Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Top 25 and Blah Blah Blah

1 Ohio State --
2 Michigan --
3 Florida 2
4 Texas --
5 Tennessee 2
6 California 3
7 Auburn 1
8 Southern Cal 5
9 Louisville 1
10 West Virginia 1
11 Arkansas 2
12 LSU --
13 Boston College 1
14 Notre Dame 2
15 Oklahoma 4
16 Clemson 8
17 Rutgers --
18 Oregon 7
19 Boise State 1
20 Washington State 3
21 Wisconsin --
22 Texas A&M 2
23 Wake Forest 1
24 Penn State 2
25 Georgia Tech 1

Dropped Out: Nebraska (#15), Missouri (#18).

I was fully intending to drop Michigan from their #2 spot after a truly putrid offensive performance against Northwestern. 17 points against one of the worst defenses in the country is impossible to justify, regardless of injuries, wind, and whatever else Lloyd would use to defend an inept showing. The game had me having flashbacks to 2001, when Michigan's tricks were figured out mid-season by Iowa and could barely get a first down for the second half of the year in a stumbly wumbly march to getting annihilated by Tennessee in Orlando. I've now convinced myself that it isn't so much that the offense has been figured out, but rather that Michigan is intentionally not using parts of the offense...the passing parts. I'm reminded of the line from one of the nutbags to Ed Harris in The Rock: "So they don't think we're gutless; they think we're incompetent."

Anyway, my anxious desire to show my "I'M TOTALLY OBJECTIVE!!!" credentials by docking the Wolverines and then every other candidate for the #2 spot looked similarly uninspiring. Florida's performance did nothing to disabuse us of our assessment of their weaknesses: minimal non-frill running game, timid passing decisions by Chris Leak, a complete inability to kick field goals, and silly mistakes in the form of penalties and turnovers. Texas spotted Texas Tech a 24-7 lead, gave up an insane 512 yards passing, and then still gave the Raiders two chances at the end to burnish their pirate credentials by beating their state rival. (Why isn't Texas better at running the ball? Two excellent tailbacks and bunches of quality returning starters on the offensive line, and yet they rely on a redshirt freshman quarterback to pull their chestnuts out of the fire time and again.) Tennessee looked reasonably good against South Carolina, but there is a significant luck component when your first two touchdowns come from deflections, and you avert your opponent's first touchdown in the same fashion. Tennessee strikes me as an illustration of the importance of the passing game over all else. Seemingly more than any team in the Pac Ten, Tennessee is a terrific passing game and a number of average units. They don't run especially well and their defense hasn't shut anyone down, but Erik Ainge, those receivers, and those pass blockers have the Vols en route to the BCS. So anyway, at the end of the day, I couldn't find a team to take Michigan's place at #2.

Getting back to the Florida-Georgia game, the Dawgs got behind with two of their repeated defensive failings under Willie Martinez. The first touchdown was set up by a long run by Tim Tebow because the Dawgs, taking a page out of their brilliant Sugar Bowl gameplan, decided to defend an obvious run-from-the-spread formation with six in the box. (Maybe it was seven, but it wasn't enough to defend the one play that Tebow runs over and over again.) The second touchdown came from a wide open receiver streaking through a zone defense that had enough defenders to make plays, but no one was active enough to cover him. To the Dawgs' credit, the defense tightened thereafter, leaving the burden of losing the game to the offense, which combined a dropathon from the receivers and a no-blockathon from the offensive line. I also have slight reservations about Matt Stafford, who did play fairly well for a true freshman with no receivers, but who is prone to bouts of inaccuracy. Does accuracy get better in the same way that decision-making does?

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