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10 Sep 2007

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Lessons Learned

by Russell Levine

What have we learned after two weeks of the college football season?

For one thing, we learned that my alma mater, Michigan, is in big, big trouble. After a pair of humiliating defeats, the Wolverines are staring at an 0-4 start, all at home, with Notre Dame and Penn State coming to the Big House (of Cards) the next two Saturdays. Yes, Notre Dame is bad. Really bad. But Michigan will likely be starting a very raw true freshman quarterback after Chad Henne was injured against Oregon, and its defense can't stop anybody. Probably not even Notre Dame. I'm sure Charlie Weis was drawing up a new spread-option offense on the flight home from Happy Valley Saturday night.

I'm running out of the energy to defend, or even analyze, my Wolverines. The program is a mess. If there was a shred of hope that it could rebound after the Appalachian State debacle, it disappeared by halftime the Oregon loss, which was even more dispiriting. I have defended Lloyd Carr for his overall body of work in Ann Arbor, and will continue to do so. I wasn't quite ready to admit it was time to pass the torch after last week; now I am. Michigan will have a new coach and a new direction next year. We, the Michigan fan base, will spend the rest of this season trying to figure out who that coach will be (and count how many potential candidates pick up contract extensions the next few weeks). I'm ready to turn the page. More on that topic in this week's Seventh Day Adventure podcast.

Michigan's struggles, to use a kind word, are just a part of the Big Ten's problems. Only Penn State has distinguished itself in any way so far this season, and the Nittany Lions were often ragged in beating Notre Dame by three touchdowns. The conference's other contenders, Ohio State and Wisconsin, were less than stellar against Akron and UNLV, respectively, and the Badgers were very nearly upset.

Establishing a conference pecking order so early in the season is difficult. Here's my guess: SEC, Big East, Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC.

Despite losses by Tennessee (to Cal) and Auburn (to South Florida), the SEC remains the deepest conference in the nation. There is a gap between LSU and Florida and everyone else in the conference, but any of the next layer of teams -- Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee -- could beat either the Tigers or Gators without raising too many eyebrows.

The Big East gets the nod over the Pac-10 because its top four teams -- West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida -- are collectively better than USC, Cal, UCLA, and Oregon. and, umm, Washington? The Big 12 has a very, very good Oklahoma and question marks everywhere else. Where is Texas's offense? Is Nebraska really any good? Texas A&M might be the fourth-best team and the Aggies were lucky to survive a very average Fresno State in triple-overtime at home.

Apologies for the butchery in the preceding paragraph. I blame the Michigan defense. In any case, I still think the Big East gets a slight edge even though my own BlogPoll ballot would suggest the Pac-10 by the slightest of margins.

The Big Ten's issues are well established, but Penn State/Wisconsin/Ohio State could still turn out to be formidable. And let us not forget that the first two teams on that list beat SEC opponents in bowl games last season.

The ACC is reeling from a Saturday that saw its two marquee programs -- Virginia Tech and Miami -- lose on the road to LSU and Oklahoma by a combined score of 99-20. Yet all is not lost for the conference. Both Boston College and Clemson may turn out to be very good, and Wake Forest gave a very good accounting of itself against Nebraska. Georgia Tech is a wild card. The Yellow Jackets have looked fantastic, but a win over Notre Dame may not mean much in the long run.

The rise of the Big East continues to be one of the stories in college football. The reconfigured league was thought to have one questionable power (Louisville) when it debuted in 2005. West Virginia came out of nowhere to beat the Cardinals, win the conference title, and defeat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl that season. Just as importantly, Rutgers made a bowl game, and South Florida beat Louisville with a stunning display of speed and athleticism, to give the conference added credibility.

Rutgers competed for the conference crown last season, raising the league's profile even further, while South Florida beat West Virginia on the road. A stellar non-conference mark and a 5-0 bowl record were icing on the cake.

This season has already shown more progress. Not only did South Florida's win over Auburn Saturday cement that program's status as one on the rise, but the conference's depth continues to grow. Cincinnati, which beat undefeated Rutgers last November, spanked a pretty good Oregon State team on Thursday night.

Both Connecticut and Pittsburgh have invested a lot of money in facilities (at UConn) and coaches (Pitt's Dave Wannstedt, granted, not the best ROI thus far). In an ironic twist, the conference's bottom feeder is also the school with the deepest football tradition: Syracuse, which may be the nation's worst BCS conference team.

The legitimacy of the Big East's automatic BCS bid was a hot topic as recently as two years ago. The conference is now a rising power that has shown the savvy to place its top teams in the national spotlight in late-season, weekday night games. If Rutgers proves to have staying power as a BCS contender, the nation's largest media market will be devoting significant attention to college football.

