Saturday, September 30, 2006

Indiana vs. Wisconsin

T-minus 5 minutes to kick-off

Today's things to look for:

You'd assume that we'd kicked some Hoosier butt over the year's, as you don't really think of
them as a football school. But we only lead the series 13-10. We demolished them last year at
Camp Randall, but allowed them to come back from almost 20 points down 2 years ago to lose
in Bloomington.

*How well the Badgers handle a team that's likely not to back down at any point.
On paper, this game doesn't look like much of a matchup, but with the return of their coach to
the sidelines, there's no way Indiana is going to lay down easily.

*Special teams
A bright spot the first few games, they stumbled and sputtered against Michigan. Special
Teams is a bright spot for Indiana, with one punt already returned. The Hoosier's boast the
nation's leader in kickoff returns, Marcus Thigpen, who's averaged 52.6 yards per return and
runs a 4.29 40.

*P.J Hill
Indiana has given up major yardage on the ground in their first four games and today
shouldn't be any different. Our offensive line far outweighs their defensive one and Hill's
proclivity to run over anything in his way should make for an explosive running performance.

*Passing game
The Hoosiers have allowed an average of 169 yards in the air thus far, but their opponents
haven't been of a Big Ten calibur. Look for Stocco to be able to air out the ball downfield.

*Indiana's secondary
Hoosiers cornerback Terry Porter already has 3 interceptions, though as mentioned above,
the competition hasn't been top tier. Their aggressive secondary should an interesting foil for
Stocco. We'll see who wins. If the running game is all over the place, there may be no need to
put anything in the air.

*First down yardage
Wisconsin has set a goal of at least 4 yards on first down

Friday, September 29, 2006

Badger Hockey!

I know BT says he's not a hockey fan, so this weekend I'll be taking advantage of my guest blogging abilities to temporarily hijack this site and educate you all a bit in the glory of Wisconsin Badger Hockey. (For those who don't know, last season our Men's and Women's teams both won the National Championships - the first time one school has held both titles at the same time)

In the meantime, you can go to my blog for a bit on the latest hockey news and make sure to watch tonight's news (if they bother to show it) or tomorrow's box scores because the Women's Hockey Team opens their National Title defense tonight and tomorrow against Quinnipiac.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Because other things happen besides football games...

There's a rather significant backstory to this weekend's game that's received little coverage as far as I can tell.

Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner has undergone two brain surgeries in the past year, one just two weeks ago, and he will be roaming the sidelines at Saturday's game.

The most recent surgery was to remove what turned out to be just scar tissue, but what could hve been a recurrent growth of the brain tumor he had removed last December.

Hoeppner is apparently taking it all in stride as he attended a game, sitting in a suite, just 3 days after the surgery.


Emotion is a huge motivator. Normally I'd say Indiana is a team we could handle without a second thought, but (and rightfully so) this team must be flying absolutely high to have their coach back.

Just some quick links to get us started...

*An interesting piece in today's Journal-Sentinel about Wisconsin's offensive line coach Bob Palcic, and his son Joe, who is a co-defensive coordinator with Indiana.

*A Journal Sentinel story about the disparity on the football team between the defense and the offense, and how they're dealing with it as players.

*Offsenive coordinator Paul Chryst tells the Wisconsin State Journal that he's not allowing his offense to use youth as an excuse anymore

*Punted Ken DeBauche was named Big Ten co-Special Teams player of the week after a record setting performance against Michigan.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hoep springs eternal

First, my Indiana preview: Wisconsin's going to win. Indiana will be all fired up because Terry Hoeppner will be back on the sidelines, and it's fantastic that he's recovered from a successful brain surgery, but the talent's ridiculously skewed in Wisconsin's favor in every facet of the game. Add to that a quarterback controversy(last item) and I'm thinking Wisconsin 24, Indiana 10.

Good fan stuff in the campus papers about roadtripping to Ann Arbor; the Daily Cardinal runs a feature, as does the Mendota Beacon:

Despite our location in the middle of enemy territory, the majority of the Michigan fans we encountered were very welcoming. As expected however, there was some heckling. The most notable comment came from a man telling us that W stood for weak.

I'm not a big hockey guy but isn't it odd that the Badgers are ranked number one in the preseason? Didn't they lose their top nine scorers? Must be a down year for a lot of teams.

OK, I'm out of here! Don't email me unless you can wait two weeks for a response. Enjoy Nicole's contributions, and GO BADGERS!

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Tying up the loose ends from the Michigan game

First, if you're interested in downloading video of the entire UW-UM game (for some reason), one can be found here.

Guest blogger Nicole made a gut-wrenching post back in better times. Yes, the Badger defense played very well. But that post will remain long after 10-10. And fear not: the Badgers, from what I've seen, are getting respect ... from the Blogpoll voters, anyway.

UW-UM photos can be seen here. Perusing the photo archive this blogger has put together is worthwhile. The coolest shot? Giant Tigers at Comerica Park.

Mgoblog and Wisconsin Sports Rant have their say about the game.

In recruiting news, four-star safety prospect CJ Peake has made an official visit to Madison, calling UW a top-three school for him. The other two contenders are Michigan State and West Virginia. This will most assuredly be a two-horse race after Peake takes his official visit to East Lansing, as the Spartans are playing Ohio State that day.

Speaking of Ohio State, a stunningly stupid post emerges over at Buckeye Commentary. The gist: OSU's opponents, through four games, are the least penalized of any set of opponents in the Big Ten. OSU opponents also were the least flagged last year. The only reasonable conclusion? The conference hates and is out to get Ohio State. This makes complete sense, as the Buckeyes are the number one team in the nation right now, and the Big Ten is practically obligated to remove them from contention. After all, why would the conference want to produce a national championship? It makes no sense.

Lost, as always, in the Buckeye realm is a little bit of logic. So, here are a few reasons why the Buckeyes' opponents might be the least penalized of those in the Big Ten:

1. Ohio State has played, in four games, Texas and Penn State. These are higher-quality teams and, as such, don't do the stupid things that cause penalty flags to fly.
2. Ohio State is a damn good football team. Teams know that they can't afford to spot the Buckeyes unearned yards, so they play their game more cleanly.
3. The referrees are good and just and huddle up before the game, declaring that they will let borderline calls go for every team that doesn't pay its players and/or double as a work-release program.

And now, some final thoughts about the Michigan game:

* Hart is in the groove: Watching the game, I wasn't too impressed by Hart. This is a common trap that should be avoided, and the stat line backs it up: Hart rushed 23 times for 91 yards, an average of slightly under 4 yards per carry. What that doesn't tell you is that when Hart ran with the ball, he gained fewer than 3 yards only 6 times. Comparing PJ Hill's day isn't fair to begin with (20 carries, 54 yards), but it becomes worse when you consider that Hill had one carry that gained 16 yards, meaning his other 19 went for 38 yards: 2 ypc. Hart didn't have a run that went for 16 yards all day. He's not breaking big runs. He's just gaining tough yards, and he did that against a pretty respectable run defense. That's how Michigan keeps winning: when your feature back is moving toward the correct end zone 90% of the time and going at least three yards in said direction over 75% of the time, you're going to get where you need to go.

* How do you solve a problem like Mario? Manningham was the ostensible difference in this game. The kid was a highlight reel even in UM's disappointing 2005 season. He's just a nightmare for opposing teams this year. After hauling in two touchdown passes on Saturday, he's now tied for the nationwide lead in TD receptions. Given that UM isn't a one-dimensional fun-'n'-gun team, that's a statement. It sucks to lose, but it's easier to take when the guy who beats you is #1.

