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Friday, January 13, 2006

So, I dumped a lot of time and effort into a series of Big Ten previews of prodigious length and questionable accuracy. This being the Internet, people can actually go back and read these things, marvel at my incompetence, and flit away, never to be heard from again. I thought I'd dissect them myself... if you have to hear that I'm an idiot, at least you're hearing it from me.


I said... absolutely nothing.

Overall Accuracy: Excellent. If there was one Big Ten team to ignore due to time constraints, Illinois was it.


I said... in summary:
...the forecast for Indiana football remains mostly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of bowl.
...and then...
Hoeppner has proven he's a good coach, but if he turns Indiana into a winner he'll be doing the coaching equivalent of walking on water. The Hoosiers don't need a coach, they need a savior.
And I predicted... That the Hoosiers would end up 3-8 and 1-7 at best in the Big Ten. Indiana ended up 4-7, 1-7.

Eerie Accuracy: A defensive line returning three starters did not impress:
Three of four starters return, but it's doubtful a single offseason has worked wonders--all three returners were juniors last year, not pups fresh out of high school. They're not likely to instantly turn into stout run stoppers. The new face on the defensive line is a redshirt freshman converted offensive lineman. There is no depth whatsoever behind the starters. This unit will be a major hindrance to the team unless Hoeppner works a near-miraculous turnaround.
Disheartening Idiocy:
Redshirt freshman Mike Vlahogeorge has an outside shot of taking the reins if Powers falters.
Vlahogeorge quit football.

Overall: Good, but this was a prediction with a low degree of difficulty. Quick, I'm holding a gun to your head and will fire if you're incorrect: is Indiana going to suck in 2006?


I said... um, not so good.
On November 12th, 2004, the Badgers were 9-0, #4 in the polls and riding an intimidating defense to either the national championship game or the Rose Bowl. Badger fans would do well to wistfully remember that moment. ... Close your eyes and think of Koufax, cheeseheads, because this year is going to be ugly.
10-3 and a Citrus Bowl stomping of Auburn? Sign me up for some of that ugly.

Eerie Accuracy: I did rate the defensive backs a 2 and claim them a "huge question mark."

Disheartening Idiocy: Yeesh. I think "John Stocco sucks" was the conventional wisdom going into the year. It certainly was around these parts:
John Stocco was a mess last year and it would be surprising to see him make it through this year without getting in a serious quarterback controversy. ...I can't understand how he's the starting quarterback of a program with a pulse. ... Stocco has a long way to go. A really, really long way.
I gave him a big fat "1." Prepare for some mindblowing stats: Stocco threw seven more passes in 2005 than he did in 2004 but had 32 additional completions, 12 additional touchdowns, and 921 additional yards. Wisconsin went from 99th to 11th in the country in passing efficiency. Sweet Fancy Moses.

What happened? Paul Chryst returned from pass-nutty Oregon State to become offensive coordinator and lived up to the ridiculous preseason message board hype--a titanic accomplishment. To put it in terms Michigan fans can understand, if Steve Stripling had the impact Chryst did, Lamarr Woodley would have beaten six quarterbacks to death this year with only his right pinky toe.

And I predicted... Goddammit: 5-7 and 2-6 in the Big Ten. The best-case scenario I laid out? 7-5.

Overall: A Gang Of Six-esque projection. Totally useless. In my defense: how was I supposed to know John Stocco would turn into a quarterback and that Brian Calhoun would haunt my dreams?


I said...
Northwestern appears to be relying on Brett Basanez's shaky arm (53.8 completion percentage in '04) to win games next year. They are confused. Basanez is "heady" and "a gamer" but in his case those are just nice ways to say "incapable of throwing straight." ... Never fear, Wildcats, there's always basketball season... uh, the hockey team... um... alums bashing everybody in newspapers nationwide. Yeah. That's the ticket.
Stupid quarterbacks who "improve."

