Thursday, August 28

Roundtable Roundup: It's so close I can taste it!


This is it, people -- college football starts again tonight. Too-freaking-nite. I'm seriously on the verge of tears here.

To mark this most wondrous day of days, here's the roundup of the answers to the BlogPoll roundtable I tossed up here last week. This is the first time I've hosted one in the preseason, so I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I'm going to have fun going back to this post in January and seeing just how dumb all our predictions were. "Kent State as a sleeper mid-major pick? What the fuck was I snorting when I picked that one?"

Read, enjoy, dissent until you're blue in the face in the comments section, but above all, be sure to patronize all these wonderful blogs regularly. Now we begin:

1. In his "visiting lecturers" series posted on Every Day Should Be Saturday over the past few months, Orson Swindle asked each participant to explain which country, during which historical period, their team most resembles. Let’s bring everything up to the present day and ponder: Which current sovereign nation is your team? Or to look at it another way, how does your team fit into the "world" of college football?

Not surprisingly, established superpowers or near-superpowers were popular here. Conquest Chronicles said Southern Cal is the U.S., which sounds presumptuous until you consider a) he was at least apologetic about it and b) USC can pretty much do whatever they want at this point. Buckeye Commentary, Double T Nation, and My Opinion on Sports compared Ohio State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma, respectively, to the just-short-of-world-domination United Kingdom. Two different nations, Burnt Orange and Rock M, say they're the China of the college-football world. Nice, guys, but just because you're both burgeoning economic powerhouses doesn't mean either Austin or Columbia, Mo., get to host the Olympics.

Beyond that, though, several respondents were surprisingly willing to look toward the Axis of Evil (which I think is so much funnier when said in a Sir Simon Milligan voice) for their teams' analogues. Kyle King of Dawgsports swings for the fences in comparing UGA to North Korea, and Kim Jong Il to "Evil Richt" (though Kim's birthday is within two days of Richt's . . . creepy); Corn Nation, in a statement that makes me want to just give them a hug and scoop them some ice cream, says "Maybe we’re Iraq -- everything we knew was blown to hell and we’re trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what’s going to happen next."

"You like burning stuff too? Then you're my team, 'Eers."

Mountainlair and Subway Domer, though, chose Worst Most Dangerous Horrible Country In The History of Ever Du Jour Iran as their focus of comparison. So says Mountainlair:

Yes, you don't want any part of that kind of crazy! And [they're] big enough that because of your current situation you really don't want to meet them on the field of battle. But small or insignificant enough that you're just not believing that they could actually win the whole thing. Come on! I'm talking about your perception, not mine. We used to not matter so much in the big scheme of things. But now you know who we are and like it or not, you have to deal with us.

One more before I move on, because as the offspring of two UVA grads, one of whom is of Slovak ancestry, I shed a tear for From Old Virginia's response:

We are the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is a beautiful country, or so I'm led to believe because I've never been there. People always say so. They say that a lot about Charlottesville too. Like the CR, that's just about all they say, most of the time.

Don't be too down on yourselves -- as the Czechs are well aware, there are worse things in the world than being pretty.

2. Every preseason roundup has to have some discussion of who's overrated, but let's go beyond that. Which team do you think is poised to crap the bed in the biggest way this season relative to high expectations, and which game do you think will begin their slide into ignominy?

If the CFB blogosphere is even remotely prescient, then the Kansas Jayhawks are f$#@ed eight ways from Sunday this year, because Tar Heel Mania, From Old Virginia, Subway Domer, My Opinion On Sports, Double-T Nation, and Dawgsports all picked KU to swallow the biggest pipe of any of this year's contenders or near-contenders; no other team got more than two mentions. Most of them pegged the Jayhawks' trip to Oklahoma -- not coincidentally, a trip they didn't have to take during last year's surprise 12-1 run -- in mid-October as the first stop on their trip to Sucktown, but Subway Domer says a trap game versus Colorado will be the start of a seven-game season-ending schneid; Kyle King says the 'Hawks will have long since been exposed by a September 12 trip to Tampa to play South Florida.