* Chryst have mercy: Let's talk for a second about the playcalling for the Badgers' offense on Saturday. Simply put, it was more boring than the Scarlet Letter (take that, Nathaniel Hawthorne!). That red "W" on the Badgers' helmets might well have stood for "watered-down" on Saturday. I'm not the type of guy who thinks that running the ball is boring. I'm just saying that the conventional offense simply wasn't working on Saturday. Change things up a bit! We've got track star/wide receiever Paul Hubbard on the team. Why not see what he can do on an end-around if you don't trust him to make catches in the open field? I'm not calling for halfback passes or flea flickers or anything of that nature. Just something that might -- might -- catch a defense off guard.

* Discipline: I respect Coach Bielema for wanting to take care of football-related discipline in-house, but one thing is true: you only get one chance to make a first impression. The impression that most people have, and this includes fans of the program and casual observers nationwide, is that we're on track for "just win, baby." We don't want that. We want a team that wins and does so in a graceful, gracious manner.

* And about that last minute: I like Bielema for calling the timeout down 14 and with a minute left on the clock, and I like Lloyd Carr for calling for Henne to air it out. Play sixty minutes. Why the hell not? In taking the timeout, Bielema effectively said, "This game isn't over." And Carr responded, "Huh, I guess it isn't. Better try to score again, then." Of course, the Badger defense had ten guys in the box, and Chad Henne still managed to throw an interception. Go figure.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Making sure this guest posting business will work...

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I'm in the final stages of preparation for a little well-deserved vacation. It only makes sense that as soon as the site started getting a few readers, I'd abandon it for two weeks.

However, Nicole from the estimable blog Cute Sports has graciously agreed to keep the site afloat while I'm gone. I'll still post, but it's going to be limited.

Since I won't be able to watch any college football live, I won't be qualified to vote in the BlogPoll. So, after tomorrow's submission, Nicole will be submitting ballots on October 4 and 11. It will be glorious.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Bielema's first loss - Michigan 27, Wisconsin 13

Well, let's sum up: nobody expected the Badgers to win, and they didn't. True story.

Here are my observations from the game:

* Apparently Ron Lee's opinion is that the Badgers' defensive backs have not yet developed. No explicit order of "don't throw at Ikegwuonu" was given, and Henne was able to pick the best matchup all afternoon. Ikegwuonu, Rogers, Langford ... all of them were picked on during the first corner alone.

* The checkdown pass to Hill that went for a touchdown was just brilliant. All the linebackers flow to Travis Beckum on that play, leaving absolutely nobody there to cover Hill when he sneaks out into the flat. That play was mostly Stocco's smarts, but also made possible by Michigan's otherwise stifling defense chasing down the wrong man.

* Speaking of Stocco, I was impressed with him all day long. He made smart throws and only really got into trouble when his line let him down. Hats off to John for coming off a lackluster performance and growing stronger.

* The one play that was pretty dumb by Stocco was the intentional grounding in the first quarter. On that play, though, for some reason Joe Thomas decided he needed to help Andy Kemp double-team Rondell Biggs, leaving Prescott Burgess literally untouched and sprinting directly at Stocco's head. Not the best play of the day.

* Speaking of Kemp, I'm declaring him and his compatriot Eric Vandenheuvel the liabilities of the offensive line. Every big play that Michigan had in the UW backfield is accompanied by one of those two, arms flailing, chasing a guy in a blue jersey. In my notes, Kemp appears alongside the intentional grounding play, a TFL by Branch on Hill, and a fourth-quarter sack of Stocco by Branch. Vandenheuvel's sins include allowing Woodley to fly by him and smoke Stocco and being almost wholly responsible for the near-interception that Stocco threw at Burgess when he was hurried. These guys appear to block well for about a second or two and then immediately get run around, knocked down, to run through.

* For all the flak that Breaston has taken for not being a big enough star, he's still a damn good player. I'm not speaking here of the punt returns. What stands out for me is the first quarter play when UM runs a reverse, UW reads it perfectly, and Breaston STILL ends up gaining four yards. That's something special.

* It was good to see UW stuff the Wolverines on 4th and 1 at the 19. What, did they expect to score 47 again this week? Why wouldn't you kick the field goal at that point?

* The officiating did not change the outcome of the game, but it was horrendous. The refs picked up three flags: one when they thought there might have been twelve men on the field (there weren't), one on a punt return by Breaston (where Crable committed an obvious block in the back), and one after the failed onside kick attempt (seriously, refs: learn the rules). The one I really don't understand is the second one. How do you see a block in the back, throw a flag, and then convince yourself that you might not have seen that and pick it up? Trust your judgment!

* Does Chad Henne stop thinking on third down? UM's conversion rate was horrendous, and a lot of it had to do with Chad either holding on to balls way too long and getting taken down, or throwing them far away even when his receivers had all day to get open.

* Bret Bielema should hire someone as a special teams coach. Seriously, you're going to rush ten guys and not have anyone back there to receive the punt? Who does that?

* Zach Hampton dropped that punt because he had to. He was in the jurisdiction of Zoltan, the Space Emperor, who issued an intergalactic edict that Hampton needed to obey. Otherwise he would've been ejected from some sort of orbiting capsule to die in the silent vacuum of space.

* A memo, too, to Zach Hampton: don't retaliate. Just don't. Yeah, he was being very obviously held and didn't get a call during a third-quarter punt play, but Steve Breaston just called for a fair catch. Don't retaliate and give the Wolverines 15 yards when you hold Breaston without a return!

* Two questions: why can Breaston only catch the ball when it comes off an opposing player's foot? And why does Chris Spielman think that Michigan's quarterback is named "Chad Henry?"

* I hate, hate, hate invoking "Jekyll and Hyde" imagery, so let's go with ninjas instead. In that way, Allen Langford is the ultimate paradox. On the one hand, he's always intercepting passes thrown by Chad Henne, but on the other hand, he's always getting burned by Mario Manningham on long touchdown passes. Allen Langford is a mammal.

* What the heck was up with the clock management in the third quarter? Why do you ever need to take a timeout on 4th and 11 at your own 12 yard line? Isn't that the ultimate punting situation?

* Michigan's #2 defense is their #2 defense for a very good reason.

* And finally, James Kamoku needs to be suspended. What he did to Steve Breaston -- tweaking his leg to try to injure his knee after the play was over -- was ugly, and stupid, and caught on national TV. Intent to injure is just as bad as actually creating the injury, and Wisconsin has plenty of firsthand experience with being on the receiving end of that garbage.

But, and here's the kicker: we don't know what's going to happen with Kamoku. Here's what Bret Bielema said today:

"I don't think there was any particular thing directed at Breaston," Bielema said Tuesday during the Big Ten Conference coaches' teleconference. "He had had a very successful day and our coverage unit had had some struggles. Everything boiled up at that minute.

"I've seen what everybody has seen on film. I addressed it with James and I'm going to handle those things internally."

When asked if Kamoku would play Saturday at Indiana, Bielema reiterated: "I'm handling those things internally."

Wrong, coach. You're the new guy on the block so you make an example out of someone who makes an obviously dirty play. End of story. Kamoku needs to be out against Indiana. Even if he is, though, the opportunity to show the conference the type of disciplinarian you are has gone out the window.

I didn't like the reinstatement of Cooper right before the season started. I didn't like the fact that I saw Hodge in the game on Saturday. I don't like the fact anything less than singling out and making an example of Kamoku was the course of action taken in this instance. But what I really, really don't like is the pattern that's emerging. That pattern, so far, indicates that Bret Bielema wants to win football games -- and he's not particularly interested in how that happens or the character of his athletes. Any positive vibe I had from the dismissal of Booker Stanley has dissipated.

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BlogPoll Week 5 draft

Please let me know what I need to adjust. I'm certain I erred a LOT.

1 Ohio State --
2 Southern Cal --
3 Auburn 4
4 Michigan 2
5 Florida 3
6 West Virginia 3
7 Louisville 2
8 Virginia Tech 2
9 Louisiana State --
10 Georgia 6
11 Iowa 2
12 Texas --
13 Cal 2
14 Tennessee 12
15 Clemson 3
16 Oregon 6
17 Oklahoma 3
18 Notre Dame 7
19 Rutgers 4
20 Georgia Tech 1
21 Wisconsin 7
22 Arizona State 6
23 Boston College 6
24 Nebraska 2
25 South Carolina 1

Dropped Out: Michigan State (#19), Miami (Florida) (#24), Navy (#25).

