Friday, September 29, 2006

TCU fell on Thursday, is the WAC Commissioner Worried His BCS-Buster Might Follow Suit? Boise Ever

Last Week: 12-2
Overall: 35-21

Colorado at Missouri
Dan Hawkins probably wouldn't have drawn it up this way, but what is pleasure without pain? Conversely, this season is going about as well as Gary Pinkel could have hoped. The no-huddle offense has confounded opponents, and the defense has held three of four opponents to under 10 points. Alas, Missouri has the look, if you'll excuse the pun of being a paper tiger. A dearth of quality opponents has inflated Missouri's record so far. Fortunately for Mizzou, the Rockies have amore potent offense that the Buffs. If not for their solid defense, Colorado would struggle to make the Division III playoffs. That defense will keep them in this game, but the ineptness of the offense will consistently give Missouri good field position and the Tigers will roar out to a 5-0 start.
Winner: Missouri

Wyoming at Syracuse
When Donovan McNabb roamed the Carrier Dome sidelines, this game would be over by halftime. Now a very dangerous Wyoming team has a chance for a season-altering win. Since opening the season with a 38-7 drubbing of Utah State, the Cowboys have lost 3 consecutive nailbiters (by 1 to Virginia, followed by a pair of 7 point defeats to Boise State and Air Force). Syracuse has already doubled last season's win total and is always tough at home (case in point the narrow loss to a top-10 caliber Iowa team). Wyoming will keep it close, but will be a hard luck 1-4 at the close of business on Saturday.
Winner: Syracuse

Purdue at Notre Dame
One of these teams is still undefeated and controls its own destiny in the race for the national title. One of these teams has scored at least 20 points in every game. One of these teams has not given up 40 points in any game. Those 3 characteristics all apply to Purdue. A bias in reporting information can drastically distort reality. Case in point, last Saturday night. Forget the great comeback, this Irish team has serious problems on defense. Purdue will gain some yards and score some points. Unfortunately, it won't be enough. Notre Dame will win, but for all the talking heads who proclaim that the Irish will not lose a game until playing the Trojans, well, lets not go licking our lollipops just yet.
Winner: Notre Dame

Alabama at Florida
Its payback time. Last season the Tide rolled over the Gators 31-3 in Tuscaloosa and ended Urban Meyer's honeymoon with a vicious lover's spat. This season, the Tide's defense is not as strong and the Gators offense appears to be much improved with Chris Leak running the spread to the best of his abilities. Still, Gator fans can only imagine what next season will be like with wunderkid Tim Tebow running the show. Florida won't win by 4 touchdowns, but they will make last year's game a distant memory.
Winner: Florida

Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
The Hokies have looked very sluggish thus far needing a big 4th quarter to outlast Cincinnati two weeks after struggling in for the first half of their first road game against North Carolina. For those folks looking for a Yellow Jacket win, here are three reasons to think again.
1. The games in Blacksburg.
2. Its not November, the Hokies haven't entered their patented swoon.
3. Reggie Ball
Winner: Virginia Tech

Houston at Miami
Teams Houston has a better record than: Texas, Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Clemson, Boston College, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, Arizona State, Cal, and UCLA (among others). If this game was in Houston, the Cougs would have a shot. Unfortunately, its in Coral Gables. In their only road game this season, the Cougars beat Rice by one point. Gulp.
Winner: Miami

Washington at Arizona
Congrats to Tyrone Willingham and the Huskies on their 3-1 start. However, according to team similarity scores (which still has lots of room for improvement) the Huskies are most similar to a pair of mid-level bowl teams from last season--Kansas and South Florida. Those teams finished a combined 13-11 and went 2-8 on the road. The Huskies hired the right man, but they're still in for some growing pains.
Winner: Arizona

Oregon at Arizona State
The Ducks have had a week off to prepare for the Sun Devils and hear about how they shafted Oklahoma out of a win. They may have gotten some breaks from the officials (and Bob Stoops' play calling), but they still scored two touchdowns against the Sooners in the last 3 minutes. This one has all the makings of a Pac 10 shootout. The only offense Arizona State has held in check has been the anemic one in Boulder and some feisty lumberjacks in Northern Arizona. Oregon's defense has not exactly been lights out either, except against Stanford. Arizona State has the homefield advantage, but Oregon has the better coach.
Winner: Oregon

Texas Tech at Texas A&M
Dennis Franchione has taken a page from the Mike Leach book on scheduling. His teams' scalps include wins against The Citadel, Army, and a pair of Lowsyana school (Tech and Lafayette). Despite writing the book on soft non-conference schedules, Mike Leach inexplicably took his Red Raiders on the road to TCU and UTEP. The result: an overtime win and an embarrassing showing against the Horned Frogs where the offense managed one field goal. That TCU team that looked so strong defensively--BYU put 31 on them Thursday night.
Winner: Texas A&M

Michigan at Minnesota
Last season Minnesota was content to go to overtime in the Big House before Gary Russell broke off a 63 yard run to turn the tide and help the Gophers win on a late field goal. The last 3 games between these teams have been decided by 3 points. Since the games in the dome, this one will probably be close too. Michigan is too talented to lose to a Minnesota team that may miss out on postseason play.
Winner: Michigan

Navy at Connecticut
This is probably the toughest game on the board to pick. On the one hand you have a Huskie team thats 2-1, but is changing quarterbacks. On the other, you have a Navy team thats played and won one road game (terrible Stanford), and always seems to play everyone close. Paul Johnson has done wonders for the Navy program and they will be heading to their fourth straight bowl game come December. However, the Huskies will go to 3-1 after pulling out a nailbiter.
Winner: Connecticut

Bowling Green at Ohio
In his second season, Frank Solich has the Bobcats in great position to compete for the MAC title. His teams aren't talented enough to compete with the BCS schools yet (see consecutive losses to Rutgers and Missouri), but against conference foes they have all the right moves. This is the conference home opener for Ohio. Thats bad news for Bowling Green which needed 3 OTs to knock off Buffalo at home and fell 38-3 to Kent State last weekend. Ohio will move to 2-0 in conference play.
Winner: Ohio

Ohio State at Iowa
The marquee game of the night. As much as I want the Hawkeyes to upset the Buckeyes, they have looked less than impressive in their first 4 games. Needing OT to beat Syracuse and starting slowly against Montana, Iowa State, Illinois is not what great teams do. The Buckeyes are a great team, and though they will be tested this weekend, they will pull away in the fourth quarter.
Winner: Ohio State

Boise State at Utah
For the non-BCS fans, this is the marquee game of the night. Boise is 4-0 and barring a Houston upset this weekend is the small timers best chance to crash the BCS party. In an ironic twist, they face the only school to ever do so. Boise is a different team away from the Smurf Turf. In three home games they have scored over 40 points in each game. In their one road test they managed 17.
Winner: Utah

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More Similarity Scores: Rutgers and Washington

Yesterday's attempt at team similarity scores got me wondering about what the future holds for other surprise teams. I chose two of the more interesting surprise teams IMO, Rutgers and Washington. With a quick glance at Rutgers preseason schedule, most prognosticators probably had them at worst, 3-1. Still, an undefeated Scarlet Knight's squad in late September is something to take note of. Certainly few expected the Washington Huskies to have already matched their win total for the past two seasons in one month. The mathematical details for calculating the similarity scores are at the end of this post so as not to discourage you from reading further. Also, as explained yesterday, I'm only using a one-season look back. Hopefully next week I'll expand the look backs to two or three seasons to get a more representative sample. Still, I think this method has its merits.

The most similar teams to Rutgers (2006) from last season--similarity score in parentheses and final record following

1. Minnesota (856) 7-5
2. UCLA (823) 10-2
3. Florida (775.25) 9-3
4. Penn State (666.75) 11-1
5. Wisconsin (666.5) 10-3

I think these comparables are pretty good for the Knights, except for Penn State. Like Rutgers, each team, with the exception of Penn State, went to a bowl game the season before. Also like Rutgers, all of these teams, with the exception of Penn State, were good, but hardly elite BCS conference teams. With Rutgers remaining schedule, a 9 or 10 win season is certainly a possibility.

The most similar teams to Washington (2006) from last season-- similarity score in parentheses and final record following

1. South Florida (649.5) 6-6
2. Kansas (456.5) 7-5
3. Texas A&M (198.25) 5-6

The Huskies don't have nearly as strong comps primarily because their record (2-9) was so bad last season. Both South Florida and Kansas seem like good comparables. They both finished 4-7 the year prior, before breaking out and participating in a low to mid level bowl game. I'd expect the same from Washington.

Here's the methodology.

