Dawgosphere denizen, Hey Jenny Slater proprietor, and Bloggerpalooza survivor Doug Gillett is not only my hippest personal acquaintance (I'm a white conservative Methodist lawyer with a weblog, so, really, that's not much of a compliment), he's also the host of this week's BlogPoll roundtable discussion.
I'm to the right of Doug. Actually, there is no sense in which that statement is not true.
Doug's questions are these:
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?
Can I count the meltdown in the Sugar Bowl in January of this year? 'Cause, in retrospect, that pretty much set the tone for a crummy calendar year for Georgia football, didn't it?
Start with this game. Now take away D.J. Shockley. Now take away all depth on the offensive line. Now take away Leonard Pope. Now hamper every remaining receiver with injuries and/or the inability to catch the ball. Now leave the defense intact, except without the hard hitting. That's pretty much where Georgia is in 2006.
Oh, all right, if you're going to require me to give an example from this season, I'd have to say Tennessee's touchdown march at the end of the first half. Georgia was 5-0 and leading the Volunteers by a 24-7 margin at home, but the ease with which the Big Orange orchestrated a scoring drive late in the second quarter gave the Bulldog faithful the worst-feeling 10-point halftime lead imaginable, setting the stage for the collapses to come.
2. Are there any teams you think are still hugely overrated? What about underrated?
Doug and I disagree on this one (much as we disagree over whether the party that gave us the Hillary Clinton health care plan and defended Bill Clinton during the Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky scandals really gets to call the opposition the party that wants to dictate medical decisions for your loved ones and shields sexual predators), because he puts Louisville in the "hugely overrated" category and I place the Cardinals at the top of the heap in the "underrated" column.
I think you hear 'em knocking, I think they're coming in, and I think they're bringing a better pizza made with better ingredients with 'em. (Photograph from Front Row King.)
Yes, I know the Cards are ranked third in the new BlogPoll, but the respect being afforded to U. of L. seems to be given only grudgingly and I do not believe this thinly-veiled disdain is at all warranted.
I argued in defense of Louisville when casting my BlogPoll ballot and Sunday Morning Quarterback has offered a cogent defense of the Cards, as well. I believe the fundamental prejudice at work among the naysayers is a belief that the Big East is a lightweight league, which taints the Cardinals' accomplishment in the eyes of many observers.
Because Miami went undefeated in Big East play six times in the 13 years between 1991 and 2003, and because the 'Canes lost more than one conference game in a season just twice during that same span, the perception arose that the league consisted of U.M. and not much else.
While this criticism may have been valid at one time, the departure of the Hurricanes opened the door for many contenders to challenge for the role of beast of the Big East and the fact that numerous teams have made legitimate bids for that accolade has produced a competitive conference.
Could it be that the league traded up when it got U.S.F. for Miami?
The Big East is a legitimate B.C.S. conference. In fact, in 2006, the Big East is a more legitimate B.C.S. conference than the A.C.C. (Honestly, can anyone argue with a straight face that Louisville wouldn't be the prohibitive favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference?)
The maligned league's commitment to competitive quality is reflected in the fact that the Big East booted Temple from the fold . . . something the A.C.C. never did to Duke and the S.E.C. never did to Vanderbilt. When Penn State was brought into the Big Ten a few years prior to the Wildcats' 1995 Cinderella season, there was talk of ousting Northwestern, but the powers that be in the Midwest didn't pull the trigger.
Likewise, when the top Lone Star State squads from the moribund Southwest Conference arranged to merge with the Big Eight, political considerations forced them to take Baylor along for the ride. The Big East is the only conference with guts enough to tell its weak sisters, "Hey, you're not good enough to play with us . . . so get out of here!"
The eight teams remaining in the leaner, meaner Big East include Cincinnati (which led Virginia Tech 10-5 at halftime and was down only 13-7 to Ohio State at the break), Connecticut (which has a 14-7 win over a Big Ten team), Pittsburgh (which has a 38-13 win over an A.C.C. team), Rutgers (which has a 21-16 win over an A.C.C. team and a 33-0 win over a Big Ten team), South Florida (which has a 37-20 win over an A.C.C. team), Syracuse (which has a 31-21 win over a Big Ten team and lost competitive games against Iowa and Wake Forest), West Virginia (which has a 45-24 win over an A.C.C. team and a 42-14 win over an S.E.C. team), and, of course, Louisville (which has a 59-28 win over an S.E.C. team, a 31-7 win over an A.C.C. team, and a 24-6 win over a Big 12 team).
