Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Diminishing Skills 120: 75-51

Due to my laziness/alcoholism/videogame addiciton, I didn't make much progress on the 120 this weekend.  Therefore, I had to skip Monday and am now behind.  I'm going to try to get this thing wrapped up before the season starts, but no promises.

Before we begin, though...

*SIDEBAR #3: MAC Preview*
I probably should have included this in the last set of rankings after the Northern Illinois entry, but as my abortion doctor says, better late than never!

1. Northern Illinois 9-3 (7-1)
2. Western Michigan 7-5 (6-2)
3. Toledo 7-5 (6-2)
4. Central Michigan 5-7 (4-4)
5. Ball State 2-10 (2-6)
6. Eastern Michigan 4-8 (2-6)
1. Ohio 11-1 (8-0)
2. Temple 7-5 (5-3)
3. Kent State 6-6 (4-4)
4. Miami 5-7 (4-4)
5. Buffalo 3-9 (2-6)
6. Bowling Green 3-9 (2-6)
7. Akron 1-11 (0-8)

Is Ohio a BCS Buster?  No, they are not.  The Bobcats gaudy record can be attributed to the weakness of the MAC East, a conference schedule that avoids my top 3 MAC West teams, and a weak non-conference schedule highlighted by a visit from Marshall and a trip to Rutgers, the Bobcats' only loss, and one I could easily see being a win, which would mean a potential undefeated regular season heading into the MAC Championship game.  However...

MAC Championship: Northern Illinois (10-3) over Ohio (11-2)

Sadly, Kent State will continue their 29-year bowl-less streak, the longest in the MAC despite their 6-6 record.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, December 17, Boise, ID: Western Michigan (8-5) over Idaho (6-7)
The Broncos pull off a major coup for the MAC by winning what is essentially a road game.  As the WAC is decimated by defections next season, the MAC can use this win as the springboard to move up the conference echelon.
Little Caesar's Bowl, December 27, Detroit, MI: Iowa (8-5) over Toledo (7-6)
Toledo may be able to pull an upset playing so close to home against a disappointed Hawkeyes team, but the talent and size difference will most likely prove too large to overcome. Bowl, January 8, Mobile, AL: Northern Illinois (11-3) over Middle Tennessee (7-6)
This should be a rout, as Middle Tennessee is nowhere near as good as their record.


75. Indiana (3-9)

Is that guy in the background a Hoosier?  Because, honestly, I have no idea what one is.  In fact, I'm going to find out right now:
Hoosier (play /ˈhʒər/) is the official demonym for a resident of the U.S. State of Indiana.
Some theorize that "hoosier" derives from "boozer," but no one knows for sure where it comes from.  The first recorded use of it is in 1720, but it may have been in use prior to that.  As for the football squad, their non-conference schedule is easy enough that they should avoid a horrific-looking final record, but I don't expect them to notch a single Big Ten win.
Key Game: Purdue, November 26
Speaking of Big Ten wins, this is really the only shot the Hoosiers have of winning within the Big Ten, and even the odds of that are slim considering Indiana has won only 3 of the previous 14 meetings.  It seems a little unfair that the clear worst team in the Leaders division (ugh) doesn't get to face Minnesota.

74. Kansas (2-10)

I miss that guy.  After my wedding, I'm going to concentrate solely on looking as much like him as possible.  I'm sure the university is thrilled they let him go after seeing what Turner Gill produced his first season (3-9, including a 6-3 loss to North Dakota State).  I don't see another miracle comeback against Colorado happening again (I highly suggest you click that link; it's a really well-done video about that game), and thus I don't see any Big 12 wins happening.
Key Game: Baylor, November 12
In Big 12 meetings between the two schools in Lawrence, Kansas averages 44 points per game and has won every meeting by an average of 30 points per game.  If the Jayhawks can produce even half that sort of margin of victory this season, Gill may make me forget Mark Mangino after all.