1. Start with 1000 points

2. Through 'x' number of games take the difference in winning percentage multiply by 1000 and subtract from 1000
example: Team A is 4-0 and Team B 3-1, then the difference in winning percentage would be 1-.75=.25, multiplying this by 1000=250, subtract this number from 1000

3. For every game difference in home/road inequality subtract 50 points
example: Team A has played 2 road games and 2 home games, Team B has played 3 road games and 1 home game, subtract 50 points (neutral sites count as half games)

4. Subtract the difference in point differential through 'x' number of games

5. Subtract the difference in average opponents' Sagarin Rating (I think its a pretty good measure of schedule strength)

6. Subtract the difference multiplied by 1000 in previous year's record (we need to know how good the team's were in the previous season)

7. Subtract the difference multiplied by 1000 in previous year's Pythagorean Winning Percentage (a better indicator of team strength than actual record)

8. The remaining points are the teams' similarity score (the higher the better)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Team Similarity Scores

As a Wake Forest alum and fan, I'm pretty excited by the start of this football season. A 4-0 start (soon to be 5-0 barring an unmitigated disaster against Liberty) has me already making plans to attend a bowl game come late December. What I want to know is, what is the likely record for this year's Wake Forest football team? In order to estimate this year's team's record, I decided to borrow a concept from Bill James. James introduced similarity scores for individual baseball players in his groundbreaking Baseball Abstracts in the 1980s. These scores allowed James to predict how certain players would age and develop. What I want to do is create some rudimentary similarity scores for teams in order to better project how certain teams will develop. Developing similarity scores for professional teams is much easier because of the small number (30-32 teams compared to 119 or so) of teams and massive discrepancies in schedules in the college game. But I'll give it the old college try. Here's the methodology.

1. Start with 1000 points

2. Through 'x' number of games take the difference in winning percentage multiply by 1000 and subtract from 1000
example: Team A is 4-0 and Team B 3-1, then the difference in winning percentage would be 1-.75=.25, multiplying this by 1000=250, subtract this number from 1000

3. For every game difference in home/road inequality subtract 50 points
example: Team A has played 2 road games and 2 home games, Team B has played 3 road games and 1 home game, subtract 50 points (neutral sites count as half games)

4. Subtract the difference in point differential through 'x' number of games

5. Subtract the difference in average opponents' Sagarin Rating (I think its a pretty good measure of schedule strength)

6. Subtract the difference multiplied by 1000 in previous year's record (we need to know how good the team's were in the previous season)

7. Subtract the difference multiplied by 1000 in previous year's Pythagorean Winning Percentage (a better indicator of team strength than actual record)

8. The remaining points are the teams' similarity score (the higher the better)

Is this formula accurate? I have no idea. It's just a little tool I've been toying with. So anyway, which teams are most similar to the 2006 incarnation of Wake Forest? Before I address that question, I need to tackle a few problems. There are a ton of college football teams. Even if we just limit this study to BCS teams from the last 5 years, thats a sample size of roughly 350 teams. Without any type of database and computer program to filter out the teams, next season would have started by the time I finished. That being said, I am limiting the sample to BCS teams from last year. Admittedly this limits the usefulness of these mathematical shenanigans by a great deal. Still, perhaps there is a little something we can gleam from this exercise.

The 3 most similar teams to Wake Forest (2006) from last year-- similarity score in parentheses and final record following

1. Michigan State (748.5) 5-6
2. Vanderbilt (738) 5-6
3. West Virginia (366) 11-1

You can pretty much throw West Virginia out as Michigan State and Vanderbilt are by far the two most similar teams. Both these teams finished 1-6 after their 4-0 starts. After the Liberty game, its likely Wake Forest will not be favored in any game over the course of the rest of the season. Of course, Wake has won as an underdog before (twice already this season), and several of the games are winnable (North Carolina and NC State on the road, BC at home, and perhaps even Maryland on the road). Wake fans should be excited about the teams hot start, but we should also pull a Larry David and curb our enthusiasm. Our schedule so far has not exactly been a who's who of top 10 teams (Syracuse, Duke, Ole Miss, and Connecticut), our starting quarterback, running back, and one of our offensive tackles are either out for the year or for an extended period of time. While a bowl game is probable, it certainly is not assured.

For those interested, her is computation of Vanderbilt's similarity score.

1. Through 4 games, both Wake and Vandy were 4-0 so no points is subtracted

2. Through 4 games, both Wake and Vandy have both played 2 home games and 2 road games so points subtracted

3. Through 4 games, Wake had a point differential of 46, Vandy of 40-- subtract 6 points

4. Through 4 games, Wake's opponents have an average Sagarin Rating of 83, Vandy's had an average rating of 85-- subtract 2 points

5. In 2005 Wake went 4-7 (.364), in 2004 Vandy went 2-9 (.182), difference of .182, multiply by 1000-- subtract 182

6. In 2005 Wake had a Pythagorean winning percentage of .405, in 2004 Vandy had a Pythagorean winning percentage of .333, difference of .072, multiply by 1000-- subtract 72

Total points remaining: 738

Blog Poll Week V

1 Southern Cal-- offense not the machine it was last year, but defense is much better (LW 1)
2 Ohio State-- final score not indicative of how well Nittany Lions played (LW 2)
3 Auburn-- dominated Buffalo in a little reprieve after LSU (LW 3)
4 Michigan-- looked for a little while like Wisconsin might challenge them (LW 6)
5 Louisville-- took care of business against a competent road team (LW 4)
6 Florida-- now the schedule really gets tough (LW 5)
7 LSU-- SEC is stacked with great defenses (LW 8)
8 Texas-- easily the best team in the Big 12 (LW 10)
9 Virginia Tech-- deffense and special teams picking up the offense's slack (LW 9)
10 Georgia-- survived a real scare at home (LW 7)
11 Iowa-- put up or shut up against the Buckeyes (LW 11)
12 West Virginia-- East Carolina shut down the run, imagine what a defense like LSU or Ohio State would do against these boys (LW 13)
13 Tennessee-- struggled to put away Marshall (LW 14)
14 Cal-- rebounding nicely from the Tennessee debacle (LW 15)
15 Clemson-- that BC loss will really hurt come season's end (LW 18)
16 Notre Dame-- defense still leaves a lot to be desired (LW 12)
17 Missouri-- finished non-conference play without a blemish (LW 16)
18 Nebraska-- through bullying the little guys (LW 17)
19 Oregon-- had a week to relish in the Oklahome win (LW 20)
20 Oklahoma-- seems to have put the Oregon loss behind them (LW 22)
21 Michigan State-- moving a team up after a loss?! unbelievable (LW NR)
22 Florida State-- way to run the ball on Rice (LW 21)
23 TCU-- conference play begins with BYU on Thursday (LW 25)
24 Texas A&M-- get Texas Tech at home to start Big 12 play (LW 24)
25 Boise State-- Hawaii game a little too close especially considering it was at home (LW 23)

Teams that dropped out:
19 Boston College-- close games will catch up with you eventually

Teams creeping around:
Rutgers-- if they beat South Florida this week, they will be in
Wake Forest-- if they win the next 2, they will be in
Washington-- same record as Notre Dame
Alabama-- probably better than Arkansas

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lines of the Night 9/23


Colt Brennan, Hawaii
Passing: 25-36 passing, 388 yards, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing: 4 attempts, 17 yards, 0 touchdowns

June Jones' revolving door of quarterbacks continue to put up great numbers. Brennan had over 400 yards of offense and the Rainbow Warriors nearly knocked off Boise on the Smurf Turf.

Running Back

Ryan Torain, Arizona State
Rushing: 24 attempts, 191 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 2 catches, 17 yards, 1 touchdown

The Cal defense was certainly not very rough terrain. Ryan was the lone bright spot for the Sun Devils who were obliterated by the Bears on Saturday.

Receiver/Tight End

Sidney Rice, South Carolina
Rushing: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 9 catches, 162 yards, 5 touchdowns

In a game I fortunate enough to witness, Sidney Rice put his early season struggles behind him in a whitewashing of Florida Atlantic.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Step-Up Saturday

Last Week: 8-6
Overall: 23-19

Although this weekend features only one game involving two ranked teams, that certainly does not mean there is a dearth of quality and important games. Several teams open conference play this season and will experience a drastic step-up in competition. As much fun as non-conference games are, this is when the season truly begins. Early struggles can be forgotten and early successes can be wiped away in just 3 hours time.

