickoff that just came up in the LSU-UF game?

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 9:54pm

I knew that was the NFL rule.

What was really strange about that play was that they ruled it OOB, gave LSU the ball at the 40. LSU then burned the play clock, was flagged, and THEN they reviewed the kickoff. After upholding the call, the delay of game call stood and LSU started first-and-15 at the 35. I don't understand that at all.

One thing college officials need to learn to do is explain the replay rulings. All they ever say is "confirmed" or "overturned" ... they never explain why. Ed Hochuli may have had a rough year, but nobody explains a call better than that one. The SEC official in Florida could have calmed 90,000 people by taking 5 seconds to explain the rule.

by peachy (not verified) :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 10:11pm

Well, that puts you half-a-point up on me - I had never seen it called in the pros either.

I'm hardly objective, but it seems about as counter-intuitive as the infamous Tuck Rule - which at least has the virtue of reducing the number of judgement calls on the field.

by Kibbles :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 2:50pm

Remember the year Daniel Snyder discovered Restricted Free Agency and signed away three RFAs from the Jets (Laveranues Coles, Johnnie Morton the kick returner, and whoever their placekicker was at the time)? Then the Jets and the Redskins played each other on Thursday in the first game of the season? One of the kickoffs in that game was near the sideline, and Morton deliberately ran over, planted one foot out of bounds, then stretched out and caught the ball (which was still in bounds). The announcers raved about the heads up play of Morton and talked about how the RFA raid was immediately justified. And no, I have no idea how I remember the play in that much detail, either.

by Rocco :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 10:20pm

Okay, I know that Wisconsin isn't great or anything, but how many teams lay out the Badgers like PSU is doing tonight? They're putting the boots to Wisky tonight.

by Rocco :: Sat, 10/11/2008 - 11:33pm

So how far will LSU fall in the polls after having 51 dropped on them?

by lionsbob :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 12:27am

The winner this week: Alabama.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 12:47am

1. Alabama
2. Texas
3. Penn State- this IS Paterno's final season, and he deserves credit for how well he has handled...everything. In an ideal world JoPa would go out with a big bowl win, Tom Bradley would follow, and he would do well.
4. Oklahoma State- forget about Mike Gundy's wacky press conference. Sticking to the facts, has he done well by his school?
5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. Utah
8. Florida
9. Southern Cal
10. BYU
11. Missouri
12. Virginia Tech
13. Ohio State
14. LSU
15. Texas Tech
16. North Carolina
17. California
18. Pittsburgh
19. Michigan State
20. Boise State
21. South Carolina
22. TCU
23. Georgia Tech
24. Ball State
25. Wake Forest

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 1:13am

OK, so after the win over Illinois, I started believing hey, Penn State might be the best team in the Big Ten. Now, after this win, I'm really starting to believe. Penn State's clearly the best team in the Big Ten. An OSU blog lists Ohio State as "still the team to beat in the Big Ten," which cracked me up. Really? They scored 3 field goals on offense against Purdue, and they're the "team to beat"? They beat Wisconsin by three, Penn State beats Wisconsin by forty-one, and they're the 'team to beat'? I'm not suggesting the game in Columbus is going to be a cakewalk or anything, but Penn State has to be favored at this point.

The only thing for me to worry about now are people complaining about Penn State possibly being in the National Championship game because of what Ohio State did for the past two years. News flash: Penn State's been the Big Ten team that's been winning bowl games for the past three years.

by navin :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 11:09am

I agree that Penn State has been very impressive, and I'm the farthest thing from a Big 10 apologist.

What impresses me even more is that they've managed to completely avoid the total eggs that the other impressive teams, Florida and Southern Cal, both laid in earlier games. While I wouldn't be surprised to see either team favored against Penn State, Penn State has done better on the field so far.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 1:19am

Oh, and I'm starting to think that the whole "Michigan's in a transition year" might not be a valid excuse for how much they're sucking. Does Rodriguez have the entire year as a mulligan? Is it possible the wholescale demolition of Carr's coaching staff wasn't such a great idea?

by Russell Levine :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 8:10am

Well I can't speak for the entire UM fan base, and I'm sure the grumbling is growing.

But in my opinion -- yes, the entire year is a mulligan. This season is obviously going quite a bit worse than I thought, but I'm not changing my opinion that Michigan will be absolutely fine in another year or two. And I was among Carr's bigger supporters.

Keep in mind, one returning starter on offense, and he was the team's worst lineman a year ago. Not a single quarterback who had thrown a pass in a game. Etc., etc. I cannot over-emphasize how thin the offensive line is. Michigan has started a left tackle was a defensive tackle in late August.

It's going to be a looooong year in Ann Arbor, but I suspect the fan base is probably a lot more reasonable than the breathless media.

by Tom Gower :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 11:36am

The offense, yes, I can see a mulligan based on that, but what about the defense? Granted, 13 to Toledo isn't too bad, esp. when the TD is off a pick-6, but the Rockets did outgain Michigan, Illinois put up 45 the week before, Utah moved the ball well, Wisconsin moved the ball seemingly almost at will before imploding... I thought Brian was insanely optimistic looking at 9 wins based primarily on defensive prowess, but the cupboard wasn't nearly as bare and the defense is maybe B10-average.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 2:36pm

The offense, yes, I can see a mulligan based on that, but what about the defense?

The defensive ineptitude is still really only a week old, so I don't think it's sunk in to most fans that the defense isn't really that good as well. Other than Illinois, the defense has held up pretty well.

After next week, it'll be "other than Illinois and Penn State," though.

by t.d. :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 12:31pm

I'm an SEC homer, but if Penn State runs the table, they absolutely belong in the title game

by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 10/12/2008 - 12:31pm

I've said it before, this is the mother of all rebuilding jobs at Michigan. New staff, completely new players, new system, etc. At least the seeds are planted and UM has something to look forward to. In the grand scheme of things, losing to Toledo doesn't matter- it'll be the difference between finishing 5 - 7 and 4 - 8. Compare that to Tennessee, Syracuse, or Washington, where they're just waiting for the season to be over with so that the rebuilding process can actually begin.

The bad news is I expect that in 2011 Michigan will be where Nebraska was last year.