This week's BlogPoll Roundtable is hosted by the inimitable Doug at Hey Jenny Slater.
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?
BON: With any luck, it'll be Oklahoma State - the first game in which the entire secondary was healthy. Really, though, the whole season has been a roller coaster on defense, as Chizik shuffles around whomever's available for the week. As Texas showed this past Saturday, though, and in the second halves of the Tech and Oklahoma games, it can be one of the best defenses in the country. Here's to hoping that the improvement sticks.
When you think about it, though, the Texas Longhorns on November 7th, 2006 are just so, so much better then the ones that played Ohio State on September 9th. The season's been a rocky one, but a very good one. It looks like things are peaking. Fingers crossed.
2. Are there any teams you think are still hugely overrated? What about underrated?
BON: I guess we'll find out on November 18th, but that maize and blue kool aid that I've been drinking is starting to taste kind of sour. Don't get me wrong - the Wolverines deserve their spot in the polls for now, but the more I watch this team play, the more I wonder whether the eliteness got sucked right out of them with Mario Manningham's injury. Sure, he's back, but there's no guarantee that his pre-injury burst in production will return.
Really, Michigan's played three good defenses - Wisconsin, Penn State, and Iowa. In all three games, Michigan was merely adequate on offense. Only against Wisconsin were they better than that, and, not surprisingly, that was the only game Manningham played in.
What happens if Manningham's pre-injury production doesn't return? Well, for starters, Michigan gets beat by Ohio State. And then by the Cal-USC winner in the Rose Bowl. I love the Michigan run defense, and the front seven as a whole is something fearsome, but the secondary has holes and the offense is getting too dependent on Mike Hart. And I don't think that's enough to beat Ohio State or Northern/Southern Cal.
When you look at it closely, Michigan's got one signature win - Notre Dame - and the Wolverines were excellent. But that excellence had everything to do with the ability to make big plays. An ability that they've been decidedly lacking for some time now.
If Manningham can start burning again, all bets are off. But consider yourself warned.
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?
BON: We played Sam Houston State. We're giving the AD a one-year pass. If it happens again: outrage. Just shouldn't happen.
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?
BON: Oklahoma State's getting close; real close. Bobby Reid and those running backs are outstanding offensively, and there's some talented prospects on defense.
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?
BON: It's looking like the Fiesta Bowl or BCS Title Game if Texas wins out. Assuming they do, the former is more likely, barring some help around us. I'd most like to play Notre Dame, for a multitude of reasons, and least like to play Boise State. Playing Boise State is a lose-lose proposition. If you blow 'em out, you were supposed to. If you win close, you were supposed to blow 'em out. If you lose, you suck. There's no happy ending.
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?
BON: Well, let's see. I'm very pleased with Coach Fran's performance at A&M, so we'll leave him be. That leaves OU. Let's say Stoopsy heads to the NFL next season; who might we enjoy placing at the helm in his stead? How about John Mackovic? It's out of the realm of possibilities, but boy that would be deliriously funny.