Archive for the ‘Roundtables’ Category

Big Red Roundtable – Call in FEMA Edition

September 26, 2007

Chicken Little is alive and well in Husker Nation, so we decided to throw our own thoughts in the ring. I’m a little late to the party, as my invitation apparently got lost in the mail (Ahem), but hopefully my responses will add in some way to the ocean of opinions flooding the Big Red.

1) Assess the Huskers performance this season. What is going well, and what has surprised you?

Maybe more things are going well then most of Husker Nation would like to admit. Our special teams seemed much improved, although I’d still like to see us bust a long return. Cortney Grixby was apparently close last week, but those are the kind of plays that can turn games and even seasons. Another area that is going extremely well is our Red Zone offense. We have currently converted 17/18 (94.4%) red zone opportunities. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the one we failed to convert involved Joe Ganz or Beau Davis taking a knee to run out the clock against Nevada.

For me the biggest surprise is how poorly our offensive line has performed. This is the one area I expected to be much improved. Brett Byford had supposedly blossomed into a solid center, and Lydon Murtha was thought to have “found himself” in the offseason. Our lack of a running game, however, indicates we still have a long way to go before the pipeline is rebuilt. With the seeming lack of progress upfront, I wouldn’t be shocked (nor pleased) if we had to return to the JUCO ranks for another quality lineman. If not we will be counting on some supposedly talented, but inexperienced guys next season.

2) Let’s not sugar coat things; the Blackshirts are struggling. What do you think the issue is, and what needs to be done to rectify things this season?

I think a lack of heart and intensity is one of the major issues with the defense. No one seems to be willing to step up or get in guys’ faces. That creates a great deal of passivity among the Blackshirts.

A second problem looks to be the way the plays are called and signaled into the defense. Cosgrove wants to wait until the offensive personnel is set so that he can make the right situational substitutions and alignments. That’s fine in some respects, but also seems to account for the defensive players lining up, shifting and moving around as the offense puts the ball in play. It’s pretty tough to hold your line, let alone make progress up field, when you were never set in the first place. This one seems entirely correctable.

When you combine the above issues with a linebacking corps that has struggled to get off blocks, not only this year, but also in years past we are finding that offenses are gashing the middle of the Blackshirts.

To rectify things the team just needs to be reminded to play hard and have fun. Listening to Corey McKeon’s comments it’s clear he is no longer having fun. When you stop having fun, your energy level drops and you essentially stop making plays. If I were in charge of the defense, I would sacrifice the poor scout team this week for the good of the season. I’d go back to running Oklahoma drills, goal line reps and other one-on-one hitting and tackling drills. The point is to remind the guys how fun it is to light somebody up. Send some scout team receivers over the middle and let the secondary guys get a bead on the them. Put the ball at the fifty and let two guys race and fight for it at midfield (a la the XFL kickoff). Anything just to increase the fun and aggressiveness of the defense. I believe much of the passivity I see relates to fear and a lack of confidence that relates to being exposed by USC. That fear has paralyzed the system. Guys are holding back out of fear of making mistakes. As a result, I’d introduce the Blackshirts to a new mantra:

“Mistakes are a necessary part of learning. No mistakes – no learning. I’ll make my mistakes fearlessly and aggressively. I’m not playing it safe, holding back, or looking for excuses. I’m going for it – I’ll accept whatever happens and move on. I don’t fear mistakes, I learn from them.”

3) Kevin Cosgrove is the target of a lot of criticism over the play of the Blackshirts. How will this play out?

I think the criticism will continue until we win a national title. This is a pretty educated guess based on what happened with Darlington and McBride during the 80s. Both of those guys were harassed for years because their system was ineffective against Oklahoma, Miami and Florida State. Those teams had a way of making our defenses look slow and unathletic. Ironically, the system magically improved when our defenses became faster and more athletic. The changes ultimately related to the types of players we brought in, rather than a change in philosophy or system. (Ed.- I realize we changed to the 4-3 in the early 90s, but still struggled against certain offenses until the talent caught up).

Unlike many I don’t think Cosgrove is on his way out during or after this season. Nor do I believe that would immediately rectify the concerns on D. If Callahan had any doubts about Cosgrove’s defensive philosophy he would have encouraged him to take the Vikings job last off-season. Do people really think he fires his best friend after said best friend decided to stay on just a year ago? Yes, coaching is a business, but friendships and staff continuity often supercede making tough business decisions. The wildcard could be a directive from Callahan’s boss asking for changes. God help Husker Nation if word leaks of such an edict.

