A few days ago, I received a random invitation to partake in a College Football Top 25 Poll through MGoBlog. Apparently, its going to be a cooler idea than I thought. Originally, I figured it would just be making out a top 25 list on Mondays, see how close I think to others, and be done with it for the week. But already, halfway through June, with the season just a hair under 80 days away (as noted by the finely-crafted countdown clock to your right), the top 25 chatter has begun.
The first “roundtable discussion” is now on the table (Oddly enough, I think the table is square. Rectangular, possibly. Maybe a rhombus.), and asks simply enough, based on the preview magazines’ polls, who is getting too much love, who’s loved only by themselves and their parents, and who will be in Pasadena playing for all the marbles and roses in early January.
While I haven’t given *too* much thought to the upcoming season outside of the rush it will be to see Bowling Green take the field every Saturday (and a couple Tuesdays, a Wednesday and I think a Friday. Heh.), and a few of the Big Ten teams, this gives me the perfect opportunity to start thinking. So here goes:
Overrated: The easy pick here is one of the Big Ten teams at 4, 5, 6, since they will likely knock at least two of each other out of contention. Iowa might now be to the point where they’re no longer a “dark horse” in the conference, and teams will be pointing their guns at them. Maybe I’m not getting the point of this roundtable in general, but this is my site and I’m taking the angle of who will be where in the final poll. (Really, correct me if I’m wrong, my mind is usually a runaway train and if you don’t fix the track now, we’re all screwed!) Iowa has a strong returning team, but is missing a bit on defense. Finding people to step up may not be a problem down the road, but their road starts with games at rival Iowa State and in Columbus in the first four games. They get Michigan at home (bad news for the Maize & Blue), but also pack their bags for Madison and West Lafayette. If they make it through all that without a blemish, they’ll be higher than sixth. Lose one of the earlier matchups, six may be about right. Then again, 6-5 might not be out of the question. On the bright side, they get to pay back all those road trips. If Drew Tate can learn to play WR, RB, LB and put in some time in the defensive secondary to fill for all the losses they find there, ’06 could be the year of the Hawkeye.
Even as a Michigan fan, or probably because I’m a Michigan fan, I don’t know if I can see them at five. Definitely top ten, but five is kinda high in my book. The season rides on the shoulders of Henne and Hart (though Max Martin can be a heckuva RB out of the bullpen), and while he still has stud receivers in Avant and Breaston, and reliable TE’s with Tim Massaquoi and Tyler Ecker returning, the offense is going to have to do quite a bit of scoring to give an inexperienced defensive secondary some cushion. If its close, Henne will have to rely on the WR’s to put on the circus show hauling in silly catches that Braylon Edwards put on for four years in Ann Arbor. I don’t know if that’s something worth relying on. (Of course, if its close, Henne will have to rely on the WR’s to NOT put on the circus show of dropping easy passes that Braylon Edwards put on for four years in Ann Arbor. And hopefully left in Ann Arbor. GO BROWNS!)
Um, sorry. Where was I?
Oh yeah, Ohio State. If they’re overrated, its not by much. Where I could easily knock Michigan down to 10th or so, I don’t think I could honestly, and while I feel the blood calcify in my hands as I type this, drop them much lower than 6th or 7th. While they don’t necessarily bring alot of studs back to the table, they bring alot of experience, and the studs they *do* bring back are at the right spots. The day I see Jim Brown “counseling” Ted Ginn will be a happy day (hopefully that will be by the end of July). Santonio Holmes isn’t a shabby second option, and he has 17 years of college experience under his belt. The last two games of last year showed that either QB can get it done, though I think winning a National Championship in ’02 by scoring a total of 35 points in 14 games aside, Buckeye fans would love to kick “Tressel Ball” aside as much as they loved to hide behind it, praise it, and make sweet sweet forbidden love to it while they were aging 10 years at a time on Saturdays. They opened it up and had Michigan half-packed by the second half kickoff, though as much of a blowout as any UM-OSU game may be, there’s ALWAYS some 4th quarter nail-biting. (Or in the typical OSU fan’s case some 4th quarter pillow-biting. Hey, you don’t think I could be THAT nice to “those people”, do you?) And Oklahoma State was finished before they left the baggage claim in San Antonio.