73. Iowa State (2-10)

I wish that trophy still existed.  Nobody ever even got to win it before it was tossed aside.  I wonder if I could bid on it on E-Bay?  The Cyclones made progress last season, but the new 9-game conference schedule will prove too much for a still-developing team under Paul Rhoads.
Key Game: Kansas, November 5

72. Fresno State (6-7)

This is Stacy Johnson.  She is (or was, I have no idea) the volleyball coach at Fresno State.  This has nothing to do with football, but I thought I'd pass it along.  Considering how highly regarded Pat Hill is for his success with the Bulldogs, it's kind of amazing that he's only won one conference championship (1999, 3-way tie).  That drought will continue this season.
Key Game: at San Diego State, December 3
Depending on how well they fare in during league play, bowl eligibility may be on the line in their third consecutive non-conference season finale.

71. Louisville (4-8)

I'm curious about the context of that picture, and how Louisville feels about their paraphernalia being used in that manner.  I feel pretty good about it.  Charlie Strong shocked the world by getting the Cardinals back in a bowl last season, but with only 3 starters returning on offense and 34 returning lettermen overall, this year will be a small step back before a larger leap forward.
Key Game: Syracuse, October 29
With their last four games including at West Virginia, Pittsburgh, at Connecticut, and at USF, this showdown with the Orange probably represents Louisville's last chance at a W in the 2011 season. 

70. Purdue (6-6)

The Boilermakers defense allowed 28.8 points per game last season (75th in the nation).  Imagine how bad things are going to get now that Big Ten DPOY Ryan Kerrigan is in the NFL?  Of course, it doesn't matter how the defense is playing when the offense is only putting op 19.7 points per game (105th).  Obviously, vast improvement is needed on both sides of the ball.
Key Game: at Michigan, October 29
After dropping their first 17 games in Ann Arbor, Purdue will try to make it two in a row in Michigan.  A win here could be the only thing preventing the Boilermakers from going on a season-killing six-game losing streak (at Penn State, Illinois, at Michigan, at Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa).

69. Rutgers (6-6)

Rutgers has a strong freshman class coming in this year (#2 in the Big East, #32 overall according to, and 14 returning starters (9 on offense), but they are still a year away from being a threat in the Big East.
Key Game: Cincinnati, November 19
Last year, Cincinnati humiliated the Scarlet Knights 69-38 in the highest scoring game in Big East history.  If Greg Schiano's current group want to begin to earn respect in the conference, they need a strong showing in a potential revenge game.

68. Washington State (4-8)

Washington State hasn't made a bowl since 2003, and after Bill Doba was fired following the 2007, they haven't even come close.  In Paul Wulff's three seasons at Wazzu, the Cougars have gone 2-11, 1-11, and 2-10 with only 2 conference wins.  I have them starting 4-0, including an unlikely win at San Diego State.  Everyone in the PAC-12 except Colorado should dominate the Cougs, so Wulff (nice G.I. Joe villain name, by the way) will have to hope that the fast start will be enough to save his job.
Key Game: at Colorado, October 1
This is Wazzu's only chance to notch a conference win.  

67. Syracuse (6-6)

Hey, lady on the right, NOPE!!!!!  Syracuse is probably the least talented team in the Big East, but after guiding last season's squad to an 8-5 record and a bowl win, I have faith that Doug Marrone can at least make the Orange bowl eligible (will they make a bowl?  Stay tuned to Diminishing Skills for the answer!!!)
Key Game: South Florida, November 11
The 'Cuse will try to make it 2 in a row over the Bulls after dropping their previous 5 meetings by an average of 24 points per game.  With their final two vs. Cincinnati and at West Virginia, this may be a must-win if the Orange have any hope of making their first back-to-back bowl appearances since going to 5 straight from 1995-99.

66. Baylor (5-7)

Baylor will fail in their bid to appear in consecutive bowls for the first time since 1985-86, but at least they get one more season of QB Robert Griffin, one of the most electrifying players in the country.  Let's just enjoy him being awesome (video).

Key Game: Texas Tech, November 26, Cowboys Stadium
This neutral site game is sandwiched in between almost-certain losses to Oklahoma and Texas, so a win against the Red Raiders may be necessary for the Bears to secure their first back-to-back non-losing seasons since 1994-95.

