Hi! This is my proposed preseason ballot. If the description of some teams seems excessively negative (I have OSU and ND in the top ten and spend every sentence ripping on both teams) or positive (see: M @ 10), it's because I'm arguing against whatever the conventional wisdom is. Obviously teams like OSU and ND have much to recommend them, but since I think putting either in the top five is less a stretch and more a crime against reason I must break out the negativity.
Please take any and all opportunities to call me a huge idiot. You're not likely to make a lot of headway on Big Ten teams since I have fully formed opinions on them, but there could be quite a bit of give in my opinion of teams not located in my geographical area.
I had a discussion with Orson about the various SEC teams and he convinced me that Brandon Cox was better than meh, Kenny Irons was going to plow a furrow through the SEC, and new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp -- the guy who led LSU's defense during its national championship run -- was enough of an upgrade over the one-year stand-in they had in '05 that the defense should take a step forward despite some distressing holes at DT and safety.
Really, you could put teams 1-10 in a bag, shake them up, and put any one at the top and A) have ammunition to justify it and B) wince at the major flaws the team has.
Might seem stupid at the end of the year, but I think the one error in my Iowa preview was underrating the Hawkeye safeties. Compare them to OSU:
- Advantage Iowa: QB, RB, TE, DL, K.
- Advantage OSU: WR, Return Game
- Push: OL, LB, DB, and that's assuming Iowa's corners are bad.
(You might move QB to push if you're a huge Troy Smith fan but I think Tate's the better player.) Even the most ardent Buckeye can't seriously claim a significant coaching advantage over Kirk Ferentz. Iowa returns seven starters on D, seven on O, and a guaranteed Groza finalist at K. Their record last year was depressed by a freak series of events that lost them a lot of games late. In a year of total chaos, Iowa's as good a choice as any.
Always loaded due to Mack having, like, hypnosis eyes or something, but the choices at quarterback are a freshman or a freshman.
"Great except they can't defend the pass," according to Orson. Seeing no one intending to pass in the SEC and considering that a major flaw but no less major than most of the teams in close proximity to them, here they go.
Okay. Am I on crack? Perhaps. But Zac Taylor was pretty good as the year progressed and they have a couple of capable backs. Teams usually struggle their first couple years learning a new offense; this is Nebraska's third year running the WCO. Callahan's bountiful first class will start seeing time this year. The defense returns largely intact and has two vicious defensive ends. The catch: the running game was school-record awful last year and the blame falls largely on the offensive line.
Well, it's USC. Without two Heisman winners they'll drop one or two of those crazy Pac-10 shootouts against ASU or Oregon or something, especially sans that whatshisface... Gore guy. Please, Pac-10. The nation needs you.
This is your All-O, No-D Heismanpundit OMG Team Of The Year. Brian Brohm and Michael Bush are the top backfield tandem in the country; both are healthy and seriously pissed off you guys about the WVU game a year ago. Elvis Dumerville and his billion sacks do depart but the entire secondary returns along with two linebackers and some experience on the DL.
8. Ohio State
I realize that there's not a whole lot to choose from at the top of the polls but it appears that the blogpoll is heading for a 1-2 Ohio State-Notre Dame double punch of Conventional Wisdom, and that makes Bear very sad. Ohio State's defense is going to drop off a cliff even if it remains pretty good and their offense is probably immensely overrated.
That's right: immensely overrated. Michigan's crappy, no good, Herrmann-led defense was the third best unit Ohio State faced last year -- by a huge margin -- and I watched them scrape by on screens and the MasseyGap for the better part of four quarters until Michigan's terminal EOG stupidity kicked in and zoned Michigan to a painful death. In games against Texas and Penn State, OSU's offense got its ass kicked. The rest of the schedule looked like this: Notre Dame, Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, etc, etc, etc, etc. OSU racked up a lot of yards and points because they had a huge number of short fields against Sun Belt defenses. That's certainly better than struggling against those opponents but the overall weakness of said opponents should be taken into account, especially when the other side of the ball is totally new.
