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General Thoughts: Around The Nation

Just a few general thoughts:

  • People can call the Appy State victory over Michigan a complete fluke, and yes it was to a degree, but the truth remains that Appy State is a pretty good football team. Honestly, there are a lot of good Division 1-A football teams that Appy State could beat, and truth be told, they may very well have beaten us. I'm just glad we didn't play them a year ago, they'd really beaten up on us then. I imagine they could beat around half of the Division 1-A schools, and several schools in BCS conferences.
  • The game aside, this was a disaster for Michigan from a scheduling perspective. Why would you ever schedule a really good Division 1-AA program? Even if you annihilate them, you get no credit whatsoever, and they may in fact beat you, as we saw with Michigan, and that basically constitutes the end of the world as football fans know it. The real trick is scheduling poor name brand teams from BCS conferences, like Arizona, Ole Miss, etc. Scheduling a team like Appy State is a bad idea, there is just no reward whatsoever in doing so.
  • Texas A&M breezed Montana State in the season opener, and they have a big game coming up week after next with Miami. The thing is, the other first five games of the season are so incredibly easy that with a win over the Hurricanes in Coral Gables they will almost certainly start the season 6-0, and could very well be a top ten team. But from there, it gets very tough, with the season closing with games at Texas Tech, at Nebraska, Kansas, at Oklahoma, at Missouri, and Texas. Fact is, A&M could play the same caliber football all year long, yet start at 6-0 and end up 7-5 simply due to scheduling disparities.
  • Earl Bennett is the least underrated receiver in the country. At bottom, two types of players get attention: those who everyone talks about, and those who everyone points that no one is talking about, but in the process of doing so, they end up, of course, talking about them. Bennett is a textbook example of the latter. He's supposedly a guy no one talks about, yet everyone talks about him being such a great receiver that no one talks about. Truly underrated receivers are guys like D.J. Hall, who put up great stats, yet are barely mentioned.
  • And speaking of Earl Bennett, exactly how good is this guy? You've heard of boom or bust tailbacks, but Bennett is a boom or bust wide receiver. Last year, he put up huge numbers, but they almost all came against poor opponents. Look at last year. Against Kentucky, 11 catches for 220 yards. Against Ole Miss, 10 catches for 179 yards. You get the idea. But what about the pretty good pass defenses? Against Arkansas, 4 catches for 31 yards. Against Tennessee, 4 catches for 16 yards. Against South Carolina, 4 catches for 16 yards. Even against Alabama a year ago -- and we've talked about how poor our pass defense was a year ago -- he got only 5 catches for 45 yards. Basically, he puts up huge numbers against poor teams, and poor numbers against decent-to-good teams. He's only had one big game in his entire career against a good team (Florida, 2006). And that has carried over to this year, as he racked up 13 catches for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns against Richmond. Hopefully he'll continue his poor track record against decent opponents this week against Alabama.
  • This is the week we find out about Ole Miss. If Johnny Reb can knock of Missouri, they are looking at a small bowl berth. On the other hand, a loss to Missouri -- particularly if it is anything near like the loss last year -- likely means that they will fall to Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, and Arkansas as well, and they'll be somewhere in the area of five wins and sitting at home for a fourth straight year come bowl season.
  • You'll read a bit about it when Todd posts RBR's weekly picks, but the MSU v. Tulane game this weekend could be something truly special. This literally has the potential to be one of the worst games of the football season. Just like Seinfeld wanted to go watch Planet Nine From Outer Space just because it was so terrible (it was in the episode about the Chinese Restaurant, "Cartwright! Cartwright!"), I'd kind of like to see this game just because it is likely to be so bad.
  • Speaking of MSU, remember the Ole Miss and MSU songs last year? You know, "Yo yo yo yo yo... football!" and "The Cowbells Ain't Ringing Any More." If you think about it, we're damn lucky that they stopped doing those, or we'd been next after the loss to MSU.
  • If Michael Henig struggles against against Tulane, I imagine that we will see Josh Riddell take over at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Truth be told, Croom didn't lift this guy's suspension just so he could hold a clipboard on the sideline.
  • Could Notre Dame be in for a losing season? Truth is, if they look anything like they did this past Saturday against Georgia Tech, they very well may be. I mean seriously, 122 yards of total offense? -8 yards of rushing? 9 quarterback sacks? Against Georgia Tech? I mean this isn't your Grandfather's Tech, Chan Gailey is no Bobby Dodd, and they've just lost probably the best player they've had in decades (Calvin Johnson). Honestly, unless the Irish improves greatly in a very short period of time, they'll start out 0-3 with losses to Penn State and Michigan. After that, games against Michigan State and Purdue should be relatively close contests, Boston College will be tough, UCLA should beat them with relative ease, and USC will castrate them. Sure, they'll end the year with a four game winning streak by beating up the military and a couple of nerds (Navy, Air Force, Duke and Stanford), but Notre Dame could be in for a very long year. If they play anything like they did last week for the rest of the season, they will be sitting at home come November. 5-7 is a very real possibility, and they could easily start out 2-6.
