Posted by Walter
#1 Ohio State
Walter: As if it were even a question. I'm obligated to comment on the Buckeyes, though I feel as though there is nothing left to say that hasn't already been said. So I'm going to do what I always do, talk about something completely random. This time it's freshman running back Chris Wells. Perhaps I was remiss in not mentioning him in my "next big thing" column, but Wells certainly has the talent. Don't get me wrong, Antonio Pittman was enormous for Ohio State all year, but similar to the situation in Clemson he isn't as talented as his young understudy Wells. In a season when he got more than 100 less carries than Pittman, Wells scored only 4 fewer touchdowns and averaged over a half yard more per carry. Wells is a special back, and with Troy Smith leaving for the NFL (and top recievers Anthony Gonzalez and Tedd Ginn possibly joining him) there may be enough carries to go around for both back next season.
Frazier - Jim Tressel is threatening to become a Tier One coach (more on this in an off-season column). But the point is, those guys become legends. They are spoken of in revered terms by people who weren't alive when they were building their legacy. Basically, Tressel is very, very, very good, and more teams are stupid not to recognize that a guy who can dominate at the 1-AA level probably has an excellent chance to bring that kind of success with him.
Walter: Nobody has been more critical of the Gators this season than me, but even I recognize that it's time to give Urban Meyer's squad their due. The Gators offense has been, uh.....let's term it uninspiring at times, but this team has done enough on special teams and defense to win games. One has to wonder, though, just how well this strategy will work against an Ohio State team that simply does not make mistakes. The Gators haven't won because they have stopped their opponents, they've won because their secondary has intecepted lots and lots of passes. I mean, between Ryan Smith and Reggie Nelson that's 14 INT's alone. When all this is considered two things become apparent: (1) Florida wouldn't seem to have much of a shot against Ohio State, and (2) perhaps the SEC was a bit overrated. We'll learn the answer to both during bowl month.
Frazier - Ugh, mea culpa time. This is a pretty hard one to swallow, but the Gators deserve this spot. Basically, they kept winning. Even when they didn't look great (or even terribly good) they found a way to win. They forced lots of errors, played stout defense, and have a creative coach who sparked scoring opportunities. As the only program to really effectively utilize two quarterbacks without any huge controversy, Florida deserves some respect for their versatility. Whether this show will be enough against a Ohio St. team that has looked invulnerable, and unwilling to beat themselves, well, that remains to be seen. But, the point is we get to see it, and find out for ourselves. But Florida needs to be perfect, because they need to create scoring, and force errors, but turnovers and mistakes of their own will spell disaster.
Walter: Michigan does have a legitimate beef with being left on the outside looking in, but not that legitimate. Take a look at Michigan's schedule. They have two marquee wins, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Well Notre Dame is terrible (we know this), and Wisconsin hasn't played anyone else anywhere near the top 25 this season. This is contrasted by Florida who has posted wins over Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, and Auburn. And unlike Michigan's two opponents, all four of those teams have validated their lofty ranking with wins over top teams. Furthermore, the argument that Michigan should have gotten in over Florida because Florida has been struggling all season doesn't carry water either. True Florida has been less than impressive in many of its wins, but it's not like Michigan has been rolling over anyone. Perhaps I'm wrong, but isn't this the same Michigan team that struggled to beat Northwestern and Ball State in consecutive weeks?
Frazier - My esteemed co-blogger has spelled out the reasons why Michigan is stuck on the outside. So I'm going to focus on my particular interest in the Wolverines right now. Namely, I'm going to see them in person at the Rose Bowl. Now, I couldn't be more excited. It will be an excellent test for a team that hasn't faced a ton of those this season. Their defense will be tasked with keeping up with an offense much faster than they are used to seeing (although the Buckeyes have some serious speed as well). However, people tend to forget that the Pac-10 has a seemingly different kind of athlete, and if Michigan is slow to adjust, they could be in for a tough day. Michigan is going to have a great showcase where they can display their talent, and I for one, can't wait to check them out.
Walter: You know it's kind of sad. LSU was a few meltdowns against Florida away from playing Ohio State in the national title game. Specifically I am referring to Jamarcus Russell fumble on the Florida one, and the blocked punt. If not for those two meltdowns LSU wins that game easily and coasts into the title game. I consider this sad because LSU is the 2nd best team in the country, and really the only team with the athletes and defensive nastiness to hang with the Buckeyes. Instead of watching LSU tangle with Ohio State, we have to watch LSU hang about 50 points on Notre Dame. It's just a damn shame.
