Hot Routes: So Much for an ACC or Big Ten Revival
So I realize I'm a bit late to the beat-a-dead-horse party, but hey, it was Labor Day weekend, and I don't recover quite like I used to. And what dead horse am I referring to, you ask? Why, I'm talking about the ACC and my favorite target, the Big Ten.
While pundits nationwide already have written their columns on the subject, I just had to put in my two cents.
- The Big Ten, hoping to get out of week one with some easy victories and without a black eye, might need to start calling division II schools for preseason games next year. The flagship program, Ohio State, needed a botched two-point conversion to escape a service academy. I know, Navy isn't terrible by any means, but no matter what improvements they've made the past few seasons, they shouldn't compete with the likes of Ohio State.
Illinois, a team some picked as a potential sleeper in the conference, looked like a team of eighth graders taking on the varsity in getting shellacked by Missouri. Iowa needed two consecutive blocked kicks to beat Northern Iowa at home.
The Golden Gophers needed a monumental brain fart from Greg Paulus to escape Syracuse (a team won a single game last year) with a W. Wisconsin won by eight against Northern Illinois, and Indiana escaped Eastern Kentucky by six.
My friend Skahen, an ardent Big Ten and Minnesota backer, refused to admit that any of those instances is worse than Oklahoma losing to BYU or Colorado dropping to Colorado State, which may have been more one of the more asinine things I've heard in a while.
Yes, Oklahoma losing to the Cougars hurts the perception of the conference, but that said, any real fan of college football knew going in that OU wasn't the same team as last year. Any time you have to replace four starting offensive lineman (including the center, who has to make all the checks at the line of scrimmage), you're going to struggle with pass protection.
Naturally, my pointing out that BYU was 10-3 last year (with a loss to undefeated Utah and top-15 TCU) was to no avail.
His argument, like that of anyone who follows mediocre teams, is that a win is a win, it doesn't matter how it's done. To a point, I agree with him. Obviously as long as you win, that's what counts in the standings. But this isn't the NFL, where an 8-8 team can make the playoffs.
In college football, HOW you win is almost as important as the win itself, because voters are watching, and their perception of your team's performance can be the difference between the BCS and the Holiday Bowl.
In addition to that, I would argue that BYU, with the exception of maybe Penn State, would beat any team in the Big Ten this year.
-Speaking of Michigan, their victory in the season opener sets up next week's game against Notre Dame as another no-win situation for me. If Michigan wins, everybody jumps on the "Michigan is coming back!" bandwagon. If Notre Dame wins, they will jump to No. 7 in the AP poll because of the media's love affair with them.
Watching these teams play each other the last two seasons was like watching two pee-wee teams play against each other. Sloppy, ugly football all around. Thankfully at least this season Notre Dame has good enough studs to make easy work out of the Wolverines.
- Despite the national media's pro-ACC campaign before the season, the conference was dealt a black eye this past week....well, maybe two black eyes and a bloody nose. The conference went 4-6 in non-conference games, with the only real threat for a national title berth (Virginia Tech) falling to Alabama.
I'm not ripping on Tech, because Alabama is absolutely loaded on defense, but still, that was really the conference's best shot at getting a team into the race, something they desperately needed. At least they had the Florida State/Miami epic to draw some of the attention away from an otherwise putrid start to the 2009 season.
- Despite Oklahoma's loss and Colorado's hiccup against Colorado State, the Big 12 could have been a lot worse off. Sure, it's not like the schedule was brutal, as most of the conference opened with a veritable buffet of cream puffs. That said, the marquee wins were a huge help for the league's image, especially with the Sooners going down.
Oklahoma State stamped itself as a legitimate threat for the conference title with a victory over Georgia (the Cowboys get Texas at home...on Halloween), Baylor made a huge stride towards bowl eligibility with a win over Wake Forest, and Missouri rolled in the aforementioned game over Illinois.
My question about the Mizzou-Illini game is this: Is Missouri that good, or is Illinois that terrible? Everyone had thought that the Tigers would fall off considerably after losing Daniel, Maclin, and most of it's secondary. Instead, they dominated Juice Williams and stamped themselves as a legitimate threat in the Big 12 North.
I originally thought that Nebraska would win the game in Columbia, but after Mizzou's performance this past week, it looks like a legitimate three-team race in the North.
-Oklahoma, in addition to Bradford's injury, now has to also deal with tight end Jermaine Gresham being out for the year due to torn cartilage in his knee. While I'm sure OU has no shortage of talent on the bench, it still has to hurt to lose the best tight end in the conference, and perhaps the country, for the duration of the season.
Looking at the Sooners schedule, one has to wonder how they are going to respond to the injuries and suddenly being on the outside of the national title race looking in.
They still have to play Miami, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas Tech away from home, though at least they get Okie State at home. Obviously teams can still win the national championship with one loss. Hell, LSU won it with two a couple years back.
The question is, if the Sooners don't get their pass protection shored up, might they lose one or even two more games before the season is over?
And can Landry Jones use the next two weeks to up his profile in hopes of landing an adult film contract for that Porn-stache of his? Should be an interesting ride for the Sooners the rest of the season.
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