Monday, August 01, 2011

Way too many words on media days

I'm undecided about whether the official start of the football season should be based on the release of NCAA Football (insert year here) or the myriad conference media days, which aren't really that interesting but manage to get some relevant, non-controversy-generated news flowing for a few minutes and remind us that the painfully long abyss of summer is coming to an end.

Regardless, both have now happened. It's 31 days to kickoff. Yay.

As for media days, the concept is much more interesting than the execution. The concept is that you can get everybody in one place and ask all the important and interesting questions you could possibly want answered, catch up on any summer off-the-field shenanigans that nobody would comment on when they were happening, tabulate preseason poll/all-conference votes, etc.

What you actually get are super-insightful inquisitions like "How hard are you guys working to get back to a bowl game this season?" and "How important is it to get off to a good start?"

Here's how I feel about those questions:

It'd be great to be able to ask Al Borges, "Do you plan to completely scrap zone blocking even though most of Michigan's O-line has played exclusively in that system?" or "Do you foresee lining up in the shotgun more than 50 percent of the time to keep Denard Robinson comfortable given what we saw in the spring game?" Instead, Drew Sharp will be collecting meaningless filler quotes for his column that people will shake their head at while he collects paychecks until his newspaper collapses because they continue to employ people like Drew Sharp.

There is some useful stuff that comes out of media days, though, and that's the preseason stuff I mentioned earlier. It's not meaningless when the people who see the teams on a weekly basis (either coaches or media) say, "Team X is the best team and Team Y is the second-best team" or "Player A and Player B are the two best defensive players in the conference." Some of that stuff is pretty obvious (Oregon is expected to win the Pac-12?!?), but some of it actually provides some insight into various things we might not know since we don't get paid to be at every game and talk to the coaches on a daily basis.

So let's make the rounds and glean what we can about football-type stuff:


The thing you care about:

Western Division
1. Alabama (111) 925
2. LSU (30) 790
3. Arkansas (23) 717
4. Mississippi State (1) 455
5. Auburn 406
6. Ole Miss (2) 214

Eastern Division
1. South Carolina (114) 931
2. Georgia (38) 794
3. Florida (12) 731
4. Tennessee (2) 496
5. Kentucky (1) 340
6. Vanderbilt 215

  • LSU is probably going to be a top-five team and isn't even in the same projected ballpark as Alabama in the West. You will bow down to Nick Saban now.
  • Same with Arkansas -- for all the talk about being a darkhorse national title team, being probably the third-best team in the division makes things kinda difficult.
  • There are two teams with zero first-place votes: Vanderbilt (duh) and ... drumroll, please ... Auburn. This has gotta be the first time in the history of preseason polling that the defending national champion hasn't received even a single vote to win its own division.
  • The fact that South Carolina is even more of a favorite in the East than Alabama is in the West says more about the division than it does about South Carolina. Two of the three best teams in the conference (unless South Carolina is a lot better than I think) will be sitting at home for the SEC title game.
  • On a related note, it's not a big stretch to think Florida or Georgia or maybe even Tennessee (eh, probably not) could end up "earning" the right to get crushed by Alabama/LSU/Arkansas in the championship game. I mean, South Carolina isn't exactly '95 Nebraska -- that division is wide open.
  • If Georgia can't finish 8-4 or maybe even 9-3, Mark Richt's gotta be gone, right? Georgia has the most generous schedule in the history of conference scheduling (no Alabama, LSU or Arkansas?!?) and is better on paper than all but one other team in the East. And Richt isn't exactly riding a tidal wave of positive momentum -- he seems to be taking the Lloyd Carr approach (except while 15 years younger) of being consistently pretty good but never good enough.
  • Why does Ole Miss have two first-place votes? Those two ballots accounted for more than 10 percent of their total points.
  • The all-conference teams are listed here, and Marcus Lattimore -- you know, the guy who has a long way to go to reach the "performance level of the other top SEC backs" -- is on the first team along with Trent Richardson. No surprises there. Georgia's Aaron Murray is the top quarterback, which is interesting given the loss of A.J. Green but almost inevitable considering that the second- and third-team guys are Stephen Garcia (?) and Jordan Jefferson, who have both been on the brink of getting benched for about the last two years.
  • The first-team defense: Alabama owns it. Five (!) guys from 'Bama would start on a hypothetical defense made up of the best players in the conference, which pretty much explains that vote total above despite Nick Saban having no idea who his starting quarterback will be. They also set the overall record with 16 players on the three all-conference teams.
  • Florida has zero (yes, zero) all-conference offensive players.
Big Ten