65. Connecticut (7-5)

Last season, UConn became the worst Big East champions ever, and supplanted conference-mate Pittsburgh (in 2004) as the worst BCS participant ever.  If TCU wasn't on their way to the Big East, I think a strong argument could be made that they should be stripped of their automatic-qualifying status.  Head coach Randy Edsall left for Maryland, and considering that he practically built Connecticut as an FBS program, a drop-off should be expected, but considering the Huskies weren't that good last year regardless of their league title, they should maintain the course as the most boring semi-successful program in the country (Homecoming stabbings notwithstanding), as evidenced by their hiring of Paul Pasqualoni of Syracuse fame.
Key Game: South Florida, October 15
Following a likely loss at West Virginia to open their Big East season, the Huskies need a win against the Bulls to avoid a damning 0-2 hole to two of the teams they will likely end up tied with for the conference lead at the end of the season (which I say only because 4 of the last 8 Big East season have ended with at least two teams tied for first place, with 4 knotted up at the top in 2004).

*SIDEBAR #4: Ranking the BCS participants*

1. 2002 Miami (FL)
2. 2004 USC
3. 2005 USC
4. 2001 Miami (FL)
5. 2008 Florida
6. 1998 Ohio State
7. 2000 Miami (FL)
8. 2009 Alabama
9. 2003 Oklahoma
10. 1999 Florida State

95. 2000 Purdue
96. 2009 Georgia Tech
97., 2008 Cincinnati
98. 2000 Notre Dame
99. 2006 Wake Forest
100. 2001 Illinois
101. 1999 Stanford
102. 2007 Hawaii
103. 2004 Pittsburgh
104. 2010 Connecticut

64. San Diego State (7-5)

Rocky Long takes over for the departed Brady Hoke after serving as Hoke's defensive coordinator.  Long had success at New Mexico, so he should do even better with better resources in San Diego.  Quarterback Ryan Lindley would likely be the best QB in the Mountain West if Boise State and Kellen Moore hadn't moved over from the WAC.
Key Game: Wyoming, October 29
The Aztecs will likely be riding a 3-game losing streak coming into this one (at Michigan, TCU, at Air Force), so a win over the Cowboys is a must.

63. Tulsa (7-5)

Worst mascot ever.  Todd Graham and his crazy offensive schemes left for Pittsburgh, leaving former Tulsa QB Bill Blankenship in charge.  Blankenship has never been a head coach or even coordinator before, but there should be enough talent on hand to allow him a generous learning curve.
Key Game: SMU, October 29
Tulsa has lost 2 straight to the Mustangs, a trend they must buck if they want to keep pace with Houston in the C-USA West.

62. Virginia (6-6)

Virginia hasn't been to a bowl since 2007, but head coach Mike London had this team overachieving last season (4-8; 3-point loss at USC) and quietly put together a very strong recruiting class (#25 according to
Key Game: Southern Miss, September 24
The Golden Eagles are a sneakily tough test, but the Cavaliers are going to have to beat them to have any hope of a bowl.  While Virginia is improved, they still cannot compete with the upper 3/4 of the ACC, so non-conference wins are essential.

61. Arizona (5-7)

This is the August 29, 1994 issue of SI.  The Wildcats finished 8-4 and #20 in the polls that season, which isn't a disaster, but is a far cry from national champions.  If this year's squad can even sniff 8 wins, Mike Stoops deserves a life-time extension.  There is a lot of talent returning at the skill positions, but this team is just too inexperienced up front to allow all of that talent to be utilized.
Key Game: at Oregon State, October 8
The Wildcats open their PAC-12 season with a brutal stretch (Stanford, Oregon, at USC) that should have them staring at an 0-3 hole when they travel to Corvallis.  A loss here would end any hopes of a successful season (especially considering their overall record could be 1-4 prior to this game, as Arizona must travel to Oklahoma State prior to their matchup with Stanford).
60. Maryland (5-7)

"Oh, this is the worst-looking hat I ever saw. What, when you buy a hat like this I bet you get a free bowl of soup, huh?"  Randy Edsall takes over for Ralph Friedgen, who rescued the program from a lost decade in the 90's to make 7 bowls (with 5 wins) in his 10 seasons and win an ACC Championship in his first year at the helm.  There is still plenty of talent left over from last season's 9-4 team, but the non-conference schedule gets tougher (West Virginia, Notre Dame) and Duke is replaced by a trip to Georgia Tech in their ACC schedule. Also, the athletic department is apparently broke.
Key Game: Miami (FL), September 5
This wasn't that big of a deal until news broke that the Hurricanes have been running an abortion clinic/brothel for their players and all hell broke loose in South Beach.  Now the nation's eyes will be on this game, and if Maryland can't handle a likely under-manned Miami team scrambling to deal with the fallout from the Nevin Shapiro scandal, then the prospects for the rest of the season don't look great.

