The Ocho

A home away from home for the college football fan who's tired of the talking heads not knowing what they're talking about.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

48 Hours til Kickoff

Okay, maybe a little bit more, but we're two days away from the kickoff of college football, a full 5 days (Thur thru Mon) of college ball.

Here are some of what I think are the most interesting matchups this week, and my picks on them:

UCF at South Carolina - Interesting only because the Ole Ball Coach is back in the saddle. UCF hasn't won a game since the 2003 season, and perhaps not so coincidentally, since George O'Leary took over as head coach - don't expect this game to break the chain. Winner - South Carolina

Arizona at Utah -
Why this one? We'll get to see what Stoops the Younger has managed to do with this team, against a Utah team that, despite going undefeated, has lost just about everybody, including their coach. It's a Friday night MWC matchup, and I think Mike Stoops's coaching will be the edge in this one. Look for this as Arizona's return to respectibility. Winner - Arizona

Bowling Green at Wisconsin -
This game is the potential start to a BCS busting run for Bowling Green. Wisconsin is reloading, its defense depleted by the NFL draft, and its offense being not too much better. Bowling Green comes in with latest hot MAC QB Omar Jacobs, looking to be this year's MAC upset of a Big Ten team. Mmmm . . . winner - Bowling Green

Miami (OH) at Ohio State -
Another MAC team trying to make an impact. Ohio State will have the ever mediocre Justin Zwick at QB, as Troy Smith sits out his one-game suspension. Will Zwick be able to get the ball to Ted Ginn, or will Ohio State just have to rely on punt returns for TDs from the speedster? Will Miami even be able to score against this defense? Look for a low-scoring matchup with the ultimate result being winner - Ohio State

Boise State at Georgia -
Look, I don't buy into the Shockley hype. Yes, he looks great at times. Other times, he looks like he should be QB'ing for my alma mater. Can Boise State's D do anything against a top level SEC team? The better question, can Georgia's D stop Boise's high-flying offense? I don't think they can. Look for a big score between the hedges, with Boise State as our winner in this game between the hedges.

Notre Dame at Pitt - Two new coaches, fresh from the NFL. One flush from the success of two Super Bowl wins. The other, doomed at Miami once his falky halfback decided to experiment with "herbal" medication and other alternative forms of medicine. This game, to me, will show that the coach only goes so far. Charlie Weiss has barely had 6 months to be a full time coach to the Irish, and teach them a new offense. Pitt, meanwhile, after backing into the Big East title game and a spanking from the Utes last year, has the edge in this one, if only because of location, and so is our winner.

Miami at FSU - The battle of the untested QBs. Miami has owned this series, especially since Bowden's Boys (Richt and Amato) went on to their own head coaching gigs. Don't expect this year's to be any different, as long as Bowden the Lesser is the Offensive Coordinator, and the fact that Kyle Wright has actually seen some play at QB. Will this be another Wide Insert Direction Here? I think so - our winner is Miami.

And now, interesting to no one but me and other long suffering Penn State fans - USF at Penn State - the return of what will arguably be one of the best defenses in the country, and a huge huge huge question mark surrounding the offense. Are Derrick Williams and Justin King going to be the huge playmakers that everyone makes them out to be? Is Michael Robinson going to actually complete passes to his teammates, instead of the other side? This one shouldn't be in question, but be prepared for a long season, Nittany Lion fans, if this game is even remotely close. Winner (and hopefully by 30) - Penn State.

5 days of football - and I'm going to be in Plano doing wedding planning and helping redo my future in-laws kitchen. If someone can find my 'nads, please let me know. I need them back.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Interesting Lines for Week One

Since we have a little competition going with respect to top 25 games, I will try and limit my picks to non 25 teams for the upcoming season (with maybe 1-2 picks that I just HAVE to throw out there...). In fact, I won't even make them every week. Having said that, this first week presents quite a few interesting lines amongst the top 25 including Boise State (+7) at Georgia, Miami(OH) (+14.5) at Ohio State, and Georgia Tech (+7) at Auburn. My favorite one, however, is below...

1) Texas A&M (-1) at Clemson: I borrow from Simmons, "When in doubt, take one last look at the QBs". McNeal threw 4 INT's last year against 14 TD's, Whitehurst threw 17 INT's last year against 7 TD's. Plus, the coaching matchup is a bloodbath. Hhm. I know this is a road game, and I know Franchione has a history of dropping an early game, but it's hard to get excited about this Clemson squad... Texas A&M 28 Clemson 13.

2) Bowling Green (+4) at Wisconsion: Time for Omar Jacobs to prove whether he's for real. Wisconsion teams from the past have shown weaknesses even at Camp Randall to unranked foes (UNLV, Cincinatti), and this is by no means a strong Wisconsion squad. If you are looking for a MAC upset of a Big 10 squad, this is a good place to look (though i do recognize that it's a trendy pick). In fact, be brave and play the money line... Bowling Green 28 Wisconsion 24.

3) Baylor (-4) at SMU: Baylor actually looked decent at times last year including the stunning upset of Texas A&M. If Baylor played in a mid-major like SMU, they might actually win 6 games. SMU's defense took tiny steps of improvement last year, but the offense was lifeless. Look for Baylor to double up on their markedly weaker foe. Baylor 31 SMU 16.

Unfortunately, most of the games on which I want to comment involve top 25 teams. Other non-top 25 games that might be interesting to tease include Arizona (+7) at Utah and Central Florida (+18.5) at South Carolina. Mike Stoop's Arizona squad (a strong defense to begin with bolstered with top notch recruite) is likely to at least stay within double digits of a headless Utah squad (if not win outright) and I'll take Steve Spurrier at 2 TD's over a squad that finished 0-11 the previous year any day of the week.