The traditionalist in me hates that Rutgers played Navy on a Friday night and that South Florida plays in a half-empty NFL stadium. The entire Big East is short on tradition, but that seems to be an ingredient of decreasing importance in the present landscape of college football -- and not just because Michigan and Notre Dame will bring a combine 0-4 mark into the meeting of the sport's two winningest programs of all time this Saturday.

How's this for tradition? If Notre Dame were looking to join a conference today, the Big East (where the Irish already compete in basketball) might actually make more sense than the Big Ten, which was always thought to be the only football conference which Notre Dame would ever consider joining. A few weeks before the season, speculation arose that the Big Ten might target Rutgers if it ever expands to 12 members and can't land the Irish. Today, the two leagues appear headed in opposite directions.

Like all things in college football -- yes, including the dominance of the SEC and the present state of the Michigan program -- the Big East's present status among the elite could turn out to be cyclical. For now, the league's schools and commissioner Mike Tranghese, the overseer of this renaissance, will sit back and enjoy the spoils that a growing reputation brings.

John L. Smith Trophy

The actions of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt late in the Bulls' upset of Auburn make it very difficult for me to continue my unofficial policy of not tagging winning coaches with the JLS Trophy.

Few things irk me more than an underdog coach that plays it safe, as Leavitt did in opting for a game-tying field goal attempt by a kicker, Delbert Alvarado, who had missed four second-half attempts. South Florida had the ball at the Auburn one in the final minute, yet opted to take a delay-of-game penalty and send Alvarado on the field on fourth down. He made the kick, and South Florida went on to win in overtime because Leavitt went for the touchdown after Auburn kicked a field goal. Had the Bulls blown the game, Leavitt would be wearing a Michigan-sized set of goat horns today.

Instead, the JLS Trophy goes to Marshall's Mark Snyder, for a similar gaffe. Marshall had sluggish West Virginia down 10-6, late in the first half and had a first down at the Mountaineers' 10 with one timeout remaining. Rather than take a shot at the end zone and a two-score halftime lead, Snyder ordered his team to center the ball and kick a short field goal. West Virginia might well have won either way, but Snyder's message to his team with that strategy was "we're here not to win, but not to get embarrassed."

You're Marshall, they're West Virginia. You're at home, in front of a record crowd. You appear to have caught the Mountaineers napping with an 11 a.m. start time. What do you have to lose? Throw the ball in the end zone!

BlogPoll Ballot

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

Rank Team Delta
1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma 1
3 Southern Cal --
4 Florida --
5 Penn State 4
6 West Virginia --
7 California --
8 Georgia Tech 8
9 Louisville 4
10 Rutgers 5
11 Texas 6
12 Nebraska --
13 Wisconsin 5
14 Ohio State 3
15 Clemson 3
16 UCLA 4
17 Boston College 4
18 Oregon 8
19 South Carolina 7
20 South Florida 6
21 Washington 5
22 Arkansas --
23 Cincinnati 3
24 Hawaii 1
25 Missouri --

Dropped Out: Virginia Tech (#10), Georgia (#13), Auburn (#14), TCU (#19), Boise State (#24).

Rankings that may require further explanation: Remember, I'm treating my preseason poll as pure guesswork, and last week's rankings as only less so. As I gather more information by, you know, actually seeing these teams play, I'm re-ranking as I see fit. Therefore, Louisville, Wisconsin and Ohio State all drop after wins. Georgia Tech shoots up after beating up on Samford. This is the premise of the BlogPoll -- to avoid poll anchoring or momentum.

I nearly kept Georgia in the poll with a loss; South Carolina is pretty good and the Bulldogs had an impressive season-opening win over Oklahoma State. But there were just too many teams -- such as Washington and Cincinnati -- that I felt were deserving of being ranked based what they've done so far this season and not on preseason projections.

As I see it, there's a large drop-off after the top four teams. The next 15 or so spots will be very volatile in the coming weeks.

Games I watched at least part of: Oregon State-Cincinnati, Middle Tennessee-Louisville, Navy-Rutgers, West Virginia-Marshall, Miami-Oklahoma, Oregon-Michigan, Fresno State-Texas A&M, Notre Dame-Penn State, South Carolina-Georgia, Hawaii-Louisiana Tech, South Florida-Auburn, Virginia Tech-LSU.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 10 Sep 2007

64 comments, Last at 13 Sep 2007, 10:07pm by Chuck Coleman


by David S. (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 4:59pm

I guess "umm" is your pet name for the #7 team in your poll? Which would make it WV, UL, Rutgers and USF against USC, UCLA, Oregon and umm AKA CAL. And I would think that would tip the scales in the Pac-10's favor.

by jtp (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 4:59pm

In discussing the top four teams in the Pac-10, you say "The Big East gets the nod over the Pac-10 because its top four teams — West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida — are collectively better than USC, UCLA, Oregon, and, umm, Washington?"

