Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Blogpoll Roundtable 4: The Red River Shootout

The latest Blogpoll Roundtable is over at Barking Carnival, a Texas Longhorns blog. This week's roundtable is inspired by this weekend's Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma. I hear that's a pretty big deal.

On to our responses ...

Please observe the latest ESPN Heisman Watch. What gridiron presence draws your suspicion and ire?

Chase Daniels. In fact, all Big XII quarterbacks. Aren't these guys going to knock each other out of the race by the end of the year?  I mean, does the Big XII play defense?  Understand - I get that through six weeks this Big XII Party of Five quarterbacks is lighting up college football.  I think at last count they had a combined 1,678,198 touchdowns to 3 interceptions.  I get it.  But these teams are going to start knocking each other off, and my guess is when invitations are finally in the mail for New York, only one of these offensive players from the Big XII will be invited.  Look at the some of these tough matchups coming up for these quarterbacks:
  • Colt McCoy (Texas) - @ Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State, @ Texas Tech
  • Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) - Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma State
  • Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State) - @ Missouri, @ Texas, @ Texas Tech, Oklahoma
  • Chase Daniels (Missouri) - Oklahoma State, @ Texas, Kansas
  • Graham Harrell (Texas Tech) - @ Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State, @ Oklahoma
Now, unless you are telling me that the Big XII teams don't play defense and all of these games are going to be 49-42 shootouts - and both quarterbacks post 200+ quarterback ratings - I am not buying that this group of quarterbacks is going to continue to post ridiculous numbers. Looking at the above, I see multiple losses for most of these teams (except maybe one can pull off the undefeated regular season).  The toughest road has to be the Longhorns.  That's four currently undefeated teams in a row?!

Take it from a guy who rooted for a quarterback who got off to a ridiculously fast start last year (8-0), only to see his invitation to the Downtown Athletic Club lost in the mail.

Would it surprise me if one of these quarterbacks won the Heisman trophy this year? Not at all. What I would find equally plausible is by the end of the year, only one of these guys gets invited to New York.

In World War I, British troops were famously characterized as "Lions Led By Donkeys." What Donkey leading a college football team of Lions is leading his troops into the Somme again this Saturday? Who should replace him after the court martial?

Mike Gundy is leading his troops into a Missouri beat down this weekend. Yes, the Cowboys are 5-0 and have hung 50+ points on the competition in their last 4 games. But Missouri is no Washington State, Houston, Missouri State, Troy or even Texas A&M. Ok, so Missouri hasn't played much better competition, but call it a hunch. I don't think this one is going to be close.

Now a one game slaughter probably isn't cause for a court martial. But let's pretend for a moment it was. If the Cowboys were in the market for a coach, could the following want to make the jump into the BCS? Bronco Mendenhall (BYU), Gary Patterson (TCU), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Skip Holtz (ECU).

It's conventional wisdom that it is "good for the game" when certain NFL teams - Dallas, Pittsburgh, Green Bay - or certain NBA teams - LA, Boston, New York - are strong. Others would contend that this is the arrogant self-importance of the traditional elite. With the resurgence of historic programs like Alabama and possibly Notre Dame (now believed to be turning-the-corner in 12 of its last 15 seasons) is it good for college football when certain name programs are strong? If not, why not?

Of course it's great for college football when certain name programs are strong. In a sport that is ruled by the opinions of sports writers and coaches, the arrogant self-important teams (e.g. Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, Florida, Georgia) keep college football afloat. Even though it pains me to say this, being a fan of a non-traditional powerhouse football program, it's the way college football is and always has been. Sure, 6-0 Vanderbilt is a cute story and all. But if Vanderbilt were to somehow win the SEC and play in the Sugar Bowl, after having not gone bowling since I was 11 months old (and not having won a bowl game since 1955! Wooo! Gator Bowl win over Auburn!), it would be terrible for ratings and ticket sales. And the simple facts of the matter are that those two things make college football go round.

We've seen time and again that the bowl selection process isn't fair and doesn't always reward the best teams with the best bowls. So if one of these teams were to actually play their way into one of the BCS bowl games (gasp!), it would be disastrous for that particular BCS bowl game.

