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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blogpoll Roundtable #6

The always great Hey Jenny Slater is the host for the latest Blogpoll Roundtable. Questions are in bold with our answers following.

1. We're just a few weeks away from the end of the regular season, so everybody should have a pretty good handle on how good their teams are and what sort of records they can expect to finish with. Looking back over the season, which was the game where your team really defined itself in 2006, for good or ill? Or to look at it another way, which game, win or loss, was most representative of your team's attitude and style of play this season?

I’m sure many Michigan fans would say that the Notre Dame game defined this season. And although that game catapulted this team into national championship contention, it didn’t really define it. After all, the Michigan offense hasn’t duplicated its effort in South Bend. No, the game that most defines this Michigan team was the following week’s victory over Wisconsin.

That game had all the signposts of recent Michigan failures: a tough game coming off a big win, facing higher expectations against a physical opponent, trying to maintain motivation and energy in front of a lackluster home crowd. And after the first quarter it looked as if Michigan was going to satisfy all the pessimists. But it soon became clear that despite a top-notch running back and an experienced quarterback, Wisconsin wasn’t going to score in a conventional way. All Michigan had to do was put together a couple of drives and the game would be theirs. Once the lead got to 7, the game was essentially over, the same way it was with Minnesota, Michigan State, Penn State, and Iowa. The defense has been so dominant, and the offense has done enough – and that was the formula that was on display against the Badgers.

2. Are there any teams you think are still hugely overrated? What about underrated?

I used to think Texas was like last year’s Notre Dame team – getting a ton of mileage for a game they lost. But I think the Longhorns have improved quite a bit since their loss to tOSU and are deserving of a top ten ranking. They’re clearly the best team in the Big XII, and with Colt McCoy’s continuing improvement, I can only wish that they played the Buckeyes later in the season.

Speaking of Notre Dame, they still have to be among the most overrated teams out there. Not just because they lost so badly, at home, to Michigan. Not just because they’ve only beaten one team of much worth (Georgia Tech). But more so because they’ve really struggled against some poor teams. They needed a miracle to beat Michigan State who, by any standards, are a horrible team. They needed a last minute drive – again at home – to beat a weak UCLA team. Their offense, though strong, is largely one-dimensional, and any team that can get pressure on the quarterback can give them fits. Meanwhile their defense is a sieve. Sure, they’ll go 10-2 and play in a BCS bowl, but put them against any of the top ten teams and they’re likely to get smoked.

As for underrated teams, I’d say no one. As we work through our weekly Blogpoll, Yost and I start to lose interest right about #12. At one point one of us usually says, “I don’t care, whatever you think.” There are teams with good records who have played no one of merit (I’m looking at you, Rutgers). There are teams who have played some good competition, but haven’t won the big games (Nebraska). But truly underrated? I don’t think so.

3. Did your team play any Division I-AA opponents this year? If so, do you think it benefited your team at all? If you were a coach or an NCAA official, what policy would you have toward scheduling D-IAAs?

I’m a pure segregationist when it comes to divisional scheduling in college football. It’s an embarrassment when a I-A team schedules one from D-IAA. I don’t care how low your program is or how difficult it is to rebuild (e.g., Bill Snyder at Kansas State), there is no excuse for a I-A team to be playing a I-AA squad. If I were in charge – and it’s just a matter of time until I am – these matchups will not be allowed in college football.

4. Which not-a-typical-national-powerhouse team (i.e. no Ohio States or USCs) has played well enough this year to set themselves up for a breakout season in '07?

I might be a year early on this one, but I’ll go with Illinois. After the first couple of stinker games, Ron Zook finally decided the way to go with this team was to go young, suffer the consequences and let the teenagers get experience. They have suffered (blowout loss at home to Syracuse, losing at home to Ohio), but they’ve had success too (winning on the road at Sparty, hanging tough at Wisconsin and against tOSU). Juice Williams will be a star in the league and will again show Michigan that a running QB is the way to go. Vontae Davis is an All-American to be in the secondary. And Zook, even though he’s a horrible game coach, continues to bring talent down to Champaign. There are 50 freshmen on the 111-man roster. That bodes well for the Illini in the next couple of years.

5. Take a look at your team's bowl prospects this season. Which bowl(s) do you think you have a reasonable shot of ending up in? Of the teams you might likely face in a bowl, which team would you most want to play and why (maybe you've always wanted to see how your team would match up with them, maybe there's an old score you want to settle, or maybe you just want to finish the season with an easy win)? Conversely, which potential opponent would you really like to avoid in a bowl game?

It doesn’t get any better than right now as a Michigan fan. Beat Indiana, and you’re faced with either going to the National Championship game or the Rose Bowl. What kind of a mixed up, crazy world do we live in where the Rose Bowl is the consolation prize for losing the Michigan-tOSU game?

As for a wanted opponent, I would have to say Louisville. There’s nothing I’ve seen in their defense that poses a problem to Michigan scoring. And though their offense is formidable, I believe the Wolverines D could stop it. I think the only way for Michigan to lose – other than turnovers and special teams mistakes – is for the opponent to have a tough, stingy defense. tOSU, as well as most any other team that might play in the MNC game has that. Louisville doesn’t.

If Michigan ends up in the Rose Bowl, I’d hope to play USC. The uniforms, the song girls, “Fight On,” they all make it seem more special when playing in Pasadena.

6. In a roundtable question during the off-season, we were asked whom you'd pick if your current coach fell deathly ill and you had to select another coach to lead your team to victory. Let's turn this around and imagine that you've somehow schemed your way onto the search committee to select your biggest rival's next head coach. Which rival would that be, and which coaching sooper genius would you try to stick them with?

This is an easy one – I’d call up John Cooper and have him on the first bus to Columbus. Of course the scarlet and grey mob would have him wiped out within an hour of arriving in town. I’m sure he’s less popular there than any maize and blue loyalist.

So since Cooper is safely (?) off in retirement, I’d pick the modern-day John Cooper, Ron Zook and have him lead the Buckeyes. Zook is a high-energy guy like Cooper and is able to pull in some major talent – even to Illinois. But his teams at Florida – and eventually at Illinois – had the inability to win the big games. Just like Cooper’s squads in Columbus.


Aram said...

The idea of a Rose Bowl consolation prize bothers me. I don't like an America where the Grandaddy of 'Em All is an also-ran game...

Frankly, I blame the terrorists.

goblue85 said...

indeed blame the terroists. Who would have thought that if they do end up going to the Rose Bowl the season would have been a dissapointment

sportsMonkey said...

FYI - Cooper still lives in Columbus, and is a fixture around town. He gets plenty of respect, and still serves as a sort of consultant in the program.

Actually, in the new athletic center, Tressel made sure they included an office for Cooper (as well as for Earl Bruce).

He's actually travelled with the team to away games a couple of times this year.

wolverindy said...

I agree that while the ND game was this Michigan team's crown jewel (at least until 11/18), the Wisconsin and Penn State games were much more indicative of the personality and style of this team.

Anonymous said...

As for tOSU's coach, why not John L. Smith??

Anonymous said...

I am a Notre Dame fan and while I agree that we are not nearly as good as almost any of the teams ranked above us, I feel that there aren't any teams ranked below us that should be jumping us right now, but in my opionion USC is the most overrated team in the country, they have had way more close calls than ND, and while they beat Arkansas by 38 pts in the opener, Arkansas has been a totally different team while USC struggled until their loss to OSU...but anyways just my opinion and good luck against tOSU on the 18th.