So last week on Grantland (the most amazing site to come along since fivethirtyeight) Michael Weinreb and *swoon* Chuck Klosterman decided to trade questions about college football. Clearly, they had been doing this awhile and it was a fun read. I forwarded it to my friend/enemy/partner/nemesis Jared (I’ve mentioned him before), and he responded with a list of questions. Game on, apparently.
Be patient with us–we’re still working this out. But I think it’s got potential.
1. Who’s the 6th best Big Ten team this year?
2. Who will be the last undefeated team in the WAC?
3. In the AP poll, what’s the most overrated team at their current rank?
4. Who has the best name in college football?
5. What teams meet in the Big Ten championship game?
You pose some good questions, and I am happy to answer most of them. I’m not answering your WAC question because I’m not stupid. If you think I’m going to gush about Boise State, you think again. And you can also show me some GOD DAMN RESPECT! (that last line was in Mitch Leary’s voice).
Let’s start this beast with the Big 10. I think I might be more certain about the sixth-best team in the Big 10 than the top team, though Wisconsin’s offense looks scary-good. That said, the top teams (in my biased opinion) are Wisconsin, Iowa (only because no one’s talking about them—a hyped Iowa team is like What Dreams May Come: pretty, but quickly forgotten), Nebraska, and Ohio State. I think Michigan State is on a mission to redeem themselves after being exposed by Alabama (who thought that was going to be a good game?). Don’t get me wrong—they’ll still lose horribly to Alabama, but they’ll make some noise in the conference. Typically, I’d say, in the immortal words of Hot Shots: Part Deux, the painfully underwhelming Penn State is “the best of what’s left.” BUT…I think Michigan is going to have a few surprises this year, which will be enough to finish sixth (and cause an off-season of insufferable bluster).
As for the championship, I think Wisconsin has some questions on defense (I hope they kept their coordinator’s receipt), but it’s a down year for our conference, and I don’t think that playing in Columbus will make that big of a difference (especially with Wisconsin’s O-line). I see them running the table and ultimately winning the conference, simply because no one else can match them. All they need is a win over Ohio State (who I don’t think is going to pull off the upset) and they’ll be fine. Who on the other side can match them? I think ultimately Iowa will play the Badgers, as Martinez continues his fluky play for Nebraska, Michigan State will do exactly what is expected of them (and nothing more), and Persa can only carry his team so far.
SCENARIO: You lost a bet, but it totally wasn’t your fault—it was a side-wager and he caught an ace on the river. You have to wear a jersey to this year’s Big 10 championship game of one of the teams playing in the game…and Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Indiana aren’t playing (know you know it’s made-up—Indiana not playing??). Whose jersey are you wearing, and why?
I tend to complain (borderline incessantly) about poll rankings, but the toughest part for me is, “Okay, who is better?” USC is ranked #25, mostly because the NCAA put them on probation and the Associated Press is still playing the spurned lover role after the BCS dumped it for the vapid, easily-persuaded Harris Interactive. Get over it. USC has no business being there—the spoiled children dropped five games last year, including four in the PAC-10. With that obscene level of talent, the Trojans should be able to show up and still beat any team in the top 15. But the problem becomes, “Okay, who do you replace them with?” That’s a tougher question (probably Iowa or Northwestern) that gets significantly tougher the higher up the chart you move.
This is the toughest part about your question, because you stipulate the “most overrated team at their current rank.” Obviously, the first games exposed a few poseurs, but none of them were ranked highly enough to affect me (“Wait, you mean Notre Dame was overrated? ALERT THE MEDIA!!”). Plus, safe picks are for pansies and March Madness North Carolina fans. Let’s go down the list.
1) Okay, I’m quasi-indifferent about Oklahoma—they’ll dominate Florida State (no way I’m sold on this team), blow away Texas (shocker), soundly defeat A&M, but they’ll lose to someone they shouldn’t. They always do.
2) Alabama will be fine, I’m sure. A little worried about their QB play, but they’ve got the defense to make it happen.
