NCAA Football: 5 Quick Questions
1. Who has the best uniform in NCAA football?
I've always said Penn State, but as far as uniforms go, that plain look is pretty ubiquitous, and my tastes change regularly. I liked the Florida State uniforms from about ten years ago, circa Warrick Dunn and Danny Kanell, that had the little faux Indian-style print at the end of the sleeves and around the neckline. I'm partial to gold helmets and pants, though (perhaps because I've always been a huge New Orleans Saints fan), which also explains why I like Washington's very sleek current look. I don't dislike Oregon's as much as most people, but they're nowhere near the top. Oregon State's, because I also hate the logo, are worse.
Good uniforms are usually plain uniforms and therefore pretty similar, though, so I pay a lot more attention to the logo. Simple letters or a script word won't do; as with mascots, I like logos that represent something quirky and regional and well-designed: Arkansas' running hog, South Carolina's squawking rooster (they should lose the giant 'C,' though), Colorado's buffalo, Washington's husky head (not used on the helmets for some reason). The best of this variety is definitely Texas' longhorn head.
2. Who's really the number 2 team in the country (assuming Ohio St. is number 1)?
Am I being set up here? Monday, I addressed the notion of Ohio State as the presumptive number one, and even though I have the Buckeyes ranked number one, I don't like the assumption. It's still a pretty open race and a lot of teams are in it, and Ohio State shouldn't be presumed.
For consistency's sake, I rank teams based on their "resume," that is, what they've done to date this season in terms of wins and losses, with no regard whatsoever to what they might do the rest of the season or where they were ranked in the preseason (or where they were ranked last week). I don't take into account personnel or "strengths" and "weaknesses," and this is why always emphatically remind readers that my rankings are not a power poll of which team I think is "better." I don't have a method to judge that on a consistent basis. The "resume" system may be idiosyncratic in its own way, because there is such mad inconsistency between the way so many teams play from week to week (look at Auburn and Arkansas, for example), but I think it's the most fair. That's why Virginia Tech and Georgia aren't on this week's ballot – they haven't beaten anyone. Neither has, say, Rutgers, but at least the Knights have had the decency to not get beat themselves. It's a very tricky, imprecise game, these rankings.
Anyway, I get the feeling Ohio State is number one because it sort of fell there among many presumably flawed teams at the beginning of the year, when there was no dominant frontrunner a la USC the last two years, then got its big win early and has held on by not screwing up. By its resume, I have OSU number one myself because its games against Texas, Iowa and Penn State – considering margin of victory as well – represent the best trio of wins any team has, and none of the weaker rabble in between has given the Buckeyes any trouble. By the same merits, because it's beaten Tennessee, Alabama and now LSU in slightly closer fashion, Florida jumped up this week to number two. And it's a pretty close number two. So by that standard, the "second-best" team would be Florida.
But if I was taking a more "holistic" view, as most voters seem to do, and looked at personnel and what I thought was going to happen over the remaining course of the season based on "strengths" and "weaknesses," my number one right now, even over Ohio State, would probably be Michigan. I very highly value stopping the run, because this is the most common trait among many national champions, and Michigan is the best statistically and personnel-wise in that regard. Ohio State, meanwhile, has had some trouble there – as I said Monday, it hasn't mattered because OSU hasn't played anyone with the patience or the defense to be able to feasibly play slow down, clock-grinding ball into the second half, but Michigan would love to get into that kind of game. The difference is also that the Wolverines are pretty clearly capable of going big play on you over the top, too, and rushing the passer, etc. on defense. Michigan is the most complete team, in my opinion – not that that should be construed as a prediction for the teams' game in November. There's a lot of time between now and then.
My concern with Florida, for the record, is its running game – banging Tim Tebow into the line as often as possible notwithstanding. It's hard to run the gauntlet UF still has to run – Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State (albeit a very, very weakened and average Florida State), SEC Championship – if you can't control the clock and grind out first downs at the ends of games, etc. It's come through so far, mainly because of defense and special teams, but the Tebow Effect has probably reached its nadir. I am still waiting for Urban Meyer to Notre Dame Box it.
3. What's the game to watch this weekend?
This speaks more on the lameness of the weekend than anything else, but it must be Auburn and Florida. It's odd, because you take last weekend's big winner, against the weekend's big loser, and still I doubt most fans who have been following the game long enough to know not to be so reactionary about those kinds of singular games will have as much confidence in Florida as one might expect. This is sort of a trendsetting game: if Florida wins, I might move them to 1, and they really have an invincible, "just win, baby" air about them, similar to Ohio State a few seasons ago. It ain't pretty, but it gets the job done, etc., and they have the Tebow gimmick to keep excitement up.
On the other side, Auburn's goose is cooked if it loses two straight, especially at home. Its season is either a raging disappointment by mid-October or back on track, resurrected, entirely depending on what happens Saturday. Kenny Irons' foot is going to have a lot to do with this.
My initial reaction is to go with Florida's methodical "Ugly W," but I don't make picks until Friday morning. Auburn might blow them out. I don't know.
I'm also interested in Navy-Rutgers, two pretty good teams I haven't seen, but it's not going to be on TV. Boston College-Virginia Tech Thursday is a pretty big game for both teams. There will be some kind of soft-focus interest story on BC's kicker, a walk-on soccer player stepping in to play football for the first time in his life, but that's still an interesting aspect to that game given Virginia Tech's alleged special teams dominance.
4. What's your bold prediction for the weekend?
I keep picking Colorado to get its first win, but I don't know if it's wise to bet on this happening against Texas Tech. How about, Florida State will beat Duke? That seems a little bold right now. No?
OK: A fan will at least pass out or have to be removed from Scott Stadium by ambulance during the Maryland-Virginia game due to something that happens on the field. I'll leave that open to interpretation.
5. What will the top 5 look like after the weekend?
I don't think Michigan is in any danger at Penn State, or Ohio State at Michigan State (though with MSU one never has any clue), so Florida is the only variable.
If the Gators win:
1. Florida (depending on how it wins)
2. Ohio State
4. Southern Cal
If the Gators lose, all hell breaks loose because of the impending Tennessee Problem:
1. Ohio State
3. Southern Cal
4. Florida (depending on how it loses)