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

If Ann Arbor is a whore, why am I not satisfied?

Just something to ponder. Thoughts tomorrow.

Till then, 3-1 is not a bad place to be. And nothing works like a game against the Hoosiers to exorcise the demons.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Wisconsin at Michigan

My original prediction was 30-20 Michigan, and I stand by that. A rushing touchdown by PJ Hill, two Mehlhaff field goals, and a defensive touchdown will keep the Badgers in the game, but in the end the vastly superior talent of the Wolverines will take over and seal the victory.

Brian of Mgoblog expects less out of the Badgers, predicting a 24-6 Michigan win. Benny Friedman at the Michigan Zone predicts that Michigan will cover, winning 31-16. From what I can tell, this prediction is based on the fact that:

1. Wisconsin's campus has two lakes.
2. Notre Dame's campus has two lakes.
3. Michigan beat Notre Dame.
4. Therefore, Michigan will beat Wisconsin.

Jeff Potrykus says no sooth but manages to sum up the situation pretty well nonetheless.

The Capital Times has a Q and A with Mike Newkirk, who will see more playing time due to the injury of Justin Ostrowski. A short and worthwhile read.

The Black Coaches Association gave Wisconsin an F on the process used to hire Bret Bielema. The BCA needs to learn that not all hires are the same, and that if Barry Alvarez, as head coach and athletic director, sees something and knows something to the point where he is able to tap Bielema as his successor, that bringing in a black candidate just for the sake of appearances is insulting to that candidate and a waste of everyone's time. I give the BCA an F for attempting to smear a good institution and a good man in Barry Alvarez.

Finally, generally-reliable Scout poster butchbadger speculates that Elijah Hodge will play tomorrow. I know, speculation is frowned upon, but this guy is only rarely wrong. If this happens, I hope it's because it's a victory for due process and not a lack of control by Bielema.


UM 30, UW 20 ... but UW 17, UM 15.

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The moped strikes again

Since I arrived on the Wisconsin campus nearly half a decade ago, something has bothered me. That thing is the moped.

Badger Herald photo

Mopeds are dumb. They look dumb, they sound dumb, and the person who drives the thing, without fail, does something dumb. They weave in and out of traffic at will, they use the bike lane when they're not supposed to, and I've even seen them doing more than 20 MPH on SIDEWALKS. These things are bad news. And they seem to only really be driven by two groups of people:

(1) Athletes
(2) Girls who could use the exercise walking would provide, if you know what I'm saying

Possibly worst of all, this madness has spawned one of the most obnoxious quotes ever to hit newsprint:

Starting Friday, the University of Wisconsin-Madison began charging $55 for an annual permit to park a moped on campus.

"I don't have $55 to just throw around," said Henderson, a senior, who rides a black Kymco. "I kind of feel it's a way (for the university) to make a few bucks."

No, Teri, you don't have $55 to just throw around. Apparently you have way, way, way, more than $55 to throw around. I can tell because you own a freaking moped.

The moped has already done its damage to the Wisconsin football team. A drunken moped ride critically injured DE Joe Monty, who is fortunately back and healthy.

But today the moped claimed another victim. Actually, bad decision-making claimed the guy, who really isn't much of a victim at all. But the offense did involve a moped. LB Elijah Hodge was suspended today after his arrest on Tuesday. His crime? Hopping on a moped that had been parked outside of the athletic training facilities. That moped, unfortunately, had been reported stolen.

Now, I hope that this all winds up being some sort of misunderstanding, but I'm not counting on it. When a person makes a beeline for a stolen vehicle that was parked outside the place he was just visiting, it doesn't take much dot-connecting to see what's going on.

I'm sure Elijah Hodge is a great kid and I'm sure he just slipped momentarily. Until we know for sure, we can count on the Facebook to provide us with a dozen potential views of what his mugshot might have looked like:

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

What they're saying about Wisconsin @ Michigan

First, a couple guys (at least one of whom is really good-looking) answered some vicious electronic questions from Brian at Mgoblog. Read and learn, and then don't come back Friday morning because you've read everything I've had to say!

Before we orbit the blogosphere in search of content other people have created, it bears repeating that DT Justin Ostrowski is out indefinitely, with indefinitely here meaning "until his knee can regenerate its connective tissue, which is totally and completely missing at the moment." Also, LB Elijah Hodge has been suspended for allegedly being involved in an incident with a stolen moped. If you're going to make an absurd mistabe like this, it might as well be the week of the Michigan game, right?

Bruce Ciskie also has a must-read breakdown of how he sees the Badgers stopping the Wolverines on Saturday (brief summary: he doesn't). He seems to come to the same conclusion that I do -- either you stop Michigan's running game, or you stop their passing game, but unless your defensive players ride around Columbus in "borrowed" Escalades, you probably don't have the talent to stop both.

From the bloggers who cheer for the larger species of American weasel, Blah Blah Blah has a preview rarin' to go. "Unstoppable force, meat immovable object," says he of the PJ Hill/Michigan defense matchup. Says I, "keep your pants up, PJ, and endeavor simply to meet the said immovable object." (How many readers will stick around when I make it known that jumping on typos and sloppy usage represents the entire breadth of my ability to generate humor?)

A great preview of the game and the whole University of Wisconsin experience comes from Maize N Brew ... well, if it's last July it's great. Just kidding. He admits he recycled it and aside from informing us that Chris Pressley and Marcus Randle El will be difference makers this season, it's an informative read. He's complimentary:

The Badger fans are to be feared too. But in a good way. Always informed and always friendly. But they're friggin' crazy. I have seen it. I have proof. Plus, once their fight song "On Wisconsin" gets in your head you're gonna need a drill, a hammer, and a shop vac to get it out.

Pot meet kettle on the fight song. I think both fanbases find the other's fight song hard to hate. Along with Notre Dame's jolly tune, these three are the grandaddies of college marches.

BaggyPantsDevil chimes in about UW at the M Zone and is, again, complimentary. Gosh, the fans are all so nice. Remind me again why we hate Michigan so much? Oh yeah, that whole 11-47-1 situation.

Michigan Football Saturdays reminds us that this Saturday is a Maize Out, where all Michigan fans are supposed to dress up like Iowa fans or something (HAHA CORN JOKE!!!! CHOKE ON THAT, HAWKEYES!!)

Back on the Badgers' side of things, the Wisconsin State Journal declares that Woodley vs. Thomas should be special. For that to be special, Thomas is going to have to win the battle 85% of the time or more. Woodley is a known quarterback killer and needs to be kept out of Wisconsin's backfield at all costs.

Cheesehead Sports puts it bluntly:

No, UW can't win at Michy. I hope people have realistic expectations for this bunch. Calhoun, Williams, Orr, and Daniels are all gone from the offense. There are no playmakers left on offense. Luckily the Big 10 is top heavy and UW faces all of the lightweights, so they should be able to compete.

Wisconsin Sports Rant goes one better predicting doom not only for the Badgers but for the Packers, who will be 40 miles away a day later playing against the Lions:

Speaking of other “disasters waiting to happen”, it looks like we may be in for a pretty horrific weekend in the state of Michigan next week. The Badgers did nothing to assure anyone that they will be able to score in the Big House. Sure, the defense looked excellent, but they are really untested, as they have faced a pair of Division I patsies and a Division 1-AA team. Michigan just destroyed the 2nd ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Not exactly a cupcake, are they? I hope we are pleasantly surprised shocked to see at least one of the teams come away with a victory. More likely, though, is that we will all come away excited for college basketball.

