>Wednesday Lunch: Livin’ on a Prayer

Posted: October 13, 2010 in ncaafb
Tags: ,

>By Dylan Davis

Yes, we are halfway there and one of the most famous/awesome songs of the 1980’s could very well be the anthem for a lot of teams this college season. Boise State and TCU have to pray that the big teams ahead of them lose to make it to the title game. Nebraska and Auburn have to pray that their star dual threat quarterbacks stay healthy as they get into the meat of their schedule. LSU obviously already has divine help as they’ve come out on top of numerous games this year that they had no business winning. The entire Big East is praying that everyone forgets about them until basketball season starts.

All of these teams (especially the Big East participants) have deficiencies in one area or another, but all of them (except the Big East participants) are still alive for the chance to play in Glendale on January 10th. For the second straight weekend, a lot was done to clarify where this season is headed. Let’s take a look at what we learned.

  1. The SEC is very top-heavy (Christina Hendricks-style) – I mentioned last week that the SEC West was far ahead of the East, and this still holds true for the most part. Although South Carolina did beat top-ranked Alabama, Florida lost to LSU and none of the other East teams looked particularly good. Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, and South Carolina all look very good (or in LSU’s case, they’re somehow still undefeated despite looking awful on offense) and Florida looks somewhat decent. Beyond that, it might as well be the Big East. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt all look between bad and awful so far this year, with little hopes of turning things around. Usually the SEC is able to boast that they are the deepest league in the country, but this year that’s far from true. The Pac 10 and Big 10 have both shown that even their bad teams are capable of winning games no matter whom they play. I still believe that a one-loss SEC team can (and most likely will) make the title game, but it won’t be because of the balance of their conference.

  1. There has been a ton of inconsistent play this year – Usually by this time of the year of the year we start to weed out the contenders from the pretenders, and this year is no different. Florida and Texas have shown they’re going to have difficulties coming back from losing great quarterbacks and Notre Dame still isn’t ready for the big stage. What’s different about this year is the uneven play from week to week by different teams. Texas is a perfect example of this. Their defense looked ridiculously good the first few weeks and even though their offense had deficiencies, they still had a shot to win games. Then they played a UCLA offense that had done nothing all year and they were blown out of the water, giving up 264 rushing yards to the Bruins. USC is another great case of this. Their defense was eviscerated at Hawaii the first week of the year, and that looked like it would be trouble for the Trojans. The next week their seemingly electric offense was held to 17 points at home against Virginia, but their defense stepped up and allowed only two touchdowns to the Gophers. They seem to have reverted to early season form after allowing over 30 points in loses to both Washington and Stanford the last two weeks. These are only two examples, but the same type of in-season inconsistency has been plaguing teams all over the country.

  1. Oregon’s defense is a lot better than it seems – Many people just look at yards given up and points allowed and thinks it’s the end of the world that Oregon has given up 23 points to Washington State and 31 points to both Stanford and Arizona State. They allowed 483 yards per game in those contests as well. Those numbers look pretty awful until you consider three things. First, they have forced 11 turnovers in those three games alone and 23 altogether: That’s what you call an opportunistic defense. Secondly, they are only allowing 4.6 yards per play (their offense plays at a ridiculously high speed, so a lot of plays happen for both teams) which is fewer than Alabama and only 0.4 worse than TCU, which is 3rd in the country in that stat. Thirdly, their offense is one of the best in the country and has scored an average of 54.3 points per game. This means that they are beating many people badly and their starting defenders aren’t playing the entire game. Teams are racking up yardage and point in garbage time when it doesn’t matter. Oregon’s defense is by no means top-5 or top-10 in the country, but they’re also by no means a liability.

  1. The ACC is partying like it’s 2008 – In 2008 every ACC team except for Virginia and Duke finished with a conference record of either 5-3 or 4-4. The entire Atlantic division had one of those records and both divisions finished with two teams tied for first. It was one of the greatest photo finishes ever in a conference given the number of teams involved and how closely they were bunched. This year could be another barnburner for the ACC as seven teams are within one loss of each other. The ACC has long been thought of one of the weakest conferences in the country, but this is not fair. It’s true that they hardly ever have one team that dominates the entire conference, but they are always very balanced and the race for their league crown is always one to watch.

