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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

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Warts and all, still infinitely more sensible than some other polls, and with a handy 'Comments' button...

Reviewing this week's Top 25, Version 2.0 - the first was lost, tragically, by an unexplained error seconds before posting Sunday night, and has been found upon review to have contained flaws - it must be asked: does SMQ have an irrational, unconscious love for the Big Ten?

"Unconscious" because he has no discernable feelings for the ESPN2-saturated league, no rational basis for caring for it much over deserving others. But his black and white list betrays loyalties of whose existence even SMQ was not aware: six Big Ten/Eleven teams in the Top 25 (matched only by the more top-heavy SEC, whose presence can't be disputed much and includes no other close contenders in line), with two more on the waiting list, two teams with a loss (one, Ohio State, with two) ahead of slow-rising undefeated major conference foes UCLA and Texas Tech and three more two-time losers (Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern) ahead of one-loss Nebraska and two-loss Texas A&M, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Louisville and PAC Tenner Oregon State, who beat previously well-regarded Cal Saturday. SMQ knows why he likes the schools he chose, at least a fraction more than the schools he didn't, yet will continue to confront any non-sensible Midwestern bias; let us now see if he can convince the skeptical reader of his objectivity:

SMQ TOP 25 (10-18)
1. Southern Cal: Gene Wojciechowski says USC can't lose again, because to do so would tarnish the glow of college football's shiny new exemplar of competitive drama, and SMQ agrees. Of the Trojans, he makes the same point he made about Nebraska after Matt Davisson's OMG what?! catch that eventually took down Missouri in 1997: this must be the best team, because no other could win such a game in such a fashion. Sixty-one yards on fourth-and-nine, down three, with under a minute left, on the road, on an audible to a one-eyed sophomore? That's blood and heart and guts and testicles and all the necessary gruesome elements only rightfully glorified when they are actually leaked out onto the field for all to see. We didn't know USC had that before Saturday. And, re: "The Push": SMQ immediately considered this, but doesn't care because he disagrees with this rule and has never seen it called anyway; backs and linemen do this often, especially on sneaks. Move the ball forward by all means possible.
2. Virginia Tech: Defense: still good. Special teams: still good. Marcus Vick: healthy; not in prison. Off weeks are boring.
3. Texas: Momentum is gaining for Austin-based mega schools, who have now beaten a BCS contender on the road, crushed three straight Big XII opponents with winning records and vanquished the league's own Don Fanucci. SMQ can't justify ranking the 'Horns below VA Tech and won't try, except to say he's given it more thought since Mack Brown apparently forgot to take his Inevitable Choke pills Oct. 1. Vince Young: do-ragged and good.
4. Notre Dame: By keeping the twice-beaten Irish above big time undefeated hard bodies Georgia and Alabama, SMQ is making a statement: it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. Or, the Irish showed against a team that still may be the best in years and years that they're really, really good, and they belong alongside the very best in the country. SMQ watched the savagery of that loss Saturday; the computers in the BCS poll that ranked ND 25th on average did not. You gonna trust some computer over your own eyes?
5. Georgia: No real chance to follow up on that impressive win while fresh in everyone's mind back in relative anonymity against Vanderbilt. This week: NOT Florida for many sparkly marbles, as SMQ erroneously reported previously (see comments below), but Arkansas, for less sparkly ones.
6. Alabama: SMQ projected an offensive slide after the loss of Stickyfingers Gruesomeleg, but not so quickly or so precipitous. A last second field goal to beat Ole Miss? Gosh almighty, Alabamer, you should have beaten the proverbial hell out of that futile bunch. At least SMQ doesn't have to listen to uppity Ole Pissters brag about an actually notable victory.
7. LSU: If this collection of thoroughbreds ever gets on the same page with future first-rounder JaMarcus Russell all at once, instead of playing blue chip musical chairs for the ball every couple weeks, the Tiger offense will be frightening, to say the least. The defense, unwise big-blitzing aside, already is.
8. Florida State: Another year, another "shocking" intra-conference loss: North Carolina in 2001, N.C. State in 2002, Clemson in 2003, Maryland last year and now Virginia. But the 'Noles don't go far on principle: FSU is ahead of Miami because FSU beat Miami, and the 'Canes have not proven to be noticeably better than their frequent cross-state bitch. Although, Jeff Bowden, SMQ knows you don't care much about the running game or who's blocking who and all that nonsense offensive coordinators sweat over too much, but it would be nice to get your best offensive player more than eight carries in a fairly close game.
9. Miami: The 'Canes are still big and really fast, but that's been compared to South Florida, Duke and Temple this month. Still two weeks 'till the big one in Blacksburg.
10. Penn State: Had to lose sometime, just had to, and a last-play tumble to still-solid (SMQ thinks) Michigan isn't the worst way to do it. The immediate future is less bright, like Alabama's without Prothro, without Derrick Williams (MSM note: ups to PSU media dept. folks on that link, because not all schools issue press releases on injuries, suspensions and other less-favorable news).
11. Ohio State: Defense good, Troy Smith kind of scary at times. Not much new to say here. Still as good as any team in the Big Ten/Eleven, for whatever it's worth.
12. Tennessee: Off weeks are boring.
13. UCLA: The Bruins have a bit more of the old intestinal fortitude than in the past, at least, but does the ability to scramble from behind to the likes of fading Cal and the Washington schools justify a major jump? Not yet. In six of seven games since Sept. 24, Los Angeles-based mega-schools have overcome deficits totaling 67 points to win each game, 54 in the fourth quarter.
14. Wisconsin: A bit of a gift win, but at least the Badgers didn't fumble around and knock the ball out of the back of the end zone, the way Minnesota's punter should have.
15. Boston College: B.C. drops not at all despite a too-close win over Wake, because a) The Deacs are typically a tough out, and b) any decent team, especially those with less top-end talent, has to show some guts and win a game or two like this to get anywhere. Emerging Atlantic Division power; the favorite with another FSU loss.
16. Oregon: SMQ's "YO of the Week!" - In six wins, Oregon has scored 38, 47, 37, 44, 31 and 45 points. See, Mr. Corso, SMQ can spout out impressive but non-contextual stats while overlooking important details like the mere 13 the Ducks scored on USC (damn, Arizona scored 21 on the Trojans). Still...Holiday Bowl? These guys are going to lose one they shouldn't, because they'll be favored in each of the last four, and can't conceivably go 10-1.
17. Texas Tech: Fraud alert against Texas, whereby these BCS darlings fall from the face of the earth, or at least SMQ's poll.
18. Auburn: The Tigers are lurking, lurking. It's tough to do even less than Texas Tech, schedule-wise, but Auburn has a good defense, has approriately blown out the cuddlies and has had plenty of chances to acclamate Brandon Cox since the Georgia Tech flop. Plus being defending near-champs must be worth something.
19. Michigan State: The seams may have split on a decent season during that
field goal, uh, attempt Saturday, but that debacle at least led to the greatest possible non-violent (barely) en route-to-locker room halftime interview: "The kids are playing their tails off and the coaches are screwing it up!" SMQ actually is impressed at John L. Smith's restraint, given the opportunity to hang the severed head of anonymous sideline reporter's head from the upright in front of the student section as a warning to post-disaster questioners everywhere.
20. Florida: NEXT Sunday evening or Monday (after the actual Cocktail Party, not the one SMQ made up for this weekend from thin air), as a result of a comment at EDSBS that kept going and going until it obviously needed its own post here, SMQ will review in detail the vanilla with a capital 'V' offense of Urban Meyer, using specific citations from its failure against Georgia. This is after NEXT week, because they don't play this week and SMQ is an idiot. Tune in.
21. West Virginia: SMQ immediately breaks his Notre Dame rule from above (i.e. "It's not whether you win or lose...") by spurning Louisville in favor of the Mountaineers despite the Big East's admission that officials blew an onside kick call that would have effectively secured the game for the Cardinals Saturday. Oh well. Hey, how excited would the BCS be to have a potentially fraudulent participant from Morgantown?
22. Virginia: Yes, yes, SMQ elevates the Cavs back into the poll following its first really decent win since, well, the last time UVA beat Florida State. Won't last, though, unless they beat at least won, probably two, of their last three next month (Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech), and don't slip up in between.
23. Minnesota: Maybe Glen Mason can join John L. Smith in the Big Ten's Special Teams Disaster Recovery Program. Laurence Maroney - the man went 95 yards on a single run Saturday - deserves better.
24. TCU: The Frogs eke out Fresno State as the mid majors last, best hope for...well, to be ranked maybe. Bad, bad year for smaller schools. Even here, where TCU's running away from the Mountain West, the wins over Utah and Oklahoma aren't looking much better now than the win over Wyoming.
25. Northwestern: The Wildcats get respect for two straight good wins, but their presence reveals a deepening, disturbing lack of quality teams, and won't last once Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State have had their chance over the next month. And if it does, don't forget who first jumped on the Big Purple Bandwagon that rides around every five years.

