Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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A heart condition discovered at the combine has put the Michigan lineman's career in limbo, but Hurst had the best film of any defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

28 Aug 2008

SDA 2.0

by Russell Levine

New Format

The SDA Podcast



Note: Some people commented last year that they didn't like having the player right in the article, because as they refreshed the page to see the latest comments, the podcast would start over. For you, I offer the "Play in Popup" and "Download" links above

This column turns four this week, and like any fifth-year senior, I've learned a few things along the way. Among other things, I've learned that handicapping college football is not a particular strong suit of mine, no matter how many 14-hour Saturdays I log on the couch. But mostly I've learned that there's a vibrant community of college football followers on FO, and watching the comment threads pile up each weekend makes the effort worthwhile. Expanding our college football coverage to help serve that community is going to be a major initiative at Football Outsiders over the next few months.

I've continued to tweak the format of SDA over the years, and this year is no different. I'm still picking the week's biggest games, and you can find those picks in the table below, along with start times and TV listings. Instead of taking on my weekly guest, I'm going to be taking on FO college football stats guru Brian Fremeau, who is using his Fremeau Efficiency Index to forecast those same games. This accomplishes a few things. One, it gives you a chance to learn about FEI and Brian's work, which is outstanding and deserves your attention. It was probably statistical analysis that brought you to FO in the first place, right? Second, this will free my weekly podcast guest from the need to make point-spread picks. That was always a touchy subject for some of the mainstream media guests, and frankly, I thought it was the weakest part of the podcast.

So if you're dying to hear some mediocre-at-best predictions, I'm sorry to disappoint. But I'm guessing you'll enjoy hearing weekly conversations with writers and bloggers that are at the heart of the college football media scene.

Face Time


Be sure to check us out on Facebook all week long!

Find us on Facebook

My other goal with SDA this year is to involve you, the reader/listener. I've set up a page on Facebook in the hopes that you'll join me there and extend the college football conversation all week long. I'll be posting discussion topics, and inviting people to post their road-trip pictures and videos. Some of what I gather on Facebook will appear here on SDA each week.

Going to game this weekend? Post some tailgate pictures. Invite your friends to join in. Let's kick this off with our first "Facebook topic of the Week". The question is, who's going to play in the BCS championship game, and why? Post your answer on the Facebook discussion board. If I get enough activity, we'll make this a weekly feature and the best responses will appear in next week's post.

The other change you'll notice is that SDA is going to be all about the podcast. We'll discuss the games in the podcast (though not so much this week with it being the opening weekend), but I won't be doing writeups of the individual matchups. Still, this article serves as the college football open thread, just as it has for the past four seasons. So, discuss away! Will Clemson or Missouri slip up in tough opening tests against Alabama and Illinois? Will it be a second straight tough opener for Michigan? The forum is yours.

This Week's Guest

Matt Hinton authors the Dr. Saturday blog on Yahoo! Sports. He's the former author of the Sunday Morning QB site before Yahoo recognized his talent and scooped him up.

Listen in as we break down the six BCS conferences, discuss this week's biggest games, and talk about who needs to be on upset alert this week.

The Picks

Below are my picks for the big eight games of the weekend, along with the FEI forecast. For more from FEI, including score projections for every game, visit Brian's blog, BCF Toys.

(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
Virginia Tech -9.5 East Carolina Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Utah +3.5 Michigan Michigan Utah
USC -19 Virginia USC USC
Michigan State +4.5 Cal Cal Michigan State
Alabama +4.5 Clemson Clemson Clemson
Illinois +8.5 Missouri Missouri* Missouri
Fresno State +5 Rutgers Rutgers Fresno State
Tennessee -7.5 UCLA Tennessee Tennessee*

The Last Word

I want to make this feature as much about the listeners/readers as possible. I want to hear from you. Have a question, a suggestion, a complaint? A guest you'd like me try and interview? Don't keep it to yourself. E-mail me!