But why'd you leave out Cal, which is in the Pac-10 and is ranked #7 on your BlogPoll ballot?

by jtp (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 5:00pm

Darn it! I hate dial-up...

by shmup-o (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 5:04pm

I believe California is in the Top 4 teams of the Pac-10. When you replace Washington with California, I'm pretty sure the Pac-10 T4 > Big East T4.

by shmup-o (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 5:06pm

i should've known i'd type too slow...

by DMP (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 5:10pm

Glad to read from you again, Russell. I got a little worried on Saturday when I decided to catch the 7th Day message board and saw you suddenly drop out around the time it got too depressing even for ME to watch Michigan-Oregon.

The best thing for me about the Michigan meltdown is what I saw from the Michigan players: quitting; Mike Hart acting like a crazed man, making crappy desperate guarantees at the postgame; a cheap shot by a UM WR; Lloyd going into an un-called for soliloquy about the nature of life at the post game, sounding like twice-warmed over bar-fly pholosopher. In summary, ALL THE THINGS UM PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS GIVEN ME CRAP FOR REGARDING MICHIGAN STATE PLAYERS AND COACHES. I always get this crap over MSU players being quitters, classless, and crybabies -- it's nice to now that 19-20 year-olds at Michigan will behave much of the same way while being embarrassed their last three times out. I'm going with 19-20 year-olds can be pretty unreliable in general without some sort of recent positive feedback. So thanks, Every Presumptious Michigan Fan I've Crossed Paths with, kindly observe and go to hell.

(Adjustment for comparison scale: UM does this after consecutive nationally embarrassing losses on top of consecutive poor outings at BOWL games; MSU players display this behaviour in relative obscurity after the 4th consecutive loss with a new coach, 2nd consecutive loss the next season with the same coach, and right from the start after four years with a clearly incompetent coach.)

Now that I live in Seattle, I picture Tyrone Willingham kicking back in his office, looking out to Lake Union and Washington, perhaps the beautiful Cascade Mountain Range, flipping a middle-finger in the general eastwardly direction, thinking "Not so easy when you have to bring up brand new players along, is it, mother#$@%ers?!"

by DMP (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 5:15pm

By the way, still happy I can read the phrase "John L. Smith Trophy" and any associated joke without having to feel like I just got punched on my front teeth.

by Dr. Kenneth Noisewater (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 5:52pm

So, SEC > Pac-10, even though you list 4 SEC schools (LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas) and 5 Pac-10 schools (USC, Cal, UCLA, Oregon, Washington) in your Top 25? And I'm sorry, but USC/Cal/UCLA/Oregon > Lville/WVU/Rutgers/USF any day of the week and twice on Saturday, when the rest of the country plays ball (yeah I'm looking at you, Big Least!)

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 6:05pm

Well, as I have pointed out previously Wisconsin ALWAYS struggles early on the road. Always, always, always. From 1993 when a team that eventually went on to win the Rose Bowl beat a sorry SMU team 21-14 to 1999 when Wisconsin LOST to Cincinnati 17-12 and eventually won the Rose Bowl to 2005 beating North Carolina 14-5 in a season which finished by hammering a heavily favored Auburn team 24-10. And there are others in between in case anyone is curious.

Wisconsin has made mistake after mistake after mistake in both games so far and still somehow won. So I have no idea what to think as to their level of true quality.

But I do know that Wisconsin early is not Wisconsin late. That's the only constant with the program.

By the way, it was announced today that senior receiver Paul Hubbard will be out 6-8 weeks with an injured MCL. He's Wisconsin's best wide receiver and best pass catcher after TE Travis Beckum. So that will have an impact on a team with a qb who has started all of four games in his career.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 6:12pm

I think ranking the Big East currently above the Pac 10 is ridiculous, but to each his own.

And now, since I saw it a few times on Saturday, and an absurd one on Sunday, I'd like to rant about "uncatchable balls" and pass interference. I've come to the realization that, while the NFL doesn't have the rulebook available, the rule regarding an uncatchable ball must go something like this:

"A pass is considered catchable if a receiver 7 yards tall and a 6 yard wingspan with hands the size of soccer nets and the ability to outrun the Concorde could conceivably catch the ball. If the referee judges that such a receiver could not catch the pass, the referee is advised to re-imagine the scenario, asking himself instead whether Superman could conceivably catch the pass. If either of these things are true, the pass is catchable and pass interference should be called."

It's only the first weekend (second for college), but even so I've seen some insane pass interference calls. There's always been the hit on the penalty that a defender barely brushes a receiver and is flagged, but I saw a number of cases over the weekend where balls sailed 2 yards over someone's heads, then out of bounds, and the flag goes flying. Or a pass sails 10 yards past a receiver who was touched, yet slowed down not at all, and clangs to the ground - leading to flags flying.

