Last year was our first year in the esteemed BlogPoll. Being the freshmen on the team, we tried to keep our noses clean and made as little trouble as possible. Now that we're moving up the depth chart (ie - we didn't get cut), I'm trying to expand our role in the BlogPoll and actually participate in the Weekly Roundtables.
The preseason roundtable is up at Hey Jenny Slater and here is my embarrassing first attempt to participate.
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?
Looking at my ballot, I've got TCU ranked at #12, a little bit ahead of everyone, but not enough to jump up and down and say "I told you so". My highest ranked teams that don't show up in the BlogPoll are Oregon St. and Clemson. OSU at #16 might be the peak of their potential, but I'm ranking them there out of respect for how the Beavers consistently overachieve. So, let's double down on Clemson.
Clemson is the perennial underachiever, so while many won't pick them to do anything because, well, they are Clemson, I think this makes them the good value bet to exceed expectations. CJ Spiller is one of the most exciting players in college football, the ACC is deep but lacks a top tier, and let us not forget, Tommy Bowden is no longer their coach. That's got to be worth at least two wins. The ACC is there for the taking. Why not Clemson?
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.
It's hard to be a sleeper on LSU, a media darling (that's right, I'm bucking the "ESPN hates us" trend). You could call LaFell a bit of a sleeper considering his noticeable absence from the all-SEC teams despite putting up better numbers than any returning receiver. However, the forgotten man seems to be Terrance Toliver. Randle has shown up on campus and is supposed to be the second coming right away, but Toliver has actually followed a pretty normal developmental arc for an LSU wide receiver. It's hard to rack up big numbers when you're trapped behind other exceptional receivers. Lest we forget, Toliver was a five-star recruit as well. He's big, fast, and will rarely be facing the other team's top corner. He is poised to put up huge numbers if we can find a quarterback who can get him the ball.
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?
It's too obvious for me to say LSU, right? LSU is 4-3 in the last seven against Florida, and the home team has won the last four times these teams have met. It really has been one of the most fiercely competitive rivalries in the nation recently, despite the absence of any real bad blood. I can honestly say I don't hate the Gators, but the LSU-UF tilt is usually a great game between two great teams. Hopefully, last year was the aberration. LSU also holds the secret to beating Tebow: keep him off the field. LSU's methodical, ball-control offense can shorten the game by running clock and reducing the number of snaps Tebow will get. Because every snap he takes is bad news.
4. Which regular-season game not involving your team or conference are you most looking forward to this year?
I hate looking too far ahead, especially on other team's schedules because we have no idea how the season will shape up as it progresses. So, looking at the first weekend, I, like every other college football fan, am pretty damn excited about Alabama versus Virginia Tech. The two teams look to be near carbon copies of each other, with terrific defenses and questionable offenses slugging it out. But even that is cheating because my brother is a Hokie, and I've got a pretty obvious rooting interest.
So, going outside the conference, it has to be USC at Ohio St. I'm rather indifferent towards USC for an LSU fan. I hate all things LA on general principle, but I don't really obsess over the Trojans. They have a terrific program, but I really am curious if they can keep up their high level with a true freshman at quarterback. Take if from us, Pete. Freshmen QB's can be a bitch. Still, both programs should be applauded for playing a heavyweight tilt in week two. I'll be busy tailgating, but my Tivo will be working overtime.
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?
Our facilities take a back seat to no one. Now that Malveto is gone, I've got no problem with the coaching staff. Tiger Stadium is a shrine. Believe it or not, I'm perfectly happy right now. So, we should just spend the millions of dollars on food and alcohol for tailgating. More beer!