The things you care about:

1. Nebraska (19) 139
2. Michigan State (4) 118
3. Iowa 82
4. Michigan (1) 71
5. Northwestern 69
6. Minnesota 25

1. Wisconsin (22) 141
2. Ohio State (1) 113
3. Penn State (1) 95
4. Illinois 76
5. Purdue 52
6. Indiana 27

Title game predictions:
Nebraska over Wisconsin (10)
Wisconsin over Nebraska (7)
Wisconsin over Michigan State (3)
Nebraska over Ohio State (1)
Nebraska over Penn State (1)
Wisconsin over Michigan (1)
Michigan State over Wisconsin (1)

Offensive player of the year:
1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (14) 52
2. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern (4) 26
3. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (2) 18
4. Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (1) 16
5. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (1) 14
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (2) 9
7. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska 4
8. James White, RB, Wisconsin 2
9. Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State 2
10. Derek Moye, WR, Penn State 1

Defensive player of the year:
1. Jared Crick, DL, Nebraska (15) 58
2. Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska (7) 37
3. Jerel Worthy, DL, Michigan State 10
4. Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa (1) 8
5. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska (1) 7
6. John Simon, DL, Ohio State 6
7. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State 5
8. Mike Martin, DL, Michigan 3
9. Nathan Williams, DL, Ohio State 2

  • The Big Ten is freakin' thorough with its polling, yes?
  • If Nebraska and Wisconsin don't end up playing in Indianapolis in December, it will be a shock to just about everybody.
  • After the two obvious favorites, it's a crapshoot. Proof: Michigan got as many first-place votes (one) as Ohio State and Penn State. Michigan State looks like the consensus No. 3, but hoping for back-to-back good years from MSU is basically the equivalent of flipping a coin and hoping it comes up heads; winning three close games in miraculous fashion while getting streamrolled by a combined 72 points (!!!) in your two losses doesn't exactly scream "dynasty in the making."
  • Nebraska's defense is the Big Ten equivalent of Alabama's -- their dudes got 23 of the 24 votes for defensive player of the year (and not all of those went to Jared Crick).
  • There's somebody out there who thinks Michigan will win the Legends Division. Yay.
  • Speaking of which, nobody seems too concerned that Denard Robinson won't be able to figure out whatever Brady Hoke/Al Borges want to do on offense this season.
  • Two people had Russell Wilson as offensive player of the year, but only three other people even had him on the ballot.
  • Mike Brewster? Really??? He's a good-but-not-dominant center who might not even be the best in the conference (David Molk would like a word).
  • There's a weird disconnect between the college version of Jerel Worthy (good player but no preseason votes for defensive player of the year) and the hypothetical NFL one (consensus top-15 draft pick). I still haven't figured out the drooling.
  • While we're talking about Michigan State, it should be noted that Mark Dantonio's response to the requisite Ohio State questions was to call Jim Tressel "a tragic hero." This actually happened. Remarkably, I actually have less respect for Dantonio than I did a week ago (it's gone from zero to negative infinity).
  • This reaction to Big Ten media day from EDSBS goes here because I have nowhere else to put it: "The best summary of a Brady Hoke speaking engagement is to imagine Lloyd Carr using a gigantic Matt Foley puppet to address the media." That is so, SO accurate.


