Monday, August 08, 2005

BlogPoll #5: Making the case

Brian from Mgoblog has authored the latest BlogPoll roundtable, as we are now one week away from the opening of voting in the preseason BlogPoll. He requests that we make a case for a team being ranked higher or lower than the current preseason polls and rankings have them.

As a Wisconsin fan, I feel they're being rated right about where they belong, which is the middle of the ORVs (others receiving votes). Wisconsin is a classic BCS-conference ORV right now; no one knows what to expect from them, not even their fans, but they have built up enough goodwill that the case can at least be made that they'll be good. So the polls say ORV, and I say ORV. I guess you won't see me making any kind of case for Bucky at this point.

I'll pick two teams I think are overrated, and two more I think are underrated. The rankings you see will be from the lidlifting coaches' poll.

Editors note: Because I am an idiot (shocking, I know), I had to make a couple adjustments to my response. Specifically, I had to add the rankings I thought the teams I was listing deserved. Seriously, you'd think I could take the time to actually read the question.

Overrated: Tennessee (#3, 10-3 last year, 7-1 SEC)
Should be ranked: #10

I won't even touch the fat jokes. They don't matter. Phil Fulmer is a great recruiter, and he might be a nice guy. But he loses enough games every year to make his team overrated when they start the season ranked third. This year's squad has plenty of talent, but they also have to travel to Gainesville, where Zook won't be around to screw it up, and I'm certain the officials won't job Florida like they did last year in Knoxville. Not only that, but Phil's old buddy Steve Spurrier is back. Now, I know what you're thinking...South Carolina won't be good enough to contend this year. But I do think they'll be good enough to make Fulmer sweat come late October, once Spurrier has had a few games to work out the kinks.

I like Gerald Riggs, but I'm not sold on Eric Ainge, who was very erratic after a hot start as a freshman (8 picks in his last five-plus games before going down in the Notre Dame game). The Vols need Robert Meacham to step it up in a hurry, or they'll lack a top-flight receiver for Ainge to throw to. The defense returns almost intact, but they gave up more points per game (22.7) than at any point since the 1990s, so there's still some work to do there.

All in all, I think there are some teams that merit a #3 rating more than Tennessee does. Then again, they're not as overrated as...

Overrated: Oklahoma (#5, 11-1 last year, 8-0 Big 12)
Should be ranked: #13

How is Oklahoma this high? Oh, yeah. That dreaded "R" word strikes again.

Reputation.

How else could a team that now must replace a H*i*m*n-winning QB who tossed 35 TDs in his senior year, four receivers who combined for 116 catches, 1,700 yards, and 18 TDs, and only has nine starters back while losing 26 of 65 letterwinners be ranked in the top five?

Seriously, has Bob Stoops shown that much skill in six short years?

I have nothing against OU. In fact, I've always taken a bit of a liking to them. And I respect Bob Stoops enormously. But this is too much. The Sooners get Adrian Peterson back, but do you think he's going to approach 2,000 yards again with a new QB, new receivers, and three new line starters? I don't. And if he doesn't, there's no way OU will do anything to merit this ranking.

The defense is an even bigger mess. Only four starters are back, and one of them (Dusty Dvoracek) is in and out of trouble so much that you don't know if he'll even be on the team in September. Brodney Pool is gone, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the secondary. Lance Mitchell is gone, and he was the heart and soul of this defense last year. Punt return dynamo Antonio Perkins, who also developed into a pretty nice corner, is gone. Pass rushers Dan Cody and Jonathan Jackson are gone.

Seriously, if you replaced "Oklahoma" with "Texas", what would people be saying about this team? And is Bob Stoops that much better a football coach than Mack Brown? My money's on "No", because I don't think it's possible for Stoops to be good enough to overcome these losses.

Underrated: Bowling Green (unranked, 9-3 last year, 6-2 MAC)
Should be ranked: #20

With how much I like this team, I'm thinking they'll reward me by losing to Wisconsin on five Omar Jacobs picks in the opener. The reason I really like this team actually has very little to do with Jacobs. Yeah, he threw 41 TDs to just four picks a year ago. But the offensive balance is what makes this team so dangerous, and the reason for that balance is the offensive line blocking for diminutive P.J. Pope. At 6.2 yards per carry and with 15 TDs a year ago, Pope kept defenses honest. They couldn't stack coverages to focus on individual receivers because there were too many good receivers, and Pope ran the ball well enough to keep defenses from loading up on secondary personnel. The line protected Jacobs wonderfully (13 sacks on 472 pass attempts), but they also paved the way for team totals of 168 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry.

LT Rob Warren might be the best lineman people don't know much about. He's joined on the left side by sophomore Korey Lichtensteiger, who was second-team All-MAC as a frosh. They don't have Scott Mruczkowski in the middle anymore, but they'll still be very good. And as long as Jacobs has time to throw, he'll find receivers open. Top pass-catching returnees Steve Sanders, Charles Sharon, and Pope combined for 161 catches and 29 receiving TDs last year.

No, the defense won't inspire memories of the 1985 Bears. But tackling machine Ted Piepkow and senior corner Jelani Jordan will make sure they don't get pushed around, either. BGSU's defense will be good enough to keep the Falcons in games, and their virtually unstoppable offense will make them a contender every time they step on the field, no matter the opponent or site.

Underrated: Wyoming (unranked, 7-5 last year, 3-4 MWC)
Should still be unranked, but much closer to Wisconsin in the ORV category

I don't think they can pull a Utah, but I do think that Wyoming is ready to surprise some people in 2005, and they could sneak into a second-tier bowl instead of being stuck in a minor bowl again this year. Joe Glenn has re-energized the fan base out there, and the players on the field are pretty good. The Cowboys feature a QB who really grew up last year. Senior Corey Bramlet's performance in the bowl win over UCLA (over 300 yards, including the game-winning TD pass to cap a 14-point fourth-quarter rally) was an eye-opener, as it appears Bramlet has finally settled in to Glenn's offense. With Jovon Bouknight, the best-kept secret in the West, catching the ball, and an improved running game, Bramlet should only get better. He does have a streak of seven straight 200-yard games after a shaky start last year.

The defense has gone from 36 points per game allowed in 2002, Vic Koennig's last year, to 30 points per game in Glenn's first year (2003), to 24.8 points per game last year. With eight starters back, the expectation is that Wyoming will cut even further into that number. Senior John Flora is a nice outside pass-rusher, and safety John Wendling is a strong hitter.

The schedule is favorable, with four conference home games, though Wyoming does have to travel to Utah and Colorado State. This a team, however, capable of beating one of those two teams. If they take care of business in games they should win and steal one game they shouldn't, Wyoming could be sitting on eight or nine wins, provided they can develop the running game, protect Bramlet more consistently, and continue to develop the defense.

2 comments:

tony said...

Very nice work on the BG section, Bruce!

So many people are (rightfully so) stroking Omar Jacobs right now that the other half is using it as a negative on the Falcons. ("You stop Omar, you stop BG.") While this might be true in some aspects, there are alot of other playmakers on this team that can and have stepped up. PJ Pope deserves about a billion times more press than he's received.

I really hope you're right about Jelani, though. He's got the tools to get it done, but I've seen the back of his jersey too many times to feel too comfortable heading into the season on the defensive side of the ball.

Now that I've said all this, I guess I can just link my blogpoll response to this comment, huh? *laugh*

R. D. Baker said...

OK, if Tennessee and Oklahoma are overrated, what ranking do you feel is correct?

And if Bowling Green and Wyoming should be ranked, where should they be ranked?