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04 Sep 2008

7th Day Adventure: The Maisel Report

by Russell Levine

The SDA Podcast



College football provided us a few surprises and a few emphatic statements last week. This week's slate of games on paper may not look as strong, especially not with Ohio State set to visit USC in the season's biggest non-conference game next week. But, then again, raise your hand if you thought Tennessee-UCLA and Virginia Tech-East Carolina would be the best games last week.

One theme to look for this weekend: redemption. The Big East, the Big Ten, and most notably the ACC got off to poor starts to the season, but all three have the chance to redeem themselves in noteworthy games, some of which made our list of eight below.

This Week's Guest

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com, and also the author of the recently released The Maisel Report: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players, Coaches, Games, Stadiums, and Traditions in College Football. He's also probably the most esteemed guest I've had on the podcast.

Maisel's name is synonymous with college football. His 22 consecutive years on the national beat is the longest current uninterrupted tenure in America. He was kind enough to join me to review the opening-week impressions and preview this week's games, including some of the ones listed below.

Tune in to find out who impressed Maisel last week, and who needs to be on upset alert this weekend.

Over at Facebook

Thanks to those of you who have become fans of the SDA Podcast page at Facebook. I hope to see a bunch of new faces over there each week.


The SDA Podcast returns Thursday, Aug. 28. Be sure to check us out on Facebook all week long!

Find us on Facebook

Remember, the Facebook page is the perfect place to post your tailgating pictures and videos, your predictions, your argument-starting message-board rants.

This week's Facebook Question of the Week is: Who is your favorite all-time college football player, and why? Most college football junkies that I know have a few sometimes-obscure players that they keep close to their heart. Click over to Facebook to see my choices, and leave your own. I'll post the best of your responses in this space next week.

Last week's question inspired only a few replies of those willing to post their BCS title-game predictions. Alabama fan Anthony Peek offered the following:

I don't think anyone makes it through the season unscathed (BCS team-wise). Of course I am going to pick one team that will then go on to lose in Week 1, making me look like an idiot. But I am going to say Missouri. They have the big game against Illinois and go to Texas, all the other games are winnable (though I do think the Big 12 North is going to be better then what it was last season, they do miss Oklahoma and Texas Tech in the regular season) and of course they have to beat someone like Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or Texas (again) in the Big 12 Championship. They have the weapons on offense and a strong defense (that held Texas Tech to 10 points last year).

The other team, USC ... because why not? They are probably the most talented team in the country. Amazingly enough, wide receiver might be a weak point for them (to the extent that they need someone to step up). They have a host of Parade All-American running backs to play in the backfield, and the defense should be healthier then what it was last season (like Brian Cushing). They beat Ohio State and the Pac-10 is good, but USC stands clearly above them.

So yes, USC-Missouri (though deep down I know Ohio State will be back in the championship game)

(For the record, I'm saying Auburn over Ohio State).

This Week's Games

Here's this week's slate, along with start times and TV Networks, followed by my picks and those of Brian Fremeau, based on his Fremeau Efficiency Index. For more on his predictions, please check out his blog.

South Carolina (-10.5) at Vanderbilt, Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Steve Spurrier's defense looked awfully tough in opening shutout of North Carolina State. This week, he turns to Chris Smelley at quarterback to try and give the offense a boost.

The picks: FEI: South Carolina | RUSSELL: South Carolina

Georgia Tech (+7) at Boston College, 12 p.m. ET, Raycom

Paul Johnson's wishbone attack gets its first real test against rebuilding Boston College.

The picks: FEI: Boston College | RUSSELL: Georgia Tech

Oregon State (+16.5) at Penn State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

The Beavers fell flat in an opening loss to Stanford, and now travel cross-country to take on 1-0 Penn State, which enjoyed a walkover against Coastal Carolina.

The picks: FEI: Oregon State | RUSSELL: Penn State

Mississippi (+8) at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

This could be one of the weekend's more interesting matchups. Ed Orgeron left plenty of talent at Ole Miss (including former Texas quarterback Jevan Snead) for Houston Nutt to mold into a winner. Wake Forest may have to uphold the ACC's dignity in this one.

The picks: FEI: Wake Forest | RUSSELL: Wake Forest

Cincinnati (+21.5) at Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Another game with sneaky-good potential. Brian Kelley made some great strides at Cincinnati last year. Now he gets the ultimate test against Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma.

