October 20, 2008

Around the Nation - Week 8

Some thoughts from week 8 of the football season.

11) Michigan State and UNC....seriously?? Couldn't you have at least humored us and played well for a few more weeks?? The 2008 "Tashard Choice Award" for "mediocre team that ND loses to and then gets talked up as a potential top 15 team only to end up at 7-5" is probably going to end in a tie between Michigan State and North Carolina. Then again, you could just call it the "Michigan State Award," and I'd be fine with that.

Hopefully the days of handing out a "Tashard Choice Award" will be over starting in 2009.

10) William “Montgomery” Muschamp and Major “Montgomery” Applewhite. That's all that needs to be said!

9) It’s probably a little early for speculation about his job, but one guy to keep an eye on over the next year or two might be Bret Bielema. Tough times up in Madison this year, and I wonder if their great run might be ending to some degree. Let’s be honest, Barry Alvarez MADE that program up in Wisconsin. You could argue that Barry Alvarez was a historically great college football coach considering where that program was when he took over and what he did there (3 Big Ten titles, 3 Rose Bowl win, 8-3 bowl record). Alvarez singlehandedly put Wisconsin on the map and made them a player on the national scene. I sort of fell into the trap of thinking that they would continue to roll along under Bielema (who admittedly did have success his first two years), but it will be interesting to see where Wisconsin goes now that the transition phase is over and the program is entirely in the hands of Bielema. He’s still a young guy and may end up righting the ship, but I think it’s worth keeping an eye on the situation. If Wisconsin takes a step back into the Iowa/Minnesota class of the Big 10, it will be interesting to see who fills that void in the upper middle class of the Big 10 (my money would be on Michigan State).

By the way, Wisconsin is seeking out some games at NFL stadiums (Soldier Field and Lambeau Field appear to be likely destinations). Just a thought, but I would love to see ND drop Purdue for one of these years and offer to play one of these games against Wisky. ND-Wisconsin at Soldier Field or Lambeau Field would be awesome.

8) Maybe it’s just the contrarian in me coming to the forefront, but I think everyone needs to calm down a little bit about the Big 12. Don’t get me wrong. The league is good and Texas and OU are legit, but historically good?? Cmon. No one is playing any defense in the Big 12!! Every time I turn on a Big 12 game, I’m amazed at how little defense is being played. It’s like everyone is playing against air. There are obviously good QBs and some real good offensive schemes in the Big 12, but these 49-41 “shootouts” are just as much a product of bad defense as they are incredible offenses. No one tackles in the Big 12, and it seems like the QBs have 2-3 WIDE OPEN receivers (like no one within 10 yards of them) to throw to at all times. The "defenses" in the Kansas-OU game should be ashamed of themselves.

The Big 12 may very well be the best league in the country, but I really want to see some of these Big 12 teams against the SEC teams. Something tells me that the Texas Techs and Oklahoma States of the world wouldn’t be scoring 45 points a game against the SEC defenses.

And yes, before any angry Big 12 fans email me, I’m well aware that Texas put up 50 on Arkansas and that Mizzou put up 50 on Illinois. I'm willing to admit that I'm probably completely wrong and that the Big 12 really does have 5 top 10 teams or whatever, but I'm holding them back in my rankings for now.

7) Gotta say that I am really looking forward to this World Series. I like both these teams and would be happy for either of them. I’m rooting for Philly because their fans deserve it, but the Baby Rays are a great story and a likeable team. Scary to think how good the Rays are going to be over the next few years (especially after watching David Price mow down the Red Sox in the last inning).

The Minnesota Twins have had their share of great trades in the last decade, but I would imagine that they would love to have that Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade back. Garza has looked great in this postseason.

Pick: Rays in 5. Unless Hamels throws this team on his back and wins 3 games or something, I can’t see them hanging around with the Rays.