In many of these cases (especially in the NFL, due to the spot-of-the-foul nature of the call), perhaps illegal contact could be called, but I really think the referees need to use better judgment as to whether or not a pass is catchable. Usually, the referee throwing the flag is looking at the players in question, and not the ball - but some referee is probably looking at the ball, and they should say something in the official's conference as to the nature of the pass.

OK, stupid rant over.

by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 6:18pm

I'm definitely impressed by the Big East's improvement the last two years. But as you point out, it really depends on how long this lasts. I doubt the Big Ten (Eleven) will be this down for that long, but hey, maybe the new football powers resides on the east coast. Back where it all started! Get Harvard/ Yale back in there!

I still feel that overall the SEC is better than the Pac 10 this year, the disparity isn't as great as many would have you believe. It's going to be a brutal conference schedule this year out west, and I don't think anyone is going to make it out undefeated. I can't wait to see them get screwed by the BCS again, and see a 1-loss Texas team get selected over a 2-loss Pac 10 team. If ND gets hot, maybe a 3-loss Irish team will make it really fun!

by Joefan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 6:23pm

I'm still trying to understand how a Big East team could beat an SEC team. The SEC is the greatest football conference in the history of the universe and the Big East is spam. USF beating Auburn is the greatest upset ever. I don't understand how this isn't a bigger story than App State over Michigan. It's like a high school team beating an NFL team.

by Admore (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 6:55pm

Caveat - I know it's just guesses and opinions. No one is a bad person here (except for that one guy, you know who you are). It's all in fun.

@11 - I agree with you. I could see the Big East top 4 going 0-4 against the top 4 Pac 10 teams.

Which Big East teams are better than their Pac 10 counterparts? WV is better than USC? Almost certainly not.

Is Louisville better than Cal? Ask it this way - is Louisville better than Tennessee? That's debatable, and Cal trounced Tennessee.

So, is Rutgers, better than Oregon or UCLA? maybe, but I'm still unconnvinced about them. Look at the rankings here - Rutgers comes in at #10. Ask if there's a single team on that list before #20 that you honestly think wouldn't beat Rutgers. I also think every team above #10 would also beat Rutgers.

South Florida? Don't get me started...

Boise State had to put up crazy good seasons forever before anyone noticed. Rutgers, being next door to NYC and all, is annointed seemingly overnight. Let's wait a see a bit more on them, please. I'm not saying they aren't good, but the top ten ranks are reserved in my mind for current great teams that have proven themselves great in the past as well. A 10-0 LSU is worth more than a 10-0 Rutgers, sorry, but it is.

Or ask it this way (courtesey Bill Simmons) if you had to bet your life on one conference's top teams going 4-0 against the others, would you bet on the Big East over the Pac 10?

by Admore (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 7:00pm

@ #13 Ha! No, the Big East isn't spam, more like, um, a canned meat product that is spam-like, but uses cheaper ingredients.

All credit to South Florida on their win. I should have been more charitable. I'd still take the Pac 10 top 4 over the Big East, though.

by oljb (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 7:36pm

How much better will the Big East inter-conference record have to get before people stop declaring them to be crap? We have seen one contest this year between the Big East and the Pac Ten that doesn't involve Syracuse (which I have no hope of defending). This was between Cincinnati and Oregon State. Cincy isn't even in the top half of the Big East, and it outright obliterated Oregon State. I wish the other BCS conferences were more willing to schedule Big East teams. My guess is that it would prove that the scattered wins we've seen recently (USF over Auburn, WVU over Georgia, total pnwership of the ACC, etc) are not anomalous. Hopefully we'll see two Big East teams in the BCS Bowls this year and get the kind of evidence that will provide a real indication one way or the other. A BCS matchup that doesn't involve Wake Forest (no disrespect intended, Deacons fans) would help with that.

by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 7:41pm

Poor Mike Hart....he deserves better then this Michigan team.

Alabama actually has a running game this year which makes me happy, now if we just learn how to pick up a blitzing LBer I will be really happy. Javier Arenas is probably the best kick returner no one knows about. The safeties from Alabama right now is probably the biggest weak point (a former walk-on RB starts at FS and Marcus "I have no idea why he is a 2 year starter" Carter is at SS).

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 8:31pm

Re: 16 Poor Mike Hart….he deserves better [than] this Michigan team.

I'm not sure why Hart would be a sympathetic figure to someone who is not a Michigan fan. Like many other Wolverines over the past couple decades, he has garnered far more national attention than his quality of play deserves due to the wings on his helmet. Sure, he may not be quite as overrated as Henne or Long (who is?), but he has compensated for that with his ugly tendency to spout off angrily and self-importantly without the facts on his side. He appears to be just another arrogant, overconfident, overhyped Michigan player, truly the quintessential "Michigan Man." This Michigan team seems to me to be exactly what he deserves.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 8:42pm

Russell, here's some feedback on your ballot...

