Five times now, I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t look ahead at other responses to the BlogPoll Roundtable, and for the fifth consecutive time, I peeked. Fortunately, this episode is only about the school you follow, so as long as I avoid Dan’s or Grant’s sites, today to pick up on their views of BG football (or Grant’s lack of views, he’s now 0-for-4 at the Roundtable plate, though he did write a sparkling review of his new lover’s book, “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer”, which I think is the official literary publication and mascot of the BlogPoll, if only because it was handed around like condoms at an inner city grade school… and with twice the joy!) Anyway, I haven’t stayed away from the early Roundtable returns or Dan’s site, and while Dan is still formulating something nice to say about Jelani Jordan (check back in May 2009), I did find this hellified write-up on the Falcons from BlogPoller Bruce Ciskie in Minnesota. It actually sums up some of what I was going to say and gives me a good jumping off point to get this party started.
Tell the world where the teams you know the most about should be ranked and why.
I know “the most” about one team. I can formulate decent enough opinions on other teams. But, since the BlogPoll is already made up of 98% Michigan fans, I’ll leave that to them. And even though I could probably make an educated guess regarding Ohio State, I know that “The Subsidiary” will probably chime in on that at some point too.
So I get to focus on the orange and brown. (If recent history repeats itself, this post is being simulcast at Dan’s site as we speak, though probably with the 7 second profanity filter in full effect.)
BG should be ranked in the 15-20 range heading into the season. Fifteen might be a little high, actually, and I think that September 21 opponent Boise State might hold a slight edge in the “giving a mid-major a cookie” running until the action begins.
The roadblock the Falcons seem to be hitting in all the preseason rags is the Omar Jacobs factor. They’re getting all kinds of love for the numbers O4 threw up last year, but on the other side, they’re getting brushed aside by people who think that Jacobs is the end-all, be-all for the Falcons.
While a mega-talented receiving corps might take a few hits if the stud QB is having an off-night, half that corps is good enough to help him through it. Charles Sharon is an acrobat on the outside (Don’t believe me? Check out the frowns on Joe Tiller and Joe Lee Dunn’s chubby little mustachioed faces), and Steve Sanders has shown that he’s more than capable of filling the clutch grab role played by child actor Cole Magner the past three years. Toss in freshmen Luke Alexander and Corey Partidge, who have shown that there will be little drop-off in the talent Jacobs has surrounding him.
But it gets better. In the backfield, P.J. Pope brings almost 2,700 career rushing yards, nearly 1,000 career receiving yards and a couple buckets of touchdowns with him into his senior season, and rumor has it, he’ll be accompanied in a couple two-back sets by fellow senior and winner of the “most patient player on the planet” award, B.J. Lane. Lane has quietly spent his time returning kicks while Pope got most of the attention on the field, but has quietly put together a career just shy of a thousand yards rushing on his own. With both of them in the backfield AND the Sharon/Sanders option open on the outside, Omar Jacobs just might get to play puppetmaster with opposing defenses all the way to the bank.
Next, the offensive line takes some knocks, mostly based on their size. This line has shown great strides in coming together as a unit, and if you do that, you can make up for a little bit smaller stature. The left side of the line is solid. Senior Rob Warren is already popping up on award watch lists (which, admittedly, is like listing that Tom Amstutz has hamburgers, cheeseburgers, large pizzas, whole turkeys, small Japanese villages and the kitchen sink on his dinner watch list, but for an O-line that is getting darts thrown at it by the “pundits”, that’s something to hang your helmet on) and sophomore Kory Lichtensteiger made the all-Freshman team in the MAC last year, and comes back with almost a full year of starting experience. Reports from early practices say that center John Lanning is impressing the coaches, and while the right side of the line might be a little underexperienced, they’re big enough to hold their own, with 6-5, 350 lb. Derrick Markray ready with A-1 sauce in hand at the right guard spot. I say they’re big and/or experienced enough to hold their own against Wisconsin, and I don’t think many lines in the MAC will hold a candle to this crew when the season gets rolling.
**BREAKING NEWS EDIT** — Markray raps, too! If BG were a rapper, I guess they automatically have to be “Big De”. Right?
If any of the four “big games” get close, it might make for a few tense moments out of the kicking game, with Josef Timchenko handling the duties full-time for the first year since junior college, but you don’t rank teams based on having a good kicker, right? (Unless you’re Ohio State, of course.) As for punter Nate Fry, if he can keep the ball from getting stuck in the practice net and look good jogging onto the field before the game, he should do all right for himself. Heck, if he works at it, he might even with the “Angelo Libertucci Best Hair in the Waning Moments of Any Game Award”, too.
The defense is where this team will be made or broken. The line is smallish, but experienced, bringing over 70 combined starts with them, and led by seniors Mike Thaler and Monte Cooley. Thaler and junior ends Brad Williams and Devon Parks started every game together last season.
The linebackers bring age, but not much experience outside the man-beast Teddy Piepkow in the middle. More than anything, the question for this defense will be if Piepkow’s leadership skills bring out the best in those around him, despite their relative lack of playing time.
Finally, the defensive backfield. This group might be the ONLY reason BG isn’t a solid top 15 team this year. They’re all stud athletes, they just pick and choose when they want to play like it. Jelani Jordan is the key. He’s the leader of this group, though he’s also the one that comes into the season with the most to prove to the loyal fanbase. An interesting fact about Jordan is that 8,974 stitches make up the back of his jersey. I know this because we spent the whole second half of the Toledo game looking at it. But the talent is there. His 15 breakups last year led the MAC, and were second in the nation behind J-Lo. (ZING!) He had four picks, a sack and three TFL’s, but his not so great moments leave the lingering thought that he’s made a big play about as many times as Phil Fullmer has seen the bottom of a salad bowl. If he can shake the disappearing act and get the kids around him to step up, this team won’t be stopped.
Actually, I don’t think they’ll ever be stopped, the just won’t be outscored.
This team has the all-around players to hang with anyone, and on a neutral field, I think there might be a dozen teams in the country that could beat them regularly. Tops. And while bringing up past seasons is a bit taboo for this exercise, I really do think that BG has done alot to deserve a boost to start the year, rather than playing catch-up just to get into the poll. If they stumble at Wisconsin or Boise State, then they deserve to be thrown back down with the dogs. But wins in Madison or Boise also deserve a shot in the arm, not a “potentially the first team in the ‘others receiving votes’ pile”.