Posted by: Russell Levine on 28 Aug 2008

73 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2008, 1:50am by t.d.


by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 1:19pm

I know that both teams sucked last year, but as a rivalry game I think that CSU-CU deserves at least some mention here.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 2:40pm

With UCLA's injuries, I'm shocked the line on that game is still 7.5.

And Russ, wow, picking Utah+3.5? How the mighty have fallen.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 4:46pm

I'm curious how FEI can be used before any games have been played. Isn't it based on drive-by-drive performance in previous games? With some teams having so much turnover (like Michigan), I don't see how last year's stats are very relevant.

by Theo, Netherlands (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 5:38pm

I understand that you need advertisement on your site.
But why so annoying that I can hardly read articles without going mental?
Yes I have an advertisement blocker.

by Derek (Brooklyn) (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 6:41pm

"I’m still picking the week’s biggest games, and you can find those picks in the table below, along with start times and TV listings."

Nice to see SDA return. Where are the start times and TV listings on the picks table?

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 7:19pm

Come on time go faster. Going to start out watching Vandy-Miami (Ohio), flip to N.C. State-South Carolina, will watch parts of Wake Forest/Baylor (or DVR, I really want to see Wake Forest play and see Briles first game), Probably watch some of South Dakota State-Iowa State (because I can), and finish off with Oregon St./Stanford. Good way to start the season.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 7:48pm

I'm going to pick two or three games a week so that at the end of the season it looks like the record of a starting pitcher. Hopefully it won't conjure memories of Brian Kingman.

1. Western Michigan +14 over Nebraska

Any time you don't understand a line (I thought Nebraska would be a 21 - 24 point fave) bet the other way.

2. Missouri -9 over Illinois

Simple matter of an overrated team vs an underrated one. This will be the best team in Missouri's history, while Illinois wasn't THAT good last year, despite their Rose Bowl appearance.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 8:00pm

D.J. Moore is a good one for Vandy.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 8:16pm

NC State came to play.

I think I'm about to become a Georgia Tech fan. LOVE the old-school option at a BCS school, and would love to see a few more schools adopt it.

by joe football (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 8:18pm

Join a star-studded cast of FO posters for IRC college football chat at cognet.catch22.org, channel #fo

by Russell Levine :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 8:27pm

Re: 5

D'oh. Sorry, got my tables screwed up. Will be better next week, I promise. For the record, here's where you can find the games I picked this week:

Virginia Tech (-9.5) vs. East Carolina (at Charlotte, N.C.), 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Utah (+3.5) at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
USC (-19) at Virginia, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Michigan State (+4.5) at Cal, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Alabama (+4.5) vs. Clemson (at Atlanta), 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Illinois (+8.5) vs. Missouri (at St. Louis), 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Fresno State (+5) at Rutgers, Monday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Tennessee (-7.5) at UCLA, Monday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 8:52pm

Tommy Beecher is not looking so hot, I wonder if he is going to come back in or not. Sorry South Carolina's defense...a Spurrier team has no offense...

by Russell Levine :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 9:04pm

Wake Forest looks really good, up 17 on Baylor in the first half.

Meanwhile, checking in on Ryan Perilloux for Jax. State vs. Georgia Tech. He's 12 of 21 .... for 68 yards! Nice YPA.

Looking forward to seeing some of Oregon State tonight.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 10:07pm

South Carolina QB Beecher has thrown his 4th INT of the game, N.C. State has been stuffed by South Carolina the whole game though, so South Carolina is still winning 10-0 in the 3rd quarter.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 10:11pm

My alma mater plays NC State next week. I'm starting to get some hope that maybe W&M won't lose by 30.

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Thu, 08/28/2008 - 11:40pm

Ugh, another Oregon State start of the season game. That safety was just inexcusable, throw that in front of the guy! However, the refs in this game seem very reluctant to call a late hit, or a horse collar, and had at least one awful booth review.

