Dropped Out: Clemson (#16), Washington State (#20), Penn State (#24).
For the second straight week, I wanted to drop Michigan and then Tennessee lost and Florida looked underwhelming against Vandy. Texas looked good, but they're one week removed from allowing 512 passing yards against Texas Tech and two weeks removed from being a late fumble away from losing to Nebraska. Cal looked pretty good, but I have a hard time taking a team seriously when they surrender 529 yards to UCLA. I thought about putting Louisville in the #2 spot, but I decided that I would be inconsistent in doing so, given my feelings that West Virginia was overrated. Plus, Louisville illustrates the proposition that a team probably should not be judged on its performances against minnows in the lead-up to the "GAME OF THE CENTURY!!!" So, Michigan remains at #2 behind an Ohio State team that looked mortal for the first time since Penn State traded punches with them for almost four quarters.
Random notes from the weekend:
1. As Arkansas was whipping up on South Carolina and looking very much like a team worthy of consideration for tops in the SEC, I started to criticize Kirk Herbstreit in my head for constantly leaving the Hogs off his list of top five one-loss teams. (The fact that I had Arkansas ranked outside of the top ten was lost on me at this point.) After all, the Hogs had, arguably, the most impressive win of any of the one-loss teams: the 17-point domination of Auburn on the road. Arkansas also had the most embarrassing loss, but they had the best excuse, as they played USC without their starting quarterback or tailback. Anyway, I decided in my head that Arkansas was being punished because they were not one of the anointed contenders before the season, just as players who aren't Heisman candidates before the year find it hard to force their way into the conversation. The moral of the story is that Herbstreit had the Hogs on his list at the end of the day and he was singing the praises of Darren McFadden, so credit to him for reacting to evidence.
1a. Speaking of McFadden, compare his stats to those of Steve Slaton, who was considered a top contender for the Heisman until his fumbles against Louisville:
Slaton - 169 carries for 1,215 yards and ten touchdowns
McFadden - 167 carries for 1,038 yards and ten touchdowns
McFadden was still recovering from his broken toe in the opener and has since put up 145 yards on Auburn's #41 run defense, 112 yards on Alabama's #31 run defense, and 219 yards on South Carolina's...OK, their #82 run defense. McFadden would be in the Heisman race if that race was at all fair to players who weren't candidates in the pre-season magazines. At a minimum, McFadden is on top of my list for conference MVP (along with Erik Ainge and Reggie Nelson) and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do against Tennessee and LSU.
Incidentally, I'm keen on the McFadden/Slaton comparison because we had to decide in the off-season which of the two to franchise and we went with Slaton. I was very happy with that decision until it occurred to me this weekend that their stats are fairly similar, especially when considering that McFadden has a long receiving touchdown, as well as a passing touchdown.
1b. One other fantasy note: our team is in first place right now, but if you want an illustration of the randomness of it all, we wanted to take a Texas Tech receiver in the draft and, like most teams, had the Red Raider receivers ranked as follows:
Hicks was taken before our pick, so we grabbed Filani. Here are the stats for the Red Raider receivers at present:
Hicks - 25 catches, 334 yards, two touchdonws
Filani - 70 catches, 980 yards, 12 touchdowns
Johnson - 65 catches, 559 yards, six touchdowns
As much as I'd like to tout my skill in jumping on Steve Slaton quickly last year or in identifying Adarius Bowman as a viable option before he mangled Kansas for 300 yards and four touchdowns, there's a major luck component to fantasy football.
2. Michigan's close call against Ball State is a good example of a game that has a very different value to a big fan paying close attention, as opposed to a casual fan, or even a big fan of another team. The average fan would see the score of the game, as well as the fact that Ball State had shots at the end zone to tie the game, and conclude that Michigan's performance was an epic feat of incompetence for the #2 team in the country. Upon a closer look, Michigan dominated the yardage totals, outgaining Ball State by 180 yards, and the turnovers were even. The yardage disparity was far greater when Michigan had its starters in, as the totals were something like 270-20 at halftime, or something like that. Michigan got up 31-12 and then allowed Ball State to complete two long touchdown passes on its back-up corners. The starting defense did allow the Cardinals to drive close to the tying score, which is worrying, but they held out on seven goal-to-go plays. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make isn't so much that Michigan's performance was better than it looked, but rather that a rational fan base will often have a better sense of its team's strengths and weaknesses. In the one direction, Michigan fans have a sense that the Ball State performance wasn't quite the warning sign that it appears to be. In the other direction, the rest of the Georgia blogosphere and I were the canaries in the mine, jumping off the Georgia bandwagon well before the rest of the country figured out that the Dawgs are not a good team.
