August 31, 2006

The Evil Genius

I hate you, Steve Spurrier. But dangit do I respect you.

Brian Kelly, take notes from the ol' Ball Coach. Blake Mitchell goes under center, gets the snap, immediately throws a backward pass to Syvelle Newton (former QB), who then locks and loads going deep to a WIDE OPEN Cory Boyd for six.

One day in and we have a beautiful call to counter the ugliest of uglies.

Love it.

First one in the books...

Not Charlie Weis.

...and we have a good candidate for bonehead call of the year. Good lord what was Central Michigan coach Brian Kelly thinking? It's 31-24 and you have your home crowd (albeit sparse) behind you as your driving for perhaps your third unanswered touchdown. You have the ball deep in BC territory and you call some whack-job play where your entire O-line is lined up at the line of scrimmage on the hash mark and your skill players and fullback are on the other hash.

Huh? This was your play? The quarterback, Dan LeFevour, throws a Doug Flutie-inspired jump pass to the waiting arms of Eagle LB Brian Toal.

Game over.


August 25, 2006

The Last Weekend

Thank God for football.

Ahh yes folks, before us lies the last weekend of having to suffer through baseball, poker shows, movie reruns, golf, tennis, NASCAR, and other diversions. Done are the days of Saturdays milling around in your yard, finishing up your honey do list.

From now on...


From here until the Super Bowl there will be football on every weekend. (Alright, minus the stupid week off between the AFC/NFC Championships and the Super Bowl. Ugh.)

Football. Glorious, football. Awesome, football. Joyful, football. Grown men crying, football.

Football. Love it. 2006 season, here we go!

August 23, 2006

Visiting the SEC - LSU #6 ?

On of my daily reads is the College Football Resource. On Tuesday, the site previewed the SEC. For starters, we all know the SEC is the deepest conference in the nation, especially this year. Auburn, LSU, Georgia, and Florida could win the title and are the usual suspects year in and year out. Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas, and even Kentucky could go bowling.

As I was scanning the list I nearly spit my milk of my morning cereal when I see LSU at #6 for the conference behind the likes of Alabama and Arkansas. My first inclination is to question the state of mind of the author behind CFR. He goes through the depth chart and suddenly its not so surprising that the Bayou Bengals could slip that far...

But in the words of Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend". First, the Tigers do have talent. Yes, not all of their highly heralded players have panned out in recruiting rankings, but a good percentage have, notably along the lines over the year. My biggest reasoning for the Tigers doing no worse than fourth lies with the options listed above them.

Alabama could not score last year with Brodie Croyle and watching the Tide after they lost Croyle in 2004 was painful. They also lost more than half of their underrated defense in 2005. Also, even with LSU's trio of backs with "bum knees", the Tigers still field a backfield better than half of the conference and better than anyone the Tide will trot out.

Arkansas is in the last throes of a panic job-keeping staff cleaning by Houston Nutt. The keg of powder waiting to explode amongst the Hog faithful will be to question their high school offensive coordinator when things go wrong. Yes, the Hogs competed well in 2005, but don't think the rest of the conference will be treating them lightly.

Just my two cents...

August 18, 2006

Phoning it in...

Ahh the symmetry, mezmorizing really.

So the AP released their preseason poll and I didn't have it in the Composite Poll. After a quick addition to the Excel sheet I couldn't help but laugh. Here is the Composite side-by-side with the AP in parenthesees.

1. Ohio State (Ohio State)
2. Notre Dame (Notre Dame)
3. Texas (Texas)
4. Auburn (Auburn)
5. USC (West Virginia)
6. West Virginia (USC)
7. Florida (Florida)
7. LSU (LSU)
9. Oklahoma (California)
10. California (Oklahoma)
11. Florida State (Florida State)
12. Louisville (Miami, FL)
13. Miami, FL (Louisville)
14. Michigan (Michigan)
15. Georgia (Georgia)
16. Iowa (Iowa)
17. Virginia Tech (Virginia Tech)
18. Clemson (Clemson)
19. Penn State (Penn State)
20. Oregon (Nebraska)
21. Nebraska (Oregon)
22. TCU (TCU)
23. Tennessee (Tennessee)
24. Arizona State (Arizona State)
25. Texas Tech (Texas Tech)

Mind you the poll was released today on a Friday. Were the votes sent in from the golf courses? For what is supposed to be a wild and wacky year, its amazing the similarity of the two polls.

Very interesting.