Lurking: Iowa (OMG look out), Maryland, Texas A&M, Gerogia Tech, Colorado, Louisville, Nebraska, Oregon State, Michigan, Fresno State, Arizona State
New: Virginia, TCU, Northwestern
Old: Colorado (22), California (23), Louisville (24)
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10:54 AM

I'm absolutely baffled by your moving Notre Dame up. I don't give them credit for making the game close because we've seen USC take the first 2 or 3 quarters off in every game for a month solid, and we saw it again Saturday. I taped the game and USC just didn't come out with much fire. The fact that the Irish did, at home against their rival, is the reason they built a lead; the lead is not evidence that Notre Dame is better than we thought they were. When SC got serious, and desperate, and played up to its talent level, Notre Dame couldn't make the plays, just as they couldn't make the plays against Michigan State once MSU stopped sitting on their lead and trying to kill clock. Notre Dame is opportunistic and has a good instinct for when to take advantage of their opponent's loss of focus, but that hasn't been enough to get them a single quality win yet. Their three road wins were all against overrated competition; they shouldn't get credit just because those teams were erroneously ranked at the time of the game. I'm convinced, after seeing 2 or more games from each, that Penn State and Florida State would brutalize Notre Dame on a neutral field, let alone Georgia or LSU. These are the SAME GUYS as last year's 5-7 team, just playing with more confidence, effort and opportunism!! Good teams can beat them, have beaten them, and (if there were any more on the schedule -- I have little faith in Tennessee's offense) would continue to beat them.

Also, I know there are only about a dozen good teams this year, but ranking in Northwestern over Iowa, Fresno or one of the ACC teams is lunacy. Northwestern is beating bad teams by very close margins. Putting a scare into Penn State when Penn State is adjusting to conference play and looking past you does not make you a contender for anything.
georgia isn't playing uf this week. we're playing ark.
a) Notre Dame didn't wilt when USC 'turned it on,' they moved down the field and scored a touchdown to get back on top with barely two minutes to go, and deserve credit for being the equal of a team SMQ still thinks may wind up among the very best ever, and b) SMQ screwed up the Florida-Georgia thing. Don't know why the thought was that they were playing this week. No excuse. That analysis will follow the Cocktail Party after NEXT weekend.
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