The folks at Every Day Should Be Saturday have come up with a new BlogPoll question. Well, it's actually three questions, but it's only one post. And they're really good questions.
1. What's THE critical game of the season on the national scene? We're looking for the one that will influence the most outcomes in a single span of sixty minutes. Please try to diversify your answers and think of something other than Ohio State-Texas, for example.
2.What's the most critical matchup for your team? Again, we know we'll hear OSU-Michigan from you Wolverines, but we ask you to think in terms of multiple scenarios here.
3. What's your wingnut upset prediction of year? No hedging (or common sense) wanted here; we know everyone has a paint-chip eating, lunatic pick lurking somewhere in their brain. Go ahead and fess up on the record so you can gloat with pride later. Hit the comments below, and get blogging!
I'll go in order so as to avoid confusing myself while I type.
1. It appears that I am being asked to think outside the box a little bit. The easiest answers are Florida State-Miami (Labor Day night in Tallahassee) and Ohio State-Texas (September 10 at the Horseshoe). Both games have tremendous national title implications, and the FSU-Miami game could decide the course of the race to the first-ever (note here that I didn't use the gramatically incorrect term "first annual") ACC title game. However, I'll pick a game that isn't as obvious: South Carolina at Georgia on September 10. I'm not saying that I think one of these teams will win the national title, but there are more than a few Georgia fans that think their team has a shot, and any team coached by Steve Spurrier is going to carry high expectations into the season.
Look at South Carolina's schedule. The Gamecocks get Alabama, Florida, and Clemson at home, and we all know about the success Spurrier has had in Knoxville over the years. For them, a win over Georgia could be the springboard to a season that surpasses the expectations of anyone rational (I'm talking nine or ten wins here). If that happens, it dramatically alters the SEC East race, thought to be dominated by Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia. Suddenly, the other USC becomes a division title contender, and they have a good chance of ruining either Tennessee's or Florida's (or both if they're lucky) title hopes later in the season. Along the way, beating Georgia would destroy any dreams the Dawgs have of contending on the national stage. If they lose to the other USC at home, there's little chance that they'll rebound to beat Tennessee and Georgia Tech on the road, Florida at a neutral site, and Auburn at home. If they beat the other USC, they'll have disposed of an old nemesis (Spurrier has often ruined dream seasons for UGA), and they will stay in the SEC East race.
2. For Wisconsin, the answer is easy. No, it's not September 24 against Michigan in Madison. No, it's not October 15 at Minnesota for the Axe. No, it's not November 12 at home against Iowa. In fact, it's not even a conference game. It's the season opener, September 3 in Madison against Bowling Green. Falcon QB Omar Jacobs will immediately test Bret Bielema's rebuilt defense (four new line starters, seven new starters overall, only five seniors on the two-deep). The wide-open offense employed by Gregg Brandon would have been an absolute nightmare for last year's Wisconsin defense, which was one of the better units they've had under Barry Alvarez. This year's crew has little chance of holding Jacobs and the Falcons under 30 points. With the offense Wisconsin has had in recent years, that would be more than enough for Bowling Green to pull a huge season-opening upset against a Big Ten opponent.
That game sets the tone for Bucky's season. They aren't going to finish higher than sixth in the Big Ten unless Bielema can get that defense to play well; which means they'll have a real hard time qualifying for even a trip to Detroit. And while one game doesn't make a season, it could certainly go a long way to determining Wisconsin's fortunes on that side of the ball.
3. You want "wingnut"? Here it goes. September 3...Columbus, Ohio...Miami (Ohio) over THE Ohio State University. Why? Because tOSU is trying to figure out this "offense" thing. Apparently, someone informed Coach Sweatervest during the offseason that you actually have to score points to win football games. Having A.J. Hawk tackling people all over the place won't help you, and having Ted Ginn won't help you if everyone punts away from him and you don't find a quarterback who can complete a forward pass. Miami returns a ton of starters from last year, and the only reason QB Josh Betts isn't getting any love right now is because he's stuck in a conference with Omar Jacobs and Bruce Gradkowski. For those who wonder about Miami's defense, just wait until the first time Terna Nande smacks whoever tOSU decides to start at running back.
That's about as "wingnut" or "paint-chip eating" as I'll get in a public forum. Feel free to leave your comments.