4) You went into this season with some expectations. Has the start to this season changed your mind? Where do you see the Huskers at the end of the season?

The start has had little impact on my overall expectations. I thought we’d be 3-1 at this juncture in the season. I also thought the expectations of others were a little unrealistic given not only our situation, but also that of our opponents (e.g., Missouri’s home field advantage and returning QB). At best I envisioned 10-2. At worst 7-5. In the end we probably end up somewhere in between. But I fully expect the roller coaster ride to continue throughout the season. Yippee!!

5) There was a loud chorus of boos last weekend at Memorial Stadium. Your reaction? Is it okay to boo the Huskers under any circumstance?

I’m sort of indifferent to the booing. I think it flies in the face of our self-applied “greatest fans in college football” label, but that ship had sailed years ago. As a fan, I believe you are entitled to voice your displeasure and booing seems a legitimate option to many. Obviously I’d prefer all 85,000 simply went home and started a blog, but booing is definitely more immediately gratifying. College football is a major spectator sport. There is no way to separate the spectators from the action. If you want fans to cheer on your greatest deeds, you should also be prepared for them to chastise your worst. I also believe that a mentally well-conditioned athlete should be rather immune to fan reactions of any sort. If you are hearing and reacting to the boos, I’d question your focus on the task at hand. Which I suppose if you’ve read the rest of my responses I clearly am.

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Big Red Roundtable: Post-Spring Game Reflections

April 24, 2007

Another Big Red Roundtable is upon us. Today we look at our post-spring impressions.

1. Keller or Ganz. Pick one, then give three reasons.

Keller. Three reasons huh?

One: Blondie on the left.

Two: Brunette on the right.

Three: 461 yards, 4 TDs and a passing efficiency rating of 155.22 against #5 LSU in 2005.

2. The most impressive guy at the Spring Game?

My dad? I guess I should have mentioned this before, but I didn’t actually see any of the Spring Game. Thus, I’m just going on reports. Based on that Suh seemed to have a pretty impressive day. And I don’t know, how about Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore calling the plays while Callahan relaxed in the booth.

3. If you were the Athletic Director, what would you do with the proceeds?

Let’s see 55,000 fans at $8 a head means roughly $440,000. Paying off our existing debt is BORING! So, we’ll think outside the box. How about a huge party on September 15 with USC visiting Lincoln? We invite back the 1997 team to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their national championship (Muck Fichigan!). Not only does Dr. Tom take the field, but so does the indomitable Frank Solich at the request of Steve Pederson (Ohio plays at VT that day, but play along). The ’97 team takes the field during the pregame, with Pederson tucked away in a suite or in a corner or something. Coach Callahan shakes hands with Dr. Tom and Solich. The crowd offers a roaring standing ovation for Solich’s contributions and those of the incredibly talented 1997 Huskers. God smites Broderick Thomas with permanent laryngitis. And Husker Nation lives happily ever after.

4. Do 54,000 people show up at Nebraska’s Spring Game because there is really nothing else to do in Nebraska or because we’re more in love with our Huskers than anyone else is with their team?

Well, clearly there is nothing else to do in Nebraska and we like our Huskers. But Alabama loves their team and Nick “I don’t have time for this shit” Saban way more than we could ever imagine.

5. When you heard Marlon Lucky was injured, your first thought was…

…honestly I think I probably sounded a bit like old school Too Short – Mother fucking shit god damn asshole. But I was far more worried about his mental health. After fighting back from his curious medical emergency it seemed unfair to be hurt late in the spring game. I was extremely relieved to hear the injury was minor. I seriously hope that guy has AFLAC.

6. Were you at all concerned by the fairly modest rushing performance overall by the Red team or is that a sign there’s some depth on the defensive front seven?

Whoa, I’m a stats junkie and I can honestly say this is the first I’ve heard about modest rushing numbers. After losing all four starters on the defensive front, I don’t think we have much depth in our front seven. But the spring game rushing isn’t a big concern to me right now. We outrushed our opponent in 9 of our 14 games last season and the only change is no BJax. I think we’ll be okay, but get back to me in September.

7. Callahan called the receiving corps the strength of the team. Would you tend to agree with that or would you choose another aspect (e.g. linebackers)?

