Friday, September 25, 2009

On Week 4

This week is mostly devoid of big games. There’s only one pairing of ranked teams. For now, it’s mostly about giving highly rated teams a chance to prove they don’t belong after all. Ole Miss gave a clinic in this Thursday night.

Full conference play will come soon; these guys can’t duck big games forever. For now, though, all we’ve got is a trio of 3:30 kickoffs:

#9 Miami at #11 Virginia Tech. First of all, we should thank these teams. Unlike possibly every other good team in the nation, each of them is playing their third serious game in four weeks tomorrow. Miami outgunned Florida State and crushed a one-dimensional Georgia Tech. VT lost to Alabama—no shame there—and survived Nebraska on a miracle last drive. The Hokies have been inconsistent on offense, but their D is the best Miami’s seen yet, and Blacksburg is always a tough place to pick up a road win. The winner here will have the inside track to the ACC’s BCS berth.

#6 California at Oregon. Cal is one of those teams that’s difficult to judge early on. Are their blowout wins because they haven’t played anybody, or are they actually that good? They have 15 starters back from a nine win team last year, and Jahvid Best is in his second year of putting up huge numbers, so maybe they are. If they are, they get their shot at USC next week.

On the other hand, Oregon is a team we know about. They were comprehensively outplayed by Boise State, but came back to beat Purdue and Utah, two solid teams. The Boise game was on the road, though. They’re at home tomorrow, where they're more dangerous.

#15 TCU at Clemson. I picked this one because after BYU’s own brush with the ACC, the Horned Frogs are one of the leading non-BCS teams left, and the MWC really needs some redemption. TCU hasn’t proven anything this year, with one win against a I-AA team and another against Virginia, which is even worse. Clemson is coming off a tough loss at Georgia Tech and a big win over Boston College, in which they held BC to four first downs. A win would push the Tigers back towards the Top 25 and co-favorite status, along with Florida State, in their half of the ACC (opposite the Miami-VT winner). A TCU win would establish them as the Mountain West favorite, and next in line for the BCS bid if Boise State falters.


Miami (55/45). Yes, they’re on the road, but the Hurricanes are the better team. Miami tore up Georgia Tech, and the FSU win looks even better now that the Seminoles dismantled Brigham Young. For their part, the case against Virginia Tech only gets stronger every time I’ve made it: they were outclassed against Alabama and Nebraska’s Roy Helu, Jr. ran all over them. Also, Tyrod Taylor’s still not completing half of his passes, and he’s taken 11 sacks.

California (66/34). Cal beat Oregon last year and has more returning players, and in their opener the Ducks were just no match for Boise State. This would be a huge upset.

Clemson (54/46). This is another of those games, like Nebraska/VT last week, that I’d rather not pick. I can see both sides, and I’ve been going back and forth between them. But for the record here’s Clemson’s: their D has been deadly the last six quarters, against decent teams. TCU wasn’t that convincing against Virginia and allowed 21 non-garbage points against Texas State. TCU has one member of their front seven back from last year, and Clemson’s got a veteran O-line and CJ Spiller. Clemson has better recruits, more returning starters, is starting to get it together, and is at home. TCU’s case…well, hopefully for me you won’t see it for yourself tomorrow.

Last Week: 38-108

Year to Date: 171-202, .458

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Week 3

There are a number of decent games this week, but no huge ones. The best outside the top 3 are rivalry games that aren’t expected to be close: Tennessee-Florida and Texas Tech-Texas. Utah and Boise State, the two BCS busters of past seasons who are looking strong again, also have relatively tough opponents up next in Oregon and Fresno State. But the biggest three are these:

#14 Georgia Tech at #20 Miami. In Clemson and Florida State, these teams have one good conference win apiece already, and a second could put them into co-favorite status in the ACC Coastal with Virginia Tech—a game that will come next week for Miami. (Side note: how about Miami’s schedule? Their first four games are at FSU, GT, at VT, Oklahoma). Last year, the Jackets took this won with nearly 500 yards on the ground and fewer than 50 in the air. You know what they’re going to do.

#19 Nebraska at #13 Virginia Tech. Nebraska has lit up two Sun Belt teams so far, but that won’t impress fans in Lincoln. The Huskers haven’t been ranked above #14 or even beaten a top 20 team in a half-decade, and this is their chance to change that around. Nebraska will be favored in every other game they play until November. For their part, the Hokies still need to make up for the loss to Alabama and get right headed into ACC play, where they’ll also face a manageable schedule.

Florida State at #7 BYU. The difference between this and the Boise State and Utah games is that BYU is a legitimate national title contender. A win here, and they will have two against Cadillac programs, including preseason #3 Oklahoma, and have two more games, both at home, against ranked teams: TCU and Utah. That’s a stronger profile than the one that almost took 2007 West Virginia into the championship game. Suppose only one major conference team runs the table. Considering fellow Mountain West-er Utah has been hugely impressive in two BCS trips, wouldn’t BYU have a case to get in? If they win their big games in style, I say they would. And that makes this game count.


Miami (62/38). Miami is better right now than Clemson, and GT barely weathered the Tigers at home. If they get down, they cannot pass their way back into a game.

Nebraska (35/65). I could make either case, but here’s Nebraska’s: They scored 34 points a game last year, even throwing out the weak out of conference schedule, and VT got tripled up in yardage by Alabama. Also, the Huskers have had two weak opponents and follow the Hokies with Louisiana (Lafayette) and a bye, so this is their only focus of the first five weeks of the season.

BYU (73/27). Because BYU’s good this year.

