Orson and guest editor Hannibal Montegna review the Squawk Box for the week that was week one. Hold onto your 401Ks.
Washington All comments must be prefaced with this: it's Syracuse. It's Syracuse. Oh, my god, it's one game against Syracuse, the worst fucking team in the Big East who quit in the third quarter, wear uniforms nicked off some dismal post-Soviet collapse Yeltsin-era Russian soccer squad, and have turned the Carrier Dome into the most horrifying and bewildering indoor environment since the Superdome during Katrina. You can just hear the motivational tapes playing in Greg Robinson's head: EXCELSIOR!!! CONFIDENCE!!! POISE!!! EXCELLENCE IS THE PRODUCT OF PREPARATION PLUS SHIT DID THEY JUST SCORE AGAIN...
Yet: Washington has sneakily adopted a spread offense to fit the talents of Jake Locker, a verdant but phenomenally talented freshman qb, and the 4.3 speedster Louis Rankin. Waggishly labeled the "spread coast" offense, Washington’s simplifying the attack has leveled the playing field for the nation’s toughest schedule. You get no data from a matchup with the Syracuse offense–even if they’ve quadrupled the wack factor of the Orange attack by adding the quick kick and the pistol formation to the mess–but the offense alone gives some shred of hope for the Huskies, especially since Locker showed signs of passing competence, too.
(USC, Oregon, Ohio State, and Cal all play at Washington. One of these teams is losing up there. It’s a brave new world–evolve or die!)
Michigan. Do you like value, investor?
Take a junked out blue-chip stock at its crusty, burnt-out nadir. Seriously. Buy it. Michigan cannot go any lower, and plays a.) Oregon, who they could beat, and b.) Notre Dame, who they will beat within an inch of the afterlife with Jimmy Clausen starting his second game at qb. We mean, we DON’T know this because of the tight-lipped secrecy that gives Notre Dame and Michigan the strategic edge in every game they’ve ever played!
Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer, btw, would love for you to have a copy of the playbook. Hell, they’ll tell you the lunch menu for the next week if you like, their waist size, and the quality of their last wrangle with the missus if you really want to know. ("We’ve done better," said Carroll in his press conference.)
Anyway, Michigan got black-swanned. They don’t suck, and won’t suck for the whole 2007 season. They really, really sucked a level of suck unseen in the history of Division 1 Football suckitude this past weekend, yes–but buy now when the rats are swimming from the ship.
Don’t rank them in your blogpoll, of course. That would be madness. But know that by the books, it is a scientific fact that they can’t get any worse because there hasn’t been a worse week for a team not involving death or a plane crash–ever.
Georgia The keg-lifting paid off for the Baby Sex Cannon, who must have hit the o-line to the workout routine, as well: what was thought to be the Achilles’ heel held up nicely, allowing for only two sacks, protected Stafford in a hyperefficient effort and clearing happy, collision-free space for Georgia’s running backs to tally up 142 yards rushing, as much as any team with a constrictoresque defense is going to need to win. Difficult to tell if the game was indicative of Okie State’s shambolic gameplanning or Richt’s teams superb preparation, but we’ll take a moderate gamble and go with UGA quality here. Buy, Simpkins, buy! And another gimlet, please, with the speed of tipsy angels, please…
I agree on Washington: Locker and essentially the entire team looked great, as did Georgia Tech, but I can't get past their opponents just yet. Even the cautious, center-dwelling mantra of Chan (short for "Chandler"?) couldn't conservatize his defense's bloodlust for Notre Dame's whimpering quarterbacks and the blundering line contracted to protect them. The Syracuse score, 42-12, might be a little misleading in its generosity, because the Orange were far worse than it indicates, worse even than the Irish. When Locker rolls up against a defense that doesn't blatantly play dead after the first quarter and that takes a halfway decent angle on his endless keeps around the end, U-Dub might not look so buff. It's also running into a buzzsaw of a schedule: the next four games are Boise State, Ohio State, UCLA and Southern Cal. I'll bite on the Huskies if they come out of that stretch at 2-3.
Anyway, though Georgia, Washington and G-Tech were impressive, none of them showed me anything all that surprising, or that made me completely change my mind about their potential. I'm more willing to jump on a bandwagon that answered a question by unveiling a strength that had been projected as a weakness:
Wisconsin: The only element holding the Badgers out of everybody's top five to start the year was quarterback, and they obviously found their man in Tyler Donovan, a fifth-year senior who looked like he should have been playing ahead of historically milquetoast Jon Stocco the last two years. If it had been suggested P.J. Hill would be held to 84 yards on four per carry prior to the game, whatever the line was against Washington State would have dropped by a touchdown. But Donovan was great (19-29, 284, 3 TDs, 0 INT) and if he adds a more viable passing threat to the offense, Michigan's pending collapse makes Wisconsin the Big Ten favorite. Should be 5-0 when Penn State comes up in Happy Valley.
Oklahoma: North Texas looks about as bad as a Bowl Subdivision team can possibly be, I think, but I'm not convinced Sam Bradford could have done any better in his first start than 21-23 for 363 yards and three touchdowns if he were facing no defense at all. I should probably hold off on this until he looks over at a real defense (Miami comes to Norman Saturday), but like Wisconsin, Oklahoma moves to the front of its conference championship picture if the Sooners found their quarterback. It's a frightening prospect, really. Look at the rest of that team.
I also feel good about Texas Tech and Boston College, a little gumption for a change out of Colorado and, if the distinction is appropriate, First Half Clemson.
I'm reserving judgment on Virginia Tech and Texas until they face competition with sharper teeth this weekend, Florida State showed some signs of life in the second half Monday night and Notre Dame, well, I can't sell what I never bought in the first place.
