Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Replying to the Roundtable

So, I'm not a Blogpoller -- but I'm striving to be one, and I'm starving for material in the parched Sahara of the offseason, so I thought I'd make myself at home and answer the questions posed by the sports guru of Duluth, Mr. Bruce Ciskie:

Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?

You know, I read my first CFB magazine EVER on Sunday. The fiancee was wandering around one of the stores we went to that night and I halfheartedly picked up the Sporting News preview. It turned out that they didn't have much to say that I didn't already know. I guess I shouldn't paint all of these publications with a broad brush, but I have to imagine that they're all pretty much the same. I'm not sold on Phil Steele, either, despite the praise some blogger bestow upon him; to me, an in-depth preview of Florida International doesn't say "thorough," it says "waste of time." Why even read it? If you didn't already know they were going to suck, Steele's mag would probably tell you -- and if you did, you weren't going to care anyway.

What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?

Hmm. Can I pick "Almost Everyone?" We've got a preseason Top Ten this year, but there are not ten teams that should be regarded as "top." This year, we don't have a USC or a Texas, and the games will actually matter. It should be fun to see the extent to which the rankings fluctuate.

I'll go with the West Virginia Mountaineers as my pick. They return supposed sophomore sensations Pat White at QB and Steve Slaton at RB -- but not so fast, my friend! Certainly their effort against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl was impressive, but that was an aberration; Slaton rushed for over 200 yards against the Dawgs but was held to 71 yards against UConn and 86 by South Florida. It's not a stretch to say that this guy's consistency has not yet been established. In the case of White, well, when he played he generally threw on the order of 10 passes per game, and he was generally picked off at least once. Sure, he can run, and that might be all West Virginia needs him to do; if they weren't in the Big East Conference and if Eastern Washington didn't represent one third of their out-of-conference schedule, I'd boldly posit that someone would eventually figure White out. Either way, lightning will not strike twice in Morgantown. Even with double-digit wins, this team won't crack the Top Ten if the pollsters are smart.

Plus, a team that feels it has to spy on Marshall can't possibly excel.

From a Big Ten perspective, I think Iowa and Penn State are getting too much credit. Drew Tate has never done anything to impress me, and no amount of massaging by Ivan Maisel is going to change that. As for the Nittany Lions, the loss of Michael Robinson will be crushing, and no number of "Super Sophs" is going to change that. Period.

Turn the tables. Who is underrated?

Good question. At the risk of looking stupid, I'm going to go to the Big Ten and pick on Michigan State. Yes, the Spartans generally drop a couple of games every season in an insanely horrifying fashion (the botched FG against Ohio State and the baffling 49-14 loss at home to Northwestern come to mind from 2005), but do you really fail to rank a team that has Drew Stanton at the helm? He's got people to throw to and if a running back emerges (Jehuu Caulcrick, anyone?) this team won't need a defense. MSU won't win the Big Ten, but they're definitely Top 5 material -- maybe even Top 3.

Which conference will be the best in 2006?

Who won't it be: the Big East, of course, the Big Ten, and the Big XII. Each of those conferences will have one zero- or one-loss team by virtue of the weakness of the rest of the conference, and then a whole bunch of nobodies.

That leaves the ACC, the SEC, and the PAC-10. I think Florida State and Miami are going to come through like they used to and propel their conference to the top. The Canes are going to have to get used to a new offensive scheme, which will likely cost them their season opener against the Noles, but once they're locked in, they've got talent at every position. And FSU will have nowhere to go but up after last year. Mix in a good year from Clemson, UNC, or Georgia Tech, and you have a conference to be reckoned with.

Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?

Where's TCU playing this year? OK, but seriously, who cares? Do you really expect the national champion to come from a non-BCS conference? Do you expect a win by a non-BCS conference team over a semi-competent major conference team to be characterized as anything other than an upset?

I love the mid-majors, don't get me wrong; they give a lot of people a lot of reasons to cheer, and every now and again they pop out a LaDainian Tomlinson, which is excellent. But I only have so many free hours a week, and damned if I'm going to spend them learning about Air Force's offensive line or SMU's new defensive scheme.

Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?

Notre Dame's not in a conference, right?

Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.

Then that makes this question irrelevant. If Notre Dame has 2 or fewer losses at the end of the season, Quinn will be given the award, whether he deserves it or not. This year is going to induce vomit if you hate the Fighting Irish -- mark it down.