1. You both had the chance to sit down and digest a full day of college football on television last weekend. There were some surprising blowouts (Nebraska) and some ridiculous finishes (ND-MSU, Arizona-Iowa). What was the thing that stuck out the most about last week's slate of games?
Mattare: Everything about the Nebraska-Washington game. First of all, wow Nebraska, welcome back to the upper echelon of college football! For all the dramatics about Notre Dame dropping off the map and Alabama going through a drought early in the decade there didn't seem to be much noise about the Cornhuskers Bill Callahan led descent. It's great to see the return of the Blackshirts and a brutally effective running game. They've got Texas at home in the middle of October and I think Bevo is in some serious trouble. Not as much trouble as the Big 10 is going to be when the Huskers arrive next year, but still some pretty substantial trouble.
The other thing we got to witness Jake Locker do an Andre Woodson-esque swan dive off the top of Mel Kiper's Big Board. A lot of players insure themselves for injuries when they return for their senior year...I hope he got some sort of insurance that will cover the negative financial impact last Saturday had on his life.
Bill: For me it had to be Iowa finally getting caught in their lies - sorry, super dramatic, comeback, movie-with-no-camera style wins. I'm not saying they aren't good--they are--but they caught breaks last year and I don't know if I could keep getting out of bed in the morning if it continued. My absolute favorite part of this: the excuses Iowa fans have been dishing out after this one. One attributed it to the two time zone difference! Penn State crosses time zones 4x a season and I've never heard a PSU fan whine about it once.
2. Take a look back at your preseason predictions--what's one thing you were right on the money about and one thing you couldn't have gotten more wrong.
Good Call: My predictions for Dayne in the article I wrote for Bleacher Report have been pretty spot-on - "a handful of questionable decisions, some flashes of greatness, but on the whole enough evidence to lead fans to believe this team has a bright future with Dayne Crist at the helm."
Bad Call: My preseason sleeper pick of Shaq Evans...tough to emerge as a sleeper when you're enrolled at UCLA.
Right on the money: Secondary. They have not looked good. They offered up little resistance against the first two passing attacks they faced. They aided in shutting down Kent State but it was Kent State. They just aren't looking fast enough. They don't look instinctive enough. I still feel any competent passing attack will shred us. On a positive note the coaches played Andrew Dailey over Drew Astorino at SS during a few series last game!
Pretttty Wrong: Defensive Line. Where is the push!? I've harped over and over about how we always reload along the defensive line, but this year's new guys aren't comparing to last year's new guys. Jack Crawford and Latimore have shown little improvement and Devon Still has been good but we were absolutely spoiled last year with Jared Odrick. Another positive note however, I saw Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley getting the start! They still split time though.
3. What's the most pleasant surprise and the biggest disappointment thus far in regards to your team's season?
Surprise: There are a few pleasant surprises but none bigger than the play of the offensive line. I thought was a good amount of potential but I expected more growing pains. Through three games they've performed better than last year's veteran line--better push on the run, better pass protection, and (perhaps most importantly) no crippling penalties or untimely sacks allowed. Brian Kelly had raved about the offensive line and I thought he was just trying to boost their confidence. Can't tell you how happy I am that he was telling the truth; we're going to have a VERY good line for the next three years and beyond.
Disappointment: No question that it's Michael Floyd's performance. During the preseason he was considered a lock for the All-American squad and in the discussion of best receiver in the country--hell, Mark May named Floyd his darkhorse for the Heisman. Unfortunately the Michael Floyd we saw his first two seasons hasn't shown up yet. Dropped balls, sloppy routes, fumbles--who is this guy? He has the ability to be dominant if he just focuses, it just doesn't seem like he's all there right now. If Notre Dame wants to turn it around it needs Floyd to step up and spearhead the resurgence.
Surprise: Devon Smith. He's getting tons of touches for a sophomore and he hasn't disappointed. He's the fastest guy on the team and we're effectively getting him the ball in space. Last year he was benched early for fumbling and then he couldn't stay healthy, but this year the play action drag to Devon Smith seems to be a Galen Hall favorite.
Disappointment: I have to say recruiting. Before the season we heard all about our lack of commitments because there was nothing else to talk about. We are in week 4 and we still only have 4 commits. I know this is a small class, but recruiting is all about momentum and we're building none. Furthermore, the week 2 dismantling at the hands of Alabama reconfirmed the reality that you need elite athletes to compete for a title.
4. Third-ranked Boise State is favored by 17.5 points over #24 Oregon State. What do you make of that spread? Does the fact that Vegas is showing the Broncos so much respect mean the haters should follow suit?
Mattare: Vegas is giving the Smurf Turf a boatload of love. Typically teams are given a 3-5 point boost for homefield advantage but history shows Boise deserves closer to ten. That being said I'm still surprised the spread is so large. Oregon State had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie TCU before their center snapped one over the quarterback's head John Sullivan Style, costing them a safety and ultimately the game. Mike Riley's boys are certainly good enough to hang close with the Broncos if not pull the upset.
It's been amazing watching Boise State transform from America's Darling Underdog to a vilified team who doesn't deserve a shot at the title should they run the table. What have they done wrong?!? Is it their fault that they've outgrown their conference? Is it their fault that no one wants to play them? All they do is quietly roll through their conference schedule, try to schedule some good out of conference games (something that's extremely difficult since 90% of major conference teams want no part of heading to Boise to play a road game), and win those games too.
