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27 Aug 2007

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Welcome Respite

by Russell Levine

College football may never again get such a warm welcome.

Given 2007's summer of discontent for sports -- Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Tim Donaghy, et al. -- college football has never looked more pure. The sport has its warts, including the ongoing rumor of amateurism while public institutions pay multimillion-dollar coaching salaries. Yet the college version of America's national passion has rarely looked better. It has avoided the massive scandals that plague our professional games and kept its grip on a passionate fan base that routinely fills 90,000-seat stadiums in rural campus communities.

Last season may have ended with a whimper, as Florida dismantled Ohio State in the championship game, but January also delivered one of the most memorable games in the history of the sport as David (Boise State) used a trio of trick plays to upset Goliath (Oklahoma) in the Fiesta Bowl. The result instantly validated the decision by the Bowl Championship Series to add a fifth game, opening up access to teams from the "mid-major" conferences such as Boise State.

This year's national-title favorites -- USC, LSU, Texas, Michigan, etc. -- are all familiar names. But scholarship limits and television exposure have made this a time of unprecedented parity in college football. Just last season, tiny Wake Forest captured the ACC title while heavyweights Florida State and Miami struggled badly. A similar result could strike one of the major conferences this year. Rutgers turned the New York area into a college football town for a brief period last fall, and if the Scarlet Knights again exceed expectations, they will steal headlines away from the Yankees, Mets, Jets and Giants come October.

Heisman Outlook

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the runner-up in 2006, is a heavy favorite to capture the Heisman. But he'll be running behind three new linemen and for a team that probably won't equal last season's success. If he falters, quarterbacks John David Booty (USC), Colt Brennan (Hawaii), Brian Brohm (Louisville) or Chad Henne (Michigan) are all good bets to be present at the Heisman Ceremony. West Virginia's backfield duo of running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White will also receive strong consideration, as could Rutgers tailback Ray Rice. Among the dark horses are Kentucky quarterback Andre' Woodson, Cal receiver DeSean Jackson and Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart.

Rule Changes

The NCAA has called a do-over on last year's controversial timing rules. The upshot is no more running the clock following a change of possession. The downside? The return of the four-hour game.

Another rule change sees kickoffs moved back five yards, to the 30-yard line. Touchbacks, a staple of the college game, will be drastically reduced, and a premium will be placed on return and coverage units.

Games of the Year

Conference Games of the Year are detailed below. Not enough football for you? Make sure not to miss these standout games:

  • Tennessee at Cal, Sept. 1
  • Virginia Tech at LSU, Sept. 8
  • USC at Nebraska, Sept. 15
  • Texas A&M at Miami, Sept. 20
  • Alabama vs. Florida State, Sept. 29
  • Virginia Tech at Clemson, Oct. 6
  • Boston College at Notre Dame, Oct. 13
  • Miami at Florida State, Oct. 20
  • USC at Oregon, Oct. 27
  • Ohio State at Wisconsin, Nov. 3
  • LSU at Alabama, Nov. 3
  • Louisville at West Virginia, Nov. 8
  • USC at Cal, Nov. 10
  • Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 17
  • Florida at Florida State at Florida, Nov. 24
  • Rutgers at Louisville, Dec. 1

Conference Capsules


ATLANTIC: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest
COASTAL: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
The Favorite: Virginia Tech
The Sleeper: Georgia Tech
Player of the Year: Calais Campbell, DE, Miami
Game of the Year: Florida State at Virginia Tech, Nov. 10
Coach on the Hot Seat: Tommy Bowden, Clemson
Key Question: Can Florida State and Miami rejoin college football's elite?

The ACC believed it would rival the SEC after adding Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech. It's probably safe to assume last year's inaugural ACC championship game between Georgia Tech and Wake Forest was not exactly what conference officials had in mind.

Yet the ACC will have ample opportunities to prove last year was an aberration in a series of non-conference tests. In addition to traditional matchups such as Boston College-Notre Dame and Georgia Tech-Georgia, Florida State plays Colorado and Alabama; Maryland takes on West Virginia and Rutgers; while North Carolina State hosts the Mountaineers Louisville. Miami faces Oklahoma and Texas A&M; Virginia Tech visits LSU. A decent showing in those games will quickly improve the ACC's reputation.

Conference favorite Virginia Tech, with a stout defense and tailback Brandon Ore, gets both Miami and Florida State at home. But the Hokies' national-title hopes will quickly derail if they get blown out in Baton Rouge on Sept. 8. A close loss will keep the Hokies in the mix of one-loss teams hoping to sneak into the title game, as Florida did last season.

Georgia Tech, which will ride tailback Tashard Choice and an aggressive defense, could again surprise. The Yellow Jackets face an early test at Notre Dame and must also travel to Miami, but both Virginia Tech and Georgia visit Atlanta this season. Most believe Wake Forest was a one-year wonder, but 14 players return from last year's conference champs.