Last Week: 63-59

Year to Date: 133-94, .586

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On Week 2

Like last year, the season started out with several good matchups, but teams mostly went back to cupcakes for their second game. There’s only one pairing of ranked teams this week, so we’ll start there.

#3 USC at #8 Ohio State. After last year’s beating, Ohio State looked like they might have been closing the gap. USC lost eight defensive starters and turned to a freshman QB, whereas Ohio State has a veteran D and an extra year of experience for Terrell Pryor. However, they were unconvincing against Navy last week, while USC’s game against San Jose State was too easy to be informative. Obviously, the winner of this game joins Florida and Texas at the forefront of the national title discussion.

Clemson at #15 Georgia Tech. As usual, the ACC is wide open, especially since the preseason division favorites, Virginia Tech and Florida State, lost their openers. These teams each have the talent and experience to push those teams, and Clemson in particular would be looking at a favorable schedule after this game, missing VT and hosting the Seminoles.

#18 Notre Dame at Michigan. Notre Dame is loaded with talent – their last four recruiting classes have been in the national top ten – and, in smoking Nevada, they looked like a team ready to show it. They’ve also put together an uncharacteristically soft schedule, with USC their only opponent in the current Top 25. Michigan is another talented team looking to produce more on the field this year, cruising to an easy opening win of their own. They added two highly rated freshman QBs to an otherwise complete set of returning offensive starters, and Rich Rodriguez’s dual threat offense looked much sharper than last year. A win here could propel them to making noise in the Big Ten, where they will host both Penn State and Ohio State.


USC (71/29). The Trojans’ inexperience at key spots is enough to start me thinking about leaning Buckeyes, but then I remember last year was 35-3 and Ohio State struggled last week with a service academy. Sometimes it’s best not to overthink it.

Georgia Tech (66/34). Two to one is about right. Clemson has the ability, and their O-line and run game matches up well. But GT is at home, has more players back and isn’t starting a freshman QB off the baseball team. Clemson may well be better by the end of the year, but I don’t think they’re there yet.

Notre Dame (59/41). I’m not sure what the question is here. Notre Dame is more athletic, more prepared, and looked more impressive in their opener. Michigan seems a year away, like ND last year. This has all the makings of a statement game for the Irish, and I think it would be a much bigger upset than Clemson/GT if it goes the other way.

Last Week: 70-35, .667

Year to Date: 70-35, .667

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On CFB 2009, and Week 1

This year, the preview will be combined with the Week 1 preview, for two reasons:

  1. I’m bad at picking.
  2. This year is pretty straightforward anyway.

Let’s go over what I mean in 2., conference by conference.

The SEC is by far the best, deepest league in the nation, and Florida is by far the best, deepest team in the SEC. Simple.

The Big 12 South has Texas and Oklahoma. Whoever wins that game really shouldn’t lose any other game on their schedule, except of course for Florida in the title game.

The Pac-10, Big Ten and ACC are pinning their hopes almost entirely on USC, Ohio State and Virginia Tech. If recent history is any indication, Ohio State will lose to USC and/or a Big Ten road game, USC will drop some conference game for which they forget to show up, and Tyrod Taylor will lose the Hokies at least one game.

The Big East and Big 12 North are filled with okay teams of approximately equal quality. Nothing to see here.

Boise State and the last one standing among Utah/TCU/BYU are the outsiders with a BCS shot. Also, Notre Dame has a shot at being pretty good.

See? Nothing new here.

Now, on to Week 1. As you may remember, the rules are to pick the three games with the greatest BCS implications, with a special eye to the championship game as a tiebreaker. This usually, but not always, coincides with the best matchups of the week.

Our Week 1 undercard includes #8 Mississippi at Memphis, to see how good the Rebels really are, Miami at #18 Florida State, to see if either of them is actually going to translate all that talent into ACC contention, and #20 Brigham Young at #3 Oklahoma, to see if Oklahoma looks like a national championship contender, and whether BYU might win the MWC and crash the BCS.

#5 Alabama v. #7 Virginia Tech. This is the biggest game on each of these team’s regular season schedule. The ACC lacks the star power for a convincing in-conference win, and Alabama misses Florida and Georgia this year. A big win could get the ball rolling to run the table, like Alabama’s win over Clemson in a similar game last year, and the loser will have a tough time regaining that respect, like VT after the LSU game two years ago.

#16 Oregon at #14 Boise State. One of USC’s potential competitors opens tomorrow night against one of the most impressive BCS busters in recent years. Oregon, to their credit, isn’t playing a single gimme game all year. They follow this one with Purdue and Utah at home before entering Pac-10 play. BSU, on the other hand, hardly has anything but from here on out, playing Miami OH, Bowling Green, UC-Davis and the WAC. If they win, they’re in the early driver’s seat for the small conference BCS bid.

#13 Georgia at #9 Oklahoma State. This game is partially about bragging rights for the conferences. With Florida, Oklahoma and Texas in their divisions, both these teams are longshots for the BCS. This year, things aren’t easier. Georgia must replace a QB and RB taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, and Oklahoma State has difficulty recruiting against Oklahoma and Texas, and lost more players overall. Neither can really afford to start the season with a quality loss.


Alabama (70/30). If I’m going to pick an ACC team to take down an SEC contender with that kind of defense, it won’t be one with Tyrod Taylor under center.

Boise State (60/40). There’s a reason most teams won’t schedule road games against good small conference teams, and the Ducks are about to be reminded what it is.

Georgia (35/65). This game could go either way, but Oklahoma Stat’s bowl loss against Oregon gives the image of a team that was overachieving, whereas Georgia seemed flaky but sometimes dominant. They’ll be back this year.