It's actually really close to how I rank them. I have Cal a little higher (5th) because they played and beat 2 real teams and looked pretty good doing it. Georgia Tech, though...not a top 10 team right now, I'd wait a week to see how they do against some decent competetion.

The Big East is a lot deeper than it was just two years ago, and the debate about whether they deserve a BCS bid is over. However, I the Big East hasn't "arrived" the way you think it has, even with USF's upset of Auburn. Auburn is probably the 7th or 8th best team in the SEC this year, and USF is probably 3rd in the Big East. It wouldn't surprise me if USF finished even higher than that, after watching Louisville's "defense" against Middle Tennessee St. I see you at least dropped Louisville 4 spots (and Hawaii 1) for dismal defensive performances against inferior opponents, but you're still anchoring a bit--I would drop them even further.

As for underrated teams, I would say Boston College and Oregon should be a few spots higher based on what I've seen of them on the field. Both have a good offense, and their defenses if not spectacular, do know how to tackle.

by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 8:49pm

I am actually a Michigan fan-well my 2nd favorite team (and we get it...you are not). Mike Hart is a RB I want my team, crazy talk, arrogance, and all.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 8:59pm

#18: There's other concerns with Hawaii. Asking a team to fly an 8 hour flight, with a 6 hour time change, and then get ready to play a football game is just not an easy thing.

I’m still trying to understand how a Big East team could beat an SEC team. The SEC is the greatest football conference in the history of the universe and the Big East is spam. USF beating Auburn is the greatest upset ever. I don’t understand how this isn’t a bigger story than App State over Michigan. It’s like a high school team beating an NFL team.

Which implies that Auburn could win the Super Bowl.

by DMP (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:03pm

Not sure how this happened, but I agree with both comment 17 and 19... Mike Hart won't go down and won't fumble. I love him for that alone -- I will always like it when the smallest guy on the field has the biggest cojones. But yes, he probably won't go anywhere beyond this level, like many other well-hyped skill players from U of M.

I may have to change my signature to "Quintessential Michigan Man".

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:09pm

Hawaii really, really shouldn't be there. Running up the score on a team happy to be promoted to I-AA, followed by an OT win thanks to a puzzling playcall by a team that's below the WAC average: this gets you a ranking? I'll reconsider if/when they're 9-0.

Fourth, agree with your gist, but USF 3rd best in the Big East? Curious as to which of WV, Louisville and Rutgers you think they're better than...

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:18pm

Kudos to Russell for continuing to put anything out at all. He's certainly under no obligation to.

Big East VS Pac 10? That would be *very* interesting to see, and a lot closer than people think. The Big East just keeps on proving itself in nonconference games. If it happens once or twice it's a fluke. When it keeps on happening from year to year, then maybe it's a trend.

Then again both conferences are severely and unreasonably disrespected IMO. It's just so hard in college football to overcome everyone's preconceived perceptions.

by beargoggles (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:24pm

Re: 15

Cincy no doubt beat up on OSU, but that's roughly the only Pac-10 team with QB issues. I doubt think that score is likely to repeat itself 10 times on a neutral field. How many INT's were there?

As for deciding which conference is better, I definitely like the Pac-10 at the top, but I admit that teams like Cincy and South Florida have been pretty good for a couple of years now, though overlooked. On the flip-side, the Pac-10 has UW, Oregon and ASU suddenly looking very dangerous in the middle tier(Dennis Erickson teams are always dangerous with all the late hits they rack up) in addition to the obvious teams. And I think OSU will rebound as well. Only Stanfurd will be dogmeat.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:32pm

Methodology note: I've long thought the most elegant way to (subjectively) compare two conferences is to do a combined ranking of teams, then compare average ranks. This solves the problem of differing conference sizes: 12-team leagues too often rely on the "our best X teams are better than your best X teams" argument, conveniently forgetting their worst X teams are worse than others' worst X teams.

To wit:

1. USC
2. West Virginia
3. California
4. Louisville
6. Rutgers
7. South Florida
8. Arizona State
9. Oregon
10. Cincinnati
11. Washington
12. Oregon State
13. Washington State
14. Pitt
15. Arizona
16. Stanford
17. Connecticut
18. Syracuse

I get Pac-10 averaging 9.3, Big East 9.75. You'd only need to move Big East teams up two spots to make it a tie, and you could easily make a case for Louisville over Cal and UConn over Stanford. So "too close to call" is probably the most apt response, albeit no fun.

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:43pm

Hawaii really, really shouldn’t be there. Running up the score on a team happy to be promoted to I-AA, followed by an OT win thanks to a puzzling playcall by a team that’s below the WAC average: this gets you a ranking? I’ll reconsider if/when they’re 9-0.

