Nothing. None. Zero. Zip. These are all ways of saying "0." Just once, just for a change, could someone announcing the final score of a soccer match (which always has a "0" in it, despite the fact that the goal is approximately the width of my house) use a synonym other than "nil"?
All right, enough about futbol . . . it's time for some football. The Ciskie Blog is hosting the latest BlogPoll roundtable and here are the questions he has put before the intercollegiate athletics blogosphere:
Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?
It's too early to tell. For one thing, they aren't all out yet and there are enough offseason changes in each one---sometimes for the better, most often for the worse---that I can't necessarily go by previous years' editions.
I'll know which one's the best when we get to mid-October. By that point, one of the myriad of annuals I purchase will have worked its way to the top of the stack and become my default easy reference guide. I'll get back to you when I know which one that is.
You definitely don't win points with me by putting Auburn on the cover, I can tell you that much.
What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?
Is it even conceivable that the answer to this question isn't Notre Dame? Last year's Fighting Irish boasted the worst defense in school history and played a schedule that looked tough on paper but turned out to be dismal in practice. To their credit, the Golden Domers didn't try to arrange a slate full of patsies, but that's just what they got . . . so much so that their most impressive win was against Navy.
Add to that the fact that Charlie Weis won fewer games in his first season in South Bend than Tyrone Willingham won in his and it's clear that the jury remains out on Notre Dame's return to glory. Everyone is giving the Fighting Irish an A+ when the evidence of last season (especially when considered in the context of the last decade and a half) earned them an incomplete.
Dean Wormer reports that the Notre Dame football program had no grade point average for fall semester 2005.
Turn the tables. Who is underrated?
Thus, Notre Dame and Ohio State receive inflated rankings due to offensive prowess, despite eyebrow-raising defensive concerns. The young century's most dominant team, Southern California, barely makes it into the conversation because the Trojans lost their biggest stars in the backfield and a strong Auburn squad is undervalued despite the fact that Will Muschamp will almost certainly mold a scarily good defense on the Plains.
Carson Palmer, who was an irreplaceable U.S.C. quarterback before Matt Leinart replaced him and became an irreplaceable U.S.C. quarterback.
The Longhorns are the defending national champions and they ought to field a smothering D in 2006 . . . yet, because of the absence of Vince Young, they get almost no love in the national title talk.
I take nothing away from Young's importance as a player. He was a once-in-a-generation superstar. Texas would not have won . . . or probably even been in . . . the Rose Bowl without him. However, in a season in which there is no clear favorite and all of the contenders have flaws, there is no particular reason to believe the Longhorn D won't be able to carry the Burnt Orange to a second straight crown.
If Texas isn't a consensus preseason top two team---and they aren't---the 'Horns aren't being given their due.
Which conference will be the best in 2006?
Questions like this are what led me to post The Weblogging Disclosure Statement. If college football had a 12-step recovery program, this would be the point at which I stood before the group and said, "My name's Kyle and I'm an S.E.C. fan."
Yes, I'm a regional homer and, yes, I think the top league in the N.C.A.A. will be the Southeastern Conference. Admittedly, the four worst teams in the league---Kentucky, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt---are pretty bad, but the top eight appear to be virtual postseason locks and, given the talent of the players and the quality of the coaches (yes, even Les Miles), it's hard to argue that any league that includes Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, L.S.U., South Carolina, and Tennessee isn't college football's best conference.
Admittedly, this yutz weakens my argument for the S.E.C., but the dude did go 11-2 and won the Western Division despite having his season interrupted by a hurricane, so cut him some slack.
If we're being asked to dispense with rabid homerism, I'd have to say that the Big Ten once again is the nation's most bruising league, top to bottom . . . although, after I consistently underestimated the Big 12 in 2005, I'm about ready to give the Big Eight/S.W.C. merger its due. (As always, I'd love to see the S.E.C. and the Big 12 square off . . . No. 1 versus No. 1, No. 2 versus No. 2, all the way down to No. 12 versus No. 12 . . . just to see how it played out on the field.)
Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?
If only the 'Dawgs had sniffed out the fake punt at the end of the Sugar Bowl, I'd be able to ask, "Does the Big East count?" . . . but, since they didn't, I'll have to go with the Western Athletic Conference.
When the Mountain West branched off from the W.A.C. to form a new league in 1999, the conventional wisdom was that the best teams from the old conference had departed, but a funny thing happened on the way to mid-major legitimacy. Air Force, B.Y.U., Colorado State, and San Diego State all took a step backwards, to the point that Johnny-come-lately Utah and rookie M.W.C. member T.C.U. have been the class of the league in recent seasons.
Meanwhile, the wild, wild Western Athletic Conference is resurgent, as well as being entertaining to watch. Boise State might not yet be a B.C.S. buster, but the Broncos have reached the point that a 9-4 campaign with three losses to ranked opponents is considered a disappointment. Pat Hill's Fresno State squad has a blue-collar mentality and the West Coast Bulldogs gave Southern California the best game they got in the 2005 regular season.
If Dennis Franz's character from "N.Y.P.D. Blue" had been a California football coach instead of a New York cop, he would have been Pat Hill.
While no other W.A.C. squads are apt to bump off B.C.S. conference opponents (and while the introduction of the concept of "defense" would be a nice change of pace), the league as a whole is much improved (particularly Nevada) and should be competitive overall.
Besides . . . who among us has not gotten through "GameDay Final," discovered that he was too wired to sleep after a day's worth of college football, and found confirmation of the validity of his religious faith in the discovery that a late-night Hawaii home game was in progress on E.S.P.N.2?
Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?
Given what Paul Johnson accomplished in Statesboro, it shouldn't have surprised me that he transformed the Midshipmen into perennial winners, but I have to admit that I didn't see it coming . . . and the U.S. Naval Academy has made a believer out of me.
Bowl games and Commander in Chief's Trophies have become almost routine in Annapolis, despite the fact that the Middies continue to struggle with a certain other independent squad that wears gold helmets. In 2004, when Navy had 14 returning starters, Coach Johnson's squad put together one of the finest seasons in school history . . . and, as Ciskie notes, the Midshipmen have 16 starters returning in 2006.
This one's for you, Hamp.
I almost picked Texas Christian to be the nation's best non-B.C.S. team, but the coming campaign sets up slightly more favorably for Navy, so I'm going with the Middies to get it done.
Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.
Ciskie had to include that caveat because the fix is in for Brady Quinn every bit as much so as it was for Reggie Bush a year ago.
If you're going to force me to choose someone else (read: pick the guy who's going to come in second), that would be Adrian Peterson. The Oklahoma running back will be the fellow looking dejected when the Downtown Athletic Club presents the statue to the male-model-turned-system-quarterback.
Those are my responses, but you may feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below.