Big East

Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia
The Favorite: West Virginia
The Sleeper: South Florida
Player of the Year: Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
Game of the Year: West Virginia at Rutgers, Oct. 27
Coach on the Hot Seat: Greg Robinson, Syracuse
Key Question: Can Rutgers build in the success of 2006 to get to a BCS bowl?

The Big East has not only survived the loss of three marquee teams to the ACC, it has thrived. West Virginia first served notice by stunning Georgia in the Sugar Bowl following the 2005 season, and Rutgers and Louisville joined the national-title conversation along with the Mountaineers in 2006. The league title was decided in a series of late-season, nationally televised games that were long on drama. To cap it off, the Big East was a nation's best 5-0 in bowl games.

Things are still looking up. Both West Virginia and Rutgers were able to sign their program-building coaches, Rich Rodriguez and Greg Schiano, to contract extensions. While Louisville's Bobby Petrino opted for the NFL, the Cardinals moved quickly to hire highly regarded Steve Kragthorpe from Tulsa. His best recruiting job was to convince quarterback Brian Brohm, a likely top NFL pick, to return for his senior season.

The conference crown should once again play out among Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia. The Scarlet Knights' favorable schedule gives them an excellent chance to be 8-0 when the Mountaineers visit on Oct. 27. Tailback Rice gets most of the headlines, but Rutgers needs quarterback Mike Teel and a stout defense to contend for the BCS. Teel, a junior, came on at the end of last season, and only he can prevent teams from loading up against the run.

West Virginia's pair of Heisman candidates, White and Slaton, have been joined by prize recruit Noel Devine, giving the Mountaineers another big-play option at running back.

The big three need to watch out for South Florida, which has beaten both Louisville and West Virginia in recent seasons, and which gave Rutgers all it could handle last year.

Big Ten

Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
The Favorite: Michigan
The Sleeper: Iowa
Player of the Year: Mike Hart, RB, Michigan
Game of the Year: Michigan at Wisconsin, Nov. 10
Coach on the Hot Seat: Joe Tiller, Purdue
Key Question: Will the real Michigan and Ohio State please stand up?

The 2006 regular season was a dream one for the Big Ten, as both Michigan and Ohio State started 11-0 before the Buckeyes won their "game of the century" matchup to get to the BCS championship. Bowl season was another story, as both schools were badly outclassed -- Ohio State by Florida, Michigan by USC in the Rose Bowl. That both appeared at a distinct athletic disadvantage to their opponents did not help the conference dispel its "three yards and a cloud of dust" reputation. Still, there were positive signs, as both Penn State and Wisconsin won bowls against supposedly faster SEC teams.

The Big Ten will again be in the thick of the national title discussion this season. Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin were all top-10 preseason picks, but it is the Wolverines with the most advantageous schedule: Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State and Ohio State all visit Ann Arbor. Under Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes have won five of six in the series against Michigan, but must replace much of the offense, including a Heisman-winning quarterback. Michigan returns four-year starters at quarterback (Chad Henne) and tailback (Mike Hart), and one of the nation's best tackles in senior Jake Long. If the Wolverines ever are to get over their recent Ohio State malaise, this would appear to be the year.

Yet it won't matter if Michigan can't survive a trip to Wisconsin the week before. The Badgers were one of the nation's most surprising teams last season, losing only to Michigan in coach Brett Bielema's first year. They will be primed for revenge in what is sure to be a very hostile Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 10.

Iowa, a huge disappointment at 6-7 last year, could slip back into conference contention thanks mostly to a schedule that doesn't include Michigan or Ohio State.

Big 12

NORTH: Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Missouri
SOUTH: Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
The Favorite: Texas
The Sleeper: Oklahoma State
Player of the Year: Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
Game of the Year: Texas vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 6
Coach on the Hot Seat: Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M
Key Question: Can Oklahoma find a quarterback?

Recent discussions of Big 12 conference- and national-title contenders have begun and ended with the South Division. Though the North, led by Nebraska and Missouri, may be closing the gap, the conference's power still resides on the Texas-Oklahoma border.

When the Sooners and Longhorns face off in Dallas on Oct. 6, the winner will likely emerge as the conference's only national-title contender, just as has been the case since Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Texas's Mack Brown resurrected their programs. Texas has won two straight in the series and record-setting sophomore quarterback Colt McCoy (29 TD passes in 2006) may give the Longhorns the edge this year. Oklahoma's only question mark is at quarterback, where Sam Bradford won the starting job in fall camp. If he proves a capable enough passer, Stoops will have everything he needs to make a run at his second BCS championship.

Oklahoma State, infused by third-year coach Mike Gundy and millions in donations from billionaire alum T. Boone Pickens, could make waves in the South, but must face Texas A&M, Nebraska and Oklahoma on the road. A&M coach Dennis Franchione momentarily quieted his critics by finally beating Texas last season, but the pressure is on the Aggies to produce more than just the occasional upset.

In the North, the buzz is back around the Nebraska program in coach Bill Callahan's fourth year. Arizona State transfer Sam Keller may finally be the quarterback Callahan needs for his West Coast offense. The Cornhuskers get an early chance to prove they belong in the national discussion when they host USC on Sept. 15.


Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State
The Favorite: USC
The Sleeper: Oregon State
Player of the Year: DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal
Game of the Year: USC at Cal, Nov. 10
Coach on the Hot Seat: Mike Stoops, Arizona
Key Question: Can Pete Carroll keep his most-talented team focused?

USC once again has an embarrassment of riches -- the depth chart at tailback includes nine former blue-chip recruits -- but that was also true last season when the Trojans lost to both Oregon State and UCLA. The latter cost USC a shot at the national title, yet the Trojans rallied to crush Michigan in the Rose Bowl and earn the top ranking in nearly every preseason poll.

Pete Carroll has never been afraid to test his club in non-conference games, and USC will visit both Nebraska and Notre Dame this season. Carroll had to be chuckling inwardly when LSU coach Les Miles questioned the strength of the Trojans' schedule, knowing that his teams have gone 5-0 against the SEC since 2002 -- by a combined score of 222-67.

This could be the year Cal finally breaks through to get to a BCS bowl under coach Jeff Tedford. The Bears have one of nation's most explosive players in receiver/returner DeSean Jackson, and get an opening test against Tennessee at home and also host USC.

Oregon State, coming off that stunning upset of the Trojans, returns 16 starters and standout tailback Yvenson Bernard. The Beavers must travel to both USC and Oregon, yet could pull the upset in either game.


EAST: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
WEST: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State
The Favorite: LSU
The Sleeper: South Carolina
Player of the Year: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Game of the Year: Florida at LSU, Oct. 6
Coach on the Hot Seat: Houston Nutt, Arkansas
Key Question: Will Nick Saban meet sky-high expectations at Alabama?

Florida coach Urban Meyer lobbied for a spot in the BCS championship based on the strength of the SEC. The Gators' rout of Ohio State, combined with LSU's embarrassment of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, rendered any argument moot. Entering 2007, the SEC could be even stronger, despite the loss of four first-round draft picks at LSU and 14 starters at Florida.

LSU begins the season second in both major polls, and is the conference favorite by virtue of hosting Florida in Baton Rouge. LSU may have had the nation's most talented team last year, but was done in by a murderous schedule that included visits to four top-10 teams. With 14 starters back and a more favorable slate, the Tigers could very well return to New Orleans for a shot at the national title on Jan. 7.

Should LSU stumble, there are plenty of worthy contenders, beginning with Florida. The Gators will go as far as Tim Tebow takes them at quarterback. As a freshman, Tebow was unstoppable as a short-yardage runner, but this season he will be counted upon to run the entire offense.

Alabama should also be improved after lured Nick Saban back to the SEC with a contract that makes him the highest-paid coach in college football. He'll need to upgrade recruiting to compete in the brutal West division, but he faced a similar challenge at LSU and delivered a BCS championship in 2003.

Tennessee enjoyed a bounce-back year in 2006, but the pressure is on coach Phillip Fulmer and senior quarterback Erik Ainge to get back to the BCS. Arkansas also had a breakout 2006, but a tumultuous offseason saw a prized recruit and the offensive coordinator depart on unpleasant terms. The upheaval has left coach Houston Nutt clinging to his job, but he still has Heisman front-runner McFadden and understudy Felix Jones in the backfield. The Razorbacks probably can't win the SEC, but they're good enough to keep one of the other contenders from doing so. Auburn, which beat both LSU and Florida last season, can't be overlooked, nor can Georgia, where quarterback Matthew Stafford came on at the end of last year.

Steve Spurrier has had mixed results in his first two seasons at South Carolina, but he has upgraded recruiting enough that his team, too, could pull off a season-ruining upset against one of the SEC heavyweights. The same could be said for Kentucky, where quarterback Andre' Woodson is the conference's best.


Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC, Independents
Best Chance for BCS: Hawaii
Could Slip In: BYU (Mountain West)
Player of the Year: Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii
Game of the Year: Boise State at Hawaii, Nov. 23
Key Question: Can Hawaii overcome a week schedule to get to the BCS?

Notre Dame typically dominates discussion of college football's independents and non-BCS conferences, but the Irish may rebuilding this season. After losing quarterback Brady Quinn, receiver Jeff Samardzija and tailback Darius Walker, the Irish are inexperienced on offense and the presumed heir to Quinn, freshman Jimmy Clausen, is rumored to be nursing an elbow injury. Defensively, the Irish have been badly exposed against top-flight competition the past two seasons, and this year's schedule provides no breaks. The Irish could be underdogs in the majority of their first eight games. Predictions of a 2-6 start are premature, but a third straight BCS berth appears unlikely.

Among the conferences without automatic BCS berths, Hawaii has the best chance to reach one of the marquee bowls. The Warriors' problem is a laughable schedule, which leaves Hawaii few opportunities to impress pollsters. Luckily, June Jones' team ends the regular season with games against Boise State and Washington, potentially providing enough of a boost in the polls to get a 12-0 Hawaii into the BCS. Even if Hawaii stumbles, record-setting quarterback Colt Brennan is likely to remain in the thick of the Heisman chase after throwing an astounding 58 touchdown passes last season.