3) Oregon was going to be my original choice, given they are so ridiculously, perennially overrated. Football experts cannot get enough of an exciting offense (it doesn’t help that practically every ESPN commentator was on the offensive side of the ball), and so they gravitate toward those dominant offenses. Last year’s Oregon squad, Bradford’s Oklahoma, Bush’s Trojans, even *gulp* Smith’s Buckeyes got the benefit of hype. Oregon (or Texas A&M or Oklahoma State) is no different, despite losing Matthews and most of their defense (which wasn’t that great anyway). But, they lost to LSU (the Ducks were defeated by a physical defense with time to prepare??), and so I’ll move along.
4) LSU. As long as Les Miles is there, LSU will find a way to win, even though he probably shouldn’t. Bottom line: The man knows how to recruit a defense, and I would never bet against his ungodly luck (especially considering my shockingly godly luck).
5) I think you can argue that the poll is as much about where the team will end up as much as how good they are (this is a discussion for another time). Is Boise State anywhere near as good as last year (which wasn’t that great)? Nope. Is anyone on their schedule going to beat them? God no.
6) Someone knows something I don’t about the Seminoles. Personally, I don’t get it. Everyone shat themselves last year when Florida State went on a tear, but if you look at their schedule objectively, the highest-ranked team they beat was South Carolina at #19 (hardly an accomplishment, given Spurrier’s inevitable collapse toward the end of every season). Wait, did I say highest-ranked team? I meant ONLY ranked team. Yes, their victory over a bipolar Miami team (probably broken up about that day’s lack of prostitutes) was impressive…at the time. Then Miami tanked. Their victory over Florida was impressive to anyone who didn’t see Florida play last year. The rest of us witnessed Brantley come in on 3rd and 12, stand Todd Boeckman-style in the pocket, and throw a beautiful spiral out of bounds. Yeah, Florida State beat Florida. You know who else did? Mississippi State…at the Gator Homecoming game. Awkward.
Oh yeah, and Florida State lost to the defensively-depleted North Carolina, got trounced by Oklahoma, got beat by N.C. State (after the wolf pack had already woken up from their dream season), and lost to Virginia Tech (who should have their very own “overrated” section of every column for all time…ever). And that was with first-round draft pick Christian Ponder. He gone.
You know, when I started writing this, it was building up to trounce Stanford (I mean, how does a team that loses its coach AND its defensive coordinator make it that high? Oh yeah, they beat Virginia Tech in the bowl game. What’s your secret??). But I convinced myself: Most Overrated (at this point) goes to the Florida Seminoles.
Question back to you—who is your most UNDERRATED team in this week’s poll?
Team names intrigue me—I love Brutus, but I definitely wish we were more than a poisonous nut (though anything’s better than Otto the Orange). I think the best team names are powerful animals that can actually do some damage. I like the Longhorns because Bevo is great, but at the end of the day it’s a cow. Driving around West Texas you see lots of dead grass, Mox tossing the pigskin around with Tweeder, and cows eating. I’m sure if Bevo is pissed he’ll charge, but otherwise he’s just taking it cool. Oh, and his quarterback blows.
South Florida has the bulls, which has potential, but they steal the Longhorns “Hook Them” hand-sign, so that’s an automatic disqualification (the same would hold true of the Hawkeyes stealing the Gator chomp, if the Herkie wasn’t the dumbest-looking mascot this side of the Stanford tree). The Colorado Buffaloes definitely have the coolest real-life mascot—that buffalo (bison in disguise?) tearing across the field is all kinds of badass. But, that’s not really the name now, is it?
For me, it’s Marshall. The Thundering Herd is the beginning and the end, mostly because it combines the badassery of a large animal and the bonus of a verb describing what said animals are actually doing. Bonus.
Any of your questions are, as always, fair game, but I wanted to pile on a couple of my own. Sorry to tack them on at the end—I’m sure we’ll get better at this.
What is your most memorable regular-season game not involving the Buckeyes and why?
For what team do you possess the most irrational hatred? The key words here are most irrational—plenty of personal reasons to hate Florida and USC.
As a matter of fact, you are stupid for not answering my WAC question. I wouldn’t set a trap like that in week 1, and Boise State is in Mountain West. I’ll go with Nevada. I’m still on their bandwagon from the Boise win last year. (Or I could have picked them because everyone but Hawaii lost this weekend).
