Ranking Notre Dame in Top 25 not yet justifiable, plus more thoughts
They already have their own TV network, their own BCS entry rule and their own, famous leprechaun (
Most voters treat their preseason polls as a prediction of the final outcome, and it seems most pollsters are looking at Notre Dame's schedule and penciling in at least nine wins. It's easy to see why. Notre Dame plays just one team -- USC -- that is unquestionably better than it. It plays four teams -- Michigan State, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Connecticut -- that were better than it last year but lost key players. Everyone else, you could probably pencil in as a "W."
I'd been on the fence about this for some time. For one, the image of those last two regular-season games -- the loss to Syracuse (at home, no less) and the 38-3 drubbing at USC -- still weigh heavily on me. Those were not games played by a team poised for a breakthrough. In fact, the Irish lost their last four games against BCS-conference foes. For another, as favorable as the schedule seems, Charlie Weis' teams have shown a penchant for losing at least one game they have no business losing (Navy in 2007 and Syracuse last year). It wouldn't take much for a presumed 9-3 season to turn into 8-4 or 7-5.
But then something changed for me. I was watching one of Weis' post-practice press conferences this week, and the coach's demeanor was completely different than anything I'd seen before. He looked ... relaxed. The days of "I have three Super Bowl rings and I'm smarter than you, so deal with it" seemed a distant memory. But so, too, did that sad, resigned demeanor Weis displayed the past couple seasons when trying to convince the masses "everything's still under control" while his team routinely stunk up the joint.
The Weis I saw the other day seemed cool, but not cocky. He seemed like a guy who, probably for the first time in three years, knows what to expect from his team. I think he feels his defense, already fairly decent last year, rests in good hands with former Georgia Tech whiz
Still, it's doubtful Notre Dame's offense will be the well-oiled machine it was in 2005 and '06 or that it's defense will be nationally elite, which is why the Irish's sudden inclusion in the top 25 remains a bit of a leap of faith. I don't believe it's justified just yet. But as I look at that schedule, I don't see too many teams that are going to hound the Irish with their defense. Nor do I see a bunch of high-octane offenses. (Opening-week foe Nevada is the one notable exception, but because that's the first game, Tenuta will be well prepared.)
I see as many as 11 winnable games. While that's never going to happen (assuming Michigan is improved, I could see the Wolverines upsetting the Irish in Week 2), it still seems likely the Irish will make it to 9-3. Whether that will merit rising into the top 14 is another story.
I couldn't agree more. Besides quarterback, there is not a more important position on a football team than offensive line, and too often voters get so seduced by a team's glamour players that they overlook serious questions on the line. Having a pair of stud receivers won't do you much good if the quarterback doesn't have time to throw the ball. Ask Clemson last year. And losing an elite left tackle can be downright crippling. Ask Alabama.
There are three teams in the preseason top 15 that could potentially fall into this category: Oklahoma, Penn State and Oregon. The Sooners lost four veteran O-linemen that made a combined 151 career starts. Even with quarterback
However, I was quite surprised to see Penn State check in at No. 8 in the coaches poll. Yes, quarterback
One should also look at O-lines when identifying potential surprise teams flying under the radar. Even without longtime starting quarterback
You've got to love Ohio State fans. A reader asks me which quarterback would rather have over the next three years, Pryor or Griffin.
First thing's first: I'm fully aware Pryor is fast. Very, very fast. However, my immediate response upon receiving all of these e-mails was to wonder for the umpteenth time why fans continue to get duped into believing 40 times are some sort of gospel. I was even going to use this week's Mailbag as a pulpit to expose the many myths behind this archaic football ritual -- but then
As Matt points out, former West Virginia star
Why do football people continue to swear by this measuring stick, anyway? Legend has it
I know that's been a popular theory of late, particularly in light of the Big Ten and SEC's TV mega-deals, but I'm not buying it. For one thing, the recession is temporary. At some point it will pass. The cutbacks you're seeing at many athletic departments will eventually fade. But more importantly than that, I've yet to see any hard evidence that suggests more money guarantees more victories. If it did, Notre Dame and Michigan would never go 3-9, Texas and Oklahoma would never go through entire decades of mediocrity and the Oklahoma State Fighting Pickens would play in the national championship game every year.
Obviously, the Ohio States and Floridas of the world enjoy a level of financial luxury that allows them to invest heavily in their programs, but money is not the driving factor behind their current success. Ohio State's tremendous history and name recognition carry far more sway over recruits than the size of its weight room. Florida sits at the center of a recruiting goldmine. Meanwhile, programs like Boise State and Utah hold a fraction of the resources Oklahoma and Alabama do, yet have beaten them on the field. The fact they can even compete at that level is a direct result of the issues I always bring up -- scholarship reductions, the growth of high-school talent and increased TV exposure.
The impact of the recession will be felt far more directly across non-revenue sports. The tennis and gymnastics programs at SEC schools figure to only grow stronger as their athletic departments start investing the influx of TV money. Unfortunately, on the other end of that, cash-strapped schools currently looking to slash budgets are probably going to chip away at the less visible sports before they do anything to impinge on football. In some extreme cases, they will inevitably cut entire teams.
Indeed, it appears
It's asking a lot, particularly since three of those losses last year came at home against a trio of very good teams (Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss) the Tigers must play on the road this year. They also get Florida at home. It's possible LSU could be much improved, but not improve its record all that dramatically.
But I'm a bit more optimistic about the Tigers' prospects.
Of course, defense was not LSU's only problem. The void left at quarterback following
The fact is, there's too much talent on that roster for LSU to suffer another four- or five-loss season. I'm guessing both the offense
I picked these e-mails (and there were many more like them) to point out one thing: This is exactly why there's no playoff in college football. In what other sport would people still be arguing so passionately about
Nobody wants to admit it, but as much as people complain about the controversy, deep down they enjoy it. I read that in a book.
Yes. Tell them: "We can no longer be friends."