To recap, take:
1) Texas A&M (-1) at Clemson
2) Bowling Green (EVEN) at Wisconsion [or Bowling Green +4 at Wisconsion if you want to be "safe"]
3) Baylor (-4) at SMU

AND
1) Any combination of the above three in teaser formats (generally best to use favorites on teasers, so take the extra points for Texas A&M and Baylor)
2) Arizona (+13) at Utah with Central Florida at South Carolina (-12.5)

Playoff Possibilities

As anyone familiar with college football, this is more than likely just a flight of fancy. The only plan outside of the current BCS arrangement that has any likelihood of success is the Plus One model, in which #1 and #2 after all the bowls meet in a final game. While the fairness of this is disputed (should a sole remaining undefeated team have to play yet another game?), it maintains the monetary benefits of the bowl system without the worries that multiple games in multiple locations will reduce revenue.

But hey, so this is all speculation. If there is a Div. 1A playoff, what should it look like? Here are the options and questions:

1. How many teams? - How big should a playoff be? Should it be a four team playoff, matching #1 and #4, #2 and #3, and then the winners of those two? Should it be an eight team playoff, following basically the same set-up, and giving the top 2 seeds the best shot of making it through? What about 16 teams? Or let's just go crazy, and slot in 32, or 64?

2. Who gets an invite? - There is a lot of dispute about this. Should a playoff be based on the BCS rankings, faulty as they are? Or how about just the human polls? How about a selection committee? Do we undermine the whole point of a conference championship if that isn't taken into account?

3. Where should a playoff be played? - The NFL playoffs, until the Super Bowl, are held at the individual team's stadiums, giving one team home field advantage every game. But if the NCAA did that, what would that do to the bowls that exist, and, most importantly, how would the revenue stream be shared?

MY PLAYOFF SUGGESTION

Answering the 3 questions, and putting together what I think is the fairest setup, here is what I would do, were I in charge. There should be a 16 team playoff. Why sixteen? It allows for all 11 conference winners, plus the next best 5 teams in addition. Does that unfairly give a free pass to North Texas, invariably the Sun Belt's champion? Sure, but how is that any different from the basketball brackets, or even any other playoff sport that takes division champions into effect? The champs should be ranked according to BCS rankings, thus keeping them involved, and the 5 at-large teams should be the highest ranking teams in the BCS outside of conference champs. Also, with 16 teams, that breaks down to 15 total games to be played, and I think those games should be played at existing bowls. In addition, this would allow the remaining bowls to be used in much the same way as they are now, or even in an NIT-like structure.

So, what would my playoff would've looked like at the end of 2004?

Here's our participants:
How would this have played out?  And where should they be played? Stay tuned for Playoff Possibilities Pt. 2?
1 USC                   1     1      2    .9770   1 Pac 10 champ 
2 Oklahoma              2     2      1    .9681   2  Big 12 champ
3 Auburn                3     3      3    .9331   3  SEC champ
4 Texas                 6     5      4    .8476   5  First at large bid
5 California            4     4      6    .8347   4  Second at large bid
6 Utah                  5     6      5    .8181   6  MWC champ
7 Georgia               8     7      8    .6966   7  Third at large bid
8 Virginia Tech         9     9      9    .6712  12  ACC champ
9 Boise State          10    10      7    .6564   8  WAC champ
10 Louisville           7     8     13    .6490   9  CUSA champ
11 LSU                 12    11      9    .6109  11  Fourth at large bid
12 Iowa                11    13     12    .5553  13  Fifth at large bid
13 Michigan            13    12     17    .5058  14  Big 10 champ
14 Pittsburgh(BCS 21)  19    20     NR    .1546  23  Big East champ
15 Toledo (No BCS)     MAC champ
16 North Texas (No BCS)     Sun Belt champ
 
Note: I've re-edited this as, while the list looked fine in Mozilla, it was pretty trippy in IE.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Run for the Roses

I am not sure if there is anything that can top off what was the best Rose Bowl game ever of last season between storied programs Michigan and Texas (it is sad that the Rose Bowl conference host PAC-10, formerly PAC-8, was not part of this classic). Nonetheless, the so-called BCS Title game will be played in Pasadena and therefore the Rose Bowl should get another great game hopefully. With the opening games scheduled over the long Labor Day weekend, here are my predictions for each BCS Conference:

ACC
Champion: Miami (Florida)
Runner-Up: NC State

A very difficult conference to predict as any of 5 teams can come out of this conference as champion: Boston College, Florida State, Miami, NC State or Virginia Tech. Miami will come out as a bruised champion with a regular season conference loss. NC State has a great defense but this pick is a huge gamble on their offense.

Big 10
Champion: Michigan
Runner-Up: Ohio State

Michigan is looking at an undeafeated season and a berth in their rightful place - The Rose Bowl.
Vince Young simply had a game for the ages but the Wolverines were the better team.

Big 12
Champion: Texas
Runner-Up: Kansas State

I need to correct Terry Bowden and many in the sports media who have said incorrectly that Mack Brown at Texas has not beaten Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. Texas under second-year coach Brown did beat Oklahoma under first-year coach Bob Stoops in 1999. Vince Young was a sleeping giant who rose (no pun intended) during last season's Rose Bowl and will steer the Longhorns to a close victory in the Red River Shootout this year. However, an early season match-up with Ohio State is likely their major stumbling block to the Rose Bowl. Kansas State is the likely survivor of the mediocre North division.

Big East
Champion: Louisville
Runner-Up: Pittsburgh

Great chance for the Cardinals to go undefeated and make a case for the Rose Bowl.