9. Notre Dame
A second team whose preseason rankings are wildly overrated because of an offense that racked up tons of points and yards versus Sun Belt D. I've said it before, you've heard it before. It's a good offense but not good enough to justify the hype. They still don't have a single cornerback; they moved their second string running back to linebacker last week in the expectation he might start.
A good team with a good coach, yes. Ginn or no Ginn, Smarjajdjadaizaia is the most frightening player Michigan must face this year, Zbikowski's so fast Fisher DeBerry thinks he's an albino, and apparently Quinn managed to figure out how to throw downfield to wide open guys sometime after the Michigan game. #1? #2? Bleah.
I'd like to think my offbeat Michigan ranking is more due to the vast array of information I have on them and not pure fanboy bias. If I was an SEC blogger I'd be tempted to put them as my wack #1 pick in a year with no favorites.
Why? A total of seven starters* depart, only but only three were any good: Jason Avant, Adam Stenavich, and Gabe Watson. The other four ranged from mediocre-at-best (Grant Mason) to plain bad (Leo Henige, Matt Lentz, and Pat Massey). So there's that: in terms of returning production Michigan must lead the country, especially when you consider the veritable plague of injuries that rained down. Mike Hart was healthy for four games, Jake Long none. Angry Michigan Safety Hating God smote Michigan safeties like one would expect. Lamarr Woodley about a quarter of the season, including the final, fateful drives against OSU. For most of the season the right tackle was Rueben Riley, the third string guy even when both his thumbs weren't broken.
That returning production did lead to 7-5 and the (gasp!) "three plays from 4-7" meme that hacky sportswriters love to trot out, but Michigan was (gasp!) four plays from 11-1 too. That's what happens when every single game you play is decided on the last drive. Phil Steele made this argument about Arkansas: when a team loses a lot of games by narrow margins but can reasonably expect significant improvement the team's record can change drastically for the better.
Lloyd Carr's tendency to sit on slim leads and punt on second and ten is a negative that costs Michigan some expectation and thus a few spots in the poll, but most of the piercing analysis of Michigan that's been offered during the offseason amounts to "OMG LLLLLOYD LOL" and vastly overstates whatever negative impact his game theory flaws bring, especially since Michigan's version of Jeff Bowden is gone.
*(Six if you count Tim Massaquoi, but Tyler Ecker saw at least as much time as he did.)
A team much like USC except this year they get their version of Reggie Bush back. Actually, they get their versions of Bush back -- both Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch averaged well over 6 YPC. The catch is that the heavily promoted defense didn't do much to earn the hype being given it this year, yielding 47 points to UCLA, 38 to WSU, and 35 to USC. Giving up only 20 in regulation to Oregon seems impressive, but the Ducks had just lost Kellen Clemens for the year. Cal's rep as a tough defense was built on crushing Arizona, Sacramento State, Stanford, and the like. They stopped no one of consequence.
Then there's the QB issue, still unsettled between three players. Nate Longshore missed last year with a broken leg; Joe Ayoob was more joke than quarterback; Steve Levy played well once, against Mormons. Marshawn Lynch is real nice but is this a top ten team? Uh. No.
Poised for a step back this year as everyone who plays them will be hell-bent on figuring out the particulars of WVU's spread-option offense. As SMQB points out, the 'Eers were moments away from being on the receiving end of a unholy beating from Louisville and nearly managed to blow the Georgia game once UGA managed to stumble to its feet and take a standing eight count. This may be an overreaction to the Great Purdue Misprediction of 2005, but it feels lke their fifteen minutes are up and at the end of the year people will be milling about asking each other "what the hell did we even see in them in the first place?"
15. Florida State
16. Boston College
Everyone else is voting for them. Why?
I think there's a chance people are making too much of Rhett Bomar's departure, since he wasn't exactly Tom Brady last year. A starting guard getting booted, though, is bad for Adrian Peterson, and what's bad for Adrian Peterson is bad for everyone.