I do agree with Callahan. I think the trendy answer will be the linebackers, but I’m not convinced they go as deep as the receivers. Nunn, Purify, Swift and Peterson are all capable guys. Factor in Hardy, Dan Erickson’s blocking, and youngsters Will Henry, and Meno Holt and I think we have our deepest unit.

At linebacker we have Ruud, McKeon, Octavian, Dillard, Brandenburgh, and occasionally a healthy Nick Covey. Out of that group only Ruud and McKeon have proven their worth over an entire season. Octavian is an enigmatic pinball of talent, waiting to be pushed in the right direction. We’ll see if Cosgrove has both flippers functioning in 2007. Dillard is fighting his way back from injury and Brandenburgh has never gotten enough PT. Both are only likely to see their minutes increase in a 3-4 schematic shift.

So yeah, the WRs are the strength of our team right now.

Be sure and check out the other roundtable posts:

Husker Mike
Big Red Network
Corn Nation
Hi-Plains Drifter
Midwest Coast Bias
Husker Faithful
Husker Guy

Big Red Roundtable – Pre-spring Edition

March 26, 2007

This month’s Big Red Roundtable is being hosted by Husker Mike. It includes the usual cast of characters as well as new faces Midwest Coast Bias and Husker H8ter, AJ (really?). Welcome to the table fellas.

1. The coaching staff says the quarterback race is wide open between Sam Keller, Joe Ganz, Beau Davis, and Patrick Witt. What is your expectation as how this will turn out next season?

I’ve mentioned this already, but I actually like the QBs sharing snaps in the spring. It gives all four a chance to show the coaches what they can do and should do little to negatively impact the progress of the offense come fall. That being said, I believe it is a two-man race between Ganz and Keller. Ganz knows the offense and is as gritty as they come. While he doesn’t have the physical tools of Keller he should be comfortable in the system and might benefit from low expectations. Keller will wind up the starter, but he better not expect guys like Ganz to lay down for him. Keller has the weight of Husker Nation on his shoulders and will have to be prepared to deal with the pressure. Here’s to hoping that the parking incident wasn’t a sign of chinks in his mental armor. If he stays healthy and lives up to even the most modest of expectations, he could leave with a bevy of school records all-conference honors to boot.

2. Besides quarterback, what positions will have the biggest battles and how do you expect them to work out?

I think one of the biggest battles will occur at the safety positions. Right now we have newcomer Larry Asante battling Ricky Thenarse at SS and Tierre Green and Anthony West fighting for the FS spot. With the way things are lined up back there, I’m wondering if the spring is a battle for the SS spot with a chance for the loser of that fight to slide over and compete at FS in the fall. The only reason I’m thinking this is that Thenarse and Asante could very well be our two best safeties. What good does it do us to keep one of them off the field?

I also think we will have a good battle at BDE between Zach Potter and Pierre Allen. Allen is getting all the spring publicity after gaining 40 pounds during his redshirt year, but Potter could benefit from knowing the defense a little better. With a completely re-tooled defensive line, the battle at BDE will be important to our overall defensive success at 2007.

3. Two years ago, the 2005 recruiting class was touted as one of the nation’s best. Only a few players from this group have made an impact thus far; who do you expect to emerge this spring?

The 2005 class has certainly had its share of disappointments and is unlikely to ever match the promise that year’s Signing Day. Most fans penciled the bulk of that group in as immediate starters and impact players. While we see a bunch of contributors and a few certified stars (Zac Taylor, Zack Bowman), there is quite a glaring list of washouts.

When looking at who could breakout in 2007, I think Ndamukong Suh has to top the list. Coaches drooled over his NFL-body as a high school star and a few years under Dave Kennedy could not have hurt. With the DT spots wide-open and Coach Callahan claiming Suh to have “all-conference” potential, I expect big things from Ndamukong in 2007. Phillip Dillard is another player that I believe could emerge in 2007. From what I saw from Dillard prior to his injury in 2006, he looked like the prototypical MIKE backer. He’s a little bigger than McKeon and if he comes back healthy could push for time and might actually force Cosgrove to figure out a way to get four linebackers on the field at the same time.

4. In the 1990’s, Coach Osborne started matching up the #1 offense against the #1 defense in the spring game. Bill Callahan switched this around and put the #1 offense and defense on the same team, playing against the reserves. Do you prefer a format?