PAC-10
Champion: Southern California
Runner-Up: Arizona State

The Trojans so overwhelmingly talented that only their potential lack of motivation may result in a loss during conference play.

SEC
Champion: Tennessee
Runner-Up: Auburn

Nobody has an easy path to the conference championship game inlcuding Tennessee which has road games against Florida, LSU and Alabama. Steve Spurrier at South Carolina is great for making the conference even more interesting to watch but the Gamecocks do not have the horses to keep up with Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.

Coming up in my next post will be opening weekend games predictions.

BCS busters - this year's Utah (maybe)

Despite having rules allowing for a team from a non-BCS conference to get an invitation to a BCS game, last year's invitation to Utah was the first time it had happened since the beginning of the BCS. There are a number of factors that went into Utah's crawling up the BCS ranks to achieve what it did last year:

1. Schedule - Utah not only finished the season with a perfect record, but managed it against a non-conference schedule that included North Carolina, Texas A&M, and Arizona. Now, while Arizona is still rebuilding under Mike Stoops, the other two wins aided Utah's quest. North Carolina, though at times abysmal, did manage an upset of Miami. A&M, also still rebuilding under Francione, was the most impressive of the wins, as the Aggies were never in the game. To top it off, it was a banner year for the MWC, with Wyoming and New Mexico also making into bowls, and BYU managing to knock off Notre Dame.

2. Exposure - Urban Meyer was the hottest thing since sliced bread last year, which led to a lot more attention to a program that otherwise would've been ignored by the sportswriters. This attention leads to votes in the polls, and a high draft position for Alex Smith, who under any other situation would've been a low first round draft pick at best. Heck, Notre Dame broke with tradition, fired Willingham before the end of his contact, all in an apparent effort to get Meyer. In addition, the above-mentioned schedule helped provide more national exposure to its games.

So, with that in mind, what teams this year have a shot at busting into the BCS?

1. Boise State - This is the big one. Not only do they have a difficult non-conference schedule (at Georgia, at Oregon State, and Bowling Green), but they have to go head to head against fellow WAC power Fresno State. While the WAC has been diluted by the raiding of the Sun Belt, the non-con schedule (aside from IAA Portland State) should make up for it. Also, by finishing the regular season undefeated last year, and having a close loss against Louisville in the Liberty Bowl, the buzz is up on Boise State. In fact, the only reason I have them at No. 1 instead of the next pick is the higher probability of being able to go undefeated.

2. Fresno State - The second giant in the weakened WAC, Fresno State has an even tougher non-conference schedule, which really comes down to: USC. That's right, Pat Hill's scrappy bunch is making the trip to L.A. to take on the Trojans on their home turf. Win the WAC, and beat USC, pull out wins against the remaining non-cons (Oregon, Weber State, and Toledo) and the Bulldogs should be getting that big game payout come January. So why do I have them ranked lower than Boise State? Cause beating USC at home this year is going to be a lot harder than outgunning Georgia between the hedges, also no mean feat.

So who else is out there, ready to break into the big time? Well, probably not much of anyone. There are possibilites - UTEP has the buzz after last year, and a tougher schedule in the expanded CUSA. Wyoming could duplicate Utah's feat in the MWC, with an opener at Florida and Urban Meyer. Bowling Green or Miami(OH) could both be there if they run the table, though Miami, with Ohio State as its Big 10 non-con, would have a better shot than Bowling Green, with Wisconsin and Boise State.

The real question is how likely is any of this to happen? Good question. I think Boise State has a good shot, seeing as the Broncos return 8 starters on both sides of the ball. They beat Oregon State on the blue turf last year, and had a narrow loss the year before in Corvallis. Beat the Dawgs, the Beavers, and the other 'Dogs, and we can see Boise State playing on January 1. Everyone else has even longer odds to go undefeated, the first requirement to be a BCS buster. So, if the Broncos are in the Fiesta Bowl this year, don't say I didn't warn you?

Why USC won't go undefeated in 2005

For the last 8 months, we've been watching the Pat Fordes and Ivain Maisels of the world giggle like schoolgirls in heat when talking about Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, and the USC Trojans. Words like "dynasty" and "best ever" have been thrown around as have fake words like "threepeat." Well, to the catchphrase of the dumbest college football analyst of them all against him: Not so fast, my friends. The USC Trojans will not match last year's unbeaten record, will not play in the Rose Bowl for the national title, and will lose at least 2 games. Here are the four reasons why:

1) Schedule: Yes, I know they play in the Pac-1o. But, while the Pac-10 isn't the caliber of the Big 3 leagues (SEC, ACC, Big 10), the league is improving. Given Arizona's marked improvement and Oklahoma's rapid decline over its last 15 games, it's becoming apparent that Stoops the Greater is the one in Tucson. The addition of Walt Harris - an assistant at Tennessee during the Johnny Majors era, at a time when his co-assistants would've included Phil Fulmer and Jon Gruden - to the league at Stanford solidifies the move in the right direction.

Addtionally, the non-conference slate is particularly tough this year. They start with a potential jetlag trap at Hawaii, then come back home to play a revamped Arkansas squad with Reggie Herring at Defensive Coordinator. Herring became famous - or perhaps infamous - for forcing Hog defenders not giving 110% to wear pink jerseys during spring practice. But in football circles he's been widely known for a long time, not only b/c of last year, when his NC State squad led the nation in total defense, but also because of his stint as an assistant in the Pat Dye era at Auburn in the 1980s, when those defenses dominated the SEC and the nation. This will be quite a test for SC's new offensive coordinating tandem (more on that later).

