Roundtable Roundup 3.1
Who is overrated?
The most common answers here all reside in the SEC: Florida (3 votes), Georgia (3), Tennessee (3), Auburn (2), and Arkansas (3) all got multiple votes, though Arkansas also got some positive mentions and is covered in the "Who's Both?" section below. Interesting split here, with SEC voters preferring UF and Ark as their overrated teams and outsiders tearing down the other three. Roll 'Bama Roll on the Gators:
With no defense to bolster an offense that struggled to blow out anyone but the lowliest of OOC cupcakes (and tOSU of course, hee hee)? I'm not entirely comfortable with their ranking of #11 in our own ballot, but that's a lot more reasonable than being listed in the top ten.
Dawg Sports echoes:
In the Big Ten, where last year's conference champion propelled itself to the national title game on the strength of its offense, Michigan is the favorite because the Wolverines return a wealth of skill on that side of the ball. In the S.E.C., where last year's Gators captured conference and national honors on the strength of their defense while putting up numbers eerily reminiscent of those posted by a previous national champion from the S.E.C., Florida returns no one on the side of the ball that made the Saurians successful.
Meanwhile, Tennessee comes in for a buffeting from The Hawkeye Compulsion:
The fact remains:
- Erik Ainge has nobody to throw the ball to (and is still Erik Ainge, quarterback of the "Jesus, he's still eligible?" All Stars)
- The offensive line looks pretty good, but there isn't a running back on UT that can run 5 yards without pulling a hamstring
- Phil Fullmer is still a bumbling moron come game time (he was also lampooned as a yokel in Michael Lewis' "The Blind Side," but the characterization seemed all too believable)
- The defensive line sucks balls
- Two new corners to get torched by South Carolina
- Nobody else can stay healthy
- Oh yeah, they start 1-2 (@ Cal, @ Florida)
The good news? Well, they still get to play Vandy. Mark my words: UT goes 7-5 (4-4). Of course, they will still be ranked higher than 15 better teams for reasons passing understanding.
Hey Jenny Slater concurs:
The conventional wisdom is that David Cutcliffe has singlehandedly raised the Vols' offense from the dead, and compared to their rock-bottom performance in 2005, that's certainly the case -- but toward the end of last season I think we saw the team hit a ceiling in terms of just how much Cutcliffe could do all by his lonesome. He couldn't work wonders on the running game, which ground to a virtual halt over the second half of the season behind an underperforming offensive line, nor could he exert much influence over a pass defense that was also showing a little wear and tear down the stretch. All of those are likely to remain sore spots in '07, with tailback LaMarcus Coker's status still up in the air and Jonathan Hefney the lone returning starter in the secondary; even if Cutcliffe could do something about that, he'd be up to his eyeballs with a brand-new receiving corps and a quarterback who's got an off-season surgery to recover from.
I'm not saying I see another backslide to a five-win season or something similarly disastrous, but neither do I necessarily think much improvement is in the cards for the Vols this year. They won nine games in '06, which was great, but there's absolutely no guarantee they'll match that this time around.
I was the main opponent of Auburn, Georgia, and their freshman-laden offensive lines. UGA:
This is going to be bad. Very, very bad. Unless Stafford matures immediately (chances of this...
...are slim) or the Georgia offensive line turns into Christmas Miracle Voltron, the offense is going to be just as bad as it was last year when Georgia was wildly fortunate to finish 9-4. With a nearly all-new defense, replicating even that record looks like a longshot. The only reason to rank the Dawgs appears to be historical inertia.
Brandon Cox has never impressed and he regressed badly towards the end of 2006. He threw 19 interceptions, the same as Curtis Painter. Also, Auburn has a bit of a problem on the offensive line, too. One starter returns; true freshman Lee Ziemba is the probable starter at one tackle spot. Other freshmen dot the two-deep in uncomfortable places like wide receiver, safety, and center. I think 15 is pretty generous even though they were 11-2 last year. I can see ranking them somewhere at the tail end of the poll.
Others agreed for the same reasons, including Run Up The Score and The Hawkeye Compulsion. The Big Ten hates them some Georgia. (It might be worth pointing out that The Hoosier Report rated the Dawgs #5, but there wasn't much justification outside of a hunch there.)
Speaking of The Hoosier Report, it does not believe in LSU:
They lost nine starters, including an outstanding quarterback, his two top receivers, and 40 percent of the offensive line. Yes, the defense is loaded, but LSU was loaded last year. To veer a bit into the hated intangibles, I get something of a Bob Davie/Ron Zook vibe from Miles. Can he isolate his poor judgment re: public speaking from the split-second coaching decisions he must make? I realize, of course, that Miles is 22-4 at LSU, so he can't possibly be as bad as Davie or Zook, but since it's the preseason, my hunch is enough to discount LSU. Certainly, I have no doubt that LSU is capable of winning the championship, and I think to some degree my extremely low ranking of the Tigers is backlash against what I view as an extremely odd consensus that LSU is going to be amazing this year.