The picks: FEI: Cincinnati | RUSSELL: Oklahoma

West Virginia (-9) at East Carolina, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

East Carolina, fresh off its upset win over Virginia Tech, now gets Pat White and friends, but at home in Greenville. Say one thing for Skip Holtz, he subscribes to the Pat Hill school of scheduling.

The picks: FEI: West Virginia (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: West Virginia (Edelstein Lock)

Miami (Fla.) (+21.5) at Florida, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Remember when Miami, Florida, and Florida State vied annually for college football supremacy? Things haven't been the same at The U since Butch Davis left -- even though Larry Coker won a national title with the players Davis left him. Florida has a far easier path to a national title than presumptive SEC favorite Georgia, but the Gators need to dominate here.

The picks: FEI: Florida | RUSSELL: Florida

Stanford (+14) at Arizona State, 10 p.m. ET, FSN

Lost in some of last week's bigger upsets was Stanford's solid home victory over Oregon State -- thought by many me to be a sleeper in the Pac-10. Is Jim Harbaugh building something on the Farm? If Stanford can get to Rudy Carpenter, they have a puncher's chance.

The picks: FEI: Stanford | RUSSELL: Stanford

Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
South Carolina -10.5 Vanderbilt South Carolina South Carolina
Georgia Tech +7 Boston College Boston College Georgia Tech
Oregon State +16.5 Penn State Oregon State Penn State
Mississippi +8 Wake Forest Wake Forest Wake Forest
Cincinnati +21.5 Oklahoma Cincinnati Oklahoma
West Virginia -9 East Carolina West Virginia* West Virginia*
Miami (Fla.) +21.5 Florida Florida Florida
Stanford +14 Arizona State Stanford Stanford
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI: 3-5-0 (1-0-0) 3-5-0 (1-0-0)
Russell: 4-4-0 (0-1-0) 4-4-0 (0-1-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 04 Sep 2008

48 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2008, 2:58pm by horn


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 11:54am

I don't recall if it was mentioned last week, but how does FEI pick its Lock? Is there some sort of confidence rating or does he simply choose one that he believes in?

I think Stanford has a chance against the spread, but I think ASU will win that game.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 11:58am

FEI picks Cincinnati over Oklahoma? I'd love to see a discussion of why.

by G_Man (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 12:21pm

#2: Probably because they're getting 21.5 points. That's a lot of points. I don't think they expect them to win outright.

by Russell Levine :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 1:14pm

I thought long and hard about Cinci +21.5. Very, very tempting. Kelly's teams play hard. I don't see them getting run out of the stadium, but I think OU will eventually prove too much in the second half. OU at home is a pretty solid lock the last few years, and the line seems to reflect that.

by jerkstore (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 2:14pm

Where's the discussion of the Chris Wells injury mentioned on the front page? Wells' name isn't even mentioned in the article.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 2:21pm

Re #5
I strongly suspect that's in the podcast, though I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet (silly job thing).

by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 2:58pm

Not a chance on this beautiful blue marble we inhabit that the Oregon State Beavers come within 5 touchdowns of Penn State. I live in Oregon, and with all the problems the Beavs have on defense and running the ball, they're gonna get totally embarrassed. I'm VERY curious to know why FEI thinks they'll cover, because that one doesn't pass the sniff test.

by jerkstore (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 3:17pm

aaaaaaaaaaah I see now. I must be so tuned to ignore ads on this site that I didn't even see the player app.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 3:36pm

If you go to Brian's blog, linked in the article, you see how projected score for each game. Compare that to the spread, and, viola, you have his picks and his lock.

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 3:57pm

#7, as a die hard Oregon State fan, I think they'll be closer than the spread, mostly because it would be hard for them to make as many mistakes as they did at Stanford last week (not impossible, but unlikely), and they have a whole lot of speed on offense, more than I'd say the majority of teams in the Big Ten have, and certainly more than Coastal Carolina did.

That said, I am very happy I decided not to fly up for the game and spend all the time and money to see it live (unless they win, of course, then I'll regret it forever).

by bradluen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 5:09pm

Happy National Overreaction Week (NCAA edition) everyone!