First BlogPoll Roundtable of 2006

I dont get a vote in the poll, but I get the email updates telling me when a BlogPoll Roundtable has been launched. Fellow Domer House that Rock Built was put in charge of the first issue and he offers five questions to the masses:

1. Biggest ripoff in the preseason Blog Poll and you can call out a voter...

- Apparently there is this kid that has a Tulane blog that gets a vote. (Tulane? That is weaksauce.) And he puts LSU 20th and doesn't rank Louisville. This guy gets a vote and yet I wonder if my Notre Dame allegiance kept me out and I have the Irish 6th? Tulane blog and voter, you got what you got BlogPoll. Live with it.

2. Should a preseason poll measure hype or be your best guess at the end of the year rankings?

- To me, they should include both. If LSU or Florida had a bit easier schedule then I could have considered either one for my top five. Alas, they both face murder, even each other, and both will be considered dang lucky if they make the BCS or even the SEC Championship Game. Ohio State is my #1 because of both elements. The Bucks return a great offense (sure is getting ND enough hype having a great offense) and they only have three games to worry about all season - at Texas, at Iowa, home against Michigan. Their talent is better than Iowa and Michigan and college football always proves itself to be a game of momentum. My prediction of the Bucks will grow into an 800-pound monster if they beat Texas. With that win, they will roll over everyone else.

3. What is your biggest reach in your poll?

- I don't reach. I go with intuition, guts, and knowledge. I don't put Notre Dame #1 because the Irish defense still scares me. All that being said, I think the pick I will end up regretting most might be the Clemson Tigers at #13. Bowden is due a big year and they are returning a lot. However, Clemson has been at this position before and come up bust.

4. What is the flaw or beauty (depending upon your interpretation) about polls?

- The flaw is the antiquated notion that if you don't lose you shouldn't fall in the polls. Sorry but this is flat wrong. Flash forward to September 9th. If Texas kills Ohio State then it won't matter what Auburn or West Virginia have done, I will rank the Longhorns #1, period. For me also, it matters much more what your doing late in the season than what happens in September. Hardly have I ever witnessed a team that stayed exactly the same through the course of the season.

5. Your Scott Bakula on Quantum Leap and you can go back and change any game result, which game do you change?

- Notre Dame wins 39-38 over Boston College in 1993 completeing a 22-point comeback to stay #1 and head to the Orange Bowl to face Nebraska, essentially making the crybaby, "lets get a ring for Bobby" media unable to vote Florida State #1.

Its that simple. Or Dwayne Jarrett drops the 4th down pass, I don't know. Tough call.

August 16, 2006

The 2006 Composite Poll

Its not an exact science, but I took most of the reputable preview mags, combined them with trusted websites, merged it with the BlogPoll and put in my two cents to come up with the 2006 Composite Poll.

Pre-Season Mags: Lindy's, Athlon, Street&Smith's, Phil Steele, and the Sporting News.

Websites: ESPN (using Power 16 plus their 9 teams receiving votes), CBS Sportsline, USA Today, and

For brevity, let me just list the teams...

1. Ohio State (7) 263 pts.
2. Notre Dame (2) 248
3. Texas 240
4. Auburn 234
5. USC 231
6. West Virginia 220
7. Florida 191
7. LSU 191
9. Oklahoma (2) 171
10. California 168
11. Florida State 161
12. Louisville 155
13. Miami, FL 151
14. Michigan 134
15. Georgia 132
16. Iowa 107
17. Virginia Tech 103
18. Clemson 90
19. Penn State 66
20. Oregon 58
21. Nebraska 48
22. TCU 44
23. Tennessee 37
24. Arizona State 34
25. Texas Tech 31

Others: Utah 17, Alabama 16, Arkansas 13, Boise State 7, Boston College 6, UCLA 4, Purdue 2, South Carolina 2, Georgia Tech 1.

Some impressions:

- The results are skewed thanks to Rhett Bomar. Of the five preseason mags, only the Sporting News offered an update on the Sooners, moving them from 9th to 24th. If anything, consider the Sooners hold on the #9 position to be tenuous.

- Teams 1-18 are ranked in every poll, along with #21 Nebraska.

- All the talk of a wide open year resulted in only three votes for a national champion. Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma were predicted to be champs.

- Teams 1-9 and #12 Louisville received Top 5 votes.

- California, Florida State, Miami, FL, and Virginia Tech all received Top 10 votes.

- Michigan, Georgia, Iowa, Clemson, and Nebraska are ranked, but did not garner one Top 10 vote.