59. Michigan (6-6)

I hope my buddy Jeremy doesn't mind that I used a picture of his bedroom for this entry.  He's a life-long Wolverines fan, which I guess would make him about 5 years-old.  The good news for seemingly long-suffering Michigan fans is that the schedule sets up nicely for a 6-2 start.  The bad news is that the Wolverines will be underdogs in each of their last four (at Iowa, at Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State).
Key Game: Michigan State, October 15
Michigan State will be looking for their first four-game winning streak ever in the battle of the Paul Bunyan Trophy.  Prior to the current streak, the last time the Spartans had beaten the Wolverines three straight times was from 1965-67.  Brady Hoke should concentrate on ending this skid before turning his attention to the Buckeyes.

*SIDEBAR #5: Highlights from the Rich Rodriguez Era*


  • August 30, 2008, loses debut game 25-23 to Utah in the Big House
  • October 11, 2008, loses to TOLEDO 13-10 in the Big House
  • November 22, 2008, loses to Ohio State 42-7
  • Finishes debut season 3-9, Michigan's first losing season since 1967 and worst record since going 2-7 in 1962; the 9 losses are the most ever in a single season for the Wolverines
  • October 27, 2009, NCAA sends Notice of Inquiry to University of Michigan regarding NCAA rules concerning practice time; the NCAA would eventually formally accuse Rodriguez of five "major rules violations"
  • 2009, following a 4-0 start, drops 7 of last 8 games (with the only win being a 63-6 romp over Delaware State) to finish 5-7, marking the first back-to-back losing seasons for the Wolverines since 1962-63
  • November 21, 2009, loses to Ohio State 21-10
  • 2010, following a 5-0 start, drops 5 of last 7 games, including a 37-7 loss to Ohio State
  • January 1, 2011, loses Gator Bowl 52-14 to Mississippi State, setting the Gator Bowl record for most points allowed 
  • January 6, 2011, Rodriguez is fired following a 15-22 record in 3 seasons that will likely be considered the worst three years in Michigan football history

58. Georgia Tech (6-6)

Georgia Tech is the silent member of the ACC's triangle of violations, since North Carolina had to suspend seemingly every NFL prospect they had and then eventually fire their coach, while Miami may ultimately end up being the biggest college sports scandal ever.  The Yellow Jackets only were placed on probation for four years, which I suppose means they won't do too well at recruiting, since Blue Chips has taught me that the only way to get good recruits is to hand out duffel bags full of cash.  I was going to try to abstain from posting any girly pictures, but that girl is pretty special, and her shiny outfit caught my eye.
Key Game: at Duke, November 19
The trip to Durham is the only respite the Yellow Jackets will have from a brutal end-of-the-season stretch that has them facing Clemson, Virginia Tech, then travelling to Duke, and then hosting Georgia in the season finale.  To avoid a demoralizing four-game end of the year losing streak, GT needs to beat the Blue Devils.

57. Ole Miss (4-8)

I still feel like that the vote to for Colonel Slaveowner's replacement was fixed.  The winner ended up being a Black Bear, but how on earth could he have beaten Admiral Ackbar?  I've always liked Houston Nutt, but his inability to find a quarterback may eventually end up being his undoing in Oxford.
Key Game: at Auburn, October 29
The Rebels haven't had much success in Auburn (2-12), but they will need a win this year to avoid the SEC West basement.
56. UCLA (5-7)

This pic is from the UCLA Undie Run, which is apparently a thing.  Only in LA!  It doesn't say much about the quality of the ladies that the best part of this picture is that badass bear statue.  If UCLA does in fact finish 5-7, Rick Neuheisel may be forced out.  The Bruins defense should be solid, but an offense shoe-horned into the Pistol shotgun will continue to struggle (20.2 points per game last season) until the proper personnel is put into place.
Key Game: at Utah, November 12
Depending on well Arizona State overcomes their injuries and consistency issues, this game may have big implications on the PAC-12 South race.  The Bruins are 8-1 versus the Utes, but the one loss came in the last meeting in 2007 44-7.  The snow may be falling, and how the warm-weather Bruins are able to cope could go a long way toward determining how successful their 2011 season ends up being.