Frazier - Part of college football is being perfect. Ever seen "Remember the Titans"? Well, Denzel tells his team to be perfect in every phase of the game. Against Florida, LSU was not perfect. Now, I wouldn't want to have to play the Bayou Bengals right now. Last year they decimated Miami 40-3 in their bowl game, and I've got a feeling the Notre Dame is in for a long, long, long night. Brady Quinn will be a pancake by the end of that thing. Russell and company are a pretty scary bunch, but it was the lack of a running game that really sealed their fate. More balance would have gone a long, long way.
#5 Boise State
Walter: Boise State is the best reason why we need some sort of playoff. They are a legitimate Division 1A team, yet even when all the circumstances align in their favor they have no shot to play for a national title. Consider the following, they won all of their games AND had a marquee, blowout win over an Oregon State team that beat USC and won at Hawaii. Yet even with only one other undefeated team they were left on the outside looking in. The message from Boise's saga is unmistakebly clear: If you don't play in a BCS conference, you aren't really in division 1A. And that's a damn shame.
Frazier - Now, my Broncos aren't the best team in the country. They are a very good team, and they have a ton of talent, and they are exciting as hell to watch. But they aren't the nations best. But, they don't even get to dream that big. They will never have a chance to prove that, and it's a shame. However, they need to get over it and focus on Oklahoma, and I think they will. It's their chance to stand up and declare themselves to a skeptical nation. Their goal may have been making the BCS, but their real goal is to gain respect for Boise St. and every other small school that wants to some day dream of a national title. Watch out Sooners, this game means a hell of a lot more to your opponents than it does to you.
Walter: Another team that we have said just about everything there is to be said about. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year in Madison, yet here they are in a major Bowl Game. The season is already a success for Wisconsin regardless of what happens in their bowl game. That said, their bowl result will go a long way towards justifying the BCS' selection of Florida in the title game over Michigan. Wisconsin gets a very young, but tough Arkansas team (almost the SEC mirror image of the Badgers). If they get blown out, they will finally silence all the Michigan whiners.
Frazier - Well, who knows? The Badgers played one team with a pulse all season, and they lost. So that's something. Now, they had a respectable win over Penn St. but the Nittany Lions didn't really beat anyone of note themselves, so who can really say anything? The Big Ten killed itself by not scheduling respectable non-conference opponents. Only Ohio St. did with their trip to Texas, and they are the ones playing for a national title. So that's something to think about. While the Big Ten is a good conference, so is the Pac-10, and yet every year USC plays someone out east, like Auburn, or Arkansas or Virginia Tech going back a couple of years. Those are some pretty legit programs, and they even invited Nebraska for a dance this time around. So now the Badgers have their chance to show everyone how good they really are, too bad it's against an Arkansas team that can really make some noise. This isn't just a step up from Wisconsin's average competition, it's a huge leap.
Walter: Last week there was rampant speculation that star QB Brian Brohm would return for his senior season. If that is the case, with star wideouts Harry Douglas and Mario Urutia also returning Louisville could have something special brewing. And on further analysis it's not that crazy to think it could happen. With Brady Quinn already slated to go first overall, Brohm would be at best the #2 QB, perhaps even falling to #3 behind Jamarcus Russell. If he returns for his senior season and manages to stay healthy all year, Brohm would have a legitimate shot at the #1 overall pick. I don't put a lot of credence in what players say before bowl games and/or draft workouts, but if Brohm is serious about coming back it wouldn't be a shocking choice.
Frazier - Louisville had an excellent year, and they've got a chance to be even better next year. Of course, they still have a bowl to focus on, and its' against the kind of opponent that if you sleep on them, you pay. I really liked a lot of the things they did this year, and it's become pretty clear that the game against Rutgers was just one of those outings where you simply can't dig yourselves out. They started so fast, and then the wheels totally fell off, and yet they lost at the last second (and only after a second chance thanks to a brainless penalty). This team was so close to playing in the title game that they must have nightmares about it virtually every time they close their eyes. That game has been almost totally overlooked with everything that followed, but they blew their chance right then and there. On the other hand, they would have been completely decimated by the Buckeyes, so maybe it worked out alright after all.
Walter: Paul Thompson deserves a ton of credit. He started the season as a wideout, but ended it as a legimitate starting quarterback. His season ending statistics won't blow anyone away, but Thompson does boast a respectable 60% completion percentage and a completely reasonable 20/8 TD ratio. But more than anything, when the Sooners were in their darkest hours (the Bomar dismissal, and the Peterson injury) Thompson was at his best. Thompson is not an NFL caliber quarterback, which means that the senior really compromised his draft chances by moving from WR back to QB when his team needed him to. That speaks incredibly about the man's character and I truly hope that some NFL team gives this guy a shot. He deserves more credit in Soonerland that he will ever get.
