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Friday, June 16, 2006

This one can be found over at Bruce Ciskie's blog.

Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?

This will likely result in castigation and exile from the CFB blogosphere, but I have never read, let alone bought, Lindy's, Athlon, Steele, or any other of the midsummer bricks full of... er... stuff, I assume. Presumably the pages are not blank, but that's only a projection.

Is this an inexplicable omission or a rare moment of sanity in my life? This depends on your opinion of college football, I guess, but I've never really found the idea of paying for something produced by the same people who voluntarily publish Matt Hayes to be a good one. So The Sporting News is out. Lindy's, Athlon, and their ilk all seem to be like the Sporting News except more vapid, from what I've seen on the Internet. It's all the same thing: X is coming back, Y is leaving, the game against Z is on the road, oh my. This is just my perception, but it seems that the content of the preview mags is on essentially the same level as CFN's thorough-but-utterly-devoid- of-intelligence-or-use previews.

I will admit that EDSBS's constant pimping of Phil Steele's wackronyms, heavy breathing, and copious esoteric statistics has piqued my interest. If I run across it, I may purchase it.

What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?

For the last fifteen years you could have said "Notre Dame" and been absolutely correct twelve or thirteen times, but I've already covered that opinion before and others have already beat the ND sux drum, so I'll take a pass.

I have a general theory that serves as a heuristic when looking for overrated/underrated teams: find the extremes at either end of turnover margin. Since turnovers are both critical and relatively rare, teams that enjoyed hugely positive turnover margins a year ago are probably overrated and vice versa. The hand of chance has favored them and the likely reversion to the mean will catch any starry-eyed fans a nasty slap across the cheek. There are a couple of factors that can either mitigate or inflate the effect: quarterback experience and quarterback pressure, the two things that I think make a contribution to turnover margin that is something more than chance.

For example: USC was a staggering +21 a year ago. There's no way they even reach the Rose Bowl if Arizona State doesn't gift them five interceptions or Fresno State four. This year they lose third-year starter and sorta-good Matt Leniart; into his place walks a totally inexperienced freshman. A bunch of offensive linemen are also gone. I'd expect their turnover margin to plummet this year and their performance along with it. Now, there's a long way to plummet from THE BEST ONE LOSS TEAM IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL HISTORY(!!!) to 10-3 or 9-4, but I'd put that as their baseline this year. They's overrated.

Also on the ominous-turnover-margin chopping block:

  • TCU. I can't be bothered to look up who they return -- it's only SMQB's existence and USM affiliation that causes me to even acknowledge the existence of non-BCS teams after the Alamo Bowl -- but they led the nation with USC at +21 and did it in one fewer game.
  • West Virginia, just for those of you looking for more anti-'Eer ammo. They were +14.
  • Georgia. Plus 11 a year ago, now minus Shockley and possibly starting true freshman Matt Stafford. Yikes.
  • Notre Dame was +10 a year ago and only lost 14 turnovers total. Just six fumbles lost is well below average.
  • Not Florida. They were third but the return of longtime ladyback Chris Leak and most of a slavering, inhumane defense means they could well replicate their peformance or at least come near it. Ditto Wisconsin, with senior John Stocco returning along with eight defensive starters.
Turn the tables. Who is underrated?

Um. Argentina? Wrong football? Okay. I just want to point out that they did score a touchdown against Serbia & Montenegro, though they did miss the extra point.

All of a sudden I hate the turnover heuristic, since the team it points to most strongly as underrated is Ohio State. Damn damn damn. The only explanation that I can offer for the fact that OSU's badass defense only acquired twelve turnovers a year ago is that opposing offenses generally only got three chances each drive to give it away. There's no explanation for the sixteen fumbles lost, though, and since Troy Smith returns the chances of coming close to last year's paltry five interceptions are good. Of course, it's hard to be underrated when people are putting you in the top five without exception.

Despite that, I do think OSU is overrated, since they lost not only nine defensive starters but two first round picks on the other side of the ball. The heavily hyped OSU offense had the dual benefits of playing opposite that badass defense, which got the offense tons of opportunities in favorable field position, and playing out much of the season against crippled retard defenses. Michigan's eminently mediocre unit from a year ago was by far the best defense OSU saw after PSU. I would be surprised if Ginn & Co did not disappoint.

So that's not really an "underrated" pick, and I ain't saying Michigan. Must find someone... how about Wisconsin? They did obliterate Auburn a year ago, holding Kenny Irons and the rest of the high-powered Auburn offense to 236 yards. Eight starters from that young defense that performed very well against the run a year ago return, including monster defensive tackles Nick Hayden and Justin Ostrowski. Plus John Stocco went from loser to lethal a year ago, finishing in the top ten in passer efficiency. His blindside is protected by Joe Thomas, a projected top-five NFL draft pick.

There is the matter of repairing the putrid secondary and replacing... er... every offensive starter aside from Stocco and the two tackles. But an experienced quarterback and what should be a vicious front seven is a good start.

Which conference will be the best in 2006?

The Big Ten or the SEC or the ACC. Or the Big Twelve.

Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?

Anybody but the goddamned Sun Belt.

Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?

Well, we've discussed the improbable turnover margin of TCU, so not them. Can I say Illinois?

Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.

Mike Hart. Because Mike Hart is awesome.