Boise State, last year's bowl darlings, has probably lost too much to graduation (11 starters) to return to the BCS, but the Broncos will still make things interesting the WAC. The Mountain West has a pair of BCS contenders in TCU and BYU, and their meeting on Nov. 8 should decide the league title. TCU is the better overall team, but the Horned Frogs visit Texas Sept. 8 and will need to pull the upset to get to a BCS game, as remaining undefeated is a virtual prerequisite for any mid-major conference team to qualify for an automatic berth.

BlogPoll Preseason Ballot

This season, I'll again be voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment, as this is actually the first of two preseason ballots. I have a chance to resubmit before the season kicks off this week, and I will make changes based on comments if necessary. As with all preseason polls, you should take these rankings with a grain of salt.

Rank Team Delta
1 USC 25
2 LSU 24
3 West Virginia 23
4 Michigan 22
5 Texas 21
6 Oklahoma 20
7 Florida 19
8 Louisville 18
9 Virginia Tech 17
10 Wisconsin 16
11 Ohio State 15
12 California 14
13 Tennessee 13
14 Auburn 12
15 Rutgers 11
16 Penn State 10
17 Nebraska 9
18 Arkansas 8
19 Georgia 7
20 Florida State 6
21 TCU 5
22 Texas A&M 4
23 Hawaii 3
24 Missouri 2
25 Boise State 1

Note: This article first appeared in Friday's edition of the New York Sun.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 27 Aug 2007

37 comments, Last at 30 Aug 2007, 6:22pm by DD


by Lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 3:55pm

The SEC East is probably the best "sub-section" of a conference in college football. Vanderbilt is good (for being Vanderbilt), Kentucky is good on offense, Florida is of course defending national champs, Tennessee and Georgia are stalwarts the past couple of years-but are solid enough, and South Carolina is rising. I really have no idea who to pick for the SEC East to win that division-though I think right now its Florida.

The SEC West on the other hand is top heavy, LSU and Auburn are the most talented, but Saban and Nutt are probably the better coaches (though Tuberville is great as well...and Miles is good as well). LSU is too talented to not win the SEC West this season-plus all the tough games are at home.

and its early in the recruting season-but if Alabama does not have a top 5 class I will be shocked.

by oljb (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 3:59pm

FYI, West Virginia is not playing North Carolina State, except maybe in basketball.

by BB (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 4:02pm

I don't know if LSU embarrassing Notre Dame really contributed to 'making the argument moot' -- Florida showed it belonged all by itself. Not to mention that LSU handily winning what was basically a home game over Notre Dame sounds impressive... until you remember that Michigan beat the crap out of Notre Dame in South Bend. Yep, not so impressive anymore. In fact, anything less than a total beatdown by LSU would have been a point against the SEC.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 4:14pm

Geez, would the college game really be harmed if the clock wasn't automatically stopped with each first down until there were five minutes left in each half? There would still be time for plenty of comebacks, and we could get the games down below four hours.

by Lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 4:57pm

Maybe instead of having 20 commercials for every 2 series we can have 10. But I rather watch commercials then football.

and really has anyone ever complained about the actual football game going on for too long?

by stan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 5:00pm

Tennessee and Ark were obviously faster than Penn St and Wisconsin. They didn't lose because of a lack of superior speed. They lost because of brain-dead turnovers.

Anyone who watched both LSU and Mich beat ND could see that LSU's athletes dominated the Irish in a way that Mich's did not. Mich had better fundamentals and were better coached than the Tigers. LSU, while not particularly well-coached, just had unfreakingbelievable athletic dominance.

by mr parker (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 5:16pm

Arkansas lost because their quarterback absolutely sucked. Not to mention that Wisconsin had a great defense.

I agree with you somewhat about Tennessee. But the PSu defense was for real.

This is why I am so high on Michigan this year. With Manningham in the Lineup the wrecked 3 top 15 defenses last year and the entire unit is coming back. I don't see how anyone can expect to stop them.

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 5:17pm

I think maybe instead of pointing to the LSU/ND game, he meant the USC/Michigan game. The argument at the time of the final BCS rankings was whether the National Title would be Ohio State/Florida or Ohio State/Michigan, since Michigan had only lost to OSU at the Horseshoe. But since Michigan and Ohio State both got beaten, no one but Florida (or maybe Boise) could claim to be the best team. Notre Dame was never in that conversation, so I'm not sure what a different SEC team beating Notre Dame (ranked like 14 spots lower) could count for anything.

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 5:27pm

The 2006 regular season was a dream one for the Big Ten, as both Michigan and Ohio State started 11-0 before the Buckeyes won their “game of the century� match up to get to the BCS championship.

