Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Pick Six (And National Preview, Kinda)

Before I announce my Pick Six teams (which according to tradition, all one year of it, is done on the Thursday before the first Saturday), let’s look back at last year's set.

Last year's Pick Six, in truck-fail format.

Out of sheer boredom, I predicted whether teams would finish better or worse than their preseason standing. I got 11 right. Sounds pretty bad, but consider the AP voters as a whole: they only got 14 of the eventual 25 teams in their preseason poll—and that does not take into account relative standing. For example, they had Bama at #24 (went 12-0 until the conference championship and bowl game) and LSU at #7 (unranked at end of regular season, finished with 5 losses at #23). They whiffed hard on Clemson and Auburn (of course, kitty and I did too), and both have new coaches.

Now, forward to the present. Like last year, I shall explain my picks and in a roundabout way, forge a sort-of preseason gauge of my own.

Group A: Florida has nowhere to go but down. They are the consensus favorite for a reason, but history shows how difficult it is to repeat in college football. USC is the most dominant program over the last seven years—it’s almost amazing they only have one BCS championship over that stretch. Like Alabama, they have a new quarterback (a true freshman at that), and enough holes to fill that I’m nervous about their ability to make it to the final game. So it comes down to Texas-Oklahoma. Like last year, this should go a long way to determining the national championship. I think the Longhorns have the talent (and the chip on their shoulder) to win this game, and every other game on their slate. As tempted as I am to pick Alabama (partially because I think they can take the conference if/when Florida stumbles, mostly if only to hear Paulette say “I HATE NICK SABAN” milliseconds after anyone in the room says “Nick Saban”), the ‘Horns are my team.

Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban.

Group B: Virginia Tech appears to be the consensus pick of the ever-muddled ACC, but I’m not sold on Tyrod Taylor as QB. Plus their star RB just went down with a season-ending injury. I am not on the Ole Miss bandwagon, seeing as how many strong SEC teams they face. I have never believed in Okie State … I think they are the Kansas of the Big 12 South (ie, totally a mirage). Penn State loses too much offensive talent for my comfort, and to get to the conference title they will have to go through … Ohio State? I’m picking the Bucknuts again? Holy crap, I guess I am. Sigh. (Just kidding. I really do think they are the best team in the Big 10, and Pryor’s sophomore year will be better than his first.) And look, they aren’t totally classless.

Group C: LSU did not impress me with their five-loss season, and Jordan Jefferson does not impress me as a QB. I’m sure they will bounce back, but I’m not risking my Pick Six pick on them. Ditto for Georgia: after losing Stafford and “No Shonn Greene” Moreno, what merits them being No. 13? Cal had their chance last year, and no way I’m rooting for the Smurf Turf school. Meanwhile, sitting there ripe for the Pick Sixing is Georgia Tech, who runs Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense that everyone said wouldn’t work against BCS-conference opponents. It’s Johnson’s second year in the system, and I’m looking for a repeat of or improvement over last year’s 9-3.

Group D: I’m not picking FSU on principle. Don’t even know how good they are, and I’ve already got my ACC school. Oregon is a gigantic question mark. The NYT has them at 12, Phil has them out of the Top 40. As much as I’d love to have QUACK in my Pick Six, I just don’t have a grip on this team. So now you look at the muddle of BCS busters. Utah must replace their star quarterback. TCU has some significant losses too, and trips to Virginia and Clemson could hurt their W-L record. BYU gets both of the other two at home, has senior Max Hall at QB, and a desire to erase ugly '08 losses to the Utes and Frogs. Good enough for me. (Ed note: Except, um, BYU plays Oklahoma AND Florida State. Oops.)

Group E: The Pick Six is hosted by a Notre Dame blog. Excitement is sky-high, so everyone will pick the Irish. I’d love to take the Hawkeyes instead, but no less an authority than the head coach said: “It's really conceivable we have a better team than last year and have a record that doesn't indicate that.” And that was before the starting CB broke his ankle and the starting RB re-hurt his previously hurt knee (both out for the year). I think Kansas is a joke, I don’t want another ACC team, so that means I’m going to make someone in Madison, Wisconsin, very happy:

That’s right Kelly, I’m going with ...

...your Huskers. My source in Omaha, Husker Larry, isn’t terribly optimistic, and Coach Pelini just booted the No. 2 RB off the team. But I like the leadership he’s brought to the team, and the schedule is manageable. Eight or nine wins isn’t unreasonable. If Iowa and/or ND have great seasons, I will enjoy the ride. But if Nebraska has a great season, I’ll enjoy the Pick Six points.

And now the all important Pick Sixth. This is where you can really make up some ground. I had trouble finding a team this year. South Florida looks good … but then they always look good, and always choke. Not again. Other Big Easters lurking in the “also receiving votes”: Pitt, RRRRutgers, W. F’n Va, Cincy. No thanks. Illinois and Michigan State are absolute wildcards, and I don’t feel like rooting for another in-conference team.

To introduce how I moved down the coast from last year’s pick, think back to 2008: a veteran coach with a bit of a slimy reputation is coming off a so-so campaign in his first year with his new team. Everyone said they were a year away from really contending, and yet they went 12-0. So who is this year's slimeball coach, and what is his team?

There are numerous ways for this to look stupid:
  1. As of this Aug. 25 report, the O-Line is two freshmen, two sophomores, and a senior. Maybe I’m a couple years early on this pick?
  2. After that stunning upset of Tennessee on Labor Day night, (which may not have been that stunning after all, given UT’s backslide) UCLA went on to get steamrolled by 59-0, 41-20, 34-6 and 34-9, and finish 5-7. At least 'Bama was in every game they lost in 2007 (6 losses all by >7 points), which shoots a big hole in my theory.
  3. The QB is a redshirt freshman named Kevin Prince. Zero collegiate snaps.
  4. Games @Oregon State and @Southern Cal are near-automatic losses, and two of the tossup games (Stanford and Arizona) are on the road.
  5. No one is picking them, really, given the strength of USC, Oregon, Cal, maybe Oregon State, maybe one of the Arizonas.
In my defense:
  1. Winning at Tennessee in Week 2, albeit over a down Vols team, should count with the voters.
  2. Kansas State is another BCS opponent, who is also looking at a sub-.500 season with a new coach. A victory there would help in the rankings.
  3. Norm Chow is an offensive genius and if anybody can whip this team into shape, it’s him.
  4. Phil likes the Bruins for third in the conference.
  5. Logic doesn’t necessarily play a part. Anything can happen, because it’s DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL, BROTHER! (If you just want the audio directly, go here. Crank up the volume.)
After looking at my teams, I discovered a theme, one you may have picked up on if you were paying attention:

Behold my awesome MS Paint ability.

Nebraska, UCLA and Georgia Tech have second-year coaches (and Ohio State starts a second-year quarterback), ready to improve on last year. BYU and Texas came oh-so-close last year, and are ready to make a second run at glory.

Good luck to all who are playing! Keep us posted on your picks, even the bad ones like Missouri, in the comments as the season goes along.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Yeah, yeah, Missouri. We'll see. You've heard my theory.

Meanwhile, bravo on your (almost perfect) picks. Looks like this year it's live together, die alone, Jack-style (we are on season four now, you know).