Because of the parity between non-USC/Stanford teams, the Pac-10 often has the best team that doesn't go to a bowl, and Oregon State has put their hands up to be this year's honorees. Their defense doesn't give up big yardage, so provided the offense doesn't drop the ball five times again, they look like a good bet to lose by a mere touchdown or two.

by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 7:52pm

NewsToTom has the FEI spread picks and lock selection process nailed.

I'm with the posters who think the spread is just too big. Oregon State isn't necessarily any worse than an average Pac-10 team (which is certainly better than the average Big Ten team), and Penn State doesn't get to claim a spot in the national upper tier just because Michigan vacated it. I do think PSU will win, just not by that much.

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Thu, 09/04/2008 - 9:15pm

#12: And now Penn State has suspended a starting DE and DT for the game after their incident this past week, that can't help them out much. I still expect Oregon State to lose, I don't expect them to lose by 17, and I won't be stunned if they pull the upset.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/05/2008 - 11:03am

I'm picking an unbeaten Ohio State over one-loss Florida in the BCS Championship. One loss Oklahoma will complain about being left out.

Of course, this is predicated upon Ohio State beating USC, Florida beating Georgia, and Oklahoma beating Missouri.

This Tennessee fan is VERY worried. I figured the Vols would finish with eight or nine wins with losses to Florida, Georgia, and Auburn, and maybe an upset along the way. Now the UCLA loss is in the books, Alabama looks like a loss, while Kentucky and Vanderbilt look far stronger than originally advertised.

If Tennessee decides to part ways wtih Phil Fulmer, looking a few hundred miles west to Bobby Johnson may not be a bad idea.

Speaking of coaches, Steev Kragthorpe looks like a terrible fit at Louisville. I'm generally a proponent of giving a coach four years, but UL is beginning to look like a hopeless situation.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Fri, 09/05/2008 - 3:58pm

Hey, thanks for posting my comment, I feel sort of warm and fuzzy now.

I currently live in Baton Rouge, which got beat up by Gustav and I have no power (using a computer at LSU right now) since Monday. I am hoping somehow I will be able to watch some college football this Saturday.

And of course I pick Missouri...and Maclin gets hurt and the defense looks like trash against Illinois.

by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Fri, 09/05/2008 - 5:43pm

Brian, I appreciate the Pac10 love, don't get me wrong ... but did you see what happened to OSU on the road at L'Ville a couple of years ago, with a far superior team? The LSU almost-win was also a far superior OSU squad to this year's version ...

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/05/2008 - 7:25pm

This week's picks.

Ohio +35 over Ohio State
Mia-OH +14 over Michigan
Duke +6 over Northwestern

I'm 1 - 1 so far this year.

by sonya (not verified) :: Fri, 09/05/2008 - 7:38pm

Russell - You are short changing yourself two wins in your season total (unless you think your 4-4 record from last week needs to be reduced to 2-4 just because you picked against your alma mater and won).

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 8:19am

Re: 18

Thanks for the catch. Fixed. Damn spreadsheets!

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 12:39pm

Yeesh. tOSU offense looks terrible so far today. I realize they're in full pre-season mode (no pass I've seen has been more than ten yards downfield) and not wanting to show USC anything, but even at that it's looking quite dull. I honestly have no idea how worried to be at this point.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 1:00pm

Trog welcome back! May you enjoy a miserable college football season. Or, at the very least, an excellent college football season followed by a miserable BCS title game humiliation...

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 1:28pm

tOSU down 7 - 3 mid-second.

I kinda figured they'd take it easy, plus they're against a bunch of guys that are angry that "tOSU didn't even send me a letter". 35 points seemed too much, all things considered.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 3:08pm

Didn't see much of the tOSU game, but they looked very out of sync when I was watching. Doesn't bode well for next week.

Michigan was ugly on offense again, played better on defense, and benefitted from some very friendly drops by Miami to win by 10. I'll take it. They improved from last week, which is the only thing I really want to see.

There was a very strange replay review in the game. Miami had an option pitch which hit the turf. The refs ruled it a forward pass, waved it inconplete and blew the whistle. The Miami running back had picked it up and run for a first down.

The play was reviewed, as the pitch was clearly backwards. But why review a play in which the whistle clearly blew it dead? Yet after review they ruled backwards pass, inadvertant whistle, and re-played 3rd down.

It ended up not mattering as Miami kicked a field goal anyway, but it was just a funny call. I've never seen a "do-over" in college football before. Was anyone else aware of this rule?

by Travis (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 3:47pm

Re: 23

The rule isn't new, but I don't think I've ever seen it before either.