- There seems to be huge divisions in the poll, points where there is a drop off to the next team. The Elite Six appear to be seperated with all receiving over 200 points. Its a 29 point drop off to the tie of LSU and Florida.

- Color LSU and Florida as the "prove it" teams as they are 29 points from the next team up and 20 points from the next team below. This probably has everything to do with both of these talented teams having murderous schedules.

- The next dip happens at #15 Georgia at 132 points to #16 Iowa at 107 points. Taking out Georgia's high and low ranking (10, Sporting News and 19, Street and Smith's), the Dawgs were consistently ranked: 11, 12, 13, 14, 14, 14, 15, 15, and 17. Michigan is along the same vein. You can keep Michigan's high ranking of 11 by two outlets - Lindy's and Phil Steele - and throw out the low 20th ranking from CBS SportsLine and Michigan was ranked 11, 11, 12, 12, 13, 14, 14, 14, 15, 15, and 17. Reasons? Georgia has a question at QB and Michigan is usually a safe bet.

- Penn State is getting reluctant support, basically waiting to see if JoePa needed to ride off into the sunset last year or are the Nittany Lions back to being dominant.

- Tennessee gets in after a 5-6 year and a lot back, but Alabama is not in and they only lose Croyle on offense. Interesting.

- For everyone telling the Irish to prepare for Georgia Tech, the polls certainly aren't showing the same respect for the Jackets. Only CBS Sportsline put them in at #25.

- By the polls' calculations, no outside team will enter the BCS as TCU is the highest and only non-Big Six team to be ranked at #22. Boise State and Utah received votes.

- Following that logic, your BCS is this...

Big Ten Champ: Ohio State
Notre Dame gets in
Big 12: Texas
SEC: Auburn
Pac-10: USC
Big East: West Virginia
ACC: Florida State

Then come the three at-large bids. I can see Oklahoma, California, and Louisville coming out. Each team could lose only once to the above conference champions and advance.

That would set these matchups. The Rose Bowl would pick the first at-large after losing Ohio State to the BCS game.

BCS - Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Rose - USC vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta - Texas vs. California
Sugar - Auburn vs. Louisville
Orange - West Virginia vs. Florida State

Just a guess.

Enough talk... let's kick it off already!

August 13, 2006

Excuse me?

Yeah, my thought too...

Bo (Schembechler) is at it again. At a recent function (drink fest) he stated that Michigan should drop the Notre Dame series. His words were something to the effect that basically it should be filled with anyone except Notre Dame.

Tired of losing, Bo? Tired of watching the Wolverines go down in flames? Michigan fans are starting to rally behind Bo because as many have mentioned, the series isn't fun anymore. I guess that 38-0 win wore off quick because now you have to deal with the resurgent Irish.

Here comes the fun part. Now Michigan fans are throwing around ideas that the Michigan brass might go out and sign some huge intersectional team to come and play. In the Blogosphere you would think that a Michigan-Georgia series is imminent.

Puhleeze. Wishful thinking Michigan fans. You would be dropping Notre Dame because Boo, er Bo, is tired of losing. And while visions of Georgia, UCLA or some other locale dance in your heads, let me pull you back into reality - Get ready for more MAC.

Since 2000, Michigan is 8-0 against the MAC. MAC teams are on future schedules until 2011.

August 11, 2006

My Top 25...

... and why yours is wrong.

1. Ohio State
Yeah, nine gone from their defense, blah, blah, blah. Offense returns all they need to outscore people until the D adjusts. Their game in Austin could launch Troy Smith's Heisman run.

2. Auburn
The Tigers will benefit from only two games not in Mississippi or Alabama. WR Courtney Taylor will provide the difference between a good year and one ending in the Arizona desert.

3. West Virginia
The Mountaineers will be underdogs only on November 2nd when they travel to Louisville.

4. Texas
If defense truly wins championships then the Longhorns should return. Something tells me Vince Young was a huge reason that will be missed. No team was more happy to hear about Rhett Bomar than UT.

5. Southern California
The Trojans have a ton of talent recruited and stock piled. The problem is that all the ESPN players are gone. Getting D. Jarrett back was a help and not a shock, either.

6. Notre Dame
The Irish will be the ESPN darlings to my dismay. The defense will improve, however, its what lies behind the best 22 that Weis can put on the field that have me thinking BCS rather than BCS championship.

7. LSU
You will find no more talented team than the Tigers, however you will find no tougher schedule than what the Tigers must face.