I trust Phil Steele. Orson also argued in their favor, citing Steele, dismissing the absence of McFadden as trivial, and pointing out 6'6" wide receiver/mobile wall Marcus Monk, the closest thing to Calvin Johnson since... er, he's still in school. The closest thing since sliced bread!
Willing to take input here as well.
20. Northern Illinois
Garrett Wolfe made believers out of Michigan fans in last year's season opener, which was closer than the score suggested. The little Husky is a tiny, impossible-to-find slasher and legitimately one of the premier backs in the country. You've got a love a running back who rocks the #1 jersey. He'll get an opportunity to believe-ify plenty more Big Ten opponents in games at Ohio State and Iowa. I expect NIU to at the very least scare the hell out of OSU in their season opener. Tackle Doug Free is a potential first or second round draft pick and though NIU loses three starters from last year's line they get guard Matt Rogers, a starter in '04, back from an academic suspension.
Also of note for name-watchers... NIU's crack SID staff has your back (pdf):
the question remains who moves up to the No. 2 [RB] spot---junior-to-be All-Name Team candidate Cas Prime, soph Montell Clanton, red-shirt frosh Justin Anderson, or incoming freshman Ricky Crider?
Orson swears that the return of Cutcliffe is worth games all by itself and that Tennessee fans will no longer have to curl up in the fetal position, muttering "why didn't they hand it to whichever impossibly giant, suspiciously robotic back probably sent from the future to kill Steve Spurrier we have this year?"
I am suspicious about the loss of Mahelona and what seemed like the only good bit of team Tennessee had last year. Willing to listen here, as well.
22. Virginia Tech
Purely a rep pick. Very open to pro/con arguments.
23. Drew Stanton
I suppose he has teammates.
24. Fresno State
Mid-major respect know-nothing pick. Flexible here.
25. Georgia Tech
Sure, they'll probably be 7-5 at the end of the year, but whoever ends up here at the end of the year is going to be around 7-5 anyway. Not many potential #25 teams have Calvin Johnson, a veteran quarterback, and the consistently swarming defense Tech features. Okay, the veteran quarterback looks and throws like Gary Coleman, but it's #25. What are you going to do?
Votes due by Wednesday @ 10, so get yer bitchin' in today.
(Or Anyone Else For That Matter)
Exhibit A: Mike DeCourcy's please-die note to Amaker.
Exhibit B: Mike Farrell's instate recruitin' PANIC article.
The latest is an article from Tom Dienhart that can only be described as aggressively dumb. Deinhart apparently saw a recent AP article headline "Carr, Michigan's brass say he's there to stay" and flipped the eff out.
So, Michigan's brass boldly states that Lloyd Carr is "here to stay."
What did you expect the guys sitting in the high-back leather chairs to utter in August? That Carr was on the hot seat? That Carr had to win the Big Ten this year -- or he would be fired?
Yeah, right. It's just more blabber from the Ann Arbor ivory tower.
Amazingly, it goes downhill from there. There's an avatar for the Michigan fanbase named "Big Blue Boy." Yeah. It's extraordinarily... nay... miraculously bad. And it's not alone. Check Dienhart's next most recent post on Charlie Weis:
Here's the scoop: Weis had a problem with a recent series of stories in a local paper that dared to pose the question: "Can Notre Dame maintain principles and athletic dominance?"
Weis' response to the two reporters? No questions for you!
In other words, if Chas has a beef with you, he'll go Biff on you.
Look, there are wrong ways and right ways to handle disagreements. And Biff Weis did it the wrong way. Why? Well, I'm guessing it's because Biff Weis felt he could get away with it.
I'm flabbergasted that Dienhart is getting paid for this instead of, say, being tasered and locked up far away from the Internet.
Sporting News, I officially dub you Sports Talk Radio On Paper. STROP!