The most challenging part of the Thundering Herd's (yes, Marshall stole that from them) schedule this year is that the "Hawaii rule" comes back to bite them in the ass. The Hawaii (or Hawai'i, if the hypersenstive NCAA types are reading this) rule allows a team to schedule a 12th game if it plays a road game at Hawaii in order to defray travel costs to the Aloha State. SC - perhaps out of hubris, perhaps out of negligence, perhaps out of circumstance - has scheduled 10 games in a row, beginning with Arkansas on September 17 and culminating with Fresno State on November 19. 9 in a row is difficult for any team, and 10 is darn near impossible. Making matters worse is who the men of Troy have in weeks 9 and 10 of that stretch: @Cal and vs. Fresno State, respectively. During the Jeff Tedford era, Cal has a win over USC, a two point loss, and a 6 point loss, with the win coming in Berkeley. Fresno State and Pat Hill will throw everything they've got at USC, and have a solid record against BCS conference teams (think the blowout win over K-State at Manhattan last year, the win over eventual Big XII champion Colorado in 2001, or their last 3 bowl games). At least one of those two is a loss.

Throw in the three toughest Pac-10 road trips - Arizona State, Oregon, and Washington - and there are multiple losses waiting for the Trojans.

2) Player losses Now, I know that Matt Hayes and his ilk would have you believe that USC doesn't lose anybody. After all, Matt Leinart's back; Reggie Bush is back; LenDale White is back; Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett are back; even Dominique Byrd is back.

Once again, b/c the Ocho is not the site for 12 year old girls to analyze football, we're going to give you "The rest of the story." Passing and long runs are nice, but football begins in the trenches, and that's where - at least on the defensive side of the ball - USC did suffer heavy losses. We were able to see last year that there was some falloff with the losses of Kenechi Udeze and Omar Nazel, and the move of Shaun Cody out of position. This year, Cody is gone, Mike Patterson is gone, Lofa Tatupu is gone, and Matt Grootegoed is gone. Altogether, USC lost 6 starters on defense, 4 of its front 7, 5 of its 7 leading tacklers, and its three interception leaders.

The replacements are no doubt capable and talented, and Carroll is a great coach. The defense will continue to be a solid unit; however, strange things can happen in college football, and the losses will be too much for the Trojans to stay perfect.

3 Coaching losses The price of success in football is often turnover among assistants. Such is the case with both the defending champions in college football, and the NFL. In addition to the heavy losses up front on defense for USC, the Trojans also lose defensive line coach Eddie Orgeron, now the head man at Ole Miss. The fiery Cajun - and former assistant head coach at USC - was instrumental in putting ogether the Trojan units that combined for 68 sacks over the past two years. He is gone.

On the offensive side, gone is one ofthe legends of the college game, offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Chow - the architect of the Trojans' dismantling of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and the man who has produced QBs such as Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, Phillip Rivers, and recent Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart - has defected to the NFL to be the OC of the Tennessee Titans. Replacing him is the youthful tage team of Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin. If a highly touted team trying to run an OC by committee system sounds familiar, you may be thinking of 2000 Alabama (preseason rank #3; final record: 3-8). If a highly touted team trying to run OC by committee while replacing a highly successful OC and saying that the new team will continue to run the same system sounds familiar, you may be thinking of 2003 Auburn (preseason rank #6; final record: 8-5).

4) Luck runs out USC was a lucky team last year. That's no slap against the Trojans; no major college team not called "1995 Nebraska" goes unbeaten through an entire year without getting a little bit of luck. While there was nothing as egregious as Colorado's 1990 5th down, or Nebraska's 1997 kick (man, Mizzou is one unlucky school), or Tennessee's 1998 gift fumble from Clint Stoerner, the Trojans were the beneficiaries of some questionable calls vs. Virginia Tech and UCLA, had to eke out a 3 point win against 4-7 Stanford, and had to sweat out Cal throwing into the end zone with a chance to win. Eventually, the ball will bounce favorably for a USC opponent, and in college football, it's better to be lucky than good. The Trojans will still be good - very good - but the odds say that they can't continue to be as lucky (and, yes, I have seen the opening scene of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).

USC will have a nice year and may well wind up back in a BCS game. However, it won't be the Rose Bowl, and they won't be undefeated.

The postseason problem - and what to do about it

One of the burning issues in college football for years is how to crown an actual champion, as opposed to what is often referred to as the Mythical National Champion. There are a number of different solutions, which I'll present as the option I consider the least attractive to the most attractive option:

4. The BCS System - For a system that claims to be designed to crown an undisputed National Champion, and matching the 2 best teams in the country every year, it's an outrageous failure. It's not capable of dealing with multiple undefeated teams (see Auburn 2004, Utah 2004 ) or multiple teams with the same schedule (see USC 2003, Miami 2000) or even with avoiding teams that couldn't manage to win their own conference (see Oklahoma 2003, Nebraska 2001). Instead of improving the old bowl system, all it does is create the same situation that has led to (here it comes - my favorite example of this) 4 undefeated Penn State teams that weren't champions or co-champions. The BCS is an abject failure, and needs to be replaced by anything. Like a coin toss, or a three-legged race or something.

3. The old Bowl/final poll vote system - It has the same problems as the BCS, but without any claims to be a solution. At least it maintains the old bowl matchups, such as Pac 10/Big 10 in the Rose, SEC in the Sugar, and the like. Not ideal, but it puts it back where we were pre-BCS, all the same arguments about champions with no resolution. Oh, and while we're at it, take corporate sponsor names off of the big bowls too. Let's go retro all the way.