Wisconsin at Michigan
Wisconsin is the most under the radar 3-0 team in the nation. In their first season AA (After Alvarez) the Badgers have started out with wins over Bowling Green, Western Illinois, and San Diego State. The offense sputtered, especially against San Diego State, but the defense has played quite well so far. Now we find out how good Wisconsin is. The Badgers open up Big 10 play at a Wolverines team coming off its biggest win since beating Ohio State in 2003. Michigan has been able to stop the run (tops in terms of yards per game) and get to the quarterback (5th in sacks per game). That spells bad news for a Wisconsin team that relies on the run to set up the pass. P.J. Hill Jr. will struggle to find any running lanes and Michigan will avoid a let down by handling the Badgers at home.
Winner: Michigan

Minnesota at Purdue
Coming to West Lafeyette on Saturday afternoon, a preemptive battle for the Sun Bowl. Let's face it, neither of these teams is going to be able to compete with the Big 10's Big three this season (Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa). Still, this is a compelling game. Minnesota has dominated two lackluster foes (Kent State and Temple) by a combined score of 106-0. In between they got spanked by a pretty good Cal team on the road. Meanwhile, Purdue has struggled mightily on defense giving up an average of 31.3 points and 407 yards per game against less than stellar competition (Indiana State, Miami of Ohio, and Ball State). Of course, they've won all those games so their offense has played exceptionally well, but again the step-up in competition will tell us just how good they are. Last season these two teams played an overtime classic that the Gophers won. This season their are several big differences. For one, Laurence Maroney is now a New England Patriot. Secondly, this game is at Purdue. Since 2000, Minnesota is 7-17 in road conference games. In road conference games against teams with winning records over that span they are 2-13. That trend continues.
Winner: Purdue

Louisville at Kansas State
This game has trap written all over it. Road team fresh off a big win. Check. Home team a solid major conference team. Check. Road team has a recent history of road struggles. Check. Road team has some key injuries. Check. Since barely squeaking by non-Division IA Illinois State, the Wildcats have beaten possibly the worst team in Division IA (Florida Atlantic) and an OK Marshall team. Louisville has throttled a better-than expected Kentucky squad, run wild over another terrible Division IA team (Temple), and blew the Hurricanes over cold water. Last season Louisville was flying higher than Lindberg after a 36 point beat down of Oregon State. Then they got steamrolled by South Florida. You can be sure in between contacts with his realtor that Bobby Petrino will remind the Cardinals of that road ambush. Louisville will struggle, but is too talented to lose to a mediocre Kansas State team.
Winner: Louisville

Tulsa at Navy
The non-BCS game of the week. Navy (under the tutelage of the NCAA's best coach) will try to stay undefeated against a Tulsa team trying to find out how good it is. The Golden Hurricanes have rolled over two weak teams (Stephen F. Austin and North Texas) and laid an egg against the only decent team they've faced thus far (BYU). Navy wants to run the ball, and Tulsa's been about average in stopping the run (57th in rushing yards allowed). However, considering the level of competition, they probably are closer to the bottom. Navy will run the ball down their throats and come away from the game with a 4-0 record.
Winner: Navy

Alabama at Arkansas
After going 1-7 in close games the past 2 seasons, the Hogs finally caught a break when Vandy missed a late field goal. Standing 1-0 in conference play, the humbled Hogs head home to host the Crimson Tide. The Tide also survived a game Vandy team in their SEC opener. Bama's D is pretty good, but nowhere near the beast it was last season. Quarterback John Parker Wilson will be making his first collegiate road start in this game. Expect an Arkansas defense that has yet to force a turnover get at least two against the inexperienced quarterback. Arkansas' running game coupled with the continued progression of Mitch Mustain will have the Hogs at 2-0 in conference play come Saturday night.
Winner: Arkansas

Arizona State at Cal
One of only two matchups this week featuring ranked teams takes place out west. Both these schools fancied themselves legitimate contenders to Southern Cal at the beginning of the season. Now, 3 weeks in, its clear they are both a notch below the Trojans. Cal was humbled by the Volunteers in their first game and have subsequently taken their frustrations out on Minnesota and Portland State. Arizona State was tied with non-Division IA Northen Arizona heading into the fourth quarter of their opener. Subsequently thay too have roughed up some lesser teams on their schedule, handling Nevada and Colorado by a combined score of 73-24. Quarterbacks Rudy Carpenter and Nate Longshore are the media stories here, but the key to this game will be the Sun Devils rush defense. So far, they have limited their less than stellar competition to under 3 yards per carry. If they come anywhere close to that number against Marshawn Lynch and the Bears they will win the game going away. They won't.
Winner: Cal

Penn State at Ohio State
This game looked a lot better in the preseason. It's pretty clear to any unbiased football fan that Penn State is a midlevel Big 10 team and that Ohio State is a legitimate national title contender. Ohio State held the Texas Longhorns to 7 points in their own backyard. Penn State got drilled by 24 in its lone road contest. This one won't be close. Joe Pa won't be happy until he realizes he still can get to the hotel in time to watch Matlock.
Winner: Ohio State

Colorado at Georgia
Another game that looked a lot better in the preseason. Dan Hawkins was supposed to breathe some life into a Colorado program hard hit by scandal and medicore play. While its foolish to judge a coach on his first season, much less the first quarter of his first season, the results so far have been uninspiring. In terms of points per game, Colorado ranks ahead of only 5 Division IA teams (Louisiana-Lafeyette, Florida Atlantic, Duke, Utah State, and Temple). Not the kind of statistical company you want to keep. Georgia on the other hand has been lights out on defense. They've pitched two consecutive shutouts and are currently allowing a scant 4 points per game. It's weakness versus strenght in Athens.
Winner: Georgia

Washington State at Stanford
Washington State, one of the unluckiest teams last season (1-5 in close games), finally caught a break in a narrow victory over Baylor. Now they open up Pac 10 play against a team that is reeling. The Cardinal are 0-3 and Walt Harris has got to be concerned. Since coming over from Pittsburgh, Harris has coached the Cardinal to a 5-9 record. They are just 1-6 at home, with one of the losses coming to UC Davis. The jury is still out on the Cougars as they have hung with Auburn for a half, waxed Idaho, and escaped against Baylor. Their future will still be cloudy after they sneak by Stanford on Saturday.
Winner: Washington State

South Florida at Kansas
Any reader of this blog who knows me personally should not be surprised that I spent last Friday night watching the Kansas/Toledo game. Number 1 because I love football, and number 2 because well, I'm a huge tool. Laying previous indiscretions aside, I am certainly glad to not be a staunch Jayhawk football supporter. Despite outgaining the Rockets by over 150 yards and holding their passing game to less than a 33% completion rate, the Jayhawks still lost thanks to a semi Hail Mary (perhaps an Our Father) and 5 turnovers. One of those turnovers was a fumble on Kansas' first OT play...after holding Toledo to no points. Another was botched fade pattern in the second OT that was nearly returned for a score (possibly the worst fade ever thrown). This loss dropped Kansas to 2-1 and severely damaged their bowl aspirations. South Florida comes into this game with a 3-0 record, but could easily be 1-2 after surviving Florida International 21-20 and then dropping Central Florida 24-17. Since bulling their way onto the national scene with a beatdown of Louisville, South Florida has gone 6-5 with its most marquee win being over either Rutgers or Central Florida. Kansas will do enough to hold off the Golden Bulls at home.
Winner: Kansas

Wake Forest at Ole Miss
My Deacs are 3-0 for the first time since 1987. Their wins are over Syracuse (1-2), Duke (0-3), and Connecticut (1-1). Too bad we're not in the Big East or we'd be 2-0 in conference play. Of course, we needed a blocked 28 yard field goal to beat Duke and an 86 yard interception return by a defensive end to beat Connecticut. Suffice it to say on the field, we've been a little lucky. Of course, in regards to injuries, we've had some bad luck. Our starting quarterback was lost for the season in the first game. Our starting running back is now out for the year after tearing his ACL. And finally, out starting offensive tackle is out 2-6 weeks. Still, I'm cautiously optimistic. Our defense has been very good so far this year holding opponents to only 12 points per game and under 3 yards per rush. Once conference play starts, I don't expect our defense to consistently hold teams under 15 points per game, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts. Our opponent Ole Miss, is reeling after two straight road defeats at Missouri and Kentucky. The Missouri loss is understandable as they appear to be very good, but losing by 17 to Kentucky has to give every Rebel fan cause for concern. The final margin is misleading considering Ole Miss turned the ball over 5 times. That probably won't happen this week. Still our defense will keep us in the game and we'll pull out a close road win.
Winner: Wake Forest