I like where your heads at with the Big 10 rankings. (Honestly, I was glad you removed it from your ass after the Boise State confusion.) Wisconsin is clearly the best team. I’ll be a rankings homer and say they meet Nebraska in the championship. As for the 6th best team, it’s Iowa. 1 – Wisconsin, 2 – Nebraska, 3 – Ohio St., 4 – Michigan, 5 – Northwestern, 6 – Iowa. Judge my Michigan pick all you want, but it’s about time they had an above average season, and let’s face it, college football is better when Michigan is good.
RESPONSE: Since you eliminated Ohio State and Wisconsin, I’m assuming Penn State would luck their way into the championship. I’d have no choice but to sport the #85 jersey belonging to Brandon Moseby-Felder (architect?) WR.
I purposely phrased a few of the questions so they would be open to interpretation, and I’ll continue to do so to keep things interesting. I’ll start with another list to narrow the field. Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon, LSU, and possibly Nebraska are the only teams ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll that should/could be ranked in top 10, and both Oklahoma and Oregon are big stretches at their current rank. (The coaches poll is a complete joke, so it’s not worth discussing.) It would be pointless to argue that Virginia Tech is overrated, shocking, TCU already exposed themselves so that’s old news, and both Notre Dame and Michigan State are too low to give a shit about. I basically agree with youryou on the top 6 teams, so let’s venture a little lower. At their rank, Texas A&M is an easy pick at #8. They’ll lose at least 4 games this year, including 1 to the RG3 lead Baylor Bears, on their way to a 4th placed finish in the Big 12.
I’m not trying to sound like a fan, but I think Ohio State is clearly the most underrated team in the polls this week. Starting the season at #18 was asinine based on the talent they bring in each season, so I don’t care if they how many starters returned this season. The win over Akron doesn’t mean anything, except that they did exactly what they were supposed to do against an inferior team.
You went with team names on my question, which I appreciate, but I was going for an individual player. Someone along the lines of Pat Angerer or Kurt Coleman, but let’s start with yours. I like your pick of the Thundering Heard, even though you picked them for your love of both “We Are Marshall” and Matthew McConnaughey. I always thought the Demon Deacons and Crimson Tide sounded cool, but neither are particularly intimidating. always liked the Wolverines. Something about it sounds cool, but that could just be a lingering affect of Red Dawn.
Most memorable regular season game would have to be Appalachian State vs. Michigan. That was some funny shit. I’ll have more for this question next time. It’s late and I want to send this thing off.
Most irrational hatred is a tough question. That eliminates everyone from the SEC since the media has given us plenty of reasons to hate them. I guess I’d have to go with Hawaii. Not sure why, but I just like watching them lose.
Best Nickname Week 1 – RG3
– Worst Uniform – Maryland. What the hell were they thinking? I always wondered what happened to the brain trust that came up with the 11 camera Miami game. Apaarently they now work for Under Armour. At least now I know what it would look like if a checkered flag mated with the Knights of the Templar shield.
I’m not stupid for answering the WAC question–I was trying to make a joke (because all of those conferences are jokes) and by the time I was done writing that damn thing I didn’t proof it beforehand. Probably should have made that a little more obvious. Awkward.
I agree with your reasoning on the overratedness of the polls. That said, let’s dwell a little bit on Virginia Tech because no one…NO ONE…will say anything bad about this team. Every goddam year, the perennially overrated Hokies start atop the poll and then it’s a race to see who can make the most excuses for a lack of success (photo finish between ESPN and the Hokie Student Media Association). This is an average team playing in a pathetic conference. Period.
Last year, it was all about the VaTech/Boise State game. As it always does, the hype fed off itself like a perpetual motion machine, and when the Broncos beat VaTech, commentators made it out to sound like it was a statement win for Boise State instead of yet another example of the team’s shitty schedule. The next week–the NEXT WEEK–VaTech lost to James Madison (let’s really let that sink in for a minute), and everyone gave them a pass (“Classic letdown game after playing in primetime the week before”–shut the hell up, it’s James freaking Madison). Then the Hokies climbed the polls (like Oregon in 2009, where everyone said team pulled it together) until they made it to the Orange Bowl where Stanford (who legally isn’t even allowed to HAVE a defense) kicked the shit out of them 40-12.