2. BCS Plus One - If the BCS had actually decided to use that 5th bowl game as a matchup of 1 and 2 after the other bowls, it might actually clear up some of the problems of the BCS. Auburn and USC could have met on the field last year, LSU and USC the year before. Some complaints about this idea is it makes an undefeated team that is surrounded by one or multiple loss teams play one more game, but the same argument is made about the conference championship games as well. Don't leave it in the pollsters hands, actually play the game, on the field. Unfortunately, this isn't on the table right now, but it's much more likely than my number one pick, since it allows the bowl and money structure to remain identical, with the addition of a title game. So, with no further ado, my favorite solution:

1. Playoff. That's right, a playoff. Forget the argument that it penalizes teams that won all season long - it's a chance for a Utah to show that it really deserves its place with the big boys of the year, by playing them instead of a team that managed to back its way into a conference championship. Plus, a playoff could be constructed maintaing the bowls. Do an 8 or 16 team playoff within existing bowls, and either leave the rest alone or set up an NIT like structure with them. The main complaint about this system is, honestly, monetary, and not academics. The bowls won't bring in as much money if fans have to travel to multiple games. I don't have a solution for that, but this solution, more than any, allows for a completely on the field determined national champion. BCS Plus One still has the possibility of leaving a contender out in the cold as #9 or higher, if not an actual conference champ. The playoff works in every other division of NCAA football; it would work here. Too bad the bowl gravy train keeps it from happening.

Next up from me: what should a playoff look like?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Top to bottom conference predictions for Big 12, SEC, and ACC

These are predictions sent to me by Venu, when I was just talking about putting something like this together. So, to finalize the predictions of (at least some) of the BCS conferences, here we go:

Big 12 South
1) Oklahoma
2) Texas
3) Texas Tech
4) Texas A&M
5) Oklahoma St
6) Baylor

Big 12 North
1) Colorado
2) Iowa St.
3) Missouri
4) Kansas
5) Kansas St.
6) Nebraska

SEC East
1) Georgia
2) Tennessee
3) Florida
4) South Carolina
5) Kentucky
6) Vanderbilt

SEC West
1) LSU
2) Auburn
3) Alabama
4) Arkansas
5) Ole Miss
6) Miss State

ACC - Atlantic
1) Boston College
2) Maryland
3) Florida State
4) NC State
5) Wake Forest
6) Clemson

ACC - Pacific
1) Miami
2) Virginia Tech
3) Virginia
4) Georgia Tech
5) UNC
6) Duke

The kingmakers for the 2005

Here's the list of AP voters for 2005: http://www.fanblogs.com/ap_poll/005512.php . You'll notice that many of the people - including Chris Fowler and Kirk Bohls- who voted to put Oklahoma in the BCS title game last year are back. The AP poll wrongly complained about the integrity of the BCS vis a vis the Cal/Texas situation (voting didn' t matter on that one), and failed to rightly complain about the fact that some of the people that voted in its poll voted OU one or two despite the fact that the Sooners gave up 70 points in two weeks vs. two terrible, terrible offensive football teams. Shame on the AP for not permanently shunning the people that made it a laughingstock last year.

Jimbo's picks 2005

First of all, let me say that I'm glad this site has been put together so that people who don't view football from the eyes of a 12 year old girl (like, say, ESPN's Pat Forde) can comment on the game. If the Ocho ever gives out an award like the Heisman, you can rest assured no NTAC of Jason White status will ever win it.
SEC:

Champ: Auburn
Runner up: Tennessee
Darkhorse: Arkansas (Reggie Herring at DC was a stroke of genius by the Nuttcase)

ACC

Champ: Va. Tech
Runner up: Florida State (these divisions were definitely created with Diddy Bowden in mind)
Darkhorse: Georgia Tech (They would've been a legit contender in this league with 9 returning starters from the nation's #12 total D, but injuries, grades, and horticultural entrepreneurialism have led to serious attrition. Still, they're very good, but play a brutal schedue).

Big 10
Champ: Iowa
Runner up: Michigan
Darkhorse: Penn State (Wisky won 9 games last year and was a contender in this conference with great D and mediocre O. If the Nittany Lions can just find that mediocrity magic on the offensive side, watch out!)

Big XII
Champ: Kansas State - The North looks hella weak again, so I'm going to go with Bill Snyder, who bounced back impressively in '02 after the disastrous '01 campaign. And, I'm picking another Wildcat upset in the championship game because I'm picking . . .
Runner up: Texas to win the South. The addition of Gene Chizik brings the grand total of teams playing defense in the Big XII to . . . one. That should be enough to carry them through the regular season, but as we all know, Mack Brown can lead you out of the desert, but not to the promised land (is there a hot young coach named Joshua out there that Texas could turn to for new leadership?)
Darkhorse: A&M. 17 starters back + Texas at home. Road sked is rough, though, which will cost them the division.

Pac-10
Co-champs: USC and Cal
Darkhorse: Arizona. Mike Stoops' squad played folks tough - including Utah and Wisconsin outside league play, but weren't quite ready. Pete Carroll began to dominate this league with his defensive minded approach in year two. I don't think Stoops has the talent Carroll had at SC, but it won't take him long to be a contender.

"Big" East
Champ: The Ville (Though sales of "Honk if Bobby Petrino tried to become coach at your school" bumper stickers are likely to go through the roof).
Runner Up: Pitt. Wannstedt could do well here, if he teaches Tyler Palko to watch his language.
Darkhorse: West Virginia. They lose everybody, but get L'ville and Pitt in Morgantown, which is a tough place to play.

Back later with rants about last year's injustices, and commentary on some monster upsets I see happening.

Breakdown of Texas and prediction for the year

It is time to weigh in with some comments on this year's Texas squad. I am by no means an expert, but I have been monitoring the Horns from my bunker deep beneath the Earth, so here it goes.

