Wednesday, August 31, 2005

All predictions guaranteed to be wrong!

With apologies to Gregg Easterbrook for the title of this post, here are the predictions from the Sports Illustrated college football staff. My thoughts:

1. All four of them are taking Virginia Tech to win the ACC, which makes me worry that this is becoming conventional wisdom. On the other hand, the only other team I would consider for that title is Miami and they have to go to Blacksburg, where the Canes always struggle, even when Tech was in their three-year, post-Michael Vick hangover. Watch N.C. State beat the Hokies this weekend and throw the whole enterprise into flux. Speaking of which, that would be the best game of the weekend if not for the fact that it was a totally boring fixture last year.

2. Three of the four writers pick Big Ten teams to oppose USC in the Rose Bowl, with the fourth taking Louisville. That makes the SI writers consistent with the Gameday crew, half of whom had Ohio State in the title game. One has to ask the question: do these people have any empirical sense at all? In the past ten years, there have been exactly two Big Ten teams in the national title game (and that includes Michigan '97, which didn't play in the Bowl Coalition title game, but was unbeaten and would have played Nebraska under the current bowl structure.) In contrast, four SEC teams have played for the national title during that same decade and Auburn would have been a fifth last year if not for the intervening event of the pre-season #1 and #2 teams actually playing up to their rankings. The SEC just does a better job of producing national title teams, or do we need to also compare the Big Ten's two national titles since 1969 to the SEC's seven. The one major outlet that seems to get this point is, whose major writers all picked SEC teams to oppose USC. It would be one thing if this was a year in which there was one dominant team in the Big Ten and a host of competitive teams in the SEC, but with the media touting the Big Ten as being loaded this year, why is the media falling itself to anoint teams from that conference, predominantly a team that was 4-4 in the league and finished 98th in total offense, as being likely to go unbeaten?

3. How far has Penn State fallen that they are listed as a surprise team because they are predicted to beat three dreadful out-of-conference opponents, break even in the Big Ten, and make a bowl at 7-4?

4. Three of the four writers pick teams that are on my overrated list (which apparently runs tomorrow on CFN and should lead to some choice indignant e-mails) to flop, but the fourth, written by Cory McCartney, makes no sense at all:

"Georgia. No team can lose as much as the Dawgs have and not miss a beat. Six players from last year's squad are now in the NFL, including David Greene and David Pollack. The offense will be shaky at first, and trying to keep up with Boise State in the season opener could be difficult."

McCartney illustrates the prime symptom of superficial media analysis: excessive focus on skill position players. Georgia returns all of its offensive and defensive linemen, save one. The team brings back 15 starters, some of whom were not exactly world-beaters. (I'm looking at you, David Greene.) Given that, you can't focus on what they've lost and claim that they're going to suck. Now, if you wanted to make the argument that the defense has carried the team over the past three years and they have a new defensive coordinator working for a head coach who doesn't know defense, then I might be willing to listen.

McCartney goes on to proclaim Joe Paterno as the coach on the hottest seat. Yeah, a guy with 343 wins who happens to be one of the biggest donors to his own university and whose program has not seen a fall in attendance is on the hot seat. Paterno is far more likely to be coaching Penn State in 2006 as compared to the likelihood of John Bunting still coaching North Carolina or Rich Brooks still coaching Kentucky.

5. What does it say about the quality of mid-major teams that there is complete consensus that Boise State is the pick of the litter and the Broncos didn't play a shred of defense last year. At least Fresno State played competent defense when they made their run in 2001.

6. Here's the problem with the avalanche of support for Reggie Bush in the Heisman discussion: how is Lane Kiffin going to figure out ways to get him the ball that didn't occur to Norm Chow? I'm waiting, guys.

7. And in the realm of completely idiotic reasoning, here's Luke Winn on why Laurence Maroney will be a Heisman flop:

"Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota. Last year Maroney and Marion Barber formed the best 1-2 punch in the Big Ten. But with Barber and quarterback Asad Abdul-Khaliq gone, teams will be stacking nine in the box to stop Maroney."

Khaliq didn't play last year and Maroney still ran wild. Additionally, Barber never played at the same time as Maroney, so how would defenses treat Laurence any differently this year? Barber's absence makes Maroney more likely to get Heisman publicity because he won't be sharing the load anymore. And what defense hasn't yet figured out to load up nine in the box against Minnesota? They haven't been able to throw the ball for years! If I know these things off the top of my head, then what the hell are SI writers doing writing this drivel when it's their job to know such facts?

But just to be fair, I'll go on the record picking against the best that SI has to offer:

BCS Predictions

Rose - USC vs. LSU - although this hurricane could really screw with with this pick.
Sugar - Florida vs. Cal - ABC's fantasy.
Orange - Virginia Tech v. Louisville - ABC's nightmare (unless the Ville is 11-0 and whining.)
Fiesta - Texas vs. Michigan - worked out pretty well the first time.

Surprise Team

Maryland - Now that Kelly Johnson isn't hitting and college football is around the corner, my man crush has shifted to the Fridge.

Flop Team

Florida State - Iowa fits the Charles Rogers theorem the best, but FSU is the most likely team to finish significantly below its pre-season rank.

Best Non-BCS-Conference Team

Bowling Green - just because I don't want to pick Boise State.

Heisman Trophy Winner

I don't really care, but hell, let's just go with Leinart again. Unlike Jason White, he doesn't have to deal with the stigma of having won the award and then shat the bed in the bowl game, so there'll be no remorse in giving the award to him again. Plus, the voters would all love it if he would date their daughters.

Preseason Heisman Candidate Who Will Pull A '2004 Brad Smith' (and fall out of the race)

Vince Young - I sense bad things for him in Columbus.

Next Household Name

Joseph Addai - just because he's on my fantasy team.

Coach On The Hottest Seat

Rich Brooks - Kentucky fans don't have high standards, but 7-17 in two years will chafe just about any fan base.

If USC is going to lose a regular-season game, which one will it be?

Nov. 12 at Cal - Tedford's teams have done a great job against SC so far, so why rock the boat?

Which of these three predictions would you feel the most comfortable making?
- Charlie Weis' Fighting Irish over 6 1/2 wins.
- Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks over 5 1/2 wins.
- Urban Meyer's Gators over 8 1/2 wins

Weis - six wins are not a tall task when the schedule includes Stanford, Navy, BYU, Washington, and Syracuse and he has the entire offense returning. Meyer will likely go over 8.5 wins, but the schedule is tricky. Spurrier has nothing to work with in Columbia, so I'd almost be inclined to take the under on him.


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