Sunday, September 18, 2011

P6 2011: The Ballad of Group D

Oh come around my friends, and listen close to me
As I sing this song to you, a tale to tell to thee
About these five ball teams, as sad as they can be
It's the autumn of their discontent, the Ballad of Group D.*

I've been playing the Pick Six game since 2005, the first year that Blue Gray Sky organized the game. (That's me way down at 32 points. Louisville, Purdue, Virginia? Did I think it was a basketball league?) I'm pretty sure I entered each year through 2009**, when BGS hung it up and I started my own version in 2010.

And in that time, I've seen some unexpected climbs (TCU and Boise, to name two) and stunning crashes. But I can't recall an entire grouping falling so far so fast as this preseason's 16 through 20: Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State, Georgia and Mississippi State.

Actually, maybe this is a better soundtrack: Group D is coming onto something so fast, so numb that they can't even feel.

The pain started early. ND and Georgia faced tough opponents: a motivated, Skip Holtz-coached South Florida and Top 5 Boise State. Although both had home field advantage ('Dogs were in the Georgia Dome), both fell flat. Week 2 did no more favors, with close, high-scoring losses to rivals (Michigan and South Carolina). Both got feel-good beatdowns yesterday to move to 1-2, but both remain unranked.

Mississippi State looked the part of a Top 25 team by crushing hapless Memphis in its first game. But then they lost on the road to Auburn (who themselves had just fallen out of the poll), and on Thursday looked helpless against the crushing LSU defense. They stand at 1-2 and are unranked.

Meanwhile, the Big Ten duo racked up four wins. Ohio State looked shaky against a motivated in-state MAC Attack, but we'd all seen that before. MSU crushed their cupcakes. But that facade crumbled Saturday. A fired-up Notre Dame did to MSU what they'd done to their previous opponents, but this time finished the job. Miami made Al Golden's home debut one to remember with a convincing win over a ranked foe (and a measure of revenge for OSU's 36-24 win last year.)

As of this afternoon's poll, these five, who started with a cumulative 40 points, are all out. You can find them slumming in the "also receiving votes" ghetto. For context, the bottom five who started with 15 points now have 24 points thanks to climbs by Florida and West Virginia (plus Southern Cal).

What does the future hold? Of these five, Sparty and the Irish have the best chances to rebound, and I'm not saying that because I watched them live yesterday. Ohio State has deep flaws that were just waiting to be exposed. As I wrote in my preview:
Ohio State is a litmus test on how important you think Tressel and Pryor are/were. My sense is they will lose at least 2, probably 3, games they would have won with one or the other. So a 10-2/Top 10 season becomes 7-5/unranked. 
I think yesterday showed that those two guys were that important. (The OSU radio team that we heard seemed to think as much.) Toledo laid out the blueprint but didn't have the horses to hang with OSU. I didn't see the game, but Miami clearly took that plan and ran it to perfection. You know that Big Ten teams will be able to do what Miami could and Toledo couldn't.

Ok, what about the rest of the Pick Six game?

Ooof. Our collective scores took a bath. In addition to the three "D"s I mentioned above, Arizona State and Auburn also fell out. Those five represent 42 selected teams in the game. Add in Florida State (14 players have the Seminoles) and a lot of people dropped. The game's average score fell 3.5 points from 62.4 to 58.9.

But there were a couple bright spots:

Oh jeez this is awful. But what can you do... I don't pick these team names.

Moving up from 31st to FIFTH (yes I believe that is a record 26 slots in one week) is "C'mon Irene," the hurricane-themed entry that benefitted from West Virginia and Texas moving up, in addition to minor bumps from the A-B-C groupings. Plus 11 points in one week, nice job Jordan!

Enough jibber-jabber, who's winning?

This is a "Single D" battery. I sure hope the manager for the Single D and Double D teams send me a picture of themselves, because there are too many tempting possibilities online to illustrate those concepts. But one of the game's youngest players steps (crawls? gurgles?) into the lead with what has become near-perfect picks of Oklahoma, Stanford, Wisconsin and Florida.

Standings as always are here ... read 'em and weep.

* If you didn't know (and it's okay if you didn't, as we aim to educate you about folk music in addition to college football), that is Woody Guthrie, who is happy as hell (in heaven) his Okies beat Florida State last night. Learn about him at the official web site.

** For what it's worth, by 2009 I figured out what I was doing and finished with 76 points.

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