CuteSports declares 2006 a rebuilding year and leaves it at that. She has video from last week's game, though, and lots and lots of pictures.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

BlogPoll Roundtable V2.4

All hail Maize n Brew for this glorious Thai coup of a Roundtable.

1. It's only the third week of the season and we've already seen some highly ranked favorites drop out of national championship contention. Preseason favorite Cal dropped to #21 after a loss and a pair of underwhelming victories. Who's your pick as the next NC contender to take a fall?

As much as I'd like to pick Buffalo over Auburn on Saturday, I think we're going to have to say au revoir to Florida on the 30th. Alabama is going to play the defense card and stop the Gators dead in their tracks.
Florida barely beat a not-so-great Tennessee team. They are ripe for the picking.

2. By that same token there are several schools hanging around without a loss that all of a sudden look like surprise contenders. There are also a few one loss teams with a legit shot at getting back into it. Looking at the rankings who's the team no one's talking about with the best shot at crashing the party?

Virginia Tech seems to be the only team in the ACC that hasn't yet been exposed. Sure, the only thing more full of cupcakes than their non-conference schedule is Phil Fulmer, but they may emerge unscathed from the ACC by default. And we were all bellyaching about the Big East in the preseason!

3. Every team has their quicksand away game. You know. That place you should win but somehow find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory or at least scare the @&>%^ out of you every year. Did you know that over the last 21 years Kentucky wasn't won once in Knoxville? Where is your team's yearly sandtrap?

We're about to step in it. Wisconsin hasn't won at Michigan Stadium since 1994. Prior to that ... would you believe 1962? That's right. Overall, Wisconsin is a less-than-ideal 6-25 when visiting Michigan. The full list of victory years? 1994, 1962, 1959, 1934, 1928, and 1893. Eesh. The last time the Badgers played in Ann Arbor was 2002, when a 5-0 start morphed into a 7-6 catastrophe before a memorable Alamo Bowl win over the Colorado Buffalos. The game at Michigan Stadium featured the Badgers spotting Michigan a 14-0 lead before five minutes had passed, and the #12 Wolverines Lloydballing their way to a 21-14 victory.

4. Now that you've looked into the darkest place in your football soul, free Escalades aside, turn and look into your crystal ball. Conference play is either just starting or a single game in. Based on what you've seen so far, give the order of finish in your conference, and if you've got a Conference Championship game tell us who the winner will be. Independents must predict the remainder of their schedule. The results your predictions will be held against you at the end of the season.

We're back to the Big Two/Little Nine again. Sigh.

Ohio State

Michigan State
Penn State

5. In keeping with the spirit of Maize n Brew, name your beverage of choice on game days and why. It need not be alcoholic, as there are some of us who choose not to imbibe on game day. Further, it need not be limited to a single brand/type/category. If you enjoy drinking PBR and Kraft Turkey Gravy at the same time (which I have personally witnessed), please, elaborate. Finally, if you should feel so inclined, and this is not a requirement, add an anecdote involving said beverage choice.

If you like beer and come to Madison, your visit is not complete without trying Spotted Cow from the New Glarus Brewing Company. This cloudy ale is a delight for the tastebuds. It does not, however, breed humorous anecdotes, as this is a libation you'll prefer to savor. If you want to get intoxicated, do shots of Aftershock. If you want to enjoy a tasty beverage, Spotted Cow is the way.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Blogpoll ballot DRAFT - Week 4

1. Ohio State
No reason to change, so no change
2. Southern Cal
Guess I overrated Nebraska a bit there. Remind me again why I bought into the Huskers' schtick
3. West Virginia
This ranking is half because I buy them as legitimate and half because I hope that the high ranking will curse them. Because I have that kind of power
4. Georgia
I suppose shutting out UAB is impressive
5. Louisville
The remark here is about the same as the one for WV
6. Michigan
Admit it, it felt good to see them win on Saturday
7. Auburn
I get it. Your defense is good. But your offense is bad. You won't win all that much.
8. Florida
Big reshuffling week, isn't it?
9. Louisiana State
I get it. Your defense is good. But your offense is bad. You won't win all that much.
10. Virginia Tech
Duke is sweet, that's why the Hokies move up 6 spots
11. Notre Dame
I still like Quinn to win the Heisman. OMGLOL!!!
12. Texas
Texas-Iowa State will be more interesting than anticipated
13. Iowa
Nice "statement game" after that close call with Syracuse ... NOT!!
14. Wisconsin
The Badgers continue their magical ascent! Somehow!
15. Cal
Don't know.
16. Arizona State
Don't know.
17. Boston College
Too much overtime
18. Clemson
Probably deserve a ranking
19. Michigan State
Give 'em an ounce of attention before Notre Dame uses them as a whipping boy
20. Oklahoma
Freezing them here after Saturday's fiasco. It's symbolism. You know, like the game never happened
21. Georgia Tech
Did better against Troy than the Seminoles!
22. Oregon
Freezing them here after Saturday's fiasco. It's symbolism. You know, like the game never happened
23. Rutgers
Wouldn't it be funny if they lost to Howard?
24. Miami (Florida)
Just want to kick em around a little bit here
25. Navy
A hearty cheer for our seafaring team!

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Fourth down decisions

One aspect that made an otherwise boring game a little more interesting was Bret Bielema's playcalling on fourth down. Much has been made about this in the WSJ and in today's Daily Cardinal. Since UW didn't convert on any of these fourth downs, the power of hindsight has, of course, kicked in and allowed Mike Oates and Sam Pepper to inform us that these were Bad Decisions on the part of the Badgers' head coach. Let's examine these calls in greater detail and see what Bielema did right and what he did wrong.

Number 1
Time: ~6:30 left, second quarter
Distance: 3 yards
Position: SDSU 7
Score: 0-0
What happened: Stocco handed off to P.J. Hill, who gained only one yard.
What should have been done: Kick the field goal. At this point in the game it's becoming clear that points are going to be tough to come by. Also, the defense is playing very well. Of course, the Aztecs would be one play away from making it 7-3, but that's of no consequence, as on any other play thus far they were one play away from making it 7-0. Sure, it's tough to send out the kicker when you're on the 7 and there's still a possibility of a fresh set of downs. But when points are tough to get, the tough get points. Or something.

Number 2
Time: ~2:30 left, 3rd quarter
Distance: 1 yard
Position: SDSU 38
Score: 7-0, Badgers
What happened: Tyler Mehlhaff missed the 55-yard field goal
What should have been done: Probably what was done. The wind had been blamed for a lot of Stocco's overthrows, but the wind was at Mehlhaff's back. A kicker knows what he's capable of doing. I may be in the minority here, but I think that if the kicker says "I can get those points," you send him on. My second favorite option here: pooch punt and pin the Aztecs back. Trust the defense to make the stops they've been making all afternoon and try to receive a punt that'll start your drive within 10-15 yards of where you are right now with the FG attempt. This decision is second-guessable, but this is the call I would've made, too. (Note that the DC's Pepper strongly disagrees with me here. Note also that three games into the season he's suggesting that a new head coach who is undefeated appoint a "fourth downs coach.")

Number 3
Time: ~12:15 left, 4th quarter
Distance: 1 yard
Position: SDSU 47
Score: 7-0, Badgers
What happened: Stocco is stuffed on the quarterback keeper
What should have been done: Punt the ball. Again, trust the defense. They haven't failed yet. Once again, playing the field position game might work out. When you go for it at the 47, you give your opponent a very short field if you don't make it, but when the defense is handling the opposition like the Badger defense did Saturday, this doesn't matter quite as much. It's important to remember that one big play ties the game, though.

Number 4
Time: ~1:30 left, 4th quarter
Distance: 6 yards
Position: SDSU 29
Score: 14-0, Badgers
What happened: John Stocco scrambles for three yards and the ball goes to the Aztec on downs
What should have been done: Exactly this. Maybe not with a Stocco keeper (throw a screen or something) but you ought to be in clock-killing mode here. The FG is manageable but too risky; you don't want the thing blocked, taken in for a score, and then suddenly be staring at recovering an onside kick.