8. Florida State
Bowden's last shot at glory because the 2007 Seminoles face a murderous schedule with only five home games. Drew Weatherford will not be Chris Rix.

9. Louisville
Sexy games at home with Miami and West Virginia but the snarky games on the road - Kansas State and Pittsburgh - could keep U of L away again from the BCS race.

10. Florida
Loaded Gators will face the Bataan Death March in mid-season. Mark them down as the pre-season #1 in 2007.

11. California
The Bears are my first reach but I will be a genius if they leave Knoxville with a win.

12. Georgia
Quarterback controversy will plague the season and keep the Dawgs out of the SEC title hunt. UGA has won the most games since 2000 without a national title.

Here is the major dividing line:

13. Clemson
5th year QB stepping in for his turn. Tough games at Florida State and Boston College early, along with a trip to Blacksburg. 9-3 still could get you 13th.

14. Michigan
We just can't keep Michigan from getting highly ranked even though you know they aren't going to do much on the national scene. They'll beat who they should, lose to who they should.

15. Miami, FL
The house is cleaned with the assistants gone and Willie Williams roaming the earth. Four Canes are suspended for the Florida State game so that is trouble. Miami is not the Miami you remember. The killer D is still there, but the offense is MIA.

16. Iowa
Drew Tate comes back for the last go around. Sigh. Ferentz is a genius who can't get his Hawkeyes back to the BCS since 2001. They haven't won a Big Ten title outright and they have yet to get past this plateau. They're perfectly ranked.

17. Texas Tech
One of these years the Red Raiders have to put it all together and make some noise in the south of the Big 12. They're waiting for their first wins against Oklahoma and Texas. (Last year's was a bit frought with controversy.)

18. Oklahoma
Bomar being gone puts them here. AP will get his yards, but the eight-man fronts will prevent OU winning too many shootouts.

19. Virginia Tech
No spotlight in Blacksburg is exactly how Beamer likes it. His team will be anonymous and at their most dangerous. The anonymity gets them 19th, the lack of distraction could spell B-C-S.

20. Texas Christian
Team #1 in the small conference BCS chase. I know nothing else about them other than the magazines. Same as about a billion other websites and blogs out there.

21. Arizona State
Offense is top notch. Defense isn't but you can't ignore a 17-2 TD-INT ratio for your starting QB. They can prove it in a hurry winning at Colorado on Sept. 16th.

22. Penn State
Ohio State graduates a ton on one side of the ball and I have them winning the NC. Penn State graduates a bit more and I don't trust them. Maybe its the fact that before last year the Lions had gone three years with no bowl. Was '05 a fluke? Let's find out.

23. Nebraska
Reports are good out of Lincoln that the passing revolution has taken hold. Their late wins over Colorado and Michigan springboarded the Huskers and will provide swagger. USC on the 16th could send all that crashing down or prove to the world that the Huskers are working their way back.

24. Alabama
Schedule gets the Tide seven wins. A little magic can get them nine. Anything more will not happen.

25. Boston College
They'll beat Duke.

August 08, 2006

Time to take a peek...

My kind of town.

I stated a while back that I am taking this football season to see if I need to pack it all up and move to Vegas and live off college football. I consider myself pretty wise when it comes to the pigskin on campus and this year we'll find out.

Taking a look at some of the opening weekend games has me intrigued. These aren't my final picks for the weekend but they are in the discussion for being on the list.

  • Lets start with the home team, Notre Dame. I love giving the 8 points to Georgia Tech. Fine with me. Everyone seems to be believing in the Jackets because of their opener at Auburn last year, and their game at Miami, both wins. However, there is a fundamental difference of those two games and this one. The Irish are experienced on the line and wont be breaking in a new backfield. The Auburn Tigers were coming with a new QB and RB while Miami was breaking in four out of five on the line. The Irish have neither problem. This game will be a walk for the Irish.
  • California plus 2.5 against Tennessee. Awesome. I'll take it!
  • Oregon -11 against Stanford in Eugene. Ducks will be explosive and Stanford tends to struggle early.
  • Can Alabama even score 17 points, even if it is against Hawaii at home? I might take the Rainbows and the points.
  • Wake Forest is a 16.5-point favorite over Syracuse at home? Robinson was a defensive guru at Texas and I know he'll improve the Orange well enough to beat that line.
  • Marshall, plus 23 against West Virginia. I know the 'Neers are loaded, but in-state rivalries can be a bitch.
  • Baylor giving 8.5 to TCU in Waco? Am I reading this right?
  • Northwestern is getting 3 points at Miami, Ohio. That game is tough to feel with NU's developments over the summer. I am thinking Northwestern will pour everything into this game and win outright.
  • Ohio State will cover by 19 against Northern Illinois. Lock it.
Then we come to a bunch of games that I wouldn't mess with at all:

