Throughout the season, much like last year, we'll be participating in the blogpoll roundtable. The first one of the year is hosted by Doug at Hey Jenny Slater.
1. Without naming names, a few teams seem to have popped up frequently on everyone's "overrated" lists in the preseason, so let's forget about them for the moment and concentrate on a different group: sleepers. Which currently unheralded team are you currently putting at least a few of your chips behind in the hopes that you'll be able to say "totally called that" once they've accomplished big things by the end of the season?
In my opinion, any sleeper would essentially be a team that was left out of the preseason Top 25 polls, makes a 2008-Utah-like leap into the polls and remains in the top 25 for much of the second half of the season. Remember: Utah went unranked in both major polls to start the 2008 season, and did a little thing called "going undefeated and finished #2 in the final AP Poll," is all. So for this question, a good starting point has to be the Big East Conference because, hell, somebody has to win the conference and no Big East program is ranked in the preseason Top 25.
So why not South Florida? It seems it is now or never for the Bulls in Grothe and Selvie's final season. USF has flirted with greatness early the past few seasons only to fall back into their previous, upstart-CUSA-like form. The talent is certainly there, and the schedule sets up fairly nicely. The Bulls can sleepwalk through their first three games against two I-AA teams and a I-A upstart (Western Kentucky) before traveling to Tallahassee to face Florida State. With the exception of USF's October 24 road trip to Pittsburgh, all of the teams projected to finish atop the Big East this season - namely Cincinnati and West Virginia - travel to Tampa. The road Big East schedule isn't too difficult with stops at Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers and Connecticut. If the Bulls can split their in-state ACC matchups, Leavitt could very well be looking at a 10-2 or 11-1 season and a BCS bowl berth. Or the wheels could again fall off the Bulls wagon mid-season, and South Florida could fade down the stretch. Your guess is as good as mine.
2. In a similar vein, pick a sleeper player on your team whom nobody's talking about right now and tell us why we will be talking about them by December.
Much like Mark Herzlich and Mike McLaughlin exploded onto the defensive scene last year, expect big things from junior defensive end Alex Albright. Albright has been plagued with injuries throughout his brief career with the Eagles, but if he can stay healthy and return to his 2007 form (38 tackles, team-high 8.5 sacks, 10 TFLs), Albright will be a much needed boost to a defensive line that lost both Raji and Brace up the middle.
3. Florida is about as big a consensus favorite as we've seen in recent years, but remember, USC got 62 out of 65 first-place votes in the AP's 2007 preseason poll and still managed to lose to Stanford. Given how difficult it is to go undefeated period these days, where do you think the Gators are most likely to stumble in the regular season?
If Florida is to stumble this season, the chic pick for the Gators lone loss is the October 17 game against Arkansas in the Swamp. The Gators will be coming off an epic, double overtime win over LSU in Death Valley and this game has let-down written all over it.
Ole Miss : 2008 :: Arkansas : 2009
I just hope the University of Florida has room at their new football facility for another plaque.
4. Which regular-season game not involving your team or conference are you most looking forward to this year?
Without question, the answer here has to be the Red River Rivalry (nee Shootout) between Texas and Oklahoma. Whatever the over/under is for that game, take the over. These teams have high-powered offenses and don't play defense. This has all the makings of a 56-52 final score. Should be fun to watch.
5. In honor of Georgia's opening-weekend opponent and their most prolific booster, let's say you somehow come into T. Boone Pickens money and can buy anything you want for your program -- facilities upgrades, an airplane for recruiting, buy out the contract of that coach you hate, you name it. Where does your first check go?
My first purchase wouldn't be to expand Alumni Stadium, upgrade our practice facilities, or give Coach Spaziani a contract extension (or buy him out, depending on your preference). No. Ask any Eagles fan about the BC gameday experience and likely their first complaint about is tailgating. When a good percentage of fans are either parking at one of our satellite campus and taking a bus to the game or tailgating IN a parking garage, you know you have a problem. Indeed, our tailgating scene is whack and pales in comparison to the scenes at Penn State, Clemson or even Virginia Tech.
So, T. Boone, if you'd be willing to throw some bills at the Eagles, might I suggest the following:
You've heard of retractable roofs on baseball stadiums. How about a retractable asphalt parking surface that could extend over the entirety of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir? You've instantly created a temporary tailgating area about the size of BC's main campus and vastly improved the BC tailgating scene.
On Saturdays, open up the Reservoir for tailgating. As the school will have essentially reclaimed otherwise unusable land, said tailgating area would not be subject to the City of Boston's strict tailgating rules. Yes, this temporary area would open 24 hours before kickoff and be Eagles tailgating heaven. On non-game days, simply retract the parking surface to return the Reservoir to its natural aquatic beauty. An added bonus is this tailgating area's proximity to Roggie's, MaryAnn's, Pino's and Presto's for postgame celebratory activities. Win, win, win.