Hawaii did everything they could to avoid running up the score on Northern Colorado; the starters (including Brennan) were in street clothes at the start of the second half, and two of their three second half TDs came on returns. Northern Colorado was indescribably bad.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "puzzling playcall" by Louisiana Tech - it's become fairly common for a heavy underdog to go for 2 in OT. See, for example, Boise State against Oklahoma last year, or Bowling Green against Minnesota this year.

by Bronco Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:48pm

Re: 18

Cal looked okay against Colorado State, but to be honest with you, besides 3 CSU turnovers and conservative playcalling by the Rams, they were outplayed and should have lost the game. And that was after CSU's all-conference TE was lost for the season.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 9:56pm

26: Yeah, calling the playcall puzzling is after-the-fact thinking. I'll withdraw that, since it distracts from the main point: that No. Colorado and La. Tech suck.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:02pm

Re: 22
USF might be better than Louisville and Rutgers is what I was saying. At worst though they are 4th best, I just think 3rd is more likely for them this year than anything else.

Re: 27
I didn't get to see much of Cal-CSU, I was mostly going off the Tennessee game for justifying them as the leader of the second tier right now. Also Cal is the only team in the top 10 to play 2 difficult games to start the season (and I count CSU as difficult mainly because it was on the road, the week after Tennessee).

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:16pm

SEC vs Pac-10, using the CFN rankings because I agree with them:

1. LSU
2. USC
3. Florida
4. California
6. South Carolina
7. Arizona State
8. Oregon
9. Alabama
10. Georgia
11. Washington
12. Arkansas
13. Oregon State
14. Kentucky
15. Auburn
16. Tennessee
17. Washington State
18. Vandy
19. Arizona
20. Ole Miss
21. Miss State
22. Stanford

I get the Pac-10 averaging 10.8, the SEC 12.08. The SEC needs to improve seven ranks to tie it up. To convince me the SEC is as good as the Pac-10, you'd have convince that *all* the close calls (including the ones already going to the SEC) go the SEC's way:

LSU and Florida over USC
South Carolina over Arizona State
Alabama and Georgia over Oregon
Arkansas over Washington and OSU
Kentucky over OSU
Ole Miss and Miss. St over Arizona

Granted these calls aren't independent, but that's still a hard case to make to me.

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:31pm

Re: 19

Fair enough. If I had known you were a Michigan fan, I wouldn't have written that comment, because I have absolutely no problem with a Michigan fan supporting a Michigan player (as long as you have some sort of connection, however vague, to U-M and aren’t just one of those people who fell in love with the “Fab Five� or the uniforms or some such nonsense). To the extent that I have a problem with Michigan, it is because, as a Big Ten fan living in Big Ten country, I am drowning in Michigan hype year after year. It's every bit as bad as the Notre Dame hype, except that there's little counter-hype, so it's actually much worse on the whole. I have much less of a problem with Michigan itself than I do with all of those people who won’t shut up about how great Michigan is, however little evidence there may be to support that belief in a particular season. However, I give legitimate Michigan fans like Russell a pass on that because I understand, expect, and accept a bit of homerism from all true fans. That said, I’ve made my point, and I’ll try to shut up for awhile about how overrated Michigan is, even if sometimes I feel like I’m the only one saying it.

by Joefan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:33pm

Re 20: You obviously missed that my post was a slam at the SEC zealots and not intended to be taken literally.

by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:40pm

My dad is from Michigan and he was fan of Michigan....but he also gave me the joy of being a Lions fan as well. Though I have lived in the South pretty much my entire life-so I did not get to hear how great Michigan is, but rather how great the SEC is instead. I am sure both are annoying in their own right. I went to Alabama as an undergrad and quickly became an Alabama fan, but without the crazy SEC is the only conference known to man talk.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:48pm

Re: 30
The SEC edges out the Pac-10 at the middle and bottom third of the conferences.

First third:
USC/Cal/UCLA = LSU/UF/South Car/Bama

Second third:
Oregon/Wash/Ariz St.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 10:50pm

Wow, ok, no less than signs. Got it.

Oregon/Wash/Arz St LESS THAN Georgia/Ark/UK/UT

Last third: OSU/Wasu/Arz/Stan LESS THAN Aub/Vandy/Miss/MSU.

Note that I moved UT ahead of Auburn in those rankings, because Auburn looked awful and on track for a 7-5 type season. Obviously you could make a case for a lot of the second tier in either conference to move up, but the point is to paint the general picture. It's close, almost 1.a and 1.b in my book, but the edge goes to the SEC. Pac 10 is still better than the big east IMO :)

Anyway, ranking the teams by simply averaging that chart is seriously flawed...for instance, I think there's a huge drop between 12 and 13 (Arkansas to Oregon St.) and 16 to 17 (Tenn. and Wash St). There are probably some others you could pick that would put the Pac10 in a more favorable light instead. Point being that the drop in talent as you go from 1-22 is in no way linear, making averaging the relative postitions nearly useless.

by kevin11 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 11:18pm

This is the second time this week I've read someone here stating that Syracuse is the worst BCS-conference team.

