1. In his "visiting lecturers" series posted on Every Day Should Be Saturday over the past few months, Orson Swindle asked each participant to explain which country, during which historical period, their team most resembles. Let's bring everything up to the present day and ponder: Which current sovereign nation is your team? Or to look at it another way, how does your team fit into the "world" of college football?
I wracked my brains to avoid saying this, because nothing's more irritating than the likes of 1970s Dallas Cowboys claiming the title of America's team, but then I realized that most people dislike SC also, so I'm going with it: USC is the US.
Strong on defense, a little shaky on offense, not necessarily full of rocket scientists, but fast, rich, and adaptable. Capable of causing significant rage to outsiders for reasons from general principle through ill-concealed jealousy. Possessed of a song that wears thin on people outside the tribe after constant repetition. Not looking like a hyper-power at the moment, but capable of mixing it up with just about anyone. I think that's a fair comparison
2. Every preseason roundup has to have some discussion of who's overrated, but let's go beyond that. Which team do you think is poised to crap the bed in the biggest way this season relative to high expectations, and which game do you think will begin their slide into ignominy?
Arizona State, because of their lack of an offensive line. I know that people in o-line glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but while defense wins championships, a quarterback who has been planted in the turf like a tent peg can't win games. I think that if Georgia shells ASU, the Sun Devils are going to have a hard time keeping their season intact - except for a win over SC, just for spite.
3. On the flip side of that coin, which team do you think is going to burst out of nowhere to become 2008's biggest overachiever -- this year's version of Kansas '07, as it were -- and what's going to be the big upset that makes us all finally sit up and take notice of them?
I'll be honest, I don't pay much attention to anyone that USC isn't playing, which is especially true in a summer with both a major international soccer tournament and the Olympics. After skimming the Oracle of Phil Steele and other people's polls, it looks like BYU is a reasonable pick - but they have to beat both Washington and UCLA for that to be the case. In the PAC-10 more specifically, Oregon is going to be the team that's better than expected.
4. Here's an "I'll hang up and listen" question. I put Ohio State and Oklahoma #1 and #2, respectively, despite their recent high-profile BCS face-plants. Where did you rank those two teams, and did those BCS issues have anything to do with it?
We ranked Ohio State at #2 and Oklahoma at #3 (Georgia was ranked first, and USC at #4). While it's hard to avoid the bowl game bed-crapping, the fact remains that both Ohio State and Oklahoma are talented teams with limited attrition prior to this season. Those players got through last season at 11 - 2 for Oklahoma and 11 - 1 for Ohio State, and there haven't been any obvious huge swings from their conference rival. That seems to be plenty of reason to assume that our rankings are pretty solid. Georgia gets the nod for first spot on the grounds that they seem to be more talented than the other two, but perhaps they are getting a bump from their bowl game thrashing of Hawaii... call it the Reverse Big-Game-Bob effect.
5. Last season was a statistical outlier in countless ways, not the least of which was the fact that we ended up with a two-loss team as national champion. Do you think anyone plays a strong enough schedule to get MNC consideration as a two-loss team this year? Conversely, do you see anybody managing to sail into the national-championship game undefeated?
It seems unlikely that another two loss team would end up in the MNC, but then who thought that Michigan would lose to Appalachian State, or USC to Stanford for that matter? Still, it seems more plausible, especially given the relative consistency of at least the top three in our Blogpoll rankings, that one loss is about as much as a team can carry and end up in the MNC. If Ohio State beats SC and Michigan has teething problems, tOSU could make it to the MNC undefeated.
6. OK, time for some Olympic fever. Which athlete from the Beijing Olympics -- any sport, any country, with the exception of USA basketball since those guys are already pros -- would you most want to add to your team's roster this season? No worries about age, eligibility, or even gender; we'll worry about that crap later.
I'm sure plenty of people have picked Usain Bolt, but who knows whether he can carry a ball at that speed in uniform and pads, and take a hit? Equally, the US men's and women's relay teams may not be our best bet.
Initially I was thinking left-field and looked at rowing - New Zealand's Hamish Bond solely for his name, or Britain's Robin Bourne-Taylor, an Oxford-educated engineer whose next gig will be as an infantry lieutenant in Afghanistan - there's a lot of upside to having someone like that in the mix. Finally, I decided to stick a little closer geographically to SC and look to Irvine for Jason Lezak - he's built like a football player, he used to play water polo so we know he can take a beating, and he's nothing if not clutch.