Maybe everyone was just afraid of offending the roundtable host, but I'm positively gobsmacked that nobody thought to throw my Bulldogs under the bus with this question, particularly established Georgia-hater Garnet and Black Attack, who evidently thinks a Tennessee upset at the hands of UCLA this Monday will be more embarrassing than anything Georgia does this year. In fact, the only place Georgia showed up was as some other team's destroyer of dreams -- specifically Arizona State's, which Conquest Chronicles says will be crushed on September 20 thanks to "a quarterback who has been planted in the turf like a tent peg."

Ironically, Buckeye Commentary and MGoBlog -- never a shy one about giving his knife one or two more twists in the gut of Rich Rodriguez's former employer -- are in agreement that West Virginia is due for a slide that will probably start with a Thursday-night home loss to Auburn. My choice of Clemson was seconded by MGoBlog and College Game Balls, but Rock M Nation instead chose Virginia Tech, generally thought to be Clemson's most likely opponent in the ACC title game this year, and Boston College blog BC Interruption conspicuously avoided choosing the Tigers so that they could instead make what's probably the ballsiest upset pick of this roundtable:

[L]et's go with Oklahoma. We'll predict that Oklahoma's BCS bowl woes finally extend out into the regular season with a loss to TCU on September 27. If the Horned Frogs don't upend the Sooners, look for Oklahoma to crap the bed with back-to-back home losses to Texas and Kansas in early October.

Ballsy, yes, but hardly unprecedented.

3. On the flip side of that coin, which team do you think is going to burst out of nowhere to become 2008's biggest overachiever -- this year's version of Kansas '07, as it were -- and what's going to be the big upset that makes us all finally sit up and take notice of them?

Unlike the previous question, there was nothing approaching consensus here, though a few teams were picked by a couple blogs. Two more nations, Double-T and Corn, picked Wisconsin, with Corn Nation going so far as to predict a Wisconsin upset of Ohio State. Buckeye Commentary and Rock M Nation, while not predicting a 12-1 season for the Bearcats, still pegged Cincinnati as a surprise team this year. Conquest Chronicles and Mountainlair picked BYU -- though perhaps somewhat less than enthusiastically, for as Mountainlair says,

Like Kansas last year, they play absolutely no one of consequence besides UCLA. So yeah, they play absolutely no one of consequence. They should be just as good if not better than last year's Cougar team. Things are crazy out west, but there's no reason to think they won't be undefeated by the time bowl season comes around. And then they'll play the No. 2 SEC team in a BCS bowl and wish they would have thrown the Colorado St. game.

Some bloggers were so bold and/or self-effacing as to pick potential sleepers that their own teams have to go up against this season. From Old Virginia (along with Garnet and Black Attack) picked ACC Coastal Division rival North Carolina; Subway Domer (along with BC Interruption) picked Michigan State, although Domer does hedge a little:

So they beat Cal, EMU, FAU, and then they play ND at home where the away team has won the last 7 games. I'll put a "L" here since I'm a big homer anyways and then they start their Big Integer season.

Anything to avoid a repeat of this.

Sooner fan My Opinion On Sports, with all too recent knowledge of Texas Tech's potential, picked the Red Raiders as a potential 11-win team in '08 (while still hoping for revenge for last year's upset in Lubbock). And Burnt Orange Nation not only nominates week 1 opponent Florida Atlantic as his sleeper pick, he concedes a small chance that his own Longhorns could be the mark that sets up a big season for the Owls:

Let Texas fans all pray together that it's not Florida Atlantic, which is the clear conference favorite and, if they knock off Texas in Austin next Saturday, could have a Boise State-like run.

Aw, hell, even giving Texas the nod next weekend, I'm still choosing FAU, and if we're not the upset that turns heads nationally, I'll say the Owls get some national love by knocking off two Big 10 opponents on the road in back-to-back weeks: Michigan State and Minnesota.