Frazier - At the beginning of the year I had Oklahoma slotted as the #8 team. Now, they won't finish here after the bowls, they'll either move up or down, but I'm still pretty proud of that selection. Of course my reasoning was based on the assumption that Stoops wouldn't let the loss of one player ruin his team's season. I guess I was wrong. Stoops wouldn't let the loss of TWO players ruin the season. He deserves a ton of credit. If Schiano and Grobe hadn't done such marvelous jobs at former laughing-stalk programs, than he would probably have been the coach of the year. And he's still a good selection for that honor. The big man's comments about Paul Thompson are absolutely echoed from this corner. He saved their season.
Walter: The Trojans are talented, but unfocused. They are explosive, but inconsistent. They are good, but also very bad. They are an enigma, and the only reason they are in the final power 10 is because they beat Arkansas in the opening game and as much as I'd like to forget that game it did still happen. But seriously, how much did the Trojans suck against UCLA?
Frazier - Pete Carroll needs to learn about consistent effort. He won a pair of titles based on the fact that he had absolutely the best talent, and managed to keep it harnassed for enough of the season. Of course, he lost another title because his team disappeared against Texas when the going got tough, and frankly, earlier. Watch that game again sometime. It was pretty damned close to being a USC blowout. If not for the Bush brainfart, a rare Leinart miscue, a totally relaxed defensive attitude for much of the game (and an inability to tackle) some dubious coaching decisions, and a couple of calls that went against them, they win that game. It honestly took a lot for them to lose it, and if they'd played Texas with the same intensity they took to Oklahoma the year before, the result may not have been too different from that annihilation. (Not to take anything from Vince Young, who was Herculean that night). Again USC had enviable talent, and they just completely failed to deliver against UCLA. Is Carroll a great coach, or a great recruiter and a mediocre coach? He has huge balls, and I love the way he lets it all hang out, but his teams have ADD, and he needs to do a better job of keeping them in line.
Walter: How good would this team be if they had even a mediocre quarterback? It doesn't matter. The bottom line is that this team arrived on the scene at least a full year before anyone thought they would, and they are going to be scary good for at least 2007 and possible 2008. That said, they have a lot to work on during the offseason. First they need to decide on a quarterback. Mustain or Dick? They need to choose. Second they need to decide on an offensive direction. Gus Mahlzan was brilliant in integrating the Wildcat offense this year, but the Razorbacks are going to need to decide on a more concrete offensive direction if they want to make a run at a national title. And finally, they need to come out with their guns blazing. 2007 could and should be a special year for the team from Fayetteville, but they absolutely cannot afford an opening game performance like they have had in past seasons.
Frazier - Possibly my favorite team to watch this year. McFadden is incredible, Monk is great, Felix Jones is a comet, and the offense is a revelation. Defensively they gamble, play man, and look for big plays. They are athletic and exciting. Their coach is a complete loon. Now, they seem to be a collection of talent without a firm direction, and there were some rumblings that the offense isn't what Mustain and company signed up for. Well, they have the best running back in the country who can do virtually everything on offense (or special teams, and probably on defense) so maybe they should utilize those skills. This team could be really special, but there's a real chance they crash back to earth next season, and Houston Nutt blows what could be a legitimate shot at a national title. Still, the Badgers are in for a show. Unless the Hogs "quarterback" completely shits the bed. Which isn't impossible.
#323 Texas A&M
Walter: Big ups to the Aggies for their performance against Texas in the season finale. With the Big 12 down this year A&M didn't really take advantage as they should have. That said, the conference looks to be down again next year and A&M will have the returning talent to compete for a spot in the conference title game. Stephen McGee is one of the best and most underrated passers in the nation. Jorvorskie Lane is a monster who........well there really isn't anything else that can be said about Jorvorskie Lane. 2007 should be a make or break year for Franchione. If he is going to make his mark in college station it has to happen now. Their 2007 season starts with their bowl game against Cal, and they desperately need a win against the Bears to set them up for a Big 12 title run next season.
Frazier - As much as I think Franchione is a total choke artist (and I do) I can't deny that I really like this Aggies team. Mark Dodge is the definition of a leader on the defense side of the ball. He commands respect from teammates and opponents alike. McGee is a gutsy and fun quarterback, and his performance against Texas was admirable. And what do you say about a team that has a man like Javorskie Lane lugging the ball. He looks like he ate Jerome Bettis. Needless to say, I love him. So it's another team I love coached by a guy I don't trust (Franchione and Nutt should practice giving eachother the Heimlich). Awesome.