  • The schedule for the Crimson Tide looks pretty good. We have a ways to go -- as nearly everyone expected -- but every game on the schedule is winnable. I've said for months now that some people have this notion that we're going to have to pull off some Herculean effort -- almost like Bear Bryant will have to return and the '92 defense will have to come back -- for us to just eek out a few wins, and that's not true. In reality, if we can play solid football consistently, we'll get some good, quality wins. Arkansas looked almost exactly as expected -- i.e. McFadden, Jones, and nothing else -- Auburn looked bad, Florida State seems slightly improved at best, Tennessee could potentially be in for a long year, etc. Even LSU looked very beatable. If we consistently play solid football and do not beat ourselves with turnovers, 8-4 or 9-3 is very attainable.
  • People talk a lot about Les Miles' coaching ability. And I think both groups are very wrong. As a whole, college football fans tend to be extremists, coaches are either leading them to a national championship or he should be fired. In reality, nearly all coaches fall somewhere in between, coaches who run the gauntlet from decent to pretty good, with very few really bad coaches and very few really good coaches. If you plotted it as data on a graph, it'd assume the shape of the standard bell curve. I figure Miles falls somewhere in the meaty part of that curve, a good but not great coach.
  • Lloyd Carr, bet the farm, will be gone at year's end. And, speaking of Miles, he'll probably be the leading candidate to replace Carr. Michigan is a school that will stay within the program's history, and in Miles they have an alumnus who has seven years of coaching experience, a Sugar Bowl victory, a Cotton Bowl appearance, and somewhere with probably around 31-32 wins in a three-year span at LSU. That will be hard to turn down for Michigan. The only thing is, Miles really doesn't fit at Michigan. His tirades -- you know, "f*ckin' Alabama," etc. -- just don't fit in at Michigan, they fit quite well at, well, LSU. But by the same token, a lot of that can -- and I think is -- pandering intended to endear himself to the LSU faithful, and from all I can tell, the Michigan fan base seems to think highly of him. He's one of Bo's Boys, and he is respected as such. As one Michigan blogger put it recently, "Les Miles knows discipline because Les Miles knew Bo."
  • Let's say Miles does leave LSU. I have to be really honest here, I don't think it's the end of the world for LSU, I really don't. As I said earlier, I figure Miles is a good but not great coach, and honestly it doesn't take a major stretch of my mind to imagine that LSU could hire a superior coach. Sure, a third different coach in a five year span would be a concern, and there's a major concern regarding its potential effect on recruiting, but nevertheless, LSU has a good bit to offer as a program at the moment. If Miles leaves, if LSU does things right -- and I realize that if is the biggest word in the English dictionary -- they could be in a better position than they are today.
  • Apparently Houston Nutt will allow recently arrested (marijuana and ecstacy, two weeks ago) defensive tackle Marcus Harrison to play against Alabama. Though Harrison is currently booked on a felony drug possession charge, he'll nevertheless play against Alabama. Classy stuff. Truth of the matter is this: Houston Nutt knows he must win, he can't afford a slip-up this year, and a loss to Alabama is simply unacceptable. For better or for worse, Nutt is going to pull out all stops to knock off the Crimson Tide, and if part of that includes playing someone coming off of a torn ACL who is currently charged with a felony, then so be it. Nothing that these guys do come gameday should surprise you. With what Nutt is doing, he is making Mike Shula look like the warden at San Quentin.
  • On the heels of that, I imagine that Antwain Robinson -- i.e. the guy who was arrested months ago for stealing from a local Dillard's -- will not only play, but will probably be getting some sort of upstanding citizen award to boot.
Well, that'll about wrap it up for this week on the general thoughts. One more note, unfortunately the lack of time has dictated that there will be no individual play analysis for the Western Carolina game, but rest assured it will be up for the Vanderbilt game. I was planning on doing the Mustin / McClain stuffing of the WCU tailback, but unfortunately I can't find a high enough quality of the clip on the Internet (combined with DVR troubles), so that's the other problem. It's just hard to tell what's going on, really; it looks like maybe a miscommunication by the WCU offensive line, and I'm really not sure if Washington is driving the center out or if the center is pulling Washington out. That won't be a problem against Vandy, and we'll get it up. If you want a particular play done, just post it in the comments to one of the threads, or one of the diaries, and whichever one gets the most I'll likely do.