College Game Balls, picking UConn as his come-out-of-nowhere team, makes the rather astute observation that "parity in college football" is killing off the very concept of a "come-out-of-nowhere team"; finally, we have one more mention of a TCU-over-Oklahoma upset, this time from Tar Heel Mania:

I put TCU at #25 in my Blogpoll ballot. The Horned Frogs are perhaps the most consistently good mid-majors in the nation, and they’re expected to bounce back from an 8 win season in 2007, which is actually mediocre by Gary Patterson’s standards (56-18 since 2002). If they catch Oklahoma by surprise like they did in 2005, everyone will be on TCU’s spike-laden bandwagon.

4. Here's an "I'll hang up and listen" question. I put Ohio State and Oklahoma #1 and #2, respectively, despite their recent high-profile BCS face-plants. Where did you rank those two teams, and did those BCS issues have anything to do with it?

The thinking behind this question may have been a little presumptuous on my part, as Ohio State and Oklahoma came in at #2 and #4, respectively, in the preseason BlogPoll; clearly they're not being shown that much disrespect by BlogPoll voters. And the majority of roundtable participants had both the Buckeyes and the Sooners in the top four on their ballot.

But some didn't, including BC Interruption, who had Ohio State at #8 (the lowest ranking any of the roundtable participants would give either OSU or OU); however, they said their lack of confidence wasn't a result of the Buckeyes' BCS bedwettings but rather a "bearish" outlook on Big Ten football in general in 2008. Similarly, Corn Nation said they placed the Sooners at #6 not because of Bob Stoops's inability to win a BCS game but because they "don’t expect Sam Bradford to repeat an excellent rookie season."

Only a few bloggers openly confessed to dinging the Buckeyes or Sooners specifically for their recent BCS impotence, but you have to give them points for being unapologetic about it, if unapologeticness is your thing. Over to you, Garnet and Black Attack:

First, a rant. If one of the things you're considering in your poll is past performance -- and it should be -- then why is it somehow perceived as unfair or shallow to count the BCS waxings of the two Os against them? Should we just put on blinders when it comes to those games? Pretend it didn't happen? Then please do the same for South Carolina's last five games of the year, and rank the Gamecocks at No. 1. It is entirely fair to count those games against Oklahoma and Ohio State as much as you might count their losses to Colorado or Illinois against them.[/end rant]

Mountainlair was similarly vociferous, possibly because his West Virginia Mountaineers have very intimate experience with one of those teams' weaknesses:

Oklahoma? Meh. I felt like them being in the top 10 was a bad judgment on my part, and worse that no WVU fans called me on it. Their lines can't handle speed for shit. They have quality speed at the skill positions, but no skill anywhere else. I fart in their general direction.

Don't hold back, guys, tell us how you really feel.

Oh, that wasn't nice! Now look what you did!

5. Last season was a statistical outlier in countless ways, not the least of which was the fact that we ended up with a two-loss team as national champion. Do you think anyone plays a strong enough schedule to get MNC consideration as a two-loss team this year? Conversely, do you see anybody managing to sail into the national-championship game undefeated?

The prospect of a second straight two-loss national champion was not an especially popular one with the roundtable respondents, but I noticed something interesting (and, as an SEC obsessive, amusing) from those who said it was a possibility. Buckeye Commentary probably spoke for a lot of people when they grudgingly conceded that "the Karl Rove spin control of the SEC" was the main reason for the SEC being the most likely conference to put another two-loss team in The Show -- but every single blogger who answered "yes" to the first part of this question named an SEC team (sometimes multiple SEC teams) as the one who'd be able to do it. So even if the perception of SEC superiority is due more to "spin control" than to actual on-the-field product, it's apparently working.

As for the second part of the question, the concept of an undefeated team (or teams) was generally considered far more likely than a two-loss MNC aspirant, but nobody in the SEC was given as a serious possibility (possibly another hint at the widespread respect for the diabolical level of competition in the SEC? OK, seriously, I'll shut up now). In fact, only four teams seemed to be given any shot at making it through an entire regular season unscathed; if our roundtable entrants are correct, then the only unbeatens this year are going to come from the Ohio State-USC matchup in 16 days and/or a potential Oklahoma-Missouri tilt in the Big 12 title game.