And I predicted... 5-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten. Nortwestern finished the regular season 7-4, then lost to UCLA in the Sun Bowl to finish 7-5.

Eerie Accuracy: Probably the best obscure prediction of the entire enterprise:
Despite his diminutive stature, or perhaps because of it, Sutton could be the 2005 version of Mike Hart. ... Expect to see him on the field sooner rather than later.
Sutton ran for 1474 yards, eighth in the country, and caught 44 passes for 396 yards.

And this was a layup, but I trashed the defensive backfield:
Expect many very short men to escort larger men in various uniforms to the endzone. ... Northwestern is looking at three new starters (with the returning starter switching positions), a set of corners who have difficulty seeing over steering wheels, very little depth, and a history of giving up a ton of pass yards. I would be very surprised to see this unit pick itself up off the canvas this year.
Disheartening Idiocy: You will begin to sense a trend very soon. Like Stocco, Wildcat quarterback Brett Basanez came in for a tongue lashing:
Brett Basanez has a ton of experience but an inaccurate arm. He's a hard-nosed guy who is decently suited for the run-oriented spread option Northwestern runs but doesn't have the athleticism to be a real threat in the run game or the arm to be a true dropback passer. ... He is a limited player who's essentially a version of Craig Krenzel surrounded by middling talent. Yes, he's "heady" and "a gamer" but he's not particularly good.
Also like Stocco, Basanez used his anger at getting trashed on some anonymous dude's blog and turned it into yards and points: 9 more touchdowns, about 800 additional yards, etc. Both the coaches and media selected him first-team All Big Ten.

Overall: Meh. I was two games off on the regular season prediction and severely underrated Basanez, but accurately forecast Sutton as a player and didn't think much of the defense.

Penn State

I said...
Penn State's hope this year rests heavily on [the] defense, which returns 10 starters, the shotgun arm (powerful but inaccurate) of quarterback Michael Robinson, and the fleet feet of freshman uberrecruit Derrick Williams. If the defense can again lock down its opponents and Robinson, Williams, and the rest of the offense can eke out juuuuust enough offense, Penn State will return to a once familiar fairyland: a bowl. Any bowl.
I suppose the Orange Bowl counts as "any bowl," right?

And I predicted... 7-4, 4-4 in the league... certainly not 11-1, but also far better than the conventional wisdom.

Eerie Accuracy: There was a theory running around that the Penn State defense wasn't actually all that good but it looked like it was because the PSU offense was so toothless that opposing coaches got a one-score lead and spent the rest of the game practicing their fullback dives, but I didn't buy it, ranking the DL, LBs, and DBs a 4, 5, and 5, respectively. I called Tamba Hali "Lamarr Woodley-lite" and meant it as a compliment and claimed that the secondary was most definitely "for real." A layup, perhaps, but I take what I can get.

Disheartening Idiocy: It's Michael Robinson's turn in the Hilariously Wrong Preseason QB Trashing Hotseat:
Rating: 1. Can I give this a zero? Joe Paterno, repeat after me: "Michael Robinson is a wide receiver. Michael Robinson is a wide receiver. Michael Robinson is a wide receiver."
Hell, I even made getting rid of him one of my season keys for PSU:
Bench Robinson. Or move him to wide receiver. Unless Jay Paterno works a miracle he's going to be the least accurate quarterback in the league by a country mile--coincidentally the same distance by which he'll miss his WRs.
Oy oy oy. Though Robinson did not deserve the second-team All Big Ten status he received, he was an average passer (mid-50s in efficiency) and capable runner (nearly 1000 yards), which is all the Penn State defense needed to choke bitches nationwide.

Overall: Despite being three games off probably one of the better results. You show me someone who thought Penn State would win the Big Ten and finish 11-1 and I'll show you a 38-year-old mail carrier from Pennsylvania who thinks Michigan pays the refs and is still voting for Eugene V. Debs. (Screen name: sxyPSUgrrl, natch.)

The remainder early next week.