Iowa State at Texas
Poor Iowa State. In a year in which they finally have the talent to win the Big 12 North, they have the misfortune of drawing road games against Texas and Oklahoma from the South Division. They do get the North's big boys, Nebraska and Missouri, at home. Texas has stomped two lower-level teams, and been handled by the one great team they played. Iowa State is far from a great team so the Longhorns shold take care of business this weekend.
Winner: Texas

UCLA at Washington
Early last season, UCLA burst onto the scene with a program rejuvenating win over Oklahoma. Now Washington has a chance for a program rejuvenating win against UCLA. In Willingham's second year, his Huskies have already matched last season's win total. A win here would match their number of victories over the last 2 seasons. UCLA is looking to build on their fluky 10 win season from a year ago. Ben Olson has played very well in his first two starts for the Bruins, but now he gets his first road test at Seattle. The Bruins won every close game they played last season (4-0). This is a new year and the Bruins luck will run out. The Huskies win a close one.
Winner: Washington

Notre Dame at Michigan State
Something happened on the way to Notre Dame's national title and Charlie Weiss' canonization. Michigan. Now the perennial thorn in the Irish's side is up next. Sparty wants to repeat history and change it at the same time. They would love another victory over a highly-regarded Irish team, but they don't want the victory over Notre Dame to be the only highlight of a losing season. After last year's flag planting, Notre Dame will be fired up to put the Spartans in their place. They'll have to wait until next year.
Winner: Michigan State

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blog Poll Week IV

1 Southern Cal-- never challenged by Big Red (LW 1)
2 Ohio State-- woke up after sleepy first half against Cincinnati (LW 2)
3 Auburn-- they play some defense in the SEC (LW 3)
4 Louisville-- best Miami up and down the field (LW 7)
5 Florida-- another classic SEC game (LW 8)
6 Michigan-- myself and the rest of America thank you (LW 13)
7 Georgia-- drop only because Florida, Louisville, and Michigan were more impressive (LW 5)
8 LSU-- no shame in losing on the plains (LW 6)
9 Virginia Tech-- look to be the class of a weak SEC (LW 9)
10 Texas-- functional DNP versus Rice (LW 10)
11 Iowa-- got off the Cyclone sneid (LW 12)
12 Notre Dame-- hold on those ND championship t-shirts (LW 4)
13 West Virginia-- spanked Maryland (LW 19)
14 Tennessee-- after a one-point win, have a one-point loss (LW 17)
15 Cal-- time to start conference play (LW 21)
16 Missouri-- survived close contest against New Mexico (LW 18)
17 Nebraska-- So Cal a step up from Louisiana Tech (LW 15)
18 Clemson-- Tommy has to be kicking himself for the special teams failings (LW NR)
19 Boston College-- smoke and mirrors (LW NR)
20 Oregon-- probably not better than the Sooners (LW NR)
21 Florida State-- offense is still terrible (LW 11)
22 Oklahoma-- where's the D? (LW 20)
23 Boise State-- Cowboys provided a bit of a challenge (LW 24)
24 Texas A&M-- South is there for the taking, but how good are Aggies? (LW 22)
25 TCU-- shut down Texas Tech's offense (LW NR)

Teams that dropped out:
14 Miami--offense looked bad against a suspect Louisville D
16 Pittsburgh-- I crashed that bandwagon into the median
24 Texas Tech-- handled by TCU
25 Arkansas-- Vandy is decent, but the game was way too close

Teams creeping around:
Rutgers-- will be 4-0 after this week
Wake Forest-- could be 4-0 after this week
Michigan State-- I hope they will be 4-0 after this week
Navy-- Paul Johnson->best coach in Division I

Monday, September 18, 2006

College Football Delayed Reaction

1. Chuck Amato should take his salary and divide it equally between Phillip Rivers and Norm Chow. As they have pretty much made his career. There's no shame in losing to Southern Miss especially on the road as they are a very solid Conference USA team. There's a big shame in losing by 20. And losing at home to Akron. And having under 50 yards passing against Appalachian State.

2. Speaking of the ACC, the supposed super conference is now a rich man's Mountain West. Besides the aforementioned NC State loss, Miami was embarrased at Louisville, Virginia lost at home to Western Michigan, North Carolina beat Furman by 3, Maryland got smoked at West Virginia, BC squeaked by BYU in OT, Georgia Tech struggled with Troy, and the conference's marquee program looked like a high school offense for most of the game against Clemson.

3. Baylor and Vanderbilt have come a long way under Bobby Johnson and Guy Morriss. If the football gods ever decide to let them catch a break, a bowl season could be in the works. After giving Michigan a decent game in the opener and losing by 3 at Alabama, the 'Dores missed a field goal at the end to lose by 2 to Arkansas. Baylor also lost by 2 points at Washington State two weeks after giving TCU at it could handle in a 10 point loss over Labor Day Weekend.

4. Speaking of TCU. The Horned Frogs laid a defensive whooping on alleged offensive genius Mike Leach.

5. After 3 games, Ty Willingham is 2-1. The same record Charlie Weiss has at Notre Dame. The wins may not be as impressive, but the Huskie program was waaaaaay down when Willingham got there year.

6. After three weeks Rutgers, Navy, Wake Forest (both 3-0) have better records than Notre Dame, Penn State, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Florida State, Tennessee, LSU (all 2-1), and Miami (1-2).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Lines of the Night 9/16


Stephen McGee, Texas A&M
Passing: 7-11 passing, 102 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions
Rushing: 11 attempts, 142 yards, 0 touchdowns

True sophomore Stephen McGee was vital to the Aggies closer than expected win over Army in San Antonio.

Running Back

Nate Ilaoa, Hawaii
Rushing: 9 attempts, 104 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 3 catches, 32 yards, 0 touchdowns

The senior big play running back is continuing where he left off last season when he averaged over 7 yards per rush. If June Jones ever decides to give hime 20 carries, he could crack 200 yards.

Receiver/Tight End

Logan Payne, Minnesota
Rushing: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 6 catches, 136 yards, 4 touchdowns

True it came against Temple, but 4 touchdowns is 4 touchdowns. Especially considering no wide receiver caught more than 5 touchdowns all season last year for the Gophers.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shakedown Saturday

Last Week: 8-6
Overall: 15-13

BYU at Boston College
Both the Cougars and Eagles seek to continue the momentum they built up last week in home victories. The games themselves couldnt't have been more different. BYU destroyed Conference USA favorite Tulsa 49-24 while Boston College used some clutch special teams plays to knock off chic ACC pick Clemson 34-33. If Boston College wins this game, they will likely be 5-0 heading into a rough 2-game midseason stretch when they play Virginia Tech in Chestnut Hill and Florida State in Tallahassee. A win for BYU would perhaps signal a return to Mountain West dominance after a 4-season run in the middle of the pack. BYU struggled on offense in their first game this season against a BCS school losing 16-13 to Arizona. However, Boston College has not been strong defensively so far this season, giving up 366 yards to Central Michigan and 479 to Clemson. Still, I can't pick the Cougars to travel cross-country and beat one of college football's better coaches in his own backyard.
Winner: Boston College

Michigan State at Pittsburgh
Two teams that disappointed last year seek to start out 2006 3-0. A win for Sparty would mean a 3-0 start heading into the Notre Dame game next weekend. Along with Michigan and Ohio State thats the only real game Sparty can expect to lose. So a win this week makes a 10-win season a possibilty (with the bowl game). As for Pittsburgh, a win here and the Panthers will likely be 7-0 heading into a home showdown (that's right showdown) with Rutgers. Pittsburgh has handled Virginia and Cincinnati with relative ease so far this season. While no one is confusing those teams with the 95 Cornhuskers, they are a step up from Michigan State's first two opponents (Idaho and Eastern Michigan). The Panthers are more battle tested, have the better defense, and are playing at home. Oh ya, and John L. Smith still coaches Sparty.
Winner: Pittsburgh

Iowa St. at Iowa
These two midwestern schools with high expectations for 2006 have gotten off to underwhelming starts. While both schools are 2-0, Iowa St. has slipped by Toledo (0-2) in triple OT thanks to a dropped pass on a 2-point conversion and UNLV (1-1) by a 16-10 score thanks to a very controversial call. Iowa on the other hand was up only 17-7 in the 3rd quarter against Montana and then without quarterback Drew Tate, needed a goal line stand to hold off Syracuse (possibly the worst BCS team). Iowa State has played very well in this game since 2000, winning 4 of 6 including inflicting the Hawkeyes only regular season loss in 2002. However, the Hawkeyes have too much talent to lose to their archrivals at home.
Winner: Iowa