The thing you care about:

1. Oregon (29) 239
2. Stanford (13) 220
3. Washington 142
4. Oregon State 120
5. California 110
6. Washington State 51

1. USC (24) 230
2. Arizona State (13) 207
3. Utah (4) 170
4. Arizona (1) 140
5. UCLA 89
6. Colorado 46

Title game champion:
Oregon (28)
Stanford (11)
Arizona State (3)

  • Oregon wins. I'm actually a little surprised that almost a third of the voters think Stanford -- minus basically its entire coaching staff and some relevant on-field pieces -- is gonna somehow overtake Oregon for the division. Good luck with that (no pun intended).
  • Welcome to the Pac-12, Craporado. You're the Washington State of the South Division.
  • I've been leaning toward Arizona as ASU's primary competition in the South, but either I'm underestimating the injuries/Juron Criner situation/lack of an offensive line or everybody else is overrating that stuff. Not a lot of faith in UA (not that there should be, but still).
  • Utah's got a nice thing going, but given the fairly extensive losses on both sides of the ball and not-so-insignificant jump in competition, winning the division seems like a stretch. I'd probably flip Arizona and Utah if I were filling out a ballot.
  • Arizona State has three conference championship votes (!?!). Preseason optimism FTW.
  • If ASU and Stanford are as disappointing as they plausibly could be, the Pac-12 could be turrrible after Oregon.
  • The voters are soooo proud of themselves for "correctly predicting the conference winner in 10 of the last 11 years," which was super difficult when USC was winning every year and the only question was which random team would finish second.
Big 12

The thing you care about:

1. Oklahoma (41) 428
2. Texas A&M (1) 362
3. Oklahoma State (1) 360
4. Missouri 281
5. Texas 265
6. Baylor 194
7. Texas Tech 191
8. Kansas State 140
9. Iowa State 93
10. Kansas 51

  • Good Lord. Why are they even playing the games? Let's just fast-forward to November and figure out whether Oklahoma gets to play in the BCS title game or just the Fiesta Bowl.
  • This thought wasn't necessarily brought on by media day, but I'll share it here anyway: With Nebraska gone, if either Oklahoma or Texas (or both, God forbid) is anything other than good in a given year, the Big 12 is just going to be a sinkhole. It'll be like the Big East Southwest (except if the Big East had Texas to mine for talent).
  • Quick, name a starting Big 12 running back other than Cyrus Gray or Roy Finch (who isn't exactly a household name to begin with but plays for Oklahoma and is therefore recognizable).
  • I bet it's been a while since Texas didn't have a single first-place vote in the preseason poll. Their talent-to-expected-results ratio has to be the worst in the history of college football. On the plus side, it'd be just about impossible to underachieve this year ... so that's nice.
  • Oklahoma State's been getting the magazine covers and national-title-sleeper talk, but Texas A&M actually came out ahead in the vote for that assuredly coveted No. 2 spot. And with good reason: A&M (srsly, A&M) has as much skill-position talent as anybody in the country. I could definitely envision a Stanford-in-2010-esque season.
  • Does it mean anything that the top result from my Google search for "Big 12 media day poll" was Baylor's press release about the Bears being picked sixth in the conference? Probably not.
  • The fact that Baylor (Baylor!) is bumping up against Texas and staring down at nearly half the conference is such a remarkable achievement that I'm not even sure what to say about it. Art Briles is the new Greg Schiano.
  • Kansas played in the Orange Bowl three seasons ago, hired Turner Gill when he was one of the most coveted up-and-coming coaches in the country and is now the worst team (by far, apparently) in a not-good conference. At least basketball starts soon.

The things you care about:

Atlantic Division
1. Florida State (65) 420
2. Clemson (4) 286
3. NC State 270
4. Boston College (2) 224
5. Maryland 211
6. Wake Forest 80

Coastal Division
1. Virginia Tech (66) 421
2. Miami (4) 328
3. North Carolina 287
4. Georgia Tech (1) 226
5. Virginia 132
6. Duke 96

ACC Championship Game winner:
1. Florida State 50
2. Virginia Tech 18
3. Clemson 2
4. Boston College 1

ACC Championship Game predictions:
1. Florida State over Virginia Tech 45
2. Virginia Tech over Florida State 15
3. Florida State over Miami 4
T4. Clemson over Virginia Tech 2
T4. Virginia Tech over Clemson 2
T6. Florida State over Georgia Tech 1
T6. Virginia Tech over Boston College 1
T6. Boston College over Virginia Tech 1

