College Football starts today, so we’ll (briefly) take a look at the national picture in this week Blogpoll Rountable. Hosting the Preseason Week festivities is Georgia blog Hey Jenny Slater.
1. Without naming names, a few teams seem to have popped up frequently on everyone’s “overrated” lists in the preseason, so let’s forget about them for the moment and concentrate on a different group: sleepers. Which currently unheralded team are you currently putting at least a few of your chips behind in the hopes that you’ll be able to say “totally called that” once they’ve accomplished big things by the end of the season?
Cincinnati. I know they’re the defending conference champs, but the program is still extremely obscure, and the Big East being shut out from the polls makes anyone from the conference “unheralded”. Their offense is relatively intact, more so than West Virginia, Rutgers or UConn. Also, take a look at their schedule. If the Bearcats can win in Corvallis on September 19th, 10-2 or even 11-1 isn’t out of the question.
2. In a similar vein, pick a sleeper player on your team whom nobody’s talking about right now and tell us why we will be talking about them by December.
I could say wide receiver Dwight Jones or running back Jamal Womble, but I will go with Grant Shallock. Yes, punter Grant Shallock. He is 6-7, 225 pounds, can boot a football into the upper deck and could beat Matt Bosher in a deathmatch. And Matt Bosher is the world’s toughest kicker. Shallock is my darkhorse pick for the Ray Guy Award, if there’s such a thing as darkhorse for the Ray Guy Award.
3. Florida is about as big a consensus favorite as we’ve seen in recent years, but remember, USC got 62 out of 65 first-place votes in the AP’s 2007 preseason poll and still managed to lose to Stanford. Given how difficult it is to go undefeated period these days, where do you think the Gators are most likely to stumble in the regular season?
I oh so badly want to say the repeat’s not going to happen. The odds against a team being the best at their level, in any sport besides European club soccer, are mind-bogglingly high. The mere nature of amateur athletics makes it even less likely. Even the unstoppable 2005 USC and 2002 Miami teams were denied in the final seconds of their season. And yet, I look at their schedule, look at who returns to the team, and I can’t possibly justify not putting them at #1. There are only three possible roadblocks: Baton Rouge on October 10th, the SEC Chapionship and the BCS bowl. They could falter, but I have to see it to believe it.
4. Which regular-season game not involving your team or conference are you most looking forward to this year?
The Red River Shootout. I could hand a carnie at the Texas State Fair literally anything that somewhat resembled food (say, Hakarl) and they will bread and deep fry it for me. For chrissakes, they found a way to fry butter! It’s more than a rivalry game, it’s a culinary event that combines the best of Mexico and Scotland. (Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be an inaccurate description of Texas itself.) Who can pass that up?
Oh, and there’s that whole “national title implications” thing.
5. In honor of Georgia’s opening-weekend opponent and their most prolific booster, let’s say you somehow come into T. Boone Pickens money and can buy anything you want for your program — facilities upgrades, an airplane for recruiting, buy out the contract of that coach you hate, you name it. Where does your first check go?
A distant Colombian relative finds El Dorado directly underneath his house. He sells the mining rights for billions of dollars. Somehow, a percentage of this fortune makes its way into my bank account. I use part of that money to buy a 1,000 acre compound in Cashiers, North Carolina. I invite every referee in the ACC to my compound to “discuss what games to affect this season”, promising payment at the end of the meeting. Sensing absolutely nothing unusual (I’m looking at YOU, Ron Cherry), they oblige. I proceed to trap them all in the compound and lure each referee into an unnecessarily complex, yet thoroughly satisfying, Bond-style death.
I watch from a room with 20 TV screens and eat fried ostrich with beautiful bikini-clad women as everything unfolds. I pay Wolf Blitzer to report that they died invading a tiny Caribbean nation or something. I pay John Swofford to bring in Mongolian Wrestling refs who, in addition to wearing festive outfits and being the coolest old guys on the planet, allow teams like Wake Forest to score 80 points per game.
It’s morning in the ACC.