The 2006 regular season might have seemed to be a dream one for the Big Ten to casual observers and to fans of either Ohio State or Michigan. This Big Ten fan, however, viewed it as a nightmare season even before the bowl games. Last year was the worst Big Ten season in my memory. Ohio State and Michigan did not start 11-0 because they were good. Nay, as both eventually demonstrated convincingly in their pathetic bowl performances, they weren't particularly good at all. It was always clear to me that 2006 Ohio State wasn't in the same league as 2005 Ohio State, let alone 2005 Penn State, and 2006 Michigan was little better than 2005 Michigan (which went 7-5).

Rather, Ohio State and Michigan started 11-0 because most of the rest of the Big Ten was utterly terrible, and therefore both teams faced shockingly easy schedules. Wisconsin did turn out to be a pretty good, if inconsistent, team. In fact, Wisconsin still should be kicking itself for having its worst game of the year in an early season away game against a very beatable Michigan team, thus blowing an appearance in the National Championship game against a slightly less beatable Ohio State team. Penn State eventually grew into a mildly respectable, if grossly underachieving, squad. Otherwise, the Big Ten was simply embarrassing. To outsiders who care only about the Ohio State - Michigan game, the good records of those two teams created the illusion of a good year for the Big Ten. Real Big Ten fans, however, should have known better all along.

Ironically, this year, the Big Ten appears to be very strong, yet neither Ohio State nor Michigan is likely to compile a sterling record. That, coupled with the exposure of those teams as vastly overrated last season, unfortunately has caused this season's Big Ten conference to be disrespected and underrated (although, mysteriously, Michigan itself has returned to its nearly perennial preseason overrated status).

by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 5:39pm

I hate to say it, being a huge ND fan and all, but Stan is correct in one way. The athletic difference between ND and LSU was huge. As someone said a while ago, we had one freak on defense. They had 11.

On the other hand, I'd also say that Michigan was basically in the same boat. Perhaps not quite as much as LSU, but they certainly athletically outmatched ND. Branch destroyed Sullivan, none of our receivers could get any separation from Hall, and no one could cover Manningham. If Zibikowski had been healthy and at his natural playing weight, between him and Wooden they could have maybe slowed Manningham down. But Zibby was newly injured, and in bad shape before that, since he'd put on about 20 pounds over the summer.

by BB (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 5:41pm

9: Uh, why wouldn't Michigan compile a sterling record this year? Barring a major injury, 10-2 is probably the low end of where they should end up, considering their schedule and their offense. Going undefeated against their schedule isn't really a stretch -- the only tough team on the road is Wisconsin. They don't play recent bugaboo Iowa. Granted, it's Michigan, and they'll probably blow it either in Madison or against OSU, and they have substantial questions on defense, but it isn't like the Big 10 is full of the firepower to exploit those holes in the defense, except MAYBE Purdue if Painter has his head screwed on straight.

by TheWedge (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 5:42pm

I came in here to say something very similar, and surely less eloquent. I remember watching the OSU-PSU game as a Penn State fan and thinking that the 2005 team would have solidly beaten OSU (and the same thing in the Michigan game).

by Adam Gretz (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 6:12pm

Poor Pitt.

Tyler Palko, H.B. Blades, Darrelle Revis and Clint Session to the NFL. Derek Kinder, the best player on the team, injured on the first day of non-contact drills (ACL tear). Pat Bostick, the teams top recruit, leaves camp for a week for reasons unknown. Dave Wannstadt large and in charge.

Three wins?

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 6:15pm

It's good to see the return of Junkie. I'd quibble with the BlogPoll, but since we haven't seen any games lately, it's not worth it. Opinions will mostly be either validated or disproved by results in the next couple weeks, so I'll refrain.

From a nationwide perspective, I get the feeling that we could be looking at a redux of any of (i) 1984, with an unbeaten mid-major and no one-loss BCS teams, (ii) 2001, with a single unbeaten BCS team far ahead of anybody else, (iii) 2003, with 3 one-loss teams, or (iv) 2006, with an unbeaten BCS team considered best due to a lack of stiff competition and several one-loss contenders with question marks. Let it never be said that college football cannot be composed of things entirely not new.

Re #5
I tire of this discussion, but yes, yes, absolutely, a thousand times, yes. Russell has written about it before, and I've complained many a time-it's quite possible for a college football game to go on for too long. The USC-Notre Dame game in 2005 was a great game, but was over four hours long and didn't even go to overtime. If you go back to last season's SDA with the Friday Kansas-Toledo game, note my complaints about the length of the game. The NFL has made several rule changes over the year to shorten games. The late, unlamented 3-2-5(e) was all-too-typical bumbling response by the NCAA to deal with a genuine problem. See also Will Allen's comment in #4.

