The first 2008 BlogPoll Roundtable, brought to you by Hey Jenny Slater.
1. In his "visiting lecturers" series posted on Every Day Should Be Saturday over the past few months, Orson Swindle asked each participant to explain which country, during which historical period, their team most resembles. Let's bring everything up to the present day and ponder: Which current sovereign nation is your team? Or to look at it another way, how does your team fit into the "world" of college football?
The E.U. Okay, so that's more like a continent. But the European Union wants so badly to be one of the world's superpowers -- much like South Carolina in the SEC East -- but keeps find some way to screw it up. Like the Gamecocks, Europe has to prove that it can play with the big boys before it will be taken seriously and not be seen as someone who can just cause trouble.
2. Every preseason roundup has to have some discussion of who's overrated, but let's go beyond that. Which team do you think is poised to crap the bed in the biggest way this season relative to high expectations, and which game do you think will begin their slide into ignominy?
This is one I've been on for a couple months now: Tennessee. I have a hard time seeing how they overcome the loss of Erik Ainge and David Cutcliffe the year after they slipped into the SEC championship in a manner that should be as illegal as the extracurricular activities of several of the Vols' football players.
Again, this is a team that lost by 39 to Florida and beat South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky under some of the most bizarre circumstances to ever benefitone team.
When? It could happen in the first game against UCLA and Casino Rick Neuheisel. If not, it's likely to be another beatdown at the hands of the Gators. Do I think Tennessee will have another losing season? No, not with heavyweights like Wyoming and Northern Illinois on the docket. But a six- or seven-win season looks likely from where I sit.
3. On the flip side of that coin, which team do you think is going to burst out of nowhere to become 2008's biggest overachiever -- this year's version of Kansas '07, as it were -- and what's going to be the big upset that makes us all finally sit up and take notice of them?
North Carolina. I like the pieces they have returning on ofense and defense, and don't forget that the Heels were just a few points here or there away from bowl eligibility last year -- this from a team that went 3-9 in 2006. (Two more points each against Virginia and Georgia Tech, and UNC goes bowling last year.) Butch Davis is the right guy to turn things around and Virginia Tech is off a step.
And that's when everyone will notice them. Not if they beat Rutgers on Sept. 11, as the intelligentsia will say, "Well, that's just Rutgers." No, it will happen nine days later, when a rested North Carolina team takes on a Hokies team that has gotten fat on easy opposition. The other Carolina comes out on top in that Chapel Hill match-up.
From there, the Heels are on a glide path to the ACC championship game and maybe a BCS berth.
4. Here's an "I'll hang up and listen" question. I put Ohio State and Oklahoma #1 and #2, respectively, despite their recent high-profile BCS face-plants. Where did you rank those two teams, and did those BCS issues have anything to do with it?
Ohio State at No. 6 and Oklahoma at No. 5.
First, a rant. If one of the things you're considering in your poll is past performance -- and it should be -- then why is it somehow perceived as unfair or shallow to count the BCS waxings of the two Os against them? Should we just put on blinders when it comes to those games? Pretend it didn't happen? Then please do the same for South Carolina's last five games of the year, and rank the Gamecocks at No. 1. It is entirely fair to count those games against Oklahoma and Ohio State as much as you might count their losses to Colorado or Illinois agains them.[/end rant]
Aside from that, I think the BCS losses exposed Ohio State for what they were: A very good team in a weak conference. Ohio State has to contend with Southern Cal this year. They'll lose. As for Oklahoma -- aside from their two defeats of Missouri, their season wasn't all that special this year. Unless you think Sam Bradford will duplicate last year and the loss of some solid talent on defense won't hurt, I don't see them getting through a stacked Big XII.
5. Last season was a statistical outlier in countless ways, not the least of which was the fact that we ended up with a two-loss team as national champion. Do you think anyone plays a strong enough schedule to get MNC consideration as a two-loss team this year? Conversely, do you see anybody managing to sail into the national-championship game undefeated?
Georgia, No. 1 on my ballot, could easily get in with two losses. In fact, if we assume that Georgia has the same number of losses as any other credible contender to a berth in the title game, the spelling-challenged Dawgs have to be given the shot. The exception: if the other two-loss team is Florida, and the Gators won the showdown in Jacksonville.
Georgia could run the gauntlet undefeated, but that's hard to see. If it's an SEC team, it'll likely be Florida, whose true road games are Tennessee, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Florida State. Other than that, Missouri, whose toughest games are Illinois (in St. Louis), at Texas and Kansas (in Kansas City). They miss Oklahoma and Texas Tech, the two teams most likely to win the Big XII South, until the championship game.
6. OK, time for some Olympic fever. Which athlete from the Beijing Olympics -- any sport, any country, with the exception of USA basketball since those guys are already pros -- would you most want to add to your team's roster this season? No worries about age, eligibility, or even gender; we'll worry about that crap later.
Aside from the quarterback position, the biggest question for South Carolina this year is probably at running back. So just plug in Jamaica's Usain Bolt, who aside from having an awesome last name has just blown away the field in the 100m and 200m events, setting world records in both. That's breakaway speed.