55. Navy (8-4)

The Midshipmen have gone to 8 straight bowls, which is pretty amazing considering they appeared in 9 bowls total in the 109 years prior to the start of the current streak.  Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech following the 2007 season, but Ken Niumatalolo has had no problem continuing Jonhnson's success, even giving Ohio State a scare in the 2009 season opener.  Air Force broke Navy's seven year stranglehold on the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy last season, and that will probably be repeated this season.  Navy's defense is decimated by turnover (only 3 returning starters), but the triple-option should be enough to get them back to a bowl for the 9th straight season.
Key Game: at Notre Dame, October 29
The Midshipmen have never won 3 straight against the Irish, but they will look to do just that this season.  Although the outcome should not determine the fate of Navy's season too drastically, a defeat of Notre Dame could deal a death blow to any BCS hopes the Irish may have, which would delight the rival Midshipmen to no end.

54. North Carolina (6-6)

That is one grumpy goat.  He probably feels  a lot like Butch Davis does right now.  Despite the off-field turmoil, the Tar Heels still have enough talent to make some noise in the ACC.  Unfortunately, the sudden nature of the coaching change coupled with the uncertainty of what penalties the program will be facing may undermine that talent.
Key Game: at Georgia Tech, September 24
The Tar Heels have lost 6 straight in Atlanta, but the Yellow Jackets may be as vulnerable as UNC this season.  Breaking the streak early in the season may shift the vibe of the program from negative to positive and serve as a catalyst for a successful post-Butch season.

53. Hawaii (9-4)

I have no idea why Hawaii went away from the Rainbow Warriors as their team name.  Look at how tough that dude is.  I bet he gives a manly blowjob.  Hawaii has only 3 starters returning from an offense that averaged 39.6 points per game, but quarterback Bryant Moniz is one of the three, so the offense should be fine.
Key Game: at Nevada, November 12
This will probably decide the WAC title, and it very well may be snowing in the high altitudes of Reno.  Hawaii has won 4 of the last 5 vs. Nevada, but lost the last time they traveled to Reno.

52. Central Florida (8-4)

Were you aware?  UCF is the nation's second largest university (I'm guessing behind Ohio State?).  If they can keep their recent string of success going, and they can continue to have strong attendance figures (1st or 2nd in C-USA attendance since 2007), they could develop into yet another Florida power.  This season, only 4 starters return from last year's stout defense (17.1 points per game, 8th fewest in the country), but I have faith head coach George O'Leary will find a way to keep the Knights right in the thick of the C-USA race.
Key Game: at East Carolina, November 19
This is a potential let-down game following a big November 12 showdown with Southern Miss.  East Carolina aren't even close to what they were three years ago when they knocked off West Virginia and Virginia Tech, but they are still a dangerous team.  

51. Southern Miss (8-4)

The Golden Eagles have been to 9 straight bowls and 13 in the last 14 years, but have only one conference championship since 2000 (2003) despite that success.  If Case Keenum wasn't granted a 20th year of eligibility, Southern Miss QB Austin Davis would be the frontrunner for conference player of the year.  Southern Miss avoids Houston and Tulsa during regular season play, so they should be the favorites to come out of the C-USA East this season.
Key Game: at East Carolina, November 5
Just as UCF is facing a let-down against the Pirates following their showdown with Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles will be facing a trap game.  The Pirates have actually won the last two meetings between the schools, so Southern Miss may not be as susceptible to overlooking ECU as I fear.  If the Golden Eagles and UCF aren't careful, however, East Carolina could steal their third East division crown in the past four years.

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