Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Did Your Favorite College Football Team Suck In 2007? Bruce Feldman Is Here To Help

First, some housecleaning stuff.

Please disregard that BallHype ranking meter in the left toolbar. It's a lying piece of shit. It should say "1," or maybe "-0" if that counts as being even more awesome. Yesterday was our biggest direct traffic day ever. Welcome, new people. Take a look around in the archives and waste an hour or two of your life. (Assuming you really are new people, and not old people using multiple computers during the same day just to fuck with me. What a prank that would be! Hoo hoo!)

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Moving on.

ESPN the Magazine's Bruce Feldman is a positive-thinking kind of guy. He's the kind of guy you'd hate to be caught in a collapsed mine tunnel with. He'd annoy the shit out of you with his optimism. How do I know? Because I just read what he has to say about the 2008 chances for several college football teams who ended 2007 somewhere between "they were a disappointment" bad and "alums are burning their diplomas in response to this performance" awful.

Pittsburgh

I think the Panthers' patience with Dave Wannstedt will pay off with a return to the Top 25 next season and maybe even a Big East title.

This is so blindly optimistic, I don't even know how to address it. Let's briefly review Wanny's coaching career W-L numbers.

1993-1998, Chicago Bears: 41-57
2000-2004, Miami Dolphins: 44-27 (good), 1 playoff win (bad)
NFL total: 86-84

2005, Pitt: 5-6
2006, Pitt: 6-6, no bowl
2007, Pitt: 5-7
Total so far with Pitt: 16-19

Career total: 102-103

It's especially worth noting that the Pitt team he inherited was fresh off a 2004 Big East championship and subsequent BCS appearance. It's not like he was trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered program. So someone please clarify for me- which part, exactly, of that career record (not to mention recent record) indicates this is a guy that's going to suddenly lead a 5-7 team past West Virginia, an improving South Florida team, an improving UConn team, a slightly above mediocre Rutgers team, a not half bad Cincinnati team, and a decent Louisville team? Really? Wanny is going to suddenly leapfrog all six of them next year? Man, I know the purpose of the column was to inspire hope in fans of some downtrodden programs, but that line really stands out as an unmitigated disaster. Here's a realistic goal for Pitt: go 7-5, don't get blown out at home, and get to a bowl. If no one gets injured and all their recruits pan out extremely well, I think they can do it. Let's leave a conference title to 2010 and a different coach.

Ole Miss

The schedule also sets up nicely since the toughest of the first four games -- and the lone road trip -- is to Wake Forest.

This is obviously not as ridiculous as the Pitt comment, but it's still worth noting. First of all, Wake will probably crush them. Second, two of these other "easy" first four games are against Memphis and Vandy, neither of which are even close to sure things. They squeaked past Memphis by two in 2007, and Vandy topped them by 14. So it's entirely possible the Rebels could open 1-3, and then have a full slate of SEC games left on the schedule including trips to Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU. Being Ole Miss and saying "Hey, three of our first four games are winnable, probably!" is like being way out of shape and saying "Hey, miles one through six of this marathon follow a gentle downhill slope! Maybe I can finish in under four hours!" In other words: don't hold your breath for a bowl berth. Maybe you'll improve on your 3-9 record from 2007... maybe not. On the positive side, if conventional wisdom among guys who went to college in the Midwest holds true, your campus is crawling with incredibly hot girls. So you've got that going for you. Cherish it.

Washington

The Huskies won't have any established targets, but Willingham is bringing in an impressive class of receivers. He's even snatched blue-chipper Chris Polk away from USC.

That's great. Good for him. But much as I love him (see any of my comments on any of FireJay's Notre Dame-related posts... it's pretty obvious I hate Charlie Weis and am still an adamant Ty supporter) here's the thing about Willingham. Just like Wannstedt, it's pretty clear at this point that he doesn't know his asshole from his elbow when it comes to coaching.

Stanford, 1995-2001: 44-36
Notre Dame, 2002-2004: 21-15 (but oh, what a 2002!)
Washington, 2005-2007: 11-25
Total: 76-76

I take it back; he knows his asshole from his elbow... but barely. He can point to where each of them are on his own body, maybe, but I wouldn't trust him to pick them out of an imaginary police lineup that consists entirely of giant body parts. He's 6-20 in the Pac-10 in three years with UW. The odds of him bucking this trend and winning more than a handful conference games in 2008? Probably about the same as the odds of me moving out of my parents' basement in the next five years. Don't hold your breath. And bring me some Sun Chips next time you come down here. The sour cream and onion kind if you can find them.