The internet is a-tizzy over this passage from the Dayton Daily News on sophomore OSU tackle Alex Boone:
Boone, a sophomore starter and former Parade All-American, said he was routinely downing 30 to 40 beers per day, a pattern of bingeing that began in high school and escalated when he arrived at OSU.
((Debatably) interesting usage note: "bingeing" and "binging" are locked in a war for supremacy that "binging" is winning via Google hit, 435k to 356k. If the word that doesn't look viciously misspelled is already more commonly used, why not drop the "e" altogether? As a reader my first instinct there is typo; the second is linguistic death via outdated style guide.)
And no wonder since -- estimating conservatively by pegging his average at, say, 32 and giving him 40 or 50 days off per year for Christmas, Lent, and days when Boone was so drunk from the night before he slept for 30 hours -- over the past two years Boone has consumed approximately 20,000 beers. That's approximately 1,875 gallons, enough to drown a small Vietnamese village. Since Budwesier is 5% alcohol by weight, Boone has consumed 94 gallons of alcohol alone over the past two years.
But wait! There's more! At 140 calories per beer, that's a staggering 280,000 calories; at 3500 calories per pound, Alex Boone has ingested 800 pounds worth of beer in the past two years. Alex Boone would not exist if he did not drink beer. He would be -450 pounds.
Or maybe the "30-40" estimate is wildly unrealistic, but that's no fun at all.
21-30: The Deeply Offensive
30. Dick Vitale
I know Vitale is a very, very nice man, but the sad fact is he ruins basketball games. He's totally unlistenable in doses larger than six seconds; his cute nicknames and acronyms spawned countless irritating imitators; the image of Vitale sensuously bathing Coach K's most private, most special tickly bits with his overworked tongue has haunted the dreams of too many Americans.
: Oh, good, it's Dick Vitale.
: "WHY HASN'T JJ BEEN PICKED YET BABY!"
mjd : I want to set him on fire.
29. Marcus Vick
Punks come and go but it takes a special kind of imagined privilege to act like Marcus Vick. Over the course of his Virginia Tech career, Vick
- was pulled over for speeding, whereupon it was found that what he lacked in driver's license he possessed in marijuana,
- got his mack on with an underage girl,
- stomped on Elvis Dumerville's knee,
- aaaaand everybody's favorite: pulled a gun at McDonald's because they were out of Chicken McNugget happy meals.*
Throughout it all he managed to be insincerely contrite, even objecting to comparisons to Lawrence Phillips because he "wasn't a bad guy like that."
UNLESS YOU ARE OUT OF MCNUGGETS, MOTHERFUCKER.
*(okay, okay, it was because his girlfriend told him someone called her a bitch. The substitution stands since it's funnier and no less crazy.)
27. Tony Parker & 28. Manu Ginobli
The Spurs' mighty Backcourt of Foreign Annoyance. Parker is the main offender, being
- badly misinformed about his verbal dexterity,
- the designated railer of Eva Longoria, and
but Ginobli's inexplicable carte blanche to charge whoever he feels like at any time, ass-kicking of the US basketball team, and strong resemblance to a swordfish are grating in precisely the opposite direction. Combined, the two are sandpaper to one's tolerance, eventually wearing away the outer layers until all that's left is the throbbing white hot center of "please blow an ACL, you frogs."
26. Scoop Jackson
Some people -- Simmons, Leitch -- chafe at the strictures imposed by print journalism's miserly rationing of wordcount. These Internets butterflies need the freedom of the Web to emerge from the straightjacket of convention into a style that is uniquely theirs and uniquely effective.
Scoop Jackson is the exact opposite of these people.
For some reason, Scoop was the one drafted to fill Page 2's "Guy Who Talks About Being Black Guy" slot after the tragic death of Ralph Wiley, who was superior to Scoop in the following ways:
- Wiley wrote in what's generally referred to as "English" instead of the weird combination of street patois and just general jibberish that fills the vast width and breadth of a Scoop column;
- Wiley occasionally made sense (actually, he did quite frequently, but "occasionally" is enough to best Jackson);
- Wiley never spent several hundred words spread across more than one column to hit on a sideline reporter;
- Wiley was not referred to as "Scoop";
- Wiley didn't tour the country telling young black kids they had a better chance of being an NBA player than a sportswriter;
- Some of Wiley's paragraphs had more than one sentence;
- aaaaaaaand Wiley didn't look like a hastily aborted Muppet experiment.