Ole Miss at Kentucky
Fresh off a drubbing at the hands of Missouri, Ole Miss heads to the Blugrass State to try and pick up their first SEC win since beating Kentucky in October of last season and first SEC road win since beating South Carolina in 2004. With Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, and LSU still left on the slate, the Rebels desperately need a win to harbor any hopes of bowl eligibility. Kentucky has the same sentiments. Florida, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, and South Carolina remain on their schedule so a win here is a muct if Rich Brooks has any hopes of appeasing the faithful with a 6-6 season. Both teams were whalloped by the good teams they played (Louisville and Missouri). Kentucky soundly defeated their other opponent, Texas State, while Ole Miss edged Memphis by 3 points. In a close game, Ole Miss will get a crucial road victory for Ed Orgeron.
Winner: Ole Miss

Missouri at New Mexico
Under Gary Pinkel, Missouri has a nasty habit of dropping winnable non-conference games (Bowling Green in 2001 and 2002, Troy in 2004, and New Mexico last season). That track record should have most Tigers fans worried. However, this looks to be the best Missouri team since Corby Jones was under center in the late 90's. They plowed over non-Division I Murray State on Labor Day Weekend and then stomped Ole Miss last week. Quarterback Chase Daniel is running the no-huddle attack to perfection. Couple that with a suspect New Mexico team that lost to non-Division I Portland State in their first game and narrowly edged New Mexico State (winless last season) in their second and you have all the makings of a home invasion. New Mexico may keep it close until halftime, but the Missouri offense will prove to be too prolific.
Winner: Missouri

Clemson at Florida State
Both teams should be undefeated heading into Bowden Bowl VIII. Unfortunatley for Clemson, some special teams gaffes cost them against a Boston College team that they outgained by 150 yards. Does that sound familiar? It should. A poor snap on a punt helped Georgia Tech escape Death Valley in 2004 and a botched fake field goal attempt set the wheels in motion for an upset loss to Wake Forest last season. A loss here pretty much eliminates Clemson from ACC contention before September is out. Not something every media pundit envisioned during the ACC media days. Of course, a loss is certainly not a sure thing here. Florida State has real issues running the football. Excluding sacks (which the NCAA counts when computing rushing yards for some strange reason) the Seminoles have rushed 27 times for 85 yards (3.15 yards per rush). That's Arizona Cardinals territory. Of course the first game did come against Miami, who by all accounts has a pretty stout defense, but the second game against the Men of Troy...Alabama. While it remains to be seen how good Troy is, the fact remains they are still a Sun Belt school and have no business being close against a top-20 team on the road. Still, the homefield, Clemson's injury woes on defense, and some inevitable special teams blunders by the Tigers will shift the the game in Florida State's favor.
Winner: Florida State

Texas Tech at TCU
15 years ago this would have been a conference game between two comparable southwest schools. Now its an opportunity for TCU to thumb its nose at not only the Red Raiders, but also the Big XII who left them out when Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor joined in 1996. A win for the Horned Frogs will make a BCS bid a possibilty, but they still must navigate the tough Mountain West conference (with games against BYU and Utah) with with no more than one loss. Texas Tech is trying to build on their Cotton Bowl appearance and make a push toward the top of the Big XII South with the departure of Vince Young at Texas and the seeming vulnerability of Oklahoma. The Red Raiders were nearly upset in a road contest at a mid-major Texas school last week (UTEP). This week they won't be so lucky and Mike Leach will be wishing he had kept last year's non-conference schedule (Indiana State, Sam Houston State, and Florida International).
Winner: TCU

Fresno State at Washington
Fresno State is 0-1 in Pac-10 play after losing a great game to Oregon on Saturday night. The Huskies hung with Oklahoma in Norman last week before succumbing 37-20, showing some steady progress in Ty Willingham's second year. Road games are always a challenge and this game will be no different for Fresno. In what should be a high-scoring affair, Fresno will survive and claim their first victory over a BCS school since their 2004 MPC Computers Bowl win over Virginia.
Winner: Fresno State

Oklahoma at Oregon
6 degrees of O for 2006:
1. Oklahoma beat Washington 37-20
2. Washington beat San Jose State 35-29
3. San Jose State beat Stanford 35-34
4. Oregon beat Stanford 48-10

Of well, its only 4 degrees. So what does this exercise tell us? It lets us know Stanford is probably in for a long season, but doesn't tell us much about these two teams. In 2004, Oregon lost at Oklahoma 31-7. In 2005, Oregon lost to Oklahoma on a neutral field 17-14. In the cozy confines of Autzen Stadium, Oregon will take care of the Sooners in a tight affair.
Winner: Oregon

Miami at Louisville
The Cardinals always seem to deliver at Papa John's Stadium. However, Miami is certainly not Kentucky, Florida Atlantic, or some run of the mill Big East team. The U will definitely be bringing the defense, but can they slow down the prolific Cardinals attack? Slow down is the key word. They will be able to limit the Cardinals offense (they won't hanf 50 on The U) and Louisville has been less than impressive on defense. They did shut out hapless Temple (who only scored 3 on Buffalo), but also allowed 28 points to Kentucky. Miami will cool Larry Coker's hot seat and get back on track with a win here.
Winner: Miami

Michigan at Notre Dame
After struggling against a very good Georgia Tech defense, Notre Dame obliterated Penn State last weekend. Michigan has prepared for this game by hosting and disposing of Vanderbilt and Central Michigan. The games were not close, but I got the feeling the Wolverines were only going through the motions in preparation for this big road opener. Michigan has lost 2 in a row and 3 of 4 to the Irish. Michigan's losses have been by 2, 7, and 8 points, while their one victory was by 38. Of course, Notre Dame has not exactly been a dominant team (with the exception of last season) in those games Michigan lost. The 2002 Notre Dame team that beat them was 10-3, but like Agatha Christie, they did it with mirrors. The 2004 Notre Dame team that beat them was only 6-6. In fact, since 2000 in road games against teams with winning records, mighty Michigan is only 9-10. Make it 9-11 after this weekend.
Winner: Notre Dame

Nebraska at Southern Cal
Is Nebraska back? Since being embarrassed 40-15 by Kansas to drop their record to 5-4 in November of last season, the Huskers have won 5 in a row. The average margin of victory in those 5 games is over 24 points. So they're back right? Not so fast my friend. The best team they have beaten in that span was the worst Michigan team since 1984 by 4 points. They also won by 2 points over a 5-6 Kansas State team. Their point differential is boosted by a 27 point beatdown over a 7-6 Colorado program that has lost 6 games in a row, a 39 point home win over Louisiana Tech (who may end up being a solid WAC team), and a 49 point home win over non-Division IA Nicholls State. So let's hold off on the proclamations. Southern Cal is definitely a step up in competition and the games in the Coliseum where Southern Cal has not lost since...2 games ago. But seriously, the Trojans have not lost a home game since 2001. The Huskers will realize they have a long way to go after this game
Winner: Southern Cal

Florida at Tennessee
Which Volunteers team will show up Saturday night? The one that stomped Cal or the one that squeaked by Air Force. Methinks it will be somewhere in between. The Tennessee offense is certainly much better than last season, but Florida has a top-flight defense, and Meyer's offenses always do better in his second season. Rocky Top will be rocking on Saturday night, but Florida is simply too talented to lose to Tennessee.
Winner: Florida

LSU at Auburn
This one should be a jam-up SEC battle and the only sure thing is that the Tigers will win. Last year, Auburn's kicking struggles contributed to an overtime loss. Two years ago, LSU's kicking struggles contributed to a 10-9 loss. Games involving evenly matched teams are often decided by special teams. If that's the case Auburn may have the advantage. Auburn's kicker John Vaughn is 6 for 7 on field goal attempts this season including knocking down 2 over 50 yards (long 55). LSU's two kickers have gone 2-2 with a long of 33. If Auburn needs a long field goal to win, they know Vaughn has the ability.LSU should take Gordona Lightfoot's advice:

Sundown, you better take care
When I find you been creeping 'round Jordan-Hare
Winner: Auburn