Rule 4-1-2-b:

b. If an official sounds his whistle inadvertently or otherwise signals the ball dead during a down (Rules 4-1-3-k and m):
1. When the ball is in player possession, then the team in possession may elect to put the ball in play where declared dead or replay the down.
2. When the ball is loose from a fumble, backward pass or illegal pass, then the team in possession may elect to put the ball in play where possession was lost or replay the down.
3. During a legal forward pass or a free or scrimmage kick, then the ball is returned to the previous spot and the down replayed.
4. After Team B gains possession on the try or during an extra period, then the try is over or the extra-period series is ended.

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 4:30pm

OK, so I missed the first hour of the game (ESPN2 HD here is showing ESPN News HD, so while I was running I was recording that instead of OSU-Penn State), but from the first 3 plays I have seen, Oregon State will be lucky to win 5 games this year, really lucky. That, and we'll never schedule like this again, since we aren't USC.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 6:19pm

The end of Washington vs BYU was a disgrace. No WAY Locker was unsportmanlike on that one.

Expect a full blown controversy over this. The refs made a mad call and killed UW.

by Crosseyed and Painless (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 6:22pm

That celebration call against Washington was disgusting.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 6:24pm

27- COMPLETELY agreed and I like the Talking Heads reference.

I don't care one way or another about UW, but that was over the top ridiculous.

by Crosseyed and Painless (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 6:24pm

The Notre Dame-San Diego State game is also disgusting. I don't understand SDSU's offense at all. Somehow it seems to be working better than the Irish's though.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 6:36pm

ECU is KILLING West Virginia.

by Crosseyed and Painless (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 6:42pm

Anyone else watching the ND network? Was the SDSU player down before he fumbled? Was he even in the end zone? Do the ND announcers even bother to ask?

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 6:51pm

HORRIBLE call at the end of BYU-Washington. Huskies score with 2 seconds left to bring it within 1, and the officials call them for excessive celebration. Really? Is *any* celebration excessive there?

Of course, the longer XP is blocked, and BYU wins. Horrible end to a great game.

by Russell Levine :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 7:18pm

Wow, ND still looks awful rocky. If they don't get that fumble at the goal line, they might not have won this one.

That said, Michigan is going to have to play a lot better than they did the first two weeks to win at ND next Saturday.

Most surprising result today - ECU just taking it to WVU. I wonder how long until some Bill Stewart grumbling starts. And congrats to ECU for scheduling tough and starting tough. Very impressive.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 7:19pm

BYU-UW is a rulebook problem, not an officials problem. Locker throwing the ball way up in the air like he did was "excessive celebration", even if there's no way that *should* be a penalty.

The SDSU fumble at the goalline was almost certainly a fumble, but it should've been ND ball at the 1 instead of a touchback-the Irish player had his knee down and the ball was at the 1 when he recovered.

by Nate (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 7:26pm

31 - I don't really watch any ND games, but I was kind of shocked by how biased the announcing was. Yikes.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 7:30pm

Locker throwing the ball way up in the air like he did was “excessive celebration”, even if there’s no way that *should* be a penalty.

"Way up in the air"?


by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 9:17pm

By my best guess, the ball went at least 5 feet over his standing height. To me, that qualifies as "way up in the air".

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 9:33pm

After seeing the replay- that was "high in the air". I stand corrected.

The rules were wrong, not the refs. Post 34 was right.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 11:10pm

Urban Meyer kicks the FG to go up 23 with :25 left. Alas, Brent and Kirk don't seem to realize the significance the way Al Michaels reliably does. Stupid backdoor covers.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 09/06/2008 - 11:39pm

I'm sure Brent and Kirk get it, and that's a front door cover.

You ran over me once in this thread, Tom. Not again, doggone it ;)

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sun, 09/07/2008 - 12:50am

What exactly is a "backdoor cover" as opposed to a "front door cover"? To me, kicking a pointless FG with the game well in hand when you could have just run the clock out and the level of game competitiveness doesn't reflect the cover counts as a "backdoor cover".

by kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 09/07/2008 - 1:10am

Re #39: Urban Meyer kicks the FG to go up 23 with :25 left. Alas, Brent and Kirk don’t seem to realize the significance the way Al Michaels reliably does. Stupid backdoor covers.

