The weekend is almost here and my mood is good, inasmuch as I was right about my Cincinnati-Oregon State pick---both as to the outcome and as to the Beavers' uniforms---so I am in an upbeat frame of mind and ready to tackle one of the professional duties of being an amateur sportswriter.
There are many responsibilities to being a BlogPoll voter. You have to operate a sports weblog, watch a lot of college football, cast weekly ballots, explain your votes, allow Brian Cook to install a microchip in your cerebellum . . . but perhaps I've said too much.
Among the obligations of participation in the BlogPoll is the requirement that one periodically take part in such roundtable discussions as the one currently being hosted by our good friend Doug Gillett.
Doug has a few questions for you. (This caption works better if you imagine it being read by Barry White. Aw, yeah.)
Doug's interrogatories are these:
1. By the end of the season, some previously unheralded teams' bandwagons will be so full they'll be having to bump passengers and offer them free vouchers and first-class upgrades; others will have emptied out in a big way. On whose bandwagon are you already scrambling to save a seat? Conversely, which team's bandwagon is being driven by Toonces the Driving Cat, prompting you to leap off now before it careens over a cliff to its fiery death below?
The three Division I-A teams that posted the most impressive wins last weekend, considering the quality of their competition, were California, Clemson, and Georgia. However, the Golden Bears' defense is suspect (to put it delicately), the Tigers beat college football's most thoroughly spent volcano, and, as a lifelong Bulldog fan, I've never been off the Georgia bandwagon. I pass; there's no team I wasn't high on before that I'm high on now.
Regarding the team I intend to kick to the curb, I'm inclined to bail on Virginia Tech, inasmuch as the Hokies barely got by East Carolina and might very well experience metaphysical skunkitude on the bayou on Saturday. However, I'll give V.P.I. the benefit of the doubt in order to focus my skepticism on the previously-referenced Florida State Seminoles.
To a significant extent, a head coach is only as good as his assistants. This is true virtually universally, but it is more true of some coaches than others. Pete Carroll, for instance, did not falter when Norm Chow left Los Angeles, but George O'Leary was at least somewhat exposed when Ralph Friedgen left The Flats, as Vince Dooley eventually was after Erk Russell's influence was most palpable in Statesboro rather than in the Classic City.
So it is with Bobby Bowden, who, dadgum it, has simply outlasted his prime. When Mark Richt departed Tallahassee, it appears that much of the F.S.U. magic went with him, and, based upon Monday evening's performance, it is difficult to see how great an impact Chuck Amato, Jimbo Fisher, and Rick Trickett are going to have on this faded former power. Quite frankly, there is no rule that says the Seminoles have to be good and I am off this bandwagon until at least some signs of resurgence are seen.
I'm afraid the obligatory 15 minutes' worth of fame may have run out for Jenn Sterger and her favorite team.
2. What do you think was opening weekend's biggest mirage -- either a "big win" over a team that isn't really as good as everyone thinks, or an embarrassing loss (or embarrassingly close win) that won't seem quite as embarrassing by season's end?
No contest . . . Boston College's 38-28 win over defending A.C.C. champion Wake Forest in Chestnut Hill easily was the weekend's least impressive victory of note. Georgia Tech's win over Notre Dame was so easily foreseeable that even I foresaw it as far back as June 6, but many thought the Demon Deacons had turned a corner, rising up to meet a debilitated league.
In fact, Wake Forest caught an improbably large number of lucky bounces last season, so the Eagles' home win in their conference opener represents little more than the law of averages in action. While I believe B.C. will be pretty good, winning over Wake at home is in no meaningful way indicative of anything consequential.
3. Compared to how you felt Friday night, how do you feel now about your team's chances this season? I'm not just talking about your impressions of your own team -- also take into account their prospects relative to this year's opponents, whom you've also gotten a little more acquainted with after this past weekend's action.
So far, so good. Last Saturday's result caused a cautious uptick in my optimism, but South Carolina's defensive front is liable to pose a much more daunting challenge to the Bulldogs' inexperienced offensive line than Oklahoma State was able to muster.
Of course, the 'Dawgs may make it through the Carolina offensive line a time or two themselves.
While many upcoming Georgia opponents (Alabama, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Vanderbilt) looked good, few faced opposition on a par with the Pokes, so I question whether any squad on the Bulldogs' slate had a better opening weekend than did the Red and Black. In this league, I'm taking nothing for granted, but, while there are many teams on the Classic City Canines' slate who certainly are capable of beating the 'Dawgs, I don't see anyone Georgia isn't capable of beating, either.
4. Looking at how those future opponents performed this past weekend, which developments are you most excited about? Which of your opponents' performances have you a little worried?
I wasn't exactly thrilled to learn that Tim Tebow can throw, but, heck, I could probably throw for 300 yards against the Hilltoppers. I was glad to see Georgia Tech pull off the big win in South Bend, because it means the Yellow Jackets have gotten their obligatory annual impressive victory out of the way early, dramatically reducing concerns that the Golden Tornado's signature win of 2007 could come against us.
At this point, I don't have enough information to be either truly concerned or genuinely elated. No one looked good enough to cause me undue heartburn and no one looked bad enough to make me overly thrilled. The only thing that heightened my concern slightly was the Plainsmen's poor performance. The last thing I want is for Tommy Tuberville's Tigers to come into Athens as an underrated team, because, when Georgia's oldest rival plays a higher-ranked Bulldog squad between the hedges, the visiting team has the 'Dawgs right where they want 'em.
5. There are now 32 bowls in D-IA football, meaning 64 bowl teams, meaning any given team now stands a better-then-50-percent chance of going to a bowl. To get that number under 50 percent, we'd have to eliminate three bowls. Which ones would you get rid of?
I'm with Doug . . . lose that "double-hosting" business, which is just a ham-handed prelude to the "plus-one" game that is the thin end of the wedge that eventually will lead to a playoff. When it's the Sugar Bowl's turn to host the national title game, play it at the Sugar Bowl. Don't give me that "B.C.S. Championship Game" nonsense.
I'd also ditch the Fiesta Bowl, a postseason parvenu concocted in 1971 for the benefit of the home team: Sun Devil Stadium was the original home to the contest best known as a Tostitos marketing opportunity and Arizona State was invited to five of the first seven Fiesta Bowls. Take away the Grand Canyon and it's the Hawaii Bowl, for crying out loud. Lose it and bump the Cotton Bowl back to its historic major bowl status. (Admittedly, the fact that the Fiesta Bowl is the only currently existing bowl game that antedates the 1978 season which Georgia has never won mitigates against the contest in my eyes.)
Finally, I'd 86 the GMAC Bowl. It's one thing to host a crappy bowl game at a quality venue---the Poinsettia Bowl at Jack Murphy Stadium; the Papajohns.com Bowl at Legion Field; the Motor City Bowl at Ford Field---but what the heck is Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama? Besides, who wants to attend a bowl game named after a mortgage company? Start running the ad in the legal notices so we can foreclose on this bowl game before the end of the year.
My opinion could be swayed, however, if it turns out that Farrah Fawcett's replacement on "Charlie's Angels" was one of the namesakes of the arena in Mobile.
6. And finally, in 50 words or less, how happy are you that it's finally football season again?
First of all, I'm pretty sure it's 50 words or fewer. Secondly, 50 words or fewer? Dude, I belong to a profession that describes a 10,000-word document with the term "brief." I can't write an introductory paragraph telling you how happy I am about football season in under 50 words!
Wait . . . did that count against my total? O.K., let me start all over again:
Yeah, it's 50. You can count 'em again if you like.