In the Pac-10, a couple of bloggers cite UCLA. Addicted To Quack:
Here are the two most common reasons people believe in UCLA, and the reasons why they are wrong:
They return 20 starters. From a crap team
They have a good defense. That got lit up 37 at Wazzu, 38 at Cal, a whopping 44 against a pathetic Florida State offense. Yes, they played the game of their lives against SC, they looked like shit against most everyone else
Then there is also the issue which I have already addressed, and that is the issue of Karl Dorrell.
Interestingly, BlogPollers had some negative things to say about Texas when I was expecting a bit of Oklahoma backlash. Corn Nation takes a shot at UT:
Forget the team name, the coach, the players. Here's a generic explanation of where Texas is:
- Finished 99th overall last season against the pass
- Finished 34th in rushing off
ense in a conference in which you need to run the ball to win
- 33rd in passing offense, 22nd in overall offense
- Replacing three starters off the offensive line
- New defensive coordinator
If you didn't know who I was talking about, would you rank the team described above in the Top 5 heading into this season? I wouldn't either. I know that Texas always has a ton of talent and this season is no different, but they have a lot of question marks and the Big 12 South looks as even as it ever has.
Why Texas? As much as I like Colt McCoy's talent and leadership, there is something worrisome about this Texas team. They lost a ton of defensive talent, and while Mack Brown keeps re-stocking this roster with Phil Steele-approved VHTs, I'm concerned about a team starting two new corners and two new defensive ends in a conference that has more than enough offensive talent.
I'm also red-flagging an offensive line that got beaten up in the last two regular-season games (both losses) to the tune of seven sacks. It's also worth noting that a line more experienced than the one they'll field this year failed to protect their quarterback or run-block effectively down the stretch. Combined total of rushing yardage for Texas in their final three games: 283 yards. Very un-Texas, if you ask me. Three starters are gone from that line, so things might be a bit hairy at times for McCoy.
The Big Ten mostly escaped notice here, but a couple people dinged Michigan. Typical reasonin g from Badger Sports:
I voted them sixth and will be moving them down in this week's poll. Their white-hot offense will be a boon early on in games, but Lloyd Carr's deep-seated conservatism will shelve everything but running up the gut every time the Wolverines have a double-digit lead sometime late in the third quarter. Expect losses to Ohio State (for the fourth straight year) and in their bowl game (for the fifth), plus a loss at Camp Randall.
Hey, that's a good way to get Brian to kill himself. Lloyd Carr was the only cited reason Michigan might be bad.
West Virginia got dinged by RUTS:
I get WVU as a top five team, I really do. White and Slaton are the tits. Still, if you put them in a neutral stadium against Wisconsin or Penn State â€” two teams that can really stuff the running game â€” what happens? They're #5 in the BP, #12 on my ballot.
And then there's the Bemusement Park, a lone voice in the wilderness against USC:
Even though Booty certainly comports himself well and seems to be pretty grounded, Pete Carroll and his staff are going to have to watch him to make sure he doesn't turn into Drew Tate, the Iowa QB who eventually thought he needed to make every play into the last play of the '05 Capital One Bowl. Because, uh, I can kinda see that happening. And if they're paying that much attention to the QB, what happens to the rest of the egos on the offense? I'm not saying U$C isn't goodâ€“they areâ€“but I just don't believe they'll be able to handle the scenario I see developing with John David Booty trying to do too much and the need to keep him calmed down creating a leadership vacuum elsewhere in the team.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Yeah. Not with the buying that so much, but whatever.
Who is underrated?
Florida State got a major thumbs up from Phil Steele and that's given a couple bloggers pause about how low the Seminoles are. Rocky Top Talk:
Florida State was ranked No. 18 in the BlogPoll, and they didn't even make our top 25. What gives? They're Steele's No. 1 surprise team of the year, for crying out loud. They return the most experienced group (eight starters on defense and six starters on offense) since 1999.
ATO also cites Steele, notes the departure of Jeff Nepotism Bowden, and references a treasure trove of talent coming to experienced fruition:
FSU also looks pretty good when you look at the guys that are actually playing the games. They return 14 starters, and there's plenty of talent on the roster. The Rivals rankings for the past five years' recruiting classes:
2003 - 21st
2004 - 3rd
2005 - 2nd
2006 - 3rd
2007 - 21st
That's an odd bit of symmetry, but it's also three outstanding classes bookended by two good ones.
We all believe Steele, right? He got Arkansas last year; this is his team this
year. I think I'm sold.