Louisville is an 8-0 team from a B.C.S. conference with a prolific offense directed by Bobby Petrino, convincing wins over three teams from other B.C.S. conferences (all of which are likely to play in bowl games), and a nationally-televised 10-point victory over a previously unbeaten league opponent ranked in the top five. If the Cardinals played in any other major conference, the debate wouldn't be about whether a No. 3 ranking was too high, it would be about whether it was too low. (If you don't believe me, compare Louisville's case in 2006 to Auburn's case at the same point in 2004.)
As the undefeated frontrunner in a B.C.S. conference that is genuine in fact as well as in name, Louisville is, by definition, a legitimate team that is far, far nearer to Ohio State and Michigan than to Boise State.
Of course, it doesn't hurt the Cardinals' case that Mike is right there with me on the whole Kristin Davis thing.
As for teams that are hugely overrated, I hate to sound like a broken record, but it was true before and it's true now: Charlie Weis's best career victories have come against Navy. With all due respect to the Midshipmen, that fact makes Notre Dame overrated by definition.
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?
Regrettably, the Bulldogs opened the season with Western Kentucky. I am adamantly opposed to scheduling Division I-AA teams because there is no percentage in such games. If a team beats a I-AA team by a lot, well, it was supposed to win by a lot; if a team beats a I-AA team by a little, eyes roll; if a team loses to a I-AA team, heads roll.
I find it hard to believe that the Bulldogs' win over the Hilltoppers did the Red and Black any good. Last year, Georgia opened the season with a 48-13 win over Boise State and went on to claim the S.E.C. championship. This year, the 'Dawgs opened the season with a 48-12 win over W.K.U. and the season has been a train wreck. Those facts may be unrelated, but, clearly, the Western Kentucky win paid no dividends for Georgia.
Division I-AA teams are ugly and their mamas dress them funny.
While I would not prohibit Division I-A teams from scheduling Division I-AA opponents (such games help to keep the latter economically viable), I am opposed to the placement of such squads on my alma mater's slate and wins over lower-tier teams count for little in my eyes. As an athletic director, I would schedule such games rarely, only under the worst of circumstances, and never if I could help it.
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?
Doug and I are on the same page on this one: Rutgers is a team on the rise.
The Scarlet Knights have won 15 of their last 19 games and they have been guided to an 8-0 start this season by quarterback Mike Teel and tailback Ray Rice, both sophomores. While the State University of New Jersey will lose several seniors from the receiving corps, along with marquee fullback Brian Leonard, the rest of the offense returns intact in 2007.
Besides, since Greg Schiano is keeping the Garden State talent in Piscataway instead of letting his stomping grounds be raided by Big Ten interlopers, Rutgers has depth. Next fall, the Scarlet Knights should be reloading instead of rebuilding for the first time since Reconstruction.
Barring Coach Schiano's departure for greener pastures, the State University of New Jersey will be a player in the Big East again next season.
Rutgers fans may look forward to another year of good football. Consequently, Dawg Sports readers may look forward to another year of gratuitous pictures of Kristin Davis. Everybody goes home a winner. (Photograph from Sawf News.)
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?
I'm responding with a great big "N/A" to this one, both because Paul Westerdawg has tackled this question masterfully and because I don't believe the Bulldogs should accept a bowl bid this season.
That said, I would like to see Georgia renew its rivalry with Clemson in the Peach Bowl, but that ain't going to happen for about a dozen different reasons.
For one thing, I'm pretty sure Truett Cathy has imposed a dress code.
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?
Boy, that's a tough call . . . would I stick Florida with Ron Zook, Georgia Tech with Chan Gailey, or South Carolina with Lou Holtz? What's that you say? They've all been done? Wow! Was that lucky for us or what?
Since I assume I'm not allowed to go back in time and get Vince Dooley to take the Auburn job, I would arrange for the Plainsmen to mend their fences with Terry Bowden's family by hiring his brother, Jeff, away from Florida State . . . or, in the alternative, I would have the War Eagle perpetuate the long-established Georgia-Auburn coaching exchange program by hiring Ray Goff.
He's a nice guy and all, but, if you saw him standing on the opposite sideline wearing orange and blue, wouldn't you be confident that Georgia was beating Auburn?
I hate Auburn.