It's obviously not Syracuse- it's Duke.

In fact, the only argument on the subject for the past ten plus years has been "who is the worst: Duke or Temple?". When Temple was sent packing from the Big East, one of the greatest debates in sports was retired. Now, Duke stands alone and unchallenged.

I ask this every year- who benefits from Duke being in the ACC? The players? Please. Duke's fans? The team gets some of money in the deal, but in the grand scheme of things the money brought in from ACC football doesn't compare to the dotations given by generations of wealthy boosters.

To answer my own question, no one benefits from Duke football being in the ACC. It was best for Temple to leave for the MAC, and it's long past time for Duke football to do the same thing.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 11:36pm

35: If one were really confident in one's opinion of the teams, then, yeah, some non-linear score would be more appropriate. Better yet, draw up a probability matrix with the chance of each team in conference A beating each each team in conference B. But since fans generally can't even agree on rankings, it seems of minimal benefit to go further than a simple ordering.

As my listing suggests, I think the middle third is where the Pac-10 pulls ahead, because I think ASU and Oregon are better than the rest of the middle third, and Kentucky and Auburn/Tennessee are worse. (And as a Cal fan, I really want Tennessee to turn out to be good.) The point of my numbers is that, although you can make a case for SEC supremacy, I won't believe you... at least not this week.

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 11:38pm

Re: 36

In the long run, Duke has been far worse than Syracuse, but Syracuse this year might be worse. This is a team that so far this year has:

Punted on 3rd down.
32 net yards rushing.
1 net yard in the first half against Iowa.
Had 2 field goals blocked and missed its only extra point attempt.
Been outscored 77-12.

by SuperBears (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 11:38pm

I made the mistake of betting on and watching Nebraska Saturday. They are not a top 25 team, it doesn't really matter because USC will destroy them and you can drop them out of your top 50.

by oljb (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 11:43pm

To defend the indefensible, Syracuse has played meaningfully superior competition compared to Duke.

by kevin11 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/10/2007 - 11:45pm

38- And we haven't even touched upon those uniforms.

Seriously, Michigan fans should look at Syracuse and say "OK, maybe things could be a lot worse. At least are players don't dress up like clowns on Saturdays".

How can any thinking adult look at those uniform designs and make a decision to out fit their team in such a manner?

by dp (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 12:44am

what is with the obsession to represent every conference evenly as you fill out your poll? penn state beats a notre dame that is "bad. really bad." and oregon beats the michigan team that will give notre dame a win. and those are the teams that move up in the rankings?

by Jon (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 12:46am

Syracuse has it bad enough. Saying they're worse than Duke is like rubbing salt in a wound. For the record, Duke was humiliated by UConn. And, Iowa State might be the worst of them all this year.

by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 12:52am

Duke was beating UConn at halftime, and within striking distance of tying Virginia in the 3rd quarter.

by Bam Bam (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 2:50am

Hi Michigan...welcome to the real world!! Hi Notre Dame...here's your shovel! Now you guys can feel what 90% of us college fans feel most years. 0-2 End of the World? Ha. Don't worry, your 8 home games a year should help you out while our blue collar teams struggle on the road trying to etch out a few votes just to get in the polls.

by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 9:28am


When do we start the irrational SEC/the field thread? My unofficial poll (based on coming up with the numbers in my head):

Percentage of people who might possibly have their minds persuaded: 0%.

Percentage of SEC advocates who use the strength of the entirety of the conference as a defense: 100%.

Percentage of non-SEC advocates who use the rankings of the top teams of each conference as a defense: 100%.

Percentage of non-SEC advocates who use non-conference scheduling as a significant point against the SEC: 100%.

Percentage of SEC advocates who use conference scheduling as a significant point for the SEC: 100%.

It's a fun topic, but sometimes it really does get in the way of the other analysis. I'd love to join in the debate, but I can't see the point in doing so.

by Dylan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 10:26am

When talking about the sorry state of the Big Ten and teams that still might make noise ... where are the Hawkeyes? Okay, they haven't played anyone with a pulse and won't until the weekend after this one, but they're kind of the wildcard this year.

Although they'd have a better chance if they got to play Michigan.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 10:45am


If Young stays healthy and the defense leverages all those returning starters the Hawkeyes could be a 5-3, 6-2 team IF that sophomore qb Christensen plays decent football. I caught him playing against Northern Illinois last season and he looked solid. Certainly having most of the receiving corps back from last year helps.

Iowa clearly won't turn the ball over as much as they did last season. So the luck turning in their direction will also be an asset.

They could also catch Wisco napping in the home opener. Hawkeyes always give the Badgers fits under Ferentz......

