Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Five Thoughts from the Weekend

By Ernest Faulkner

Don’t believe the hype!
Michigan’s rise to No. 5 in the nation was shown Saturday to be nothing more than a media feeding frenzy, showing its deference to the Big Ten. A loss to Appalachian State was a shocker, but if you look closely, the warning signs for the Wolverines’ downfall were there all along. Michigan’s ranking was based on two things: 1, Its 11-2 record last season and 2. Returning starters Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Mario Manningham.

Here is where there are flaws: Michigan’s success last season was built on its defense, not its offense. The Wolverines held opponents to an average of 12.09 points a game going into the match-up with Ohio State in 2006. The best offenses Michigan faced in that stretch were Notre Dame and Wisconsin in consecutive weeks. The Irish managed 21 points, while the Badgers only scored 13. Michigan itself averaged 29.2 points a game last season, but the average is inflated by blowouts against teams with poor defenses like Notre Dame, Central Michigan, Michigan State, Ball State and Indiana. Those are the only teams the Wolverines scored 30 points or more against prior to the 42-39 loss to Ohio State. The losses on Lamar Woodley and Alan Branch were greater than imagined and three skill players do not a national title team make. The Wolverines may have a shot at the Big Ten, but the thoughts of a national title or Lloyd Carr remaining another season are gone with the wind.

Tennessee has growing up to do
A new group of receivers, a quarterback with a broken pinkie and a new secondary may have been a little too much uncertainty to pit up against a top 15 team with a grudge. The Vols offense still looks underpowered and a defense that gives up 45 points after having months to prepare is no where close to competing in the SEC or anywhere else. Make no mistake, California was preparing for this game since September 2006, but if you are supposed to contend of the SEC East. You have to put up a better defensive performance than that. Tennessee has bounced back before after a glaring blowout and after the impending shelling Southern Miss will face this weekend in Knoxville, the Vols travel to Gainesville for Florida on Sept. 15. That will be the measuring stick to apply to Tennessee.

Louisville’s performance was more impressive than Oklahoma
While both teams hung over 70 points on their opening weekend opponents, Louisville remains more impressive in my mind. Yes, the Cardinals brought back Brian Brohm and most of their playmakers from last season and they were only playing Murray State, but to have a new head coach in Steve Kragthorpe, a new philosophy and still manage 73 points shows Louisville hasn’t lost a step since the departure of Bobby Petrino. However, after only one easy game, Louisville will still travel to West Virginia, South Florida and host Rutgers in its last three weeks, so there are many mountains left to climb.
At this point, Bob Stoops is as entrenched at Oklahoma as it gets. He has a pipeline of talent running to Norman and it really doesn’t matter if they have new quarterbacks or running backs. The Sooners have nothing to prove against North Texas except that Bobby still likes to hang 79 points in there to ensure he can get a bump in the polls. Hang 79 on Miami this week, and then I will be impressed.

The top 10 is filled with pretenders
Of the AP’s current top 10 teams, only Wisconsin and California defeated reasonable opponents last weekend. LSU gets a free ride for opening with conference foe Mississippi State and no one in the top 10 would take on USC early, but this is another example of why polls this early are nothing but hype. West Virginia’s schedule sets up easy with Marshall, Maryland and East Carolina before a real test with South Florida on Sept. 28. Florida hasn’t proven anything by beating Western Kentucky and has Troy this week. The first big test is against a questionable Tennessee team next week and after railing Ole Miss on Sept. 22, they get Auburn at home— who has plenty of questions to answer. Wisconsin’s schedule looks easier all the time as the Big Ten appears to be weak this season. Oklahoma will be tested by Miami, who it is not as impressive anymore and Texas has a major test in TCU. When did you think you would ever say that? Louisville should coast past Kentucky and not be tested until N.C. State on Sept. 29. Virginia Tech has much more to prove than LSU this weekend and California is on easy street until Sept. 29 at Oregon.
It is tough to rank a top 10 this early in the season, which is why it shouldn’t happen until October, when you have to actually prove something.

Auburn and Georgia still have a lot to prove
These teams are on the opposite ends of the momentum spectrum, but they both have a lot left to show. Georgia moved up to 11 this week after beating Oklahoma State 35-10. The Dogs should probably be higher then that considering the teams above them, but they aren’t because while the Cowboys are a major conference opponent, they aren’t that good. This is a team that went 7-6 last season and made it a winner against a transitioning Alabama. They used to be known as the team where only a running back was good in the Les Miles days and now only has a receiver. Last time I checked, Georgia at its worst could still top teams with only one decent receiver. Stafford performed well and looked like a college starter, but he wasn’t really tested. This week hosting South Carolina should show how much Stafford has progressed.
Auburn has a tested quarterback in Brandon Cox, but doesn’t have much else to show. Kansas State might be a hair above Ok. State simply because they have won the Big 12 before, but they are by no means a power right now and they gave Auburn fits. The South Florida game this week looks scarier all the time and if Auburn’s offensive line woes, or offensive woes period, don’t straighten out a lot this week, it will be a long season.
Ernest Faulkner is a professional writer who is known as being the first sports writer to be an "auteur." Mr. Faulkner operates in secrecy among the shadows of the journalism business hoping to avoid their lunacy. During his time in "the biz" he has worked for some of the top publications in the world. You can contact him at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good job!