We're going to blow this game it looks like, as we've had First and Goal twice and come away with a FG each time.

by Brian Fremeau :: Fri, 08/29/2008 - 12:48am

Re: 3

The FEI picks for this week are based entirely on the Projected FEI ratings of each team, explained in PFP 2008 as well as in the FEI Projection column that appeared today. Roster turnover was taken into account in the process.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Fri, 08/29/2008 - 1:43am


Using Firefox 3.0 with an adblock plugin I have zero ads on the site...

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/29/2008 - 1:10pm

I picked Vanderbilt to have a bad season, even by Vandy standards. Obviously that's not going to happen, as they blew out a pretty good Miami-OH team on the road.

by David (not verified) :: Fri, 08/29/2008 - 8:44pm

Wondering why the game score projections for FEI always fall so close to 48 total points? Was that done on purpose or an oversight or a coincidence?

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 10:47am

Wow, did you realize ESPN has this new feature called "Confessions of a College Football Junkie"? That's SUCH an incredibly creative, original name!

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 11:36am

Yeah, I really need to talk to an IP attorney over that one.

Appy State, as I suspected, looks to be absolutely no match for LSU. 14-0 in the first.

by The Blue Horseshoe (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 12:22pm

Pitt just punted from BG's 35 yard line ... Old habits die hard huh Wannstedt ... Idiot

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 12:23pm

Sean Glennon has already thrown an INT today. Sigh. I need to have him framed for murder or something.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 12:59pm

It took Pryor until the third drive to get into the game. Nothing too challenging so far, but some formation mixup-mostly spread, but some I. The throws have been easy, but they've all been accurate so far.

Since then, Bauserman got the 4th drive, and now Boeckman is back in. Pretty good, only 1st down allowed has been via penalty, but bogging down in and-goal situations, so only 16-0.

by joe football (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 1:01pm

Just a gentle reminder:

Join a star-studded cast of your favorite FO posters for IRC football chat, server cognet.catch22.org, channel #fo

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 1:11pm

Glennon throws another horrible INT, giving ECU the ball at the 1 yard line. Let's just say I'm not a fan of the decision to redshirt Tyrod Taylor.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 1:39pm

Wisconsin and Pitt are struggling against MAC teams.

Darkest of darkhorses to win a major conference: ARIZONA. If USC goes into the tank, the Pac-10 is wide open.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 1:52pm

ECU scores a TD to pull with one, lines up for the XP...which is blocked and run back by VT for 2. 16-13 VT. I love Beamer Ball.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:00pm

Beanie Wells fumbles the ball, goes down hurt. Grabbed his right foot immediately, not sure exactly what the injury is, but he was carried off and they weren't putting any pressure on the leg. Started off looking at him on the bench, but he's now taking the cart off the field.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:10pm

Just came back from the LSU game, hot as hell and my girlfriend and me left early (31-0 in the 3rd quarter). Charles Scott looked good and LSU has the WRs to make pretty much any QB look good.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:10pm

Just saw the replay of Beanie. That didn't look good the way he grabbed for his foot.

ECU-VT looks to be the best of today's early games. VT's defense and special teams are the only reason they're winning. Taylor may not redshirt after all.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:11pm

And, exactly as I hit the "say it" button, Glennon launches a beautiful deep ball, setting VT up in 1st and goal.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:23pm

I give credit to Glennon- that was a pretty pass. Of course, I think my exact words at the time were "Jackass had a nice throw there", so I'm still slow to warm up to him.

VT's defense could have ended the game with a 3 and out, but ECU is moving again. Aargh.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:24pm

Pryor gets his second drive of the game for the Buckeyes, and ends up scoring on the keeper from 19 yards out. He had another good (20+, I think) run on the drive. Drive also featured Maurice Wells' first work of the game.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:32pm

Wells is back on the sideline for Ohio State. Limping, but still in uniform, so it shouldn't be too serious.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:34pm

Thought Pittsburgh might be a surprise team, but I still got to remember that Wannstache is the head coach there.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:44pm

ECU scores to pull within 2 with 3:36 left. VT's run defense today has been somewhere between "horrible" and "wretched".