What sometimes bugs me about college football is the great dependence on quality quarterbacking. The weakness of the Big 10 outside the Big Two + Wisky last year was a lack of quality QB play. The difference between Ohio State at the beginning of 2005 and the juggernaut at the end of the year was the maturation of Troy Smith as a QB. A big part of why Michigan is such a big favorite in the Big 10 is (i) Chad Henne is the conference's best returning QB and (ii) nobody's out there who can toast UM's shaky secondary the way tOSU or USC did at the end of last season.

by Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 6:16pm

"It has avoided the massive scandals that plague our professional games. . . "

Largely because Reggie Bush's family clammed up and the NCAA doesn't have subpeona power, but why quibble?

by Lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 6:30pm

The actual USC-Notre dame game lasted 4 hours or the televised event was? I blame it on commercial breaks not the actual game itself-of course there was a long review at the end of the game as well of the Leinart scramble

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 6:48pm

Re #16
If you go back to the SDA thread for the game, note that I (old name: Tom) noted at the time kickoff was at 2:40 PM CT. My memory tells me the final play was at about 6:50 PM CT. Note also comment #65, that PSU-UM was over and USC-ND was still ongoing, at 7:45 PM ET (comment times are when you loaded the page, not when the comment posted, I believe).

Fine, go ahead and blame commercial breaks and replay reviews if you think that's what makes games too long, and commercial breaks are annoying. Tell me how you're going to get rid of them, though, or how else we're going to get college games 3.5 hours or shorter.

My personal opinion is that 3-2-5(e) could have been tweaked in some matter to make it acceptable, but had become such a third rail that the NCAA simply decided to kill it and make some other cosmetic changes.

by oljb (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 6:50pm


I am relishing the fact that I have tickets to see Pitt give up 600 yards in Morgantown.

But I do hope they win all of their out-of-conference games.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 6:56pm

Re #17
Er, comment times are when they post, not when you load the page-that was just me being silly. Note MDS's post at the top of the hour is the first acknowledging that the USC-ND game is over. Oh, and link in name both here and in 17 is to the SDA thread for that weekend.

by Lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 7:01pm

Instead of score-full set of commercials-kick-off-full set of commercials, condense those. Instead of 2 minute breaks(or however long it lasts) on every change of possession cut it down to 1 minute and 30 seconds.

and finally have almost all the players be "presented by". So we get Chad Henne "brought to you by KFC." advertisements still get in there.

Plus teams like Penn State are wasting helmet space-throw in advertisement on there.

I just come off with the opposite view point. Plus I go to a lot more games then watch on TV, so I never have the feeling that there was too much time being wasted on the field. The only time I get pissed is when the ref with the red shirt comes out after being on the field for two minutes, five minutes earlier.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 7:16pm

I'll be more than happy to blame commercial breaks for making college games too long.

Exhibit A: non-televised games. They do move more quickly; I went up to Muncie for a Ball State game a few years ago, and it moved along at a fine pace.

Doesn't matter, though. Once the pig's snout is in the trough, you can't pull it back out. The corporate monster that is NCAA football is most likely, even now, dreaming up more ways to bring in advertising dollars.

To address the headline, I must confess that I am cynical enough to believe that college football is simply better at hiding its scandals than other sports.

Tiller is on the hot seat, and deservedly so. Not for his success at Purdue, or recent lack thereof, but hopefully for these numbers:

Purdue 44 66

That is their graduation rate for football players and their graduation rate for all students, as reported on Iowa's site prior to the 2006 bowls. (These are students who entered school in the 1999-2000 academic year.)

Tiller has done a decent job in a tough situation, with respect to on-field performance. With that kind of difference between the football team and the overall student body (especially when it seems that in general, athletic teams have higher graduation rates than the student body as a whole), well, maybe it's time for Purdue to find someone new.

by CA (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 7:16pm

Re: 11 Uh, why wouldn’t Michigan compile a sterling record this year?

Perhaps because Michigan may not be all that good. Personally, and what do I know?, I consider Michigan to be just another pretty good team in a very strong conference. I would put them a step below Penn State and Wisconsin and on par with Iowa, Ohio State, Purdue, and Illinois. (I rank them below the former two and above the latter two). I think an improved Morelli and a talented receiving corps should be able to exploit Michigan's suspect-at-best pass defense, and Penn State's fearsome defense should have little trouble containing Michigan's good but not great offense. I also think that a stacked, balanced, and well-coached Badgers squad should be able to handle Michigan in a wild Camp Randall Stadium. Those are two games that I expect Michigan to lose. Oregon, Purdue, and, especially, Ohio State are no gimmies, even at home, and so I expect Michigan to suffer at least one additional loss at home. I also expect Michigan to struggle on the road against an up-and-coming Illinois squad and against rival Michigan State, probably losing one of those two games. Therefore, I consider three or four regular season losses likely, and five wouldn't surprise me, despite the eight home games. Then again, one loss wouldn't shock me either, just because I've learned over the years not to be shocked when teams that I thought were relatively mediocre turn out to be very good (or very lucky). However, I would say the exact same thing about Iowa or Purdue. Frankly, I think a lot of national analysts are caught up once again in the annual preseason Michigan hype. JMHO. As always when it comes to football projections, I do recognize the strong possibility that I could be wrong.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 9:39pm

Anyone who follows the Badgers know that the team has done best when expectations have been moderate to low. When the team has gone into a season well regarded the season to follow has been less than memorable.