I'll start with the real strength of the team, the defense. This defense not only has the capacity to be good, it could be great. I mean 2004 Penn St. 0r Auburn good. As a segue, the new DC at Texas is former Auburn DC and Assistant Coach of the Year, Gene Chizik. And he has inherited a loaded defense. The front line will dominante week-in, week out. Rod Wright and Larry Dibbles return for their senior season. However, Dibbles is battling soph Frank Okam for his starting spot (no kidding). Derek Lokey and Roy Miller will also contribute. The D-Line is the deepest in the nation and was ranked in the top 3 in every pre-season rag. The end position is solid with Tim Crowder and converted LB Brian Robison. This unit will have to get more pressure on the QB this year for Texas to be sucessful against high octane offenses (see Ohio St., Tech and TAMU).

The LB position is supposed to take a hit with the loss of DJ. However, this year's unit will be a more complete unit than last year. Last year, it was a two-man show with DJ and Arron Harris. The third LB, Eric Hall, was largely ineffective. This year, Harris returns to lead a unit that will feature some young, quick talent in the likes of converted SS Drew Kelson, Rashad Bobino and Killebrew. The word from practice is Bobino and Killebrew destroy everything in their path, and Kelson is drawing comparisons to OU's Roy Williams. This unit will be depended on to help shut down the rushing attack at OU, knock the holy hell out of Ted Ginn, should he come across the middle.

The secondary is also loaded with experienced talent. Michael Griffin, Cedric Griffin (no relation), Arron Ross, Tarrell Brown and Michael Huff have logged playing time in the past. Michael Griffin's twin brother Marcus should also contribute. These guys are fast and Ced Griffin and Ross hit hard. They will have to step up against Ohio St.'s receivers for Texas to have a chance in that game.

All told, this is a squad that could easily lead the nation in most defensive categories. I expect them to hold most opponents to less than 17 pionts a game. Which will take a lot of pressure off the offense. Speaking of...

The offense begins and ends with Vince Young. Prototypical QB or not, this is the guy you want touching the ball on every play. The only question with Young is has his passing skills improved enough to make him an elite QB? That remains to be seen. It may not matter. Vince has made moves that boggle the mind. He covers ground like noone I have seen. To be sure, defenses will be prepared this year and he will have one, if not two spies on him every play (Michigan tried this in the Rose Bowl, Young ran it in from twenty yards out). Certainly, an improved passing game will assist the running game. And the passing game is the biggest question mark heading into the season.

But what about the running game? Ced Benson was the 6th leading rusher in NCAA history, who can fill those shoes? The running game will be fine, because Texas has the consensus number one O-line in the nation. I could rush for 1500 yards behind this line. Allen, Scott, Blaylock, Studdard and Sendlein open the holes and provide pass protection this year. Should any of those guys go down, Mike Garcia started about seven games last year and played well. Tony Hills has also competed for a starting spot this year. This unit has depth, experience and talent enough to help the Horns have an explosive offense.

As for the running backs, Selvin Young returns as a Junior. Selvin is fast and athletic, but prone to injury. Ramonce Taylor is another guy you want touching the ball every play. He is fast, and draws comparisons to Reggie Bush, although he is not as strong as Bush. Look for Ramonce to be involved in some reverses and to return kicks and punts. Incoming freshmen will also have a chance to make an impact. Jamaal Charles is the Texas State hurdles champ. Mike Houston out of Colorado enrolled early and has been with the team since spring drills. But the fish getting the most buzz is Henry Melton. At 6'3, 270 he is destined to be converted to full-back, possibly DE. This year, he could be the short yardage back that Texas lost with the departure of Cedric Benson. The local media is comparing Melton the Jerome Bettis and Iron Head Hayword. Geoff Ketchum of Orangebloods.com says the only defensive players that have stopped Melton on first contact were DT Rod Wright and LB Robert Killebrew. At fullback, Will Matthews will be missed, but Amhad Hall is a former Marine who will bring toughness and maturity to that position.

Wide receiver is the lone weakness on the offense. Unfortunately, they may have to be relied on if defenses stack the box to stop Vince and the running back committee. Limas Sweed has the most experience and talent of the group. Jordan Shipley is the Golden Boy at receiver, but he missed all of last year with a knee injury and may be out til game one with a strained hammy. Nate Jone and Billy Pittman will be relied upon to contribute, but are only sophmores. Quan Cosby generated a lot of excitement. Quan was all-world coming out of high school 4 years ago, but chose to play baseball instead. He has returned to Texas as a freshman, but may not be ready to contribute until mid-season. At tight-end, David Thomas is an excellent receiving tight-end. Thomas gets overlooked on the national scene, because of his blocking ability (although one mag did have him on the 4th team offense nationally). Fortunately, given the strength of the O-line, Thomas will not be called upon to block much. He will be Vince's number one target until defenses figure that out and take it away. So what does this boil down to? The box will be stacked and Thomas will be defended, meaning a lot of one-to-one match-ups for the receivers. The receivers will have to get open and make the catches (many local pundits blamed Young's passing defenciency on the young wide-outs), and Vince needs to be able to hit them in stride. Look for Sweed and Shipley to be possession receivers and Cosby to be the deep threat once he is ready to play. This unit must step-up if Texas is to compete for the national and Big 12 titles.

Special teams will be okay, not great. Kick coverage must improve. The Michigan was close mostly because the Wolverines were running back kicks to the Texas side of the field. Many think the Ohio St. game will turn on special teams, and if that is the case, Texas could be in trouble.

In the end, it could be a great year for Texas. The lynchpin this year is the game at Ohio St. on Sept. 10. If Texas goes in there and wins big, then noone will touch them, and you can pencil them in for the Rose Bowl. If the game is really close, win or lose, then the OU games looms large and Texas will have to battle to win the Big 12. If Texas goes in there and loses big, and gets humiliated on national TV, then they lose to OU and probably lose two or three more.