They’re at it again. Everyone’s pissing their pants because the VaTech running back Wilson Whatshisnuts rushed for 162 yards on just 16 carries. Wow! That’s amazing! (Truman’s voice)
To be fair, it is pretty impressive (especially when you consider the three touchdowns he rushed for) when you consider that this is an Appalachian State team that’s returning seven defensive starters from last year, and last year they were 6th in the NATION at defending the run. Go Hokies!
Wait, did I say nation? I meant in their league. But still, they play in the SouthEastern Conference, so that was against Richardson, Ingram, Lattimore, and a slew of other elite running backs from arguably the best conference in the nation! S-E-C! S-E-C!
Wait, I’m looking at my notes here, and apparently they play in the SOUTHERN Conference. So…yeah. They were sixth in the Southern Conference. VaTech ran all over the field on a defense that lost starters from last year, when they finished sixth against the run.
Forgive me for not freaking out about how dominant this team is. I hope last week’s email was wrong and that Florida State runs all over Virginia Tech. It would be totally worth it. Though I’ll settle for an East Carolina upset this weekend.
I just wish college football commentators would follow this very simple formula (EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT!!!) when it comes to dealing with the first week or three of games (at least when it comes to teams playing weak opponents):
“If the team struggles, talk about it. If they don’t, ignore it.”
Very simple, and (biasedly speaking, very accurate). Wisconsin let UNLV run all over them (though the rebels failed to score). That’s worth talking about. Auburn should have lost to Utah State. DEFINITELY worth talking about. Texas struggled mightily against Rice, pulling away in the 4th quarter. Worth talking about, especially after last year. A blowout win against an inferior opponent? Nope. Not worth discussing. Save that for the hometown newspaper’s message boards.
And while we’re on the hate train, let’s jump back to Boise. You know what I would like to see? Alabama or LSU vs. Boise State. I’m not even talking about some balanced attack team (more of an Oklahoma squad, which I’m sure would like another shot the Broncos)…just a ferocious, gigantic defense. Something where the game would end up being close–only because the Tiger/Tide quarterbacks are inept and only the defense scored–but Kellen Moore threw for 18 yards and the team had like 75 yards total (thanks in large part to a 29-yard run off of a missed tackle).
On that note, given the defenses and the quarterback situation, who do you think is going to win–Alabama or LSU?
At the risk of sounding like a homer, I have to agree with you about Ohio State. Should they be in the top 10? Absolutely not, especially given a rebuilding defense, young receivers, dueling quarterbacks, and a new coach. But 18th? Really?
I do need you to do me a favor: Answer. My. Question.
When I wrote you, I asked you what team faces your most irrational hatred? And you give me Hawaii.
Yeah, that’s not irrational. 2005. All we heard about all season long was how dominant Hawaii was, with June Jones and Colt Brennan (they had some overtime win against some joke of a team, but it just showed how tough the team was). FINALLY, they played a real opponent–Knowshon Moreno’s Georgia team–and lost 41-10. And we laughed at the Boise State equivalent that year. But the hatred lingered.
Try again. IRRATIONAL hatred.
• Nice reference on the uniform. Jake texted me, “Did you see the Maryland uniforms? They were so ugly that Miami players said you couldn’t PAY them to wear those things. HEY-OOOOOO!”
• Did you know that Alabama beat Penn State last year 24-3? I watched that game and I SWORE it was like 100 to -6. How ugly is that game going to be this week?
• Check out My Man Pete’s piece this week:
Specifically this excerpt:
“Why isn’t the SEC better?
Who finished on top of the Scout.com 2011 conference recruiting rankings? The SEC. 2010? The SEC. Who ranked on top from 2002 to 2009? Who’s going to be on top in 2012? Yup.
The SEC has all the talent in the world, all the resources, all the TV exposure, all the coaches, all the fan support, all the booster support, and all the booster support, yet the conference is just okay, not superior, when it comes to non-conference play. With this much talent year after year after year, shouldn’t the league be untouchable from top to bottom? Or at least top to Kentucky?