Monday, September 11, 2006

Blog Poll Week III

1 Southern Cal-- DNP (LW 1)
2 Ohio State-- I guess I'm a believer (LW 4)
3 Auburn-- Drop only because of the Buckeyes' rise (LW 2)
4 Notre Dame-- laid a whooping on Penn State (LW 6)
5 Georgia-- roughed up the Cock N' Fire (LW 10)
6 LSU-- game with Auburn should be a doozy (LW 14)
7 Louisville-- why does Temple even field a team? (LW 9)
8 Florida-- tune ups over (LW 11)
9 Virginia Tech-- offense not particulary impressive against North Carolina (LW 8)
10 Texas-- best of the one loss bunch (LW 5)
11 Florida State-- what happened? (LW 7)
12 Iowa-- did everything but lose against Syracuse (LW 3)
13 Michigan-- a win over the Irish would do wonders for Carr's detractors (LW 13)
14 Miami-- big non-conference game against Louisville (LW 12)
15 Nebraska-- have to be the favorites in the Big 12North (LW 23)
16 Pittsburgh-- won on the road for first time under Wanny (LW 15)
17 Tennessee-- almost blew all their good will against Air Force (LW 16)
18 Missouri-- Chase Daniel playing better than Brad Smith (LW NR)
19 West Virginia-- Maryland will be the biggest test for a while (LW 18)
20 Oklahoma-- Adrian Peterson is the reason God made Oklahoma (LW 19)
21 Cal-- got back on track against Minnesota (LW 22)
22 Texas A&M-- still practicing (LW 20)
23 Boise State-- waxed the Beavs after falling behind early (LW 24)
24 Texas Tech-- won possibly the weekend's best game against UTEP (LW NR)
25 Arkansas-- I still believe (LW 25)

Teams that dropped out:
17 Clemson-- unfortunate gaffes in the kicking game
21 Purdue-- something is terribly wrong with the defense

Teams creeping around:
Boston College-- probably not as good as Clemson, but they did win the game
Rutgers-- the pauper is now the prince? (or at least a land owner)
UCLA-- now the schedule toughens up
Arizona State-- looked much better in game 2
TCU-- chance to make a statement at home against Texas Tech

College Football Delayed Reaction

1. I'll be the first to admit that I was wrong about Missouri. Chase Daniel looked great running the no-huddle offense. Even though the Tigers lost all-everything quarterback Brad Smith, they may be in for their best season in a long time.

2. Some former high-major coaches at mid-major places are making big differences in their second seasons. At Ohio, Frank Solich has the Bobcats 2-0 including an upset over Northern Illinois this past weekend. The Bobcats travel to Rutgers and Missouri the next two weekends, so are probably in for a losing streak, but they have a real shot at becoming bowl eligible and making some noise in the MAC. In his second season at San Jose State, Dick Tomey has the Spartans sitting at 1-1 in the Pac 10 after a one point win over Stanford and a 6 point loss at Washington. With 6 more home games left on the slate, the Spartans also have a chance to finish bowl eligible.

3. The kicking game is still important. A blocked extra point likely cost Clemson a win at Boston College. A blocked 28-yard field goal allowed my alma mater to escape over lowly Duke. And finally, a missed extra point allowed Virginia to escape at home against Wyoming.

4. Were the close contests by Florida State and Tennessee, against Troy and Air Force repectively, signs that those teams are a little overrated or indicative of two powerhouses looking ahead to much bigger games (Clemson and Florida) next week?

5. Is Drew Tate that important to Iowa? Suddenly the Buckeyes road game in Iowa is not looking all that difficult.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lines of the Night 9/9


Chase Holbrook, New Mexico State
Passing: 37-56 passing, 472 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing: 9 attempts, -22 yards, 0 touchdowns

Smithers, you never told me there was a New Mexico. The transfer from Southeastern Louisiana (where he played under Mumme), did his best Tim Couch impression in a shootout loss to the rival Lobos.

Running Back

Yonus Davis, San Jose State
Rushing: 23 attempts, 185 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 1 catch, 2 yards, 0 touchdowns

The onus was on Yonus as he helped lead the Spartans to an upset victory over Stanford. Does Dick Tomey have a WAC team on the rise in San Jose?

Receiver/Tight End

Joel Filani, Texas Tech
Rushing: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 10 catches, 169 yards, 1 touchdown

After a 1000 yard season in 2005, the senior receiver is well on his way to topping those numbers thus far in 2006.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Texas Two Step

A big weekend for the college game highlighted by the first #1 versus #2 matchup since...
8 months ago. Statistical will try and perform much better in his prognostications than last weeks 7-7 debacle that has him clearly on the hot seat. Expect a Phil Fulmer-esque return to dominance this week.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Chad John...Oh wait. Instead of an AFC North rivalry game, we get this Friday night showdown between two teams looking to open with a strong showing in Big East play. Pitt comes off a 38-13 shellacking of Virginia while the Bearcats recorded a shutout over Labor Day weekend over the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky. Cincinnati faces a big step up in competition this week, while Pitt plays a team that is certainly less talented than the Wahoo team they smacked around last week. It's college football, so the homefield will keep this one close for a while, but Pitt will prevail.
Winner: Pittsburgh

Illinois at Rutgers
Last season the Ron Zook era began in dramatic fashion with a victory over the Scarlet Knights. Since that game, Illinois has won only twice (San Jose State and Eastern Illinois), while Rutgers has won twice as many as they've lost (8-4). Rutgers was impressive in winning at North Carolina last week. Running backs Ray Rice and Pierre Thomas will be the stars of this game. Expect Rice to expand on his 200+ rushing yards he had last week and run over the Illinois linebackers and secondary.
Winner: Rutgers

Ole Miss at Missouri
The Brent Schaeffer era got off to a nice start with a hard-fought 28-25 win over Memphis. Schaeffer's passing numbers were not good (7 of 16 for 97 yards), but he ran efficiently and Ed Orgeron called lots of handoffs to running back (Indiana transfer) BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Missoui's opener was much easier (47-7 beat down of Murray State--luv ya mean it). Schaeffer is far from being a complete quarterback and against the better BCS teams he will be contained. Against Missouri, he'll make enough plays to keep Ole Miss undefeated.
Winner: Ole Miss

Penn State at Notre Dame
This one won't live up to expectations. Quarterback Anthony Morelli completed only half his passes and running backs rushed for under 50 yards against defensive stalwart Akron. While Notre Dame is certainly not a great defensive team, their offense will do plenty against the Penn State defense. The Irish win a laugher.
Winner: Notre Dame

Washington at Oklahoma
Both the Huskies and the Sooners had tougher than expected openers. Washington survived a game (and up and coming?) San Jose State squad 35-29. The Sooners, partly thanks to Watson Brown's misunderstanding of the new clock rules, squeaked by UAB 24-17. Oklahoma is not the juggernaut they were prior to 2005 (at least not yet), but they will do enough to put away Washington at home.
Winner: Oklahoma

Clemson at Boston College
Los Tigres head into Chestnut Hill with a chance for a special season. Boston College is coming off a narrow win over the Chippewas of Central Michigan, where they nearly blew a 21-point 4th quarter lead. Quarterback Will Procter is still learning on the job, but Clemson's defense is for real and may be one of the best in the country. The Tigers take a defensive struggle.
Winner: Clemson

Tulsa at BYU
While most eyes are focuses on the battle down in Austin or South Bend, one of the best battles between two mid-majors occurs in Provo, Utah. BYU lost a game they very well could have won against Arizona (they outgained the Wildcats by almost 100 yards). Tulsa on the other hand had what amounts to a scrimmage against Stephen F. Austin. There's only so much one man can do. Expect BYU to be a tough luck 0-2 after this game.
Winner: Tulsa

Colorado State versus Colorado @ Denver
Colorado wants to get back on the football field as soon as possible after pissing the bed against Montana State in an Hawkins debut. The last 4 games in this series have been decided by 5 points or less with Colorado taking the least 3. Expect more of the same as Colorado's outstanding kicker, Mason Crosby, will be the difference.
Winner: Colorado

Arizona at LSU
Year 3 of the Mike Stoops era began with a whimper. Although the Wildcats did win at home against BYU, they did everything, but lose the game. While the Cougar and Bengal Tiger are both in the cat family, the Tiger is certainly a different beast. LSU will roll in this one.
Winner: LSU

Minnesota at California
Minnesota's fo-fo made sure al the Golden Flashes didn't grow in a 44-0 shutout last Thursday night. Continuing their recent tradition of power running, ex-linebacker Amir Daniels had 155 yards. Cal was humbled in their road trip to Knoxville, actually going down 35-0 at one point. Cal proved they are not top-10 material, but they will handle the Golden Gophers especially outside.
Winner: California

Georgia at South Carolina
The Cock N' Fire had some sludge in the chamber against Mississippi State. The Bulldog defense held the Gamecocks to one non-trick touchdown and if they could have mustered any offense at all, would have been on the verge of an upset. Georgia has some issues at quarterback, but should have the defense to win a squeaker in Columbia.
Winner: Georgia

Texas Tech at UTEP
Mike and Mike in the evening. Both Mike's have done a fine job at their respective schools. UTEP was a laughing stock when Mike Price got there, but he has turned them into a Conference USA power. Mike Leach has raised the Red Raiders to new heights in the Big 12 (actually finishing second in the South last season). Leach has more than enough talent to make up for the homefield edge.
Winner: Texas Tech

Oregon at Fresno State
Last season's contest was a 37-34 shootout won by Kellen Clemens and Oregon in Autzen Stadium. This year's game is in Fresno and there's no Kellen Clemens.
Winner: Fresno State

Ohio State at Texas
Saturday night's main course is battle of 1 versus 2. Texas has been hit by some suspensions this week and Troy Smith sure looked great against Northen Illinois. I like history to repeat itself with a the Longhorns pulling out a nailbiter.
Winner: Texas

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blog Poll Week II

My ballot for week 2.

