Preseason poll pandemonium, Michigan in limbo; more Mailbag
But any debate always comes back to the same, unavoidable fact: Officially or unofficially, the sport will always have preseason polls because there will always be preview magazines -- and fans
I'd put it a lot closer to 1 than 10, seeing as there are easily 100 teams out there that would be more unlikely picks. While certainly surprising, I hardly find it ludicrous to pick a team that's played for the national championship four team times in the past decade (including as recently as two years ago) to return to that level. If we're assigning a 1 to Alabama (though the more accurate term would be "safe bet," not "spot-on"), then I'd rate Steele's pick a 3.
While Steele, like all of us, has had some notable busts over the years, in general, his are the most accurate predictions of any notable publication (as he's not shy to
A classic example came in 2008. I was still an AP voter at the time and clung firmly to my belief that a preseason poll should be treated solely as a "starting point." If a team finished the previous year No. 2 and returned 17 starters, it deserved to start the next season just as high. Hence, most other voters and I had Georgia (which fit that exact description) No. 1. Steele, on the other hand, went with Florida, a team that lost four games the previous year -- including a blowout to Georgia -- but had both potential and a more favorable schedule. Guess who was right?
Now that I'm free of voting responsibilities, I, too, can take more chances when it comes to preseason predictions, and the fact is every one of this year's token contenders has serious questions. Therefore, I have no problem with someone taking a stab on a sleeper team, and the Sooners -- coming off a deceiving five-loss season (three came by a field goal or less) in which they seemed to gel at the end (crushing Oklahoma State 27-0 and putting up 477 yards on Stanford in the Sun Bowl) -- could theoretically fit that bill.
But here's what I don't get about Steele's pick. I don't see anything particularly advantageous about Oklahoma's schedule. The Sooners do miss Big 12 North favorite Nebraska, but they face Cincinnati, Florida State and Air Force out of conference and play in arguably the nation's toughest division. Furthermore, the single most important area I look at in the preseason is a team's offensive line. Oklahoma's was terrible last year and its most accomplished performer (
This hardly seems the stuff of a No. 1 team, but again, I'd hardly call it ludicrous. In fact, 10 years ago this fall, Stoops won his lone national championship in Norman -- coming off a five-loss season.
First off, a clarification: Even if it wanted to, Michigan cannot yet fire Rodriguez for cause (and thus avoid a buyout) as Mark suggests because the NCAA infractions process has not yet run its course. Ohio State made that mistake with former basketball coach
As for Samuel's assessment, while I did get a kick out of taking a trip down memory lane to Sociology 101 with the Peter Principle, I fail to see how a coach who won 32 games in three seasons at a BCS-conference program is unqualified to coach a prestigious Big Ten team. While many of Rodriguez's problems are unquestionably self-inflicted, others are contained in the e-mails above. From the minute he was hired, Rodriguez has been dealing with the unwanted, and quite frankly silly, stigma that he's not a "Michigan man."
Michigan's fan base, more than any I know, suffers from a serious philosophical divide that dates back to
Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the voices in the former camp are much louder right now than those in the latter, primarily because Rodriguez has dug himself such a deep hole with his record. If he went 9-3 last year, the recent NCAA infractions, while unpleasant, would be a blip on fans' radar. Rodriguez is hardly the first coach to come in to a school and lay down the law, run off players, etc.
That depends on your definition of "elite." Will Washington -- 5-7 last year and eight years removed from its last winning season -- suddenly morph into a version of
But after visiting UW in the spring, I see no reason why this team can't take a big step forward this fall -- at the very least to a bowl game, if not the realm of eight or nine wins. In addition to their obvious best selling point, quarterback
However, I'm not as confident in Washington's defense, which has some standouts (defensive lineman
It's times like these that I can't fathom why the overwhelming majority of you want a college playoff. Where would the sport be without timeless, hypothetical, ultimately unanswerable debates like this?
I can see where this would be contentious. For one thing, I'm guessing a large majority of the national audience reading this doesn't know, or care, that USF (South Florida) and UCF (Central Florida) are two different schools, and that's exactly the perception Leavitt was trying to squash. He wanted USF, as a BCS-conference school that plays annually in bowl games, mentioned alongside the state's Big Three (Florida, Florida State and Miami) more so than a Conference USA school (UCF), and last year's win in Tallahassee was seen as a watershed moment in that regard.
Now -- on to reality. Anything that generates interest in your program is a good thing, and USF-UCF (back when they still played, from 2005-08) generated far more coverage within the state than last year's USF season-opening slate of Wofford, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern. This year's opener features Stony Brook. By all means, get the Gators, Seminoles and 'Canes on the schedule whenever possible, but what's to lose by scheduling UCF? The game itself? Hey, if you're so much better than the Knights as you claim, then that shouldn't be a problem, should it?
Friedgen's tenure reminds me in many ways of
It may seem like ages ago now, but Maryland did go to three straight bowl games just before that, winning nine games in 2006 and eight in '08. Last year's team was extremely young, which doesn't excuse 2-10 but does explain the dip. I wouldn't count out a renaissance this year. The coaches seem very optimistic about new quarterback
But Maryland will find itself in very awkward territory if Friedgen goes 4-8 this year. Just like at Purdue, Maryland has already named a head coach in waiting, offensive coordinator
First of all, I was pleasantly swarmed by responses to Elijah's question last week. The most interesting revelation is just how many of you, like Mark, have two college football rooting interests, be it undergrad and grad school; grew up one place but went to school another; or simply relocated after graduation. Whatever the case, in nearly every such instance, the sentiment was exactly like Mark's: Rooting for the underdog provides more thrills, and less frustration, than rooting for a powerhouse.
Here is a sampling of other responses:
If you still live in Columbus, Kyle, it was probably quite wise of you to leave off your last name.
At this point, anyone who's still voluntarily subjecting himself to Wazzu football week-in, week-out automatically qualifies as one of the most dedicated fans in the country.
Fair point. I've been accused of taking too many undeserved shots recently at innocent Clemson fans, so I'll refrain from further comment.
Apparently you haven't been to Baton Rouge, Adam. There is plenty of both going around.
Lost amid the powerhouse/underdog conversation, last week's conference rankings elicited almost no responses, and I'm totally fine with that. Not that we could make it through an entire Mailbag without some (misinformed) SEC chest-thumping, of course ...