  • USC giving 8.5 to Arkansas in Fayetteville. I would not touch this one with a 10-foot pole. I personally think the Trojans are going to regret 70-17 for about three quarters, but they will pull away and get the win.
  • Louisville is giving 22 points to Kentucky. The game being at Louisville explains the spread and the Cards have dominated the series of late. However last year's game showed UK fans that things are slowly getting better. Louisville does have questions at offensive line so it could be a repeat of 2002 when UK entered in under similar circumstances and pulled off the 22-17 upset.
  • Pittsburgh is a four-point favorite against Virginia. This could be dubbed the Underachievement Bowl. Both NFL retreads are supposedly expected to raise their alma maters, but have stumbled in their efforts to this point.
  • Florida is giving 20.5 to Southern Mississippi in the swamp. For one reason alone I won't approach this game: If Urban Meyer expects to make it through the year, he will have to sit on some leads in the early going. I can see a good 27-10 Gator win which would be a cruise job for UF but would stink for gambling the line.
Well there it is, there are the thoughts as I embark on setting my sights for Vegas. Enjoy. Rip me.

"Vegas baby, Vegas."

August 07, 2006

...and then God answered.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

I watch a ton of football like most in the blogosphere. I am rarely surprised during the course of the season except maybe for a few instances, however, Texas winning the national championship did surprise me.

Vince Young was going to have to throw. Surely the Greatest Team Ever (GTE) was going to put eight in the box and force Young to win with his arm. Surely Texas had not seen an offense that SC was going to put on display and certainly Mack Brown was no contest for Pete Carroll.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

God answered even when I was shaking my head and cursing myself for not being surprised that USC was cruising at 38-26. Another off-season of Trojan hype was upon us, surely to be filled with SC off-field events that would be brushed away by the investigative L.A. media.

God showed up in the form of Vince Young. Texas (not a beloved team of mine by any stretch) did surprise me, showing moxie to score the next 15 points and take home their first national championship since Darrell Royal (1969).

It was stunning. It was unexpected. I was filled with joy.

God is good.

August 06, 2006

The day I questioned God's existence...

Devery Henderson is the DEVIL!

Living in Lexington, Kentucky, I have attended my fair share of UK football games. Generally UK is not a winner. Heck, parades would be arranged in Lexington for any coach who could show up and win consistently. I am not talking championships, I am just asking for a coach who could make regular bowl trips.

We currently have Rich Brooks who calls a spade a spade and inherited a horrible probation stemming from the Hal Mumme days. UK, put on probation for the 2001 season, is now finally back to full strength capabilities. For what UK hasn't done, they have recruited well in recent years, at least according to the eye test. Our linemen are topping 300 pounds, and LB Micah Johnson looks like he could step into the Florida program and play this season.

However, the bane of existence for UK football in my lifetime of watching (since 1982, 0-10-1 season that year) has been losses of inexplicable description. Kentucky has largely made losing an art form. The fanbase has a general malaise that sweeps over the stadium when a team starts to make a comeback against UK.

"Oh no, here we go again."

1987. The Cats are 5-5. The annual Tennessee border battle (not so much of one in my lifetime) features a UK team trying to get a win to go to a bowl. 24-20, UK gets a first down at the Tennessee 1-yard line with time running out. Four cracks at the end zone and the Cats call four running plays up the middle with All-SEC running back Marc Logan. Four times Logan fails to hit paydirt. Tennessee takes a voluntary safety and wins the game, 24-22.

1988. UK had good athletes under Jerry Claiborne. There usually was not much depth and the team would wear out in the fourth quarter. UK leads Alabama 17-0 at half, loses 31-27 after 17 fourth-quarter points by the Tide.

1993. Florida throws 7 interceptions but the Cats only get 20 points. Spurrier is forced to put in freshman Danny Wuerffel (your welcome Gator fans) who promptly finds Chris Doering in the end zone from 28 yards out to give the Gators the 24-20 win. UK led the whole way but squandered their chances.