Oklahoma State: ¡Ay, que lastima, las promesas de los Vaqueros son vacías! What was that? I never expected OSU to stop anybody, even an offense with as many questions on the line as Georgia's going into Saturday, but to only mount two scoring drives, and abandon a fairly successful running game against so much defensive youth was a regression. Bobby Reid went into Georgia a not-so-young, very hyped player expected to take his game to the level suggested by his recruiting hype after a quality debut season, with all sorts of modern weaponry at his disposal, and was decidedly shown up instead by Matt Stafford. The Cowboys will win three of their next four - maybe all four; Texas Tech is a toss-up – but won't fare any better trying to overcome the inevitable points put up by Nebraska and Texas A&M after that, if Saturday is any indication.
Missouri: I hate to be so Big 12-centric in my pessimism, but there is a problem with a supposed division title contender needing true freshman bone-headism from the opposing quarterback and every one of five turnovers to beat Illinois. There's still nothing wrong with the offense here, but the defense just reeks so bad: again, a true freshman entered the game for Illinois and threw for 257 yards, part of 435 yards the Big Ten's reigning doormat put up on the afternoon. Good as it was early, the Tiger offense went the final 25 minutes of the game without scoring, and never would have been in a position to hang on late without Illinois' typical generosity, which included a goalline fumble returned 100 yards for a Tiger touchdown and an eventually crucial field goal on the final play of the first half following a fumbled kickoff. Mizzou's defense always struggles to hold up in the Big 12, and Saturday looked like a regression on that side.
Notre Dame At least Michigan accumulated a respectable 479 yards of offense–Notre Dame can haz 122 yards of offense, plz, versus Georgia Tech. Their offensive line played abhorrently, but worse still shows signs of actually being abhorrent: slow, unable to read blitz packages, and incapable of doing much aside from falling forward in an imitation of proper run blocking.
The defense, too, continues to worry. Corwin Brown’s 3-4 got a steady diet of Choice up the middle in a display of vanilla play-calling practically Michiganesque in its uniform blandness. 265 yards later, vanilla looked terrifying. Combine that weakness on the run with a team able to lob fly patterns over the play-action happy secondary, and bad happens frequently. That could be the theme, this year, for Notre Dame: "Bad happens frequently."
Oh, and Chan Gailey outcoached Charlie Weis. Say that three times in the mirror and see if a man with a meathook doesn’t try to disembowel you.
Florida State. For the moment they’re a sell, since we think they’ll be malevolent in November in time for the Florida matchup. The offensive line still sucks, Drew Weatherford still spends most of the game running himself into and out of trouble, and De’Cody Fagg has, as one of our commenters put it, "hands like Talman Gardner," which is very much not good in case you didn’t know. The incompetence got contagious on Monday night, as even the stalwart defense tackled poorly on two of the three touchdown plays for Clemson.
There’s a time to buy FSU, maybe even as early as mid-October. For the moment, though, this team is the pain of learning writ large on a football field, or if you saw the broadcast last night, made animate in the form of Jimbo Fisher going apeshit in the booth as his offense waltzed into a wood-chipper.
Virginia Tech. All VT needs on offense is a placeholder of a quarterback, a null, dull handoff artist with the ability to throw off bootlegs, easy play-action passes, and the obligatory screens, all totalling something less than 20 times a game. Sean Glennon, meager as the task might seem for a D-1 scholarship qb, cannot do this for reasons not entirely his fault: VT only averaged 1.1 yards a carry on the ground, forcing Glennon to pass for what is an ungodly 33 attempts against the humble ECU defense.
If Glennon is the strength of the VT offense, then this is like being forced to hitch your wagon to the Bulgarian economy as the strongest horse in the Southeastern European market. Ominous music creeps in at this point in the film.
Texas. Depth chart reshuffling promised after a defensive debacle against Arkansas State, resulting in a 21-13 WTFer to scare the coaching staff into instant tinkering mode.
Auburn. Perpetually befuddling in their ability to win games without scoring or looking even close to impressive. Much like a law-school era Bill Clinton, they sleep through the exams before popping awake at the end to give a brilliant answer before stealing your girl for some compassionate scrumping in the Yale library bathrooms. We suspect they’re much better than we anticipated, but that was Ron Prince coaching across from you, Tommy Tuberville–candy, babies, analogy invoked.
Miami. All but certain they can run the ball, tackle people, and bruise kidneys with the best of them, as every time we looked in on this game a Marshall player was being pinballed around by well-aimed white helmets flying for soft, mortal fleshy parts of their anatomies. Kirby Freeman and Patrick Nix may be a flammable combination, though–he appeared Reggie Ballish in his first game, passing for under a hundred yards against Marshall’s less than demanding secondary.
I feel like holding on pretty much everyone after just one week, so I'll focus on a couple of teams whose ships are being rapidly abandoned:
Michigan:> The Wolverines opened up as an eight-point favorite over Oregon Monday, so at least the degenerate gamblers in the house agree that Big Blue's big egg last week was a short-lived lapse. No doubt Saturday is a crucial point for Michigan, though: Oregon is another spread offense with an athletic quarterback (Dennis Dixon ran for 141 against Houston) who can also throw, death for the Michigan defense, and the Wolverines will have to earn back every bit of respect. I won't be able to dump them fast enough with another loss, but let's see what kind of attitude this team has first.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack were very reminiscent Saturday of Florida State (another team I'm not writing off), completely tanking the first half against Central Florida and trailing 25-0 for its troubles. But once Nebraska transfer Harrison Beck replaced Daniel Evans at quarterback, it was a completely different offense: the Pack scored 23 unanswered in the second half and could have tied on a late two-point conversion. It couldn't get much lower than losing to UCF at home in Tom O'Brien's debut, but discovering Beck might be worth it in the long run. Pivotal game Saturday at Boston College.