As a fan, I obviously prefer to watch a spring game that pits #1s against #1s. I was in Lincoln for last year’s spring game and found it boring to watch for the most part. I know Osborne stole the idea of #1s against #1s from Bobby Bowden who attributed his team’s in-season progress to matching up the speed of his #1 defense against his #1 offense at least three days per week. The problem with this can be that starters may be more likely to be injured. I mean do we really want to lose Marlon Lucky for the year due to a spring collision with Steve Octavian or Corey McKeon? One thing that I think could help our team overall is that we seem to be developing more depth at many positions. This year it is possible that the reserve secondary facing Keller or Ganz could include Andre Jones, Armando Murillo, Ricky Thenarse and Anthony West. That is quite an upgrade over years past and the offense should benefit from competing against improved depth on the defensive side of the ball.

You can check out the other responses from:
Husker Mike
Midwest Coast Bias Podcast (If you can’t listen to the whole show, fast forward about 38 minutes in; their response goes for the last 20 minutes or so)
Corn Nation
Big Red Network
HuskerH8ter

Big Red Roundtable – Other Sports

March 5, 2007

This edition of the Big Red Roundtable is being hosted by Corn Nation. With the Husker softball and baseball seasons having started, and the men and women’s basketball teams headed to the conference tournament, it is a good time to give some attention to the Huskers’ “other sports”. This is a good exercise for DXP as I’ve given no love to sports outside of football. I wanted to put a bit more time into this post, but outside responsibilities got the best of me this weekend. Anywho, here’s my stab at the questions.

What’s your interest in the ‘other’ Nebraska sports those beyond Husker football?

At this point in my life, I have a passing interest at best in other sports. I grew up with season tickets to basketball games, and was a big fan for much of my youth. At some point after Danny Nee left, my interest waned. I still follow the team somewhat, but do not schedule my life around the games, nor do I analyze or really think about the team’s success or lack thereof.

I started following the baseball team during the Dave Van Horn era, which I guess makes me a prototypical “bandwagon” fan. As a child I made yearly trips to the CWS and always imagined what it might be like should Nebraska ever make it. With the team’s eventual trips to Omaha my interest reached all-time highs. At times I wish I could better follow college baseball and Nebraska in particular, but the coverage of this sport continues to lag behind that of football and basketball. While living out of state, I’ve found enjoying Big Red baseball somewhat difficult to manage.

I have never followed the more minor sports like wrestling, track or swimming. The same could be said of women’s sports. I enjoy the success of the volleyball team and find the level of play incredible to watch. Unfortunately, I don’t watch it very often.

In which sport besides football would you like Nebraska to succeed most and why?

I would love to see Nebraska have more success in basketball. With an athletic budget of $63,695,480 (approximately 5% of which goes toward NU hoops), I guess I’ve never really figured out what holds us back from becoming more of a basketball school. Perhaps that explains why I hold out hope. There is really no excuse for our performance on the hardwood over the last 25 years. How can we have just one conference title and five NCAA appearances over that time period? If we can’t have true basketball success, I would hope we could at least become more fun to watch. By the end of Collier’s tenure we had become just plain painful to follow. I don’t enjoy watching teams walk the ball up the court or see halfcourt possessions end with an expired shot-clock. I think Doc Sadler looks like the type of coach who can bring some intensity to the team and might just get us over the proverbial hump.

Some Husker fans have the attitude that former athletic director Bill Byrne focused too much on ‘other’ sports which hurt the success of the football team. Do you agree with that statement?

I do feel like Byrne’s pursuit of the Director’s Cup had an indirect effect on the success of the football program. The football facilities certainly slid toward mediocrity under Byrne’s watch. With the new arms race that has developed in the Big 12, I think we are seeing more and more evidence of the importance of facility upgrades to overall program success. While some would argue that this is a case of “keeping up with the Joneses,” I assume there is a direct correlation between spending and success. I don’t fault Byrne, however, for attempting to build up the other sports programs. That seems to fall directly in line with the duty of an athletic director. My guess is that Byrne simply overestimated the type of spending that would or could take place in a state like Nebraska. I imagine he will have far greater success with this type of pursuit at a place like Texas A&M.

And as a follow up to the previous question, do you think that the ‘other sports’ detract from or complement Husker football?

I feel the other sports are definitely a complement to Husker football. It may be cynical, but success in any sport means increased athletic department revenues. As previously postulated, increased revenues should then breed further success.