Same year... Peach Bowl. Kentucky leads Clemson 13-7 but the Tigers are marching. Clemson moves the ball down close to the endzone but throws a ill-advised pass that heart-and-soul of the team, LB Marty Moore picks off. Moore rumbles down the field, ensuring the win for the Cats until he is stripped of the ball by a Clemson offensive player. With new life, Clemson QB Patrick Sapp finds Terry Smith in the endzone. Ball game. Clemson 14, Kentucky 13.

1994. Off the field. Reserve lineman Trent DiGiuro is shot and killed on July 17th sitting on his front porch. DiGiuro had quickly become a team leader and his death hung over the team. UK beat Louisville in the opener, 20-14, but finished the season 1-10 including a 73-7 loss to Florida on national TV. The worst part? The case is being re-tried this year after a series of weird events.

Hal Mumme arrives and Lexington gets hope. With a vaunted passing attack, football games at Commonwealth Stadium become hot tickets. UK wins with gimmicks, but none the less, wins. SEC powers start to take notice. UK even wins a thrilling game in dramatic fashion over LSU in Baton Rouge, 39-36. However, it all comes crumbling down after the Cats are revealed to be cheaters and land on probation. It seemed our one moment of glory in my lifetime was over.

Enter November 9, 2002.

I still remember the joy of the stadium after Begley's kick. My good friend who is an LSU fan just slumped when it went through. I remember thinking that the previous year's heartache against LSU was exonerated. (29-25 LSU after a Davey to Clayton TD with :13 left in Lexington - yes, the 2002 game was a repeat due to a change in SEC scheduling.)

I remember being ready to celebrate. I remember the fireworks going off, I remember the students starting to storm the field, and then I remember the ball never hitting the ground. Devery Henderson made a great catch off the play and I was left to suffer.

One footnote: Friend and I are going to Baton Rouge this year. It will be the first time UK has played LSU since that day. I can imagine the good natured ribbing I will get from Tiger fans. They honestly made the day bearable. I got an invite to a person's house in Baton Rouge whenever we wanted it. I had another LSU fan come over and tell me this was Stanford-Cal all over again. Generally, they made it okay. We laughed after I got over the stunned shock.

It still hurts to think about but the incredible part of the play did make it memorable. However, at that moment, I had simply had too much pain from God about UK football to make me believe there was someone still above...

August 02, 2006

Rhett Bomar gone from OU

Say my name!

Adjust your Top 25's accordingly. Oklahoma's biggest game now is Oregon because of it being the earliest test for young Joey Halzle (pic'd above). Apparently Mr. Bomar was getting some payola for work not done and he is henceforth gone from OU permanently.

Damn, I look like a gosh dang genius!

The interesting point to ponder is this: Can Adrian Peterson kiss his Heisman goodbye? Peterson rushed for 1,104 yards last year with the inexperienced Bomar cutting his teeth at QB. Now having to break someone in beginning with fall practice, is it safe to say that Peterson will have the same eight or nine man fronts staring him in the face? Suddenly the UAB game might be dang important for Sooner fans.

Texas fans are a dang happy bunch right now. With the loss of Bomar and should Oklahoma struggle, the Horns might be down to just needing to beat Ohio State to position themselves well for another national title.

Interesting for sure.

The Double Dog Dare


It can be early in the year or late in the year, but eventually each team that is serious about a national championship or conference title will face the “make or break” game. One, two, or several games on everyone’s schedule will define their season to come or it can reside at the end of the year – a showdown waiting to happen.

Below is a list of teams, by conference, that will decide their fate, when and where. You could also double this list as my conference contenders.

Ohio State’s mea culpa is definitely in Austin, Texas on September 9. Win that game and the Buckeyes will stay #1 all year long to the National Championship Game in Phoenix, er Tempe, er Glendale. Michigan spreads things out, having one proving game a month, albeit all on the road. Michigan has Notre Dame on September 16, Penn State in October (14th), and Ohio State in November (18th). The Wolverines would have to prove themselves to be road warriors even to win their conference. For Lloyd Carr a win in one of these games might ease the pressure, but I would recommend that it’s Ohio State (see John Cooper). Iowa for me has their crucial test at home on September 16 against Iowa State. The Hawks are 2-3 against the Cyclones since 2001. Lose this game and Iowa could move themselves into a contender for implosion. Win and then they can think about Ohio State two weeks later. The Hawks also have a trip to Ann Arbor (Oct. 21) on the horizon, so I will believe the championship talk when I see it.

