Monday, October 10, 2011

Who Cares?

My kingdom for a coherent thought:

  • As an initial matter, I don’t really care about the order of the top three.  Bama and LSU will play one another and the winner will play Oklahoma if they all run the table,  Those teams are clearly the three best in the country.  I suppose I should spend more time parsing out Stanford, Oklahoma State, Boise State, Clemson, and Wisconsin in the next tier, but there is plenty of time for those teams to shake themselves out.
  • If you want an illustration of how fast things can change in college football, think about what changed between Florida’s last two visits to Baton Rouge.  In 2009, Florda came as the #1 team in the country.  The big story was whether Tim Tebow should be playing shortly after sustaining a concussion in Lexington.  As it turned out, a half-speed Tebow was sufficient for Florida to beat LSU because the Tigers were inept on offense.  LSU was in the middle of a stretch in which they would lose nine games in two years.  The prevailing sense was that Les Miles had been hopelessly passed by Nick Saban’s Alabama.  In 2011, LSU comes into the game #1 in the country and following a strong 11-2 season.  Meanwhile, Florida comes in basically in the shape that LSU was in two years ago.  Urban Meyer is gone.  Will Muschamp is trying to prove himself with Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator (Weis was the head coach in South Bend when LSU and Florida played two years ago) and way too many freshmen on his depth chart.  As Yoda said, always in motion is the future.
  • The point that college football fortunes can turn dramatically in two years is worth considering when looking at Mark Richt and Georgia.  The Dawgs have been somewhat down since the hot finish to the 2007 season, but if Les Miles can turn things around with good recruiting and an inspired coordinator hire or two, then there is no reason that Richt can’t do the same.  The signs are certainly encouraging for Todd Grantham.  Georgia is up to sixth nationally in yards per play allowed, this despite a schedule that started off with Boise State and South Carolina.  Tennessee may not be a great team, but they can throw the ball and Georgia handled the Vols offense in Knoxville with aplomb.  While it’s important not to get too carried away by Georgia’s winning streak – they have played a series of teams whom they should beat – it’s nice to see the team playing defense in a manner that hearkens back to the VanGorder days.
  • Speaking of which, this NFL season is making me view 2008 as a massive missed opportunity.  Matt Stafford has established himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL.  AJ Green was the first receiver taken in the Draft.  Mohammed Massaquoi is a starter in the NFL.  Knowshon Moreno is a starter in the NFL.  That offense was as talented as we thought at the time.  So, for that team to lose three games took some major underachievement by the guys wearing headsets.  There are two ways to view this issue.  On the one hand, one can say “it’s regrettable that Richt was committed to Willie Martinez at the time and it cost him a chance to have a great season, but he has corrected the error.”  On the other hand, one can say “Georgia had an incredibly talented offense, so there is no excuse for not scoring in the first half against Alabama or scoring only ten points against Florida or 31 points total against Auburn and South Carolina, two teams that combined to win 12 games.  Mike Bobo does not get production commensurate with the talent at his disposal and he remains an issue.”  That 2008 Georgia offense reminds me in retrospect of the 1999 Michigan offense led by Tom Brady that also had three future NFL starters on the offensive line, a future NFL rookie of the year at running back, a top ten pick at receiver, and an NFL starter at H-back.  How the hell did all of that talent not produce more points and yards? 
  • The primary reaction to Denard Robinson’s performance against Northwestern is likely to be “yeah, but…”  Yeah, he accounted for 454 yards of offense and four touchdowns, but he threw three interceptions.  Yeah, he led a rally on the “road” from 24-14 down to 42-24 ahead, but did you see some of those throws that were picked off in the first half?To me, that line of thinking is incomplete.  It’s like criticizing a first baseman who has a 1.000 OPS for striking out too much.  At the end of the game, Robinson’s passer rating for the contest was 45 points higher than Dan Persa's.  If you would have told me before the game that Robinson would have a better passing game than Persa, then I would have been just about certain of a Michigan victory.  To put Robinson’s 176.6 rating for the game into context, it is better than the season ratings for Kellen Moore or Case Keenum.  So no, there shouldn’t be a “but” to Denard’s performance, other than the fact that it came against a bad defense.  Fixating on three interceptions is a waste of time.
  • After years of being an Atlanta sports fan and watching teams from other cities draw heavily at our local sports venues, it’s fun to be on the other end of that stick, if only vicariously through TV.  Ryan Field reminded me of a high school stadium on Saturday night, with the home team fans on the press box side and then the road team fans on far side of the field.  Despite their efforts to make their stadium an actual homefield advantage, the crowd last night was at least 50% Michigan fans.  So this is what it feels like to be on the other side of the “we took over your stadium; your fans suck!” argument.
  • Isn’t Drake Dunsmore the perfect name for a Northwestern/Vandy/Stanford/Duke player?
  • I’m not sure how Wisconsin fans view Michigan as compared to their other rivals in the Big Ten, but they have to be rooting for the Wolverines for the rest of the season for strategic purposes.  The one factor that could save Wisconsin from their own pusillanimous schedule would be playing an unbeaten or 11-1 Michigan team in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.  You think that that would get some media attention, especially if Denard is in the running for the Heisman and Brady Hoke is in the running for coach of the year?  (And yes, I am fully aware that Michigan may have major Negative Grohmentum working against it next year, although I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that Ron Zook wins the Big Ten Coach of the Year.)

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