So, I agree with Bielema's decisions twice. Against an opponent like San Diego State (note to the Badger Herald: not South Dakota State; the mistake was corrected online, but you can see the error in the print edition) even number 3 is excusable. The only call I really don't like is the first one; if it had been fourth and one, sure, do for it. But fourth and three is too long, and you need to get points on the board.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Wisconsin 14, San Diego State 0

The defense pitched a shutout yesterday as the San Diego State Aztechs couldn't handle a road trip to Camp Randall. Although the Badgers didn't dish out the full Cortez treatment, spreading typhus and misery wherever they roamed, they still managed to secure a sure unimpressive victory.

The 2006 season seems to be going into Whack-a-Mole mode. Certain units stand out as inexplicably bad one game but by the time the next game rolls around, they're fine. Then another unit -- usually one that was okay the last time out -- pops up, gaining the attention of Coach Bielema and his brain trust.

This week, the defense responded to the well-deserved criticism that was leveled on them after playing soft against Western Illinois. They yielded a total of 115 yards. They recorded 5 sacks. After initial drives of 11 and 7 plays, San Diego State couldn't sustain a drive for longer than four plays. The only play of any consequence beyond those two drives was a 25-yard pass play in the third quarter that accounted for more than a fifth of the yards SDSU managed to gain. The Badgers forced a dozen punts. Yeah, 12 of 'em. They played a solid game. Future Wisconsin opponents beware: this is what happens when you dance.

You might expect me to say that the offense was a different story, but I'm not going to. The offensive line played as well as it has all season, and the running backs just plain wore out the Aztec defense. Clearly Stocco had a bad day, but he timed it well; that sort of performance against, say, Michigan next week would have been a death sentence (for the team's chance at victory, not for Stocco himself). It was pretty surprising, actually; he had all the time in the world to execute. In a game where he was only sacked once and the offensive line was giving enough push to allow the featured running backs to gain 263 yards on 32 carries, Stocco couldn't complete a pass on third down to save his life. And while most of the poor play was on Stocco, the wide receivers were right there with him. It took the Badgers twelve quarters to get a touchdown out of their wide receiving corps.

The message I got from this game was that a team can completely disrespect the passing game while stuffing eight guys in the box to keep Hill in check. I am impressed by Hill, but I don't think he's capable of taking over a game like Brian Calhoun was, and if Stocco has defenders in his face all day long, there will be problems -- he doesn't have a receiving corps that can bail him out in a pinch. Add that to the fact that Michigan's defense proved that they are an extremely opportunistic group, picking off Brady Quinn three times and taking another fumble in for a score, and you'll find that there is positively no room for error.

Analysis of Bret Bielema's fourth down calls, leading to a missed 55-yard field goal and an 0-for-3 day otherwise, coming later. Aside from that, let's get excited about 3-0! Four wins in the Big Ten or three and one against Buffalo, and we're going bowling!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

28-0 after 1 = boring football

Hopefully next week's Louisville-Miami tilt won't resemble the garbage we endured tonight. West Virginia, out to make everyone believers at long last, took advantage of the Terps' mistakes and had a four touchdown lead before the first period expired. And yet, the Mountaineers' undisciplined play after they'd amassed that huge lead almost let Maryland back in the game. Had West Virginia not had a kickoff return go for a touchdown at the end of the first half, they might have let the score creep to 31-21 after Maryland's first drive because of boneheaded penalties, halfassed defense, and general disinterest. We saw that last year against Georgia, and if there's one thing that could bring down this young team, it's lack of discipline.

Finally, while Charlie Weis is fat and that's amusing, Ralph Friedgen is fat to the point where he's unpleasant to look at. Ugh.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ah, Madison

Right now, there's a dude sitting outside of the Taco Bell on State Street playing the sitar. The juxtaposition is just delicious.

(Carnival will come later today ... so you can still submit if you want!)


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Repairing the Predict-o-tron

Note: this is a post I needed to make anyway, but is coincidentally going to be featured as my entry to the Carnival of College Football for this week. The theme is "Crow or Eat Crow" and is intended to give you, the college football blogger, a place to talk about your best and worst predictions. This edition is probably going up just before 8 am Central time tomorrow, so if you have something you'd like featured, submit it here!

I'll admit I'm something of a Big Ten homer. When I have trouble filling out spots numbers 23, 24, or 25 in my Blogpoll ballot, I look to the Minnesotas and Michigan States well before the Boise States and Northern Illinoises. A lot of this, I suppose, has to do with the fact that the teams in the Big Ten beat each other up every year. Rare is the year when the conference champion emerges from the fray undefeated. While that hints at the existence of "parity" or "top to bottom strength" or something of that nature, it certainly doesn't mean such a thing exists. Let's face it; sometimes good teams lose to bad teams, and that's that.

This year, there appears to be a single good team in the Big Ten and a larger-than-average pool of bad teams. Empirical evidence in the form of the first two weeks' results suggests this. But before last Saturday, that's not the way I saw it! Let's take a look at what I thought was going to happen and what actually transpired. It's sure to amuse.

The statement: Western Illinois at Wisconsin, New Hampshire at Northwestern: Neither game is worthy of mention. This is not Colorado Buffalo Big XII North football. This is the Big Ten, where we roll up our D-IAA opponents and smoke them. Blowouts both.

Reality sez: Hahaha! First prediction brings teh funny!!!1 While UW's beating of WIU could be considered a blowout, it was a sloppy one. As for Northwestern, they wound up dropping their game to New Hampshire ... by 17 points. Ugh. Any team that loses to Northwestern from here till the end of the season ought to think things over.

The statement: Central Michigan at Michigan: expect a score like Michigan 28-49, Central Michigan 0-7

Reality sez: Not that far off, but I was hedging big time. Michigan 41, CMU 17 was the final. I suppose I gave Michigan's defense too much credit. That might be bad news for them come Saturday on their trip to see Weis's boys.

The statement: Illinois at Rutgers: The Illini are still in prissy D-IAA mode. Rutgers 28, Illinois 20

Reality sez: The sentiment was correct but the score was way, way, way wrong, with Rutgers blanking the Illini 33-0. This team in Champaign is not good.

The statement: Eastern Michigan at Michigan State: John L. Smith did not have the troops ready to play last week. With thousands of upset critics watching his every move, the team will play to its potential this week. Michigan State 56, Eastern Michigan 24

Reality sez: Sure looked like I was going to be wrong when the Eagles started to mount a comeback, scoring 14 points in 27 seconds in the dying minutes of the first half and adding a field goal to make the score 24-20 in the third quarter. But then Drew Stanton realized that Matt Trannon is tall and the Spartans blew up, winning 52-20. I'll pat myself on the back for this one.

The statement: Miami (OH) at Purdue: 35 points to Indiana State? Joe Tiller has really lost his edge. I don't know anything else about this matchup and I'm tired of writing filler so Purdue 31, Miami 28

Reality sez: Looks like I gave the Boilermakers too much credit. They were taken to overtime by the Redhawks and almost lost. What we do know about Purdue is that they will be in a battle every game this season -- and most of those battles won't go their way.

The statement: Iowa at Syracuse: Not a trap game, since Syracuse sucks. Iowa wins easily. Iowa 38, Syracuse 6

Reality sez: In all fairness, unless you're on scholarship with the Hawkeyes, you couldn't have seen this one coming. I did not know how big a role Drew Tate's abdomen was going to play, and nobody else did either. Two overtimes? Wow. It is very encouraging to see that Iowa is completely impotent without Tate and that Albert Young can be neutralized by even the poorest defense.

