I have decided to involve myself in the BlogPoll, a genius idea from the good people at mgoblog, a pro-Michigan Blogger site (mgoblog.blogspot.com). Yes, I have affiliated myself with Michigan fans. If I don't disintegrate before the end of the season, I'll be posting occasional thoughts inspired by folks on that site, as well as other bloggers who have signed up for the BlogPoll.
With that in mind, it's time to post a few thoughts on the current roundtable question, which can be viewed here: http://mgoblog.blogspot.com/2005/06/football-blogpoll-bickering-starts-now.html.
"Based on this compilation of the top 25 as Internet pundits and preseason rags see it, who looks flagrantly overrated? Why? Who looks underrated? What team in the high teens or lower could end up in the Rose Bowl?"
The top 25 referenced is here: http://michigan.scout.com/2/386752.html?refid=3637. It looks like this:
1. USC (8; 13-0) 200 points
2. Texas (11-1) 185 points
3. Tennessee (10-3) 162 points
4. Ohio State (8-4) 160 points
5. Michigan (9-3) 156 points
6. Iowa (10-2) 151 points
7. Oklahoma (9-3) 150 points
8. Florida (7-5) 149 points
9. Virginia Tech (10-3) 143 points
10. LSU (9-3) 134 points
11. Miami (Fla.) (9-3) 132 points
12. Louisville (11-1) 102 points
13. Georgia (10-2) 99 points
14. Florida State (9-3) 98 points
15. Auburn (13-0) 86 points
16. Arizona State (9-3) 66 points
17. Texas A&M (7-5) 62 points
18. Fresno State (9-3) 52 points
19. Purdue (7-5) 50 points
20. Boise State (11-1) 42 points
21. Pittsburgh (8-4) 30 points
22. Texas Tech (8-4) 29 points
23. Boston College (9-3) 26 points
24. Cal (10-2) 21 points
25. Alabama (6-6) 15 points
Who looks overrated to me? Well, the obvious answer is Texas. I'm tired of media experts pronouncing this team as a true national title contender. Until they actually beat Oklahoma, how can they possibly be taken seriously? Then again, they aren't going to beat Ohio State on September 10, so any national title talk will be dead before they lose to Oklahoma again.
Since that's too obvious, I'll say that Tennessee is the overrated team here. I'm guessing that the world is in love with the Vols because of how they completely dismantled Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. I think Tennessee will be very good in 2005, but I don't see them being a serious contender for the Rose Bowl. The schedule is horrendously difficult, with back-to-back roadies to Florida and LSU, along with road games at Notre Dame and Alabama later in the season. Assuming they survive those four tests without losing, they still have to deal with home games against Georgia and South Carolina (and it says here that Steve Spurrier had a pretty good record against Phil Fulmer). The QB job belongs to Eric Ainge, who dazzled in Tennessee's first three games last year, then faded a bit (51% completions, 9-8 TD-INT ratio) when the Vols started playing real teams instead of UNLV and Louisiana Tech.
For an underrated team, I'll take the team I like to win the SEC East: Florida. The Gators are loaded with experience and talent on both sides of the ball. Chris Leak's potential in the Urban Meyer offense is limitless. He will only get better as he picks up more and more of Meyer's schemes. Andre Caldwell and Chad Jackson will have huge years catching passes and making plays on the run. Ron Zook left the defense loaded, too. The best part is that potential distraction Channing Crowder turned pro. With Georgia a bit down in my view (I'm not a huge D.J. Shockley fan), I think Florida is primed for a national title run. They're certainly better than the eighth-best team in the country.
My search for a Rose Bowl darkhorse ranked near the bottom stopped with Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they're going to have to do it the hard way. They have four very tough road assignments (Nebraska, Rutgers (yes, I just labeled Rutgers a "tough road assignment"), Louisville, and West Virginia), and they have Dave Wannstedt as a head coach. That might not be fair (maybe he'll stop being a buffoon on game days and fare better in the college game), but he has to prove himself as a game coach before this team will go anywhere. As is, they have a money shot of winning a weak Big East, and they have enough non-conference muscle (Notre Dame and Nebraska) to potentially boost their BCS rating into contention for a top two slot. I do like the talent on this team, especially QB Palko and WR Lee. Having H.B. Blades and Tez Morris back in the middle of the defense is nice, and Wannstedt doesn't have to replace any front-line players on either side of the ball. If the Panthers can find a way to win on the road more consistently than they ever did for Walt Harris, they could sneak into Pasadena.
(Bear with me. The search was for darkhorses. To me, "California" doesn't qualify, no matter how many starters they lost.)