College Football Weekend Preview: Hey Coaches, You Stink at Polling

We live in a day and age where media has engendered and maybe even encouraged knee-jerk overreaction. "Fire this coach!" "Bench that player!"

Overreaction is rarely the right response in almost any facet of life, but why hasn't the 24-7 news cycle and social media seemingly brushed off even a little on college football's slow-to-react power brokers?

Thankfully the Amway Coaches Poll doesn't have as much influence as it once had in determining national championships as it did in the BCS era and pre-BCS era.

But one peek at the Week 6 Coaches Poll is all the proof needed that football coaches are a stubborn bunch.

Florida State as the No. 1 team in the nation would seem to be giving them too much credit for last season's accomplishments than the season at hand. But that's far from the most egregious oversight. The Associated Press also has the Seminoles ranked No. 1, and the A.P. is 100 times more reputable than the coaches when it comes to polling.

The coaches have undefeated Arizona ranked No. 13, while the team they beat last week—Oregon—sits two spots ahead at No. 11.

Worse yet, Michigan State, who lost to Oregon earlier in the season, is ahead of both, ranked No. 8 in the nation.

In another case reeking of a lack of common sense, undefeated TCU is ranked No. 12, three rungs lower than No. 8 Oklahoma, who lost to TCU last week.

Encouraged here is not so much overreaction, but reaction at all to what's happening on the field of play.

This isn't a case of who's the better one-loss team—Georgia or Texas A&M? People might lean one way or the other on the answer to that question, but it's purely speculative. When there's fast-and-hard evidence right in front of our noses, it shouldn't be ignored.

What's scary is that several of the members of the College Football Playoff Committee are former coaches.

Give the Committee credit, at least they're waiting until Oct. 28 to release their first set of rankings. They won't be subject to issues of small sample size.

But hopefully they won't give undue credit to prior success or winning tradition when it comes to determining the playoff field.

 

Where College GameDay Is At

Not to be outdone by their in-state rivals at Ole Miss, No. 3 Mississippi State gets into the fun by hosting ESPN's popular pre-game show for their game on Saturday against No. 2 Auburn.

Coming off their own high-profile victory over Texas A&M, coach Dan Mullen has gotten his team over a hump and his Bulldogs have proven they're legitimate contenders in the SEC West.

If there was any proof needed that statistics can be deceiving, despite the last-ranked team in the SEC in pass defense, the Bulldogs held their own against the conference's top-ranked passing offense, holding quarteback Kenny Hill in check.

Drops by the Aggies receivers didn't help, but a good share of success had to do with sacking Hill four times, showing that the Bulldogs front seven is the strength of the defense, led by big senior linebacker Bernardrick McKinney.

That same front seven will need to be the heroes once again against an Auburn team led by quarterback Nick Marshall, who's become even more dangerous in 2014 as he's surrounded by an elite group of receivers, even though the offense still revolves around the run.

Auburn has a talented defense of its own, even though there's little name recognition. It's a true team effort as players like defensive lineman Gabe Daniels, linebacker Kris Frost and safety Jermaine Whitehead will make a bigger name for themselves in the NFL than they have in college.

They'll be challenged to keep Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in check, a player that might be the Heisman Trophy front-runner now that Georgia running back Todd Gurley has been suspended. Like previous SEC star quarterbacks Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, Prescott is able to run with power and get the job done through the air at the same time.

Prediction: The Bulldog defense limited Auburn to 120 rushing yards and no touchdowns a year ago, and that defensive unit is even better this year. They'll limit the damage by the Auburn running game. 32-28, Hail State.

 

The Wisconsin Connection

The seemingly never-ending storyline at Wisconsin is the quarterback position, a situation that remains as murky as ever now that Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave are listed as co-starters at the position.

It's becoming increasingly difficult for the fanbase to wrap their head around this trainwreck because so much has gone on behind closed doors.

They're forced to take the coach's word that Stave really and truly had a case of the "yips" when it would be so much easier to accept had they seen it with their own two eyes in a game environment.

And it's hard to stomach that third-string quarterback Bart Houston can really be so bad that he isn't even deserving of a look.

Giving the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt in these cases, there's one place where blame is appropriate, and that's on offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig.

For all the talk about the implementation of the read-option into Wisconsin's offense, it's barely been evident through the season's first five games.

Dropping back and throwing medium- to long-range passes sure doesn't play to McEvoy's strengths, but the Badgers have missed the boat by not taking advantage of McEvoy's biggest talent, and that's his running ability.

It would be easier to rally around McEvoy knowing the offense would be better geared around a player that touched the ball on every play. And that doesn't mean they would have to feed the football to Melvin Gordon any less.

Stave, meanwhile, will never be mistaken for an all-conference quarterback, but it's difficult to hold him accountable on two out of his three interceptions last week against Northwestern, considering the circumstances.

Blame one interception on right tackle Rob Havenstein, who inexcusably gave up too much ground too quickly to the defender batting Stave's pass as it was released. And the last interception was a last-ditch contested catch and a situation Stave shouldn't have been in to begin. There's no excusing the end zone interception, however. That's all on Stave.

The two-quarterback system isn't advised, but that seems to be the way the direction things are headed in Madison. The recommendation here would be to pick one quarterback and revolve the offense around their individual strengths, but that appears that suggestion will fall on deaf ears.

To say the season is at a crossroads would be giving the Badgers' next opponent too much credit. After falling at home to Purdue last week, Illinois gets the dishonor of being the worst team in the Big Ten, which is contention for the worst team in the Power 5 conferences.

Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt leads a respectable Fighting Illini offense, but the defense ranks last in the Big Ten in both total yardage (482.3 ypg) and scoring (35.5 ppg).

Prediction: It doesn't matter who's quarterbacking the Badgers offense, they'll run roughshod over the Illinois defense. 38-23, On Wisconsin.

 

What Happened Before Saturday

For No. 25 Stanford, defense isn't the problem. Never has been.

In a match-up of the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation and the No. 1 passing offense in the nation, the Stanford defense limited Washington State's prolific aerial display to a manageable 17 points on Thursday evening, on its way to a 34-17 win.

During two previous losses to Notre Dame and USC, it's been Stanford's offense that's let down the rest of the team.

The Wazzu defense isn't going to be mistaken for the Purple People Easters anytime soon, but at least Stanford was efficient on offense.

Quarterback Kevin Hogan spread the football to 12 different receivers on his way to throwing for 287 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Hogan has a slow release and not a very strong arm compared to the country's best quarterbacks, so he needs to be a game manager. And he was Thursday night.

The top three rushers for Stanford also each averaged at least 7.0 yards per carry.

The defense, led by A.J. Tarpley and group of four linebackers all with at least four tackles for a loss, is going to be fine.

As long as the Stanford offense can duplicate Thursday's recipe for success the rest of the season, they'll be difficult to beat, starting with a game at No. 20 Arizona State next week.

 

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].

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Comments (5)

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AliciaMitchell's picture

November 24, 2019 at 04:56 am

Congratulations)

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AliciaMitchell's picture

November 24, 2019 at 04:57 am

Great news from https://cheeseheadtv.com !)

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LeahPayne's picture

November 28, 2019 at 09:25 pm

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MariamSherlock's picture

December 05, 2019 at 11:00 am

It was really cool weekend!

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