The statement: Indiana at Ball State: Read that again -- Indiana at Ball State. Now that's just pathetic. Indiana 35, Ball State 10

Reality sez: Evidently Muncie is a far more hostile environment than anticipated. The Hoosiers had to mount a fourth-quarter comeback to beat a bad MAC team by one point. IU 24, Ball State 23 was the final.

The statement: Minnesota at Cal: Now here's an intriguing matchup. Cal couldn't get anything going offensively against Tennessee last weekend, but that's because Tennessee's coach believes in playing defense. Glen Mason doesn't, and Glen Mason's team won't. It's a shootout and the home team wins. Cal 52, Minnesota 41

Reality sez: Another case of giving a Big Ten team way too much credit. Minnesota kept it close for a while thanks to a kick that was returned for a touchdown, but ultimately ended up losing 42-17. Again: it's good to see that a mediocre team can trounce someone on UW's schedule. We like to win.

The statement: Penn State at Notre Dame: Look for PSU to blitz early and often, and for Quinn to fail to get into a rhythm. But due to the Lions' lackluster offense, this one will be tight till the end. Call it Penn State 13, Notre Dame 9.

Reality sez: Evidently the only people who didn't watch game film from Notre Dame's near-loss at Georgia Tech were on the Penn State coaching staff. The pattern all day was drop back, get lit up, repeat. I was correct about the lackluster offense, though, which allowed hilarious tallies like "Notre Dame 41, Penn State 3" to remain on the scoreboard until garbage time. The final was ND 41, PSU 17.

The statement: Ohio State at Texas: [I]n the end, [Texas's] compromised defense and their freshman quarterback will cost them the game. In the biggest game of the year so far, Ohio State 33, Texas 27

Reality sez: Dead on with the analysis, but evidently I thought that the freshman quarterback wasn't going to hurt the 'Horns that much. Ohio State is a frightening team and will run the table barring, say, an audit of the Athletic Department's petty cash fund.

So, in summary: the Big Ten is not so great, and I am bad at predicting. For laughs, let's rank the teams best to worst:

Great teams
Ohio State - obviously

Decent to possibly good teams
Michigan - haven't won convincingly yet
Wisconsin - ditto
Michigan State - played 6 sluggish quarters but might be awake now
Penn State - got embarrassed, but by a potential BCS team
Iowa - needs Tate

Special teams
Minnesota - just plain exploited by a team that barely scored against Tennessee
Purdue - can score points, but got taken to OT by the MAC and gave up 35 to Indiana State
Indiana - almost got burned by their MAC opponent
Illinois - smoked by Rutgers
Northwestern - lost to their D-IAA opponent. AT HOME.

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Great Moments in Homerism, and other matters

To start off, I'd like to congratulate myself for winning this week's Coulter/Krugman Award in the BlogPoll. While most voters didn't have the courage to put the Badgers in their top 25s this week, I boldly stepped up and ranked them #15. As Brian says, Wisconsin is "officially on upset watch" this weekend. Hopefully I'll be vindicated and other people will pay some attention to the Badgers. It would really suck to lose at home to a backup quarterback and a mid-major team.

On a more somber note, best wishes and prayers go to Terry Hoeppner. The coach of the Hoosiers is undergoing his second brain surgery in ten months and will miss two to four weeks of work, meaning that he probably won't be on the sidelines for the UW-Indiana game. I always root for the bottom few teams in the conference because the year-to-year variations are what keeps Big Ten football interesting, and Hoep seems to be the kind of guy who could potentially turn a losing program around.

Turning to the Badgers, I have a new favorite columnist on campus. (Adam Hoge gets it too, but doesn't say it as well as Poppy.) I'm glad some of the smarter Badger fans are starting to realize this kind of thing:

Speaking of beer, the excuse every student has when asked why Camp Randall can’t fill sections J through P before kick-off is pregame partying. Nothing against it, but if you’re so hardcore, why don’t you just wake up a few hours earlier?

PREACH IT! For a world-class university that loves to party, we sure do get the football games all wrong. Know the rules of the game, respect the opponent and their fans, get in the stadium before kickoff and stay till the bitter end.

Jeff Potrykus believes that a tough game would help the Badgers out. Maybe, but those tough games are notoriously easy to lose. I'd prefer the Badgers, say, get some stops on third down instead. Sure, tough games might make tough teams, but when the Badgers go on the road to Michigan a week from Saturday, they'll know what they're up against ... and that's a very different thing from coming home and shaking off the rust against Western Illinois. Suffice it to say that if the game against the Aztecs on Saturday is "tough," I'll be in panic mode.

As always, this weekend's game is suffused with backstory involving Bret Bielema's coaching pedigree. College football is a small world. We get it. Frankly, I'm more interested in why student tickets were mixed in with those of the marching band and, more importantly, why that won't happen again.

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Blogpoll Ballot: Week 3 (final)

Ballot went final. That's all.

Also, if you're a blogger who writes about college football, even just occasionally, please submit your work to the Carnival of College Football.

1 Ohio State --
2 Southern Cal --
3 Auburn --
4 Louisiana State --
5 West Virginia 1
6 Notre Dame 4
7 Georgia 1
8 Nebraska 5
9 Louisville 6
10 Texas 5
11 Miami (Florida) --
12 Michigan 2
13 Florida 4
14 Iowa 7
15 Wisconsin 4
16 Virginia Tech 9
17 Cal 5
18 Arizona State 3
19 Florida State 10
20 Oklahoma 4
21 Georgia Tech 1
22 Oregon 2
23 Tennessee 5
24 Rutgers 2
25 Pittsburgh 1

Dropped Out: Penn State (#12), Clemson (#23).

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Why you shouldn't be happy with a 24-point victory

For all intents and purposes, this game was 34-3 when it was really over. Wisconsin called off the dogs, put in the backups, and was promptly rewarded by seeing Tyler Donovan fling an interception at a D-IAA opponent -- an interception that was returned for a touchdown. So the victory over Western Illinois taught us at least one thing: Tyler Donovan is not ready to take over should John Stocco go down.

That's especially bad, considering that another thing we learned was that the offense -- be in the line, the running back, or the tight end -- is not very interested in keeping Stocco on his feet. Stocco was sacked three times -- THREE! -- by the Leathernecks. Lest you forget: this is a D-IAA opponent. Their pass rush, while potentially furious, should be something that a Big Ten line can absorb without a problem. Evidently, this unit is porous. This is something that needs to get fixed in a real hurry, since Michigan's defensive line is going to be merciless.

The defense had its problems as well, although those were not as glaring -- and the three interceptions they managed to pull in help as far as resume-building is concerned, too. Missed tackles seemed to be the biggest bugaboo. That, fortunately, is teachable and correctable.

Special teams isn't much of a concern, although if Jarvis Minton fumbles another kickoff return I will show up at Camp Randall as a walk-on the following Monday. Protect the rock, Jarvis!

There were good things, too, though. P.J. Hill wasn't a one-week wonder; he went over a hundred yards and scored three touchdowns. Lance Smith didn't impress, unfortunately, only picking up 11 yards on 7 carries. When Stocco wasn't being hung out to dry by his would-be protectors, he was lighting up the field, passing for 260 yards and making a great throw of 33 yards to Paul Hubbard after a WIU turnover. I love that Paul Chryst called for one of those carpe diem plays.

Linkage: A bunch of homers ask Jeff Potrykus mainly annoying questions; Wisconsin and Virginia Tech will meet up ... in 2016 and 2017; San Diego State's starting quarterback is out; the backup will start at Camp Randall on Saturday; Nicole is really happy about the direction the Packers are headed.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

In Memory of Steven B. Paterson

The fifth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks is upon us. The world doesn't need another rehash of the events of that terrible day, nor does it need another dissection of the consequences of those attacks, whether what was done before and after was right or wrong and why, what we can do in the future or should have done in the past.

What the world needs to know is that day, a lot of innocent people died. And we're not going to let a single one of them be forgotten.