Same tune, different verse, this team is loaded and there should be no excuses. The difference between this team and previous teams? No QB controversy and Vince Young is the unquestioned leader of this team. Vince should look into hotel accomodations in NY for later this season.

Less reader friendly version of Venu's Preseason CF Poll

College football season is gaining some steam with preseason publications beginning to surface. So far, every preseason magazine has picked Texas to win the Big 12 South. Where have these so-called pundits been for the past 6 years? I mean, have they just forgotten that Oklahoma has steamrolled Texas 6 straight? Texas won't even make it to the Oklahoma game with an unblemished record; they are going to get more than they can handle in Columbus from a loaded Ohio State squad... and yes, I did go to Texas, but as I like to say, I live in the world of reality as opposed to the world of fantasy. And it would be a fantasy for Texas to finish #2 in the country like all these so called experts are predicting... (also, on a semi-tangent, win streaks like OU's current dominance over TX always seem to end at 7 years... so I expect Texas to eventually break the streak next year in a shocking upset led by newcomers as opposed to a more predictable victory led by veteran players this year).Enough smack talk. How do I see things going down? Here's my Top 25 for next year:1) Southern California2) Miami (FL)3) Oklahoma4) Georgia5) Michigan6) Ohio State7) TEXAS8) Louisiana State9) Louisville10) Virginia Tech11) Iowa12) Tennessee13) California14) Florida State15) Auburn16) Purdue17) Texas A&M18) Boise State19) Florida20) Texas Tech21) Virginia22) Oregon23) Utah24) Colorado25) PittsburghVenu's answers to anticipated questions:Where is Alabama, you ask? how can i not take that phenomenal defense into consideration (it will likely be the best unit in the entire country this year, but then again, i think Penn St will have the second best and i didn't rank them either). well, deep in the heart of Dixie, I believe the calls for Mike Shula's head will amplify. Granted, last year may have been a special season had Brodie Croyle not been injured, but MIKE SHULA IS THE IDIOT THAT LEFT HIM IN THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! The fan base will lose patience as Bama will win all the meaningless games, but lose to Florida, Auburn, LSU, and Tennessee. Upsets by South Carolina and Arkansas are also well within the realm of possibility. As usual, I am not expecting a big year from my alma mater, but hopefully, I will be pleasantly surprised. Maybe they can upset Auburn which would be nice... to sum it up, with an even average coach, I think Bama would win the SEC West and finish in the top 15 nationally, but "Frat Boy" Shula sucks....UCLA? In my humble opinion, the Karl Dorrell years should have never even began...Where is Arizona State? The loss of all-star QB Andrew Walter will show... look for an average finish from an average team...Washington? I never believed in Ty Willingham...Notre Dame? Let's just say no one is going to be mistaking them for the New England Patriots any time soon...And justifying certain teams in the top 10:Georgia #4? Yes, DJ Shockley is one-dimensional but so is Vince Young at Texas and, if anything, people are going to say I ranked the Longhorns too low. The running back that everyone forgot, Kregg Lumpkin, will have a similar impact at Georgia as Selvin Young's return at Texas. Everyone seems to forget that before Young, Shockley was the can't miss prospect with the 4.4/40 and the cannon arm. Learning in the Georgia system the last 3 years is going to help. Georgia is using the old FSU model where QBs are allowed to grow for 2-3 years before starting. More of a concern is the defensive side of the football where Pollack and Thurman must be replaced. Aside from replacing the superstars, the rest of the Georgia defense is rock solid. Is Georgia really better than, say, Texas? Not by much, but then again, they don't have to play Oklahoma. I'm not convinced that either Tennessee or Florida will have the experience to beat this Georgia team.Louisville #9? If anything, I believe I ranked them too low. This team is not as loaded as last year's squad, but they should win the Big East and play in a BCS game this year...Miami #2? Who would you rather me pick? Texas? Yes, I remember picking the Canes to win it all last year and they didn't even win the ACC. Something tells me the Canes, however, would not have lost to Auburn in the Sugar Bowl like VA Tech. The defensive side is loaded with all stars and so long as they have a QB who won't attempt to give games away like Berlin, I think Miami has as good a chance as anyone to win the national title....Oklahoma #3? (or, did you see what happened to OU against USC?) I DID take USC over OU last year (and LSU over OU the previous year -- and while I'm bragging, I might add that I was perfect ATS in BCS games last year), however, I certainly didn't expect the onslaught that occurred. OU still had plenty of players including one of the best college football running backs I have ever seen in Adrian McPherson... and really, most people put WAY too much stock in what happened in the bowl games. Does anyone seriously think that USC would hammer OU by 40+ if they played that game 9 out of 10 times? USC most certainly does not. Their own players were saying that despite the score OU and California were the two most talented teams they played all year...Alright, super long post I know. Thanks to this blog, I will now be able to publicly post my ATS, Teaser, and Parlay picks so you guys will either get a good laugh or have to give me grudging respect. Look forward to the season and how it plays out...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dave's Conference Picks

Much like Brad's, my picks are (so far) limited to the BCS conferences, and a projected champ, runner-up, and potential dark horse for the season. I'll get to the 5 mid-major conferences soon, but with no further ado, here's my attempt at seeing what the future has to offer:

Big East:
Champ: Pitt
Runner up: Louisville (Big East is going to be a step up in weekly competition from CUSA)
Dark horse: W.Va.

ACC:
Champ: Miami (they've got to be better this year, right? Or does the Larry Coker slide continue?)
Runner up: Va. Tech (even though they can't meet in the champ. game and even though they have Vick the Younger)
Dark horse: B.C.