1 Southern Cal-- hung half a hundred on the Hogs (LW 1)
2 Auburn-- Kenny Irons, channeling Bo Jackson? (LW 2)
3 Iowa-- tuning up for Ohio State (LW 3)
4 Ohio State-- Northern Illinois never in the game (LW 6)
5 Texas-- big game this weekend (understatement of the week) (LW 5)
6 Notre Dame-- not necessarily impressive, but got the win (LW 10)
7 Florida State-- defense was excellent against Miami (LW 14)
8 Virginia Tech-- Northeastern has a football team? (LW 8)
9 Louisville-- defense needs work (LW 7)
10 Georgia-- Williams Brice will be rocking (LW 9)
11 Florida-- second half much better than the first (LW 11)
12 Miami-- defense was excellent against Florida State (LW 4)
13 Michigan-- not too impressive in win over Vandy (LW 17)
14 LSU-- trounced te Rajin Cajuns (LW 18)
15 Pittsburgh-- easier than expected win over Virginia (LW 15)
16 Tennessee-- welcome back (LW NR)
17 Clemson-- could have a special season if they can win road games (like this week) (LW 18)
18 West Virginia-- won't play an interesting game for a while (LW 20)
19 Oklahoma-- did everything but lose to UAB (LW 16)
20 Texas A&M-- Citadel no match for Aggies (LW 22)
21 Purdue-- Sycamores hung in there for a while (LW 23)
22 Cal-- can they rebound? (LW 12)
23 Nebraska-- still not totally sold (LW NR)
24 Boise State-- have to beat the Beavers to be legit (LW 24)
25 Arkansas-- don't give up on them yet (LW13)

Teams that dropped out:
21 Utah-- never challenged UCLA
25 Colorado-- not the way Dan Hawkins envisioned his opener

Teams creeping around:
Penn State-- let's see how they do against Notre Dame (I wasn't that impressed in win over Akron)
Texas Tech-- rolled over SMU
UTEP-- big game at home against Texas Tech
UCLA-- good opening win against Utah

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blogpoll Roundtable #2: Surprise

1. What team best met your overall expectations of them in their opener?

The Pitt Panthers. I expected Pitt to be a surpise contender in the Big East this season. They responded with an easier than expected victory over Virginia in the season opener. Certainly, Virginia is not in the same class as West Virginia and Louisville, but a 25 point drubbing of a BCS foe is always a good way to start the season.

2. What team jumped off the map and surprised you the most? (Bonus points to anyone who can make an argument for someone besides Tennessee.)

Kansas State, in a bad way. Even while they were busy finishing 4-7 and 5-6 over the past two seasons, the Wildcats still devoured the cupcakes on the schedule (beating Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafeyette, Florida International, and North Texas by an average of 23.75 points). A one point win over Illinois State is probably not how Ron Prince envisioned his opening game as Kansas State coach.

3. What team best moved themselves into a position to surprisingly contend for a national title?

Gotta go with Tennessee. The Vols did all they could to erase any memories of last season's 5-6 record. Cal was never in the game and Erik Ainge looked like last year never happened.

College Football Delayed Reaction

Quick thoughts on the first weekend of action.

1. Several favorites had a rough go of it in their openers over lesser teams. Top 25 squads Oklahoma and Alabama slipped by UAB and Hawaii respectively in close home contests. Michigan State sneaked by a game Idaho team in East Lansing. Kansas State won by a single point over non-Division I Illinois State. Dan Hawkins was not as fortunate as Ron Prince in his first gae at Colorado. The Buffs lost to non-Division I Montana State. Boston College held off Central Michigan after nearly giving up a 21 point 4th quarter lead. Iowa State won over Toledo in triple OT.

2. Tennessee stomped Cal (Lee Corso's preseason national champion) in Knoxville. Can Cal rebound from a terrible beginning and give USC a run in the Pac 10 race? Is Tennessee back, or was Cal simply a paper tiger?

3. Is BYU the Mountain West's best team? Utah was soundly defeated by UCLA and TCU struggled in winning at Baylor. BYU fought tooth and nail with Arizona before losing on a last second field goal. Truth be told, we don't really know how good Arizona is, but they were a trendy Pac 10 sleeper.

4. The middle of the Big East should be strong. Rutgers won at North Carolina and Pittsburgh trounced Virginia at home.

5. Where's the defense at Louisville? The Cardinals dropped 59 on the Wildcats, but gave up 28 (21 without the kickoff return), including two touchdown passes of over 70 yards. Were those plays aberrations, or indicative of a problem in the Louisville secondary.

6. USC seems to have reloaded. After a slow start, the Trojans dropped 50 of the Hogs.

7. Is Duke the worst team in Division I? The mighty Richmond Spiders shut them out.

8. My alma mater can't catch a break (no pun intended). Quarterback Ben Mauk broke his arm against Syracuse. My prediction for the Duke game: single digits in pass attempts for Wake.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Remembering the Florida State Dynasty

While discussing college football recently with one of my friends, we got to reminiscing about Florida State football in our middle and high school years. As ACC fans, we remembered how dominant the 'Noles were when they joined the ACC. Always the curious sort, I decided to see just how dominant those teams were relative to other conference dynasties in college football history. I examined every 'big-time' college football conference since 1970 (an arbitrary cut off point) and looked for similar domination of conference opponents. The big time conferences I considered are the current 6 BCS conferences plus the old Big 8 and Southwest Conferences. The variables I examined were conference record, conference games decided by single digits, and conference wins by more than 30 points (another arbitrary figure). Here's Florida State's resume.

From 1993-2000, a span of 8 seasons, Florida State won our shared all 8 conference championships.
Conference Record: 62-2 .969
Games decided by <10 points: 6 (5-1 record) (9.4%)
Wins of more than 30 points: 36 (56.3%)

That's a pretty impressive run. Even more so than I remembered. About every year and a half, some ACC foe would play Florida State close. Amazingly, a majority of their conference games resulted in wins by more than 30 points.

In my sojourn through recent college football history I found 5 teams with comparable credentials to Florida State. Here they are in alphabetical order.

Years: 1971-1981
Accomplishments: In 11 seasons, won or shared 9 conference titles (exceptions were 1976 and 1980).
Conference Record: 71-4 .947
Games decided by <10 points: 12 (9-3 record) (16%)
Wins of more than 30 points: 19 (25.3%)

Care to hazard a guess who the Crimson Tide coach was during this time? The run is a little longer than Florida State's but is broken up by the missed titles in 1976 (when the Tide lost gasp...2 conference games) and 1980. Alabama didn't have as many 30 point wins as Florida State, but that probably has something to do with the era (more grind it out running and less passing in the 1970's).

Years: 1971-1978
Accomplishments: In 8 seasons, won or shared 7 conference titles (except 1975).
Conference Record: 57-6-1 .898
Games Decided by <10 points: 17 (11-5-1 record) (26.6%)
Wins of more than 30 points: 23 (35.9%)

Another dynasty, another legendary coach. The only downside to Michigan's run is that they only had one unblemished conference season (8-0 in 1971). They went 7-1 every other year with the exception of 1973 when they finished (7-0-1).

Years: 1991-1997
Accomplishments: In 7 seasons, won or shared 6 conference titles (and were upset in the Big XII Championship Game in 1996).
Conference Record: 49-1-1 .971 (excluding conference title games) 50-2-1 .953 (including conference title games)
Games decided by <10 points: 8 (7-1 record) (15.1%)
Wins of more than 30 points: 25 (47.2%)

If not for the Big XII Championship Game loss to Texas in 1996, this run would be even more impressive as it could have included 4 straight national titles.