I'm part of a project called 2,996. That's 2,996 bloggers coming together to honor the 2,996 victims of the 9/11 attacks. Actually, the project has grown beyond that mark; it's now 3,412 bloggers paying tribute. So that's great.

The person I am here to honor is Steven B. Paterson, a 40-year-old bond trader who worked in the World Trade Center. Mr. Paterson is remembered remembered by his relatives on these pages. He worked on the 105th floor of the building and made his home in New Jersey. By all accounts, he was a dedicated family man and an all-around pleasant guy. In my estimation those are the two best things you can be.

It's tough to write a tribute to someone you didn't know, to adequately honor a man you never met. So to all of Steven's family and friends who might find their way to this page -- I'm sorry. I'm sorry for your loss and for my inability to even grasp the magnitude of that loss. May God bless you and your loved ones.

One note that I must include; currently, in Hazlet, NJ, there's an effort to build a tribute to Mr. Paterson. It comes in the form of a Pop Warner football field. In my role as a blogger whose primary interest is in football, I have to admit that I was stunned to find this out. Mysterious ways indeed.

I just know that this field will be a beautiful way to celebrate the life of Steven B. Paterson. The people who visit will always have the opportunity to contemplate the man whose life was so abruptly and tragically taken.

May we all remember today the things that are bigger than the pleasant diversion that football provides. And may God bless Steven B. Paterson and his loved ones.

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Blogpoll ballot DRAFT - Week 3

These are due Wednesday morning at 9 am, so be sure to give me your comments before then! I listen! I love your help!

1. Ohio State (1)
The ninja leader in a world of sake-bombed sumo trainees. They'll take your ass to the dojo.
2. Southern Cal (2)
I see no reason to drop them. USC/ND is already a matchup over which I am salivating.
3. Auburn (3)
Mr. Stubborn strikes again! I didn't see the game, but given that it was a blowout of a team that hasn't managed to score a point yet this season, I assume it didn't tell us much. I see no reason, again, to move the Tigers.
4. LSU (4)
See comment above
5. West Virginia (6)
See comment above. Movement of Notre Dame and Texas momentarily boosts the Mountaineers
6. Notre Dame (10)
Even assuming that the Irish have returned to glory (for the 21st time since 1993), it would appear that the magnitude of their margin of victory was due to the splendid incompetence of the Nittany Lions. Still: they beat Michigan on Saturday.
7. Georgia (8)
The first of four Top Ten Teams that Don't Feel Like Top Ten Teams to Me
8. Nebraska (13)
These guys didn't play like complete ass, so they can visit the top ten this week. Note that a victory over Nicholls State isn't the reason they get bumped, but rather because everyone else looks pretty darn bad.
9. Louisville (15)
Again, dismantling Temple is not the reason they're here. It's because they weren't terrible this week
10. Texas (5)
This is very, very tentative. The 'Horns might not even be this good. It's too early to tell whether the Buckeyes can make anyone look pathetic or whether Colt McCoy just isn't ready to start. I wanted to put Texas around #15 but for now I'll split the difference.
11. Miami (Florida) (11)
Maybe they've woken up after the Florida State game. We shall see.
12. Michigan (14)
They couldn't convert key third-and-short situations against a middling MAC defense and they couldn't keep the Chippewas from scoring when they were in the red zone. They'll give Notre Dame a tough time but I just can't see them winning
13. Florida (17)
Blow out a bad team + a lot of other teams play badly = you move up
14. Iowa (7)
I can't tell you how upset I am at the Orangemen. When ND/PSU got out of hand, this was a fun game to watch. I think I wouldn't have a stomach lining if I were a Syracuse fan. Anyway, this ranking assumes Drew Tate will be back next week. If he is not, they will continue to suck, and continue to fall
15. Wisconsin (19)
See note for Florida; also, I'm a huge homer
16. Virginia Tech (25)
These guys probably sat too low at #25. Let me know what you think, please
17. Cal (22)
I don't consider Minnesota a "good" team per se, but Cal could be on the right track
18. Arizona State (21)
Sun Devils are heating up. The slaughter continues against Colorado.
19. Florida State (9)
This is what struggling with TROY will do to you.
20. Oklahoma (16)
Convince me that they should be higher and I'll put them there. Frankly I thought they let Washington hang around for WAY too long.
21. Georgia Tech (20)
Make me care about this team.
22. Oregon (24)
Is Fresno State supposed to be good this year?
23. Tennessee (18)
They needed Air Force to make a mistake to win. That's pathetic. Absolutely killed anything they accomplished last weekend in my mind.
24. Rutgers (NR)
Shoutouts. Yes, I do think they'd beat Penn State at this point
25. Pitt (NR)
Garbage time pick here. They seem solid(?)

Dropped from the rankings: #12 Penn State (definitely exposed; a five-loss team for sure, even in a soft Big Ten); #23 Clemson (I was right not to rank them in the preseason poll)

Teams I excluded for a good reason: Boise State (hasn't beaten anyone); Alabama (struggled mightily with two bad teams; however, that was their MO last year, so in the end this might be OK); UCLA (26-16 over Rice? Impress me, Bruins); Boston College (2-0 in two real tight ones against two unimpressive foes); Texas Tech (how, pray tell, can you rank a team that struggled with UTEP?)

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Pickin' on the Pack - Bears 26, Packers 0

Brett Favre can still play football, and play it well. However, he cannot play football well in Green Bay. The franchise has been mismanaged so badly it's pathetic. Obvious deficiencies (offensive line, secondary) have either not been addressed, or have been addressed in horrible fashion. Let's just say that Charles Woodson can finally buy that custom display case for his Heisman and Pro Bowl trophies, because he's collected all that he ever will.

Favre, however, shouldn't do such a thing. He's still good. He's still on fire. If he left Green Bay, he could be a winner again. Hell, he could be MVP! I don't think this is an exaggeration. He looked sharp and his decision making was good (better than it was last season, at any rate). The two picks he threw were a consequence of trying to save face, to prevent the first shutout in a decade in a half, and weren't going to make a difference in the larger scheme of things.

We all still love Brett, right? And we all know that the Packers are going nowhere, right? So, why don't the Packers just go ahead and do what, deep down, we all know they need to do: trade Brett to a contender. He could win a Super Bowl! I am confident in saying this! Get Aaron Rodgers in the game and get on with the rebuilding. This team could contend again as early as, say, 2009. But a lot has to happen between now and then.

The secondary also warrants some lambasting. The medium-distance pass over the middle was there all day for Rex Grossman. The corners, including Chuck Woodson, looked dazed and have no nose for the ball. Look for this weakness to be exploited time and again this season, with teams moving down the field 15-20 yards at a time against that lackadaisical unit.

There were some signs of life today, though. The run game looked decent. Ahman Green isn't going to blow up for 2000 yards this season, but he chugged along pretty admirably. He broke the century mark and didn't look hesitant. His problem -- and Favre's -- was this abysmal offensive line. Against a punishing run defense like the Bears have, all told this was a great performance by Green. The Pack might actually go out and win a few games against teams that are soft against the run, since that'll open up the possibility for the pass for Favre. Donald Driver played the role of star receiver very nicely, but it's only a matter of time before he gets swarmed. Another receiver is going to have to step up posthaste. The run defense was way better than expected, giving up runs of 10 yards or more on only two occasions.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll get a surprise and all the units that need work will improve quickly. Even with that, the Packers are looking at a maximum of 9 wins, and a postseason berth is unlikely. Right now, I'm thinking 5-11.

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Carnival of College Football - Week 2 - Submissions Due 9/13, 8 pm

This week we'll be running the second edition of the Carnival of College Football! Last week we had a lot of good posts from a lot of great bloggers, and this week I'm hoping for an even bigger turnout!