USC is the prime example of not one game that will define them but a whole string of games when put together form the hurdle that could derail the Trojans from even getting back to the BCS for a fourth straight year. The good part for SC fans is that it’s the last four games of the year. By then they will have the kinks worked out and should be at their top form. The question is whether the top form of what is left is good enough to run through Oregon (Nov. 11), Cal (Nov. 18), Notre Dame (Nov. 25), and then UCLA (Dec. 2) at the Rose Bowl. Each one of those teams will be well motivated due to last year’s results against the Trojans. For each of them it’s their game of the year. The other positive is three of four in L.A. for that stretch. All other programs in the Pac-10 will have their day against the Trojans. For the other nine it’s the only way for me to take you seriously.

Texas is two-fold. Beat Ohio State early in the season then the Oklahoma showdown is the last hurdle to getting back to the title game. A lot of prognosticators want to write off a team when replacing a quarterback, but I find it interesting when more people are writing off Texas than USC. Oklahoma is another likely title contender but the Sooner program is still reeling from the USC Orange Bowl loss. The natural inclination is to go with their annual Red River Shootout with Texas (Oct. 7) but Oklahoma also scheduled a game at Oregon (Sept. 16). Lose in Eugene in September and Oklahoma could have its fragile psyche crushed. For now, that is their game, then worry about Dallas. Nebraska is getting some play, but they’ll have to perform awfully well at USC (Sept. 16) for me to start believing. At Kansas State (Oct. 14) then home against Texas (Oct. 21) will be their chance to make a conference statement.

Louisville and West Virginia define each other’s seasons on November 2nd. True, Louisville plays Miami earlier in the year (Sept. 16), but even a loss to the Canes won’t affect the Cards’ BCS hopes. This game will decide your rep from the Big East, likely to the Orange Bowl.

Florida State and Miami also set the tone for each other on Labor Day. Winner keeps thinking national championship while the loser has their work cut out for them to get back to the ACC title game. (I still say it’s a shame that this game is played on Labor Day. I’ll have more on that another day.) Clemson has the two-step road bender in Boston (Sept. 9) and Tallahassee (Sept. 16). Win that and we’ll talk because after that it’s a trip to Blacksburg on a Thursday standing between them and being undefeated.

Mentioned before, Florida is setting the table for 2007. Their crucial game is either at Tennessee (Sept. 16), LSU at home (Oct. 7), at Auburn (Oct. 14), the Cocktail Party (Oct. 28), or at Florida State (Nov. 25). Take your pick. If this team were to somehow get to 12-0 then cue up ESPN because this would be the greatest team of all time. LSU could also enter the discussion having beat Auburn (Sept. 16), Florida (Oct. 7), Tennessee (Nov. 4), and Arkansas (Nov. 24) on the road if they’re undefeated. BCS-wise, Auburn and LSU will define each other. However, Auburn won’t prove anything to me until their 11-0. Alabama is their hardest road game and they would be undefeated headed to Tuscaloosa on Nov. 18th. Not good. Georgia always will have their prove it moment at the Cocktail Party on Oct. 28th. This year is no different.
Notre Dame has several turning points in their season, while any game can be considered huge for a national title run it’s the back-to-back games with Penn State (Sept. 9) and Michigan (Sept. 16) that will launch the Notre Dame title run. Win these two and then we Irish fans can start to begin thinking national championship.

August 01, 2006

August = Awesome

Well gang here we are in the month of college football. 30 days from today Boston College will take the field against Central Michigan at 6 p.m., officially kicking off the 2006 season. While the South Carolina-Mississippi State game sounds better just 90 minutes later, the season will be underway and we’ll be done with all the speculation and predictions. Only on the field will it matter.

However, what is a college football blog without predictions that will come back to bite you in December and January? So what to predict? I could draw it out, preview each conference one-by-one. I could give you a Top 25, or I could come up with the BCS contenders.

But lets start in a different way, each year a handful of teams are poised for greatness only to watch it fade away and they even have to stay home during the bowling season. As you can guess this is modeled after the 2005 Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols went from champions of the SEC and perhaps the nation to getting beat on Senior Day against Vanderbilt.

So what teams are in the same mold – predicted for success but destined for a fall?

The possible complete collapses:

Tennessee Volunteers
Wait a minute you say, it can’t happen again. Changes have been made with David Cutcliffe back to repair and restore Erik Ainge, but check out that schedule people. California to open the season, Florida shows up in Knoxville two weeks later. The Vols then travel to Memphis and Georgia. The Tigers are a pest, but the Bulldogs are currently holding ownership papers of the Vols. Alabama comes to Knoxville for the annual Third Saturday in September. The Vols visit the Gamecocks then come back to face LSU, followed by a trip to improved Arkansas. The saving grace for the Vols are the games against Air Force, Marshall, Vanderbilt (sans Jay Cutler), and Kentucky.