Big Ten:
Champ: Michigan (unless Ohio State's Troy Smith does what he did last season)
Runner up: Iowa (due to Iowa's propensity for early season stumbles - a one touchdown win against Iowa St. last year, the loss to ASU)
Dark horse: Purdue (winner of the Big Ten's cupcake schedule award)

Big 12:
Champ: Texas
Runner up: Oklahoma
Dark horse: Texas A&M/Texas Tech (I just don't think the North is going to be any better than last year, though Texas Tech has a shot considering its mind-numblingly weak non-conference schedule. Bring it on, FIU, Sam Houston St., and Indiana St.)

Pac 10:
Champ: Southern Cal
Runner up: ASU
Dark horse: Oregon

SEC:
Champ: Tenn.
Runner up: LSU (Auburn's got too much rebuilding to do this year)
Dark horse: Florida (Urban Meyer has yet to prove himself against good opponents week in, week out.)

My BCS picks: Pitt; Miami; Michigan; Texas; Southern Cal; and Tenn as conference champs. Oklahoma and Boise State get the at-large bids (I think the Broncos can knock off their BCS opponents, and they'll run through an even weaker WAC. They've got the benefit of being preranked this year, and I don't think other than Texas (hopefully) or Southern Cal, that there will be any undefeateds besides them).

My bowl predictions will come later, but that's how I see the BCS conferences shaking out this year.

Preseason Predictions - Brad

Here is the first of the 4 preseason predictions, attributed to the author. Running down the list, and going alphabetically, we'll start with Brad's picks, by conference:

Big East:
Champ: Louisville (they won't go undefeated in conference, but no other Big East team can run the table)
Runner up: Pitt
Dark horse: W. Wa.

ACC:
Champ: Va Tech (vick's got it this year, right?)
Runner up: BC (loser in championship game)
Dark horse: clemson

Big Ten:
Champ: Iowa
Runner up: Michigan
Dark horse: Purdue (no Mich. and no Ohio St., Iowa at home)

Big 12:
Champ: Texas (believe it!)
Runner up: Oklahoma (better record than north div. winner)
Dark horse: Mizzou (fat chance, but Brad Smith may be due a big season)

Pac 10:
Champ: Southern Cal
Runner up: Ariz. St.
Dark horse: Oregon

SEC:
Champ: Florida
Runner up: LSU (Tigers prey on weak west div.)
Dark horse: Tennessee (I believe they are overrated, but if they live up to the hype, they could be champs)

BCS teams:
Louisville; Va Tech; Iowa; Texas; Southern Cal; Florida; Tenn. (late loss in sec championship game knocks out lsu); Michigan

Rose Bowl: Southern Cal v. Texas
Fiesta: Louisville v. Michigan
Sugar: Va Tech v. Florida
Orange: Iowa v. Tenn.

Those are Brad's preseason picks for this year. Talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Our contributors

Unlike the TV commentators, whose biases, allegiances, etc., often aren't aired, I'm going to go ahead and throw out some info on the 4 guys who will be providing the comments and info for this site. They'll have the opportunity to put everything into their own words as well, but I wanted to give a quick bio sketch so you'll know who's who.

Starting off, there's Brad, who's as big as a Longhorn fan as there can be. Ask him what's wrong with the program, and he'll quickly answer with two words: Greg Davis. A frequent reader of Hornfans and a devoted listener of Austin sports radio, Brad's got the lowdown on Texas sports. And, further showing that he should follow in Mike Leatch's footsteps and use his law degree to be a football coach, the only guy with a winning record (like 3000 to 12) against me in EA Sports NCAA games (2003-2006).

Next up is Jimbo, who can tell you every detail about every Auburn-Alabama game that ever happened. A devoted grad of the university on the plains, Jim is one of our two SEC devotees, who will probably disagree on a lot of things with our next guy . . .

Venu, an equally devoted grad of Alabama. Venu is the go to guy for overs and unders and all the in-depth info about college football. Venu's been running his own preseason college football poll for years, which you can find at his blog, http://www.nairlaw.blogspot.com/. Venu will always have a special place in my memory for being one of three other people cheering on Penn State at BW3s in Austin, when Penn State beat the corn out of Nebraska, at the same time Texas was demolishing the UNC Tar Heels.

Finally, there's me, Dave, a graduate of Dear Old State, and a lifelong Penn State fan. I'm still in the camp that JoePa gets to make the call whether to stay or to go, cause JoePa IS Penn State football. Cut me, and I bleed blue and white. That having been said, I'm more inclined to agree with Athlon's ranking of PSU at 60, than some of the other preseason mags top 25 listings. While you need defense to be champions, you need to score more than 4 points a game to win.

That's it - that's our staff of friendly contributors, with our school allegiances out in the open.

Coming up soon - our conference rankings, national championship picks, and self-administered polls.

Welcome to the Ocho!!!

Welcome to a site dedicated to providing college football information and opinion from people who actually know something about it: the fans.

How many times have you been watching ESPN or ABC, and gotten some half-baked opinion about a game from a commentator that made you want to scream? From the poll voters who maybe watch one or two games, and then read box scores to get their votes in? Well, I'm here to provide a balance of that by someone who watches as many games as time allows, along with some help from my friends, with their opinions, insights, and thoughts on the 2005 College Football Season.

We'll be maintaining our own polls, predictions, and calls on the big games, and the little games, all season long.

If you've seen Dodgeball, you know where the title is from. And, if you've seen my other favorite send up of a sports network, you'd recognize this (altered) quote:

This is the Ocho, on Blogspot, so stick around.