Keep your eyes open for Big Red Roundtable posts at:
Corn Nation
Big Red Network
Husker Mike

BlogPoll Roundtable

November 8, 2006

Here are my responses to the latest BlogPoll Roundtable. It is being hosted this week by Hey Jenny Slater, which is a great blog so go check it out.

1. We’re just a few weeks away from the end of the regular season, so everybody should have a pretty good handle on how good their teams are and what sort of records they can expect to finish with. Looking back over the season, which was the game where your team really defined itself in 2006, for good or ill? Or to look at it another way, which game, win or loss, was most representative of your team’s attitude and style of play this season?

I’m going to go with the Texas game as the one that best defines our season. It helps that it was the lone game I’ve seen in person this year, but I truly believe it taught us the most about our team. First, we showed that we could compete with a Top 10 team at home. While the game exposed our lack of talent (and/or depth) at certain positions (I’m looking at you OL and secondary), we might just be closing this gap. In addition, while many questioned Callahan’s playcalling against USC, he showed confidence in the players and put them in a position to succeed versus UT. Ultimately I think this led to the defining moment of the season for Nebraska. Whether you agree with the decision to pass on third and short or not – the fact of the matter is, if Terrence Nunn hangs on – we beat Texas. You could argue that Nunn executed poorly in not securing the ball, or that Thorpe Award candidate Aaron Ross made a big-time play with the game on the line. Either way, this play showed me we aren’t quite there…yet.

2. Are there any teams you think are still hugely overrated? What about underrated?

I don’t know if they are hugely overrated, but I’m still not sure what to think of Louisville. At the same time, however, I’m not sure what else they could do. They survived the loss of their star QB and RB and just keep winning. I don’t think they would have finished an SEC schedule unblemished, so thus they might be a tad overrated. Wow. Worst. Explanation. Ever. That is why I don’t get paid for this.

Underrated: I don’t know, maybe Hawaii. Of course I haven’t seen them play due to their insanely late kickoff times. They lost to Alabama and Boise State by a touchdown early in the season. Since then they’ve just been down right offensive. If they put it to Oregon State and Purdue late in the season they likely finish 11-2, which would mean they have been underrated by most of us.

3. Did your team play any Division I-AA opponents this year? If so, do you think it benefited your team at all? If you were a coach or an NCAA official, what policy would you have toward scheduling D-IAAs?

Nebraska played I-AA Nicholls State early in the season. I suppose the game benefited the team somewhat in terms of experience and evaluation. I know a lot players got into the game and I can see some utility in having them debut against a team like Nicholls State rather than a USC or Mid-Major U. In addition, the game gave the coaches an opportunity to evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, all four of the running backs got at least five carries in the game and Maurice Purify found the endzone for the first time on the season. Outside of that, the Nicholls State game meant the coaching staff had to prepare for a triple-option attack it would see only once all year, the week before the team headed to USC. So that was clearly an unfortunate side-effect.

The scheduling of lesser opponents has been a hot-button issue among Nebraska fans for years. The company line used to be that it was extremely difficult to get teams to agree to play in Lincoln, as it often meant an early season loss. I suppose that still rings true to some extent, despite our recent struggles. Overall, I guess the bottom-line remains the…bottom-line. I-A teams need home game revenues (and wins) and I-AA teams obviously benefit financially as well. I’d obviously prefer more competitive scheduling, but it is not top on my list of changes I would make to college football.

4. Which not-a-typical-national-powerhouse team (i.e. no Ohio States or USCs) has played well enough this year to set themselves up for a breakout season in ’07?

I hate to say it, but Missouri might be on the brink of big things. I think they started one senior on offense against Nebraska and just four seniors on defense. They have talent at the right spots offensively and continue to do a nice job recruiting. I honestly think their biggest obstacle to taking the next step might be their head coach. Pinkel seems to be the type that can coach his team right out of a game. If the balance of power in the vaunted Big 12 North is going to shift back to Nebraska, we may need Mizzou to keep him right where he is.

5. Take a look at your team’s bowl prospects this season. Which bowl(s) do you think you have a reasonable shot of ending up in? Of the teams you might likely face in a bowl, which team would you most want to play and why (maybe you’ve always wanted to see how your team would match up with them, maybe there’s an old score you want to settle, or maybe you just want to finish the season with an easy win)? Conversely, which potential opponent would you really like to avoid in a bowl game?