The other most popular answer was unranked Miami. Off Tackle argues for the 'Canes:
I have to admit that I was surprised to see Miami get so few votes in the first BlogPoll. The coaching change gives me some hesitation, but Randy Shannon is coming from within the program, so I can't imagine the learning curve being steep. The offense returns 9 starters (including 4 on the line and QB Kyle Wright who had last season shortened by an injury). I think the offense will be much improved. The defense should be pretty good again, especially in the back seven. Barring another complete meltdown, Miami will be much, much better in 2007.
Cock & Fire cites Oregon State:
I do wonder, though, if we're giving enough credit to unranked Oregon State. (Gasp! An SEC blog picking a Pac-10 team! What is the world coming to?) This is a team that won 10 games last year and knocked off Southern Cal. Yes, they lose a starting QB, but they bring back WR Sammie Stroughter, fresh off a 1,293-yard campaign, and Yvenson Bernard, who rushed for 1,307 yards and 12 TDs. The o-line should also be good. Plus, there's a lot of experience returning on defense.
...but no one told him Stroughter's flipped out and might not be on the team this year. Also, C&F couldn't even be bothered to rank them(!):
If somebody convinced me to drop one of the teams off my ballot -- or if I can just eyeball someone I no longer trust -- the Beavers are probably the first team to move into the Top 25.
Fascinatingly, he also says Auburn might be underrated -- he had them #6 on his ballot, but then says that's "probationary" and he can understand the drop.
Dawg Sports puts in a vote for Michigan -- their #1 -- which I don't even buy. Have you seen the secondary? Aaaaargh.
Wake Forest got a couple votes after winning the ACC, but the justification for them was pretty half-hearted. SMQB has this covered.
Unranked Boise also got some votes. Bruce Ciskie:
They're not sexy at all. They may have gotten lucky to an extent when they beat Oklahoma. But they're good. Real good, I'd say. Ian Johnson is one of the top backs in the nation, and even without Jared Zabransky throwing, the offense is going to motor. The line
is very solid, and Taylor Tharp is a good player who deserves credit for waiting his turn behind Zabransky. I like the growth I'm expecting to see out of this defense, led by safety Marty Tadman.
Oddly, #23 Hawaii picked up some venom from those questioning the Rainbows' schedule and talent level. ATO makes the case against:
Hawaii. They're 23rd, so they aren't exactly way overrated, but I don't think they should be ranked at all. Don't get me wrong, I expect them to go 11-1, at worst. However, as BlogPoll voters, we're supposed to rank teams without regard for future schedule, and once you ignore their squeezably soft schedule, I don't think the Warriors are a top-25 team. Sure, they do have some legit talent on offense, with Colt Brennan at QB and Nebraska transfer Leon Wright-Jackson at running back. And the offense was unstoppable last season, finishing first in total and scoring offense. However, the concept of defense has yet to make it out to the islands. Last season, the Warriors finished 93rd in total defense and 69th in scoring defense. They return eight starters on defense, so those numbers should improve, but I don't see the defensive getting better than "pretty bad." ...
I just get the feeling, though, that if you took the Warriors off of Hawaii (negating the advantage of playing in a tropical paradise three time zones away from the rest of the country) and dropped them into a BCS conference, you'd end up with Purdue. Anyone comfortable with ranking Purdue? Thought not. So why rank Hawaii?
Meanwhile, SEC voters closer to Las Chronicas De Boss Hawg hate Arkansas even though the Hogs are low, so low, at #20. Rocky Top Talk again:
No way they make it through the season without imploding. No, the Razorbacks shouldn't be ranked No. 14 or even No. 20.
Roll 'Bama Roll:
Arkansas should not be ranked. I don't care how great McFadden is, this team is ready to implode after all of their offseason troubles, Marcus Monk will be MIA the first month of the season, the defense loses Marcus Harrison on the d-line indefinetely after a felony drug arrest, and the offense will be dragged kicking and screaming back to the run run run punt for three quarters and then let Matt Jones run around and make up stuff in the 4th Nutt-bone, except there's no Matt Jones anymore.
But four voters, including myself and the other Big Ten teams that hate Georgia, went with Arkansas as underrated. Hey Jenny Slater sums up:
Yeah, I know they have only three returning starters in the defensive front seven and only two back on the offensive line, but isn't Houston Nutt the guy about whom we always say "he does more with less than anyone in the SEC"? And honestly, how much of an offensive line do Darren McFadden and Felix Jones really need? The Razorbacks' silly soap opera of an off-season is surely giving some people pause as well, but to believe that that's enough to derail their 2007 season, you'd have to believe that Mitch Mustain and Gus Malzahn really were at the heart of the team's surprising success last year -- a belief that, as far as I can ascertain, is not shared by anyone outside of the Hogs' batshit-crazy fan base.