  1. The Big 12 champion has the easiest path to an undefeated season – Let me preface this by saying that by the end of the year, Boise and TCU may also be undefeated with easier schedules, but the Big 12 champ would be first in line for an invite to the national title game. The ACC and Big East both have no remaining teams that are undefeated, so they are ruled out. Whoever wins the Big 10 will have at least three ranked teams on their schedule and two other high quality opponents, besides who they played out of conference. The Pac 10 champ will have had to play every team in a very tough top-to-bottom conference and all of the contending teams also played a difficult out of conference schedule. I already showed above that the SEC has many premier teams and the winner of the conference would have to play them all. This leaves the Big 12. At this point the clear favorites, and the teams I’m going to focus on, are Nebraska and Oklahoma. Both of these teams have shown they can win games and have enough talent to navigate the rest of their easy schedule. Nebraska does not have a marquee win other than beating a mediocre Washington team and the toughest team on the rest of their schedule is Oklahoma State. Oklahoma did beat Florida State, but that game seems to be a bit of a fluke, and the Cowboys are also their toughest remaining opponent. Both of these teams play sub par schedules until the Big 12 title game where they would theoretically match up against one another. This would guarantee an undefeated champ for the Big 12, and both would have had the easiest road to get there.

We did learn a lot, but this weekends games also brought up a lot of questions about teams across the nation going forward, lets look at a few.

  1. Will an undefeated Boise State play for the national title? It seems like every year, this is an issue. Boise State, or another non-BCS school, goes undefeated but is snubbed for an undefeated or one loss school from a power conference. This was supposed to be the year that Boise broke that trend, but there are a few issues that have sprung up along the way that may prevent them from reaching Glendale. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Boise beats Nevada and goes undefeated against the rest of their schedule. That would make them 12-0 heading into bowl season. Right now Oregon and Ohio State are both ahead of Boise, and if neither lose, it would be nearly impossible for the Broncos to jump either of them. Boise has dropped further behind both of these schools as the year has gone on, and if they keep winning, that could continue to be the case. If either the Ducks or Buckeyes lose, there are still plenty of teams waiting behind the Broncos to take their place. TCU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Auburn, LSU, Utah, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, and Missouri are all undefeated, and if two of them were to stay that way, their strength of schedule and notoriety with the voters would most likely catapult them into the top two spots. This is not to say that Boise won’t play for the title, but it’s not a given, even if they keep winning.
  2. Can Denard Robinson win the Heisman if Michigan has 4 losses? There have only been a handful of times in the history of the Heisman when the winner of the trophy did not play for a team that was ranked in the top 10. A few years ago Tim Tebow played for a 4-loss Florida team yet still won the Heisman. That year he put up 50 total touchdowns, so Denard Robinson would have to continue to put up the numbers he did during the first five games of the year, not what he did against Michigan State. I bring this up because Michigan’s defense has been atrocious this year and they still have games against Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. I see them losing all three of those games to finish the year off 8-4. This is not to say that Denard can’t win the trophy if his team keeps playing like this, but he would have to keep putting up Tebow-esque numbers to justify it.
  3. What if Ohio State and Michigan State both go undefeated? The Big 10 is currently the only conference in football where there can be two undefeated teams at season end. In the Big East and the Pac 10, all the teams play each other in the regular season. In the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 teams play all their division foes and the winner of each division plays each other in the championship game. This ensures that only one team has a possibility of going undefeated. The Big 10 has survived for all its years and never once had two teams that won every single game but this year could be different. No team plays each other and this year two teams that don’t have a match up are Ohio State and Michigan State. This has become relevant because both the Buckeyes and the Spartans are undefeated and have shown they can beat high quality teams. If both go undefeated, I still expect the Buckeyes to be more highly ranked than the Spartans for this simple fact of name recognition. Ohio State has been a national power for many years now and the get more respect than Michigan State. If they are the only undefeated teams at the end of the year, I would expect to see them both in the title game, if not, I expect Sparty to be the odd team out.