Of course the conference is the best in college football, but don’t get so hung up on the idea of winning five straight national titles. Just because the conference has one or three dominant teams every year, that doesn’t mean the entire league is the be-all-end-all like it should be. It’s just like saying the Pac 10 used to be great when USC was crushing and killing everything in its path, and it’s just like thinking the Big Ten might be down because Ohio State is rebuilding. As crazy as this might sound, again, considering the talent level, the SEC might actually be underachieving.
Auburn rallied to beat Utah State, but it got flat-out whipped on the lines. Ole Miss was embarrassing at home against BYU, and Georgia was picked apart by the same Boise State that no one wants to give any credit to.
Since 2002 the league is 86-70 in non-conference games on the road, in a bowl, or at a neutral site. That’s not taking into account non-conference home losses, and there are a ton of road games against Memphis in the win column. Also, remember, when Georgia goes to Georgia Tech, that’s sort of like a home game. Florida plays Florida State every year, South Carolina plays Clemson, and Kentucky plays Louisville, which means that several SEC schools aren’t too keen on challenging themselves outside of conference play with a second tough BCS-league road test.
86-70 might seem solid, and it is, but to keep hammering the point, considering the SEC has been on top of every ranking of recruiting classes for a decade, shouldn’t it be a whole bunch better than +16?
What if the four teams in the NFC South had the top four overall draft picks, along with an extra first round selection, for over ten drafts in a row? Wouldn’t the division destroy every other division? The SEC should be killing everyone else no matter where the game is played.”
I am a man of reason.
With few exceptions, I’m pretty calculating, I certainly try to control what I can, and I’m much more likely to believe in statistical possibility as opposed to supernatural intervention. However, the one area I am, without a doubt, ridiculously superstitious, is when it comes to sports. And the crazy is most concentrated when I watch my Ohio State Buckeyes play football.
It’s a bizarre ritual with a million unwritten rules. I can’t talk to my friend Jared during a Buckeye game (unless we’re watching the game together, though we rarely risk it). I can’t wear Ohio State gear within a few days of the game, even if it’s by accident. I really can’t boast about a potential victory–it’s the kiss of death. If the game is going badly, I have to pause it for awhile (thanks, Tivo) and, by the time I catch up (fast-forwarding through commercials) that normally gives the team enough time to overcome whatever curse I’ve placed on them. Don’t believe in curses? I bragged non-stop about how Ohio State would dominate Florida in the 2006 National Championship game (and I listened to the song “Remember the Name” when I went running before that fateful night), and we know how that turned out.
And that’s the real problem with this kind of arrangement: I take the blame for the big losses (I watched the infamous Purdue loss with a group of strangers and accepted a handful of Buckeyes before the game began, I couldn’t watch the Wisconsin game live this year…) but, because I’m just that kind of guy, I make sure that the players and coaches deservedly get credit for the victory.
Last night, the players and coaches did their job (especially in the first half), but I think it’s time for my contributions to be recognized. Here is a list of what I did to secure victory:
• I did not contact Jared during the game (and obviously not John or Nate either)
• When the game got tight, I paused it via DVR and, after about 20 minutes of Parks and Recreation, I watched the game live
• I did not wear any Ohio State gear and downplayed the chances of the Buckeyes (though that wasn’t too hard after the Big Ten New Year’s Day debacle)
• During the first half (before Tressel decided to sit on an 18-point lead for 30 minutes–thereby making the Arkansas defense actually feel like it was doing something as opposed to stuffing nine men in the box to stop Herron), I was drinking Pepsi with an occasional sip of A&W Root Beer. During the second half, I tried to alternate the two in order to predict what was causing the success
• In the middle of the first half, I noticed I was sweating (because I sweat a lot when I’m nervous) and I was afraid my shirt smelled. So, I went into my room to change shirts, but then realized that I could ruin the game. So, after taking the shirt off, I actually put the damn thing back on
I am a bonafide crazy person when it comes to watching Ohio State football. And it gave us a ridiculous victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.