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:47pm

Bowling Green, already up 3 on Pitt in the 4th, just got hosed out of a defensive TD by an inadvertent whistle. In this case, the whistle was so short, and the player was already in the clear. That to me should be a reviewable play.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:54pm

Hopefully this is the last we ever here about "Beamerball" which is one of the most annoying talking points when the announcers have nothing to say (1st is probably the Earthquake game for LSU)

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:55pm

ECU blocks a punt to take the lead with 1:51 left. It's a good thing I had zero expectations for VT this year or else I'd be in a rage right now.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 2:56pm


Unfortunately, when the whistle blows, the play is dead. Nothing can be done about that, since arguably a Pitt player could say he heard the whistle and stopped chasing.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 3:04pm

Good for ECU, a solid win.

Best thing about today so far -- games taking right around three hours. I may be in the minority, but I was a big fan of trimming the length of games.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 3:26pm

Greg Robinson and Dave Wannstendt should probably get their resumes ready.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 3:46pm

Going to be flipping around between the Utah-Michigan game and the USC-Virginia game.

Sheridan just threw a pick for Michigan, but Utah gets hit with pass interference, Michigan ball inside the 10.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 3:47pm

Michigan has 2 RBs that fit perfectly for the Rich Rodriguez offense in Michael Shaw and Sam McGuffie, both are true freshman of course.

Shaw gets the TD on a pass reception.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 4:16pm

With less than 2 minutes to go in the 1st quarter,total yards:
Utah 164
Michigan: 35

Michigan is up 10-6 though that might change.

by black (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 4:30pm

Proud Of ECU today

Making the trip up next week, to watch the WVU game

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 4:53pm

Wisconsin ran for over 400 yards and if they don't turn the ball over as they were going into score (fumble at the goal line/dumb int in the end zone) it's an even bigger gap.

The only truly worrisome part of the game is the secondary. Akron had a lot of open receivers. A LOT.

One hopes it's corrected by the Fresno State game. Because Pat Hill has to be licking his chops....

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 7:10pm

Looks like Rich Rod's first game at Michigan is not going to go well. Though this is not very surprising, but they did stink in this game.

by Joe (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 7:42pm

Someone needs to tell Michigan that you schedule teams from I-AA and the
Mountain West so you can get easy wins, not embarrasing losses.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 7:46pm

In all fairness to Michigan, everyone graduated and they have a new coaching staff and offensive system. This is the ultimate rebuilding project.

That, and Utah is good for real.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 7:49pm

Louisiana Tech ran a HB option pass play...and you learn why you should not trust the HB to throw the ball sometimes as he lofted the ball into the end zone for an easy pick for Mississippi State.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 8:29pm


Provide all the excuses for the Blue.

Meanwhile, I will sit here, sip my martini, and smile........

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 8:36pm

I don't think anyone at Michigan scheduled Utah to get an easy win. They scheduled Utah because ESPN said they'd broadcast it nationally.

Anyway, so I can honestly say I have never reacted to a Michigan loss so calmly. I knew that if the defense didn't carry them, they'd be in trouble, because the offense was going to be a major work in progress. Seeing as the defense got run all over for 2+ quarters, they were in deep trouble.

But there were some encouraging signs. The defense really put the clamps down in the second half and they turned a couple of turnovers into TDs to fight back and give themselves a chance. Definitely a few things to build on going into next week.

But I'm not the least bit worried. Michigan is going to take some shots this year while they learn the system and recruit the players they need to watch it. The rest of teh Big Ten can enjoy this season, just as I enjoyed OSU's down period and most of the last 20 years of MSU football.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 8:45pm

54- C'mon, Badger; except for Michigan having the greatest of fight songs, I'm totally neutral on them. I'm not making excuses, I'm providing half-assed internet analysis.