6) A few thoughts on Ty Willingham heading into the “Weis-Willingham Bowl”

a) Has an entire fanbase ever been more dead on right about a person than ND fans were about Ty Willingham?? It has to be one of the better vindications of a fanbase in sports history.

b) What are the odds that the same folks who killed ND after firing Ty (Dennis Dodd, Jim Rome, Pat Forde, Chris Fowler, John Saunders, even Kirk Herbstreit) will now come out and pen an apology to ND for being 100% right for firing Ty Willingham??

c) Speaking of apologies, where is the apology from Monk Malloy and Kevin White for publicly excoriating ND on the day that we fired Ty Willingham??

5) Heisman poll week 8

10) Zac Robinson
9) Evan Royster
8) Percy Harvin
7) Beanie Wells
6) Mark Sanchez
5) Graham Harrell
4) Percy Harvin
3) Tim Tebow
2) Sam Bradford
1) Colt McCoy

If I had to list 10 guys who still have a shot to win it, that would be my list. This list will be slowly pared down over the next few weeks, but I think any of these guys has a shot if they keep playing well and their team is winning. Obviously, Colt McCoy is winning this thing if Texas goes undefeated. The Missouri guys are eliminated at this point, and I can’t take Javon Ringer as a serious candidate after getting overshadowed by Beanie Wells.

My sleepers here if Texas falters and OU loses again are Mark Sanchez and Beanie Wells. Sanchez is quietly on pace for almost 40 td passes, and Beanie has some big games coming up that could put him back into the race.

4) I’m sort of fearful that Roger Goodell will stumble on this blog and shut down the blog for daring to speak a bad word about his precious league, but I’ll say it anyway. The NFL has jumped the shark. I can’t really put my finger on why it has happened, but my interest in the NFL has steadily waned in the last 10 years, and now I barely even pay attention to the league any more. It’s become an afterthought to college football. And I’m saying this is as someone who used to be a huge NFL fan. After all the great college football action that you get on Saturday, the NFL just doesn’t compare anymore. I’ll still probably get sucked into a good game or the playoffs and will no doubt get excited for the NFL Draft, but it’s more of a rarity than a regular occurrence for me to be geared up about the NFL these days.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my declining interest in the NFL has coincided with the huge explosion of 24-7 coverage of the NFL in the media. Too much of one thing is never a good thing, and that’s the way the NFL has become for me. From "Mike and Mike" to the NBC ND halftime shows to Sportscenter, it is NFL all the time everywhere. I couldn’t be less interested in that much coverage.

Another trend that I’m not particularly fond of that is everyone and their mother (literally, I can think of some mothers who are playing) is playing NFL fantasy football these days. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing either. It has become so mainstream in the sports world that I’m just bored with it (although this financial high rollers league featured in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye). College fantasy football is going to be the next big thing in fantasy sports, but right now it is the best kept secret out there.

And yes, I would be saying this even if the Bengals weren’t currently 0-7 and my NFL fantasy football team wasn’t 1-5 at the moment. I was a HUGE NFL fan in the 90s, and the Bengals were unquestionably the worst team of the 90s. It really has nothing to do with the Bengals (although it hasn’t helped).

With the news that Carson Palmer is likely headed down to see Dr. James Andrews in the near future, there is a real possibility of an 0-16 season in Bengal Land. I am praying that they get it. Already looking forward to Draft Day 2009. In a wierd way, it's actually kind of refreshing to be the old Bengals again. At least the Bengals are relevant for one day of the year (Draft Day). You couldn't even say that about the Bengals over the last couple years when we were riding the 7-9/8-8 train. I am actually looking forward to hearing the old "Bungle" jokes that will inevitably be trotted out by Chris Berman before our top 3 pick next year.

January 6, 1991 – The last time the Bengals won a playoff game. They have only appeared in one playoff game since.

3) We’ll find out more on Saturday, but reports of Ohio State’s demise (and I’ll put myself down as one who had written OSU off) may have been greatly exaggerated. Michigan State is by no means a great team (and maybe not even a good team), but they were “up” for that game and got absolutely mauled by Ohio State. That was the best game the Buckeyes have played in a long time.