Ever since he barely made the NC game over Michigan, Meyer has been very conscious of "style points". He's not the type to run up the score, but I suspect he was thinking that a 23 point victory will look more impressive at the end of the season than a 20 point victory (although a 27 point victory would have looked better still).

Re #41: What exactly is a “backdoor cover” as opposed to a “front door cover”? To me, kicking a pointless FG with the game well in hand when you could have just run the clock out and the level of game competitiveness doesn’t reflect the cover counts as a “backdoor cover”.

Not an expert on the subject, but I'm under the impression that a backdoor cover is strictly when an underdog that is getting its butt thoroughly whipped manages to cover the spread against a prevent defense staffed with 2nd and 3rd stringers. UF got the late cover against a Miami squad that was trying to the best of its ability to prevent the score, which means it's not a backdoor cover. If it's anything, it's running up the score, although I don't think it was really that, either- it was Meyer padding a little to make the boxscore look a little more impressive at the end of the season when it comes time to sift through the 1-loss teams to put in the championship.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sun, 09/07/2008 - 9:30am

Wow...I hit on a three of my picks this week. I should become a gambler ;)


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

Ohio State treated the game against Ohio U. like a scrimmage, and I understand why they did, but I can't keep them at #1 ahead of Florida, Oklahoma, etc after that performance. Having said that, I think they'll beat USC next week and anyone else they play this season- OSU is the best team in the nation.

Akron beats Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, MTSU beats Maryland, and a week after beating Texas A&M, Arkansas State scores 83 (!!) against Texas Southern.

by Dave Glass (not verified) :: Sun, 09/07/2008 - 10:19am

Wow, the FEI really took it on the chin this week...

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sun, 09/07/2008 - 11:15am

These threads haven't been anywhere near as active as they have been in previous years, and I have a suggestion: next week put "College Football, Week 3" somewhere in the heading.

I'm just not sure everyone knows what "SDA" is :)

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:53am

So, um ... someone should probably tell the Big Ten that the season has started. And maybe remind Notre Dame that they're not part of the Big Ten and don't need to play as if they were.

Wait. Never mind that very last part.

Baaaaaad football on Saturday. Hell, Purdue was struggling with look-we-just-made-it-to-I-AA Northern Colorado for a while. Tiller was probably wishing he'd played at their place just so he could go fishing after the game.

I agree with the FO consensus on the SDSU fumble (ND ball at the 1). I try to avoid NBC at all costs, partly because of the announcing, but I was hoping for a bit of schadenfreude ... probably jinxed the Aztecs. We weren't paying a lot of attention to that play in the UM-Miami game, so it's good to know what happened. (I'm tempted to bring my laptop next week - we go to BWW every now and then to watch - just to look up things like that.)

I'm not a big fan of celebration penalties. There are probably times when taunting becomes unsportsmanlike conduct, but if you can't figure out a way to make that the way to call it, don't do a separate rule, or at least make it an "on the ensuing kickoff" penalty.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 8:15am

I can't help but think if Ohio doesn't lose its starting quarterback and number 17 at wide receiver catches a few more passes that Ohio State suffers "Appalachian State, The Sequel". Only far worse since Ohio isn't anywhere the team App State was last season. The Bobcats took it to the Buckeyes.

Regarding Wisky the story of the game was the Wisconsin secondary suddenly making an appearance and the Wisconsin qb showing some ability to complete passes.

Gotta think Fresno State will exploit what still has to be regarded as a suspect defensive backfield. Pat Hill is WAY smarter than Bielema so the Bulldogs have two legit advantages in home field and at coaching. I will be satisfied if the Badgers can keep it close.

by horn (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:58pm

1. Brent *always* recognizes the significance - more than most gamblers - and as the line closed at 23.5/24 he knew not to mention it. [He's said 'this FG is very important to some viewers' about 10x more than all other announcers combined.

2. Meyer's classless FG is clearly within the definition of 'backdoor cover' which has nothing to do with 2/3rd string players. [for those that had the 21.5/22 early in the week.]

3. You guys obviously paid no attention to the Week 1 games of ECU and WVU. WVU could barely stop Nova from moving the ball. And why would anyone lay 10 against ECU at home after they beatdown top 15-rated VaTech? Do you hate money? If they were called GiantStateUniv you wouldn't make that error.