Louisiana Tech

Derek Dooley has really upgraded the talent level quite a bit. Not only did Dooley land one of the nation's top juco pass-rushers in Kwame Jordan, but he also has a batch of former SEC talent set to take the field. Former Auburn QB Steve Ensminger will battle Michael Moseley for the vacant quarterback job. On defense, Jordan will be joined by one-time Tennessee recruit Rolando Melancon, a cat-quick 270-pound defensive tackle, and Zach Schreiber, a hard-hitting former Alabama linebacker. The secondary returns safety Antonio Baker, the team's best defender.

Pretty vanilla review there. So apparently they've got a couple transfers coming in, and a good safety coming back! Great. They also don't seem to have a QB. Last year they scored victories over Central Arkansas, New Mexico State, Utah State, Idaho, and San Jose State. They also lost by a combined 167 points to their other seven opponents. To be fair, that's a list that includes six teams that played in a bowl... oh, and also Ole Miss! Oops. LT got dumptrucked by the Rebels, 24-0. Based on that alone I'm going to go ahead and say they have a loooooong way to go to respectability. Like, the kind looooooong way that isn't covered by adding a few transfers and a juco guy. But I guess anything can happen in the "wacky" WAC!

Give me a pound for that joke. Blow it up. Someone. Anyone?

Nebraska

Pelini's expertise is defense, and he has his work cut out for him with a unit that surrendered 40 or more points six times in 2007. Four years ago, when Pelini worked as Nebraska's defensive coordinator, the Cornhuskers tied a school record by forcing 47 turnovers and ranked second nationally in takeaways. That was 36 more turnovers than the team generated this fall.

Pelini's obviously a smart guy. I'm sure there are some schematic changes he can make that will instantly help the Huskers in 2008. But when you're giving up 40 to Ball State, 76 to Kansas, and 65 to Colorado, it's pretty obvious there's a talent problem that's not going to be fixed in one year. Nebraska was 5-7 in 2007. Their 2008 schedule is a joke (they avoid Texas and Oklahoma in the conference, and are really pulling out all the stops by scheduling Western Michigan, San Jose State, and New Mexico State out of conference) so I wouldn't be surprised if they get back to 6 or 7 wins in 2008. But that's kind of like going from writing like Jemele Hill to writing like Bill Simmons and wanting a cookie and a sticker for showing such significant improvement. Whoop-de-shit. You're still a disaster. SMACK.

Minnesota

The Gophers weren't that far from winning a few more games, considering they lost six games by a total of 23 points.

Here are those six:

Wisconsin, by 7 (a respectable loss)
Iowa by 5 (presentable)
Florida Atlantic by 3 (well, FAU did go to a bowl)
Bowling Green by 1 (they did too)
Northwestern by 1 (oh God)
North Dakota State by 6 (THAT'S NOT A DIVISION I-A TEAM)

So yeah, there's nowhere to go but up from here. Maybe in 2008 Minny can get its shit together and not lose to Northwestern and a I-AA team. Reverse two of those other four close losses, add in their one win from 2007, and suddenly they're at 5 wins. Strike up the band! Play the fight song! Quick, impromptu pep rally! It's almost hockey season! Go Gophers! Sigh. Where have you gone, Lawrence Maroney and Marion Barber III? Being the worst team in the Big 10 is like being the crappiest show on CBS. Not only do you suck, but so does the organization you belong to. (Any of you Big 10 defenders out there who are offended by that, please justify your 3-5 bowl record. The Big 12 went 5-3. The Big East was 3-2. The Pac 10 was 4-2. And the SEC was 7-2. The ACC, who's hyped by no one, was 2-6. So, congratulations, you weren't the worst power six conference in the bowl season. I'm still making fun of you.) Being the worst character on that show? That's like being Minnesota kicker Jason Giannini, who missed 3 of his 4 FG attempts last year.

Now, let me clarify- this is not to say that none of these teams mentioned by Feldman (plus Notre Dame, Miami, North Carolina, and Marshall) will have an unexpectedly great 2008. Odds are at least a couple of them will right the ship and turn in a season that comes close to expectations. But Feldman's reasoning in most of their cases is shoddy at best. It's almost puff piece-esque.

I think the better move for fans of these teams (as I happen to be) is to assume 2008 will be even worse than 2007. That way, in order to be a pleasant surprise, your team only has to match last year's victory total. Lower expectations equals better results; it's the way I live my life. Ahhhhhhhhh, mediocrity. How I hope to achieve you one day.

2 comments:

Daniel said...

One nit. Nebraska's soft out of conference schedule in 2008 also includes that perennial patsie Virginia Tech.

larry b said...

I understand that. It wasn't omitted because I was worried it hurts my case or something. The point is simply that those other three teams all should be wins for Nebraska next year. This year, in addition to USC, they played Wake Forest, Ball State, and Nevada. All 3 of those teams went to bowls. All 3 of the teams replacing them on the schedule (if VT is replacing USC) did not.