This time around I'll offer a loose theme. It's inspired by my utter inability to correctly predict what will happen in college football, and I call it Crow or Eat Crow. Share your best prediction that came true, or give us the post that sounded good Friday but was a complete mess before the sun went down on Saturday. If you ever found yourself saying one of the following, you know you've got a potential entry:

* "Justin Zwick will emerge as the Buckeyes' starting quarterback, leaving Troy Smith to warm the bench or try his luck at wide receiver."
* "Michael Vick tore up the NCAA, but that sort of gimmick won't fly in the NFL."
* "Purdue returns all 11 players on defense and doesn't play Michigan or Ohio State. The Big Ten title is their to lose."
* "I call these teams the Gang of Six, and one of them MUST and WILL win the national title."
* "I like the Irish in their bowl game."

Of course, feel free to submit a post of any type (so long as it is at least somewhat related to college football). Submissions are due on Wednesday the 13th at 8 pm and go here!


Friday, September 08, 2006

Get up to date on this weekend's action:

The Badgers

The Badger Herald has a recap of yesterday's open practice. The Great Potrykus says that the coaches expect better execution this weekend. Bret Bielema is not flustered by the fact that he doesn't vote in the Coaches' Poll (read below and learn why he should be glad not to contribute to the problem).

The Big Games

OSU-Texas links abound, as do good reads about Notre Dame-Penn State.

Oddball Prediction Watch

* ATLeagle picks Boston College over Clemson. Not all that foolish, but the Eagles have to get their house in order after the debacle against Central Michigan. Oddball level: 4/10

* Penn State will get blown out, says Joey of Schembechler Hall. Bold. Notre Dame's offense looked eminently stoppable on Saturday night, and Penn State's got the sort of defense that could stuff the Irish. However, Notre Dame was the subject of preseason hype for a reason. Oddball level: 5/10 (for the term "blown out")

Bonus: The Mismanagement of College Football

Obviously, we hate the new clock rules. If this analysis, broken down at the Wizard of Odds is correct, we're losing about 10% of the plays from the average college football game. Over a twelve game season, that amounts to over one game's worth of plays. Think about that. Third-stringers won't get on-field experience during garbage time, comebacks will become more improbable, and we get to watch LESS FOOTBALL every season! Can't we just cut the advertising time down? (Answer: duh, no.) The M Zone and EDSBS have registered their disgust as well.

The Coaches' Poll Continues to Be a Joke

If you thought Jim Tressel's voting situation was screwed up, check out what Les Miles thinks of voting in the poll:

... he spends a short period of time watching scores come in on ESPN and probably spends 45 minutes all total. Miles said he votes heavily for SEC teams.

Between that, Spurrier voting for Duke, Phil Fulmer voting undefeated Michigan #4 in his final poll in 1997 (ultimately handing the Coaches' title to Nebraska), and the contractual obligation of Coaches Poll voters to vote for the BCS title game winner in their number 1 slot (even when other teams might finish the season undefeated), isn't it time for this poll to go?

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Return of the Wack

In his weekly recap of the goings-on in the world of the Blogpoll, Brian runs a small feature termed the "Wack Ballot Watchdog," which aims to point out the ballot most likely to have been produced with the assistance of a liberal dose of psilocybin. Generally there are a couple of voters who are easy to pick on, and that's done with great zest.

One of the shortcomings of the Blogpoll, I believe, is that while it was designed as a tool for discussion, it appears (from watching the feeds roll in) that most people are content to list the results, comment about where their team is, and move along. And that's fine. We're all mostly busy people, and a lot of the time that's all we have time for, especially if we're trying to get something together about our team.

Well, this week I've decided to dig a little deeper through the Blogpoll results just to see what's there waiting to be discovered. Admittedly, this archaeological expedition was mostly inspired by the absence of the Badgers on most voters' ballots (of 62 ballots submitted, only 14 featured a vote for the Badgers; five of those were 25th place votes, and 6 of the remaining nine fell between positions 22 and 24 inclusive.) This is not to say that I necessarily feel the Badgers are being disrespected; after all, to the casual viewer, all they did was what any half-decent Big Ten team should do: demolish its MAC opponent. What I saw was a young team that answered a few major concerns during Week 1 with a healthy quarterback and a punishing running back, and which should be seriously considered for votes in the future. Of course, all that stands between the currently under-appreciated team and the loss at Michigan (steel yourselves, Badger faithful, you know it's coming) is Saturday's D-IAA laugher and a visit from San Diego State, so any momentum the Badgers build is likely to go out the window by the end of the month.

Anyway, tired of seeing people exclude Wisconsin in favor of teams that, say, went down to the wire with a certain awful team from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, I resolved to see what the Blogpoll votes could tell me. And here's what:

* Nearly half of all voters forgot that Hawaii sucks when they travel to the mainland. 30 voters were impressed enough by Alabama's one-touchdown victory over Hawaii that they included them on their ballots. Journalism is for Rockstars engaged in some homerism, giving the Tide a 12th place vote; next up was Texas Tech fan Cheap Seats/Double T Ranch, ranking Bama 14th. I'd like to remind voters that Alabama only scored 25 points on the (Rainbow) Warriors. Unless Hawaii has taken a severe turn for the defensive, that total, frankly, is awful. Last season, only two of Hawaii's opponents scored fewer than 25 points: 2-9 Idaho scored 0, and 3-8 Utah State put up 23. This is not good company. In fact, over the past 4 seasons, Hawaii has played 53 games. Their opponents have exceeded 25 points in all 39 of those, and those opponents from DI-A had a total won/lost record of 66-117. Bama was forced to punt 4 times and had to settle for field goal attempts 4 times. When you play Hawaii, you should be bored of the end zone by the middle of the third quarter. Alabama wasn't. This is not a good sign.

* Speaking of a sucky Idaho team, most people dropped Michigan State like a bad habit after last week's nailbiter against the Vandals. Senior quarterback Drew Stanton pilots an offense that, by all rights, should be explosive. They only put up 27 points at home, giving up 17 to Idaho, which hasn't won more than 3 games in a season since 2000 (when they won 5). In the preseason poll, nine voters (including yours truly) had the Spartans ranked. After that close call, four voters gritted their teeth and voted for the men in green and white. Three of them are potentially excusable; the 614 and Rakes of Mallow dropped the Spartans 2 and 5 spots, respectively, and the Enlightened Spartan submitted his first ballot of the season this week. He gets off scot-free for being a homer and ranking the Spartans 17th (although his vote for Michigan at 18th place -- just below MSU -- reeks of the world-famous East Lansing Inferiority Complex). The final vote for MSU is the most befuddling: Stranko and Orson actually elevated them by two spots! Did the Spartans actually exceed your expectations with that crapfest, guys?

* Consider a situation: two major conference teams go on the road to play against a MAC team. One beats an upper-tier MAC team by three touchdowns; the other beats a historically low-level team by one measly touchdown. Who gets your vote, if you have to vote for one? I'm referring, of course, to Wisconsin and Boston College, respectively, and a few people did some mighty weird stuff. The Eagles' brush with death in Mount Pleasant didn't change a few voters' minds about their standing: they marked time in the polls of the Cover Two, TAAMABINPO, and Mountainlair. For some reason, though, Section Six had the urge to move them from #25 to #22. What gives?

* Just a quick thought about Arizona: what does TrojanWire know that the rest of us don't?

* Four voters saw fit to include Purdue in their preseason rankings. After Indiana State hung around for more than one half and finished with 35 points on a defense that needs to make it through a Big Ten season, two of those voters dropped the Boilermakers. The two who didn't -- Pitch Right and Sea Misting -- moved them up in the poll, by three and two positions, respectively. Should be interesting when a I-A team with a pulse comes calling in West Lafayette.

Those are the big things. But this post would be incomplete without mention of Brian's elevation of Tennessee from unranked to #1. He's testing out a new philosophy that involves voting and then immediately forgetting who was voted for, creating a clean slate each week. While I agree with the sentiment behind that move, it sure looks funny on the screen. I'll see how his ballot looks next week before I pile on too badly.

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