Heisman Watch List:
The players at the top of the list from last week were not able to keep their lead on the rest of the pack, and several newcomers had great games, so I lengthened the list to five again.

  1. Denard Robinson (QB Michigan) – The electric leader of the Wolverine offense still has far and away better stats than anyone in the country. He is second nationally in rushing and in the top 20 in QB efficiency. On the other hand, he did have a poor game against Michigan State, but that’s not the only worry moving forward. There are health concerns because he handles the ball so mush. As I said above, it may also be very difficult for him to win if his team can’t stay in the hunt for the conference title. Right Now Denard is the best there is, but the gap may be closing.

  1. LaMichael James (HB Oregon) – Denard is now second in rushing in the country because of this guy. The diminutive tailback from the northwest has racked up ridiculous rushing yards all year and has exploded for 9 touchdowns already. I expect the Ducks running back to continue churning out the yardage as the season progresses and the Ducks to stay high in the rankings.

  1. Justin Blackmon (WR Oklahoma State) – Now that the Cowboys are ranked and getting more fame, Blackmon is finally getting a national audience to witness his ridiculous skills. Even though defenses know he’s the main target in the passing game, Blackmon has still totaled 150 yards receiving per game and 11 touchdowns. If Oklahoma State can stay in the ranking and Blackmon continues his crazy pace, expect him to move up this and many other Heisman lists.

  1. Terrelle Pryor (QB Ohio State) – Before the season started many people said this would be the year that Pryor finally broke out, and it looks like they were right. The Buckeyes signal caller has accounted for 1700 yards and 18 total touchdowns while having one of the best QB ratings in the country.

  1. Cameron Newton (QB Auburn) – Newton is Pryor-lite. He has a similar build (although a little smaller), running a similar offense (not quite as well), for a ranked team (not ranked as high yet), with similar stats. He has also totaled about 1700 yards, while getting 21 total touchdowns and the second best QB rating in the nation. If Auburn wins this Saturday against Arkansas and Newton continues his dominant play, he may start to turn a few more heads.


Week 7 Preview:

Games of the Week:

  • Iowa vs. Michigan: This is another shot for Denard Robinson to show what he can do against a quality defensive opponent. The Hawkeyes have flown under the radar since they lost to Arizona, but they are a very good team that should give Michigan fits in all phases of the game. The fact that this game is in Ann Arbor is the only reason I think it’s close. Pick: Iowa-27 Michigan-21

  • Texas vs. Nebraska: This may be the last time all year we see Nebraska in a high-pressure situation before the Big 12 title game. I’m interested to see how Taylor Martinez fairs against a fast and talented Texas defense, but at the end of the day I think the Huskers defense will be the difference. I think they have way too much talent for Texas and they should control the game from start to finish. Pick: Nebraska-29 Texas-17

  • Arkansas vs. Auburn: This is the game that I’m most excited about. Both of these teams have played at a high level against solid competition this year and both have great quarterbacks at the helm. Arkansas should be fired up since this is the first game they will play in the national spotlight since they lost to Alabama. If either of these defense can force a few turnovers, that could be the difference in what should be an entertaining shootout. Pick: Arkansas-31 Auburn-28

  • Ohio State vs. Wisconsin: For the second week in a row, the top ranked team in the nation travels to face a ranked conference rival that has question marks. Last week South Carolina pounded Marcus Lattimore against the Alabama defense and was able to come away with a victory. John Clay will have to have the same type of game against the Buckeyes if Wisconsin has any chance of victory. I don’t see it mattering because Terrelle Pryor is just too talented. Pick: Ohio State-24 Wisconsin-14

That’s all there is for this week, but check back in next week for a recap of week 7 and some first half awards. Have a great weekend.

  1. Anonymous says:

    >I'm guaranteeing a win for Texas this week. And by guarantee, i mean i hope we dont embarrass ourselves for the third game in a row.

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