As a card carrying Tide Hater, I am now genuinely afraid that Alabama will be a national force by 2010, if not sooner.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 8:59pm

And as an actual Alabama fan, make it 2009.

by Thok (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 9:16pm

It's too bad Michigan St has poor special teams. They might be winning at Cal if they could punt.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 9:21pm

Nick Walker would have been college household name if Alabama did not have so much trouble on its OL the past couple of seasons. He is a great receiving TE, but either had to stay into block (or had to be sat for the better blocker in McCall). I am glad to see the game he is playing right now.

And wow Mark Ingram...

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 9:55pm

As an Alabama fan I am freaking shocked about the results at half-time. Still a lot of game to play and I hope (and think I know) Alabama knows this as well.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 10:50pm

31-10 Alabama and they are owning the trenches, they are really not going down the field at all in the air, mostly short passes.

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

UGGH, Andre Smith out for the rest of the game with a hurt knee, but he is standing on the sideline, so nothing major I hope.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 11:21pm

So is Alabama this good, or is Clemson this bad?

I'd say 65 / 35 in Bama's favor.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 11:25pm

I was hoping for a close win/loss. I did not expect us to dominate Clemson like this. Gone from Alabama is a lot of guys who did not buy into what was happening. This is Saban's team pure and simple and they are playing like it.

Plus Tommy Bowden is a choke artist at the highest level.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Sat, 08/30/2008 - 11:52pm

Illinois-Missouri is totally killing the quicker games. It's very entertaining, but 3 hours 15 minutes into it there are still 8 minutes left.

by Thok (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 12:00am

So, Cal wins 38-31. That probably underrates Cal a bit (Longshore was fairly bad for the short period of time he was in and shouldn't play for the rest of the year as far as I'm concerned.) I'm happy with the new 3-4 front, which looks better than last years 4-3 (there was plenty of solid pressure, and Ringer ended up looking mediocre at best against the line.) The secondary is sort of meh, and really needs to get some practice on catching balls for interceptions.

For any Michigan St fans, Dell looks really good. I mean, NFL Sunday good. And I thought this in the first half, when he only had 4 catches for 62 yards. He's by far your best player on offense.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 12:07am

Oh, my...and just when you thought Oregon could stop shocking you with uniform irregularities, look at their SHOES.

I'm not kidding.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 12:17am

and of course Maclin gets hurt after I picked Missouri to go the BCS game.

by PHn (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 12:59am

Oregon's averaging 6.9 yards per play, Washington 2.7. Granted, the Ducks are a legit top-25 team, but Ty's seat will get really, really warm if his squad performs at this level for the rest of the season.

by PHn (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 1:17am

Kudos to USC for scheduling early games against BCS opponents, but Virginia looked pretty inept today. It's not the Trojans' fault, but I don't think we learned any more about USC in its win than we did about Ohio State in its game against Youngstown.

Sanchez looked sharper than I thought he might, but Virginia looked so thoroughly outclassed that it was hard to tell if SC was that good or the Cavs were that bad.

by DMP (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 3:49pm

55 - Ouch.

I am with you on UMich people not needing to go overboard here... yet. It should have been well known the offense would likely suck with QBs almost off the street and young WR and RB. Seems like McGuffie should have gotten more touches. In general I was surprised how much UMich threw the ball with that QB situation and the expectation that Rodriguezeses's offense was about running off shot-gun.

MSU, on the other hand, was chasing points from the get go. Hoyer looked like he was thinking about his 5 int in the bowl game against BC the entire time. Dantonio's team seems to be continuing the trend of not letting bad plays and falling behind early to turn the game into an utter disaster. Much like the UMich game, the score diff should probably have been a lot worse.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sun, 08/31/2008 - 11:17pm

Back-to-back KOR TDs made CU-CSU worthwhile.

by t.d. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/01/2008 - 1:50am

I don't know, USC breaking in 7 new starters on offense and destroying UVa looked pretty impressive to me. Also, just what the SEC needed, another team on the verge of the super elite. Six programs capable of contending for the nat'l championship in a given year (though I'm not sure I'd really count Tennessee at this point). Pretty scary.