And even that may not be enough for some people. Mountainlair declares that "the winner of tOSU vs. USC should be slapped if they don't go undefeated," while Kyle King of Dawgsports wears his SEC pride on his sleeve in pooh-poohing an undefeated team from any other conference:

. . . I believe that any team that goes into the B.C.S. title showdown without a loss will have gotten there for reasons having less to do with the contender’s quality than with its opponents’ lack thereof. If Ohio State catches Southern California during a brief downcycle brought about by question marks at quarterback and goes on to finish without a scratch, or if West Virginia survives the Big East gauntlet unscathed, it most probably will be because the teams they played were overrated, not because they were underrated.

Accordingly, if a once-beaten Big 12, Pac-10, or S.E.C. champion goes to the B.C.S. championship game to play an undefeated A.C.C., Big East, or Big Ten champion, I believe the battle-tested one-loss team will beat the comparatively untried undefeated team.

Roll your eyes at Kyle's last comment if you must, but, well, don't roll them too high.

6. OK, time for some Olympic fever. Which athlete from the Beijing Olympics -- any sport, any country, with the exception of USA basketball since those guys are already pros -- would you most want to add to your team's roster this season? No worries about age, eligibility, or even gender; we'll worry about that crap later.

Evidently "Olympic fever" was beginning to graduate into "Olympic fatigue" by the time some bloggers got around to jotting down their responses, as more than a few of them declined to answer this question at all. But amongst those who did, Jamaican sprinter and unofficial Fastest Man in the World Usain Bolt was an obvious choice. Even though (as Double T Nation pointed out) Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is already laying the groundwork for a major recruiting push in Jamaica, I'm going to settle this dispute myself by awarding Bolt to South Carolina, as Garnet and Black Attack is still clearly in need of something to salve the memories of what Darren McFadden did to the Gamecocks last year.

A few folks specifically turned down a chance at Bolt, however. BC Interruption chose Team USA's Bryan Clay, assuming (probably correctly) that a gold-medal decathlete is likely good at a whole bunch of things. Subway Domer picked German super-heavyweight weightlifter Matthias Steiner, and already has a position picked out for him as a pass rusher: "This guy will pick you up and fucking piledrive your ass on top of the QB. Word." Tar Heel Mania picked Russian pentathlete Andrey Moiseev, a two-time gold medalist, simply for being "a badass," not that any other reason is required. Buckeye Commentary will take 6'2½" volleyball goddess Kerri Walsh to block field goals.

Then there were the people who went really far afield, none more so than From Old Virginia, who looked back on the Cavaliers' history of good luck with walk-ons in picking "the Olympics' ultimate walk-on: Congolese swimmer Stany Kempopo Ngangola, who got in on the IOC's wild card rule." Conquest Chronicles went for rowers, specifically Hamish Bond (NZL) and Robin Bourne-Taylor (GBR). And College Game Balls, apparently satisfied with VaTech's level of on-field talent, instead looked to shore up their coaching staff in highly creative fashion:

I am going to go with the Chinese Table Tennis Team. While they wouldn’t play a down Virginia Tech could finally replace dumb-fuck Bryan Stinespring at offensive coordinator with this six man brain trust.

And last but certainly not least, Mountain Lair, who's apparently also satisfied with his team's actual roster, answered this question with the same picturesque brevity he demonstrated in the last roundtable I did:

Just because.

And to those of you who are asking, "What the fuck was that?", I can only reply, "Obviously you're not a golfer."

Thanks to everyone who participated in the preseason roundtable, and good luck to all of your teams, except when you're playing us. And have fun tonight getting your fix again after all these months.


Anonymous said...

I might not like Georgia, but they scare the hell out of me this year. Good team.

Anonymous said...

A "wildcard" Olympian is a perfect fit for the roster of a middle of the pack ACC program. In both cases, even though they are better than the kids in their neighborhood, they still have no business taking the field with the big boys.

PB at BON said...

You've set the bar pretty damn high with this round up. Nicely done...

SubwayDomer26 said...

Well done sir. Who gets the pleasure of following this one? Sucks to be them.

Mike said...

I recognize at least three of those guys from the Chinese Ping-Pong rap video.