Years: 1972-1980
Accomplishments: In 9 seasons, won or shared 8 conference titles (1972 was the lone exception).
Conference Record: 58-5 .921, if we include the 1978 Orange Bowl with conference foe Nebraska it jumps to 59-5 .922
Games decided by <10 points: 14 (11-3 record) (21.9%)
Wins of more than 30 points: 20 (31.3%)

The Sooners played their fair share of close games in the old Big 8 conference, but also won 2 national championships during the run.

Years: 1970-1977
Accomplishments: In 8 seasons, won or shared 6 conference titles (1974 and 1976 were the exceptions).
Conference Record: 50-8 .862
Games decided by <10 points: 9 (8-1 record) (15.5%)
Wins of more than 30 points: 14 (24.1%)

The 'Horns had a little hiccup in 1976 finishing 4-4, but if we extend the study a little farther back in time (Texas won the Southwest Conference in both 1968 and 1969) and exchange those years for the last two (1976 and 1977), Texas' numbers improve substantially.

Conference Record: 51-5 .911
Games decided by <10 points: 8 (7-1 record) (14.3%)
Wins of more than 30 points: 19 (33.9%)

It'd be a futile exercise to try and rank these conference dynasties because of the changes in the college game, but I would have to say Florida State's run is not as impressive as it seems. With the exception of Mack Brown's last two North Carolina teams, there were no other real elite teams in the ACC. How would you rank these dynasties?

Lines of the Night 9/2

Eric Ainge, Tennessee
Passing: 11-17 passing, 291 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception
Rushing: 1 attempt, 1 yard, 0 touchdowns

Welcome back to college football Mr. Ainge and Tennessee. After a season both Ainge and Tennessee would love to forget, things seem to be going a little better this year. Ainge nearly equaled last season's touchdown total (5) in his first game and averaged a whopping 17.1 yards per pass in the Vols ambushing of number 9 Cal.

Running Back
Raymell Rice, Rutgers
Rushing: 31 attempts, 201 yards, 3 touchdowns
Receiving: 2 catches, 13 yards, 0 touchdowns

Adrian Peterson and Garrett Wolfe may have had more impressive lines, but the relative unknown, Raymell Rice single-handedly helped the Knights begin their quest for consecutive bowl appearances by gouging the North Carolina defense.

Receiver/Tight End
Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Rushing: 0 attempts, 0 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 7 catches, 111 yards, 1 touchdowns

Perhaps the best receiver in college football was a big part of Georgia Tech's upset the first half. He was held to one catch for 16 yards in the last 30 minutes.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Opening Weekend

Previews and predictions for the remaining weekend and Monday games.

Record so far: 3-2

Rutgers at North Carolina
The Scarlet Knights seek to build on their first bowl season since 1978 while the Tar Heels hope to rebound from a 5-6 season. Although Rutgers participated in postseason play last year, while North Carolina stayed at home, the Heels may have been the better team. In 9 of their 11 games last season, North Carolina faced a team with a winning record. 5 of those teams had 9 wins or more (Miami, Louisville, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, and Boston College). They lost all but one of those games (Boston College). Rutgers on the other hand played only 4 teams with winning records (Arizona State, Louisville, Navy, and West Virginia). Navy was the only team of the four they defeated. These teams seem pretty evenly matched with the conference determination being the deciding factor in the divergent fortunes of these teams. The Heels will take this one thanks to the homefield advantage.
Winner: North Carolina

Stanford at Oregon
Oregon rebounded from a disappointing 5-6 2004 with a 10-win BCS bowl caliber season. Now Stanford looks to emulate the Ducks in Walt Harris' second season. If Stanford had not blown an early season home game against non-Division I UC Davis they would have gone bowling last year. Oregon must replace quarterback Kellen Clemens, but they should be used to that as he missed the last 5 games of the 2005 season. While Oregon was certainly not as dominant in the 5 games Clemens missed, they still finished 4-1. That experience should benefit both Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf in their quest to replace him.
Winner: Oregon

California at Tennessee
The Golden Bears have designs on a Pac 10 title, and while this game won't have any impact on that race, it will give us fans and observers a little insight into their quest to dethrone Southern Cal. While Tennessee is certainly not the class of the SEC, winning in Rocky Top is never an easy task. David Cutcliffe returns to coordinate the offense for the Vols who averaged under 20 points per game last season. Cutcliffe should have an impact in improving the offense, but simple regression (or progression) to the mean should also aid Tennessee in returning to the postseason. Tennessee is good enough to get back to bowl game, but not good enough to knock off a top-10 team even at home.
Winner: California

Utah at UCLA
If Utah wants back into the BCS they have to win this game over a middling Pac 10 program. UCLA did manage to knock off Oklahoma last season, but they were also one of the luckiest teams in the country with an amazing 4-0 record in close games. With the departure of the core of their offense (quarterback Drew Olson and running back Maurice Drew), expect Drew-CLA to struggle to qualify for a bowl game this season. The Utes may not make it back to the BCS (the Mountain West is tough), but they will knock off UCLA.
Winner: Utah

Virginia at Pittsburgh
Wasn't Al Groh, a former NFL coach, supposed to turn Virginia into an ACC power? Dave Wannstedt, another former NFL coach, should take note. Remember the South Park episode 'My Future Self and Me'? Mr. Groh could be Wannstedt's future self depending on the choices he makes. Both coaches suffered through disappointing 5 win seasons in their first year. Groh has rebounded since then posting four consecutive winning season, but never finishing with a better record than 9-5. If the same fate befalls Wannstedt, well the program will be in the same position it was under Walt Harris. Much like the Virginia program is in the same basic position it was in George Welsh's later years. Pittsburgh certainly benefits from an easier conference and has the schedule to conceivably win 10 games. They be 10% of the way there after this game.
Winner: Pittsburgh

Notre Dame at Georgia Tech
The Jackets have had a pretty good defense for the last 6 seasons. Unfortunately, they have been cursed with a subpar offense led by Reggie Ball for the past 3 seasons. The Notre Dame hype machine is in full effect and the Jackets would like nothing more than to derail it in game one. The Jackets defense will keep them in the game as long as Reggie Ball does not make too many mistakes. If he plays adequately, the Jackets will have a chance, and if he plays well they will win.
Winner: Georgia Tech

Southern Cal at Arkansas
After shooting 2 under par and dropping 70 on the Hogs last season, the Trojans seek to reload and win their 3rd (or 2nd) national title in 4 years. Arkansas has endured two consecutive losing seasons, and needs a strong showing to take the heat off head coach Houston Nutt. Thanks to some strong recruting classes, the pieces are in place for a special season in Fayetteville. If this game was later in the year, Arkansas would have a better shot, but in the opener, Southern Cal will begin their journey towards Tempe.
Winner: Southern Cal

BYU at Arizona
The Mountain West has another opportunity to take out a Pac 10 school this weekend. In his thrid year at the helm, Mike Stoops seeks to lead the Wildcats back to a bowl game for the first time since 1998. BYU should contend for the Mountain West title, and a win here would also improve their chances at snagging an at-large BCS berth. Sophomore quarterback Willie Tuitama will be the difference maker in a Wildcats win.
Winner: Arizona

Florida State at Miami
After last season's prime time affair that set offensive football back several decades, these two powers get together and try to score more than two combined offensive touchdowns. The games in Miami, so if history is any indicator it will come down to a missed field goal and more heartbreak for Bobby Bowden. Even with several players suspended for this one, Miami will play hard seeking to erase all memories of their disatrous bowl game drubbing at the hands of LSU. The U takes it in a squaker.
Winner: Miami

Friday, September 01, 2006

Lines of the Night 8/31

As promised, your lines of the night.

Nate Davis, Ball State
Passing: 7-8 passing, 108 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
Rushing: 1 attempt, 7 yards, 0 touchdowns

When you throw three times as many touchdowns as incompletions, you know you've had quite a night. Davis, a freshman, split time with incumbant Joey Lynch, and helped lead Ball State to a 38-20 victory over Eastern Michigan.

Running Back
Marcus Thomas, UTEP
Rushing: 17 attempts, 24 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 4 catches, 17 yards, 0 touchdowns

Definitely not the best rushing line of the night, but one of the more unique. Thomas had a 19 yard run for the Miners along with a 5 yard touchdown run. On his other 15 rushes, he gained as many yards as you and I. But the Miners won, so he shouldn't lose too much sleep.

Receiver/Tight End
Alex Watson, Northern Arizona
Rushing: 1 attempt, 8 yards, 0 touchdowns
Receiving: 11 catches, 206 yards, 2 touchdowns

Yo Holmes. Watson helped the Lumberjacks hang with the Sun Devils for 3 quarters before they finally wilting in the desert. Even if you subtract his 80 yard touchdown catch, he still has a nice line of 10-126-1.