I actually just took a look at this for the first time this week so as to plan my trip home for Christmas. I’m not very good at figuring it all out, but it looks like we have a good shot at either the Holiday Bowl or a return trip to the Alamo Bowl. The Holiday Bowl could end up being a rematch with USC. The Alamo Bowl looks like it could either be Iowa or Purdue. Out of those scenarios I would like to see us play Iowa. Border skirmishes are always fun and what Nebraskan wouldn’t like more ammunition to use against those silly Iowegians?

I think I would like to avoid the rematch with USC. Yes it would be interesting to face them and to see Callahan open up the playbook more this time. However, I still don’t think we match up well with them at all. I mean if I wanted to see a track meet, I would watch…a track meet. But maybe we should just ask Andre Jones who he would prefer us to play.

6. In a roundtable question during the off-season, we were asked whom you’d pick if your current coach fell deathly ill and you had to select another coach to lead your team to victory. Let’s turn this around and imagine that you’ve somehow schemed your way onto the search committee to select your biggest rival’s next head coach. Which rival would that be, and which coaching sooper genius would you try to stick them with?

I guess the hardest part of this question is determining who Nebraska’s rival is these days. I suppose the safe answer is Colorado. The hire of Dan Hawkins actually scared me a bit a year ago. I think he can do a lot down the road with the type of talent CU typically brings in. That being said, if I could replace him, I would bring in the unflappable Lou Holtz. The major reason is that this would remove him from his ESPN studio gig, which would allow me to once again enjoy their Saturday coverage. In addition, I like Colorado more when its program is shrouded in controversy and lets face it – when you hear Lou Holtz you obviously think “institutional control”. Lastly, I just like the way Holtz says “Nebrathka”.

*Feel free to post your answers in the comments (In other words, follow Brandon’s lead)

BlogPoll Roundtable #2

September 6, 2006

One of the niftier components of the BlogPoll are the occasional roundtable discussions. These roundtables focus on issues concerning college football and the polling process. This week’s roundtable is being hosted by The Ciskie Blog. Here are my answers about Week 1 surprises.

1. What team best met your overall expectations of them in their opener

USC best fits here for me. I expected the Trojans to demonstrate that the NFL took only a small bite from their burrito of talent. John David Booty sparkled and picked a part the Arkansas defense. Overall, USC displayed the kinds of weapons that put fear into this Husker fan. I was holding out a small glimmer of hope that Booty would struggle early and lack confidence going into the game with Nebraska…so much for that. Defensively USC made the Arkansas offense look as though it was being directed by a high school coach. It also led to the first quarterback controversy of the season and turned the temperature under a Houston Nutt’s chair up a notch or two. Given that USC’s toughest games are at home I don’t see them finishing outside of the Top 5 this year.

2. What team jumped off the map and surprised you the most? (Bonus points to anyone who can make an argument for someone besides Tennessee.)

I’m going with Oregon on this one. I have to admit that I didn’t have much faith in their ability to cover against Stanford. Instead the Ducks pounded the Cardinal with a prolific offensive attack. Running back Jonathan Stewart had a breakout game and now looks like the biggest star in the Pac 10 outside of L.A. In addition, quarterback Dennis Dixon exceeded expectations by going 21-30 for 236 yards and a TD. While the offensive output is expected in the Pac 10, I was also impressed with Oregon’s defense. It looks like a unit that is capable of shutting opponents down meaning the offense might not have to rely on late scores to put teams away. We should know even more about the Ducks after their trip to Fresno.

Honorable mention here has to go Colorado. The overall ineptitude of this squad caught me completely by surprise. After falling to Montana State and now facing a brutal schedule the rest of the way Dan Hawkins has to be missing the smurf turf of Boise State.

3. What team best moved themselves into a position to surprisingly contend for a national title?

Tennessee is the easy answer and rightfully so. The Vols offense looked unbelievable and Meachem gives them a huge weapon. I don’t, however, see them as legitimate national title contenders given their schedule. Despite their obvious improvement I imagine that either Georgia or Florida takes care of the Vols’ championship hopes.

The other team I would put here is Louisville. I know they lost Bush, but they also showed they can put other talent on the field. Brian Brohm looks healthy and might have been the best QB in the nation this first week. They have a favorable schedule and barring further injuries or unexpected twists should be in the hunt later in the season. Whether you would consider their contention a surprise or not, however, is up to you.