2000: Team comes into the season off two straight Rose Bowls and ranked fifth. After a few close wins lose in overtime in Big Ten season opener to Northwestern and finish 8-4.

2001: Looking to rebound the team enters the season ranked 22nd and after a tough loss on the road to fifth ranked Oregon hopes are high. Team gets manhandled in its season opener AT HOME to Indiana and the defense continues to implode leading to a 5-7 season.

2003: Ranked 20th going into the season the Badgers get steamrolled by UNLV at home 23-5 and never recover sleepwalking to a 7-6 final record.

2004 thru 2006 the team came into the season regarded with some suspicion by the pollsters. Which was fine with everyone in Badger country.

As for this year's Wisconsin team, Tyler Donovan is the starter. He did start and win two games last year in relief of Stocco but it is to be questioned whether he has the arm to play big-time collegiate football. Too many floaters. Too many rainbows. You can get away with that for a while but the good defenses will make you pay. As for the rest of the team the Badgers are returning something like 17 starters. The issue is that the positions in question are quarterback, left tackle, middle linebacker, and free safety. Only the most critical components of the offense/defense.

So I will hope that the defense is ready to start the season, be glad that the team has a veteran kicker/punter, and hope Donovan can figure out a way to complete a pass longer than 15 yards.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 08/27/2007 - 9:57pm

Florida fan here with just a couple quick things:

1. The 06 season went out with a huge freaking bang...in Gainesville.

2. LSU isn't favored to win the SEC over Florida because they host Florida...well, that's not all it is. After all, there's still an SEC championship game to consider. Anyway, LSU is favored because they host all their tough games, including Florida, Auburn, South Carolina, and Arkansas (and even VaTech out of conference). Also, Florida and Auburn lost more starters than did LSU.
[Gatorjoe] but gators not fear tigers. gators beat tigers any times just like 03. gators beat champion tigers then in death valley, will do again. noone can stop teebow too strong. harvin and offence too fast. gators repeat football and basketball take rightful place best school of all time. [/Gatorjoe]

3. Your Ooc games of the year include Florida at Florida State...the Gators are home this year :)

by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 8:51am

As a Gator fan, I am happy to see UF in the lower section of the Top 10. Florida lost most of its defense, which was viewed as a strength. UF also does not have a RB who is winning the starting job (although Moody transferring from USC may have something to say about that next year). The UF QB, probably the most important position, has only shown that he is a capable Fullback who can also throw. I know that he has some impressive High School stats, but he has not shown that he is able to pass against capable college defenses, yet.

USoCal is loaded and has impressive depth. They deserve to be ranked #1 until they show otherwise. However, I am still impressed with Spurrier's coaching at the college level where SoCar is consistently threatening to beat teams with far better players.

Commercials are the biggest reason that games last so long. I remember seeing games that ran in under 2 hours when there were no commercial breaks. Adding TV (commercials) tended to add at least an hour.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 9:10am

I'm a Pac 10 fan on the East Coast...damn 10:30 PM Eastern start times...

Last season was a disaster for the Big 10. Maybe it was a great ride as it went on, but the ending was the worst it could possibly have been.

It put in everyone's mind that Ohio State and Michigan were, to put it bluntly, frauds last year. It doesn't matter that they won the other games. It matters that they were both thoroughly pounded by other teams in their respective bowl games. That Game of the Century? No one gives a damn, now. It just decided which 'fraud' was going to get pounded by Florida and which by USC, because it was clear that both teams were completely and utterly outclassed and outcoached.

If one is a Big 10 fan, this is a terrible thing, because it'll be remembered for a while. Sure, in college football people have short memories, but next time you have Ohio State and/or Michigan up there, this is gonna come up, and it'll come up from the columnists, etc. "Well, yeah, Ohio State and/or Michigan are doing well, but remember what happened last time we thought they played that 'tough' Big Ten schedule..."

It also affects the finances of the Big 10 - think that Big Ten Network would have gone over a bit better (let's not get into the outrageous prices that the B10 is trying to charge cable companies) had Ohio State and Michigan won their respective bowl games? Damn right it would have.

In the long run, it won't really matter. In the short term, last season was a good ride, and a horrible crash, for the conference.

by Russell Levine :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 11:36am

Re: 2, 24

Errors have been fixed.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 11:42am


Well, Wisconsin and Penn State would disagree.

As for actual football news, senior defensive end Jamal Cooper of Wisconsin has been dismissed from the team for violating unspecified team rules. He will not return. That makes Kurt Ware the starting DE come opening game. Ware has his moments but has been fighting back problems all camp. One of the guys who graduated from last year's team is Joe Monty. Monty wasn't a big name in the Big 10 but Joe was a technically sound defensive end who held the point, never overpursued, and when he had the chance put his guy down. Not much for big plays but he NEVER SURRENDERED the big play either. And there is real value in that. No idea whether Ware can do the same.