A related question: what team with some record of success could fall off of the face of the earth and CFB wouldn't miss a beat? Who fancies themselves a name brand, but aren't?

Let's go with the alma mater of Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, Mike Ditka and Larry Fitzgerald. The home to (supposedly) 9 national championships in college football - the Pittsburgh Panthers. These guys haven't been good for a long time now, for nearly as long as I've been alive. The fact that this team was ranked at the beginning of the season only to lose to Bowling Green the first week of the season was a joke. The ranking was based largely on the MSM talking heads (I'm glaring your way, Mark May) touting that Pittsburgh has arrived and they laid an egg befitting only a bad Big East team.

The Panthers have let an archrival basically eat their lunch in the Big East the past few years after Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College bolted for the Big East. Given the power vacuum in the Big East the last few years, the Panthers could have easily stepped up and taken charge of that conference. Instead, they have let teams like Louisville, Rutgers and Connecticut bubble up as the Panthers have faded with seasons of 5-7, 6-6, and 5-6.

Their signature win of the last couple years was denying West Virginia a chance at their first BCS National Championship game in the Backyard Brawl.  They have never won a Big East championship outright in football (lone exception being the 2004 Big East year of suckitude where 4 teams shared the title finishing 4-2).  But even in victory lies defeat.  Pittsburgh was selected to be that year's BCS representative in the Fiesta Bowl, only to be blasted by Urban Meyer's Runnin' Utes 35-7.

Fast forward to 2008: Yes, the Panthers have upset a ranked South Florida team and now most of the major online news outlets have already penciled the Panthers into a BCS Bowl. Maybe they don't have another ranked opponent left on the schedule this year. OK, understood.  But for every upset win over #10 South Florida on the road, there is a Bowling Green lurking on that schedule. Put it in writing. Perhaps West Virginia has payback on their minds for last year's 13-9 loss?

Did I mention that Pitt is like the fourth most popular football team in the state of Pennsylvania behind the Steelers, Eagles, and Penn State? Hasn't Pitt become a basketball school over the last few years? No one would miss these guys, except maybe West Virginia, who would be forced to claim Connecticut as a rival.

Your Pittsburgh Panthers: Three Time River City Rivalry Champions!

Texas/OU in Big D. Okie State @ Mizzou. Penn State @ Wiscy. LSU @ Florida. We have Longhorn, Cowboy, Badger, Tiger - which dog is most likely to get it done?

The Longhorns are getting it done this weekend. I'll bite and pander to the blogpoll roundtable hosts this week. You're welcome.  Moving along ...

What currently unranked team will we be hearing about soon?

Two answers here. The first is West Virginia. So long as Pat White stays healthy, the Mountaineers have a manageable Big East slate of games. Also sanwiched in there is a winnable game against the Auburn Tigers in Morgantown on Thursday night. Auburn's defense is nasty, but they now have all sorts of questions on the offensive side of the ball.

The second answer is Kentucky. Two more Ws against SEC interlopers South Carolina and Arkansas in consecutive weeks will push the Wildcats record to 6-1. It's gets a bit tougher from there, with a trip to Gainesville and home bouts with ranked Georgia and Vanderbilt, but in two weeks, Kentucky will be ranked in the Top 25.

What ranked team will finish outside of the Top 25?

Hate to throw our ACC Atlantic brethren under the bus, but the answer is Wake Forest. Wake still has a ton of questions with the running game and on defense. We just can't seem to wipe away the bad taste in our mouth left after the Deacons dropped to Navy.

Here's to hoping that the Deacons prove me wrong. Their toughest stretch of games is ahead of them, starting with the ACC Atlantic eliminator tomorrow night against Clemson. Two teams enter, but only one team will emerge victorious.

After Clemson, Wake has two tough ACC road games at Maryland and Miami in consecutive weeks. The schedule lightens quite a bit for the next three weeks, but then Boston College and upstart Vanderbilt round out the schedule in November. A tough slate of games, no doubt.

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