This roundtable is brought to us by Doug @ Hey Jenny Slater. Doug's blog is a must read. He covers Georgia and a whole lot more. He does a thing called the Friday Random 10 that is always fun. So check him out. If any of my answers seem a bit off, I'm listening to Chris Thile and Mike Marshall's Into the Cauldron. If any of my answers seem like they are dead on, I'm listening to Wilco's Summerteeth.
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?
For ill! Without a doubt, the Louisville game. Despite the loss, it did show a lot about the team, as they never gave up. There really wasn't anything wrong with the offense. Both defenses were exposed in that game. The ball rolled our way last year, and it went their way this year. I don't want to speak for Louisville, but the way West Virginia and Louisville's schedules work out this year, both are heavy with the top teams in the Big East toward the end. While I expect both to finish out the year without another loss, all the challenges lay ahead.
What this game shows is that West Virginia can run the ball probably as well as anyone in the country. I'm not worried about them putting up points on anyone. I was also pleased with the passing game. I hope that it leads to more confidence in the coaches to call passing plays. The defense has some talent, but they are young. This baptism by fire should harden them for the rest of the year. I expect to see a vast improvement in them the rest of the year.
2. Are there any teams you think are still hugely overrated? What about underrated?
I don't think there are too many overrated teams out there. Everyone has been exposed that is going to be. I think Rutgers is going to have two losses by the end of the year, and will probably be just on the inside or outside of the top 25. I think that Arkansas is going to have at least one more loss and will drop back.
I think Wisconsin is the most underrated team in the country. Followed closely by Wake Forest. Wisconsin has been pretty solid all year, with one minor hiccup in the Illinois game, and one brush with Michigan that they were still in until the midway through the fourth quarter. How did they get Buffalo to end out the season, though? Might hurt more than help with the polls.
Wake Forest has seen it's #1 quarterback and top running back go down, but they just keep winning. They don't have a rusher with more than 350 yards on the season, but have 1370 yards rushing as a team. Must be a decent offensive line down there.
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?
Yes, we played Eastern Washington because Buffalo decided 6 months before the season started that they wanted to play Auburn for more money. I don't know that it benefited our team or not, but I think Eastern Washington is a better team and program.
I think it should be outlawed! At least if they can outlaw dropping a team less than a year before the game is to be played, which is the only reason WVU has played a 1-AA team the last two years. We've got our eye on you Kent St. Don't you fucking do it!
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?
This is a hard one without knowing who has what coming back on those teams. I would have to think Arkansas is going to be much improved. They have a real young backfield. I would think Rutgers is already having a breakout season this year, and should be improved next year. I guess you could throw West Virginia in there as they have all but three starters returning next year on offense, and the defense will be a year older with only 4 starters graduating. The same holds true for Louisville.
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?
If West Virginia doesn't make a BCS bowl, the pickings are slim. The Gator Bowl is a possibility if filthy stinking Notre Dame doesn't back their way into it. If that is the case, I would love to play Va. Tech. Otherwise, I think the Big East #2 goes to the Sun Bowl. I don't even want to think about that, though.
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?
If Dave Wannstedt wasn't such a good recruiter, I would say leave things as they are. As it is, I would have to throw John L. Smith up to Pittsburgh. Oh the joy of seeing him lose it after dropping a game against Toledo or Ohio U. And after he was fired, I would send in Chuck Amato to clean things up.