And Ohio State’s defense is Ohio State’s defense. They could pull seven kids off the short bus, and pick four linebackers that will make their defense go. (Andy Katzenmoyer just happened to fit both descriptions there.)
Underrated: Excuse my homerism, but Bowling Green is underrated. Big time. Though a few tough games and the pollsters general dislike for anything MAC (I’m going to try not to use the word “respect” or “disrespect” here, because I’ve seen that alot and frankly, I’m a bit sick of it. And most of it was coming from fans in a certain cheesy Big Ten town.) might leave BG out in the cold if they don’t finish the work they’ve started the past few years.
First off, the defense is horrible, especially in the secondary. And at first glance, that might be what is causing the low rankings in the preseason rags. At second glance, who cares? Omar Jacobs is sick. Ridiculous. Silly. Just that freaking good. When he made his debut at Oklahoma last year (220ish yards passing, 2 TD, 0 INT), I kept wondering why BG was lining up with a tight end under center. And he takes care of the ball. Just four INT’s all of last year, and maybe only 2 or 3 others that were even close. With two stud receivers returning, a handful of newcomers that show just as much promise at the wideout position, and of course running, receiving, touchdown-scoring PJ Pope in the backfield with his three 1,000 yard seasons, the offense is just fine. Not to take all responsibility off of the defense, as we learned in the second half at Toledo last year, if the offense hiccups (or pukes all over its shoes as was the case with the third quarter) the defense needs to wake up. Even a 20 point lead can be gone before you learn how to spell “Gradkowski” or “bubble screen”.
Even with the suspect defense, BG starting any lower than 21 or so is a slap in the face to everything they’ve done, and brought back with the outstanding possibility of doing again. Unfortunately, even with wins at Wisconsin (which I am pretty confident WILL happen) and at Boise State (which I’m very confident CAN happen, though its going to be a scoreboard’s nightmare), BG has to go on the road to face Miami(OH), a solid team that has given them fits for decades, and host Toledo, who, while no longer a division rival (the MAC East should be decided the week before in Oxford), can rain on BG’s parade if they happen to be undefeated or have one loss by the time Turkey Week rolls around. Two and a half months of outstanding football and climbing into the BCS’s junk can be diluted to hoping Clemson and South Carolina brawl again to open up another bowl bid if BG doesn’t take care of business in one or both of those games.
Slightly underrated might be Purdue. I was shocked to see that one magazine had them THIRD, and they might not be a better team than #19 suggests, but they bring back a solid defense, a promising young QB, a couple decent receivers, and PLAY ABSOLUTELY NOBODY. Sure, they’ve got Iowa (at home), but they miss out on Ohio State AND Michigan. Without Kyle Orton around to lay eggs down the stretch, they might be able to piece together something top-10 worthy by the end of the year.
Pack for Pasadena: I’m not one to question the obvious pick in USC, with a benign schedule and two Heisman finalists, so I’ll pencil them in for one half of the bracket (though they might be missing just enough to get tripped up along the way, especially in their last three with Cal, Fresno St. and UCLA… accidents happen.) The other side of the matchup isn’t so easy. It could be one of the Big Ten trifecta I went over earlier, but they could very well beat each other out of contention (Michigan lose at home to Iowa, but ruin the season for Ohio State at Michigan Stadium). Texas and Tennessee seem to suspect to make it through the season undefeated. Oklahoma will be good, and Adrian Peterson can carry them a ways, but probably not all the way. Florida will be there eventually, but maybe not quite this soon. No doubt that Urban F. Meyer has the fruits of Ron Zook’s “good recruit, no coach” abilities, and if anyone can slap a group of 20 year old men in the ass and get them to do what he wants, its Meyer, but I think a first-year run might be asking much. Knowing almost nothing about them, I’m going to put Virginia Tech in the Rose Bowl against USC. However, if it comes down to a one-loss team getting in, I think Texas or Tennessee is just the team to be there.