Wiley is spinning so fast in his grave he could probably be used as a supercollider.
25. Bill Wirtz
It's hard to remember now, but the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the most storied teams in NHL history. Growing up in Detroit the newly rejuvenated Red Wings usually ran up against Roenick's Blackhawks at some point; when they did it was time to start planning tee times. Nowadays a trip to the United Center to see a Hawks game is a depressing experience: there's a spectacular video linking past heroes like Tony Esposito to... er... Radim Vrbata? Kyle Calder? The Blackhawks once held an esteemed place in the Chicago sports scene, but now they're a glorified, cold version of the Chicago Fire. Except the Fire televise home games.
Since the Clippers made the second round of the playoffs this year and look like they may just be getting better, Wirtz is the new gold standard for miserly owners who take your money and turn it into crap. In 2004, the 'Hawks were named the worst franchise in sport by ESPN.
24. Steve Spurrier
Vols no likey.
Don't get me wrong, I like Spurrier and think having him college football is great. I hope he never leaves again and root for when South Carolina when they play heavyweights in the hopes one day Phil Fulmer will have a nervous breakdown. But it's a cold hard fact that if I was a fan of an SEC team other than Florida or Carolina I, channeling Zidane's mom, would want his balls on a platter.
In terms of sheer overall hateability Spurrier deserves a place on this list. Even people who like him call him "Evil Genius." He's petulant, childish, temperamental, snarky, and just damn better than your coach. After years of running up the score, then dropping devastating science during post game presser, the only man more widely despised across the south is General Sherman. If he turns South Carolina into anything resembling his Florida juggernauts entire states are going to end up mental. This is a section of the country where coaches skip media days so they don't get served supoenas.
23. Various Columnists From "Around The Horn"
You can't separate them once they pass through Around The Horn's event horizon of suck. Is Mariotti more loathesome than Simers? Simers more loathesome than Woody Paige? Does it matter? Lacking the good nature and charisma of Wilbon and Kornheiser, they all represent the same thing: sportswriting as witless screaming. Invariably, the most repulsive is the one who just got done talking.
22. Johnny Damon
No one's naive enough to believe that professional athletes care about anything but the size of their paycheck, but Damon's defection was a special case. First, the contract sizes in question were both ridiculous, but Damon went with the Yankee offer because it was incrementally more so. This is deeply irritating to those who wish to maintain the fiction that their professional athletes care as much about the fans as the fans to about the
But in and of itself, that doesn't warrant placement higher than about the 40s, defections of Damon's sort being all too common in the modern-day sports world. He's up here because when Damon decided to take Steinbrenner's blood money and run he gave up not only the adoration of the city but his trademark Chewbacca locks. Shaggy and hirsute, Damon looked like Jesus. Clean-shaven and pinstriped, Yankee Damon is more Judas. Take it from a guy who reads a lot of chick baseball blogs: this is not generally regarded as an improvement.
Johnny Damon killed Unfrozen Caveman Centerfielder and all for what? A few million dollars more? How many solid-gold toilets do you need, Johnny?
21. Larry Brown
This is way better than coaching in the Finals.
Another man in search of yet more precious metals to poop in, Brown didn't even wait until the playoffs were over last year before bolting to the Knicks. To continue a theme: smooth move, Ex-Lax. This year, Brown's morose press conferences were context appropriate as Brown openly wondered whether he should kill Stephon Marbury or himself. And then Steve Francis showed up, a present from Isiah Thomas. If Thomas was not obviously the worst GM in the universe*, you would no doubt assume that this was an attempt to kill Brown and thus escape his onerous six kajillion dollar contract.