The key will be the opener against Cal and then the Florida game two weeks later. Win both and the Vols are back, split either way and your still envisioning the Peach Bowl, lose both and the unruly fans will get ugly and UT will be hiring a new coach.

Oregon Ducks
Last year the Ducks were the snubbed team of the BCS, losing out to Notre Dame’s popularity. They promptly went to the Holiday Bowl and proved the BCS right by losing to a four-loss Oklahoma squad. In 2006 the Ducks hope to fly high but will be grounded by October because of their schedule as well.

Let’s review. The Ducks begin with Stanford which should equal 1-0. The next six games are a meat grinder with games at Fresno State, home against Oklahoma, back on the road at Arizona State and California. UCLA comes to visit and then they close out the stretch in Pullman against Washington State. That could be 1-6, easily. Personally I think they can beat Oklahoma and UCLA the two home games. The four roadies are the problems. Fresno State has shown a penchant for taking out Pac-10 teams. Arizona State and California are expected to challenge for the conference crown and well, the trip to Pullman becomes difficult if the wheels start falling off. Let’s be nice and say the Ducks go 4-3 with wins at home over OU and UCLA and win at Pullman. They face Portland State to get to 5-3 and Washington gets them bowling at 6-3, then they face USC in LA, Arizona at home and then the Civil War against Oregon State.

7-5 is what I see out of all that, but mind you that is calling wins over Oklahoma and UCLA. Essentially, the 7-5 consists of the Ducks going 6-0 at home. With that prognosis they would still be three games under their 2005 performance. This team will falter.

Clemson Tigers
Big things are being predicted about the Tigers in the watered down ACC. They return several All-Conference players and have a core nucleus back. However, their early schedule will begin their descent to a 7-5 season at best. The Tigers lead off with Florida Atlantic, 1-0. Then they travel to Boston and Tallahassee. They will lose both games putting them at 1-2. Game over. Your already have two losses to the biggest contenders in your division. They can rebound with the rest of their schedule – consisting of only three more road games – at Wake Forest, Temple in Charlotte, and at Virginia Tech. UNC, La. Tech, Georgia Tech, Maryland, NC State, and South Carolina all visit. However to win the Atlantic Division they would have to run the table and hope for three conference losses out of BC and FSU. That is not happening.

UCLA Bruins
The Bruins are yet another schedule casualty. They play Oregon, Arizona State, Notre Dame, and Cal on the road. Pasadena will see USC and Utah coming in having had winning records in 2005. Bottom line? The Bruins will start 5-0 and get a lot of press, however those games mentioned earlier all come after that first five game stretch so UCLA fans better be ready for the patented Bruin collapse.

The mild setbacks:

Iowa State Cyclones
No missed FG heartaches this time around as the Cyclones will be done by October. They play at Iowa and at Texas in back-to-back weeks in late September. Remaining road trips include Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Colorado. Nebraska and Texas Tech visit Ames while other home games include Toledo, UNLV, Northern Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. They should win those five, but the 'Clones could easily lose the other six. 2-6, even in the Big 12 North, won't get it done.

Penn State Nittany Lions
If your a fan of Colin Cowherd (I am.) then you know about new QB Anthony Morelli. For Lions fans, he had better be all as advertised with Penn State traveling to South Bend and Columbus all in September. Mind you, this team still ventures to West Lafayette, Minneapolis, and Madison and includes a home tilt with Michigan. Penn State will keep bowling, but by the end of September they could surpass their loss total for all of 2005.

Alabama Crimson Tide
The Tide was another program returning to glory for 2005. Like Penn State, the full return is in question heading into this year sans Brodie Croyle, Tyrone Prothro, and half of the defense. Road games are killers for Bama with Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and LSU all on the road. Home games are all winnable (Hawaii, Vandy, LA-Monroe, Duke, Ole Miss, FL International, and Mississippi State) until the Auburn game. The Tide won't totally collapse with a 7-5 record being the worst prognosis, but they won't start 9-0 either with those killer road trips.

A lot of teams have "proving moments", games in which they shouldn't be taken seriously until those moments (games) are played. Usually, its the first road game but it can be a big non-conference hurdle.

We'll talk about those tomorrow.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.