I get it, Boise wouldn't stand a chance of even being a top 4 SEC if they were beaten up week in and week out by the likes of Alabama and Arkansas, but frankly neither would Ohio State, Iowa, or anyone in the pu pu platter of mediocrity in the ACC. Boise State head coach Chris Peterson does a great job of keeping his team's head down and focused despite the swell of negative sentiment crashing down on his squad.
Also, if there's one thing that we know it's that Vegas knows more than the general public. If Vegas is showing the Broncos so much respect then everyone should follow suit.
Bill: Well the haters don't set the lines. Soooo I say no. I think the line is fair because Boise looks really good so far. If by haters following suit you mean people buying into their "national championship hopes" I say no. With the bowl system being what it is, everyone always talks about the importance of the college football regular season, how there's nothing else like it in sports. Well, why should we reward them for winning 2-3 tough games a year with a shot at the national title when another team may have won 4-5 tough games but finished with 1 loss?
I understand they may truly be the 3rd best team in the country right now and the WAC is undoubtedly better than the Big East, but at this moment, the regular season is how we qualify teams as national contenders and I still think a 1 loss SEC or Big Ten team is more impressive than Boise beating VT (who has been exposed) and Oregon St.
5. Take a look at the undefeated teams to this point. Pick one you think is for real and one that is a total fraud.
Fraud: It's Michigan. Denard Robinson is an unbelievable talent that has single-handedly resurrected the Wolverines this year, but if anything happens to him the Skunkbears will be dead in the water. Their defense isn't any good and their offense would be dead in the water if Denard wasn't there. Denard is for real--his team is not. It's just a matter of time before it bites them and when it does it'll be interesting to see if Rich Rod can shake it off or whether things will snow ball the wrong direction like they did last season.
For Real: I know we touched on this in the first question but I need to reiterate that Nebraska is 100% for real. Their dismantling of Washington in one of the most hostile environments in college football was a shocking announcement to the college football world that the Huskers are back and ready to legitimately contend for a title. Their quarterback Tyler Martinez needs to improve his passing but his legs combined with Bo Pelini's defense should be enough to earn them a spot in the Big 12 title game.
Fraud: Has to be Michigan State right? If you deprived me of TV for all of September I would've predicted Michigan St to start 4-0 and finish 8-4. Like every other year. Their halfbacks look great this year, but for some reason they struggle with maintaining a high level of play all season.
For Real: Oregon. I don't think Masoli was what made this team go last year, Darron Thomas looks just fine. They look like the top dawg of the PAC-10 now that USC found itself in trouble. As long as Chip Kelly is coaching the ducks I expect them to be explosive every year. LeMichael James is averaging 12 yards per carry and the team has 1200 yds rushing through 3 games! Two games were cupcakes but they did run through Tennessee. If the Ducks, Buckeyes, and Tide win out there could be trouble at the top of the BCS.
ON TO THE RAPID FIRE FINISH!
Mattare: What are your thoughts on the guy who became Ohio's mascot just so he could attack Brutus Buckeye at The Horseshoe? Hilarious, creepy, or somewhere in between?
Bill: Only hilarious. No one got hurt. I wouldn't mind if it happened every game instead of the lame pranks mascots pull on each other.
Bill: Ok, Donovan McNabb is of interest to both of us at this point--you as a Skins fan and me as a person wondering why we traded him if we weren't committed to Kolb. Where do you see the Skins ended up this year?
Mattare: The NFC East is shockingly mediocre this year which leaves the door open for a playoff run, but our offense is so inept that I have a hard time seeing it happen.
Mattare: I'm all that stands between Mooney's NC State Wolfpack and the national championship game in our NCAA Football 2011 Dynasty. You giving me and Wake any chance of pulling the upset? What needs to happen for my boys to play spoiler?
Bill: I'm setting the line on this game at 17. I think you have to win the turnover battle and slow the game down. Classic upset formula.
Bill: I heard JWoww got offered $500,000 to pose nude for Playboy. Who would've been your pick and for how much?
Mattare: JWoww is basically 80% naked in every article of clothing she wears out, why wouldn't she do Playboy? I'd pay Snooki 500k not to pose naked.
Mattare: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has limped out of the gate this season, but on Sunday KENNY POWERS IS BACK! On a scale of 1-10 how excited are you for the return of Eastbound and Down?
Bill: 8. He's my favorite tragic hero since Hamlet. Only reason for the low grade is his tweets have been disappointing. He's built for books on tape.
Bill: Single Ross is coming to Orlando next week. Issue a warning to the women of the O.
Mattare: If you thought Hurricane Andrew did damage to the Sunshine State just wait until Ross shows up. Prepare for a pimp game rooted in hyperbole.
Mattare: My sister found the nutritional facts for a Yocco's hot dog online. I told her if she ever told me what they were I'd kill her. Are you somewhat curious to know the truth about the dogs we used to down five at a time or are you like me, wishing to remain blissfully ignorant forever?
Bill: What are nutritional facts? Mail me a Doggie Pack next time you're home.