But since this is Isiah Thomas we're talking about, Brown got his six kajillion dollars. Now he can consider whether to kill himself on his private helicopter made entirely of diamond replicas of Stephon Marbury's bludgeoned skull.
At least this year Brown has gotten what he richly deserves: comeuppance.
*(Queries have been made as to Thomas' placement on this list. He does not appear, since his presence in the NBA proves without a doubt that anyone reading this could get a job with the Sonics or the Grizzlies or whoever and not be the worst GM in the league, which is something I savor every day when I wake up. I say to myself, "self, you would not be the worst GM in the NBA," and walk off with a pep in my step. That's a gift Isiah Thomas gives us.
Also: he threatened Bill Simmons with physical violence on the radio, prompting Stephen A. Smith to dismissively ask "who?" about a co-worker. And he made Larry Brown want to kill himself, definitively proving that some teams were beyond his power to "HEY! HEY! HEY!" into the playoffs. And he ruined the Knicks. For years. As I've said before, Thomas deserves a medal and we'll all be sorry when he's gone.)
Michigan Sports Center interviews Zoltan The Inconceivable.
1) I thought the Michigan athletic department laughed at you if you were from the Internets.
2) Sadly, no questions about the viability of his Heisman campaign were asked.
3) So. Jealous.
Pat Kane is feeling very sleepy. Pat Kane is deciding... nothing. He decides between college and the OHL later:
Kane says that it's "about 50/50" between major junior and college. "I'm probably going to have to make the decision in a couple of weeks," Kane said, "so hopefully I'll narrow it down."
Indeed, narrowing it down might be good. He decides between BU and Michigan, if necessary, later:
"Michigan's close to my house," Kane said. "It's the same drive I've had for the past two years, about four or five hours, real easy. BU, some of my best friends go there - [Brett] Bennett, Strait, and [Luke] Popko - so it would be great to play with them again. The team I would be going to, their rink is unbelievable, their fans are unbelievable. We'll see what happens."
Note that the last bit about the arena doesn't indicate a specific program. Should Kane choose Michigan, he'll join the team after the first semester -- he's accelerating his education as fast as he can -- and this is what you have to look forward to, courtesy of Mark Mitera:
"He's one of those unbelievable playmakers," Mitera said. "He sees the ice so well, I think he's got eyes in the back of his head. He can hear you breathing, almost."
Mitera's played with Kane for the past week or two at the WJC evaluation camp. Come on down, Pat Kane.
Finally, someone who gets it. Finally there is an antidote to the non-stop Notre Dame rah-rah from Larry Felser of the Buffalo News. Let's listen into this lone outpost of sagacity in a world gone mad with Leprechaun fever:
There is the not-so-little matter of the more than 600 yards Ohio State laid on them the last time they put on the pads for an official game, the January Fiesta Bowl. The offense had to be outstanding because the Notre Dame defense leaked so badly against good offensive teams last year. The Irish finished 9-3 but in nine games allowed 20 points or more.
Thank you. Why is this guy stuck in a backwater like the Buffalo News? As Felser queries,
So how do we go about making halfway intelligent preseason picks?
Ah, the eternal question. Show us the way, wise one.
Since it's football, there is safety in sticking with the better coaches. Joe Paterno of Penn State and Bobby Bowden of Florida State get inducted into the college hall of fame this year, but they're still among the usual suspects. The Nittany Lions and Seminoles could end up in BCS bowls in January, so maybe 80 is the new 50 after all.
Er... okay. No doubt this is some AARP solidarity thing imposed by the Grey Dawn and not seriously the man's opinion. And we should be focusing on the big, national championship picture anyway...
For my No. 1 pick, however, I'll take Georgia.
Blast and damnation! No offense to the legions of Dawg bloggers out there, but Joe Tereshinski III is only a good name if the player in question is a Minnesota running back. Shockley he ain't, and there's hats to be eaten if a true freshman leads any team to the national championship. It's back to the anti-ND drawing board.