Cooper was a boom or bust guy. The only reason to be concerned about his departure is that depth at DE for Wisconsin isn't much. Any series of injuries and it's converted linebackers or offensive linemen playing the end position.

by hector (not verified) :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 1:32pm

As a Michigan fan, I'm torn - I want to see Henne, Hart, and Long get something tasty on the way out, but I also wonder if a bumpy year (2-3 losses) could finally get Lloyd Carr out of here. Live in the short term or live in the long term? I'm thinking they'll find a way to lose two games as they normally do, but this year they really should beat the Buckeyes.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 1:56pm

Purdue fan here. I'll go on record as saying they will be bad this year, missing a bowl game. If Painter makes significant accuracy and touch improvements, they have a chance to be good. Or alternatively, if the coaching staff would get a clue and actually install a game plan that plays to Painter's (and his receivers') strengths, then Purdue could make a bowl. But I have not seen any indications in the last two years that either of these things is likely to happen.

Also, there's no chance they beat Michigan. Even when Purdue has been good recently, Michigan is the one Big1T1en team that has owned them. The only time Purdue was able to beat them was the Rose Bowl year, and that was mostly courtesy of an extremely conservative 4th-quarter game plan by Carr and the Wolverines.

I've been wrong before, of course, and will be rooting for the Boilers to prove me wrong again. I'm just trying to be realistic here.

by kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 9:01pm

My pre-season rankings:

1. Southern Cal
2. LSU
3. Texas
4. Oklahoma
5. Florida
6. Penn State
7. West Virginia
8. Michigan
9. Louisville
10. Florida State
11. Georgia
12. Wisconsin
13. Ohio State
14. Miami
15. Nebraska
16. Virginia Tech
17. Arkansas
18. Georgia Tech
19. Tennessee
20. Oregon
21. Clemson
22. Cal
23. South Carolina
24. UCLA
25. Texas A & M

Underrated: Miami , Florida State, Penn State- three traditional powers return. Miami ’s schedule is brutal, but I’m still taking them to win ten games.

Overrated: Virginia Tech, Rutgers , Kentucky , Boston College- Virginia Tech is good, but not “National Title good�. Rutgers is just WAY overrated and will finish no higher than fourth in the Big East. Look at the bright side- a year ago an 8 – 4 record would be considered a breakout year for Rutgers .

There’s a big dropoff between #4 Oklahoma and #5 Florida.

Colt Brennan will not win the Heisman, but John David Booty will. Surprise candidate: Texas QB Colt McCoy.

First pick in the 2008 Draft: Miami DE Calais Campbell. Not just a physical freak- he has the stats.

My pre-season picks are no less dopey tban anyone else's. :)

by Russell Levine :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 11:02pm

Re: 29

As a Michigan fan, I don't share your desire to see Carr canned. I've defended him for a long time and will continue to do so. Is he a fantastic coach, one of the top few in the country? No. Is he pretty good? Yep. The record doesn't lie. Among active D1-A coaches, he ranks ninth in winning percentage. Three of those ahead of him have coached for three years or less. A .764 winning percentage and a national title is a pretty solid record, no matter how easy it may be to recruit and win at a place like Michigan.

Regardless, I don't think it matters. He's very likely retiring after this season, no matter what happens. If he's back next year, it's because he wants to continue to coach, since there is about 0% chance of him getting fired unless an enormous scandal comes out of nowhere.

In any case

by DD (not verified) :: Tue, 08/28/2007 - 11:08pm

Marques Slocum for Heisman President.

Michigan, home of the real student athlete.

by hector (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 12:19am

Re: 29: Good points, Russell. A few things in reply to that . . .

Michigan's recruiting has been consistently excellent, no question there. How much of that is Lloyd Carr, how much of that is assistants, how much of that is the conveyor belt already in place, I can't exactly say.

My frustration comes with watching the team not being adequately prepared for September games, Bowl games, and not beating Ohio State much in recent years. I think you can tell a lot about a coaching staff by how well it prepares and game plans for the September and January games, given how much extra time you have in those instances. This is one area where Carr is routinely getting his head handed to him.

I want to make it clear, it's not that I have crazy expectations. I just don't think Lloyd Carr is coming anywhere close to maximizing the talent that's being consistently brought in, that's all.

Incidentally, how did you spin the way he handled (botched) the Brady-Henson juggling? That drove me nuts.

by DMP (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 12:36pm

I'm just happy we can finally have a Big Ten season preview capsule without John L. Smith joke. I was reading the "coach in the hot seat" line and started reflexively readying myself for the punch to the groin when suddenly I realized "Hey, no John L!! That's right, it's a new day, baby! I can't be forced to eat my liver over a John L joke anymore! In your face, world! A new day has come!!"

Seriously, the last two years have been traumatizing. Spartans will be terrible this year, I know, but at least I may get to find what a competent coach is like again.

by DMP (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 3:06pm

Roy Tarpley, Jalen Rose, Robert Traylor, Jamal Crawford all beg to differ.

by DD (not verified) :: Thu, 08/30/2007 - 6:22pm

#36: You should look at the link in my previous post.