ACC Player of the Year:
1. Montel Harris, Boston College 26
2. EJ Manuel, Florida State 14
3. Luke Kuechly, Boston College 12
4. David Wilson, Virginia Tech 8
5. Danny O'Brien, Maryland 4
6. Andre Ellington, Clemson 3
7. Lamar Miller, Miami 2
T8. Sean Spence, Miami 1
T8. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State 1

  • Everything I said about the Big Ten's divisional favorites applies here: If Florida State isn't playing Virginia Tech on December 3, the ACC-loving media will have to manually lift its collective jaw off the floor.
  • There's a lot of faith in Jimbo Fisher's coaching ability. Florida State lost three conference games last year (not to mention the 30-point embarrassment against Oklahoma) and is now starting a quarterback who threw four touchdown passes and four interceptions last year and has a 6-to-10 career ratio, but that hasn't stopped the Return to Glory (TRADEMARK COURTESY OF NOTRE DAME) hype train. I'm not sure FSU is quite ready to make The Leap ... then again, I didn't think Alabama was ready in '09 or Florida was ready in '06 or Ohio State was ready in '02 (you get the idea).
  • Virginia Tech has flown way under the radar this offseason. Maybe it's the lack of identifiable players now that eighth-year senior Tyrod Taylor has finally graduated with his doctorate -- I dunno. They still have David Wilson at running back and Cam Newton wannabe Logan Thomas as everybody's new favorite quarterback, and the schedule is soooooo easy; they'll be favored in every game. It's pretty hard to envision anything worse than 10-2 barring an apocalyptic string of injuries.
  • I'd be interested to see a re-vote in the Coastal Division now that Butch Davis is gone -- not that the order would change much, but I wonder if Georgia Tech would jump UNC.
  • I like Montel Harris, but the player of the year voting says a lot more about the dearth of high-end talent in the ACC than it does about Harris' awesomeness.
  • Clemson gets picked second (approximately) in the division every year and ends up as a perennial disappointment with about a 7-5 record and a berth in the (insert crappy bowl here). One more of those seasons probably gets Dabo Swinney fired -- with the level of talent they've brought in, there's no reason they can't compete with Florida State for the division and start reaching nine-ish wins on a regular basis.
  • John Swofford is probably on his knees each night praying that those four votes for a Miami-Florida State title game are the right ones. Cash money, yo.
  • On a related note, it seems kinda weird that Miami has four title-game-appearance votes and loses to Florida State in every one of them. I mean, FSU is such a heavy favorite that I guess the odds make that not so unreasonable, but there are seven other predictions that don't involve either team.
  • Given the complete mystery that is the Atlantic Division after Florida State, it's just depressing that Wake Forest can't come within 120 freakin' points of the next-to-last-place team in the division. Jim Grobe is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the conference and still can't pull Wake out of the black hole that is Carolina-region football. I would say something similar about Duke, but that's such a given that it's not worth the effort.
Big East

The Big East is so special that it needs to wait until a week after everyone else is done (Tuesday) to have its media day. Since there's a good chance there won't be a single Big East team in the actual preseason top 25 -- West Virginia will probably be close -- I don't feel like waiting and will just make some safe assumptions.

  • TCU can't get here soon enough.
  • West Virginia's gonna be at the top, possibly by a comfortable margin (depending on how much people are buying into South Florida). Hopefully Dana Holgorsen handles pressure a little better than he handled being the coach-in-waiting.
  • USF will be No. 2 and Pitt will probably be third. After that, a blindfolded monkey throwing darts would have as good a chance as anybody else at an accurate projection.
  • Cincinnati has fallen off just a notch or two from the Brian Kelly era, yes?
  • UConn played in a BCS bowl last year. Paul Pasqualoni is now the head coach. Let those two items soak in for a moment and then decide whether they have a better chance at finishing first or last in 2011 (I'll take last).
  • Geno Smith is the obvious pick for preseason player of the year -- he was unexpectedly impressive last year as a sophomore and will be throwing about an extra 150 passes this season under Holgorsen. This could go spectacularly or badly; either way, I'll be entertained and West Virginia will probably still be good enough that its prolific QB will be the most recognizable player in the conference.
So ... it's late and I just pumped out a lot of words that don't really tell you anything new, which is exactly what I strive for. Goal achieved.


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