Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BTB Roundtable - Week 4

I have requested entry into the Big Ten Bloggers Roundtable, and while I wait for approval, I am going to answer this week's questions, provided by Lake the Posts

1). The national media is using the Big Ten Conference as a punching bag in 2008 ranking us somewhere between the Big East and the MAC. Based on Ohio State's no-show, Purdue's "APPLE!!!" and Michigan's debacle, it is redemption week in Big Ten Country. However, several teams have very respectable, yet no-name teams (ie. Troy, Central Michigan, Ball State). Tell us how the Big Ten will respond this week in the final week before conference play.

My handy helmet schedule matrix tells me that while the aforementioned games give the Big T1e1n a shot at redemption, a photo opportunity, only Michigan State's game against Notre Dame will stand out, and even then, we really don't know if Notre Dame is good or just able to convert on short fields and gift-wrapped fumbles and Michigan ended up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard. Iowa's game at Pitt probably looked a lot better on paper when the season began and I will be interested to see how the Hawkeyes handle their first trip outside Kinnick. Overall, I think we'll see seven wins, with the loss likely coming in West Lafayette or at Heinz Field.

2) The conference standings look like someone took the 2007 results and flipped it upside down. Which of the undefeated teams are contenders and which are pretenders (another way of saying which teams have put lipstick on a pig)? Recalibrate your preseason rankings and tell us who the conference favorites are now.

I think it has to be Penn State, hurt only by the fact that they have Ohio State in Columbus the week after playing Michigan in Happy Valley, which, while it may not have the allure of previous meetings, does have Michigan's nine game winning streak to deal with psychologically and emotionally. Ohio State is still a leading contender, but I worry about the emotional letdown of a season that is, on some level, lost to all of those guys who came back. That said, pride is a powerful thing, as witnessed by the eight game winning streak rolled off by Michigan last year after The Horror and Fell on Black Days. Michigan State, though not undefeated, has a legitimate chance to go into October 18 with a 6-1 record. The problem for Sparty is that they then run into a four game stretch of home against OSU (who comes off their schedule next year), at Michigan (where they have not won since they invoked the Curse of Eddie Brown in 1990), and then hosting Wisconsin and Purdue. If Sparty can survive that, all of the sudden, their showdown with at Beaver Stadium on the last week of the season takes on a huge set of implications. I don't see it happening though.

3) Javon Ringer has emerged as the early season best-bet Heisman hopeful from the Big Ten. Real deal or non-conference smoke screen? Does anyone from the Big Ten have a prayer for the Heisman, or is it too late?

Ringer is a great runner and one of the few MSU players who legitimately scares me every time he touches the ball. I don't know that he can keep it up, and even if he does, I think the perceptions of the Big Ten's overall weakness this year will demand nearly superhuman numbers on his part to keep himself in the race. I don't know if anyone else can get themselves into the mix, but I also don't see that any player has really distinguished himself as the favorite, unless we count Tebow being the favorite as he is the defending champion?

4) After three weeks it is time to give your team a new slogan. What is it and why is it what it is?

"Disappointed but not discouraged". Coach Rod said this at his press conference after the Notre Dame game and I think it sums it up perfectly. If you've watched Michigan, the whole game, not just the highlights, you have seen things that make you scratch your head and you have likely been disappointed, particularly in the drives that died in the red zone due to slippery fingers. But I'm not discouraged, in part because I have seen growth. There are clearly still things to work on, but, by the same token, they are being worked on. Threet's passing is crisper and more accurate, McGuffie is slipping defenses, and the defense adjusts like no one's business in the second half. The question is whether they can come out with a better plan in the first half to minimize the damage done before the bands take the field.

5) By now, you've likely adopted a favorite non Big Ten team to watch. Flex your football worldliness by convincing your fellow Big Ten Kool-Aid drinkers to watch your "other" team.

I'm a buffet college football watcher, in that I'll always watch Michigan, then the other Big Ten teams, and then whatever is on. I've always been a faux alumnus of Northwestern, but that doesn't work here, so allow me to make a case for Jim Grobe's Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the Northwestern of the Atlantic Coast. Sure, they play in the ACC, the only other conference taking as big a beating as the Big Ten of late (I don't count the Pac-10, because, say what you will about the other nine, USC covers a lot of sins.) Wake is the third smallest school in Division I-A and has the smallest undergraduate enrollment of any BCS school. They run the spread capably with Riley Skinner at the helm, have a relatively favorable schedule (Clemson, Virginia, and BC all come to Winston-Salem, avoiding GT and VT in the Coastal crossovers) and they have Florida State this week (on ESPN2), a team that hasn't really gelled yet (to wit: Wake has downed two schools from BCS conferences, Florida State has beaten Western Carolina and Chattanooga by a combined score of 115-7, and Wake has won the last two meetings after losing 14 straight to the Seminoles.) The Deacs have had a thrilling non-conference win already by eeking out a victory over the Right Rev. Nutt's Rebels on a last second field goal two weeks ago, and their Atlantic Division showdown against Clemson will be an ESPN Thursday night game. Grobe is also another great story. A West Virginia born coach (like Rich Rod and Fielding Yost), Grobe played both middle guard and linebacker at Virginia, was an assistant coach under Fisher DeBerry at Air Force, has MAC experience with Ohio, and doesn't get recognized in the Winston-Salem Waffle House, even while wearing a Wake Forest football t-shirt. He also was my "the timing's wrong, but he'd be a great fit" choice for Coach Carr's replacement.

Hey, that was fun!


Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Good choice of the Demon Deacs, both for Coach Grobe and for having, IMO, the lowest haterade quotient among ACC football programs.