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 10:46am

I listed conference record. Figured that was what you were asking about....

by James G (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 12:02pm

Within striking distance of Virginia in the 3rd quarter? Is that supposed to mean anything. Virginia got mauled by Wyoming the week before.

by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 1:19pm

re: 50

No kidding. A team of my niece's teddy bears coached by John L. Smith could take this year's Virginia team into the third quarter.

by mrh (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 2:18pm

Joefan - if you'd signed your post SECJoe, he might have gotten the joke.

by Derek (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 2:36pm

I know you are a Wisconsin fan but the Hawkeyes are without their leading receiver (in catches, not yards) from last season, Dominique Douglas. He is suspended indefinitely along with another Hawkeye WR, Anthony Bowman, for allegedly using another student's credit card.

The defense looks very good thus far but the competition has been incredibly poor and will be until Iowa gets to Madison on 9/22. I expect a close game and would be surprised by a blowout either way.

I would predict 1-3 losses for the Hawkeyes this year. Iowa could lose at Wisconsin, at Penn State, and at Purdue.

by Dylan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 5:50pm

For the record, I'm an Iowa alum and fan. I'm just surprised that people are sleeping on them so much. Douglass is a big loss. Brodell could cover for him if he could catch the ball. Honestly, though, nobody has any idea how good/bad this team is.

I was just saying that if we're talking about teams that could win the Big Ten, they need to be mentioned. For what it's worth, I see 2-3 losses in their future, but I wouldn't be shocked if they're in the title mix either.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 7:06pm

#32: Re 20: You obviously missed that my post was a slam at the SEC zealots and not intended to be taken literally.

No, I just thought it was funny that by the logic in that post, Auburn would be the best football team in existence. I knew it was sarcastic.

by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 8:44pm

I was just saying that if we’re talking about teams that could win the Big Ten, [the Hawkeyes] need to be mentioned.

Agreed. Same goes for the Boilermakers.

by kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 10:32pm

I wouldn't be surprised if Iowa or Purdue got an upset or two over Ohio State / Penn State / Wisconsin. Those are two good teams.

I would be very surprised if either team won the Big Ten.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 10:42pm

Purdue is a schizoid team. The defense forced almost 30 turnovers but got pushed around most of the time. Unless the nine returning starters have gotten a LOT better the expected downturn in turnovers is going to make that defense highly suspect.

Painter can wing the ball but makes horrible decisions when pressed. Now pretty much everyone who counts on offense is back so maybe with a year under his belt and some help he will avoid being dumb at the wrong times.

Any idea whether their field goal kicker had a targeting mechanism implanted on his foot. 43% is, shall we say, bad. And that was his success rate last year.

I think Purdue will score points. I just don't think that defense will stop too many. And if the game is close that kicker gives me the heebie-jeebies.

by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 11:19pm


This reminds me of the dumbass writer for USA Today a few years ago who wrote a column comparing conferences about a month into the season. Obviously, a Big Ten homer with blinders, he wrote "now that the non-conference schedules are pretty much completed we can see how the conferences match up."

Since it was the first week in October, Fla still had a top 5 FSU, Ga still had arch-rival Ga Tech, SC still had arch-rival Clemson, Tenn still had ND, etc., the article was a standard issue Big Ten joke -- just like the silly idea that the SEC doesn't play quality OOC games.

Looking at the garbage that Wisc, Ind, Iowa, Ill, Mn, and NW schedule most years, I don't see where someone from the Big Ten can criticize anyone else with a straight face.

by RB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/11/2007 - 11:31pm

Let's see, Texas scores 34 on one of the nation's best defenses. They beat the #17 team 34-3, and you rank them 11. I smell some pretty strong bias, but that's ok, because who can stand the Little 10 outside of those in the rust belt? What's their bowl record the last couple of years? Sorry to rant, but there's no way your ranking of Texas is rational. Look at the legitimate polls.

by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/12/2007 - 12:01am

I thought Texas won 34-13...maybe he was still impressed by the 21-13 win over Arkansas State...but yes that one Big Ten school ahead of Texas in the poll is really biased I tell you.

by South Carolina Beauty Queen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/12/2007 - 12:03am

and the legitmate polls had Michigan as a preseason number 5 and gave Auburn more votes then South Florida after this weekend. The legitmate polls are probably more flawed (especially the coaches poll).

by Derek (not verified) :: Wed, 09/12/2007 - 10:45am

Iowa doesn't play Ohio State this season (or next). If the Hawkeyes upset Wisconsin or Penn State, they might end up with one loss which could very well put them in the mix for a conference championship. Given the conference's sputtering start to the season, a 6-2 record might even earn a team a share of the Big Ten title.

I don't think Purdue will win the conference but I can see them giving Iowa a difficult game in Indiana.

by Chuck Coleman (not verified) :: Thu, 09/13/2007 - 10:07pm

I only saw highlights of MI-OR game, which only prove that the single wing is returning. On one play, the Oregon QB faked a pass and handed off to an RB going left for a large gain. Later, the QB faked a pass, then a handoff left, and ran into the endzone untouched. Wow!