As is the case with most college teams, it all starts up front with Ohio State. When their d-line is getting pressure and making plays, their defense can be really good.

Ohio State has no shot to get back into the title game picture after getting plowed by USC, but it would be a great achievement for them to get off the mat and find a way to win the Big 10. Should be a real interesting game on Saturday night between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions. Penn State might be the class of the Big 10 this year, but the Big 10 title runs through Columbus, Ohio until proven otherwise.

2) When Kevin White decided earlier this year to schedule Washington State for the 2009 schedule, what was his thought process behind scheduling this game?? Did he scan through his list of available BCS conference teams and say “who is the worst team I can find for a game?? Washington State!!” The Cougars will probably be in the midst of a 20 game losing streak or something like that when we play them in San Antonio next year.

Take a look at this 2009 schedule.

S12 @ Michigan
S26 @ Purdue
O31 Washington St. (SA)
N14 @ Pittsburgh
N28 @ Stanford

How many ranked teams are we going to play next year?? I’m seeing USC and maybe BC, and that’s it.

We already had 3 Pac 10 teams lined up before the WSU, and 2 of those teams are bad. Why Washington State as well? Was Kevin White trying to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are clearly one of the 6 best teams in the Pac 10?? If he insisted on playing 4 Pac 10 teams (which is an abomination if you ask me), why not challenge Oregon or Cal instead??

Not our fault of course that Michigan and Washington are both in the doldrums, but there is some room there on the 2009 schedule for better opponents. Using WSU’s space for a solid home and home series would have been nice to see.

I actually like this 2008 schedule. It hasn’t turned out to be especially tough (again due to the problems at Michigan and Washington), but the effort to make a good schedule was there. We are playing 6 road games this year (5 if you don’t count the Navy game as a true road game), there’s a team on there from the south (UNC), there’s good balance throughout, a good mix of teams from different leagues, several good road trips for alumni and students, and a nice easy opener to give the team a breather before the Michigan game. I am in favor of all those things.

The decline of Washington has really been a killer for the 2008 and 2009 schedules. Washington should be a traditional top 15 type team and probably has the second best tradition in the Pac 10. If they had made a good hire instead of Willingham, we would be heading to Washington this weekend for a big game with a top 20ish type team. Now we’re in a position where we’ll get no credit for beating a winless Washington team even though that type of win would have been a huge statement as recently as 7 or 8 years ago.

1) The WEISND week 8 power poll

7) Oklahoma
6) LSU
5) Penn State
4) USC
3) Florida
2) Bama
1) Texas

Not a whole lot of movement last week. Call me SEC biased or whatever with three SEC teams in my top 6, but that’s how I see it so far. Oklahoma State and Georgia are not on this list as of now, but they can obviously put themselves on this list with wins on Saturday.

USC is quietly in great shape as this season goes along. The rest of their schedule is a cake walk. They can win every game remaining on their schedule by 2-3 touchdowns just by bothering to showing up. If the SEC starts cannibalizing itself, they are in prime position to sneak back into the title game picture.


Mike said...

I agree with your NFL comments, particularly as they pertain to the negative consequences of the non-stop media coverage. Although I also grew up as a huge NFL fan, college football is so superior to pro football that I have a difficult time enjoying the NFL. I still have Bills season tickets and the games are fun, especially now that the team is off to a great start, but it just seems like something is missing with regard to my passion for the NFL.

Jeremy said...

Percy Harvin - soo good he shows up on Doug's Heisman list TWICE!

Can't echo those NFL comments quickly enough. Hell, the team I root for made the biggest offseason move of the year (trading for Favre) and the non-stop media coverage completely destroyed it for me. I try to watch games every week, but there's just no excitement in the stands, especially when compared to the big college games. Plus, so many of the big stars in the NFl are injured every week, you need a program to keep up with all the scrubs moving in and out of the lineups.