Defense wins championships. That maxim has always been true, and it continues to be so, which is why there are certain teams in which I am disinclined to repose faith as we proceed toward compiling our preseason BlogPoll ballots.
For clarity’s sake, I should point out that I am not saying the following teams all will be bad; some, in fact, should be quite good. None, however, will be as good as the preseason publications are pegging them to be, so, if a team is tabbed at No. 21, it likely will finish outside the top 25, but, if a team is ranked No. 1 in August, if probably will be ranked No. 5 in January.
That caveat having been added, I now present . . . Five Teams That Won’t be as Good as Advertised in 2010:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide: I raised this question before, and, admittedly, I got some good answers, but I don’t care who you are, you can’t just shrug off the loss of nine defensive starters without missing a beat.
2. Arkansas Razorbacks: Everyone rates the Hogs fairly high, and everyone knows deep down that the Hogs are overrated. They’re this year’s Ole Miss. Sure, Arkansas led the SEC in both passing offense and scoring offense . . . but the Razorbacks also finished last in the league in both passing defense and total defense. Even with the nation’s sixth-best turnover margin, the Hogs still surrendered 52 points to Georgia, 35 points to Alabama, 33 points to LSU, 30 points to Ole Miss, and 27 points to Eastern Michigan, for crying out loud.
3. Georgia Bulldogs: The Sporting News knew better than to put the Red and Black in its top 25, but Athlon ranks the ‘Dawgs fifteenth and Lindy’s has the Athenians at No. 21. Look, I think Aaron Murray and Todd Grantham are going to work out in the long term, too, but it’s crazy to think Murray and the 3-4 defense are going to start clicking from the get-go, particularly with a road date looming against the improved and always feisty South Carolina Gamecocks in the second week of the season. We’ll see improvement on the field in 2010, but it won’t translate into a markedly better won-lost record until 2011. If you’re counting on Georgia to do better than 8-4 next fall, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: In two seasons on the Flats, Paul Johnson has proven that his offense can move the ball on ACC teams and Willie Martinez-coached defenses. Even assuming for the sake of argument that those constitute impressive achievements, how, precisely, is the Ramblin’ Wreck going to put together a top 20 season in 2010? The Golden Tornado lost Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan off of a defense that ranked seventh in its conference and gave up 24 or more points in five of the Engineers’ last six games. To turn around a unit that finished 54th in the country in total defense, Coach Johnson brought in Al Groh, whose 2010 Virginia Cavaliers finished 52nd in the country in total defense. In 2009, the Jackets went 5-0 in games decided by five or fewer points while posting the ACC’s second-best turnover margin. Surely, at a technical school, they’re familiar with regression to the mean, right?
5. Oklahoma Sooners: Frankly, I’m not getting all the preseason love Bob Stoops’s troops are receiving. I mean, I get it, I guess, but I take OU’s consensus top ten standing a tad personally. After all, the Sooners are getting a mulligan for an 8-5 season in which they lost some close ones and finished strong by winning three of their last four, including their bowl game. It seems to me there’s a certain team in Athens, Ga., that fits that description . . . and, unlike Oklahoma, Georgia (a) didn’t lose four first-round draft choices to the NFL, and (b) doesn’t have Willie Martinez coaching its defensive backs. Surely those two details are worth a couple or three losses, right?
As always, your thoughts upon the foregoing are invited and appreciated. Let me know where I’m on target, and where I’m off base, in the comments below.