3. Ralph Friedgen has always been one of my favorite coaches and I'm glad to see him reversing the conventional wisdom that he could only win with someone else's players. I also firmly staked out the ground that he was a better coach than Chuck Amato or Al Groh when Maryland, NC State, and Virginia looked ascendant in 2002 and I'm happy to have been right about something. Now, about that Georgia as pre-season #4 thing...
4. Speaking of tooting my own tooter, I remarked to Der Hausfrau at the start of the Penn State-Wisconsin game that "this game has 10-3 Wisconsin written all over it." damn you, Taylor Mehlhaff.
5. Today's debate topic: "Resolved that the Alabama fan base is the most dissatisfied in the Southeastern Conference." It seems to me that Georgia's fans are the only ones who could be more annoyed by developments this season. On the one hand, Georgia has two recent SEC titles, so their fans are probably willing to cut Mark Richt some slack. That said, the offensive tackle situation for the future has me concerned that this yearis not a one-year blip for Richt's Dawgs. (Is my memory fuzzy or were both Goff and Donnan's declines concurrent with an inability to recruit offensive linemen?) On the other hand, Bama fans are as rational as Hitler in the bunker, moving around imaginary divisions to halt the Red Army. They also just lost to the coach they passed on in favor of Mike Shula. If G-d has a sense of humor, he'll pit these teams against one another in Shreveport in the Totally Disgruntled Bowl. (Comcast, you know something about disgruntled consumers. You want to be the sponsor?) Oh, and need I point out that these are the two teams waiting at the end of Auburn's schedule that Tommy Tuberville pronounced to be too difficult for the '94 49ers, coming on the heels of that rigorous Tulane-Ole Miss-Arkansas State forced march?
6. I'll admit it: I got up and danced to LSU's fight song after they scored at the end of the Tennessee game. LSU deserved something good after their first eight games and I feel bad for them having to play the other four top teams in the conference on the road. I've also really grown to appreciate LSU's medley of songs played after touchdowns. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a good version of "Hold that Tiger." There's also something very rootable about Jamarcus Russell because he doesn't look like any other quarterback I've ever seen.
7. I would have liked to have ranked Oregon State, Virginia Tech, and BYU this week, but I couldn't find three teams to yank out of the rankings. Anyway, they're the wallflowers looking in on the top 25. That said, Virginia Tech didn't break 100 yards in either passing or rushing, so even though they might make me look good (I picked them to go 10-2 this year), no one should confuse them with, you know, a team that can put one foot in front of the other offensively.
8. Note this from the weekend: both Bob Stoops and Bill Bellichek went for fourth downs in their own territory in the second halves of big games this weekend. Both were second-guessed by analysts, who solely focused on what could go wrong if they did not get first downs. Both teams were successful on the gambles, this validating the fact that Stoops and Bellichek are better strategically than Bob Davie or John Madden. In Oklahoma's case, they faced 4th and inches from the 30 with a one-point lead and 90 seconds to go. (Incidentally, Davie had no idea that OU was short before the sticks confirmed that fact, even though they needed to get the nose of the ball to the 30 and they were clearly a few inches short. Notre Dame fans, you have a point.) Here's how I break out their odds:
90% chance of getting the yardage on the sneak.
80% odds of losing if they don't get the sneak.
40% odds of losing if they punt the ball, assuming that A&M would get it around their own 35 with the wind at their backs.
Thus, Stoops had an 8% chance of losing if he went for the sneak and a 40% chance of losing if he didn't. You can argue that my odds are off a little, but the overall point is that Davie (and Musberger and Herbstreit, to a lesser degree) solely focused on the downside of the strategy without recognizing the likelihood of getting six inches on fourth down, as well as the likelihood that A&M could drive for the winning FG in 90 seconds.