I have several times, to varying degrees of success in getting people to listen to me, attempted to write a regular college football blog. Usually, life intrudes and I can't keep it going.
This time, I'm going to try again. But I'm going to keep it short and limited (mostly) to the three programs that I know a lot about: Michigan State, Michigan and Notre Dame.
So, with that, here's the pre-season analysis and week one predictions all rolled into one...
Statistically, the MSU running game was mediocre last year. Look it up. They had Javon Ringer -- who was very good -- and then nothing. I think two Jehuu Caulcricks would have been 3x as productive as one Javon Ringer, and a rough approximation of that may be in the works right now with the Ray/Caper/Baker trio.
I suspect they will run the ball better this year than last.
Likewise, Brian Hoyer, who looked very good in 2007 when he had a load of returning receivers to throw to, looked mediocre last year with newbies catching the ball.
There are QB battles where the coach says "one of these guys needs to step it up and separate themselves," and there are those where the contestants push each other to constantly get better. All of the word coming out of the Cousins/Nichol battle was that it was "too close to call," but in the good way. Combine with the returning targets to throw to, and I see little drop-off in the passing game.
Bottom line here is that the offense will be as good as last year, with a good chance of being slightly better. The defense could be very special. There is not a single game until Penn State at the end of the year that they definitely should lose.
Last year, Michigan badly misfired while trying to find a new quarterback to fit their new system. This year, they're repeating the performance, except with more starters elsewhere on the offensive side of the ball. Things should be better, but it'll likely be a long way from pretty.
The defense was disappointing last year. They're now on the third defensive coordinator in as many years and have only half the starters coming back. The new DC's performance at Syracuse gives reason for worry as well.
Possible defeats include Western Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. Probable defeats include Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa and Penn State.
The Top-25 ranking is absurd, the BCS predictions are insane. What last season demonstrated is that with several weeks to prepare for the Hawaii Bowl, Charlie Weis is the kind of coach who can get a mediocre BCS program ready to wipe out a mediocre WAC team.
In their last five games, they blew out that very mediocre Hawaii, got blasted by Southern Cal (again), lost to Syracuse (possibly the worst BCS conference program in America right now), beat Navy by less than a TD, and got shutout by Boston College 17-0.
But this is typical: Every time the Weis-coached Irish have come up against a team that ultimately finished with a high ranking, they have lost. Weis has beaten only ONE team that finished the season with a Top-25 ranking: #24 Penn State in 2006. Even John L. Smith's record beat the crap out of that.
Here's another fun stat: Jimmy Clausen's TD/INT ratio for his two seasons is 32-23.
Call me a serious doubter, but don't call me wrong. I said "6-7 wins" last year, despite some addle-brained predictions out there saying better, and had their number well before that.
This year, I may be too optimistic. I think there's a small chance that Michigan State could be Charlie Weis' last game as the Notre Dame head coach. With Nevada, Michigan and Michigan State starting out, there's a case to be made that they open up 0-3.
The echoes will slumber again.
Week One Predictions:
I'm using the lines listed in the Detroit News.
Western Michigan +12.5 @ Michigan -- PICK: Western Michigan
There is no script to describe the implications of what happens starting Sunday morning if Michigan loses this game. Nonetheless, Western Michigan is much better than Toledo was last year, and it remains to be seen how much better 2009 Michigan is than 2008 Michigan. Western is also probably better than Appalachian State was in 2007, and there is NO WAY that 2009 Michigan is as good as 2007 Michigan was. Michigan should be favored, but by about 3. Western could win this outright.
Montana State +15.5 @ Michigan State -- PICK: Michigan State
A lot of Spartans should get work in this game. If last year's team could beat Florida Atlantic by 17 in a monsoon, this team should be able to easily handle this game.
Nevada +14.5 @ Notre Dame -- PICK: Nevada
I'll predict this against the points, but I think this spread is a gift. Nevada should be the favorite and will probably win. They won as many as Notre Dame did last year and played the good teams much closer (lost to Boise St by just a touchdown.) This year, they return 14 starters and a very good backfield that will likely give nightmares to Notre Dame's defense. Last year, Notre Dame opened up at home and nearly lost to a bad WAC team (San Diego State.) This year, they will lose at home to a good one.Cross-post