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BlogPoll Roundtablin'

Meta thoughtfulness, via Dolphinfan at My Opinion on Sports:

Which coaches are clearly on the hot seat at this point? Who is surprisingly not?
Al Groh and Larry Coker have each been bolstered recently by statements of confidence from their respective athletic directors, which means impending doom for them. Karl Dorrell isn't mentioned much elsewhere, but he's trashed on a regular basis on Bruins Nation more than any other coach SMQ is aware of right now, and it's hard to see how career also-ran Rich Brooks has survived even this long at Kentucky - where Guy Morriss had managed an improbably competitive team in impossible, probation-addled circumstances - with no signs of progress, while Bobby Johnson fields a competitive and now actually occasionally victorious team at much worse-off Vanderbilt. John L. Smith seems on the verge of firing himself before he breaks down and punches somebody else, a la Woody Hayes. Everybody thought John Bunting was out two years ago, and this team is even worse; UNC would have to win its last six - three ranked teams and N.C. State are in there - to avert the axe again. Dirk Koetter might be in a better position if he hadn't drawn so much attention by endorsing the coup that put rapid fire interception machine el presidente infalible Rudy Carpenter in the saddle in August.

Get `em while you still can

For Part Two, the Universities of Northern Mississippi each have former big shot coordinators who have either continued (Sylvester Croom) or exacerbated (Ed "The" Oregeron) their programs' misfortunes despite surprising recruiting success in the nation's top football state, but are in no apparent danger at the moment. Ron Zook will get another year at Illinois, Stanford - with the worst run defense possibly in at least PAC Ten history - will stick with Walt Harris. Fresno State will give Pat Hill at least one opportunity to prove his program is not, as it now appears, one of the two or three worst in the WAC. Arizona was borderline insane about its chances in the preseason, which does not bode well for Mike Stoops when the `Cats finish 4-8.

Pick three of the undefeated teams and state your case as to why they won't run the table.
Since none of the candidates are in a league with a postseason championship, does running the table include a bowl game?

Either way, Rutgers is the most obvious choice to fall because nobody believes the Knights can beat West Virginia, Louisville and Pittsburgh, two of those three coming on the road. SMQ falls under the heading of "nobody."

And since 60 percent of the options here are from the same conference, it only makes sense to whack another Big Easter: West Virginia will go down for the same general reason, though with more emphasis on its particular Louisville Problem on the road.

Obviously, either Ohio State or Michigan will lose, but SMQ is not going to forecast the apocalyptic outcome of that epic at this early stage. Instead, he'll say Southern Cal is going to bite the dust against either California, Oregon or Notre Dame. This seems to be the general consensus, though it's unclear, since USC right now would be favored in all three of those games and has survived them intact four years out of the last five, exactly why it's the consensus. The Trojans should not be dissed willy-nilly. But, um, yeah, they appear ripe to lose one.

Which conference is playing the best football right now?
Conferences don't play; teams do. And in that regard, a good per capita argument could be made for the Big East, which projects to have four teams in SMQ's next BlogPoll ballot, two in the top ten, and another sitting at 5-2, with no God awful, automatic whipping boys (the two worst teams, Syracuse and Cincinnati, are only 3-4 apiece).

The drawback to following the crowd and picking the SEC is that it's too top-heavy, but when LSU is your fifth team, you are a power conference in the true sense. Florida, Auburn and Tennessee are top ten, Arkansas - early season stumbling taken into account - is not far behind. Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are middle of the pack, and could conceivably beat any of those frontrunners without a whole lot of WTFs; Arkansas, after all, was just in the latter group a couple weeks ago. That's a pretty tough pack.

Think of the ball here as a metaphor for "control" of the SEC

Which team is playing above and beyond your expectations this season?
Definitely Rutgers, definitely Wisconsin. Most surprising is probably Washington, which SMQ called a "potential up-and-comer" in the preseason but still picked ninth and said "Ty Willingham's not taking these guys anywhere in the PAC Ten." As bad as Oregon State, Arizona and Arizona State look, though, and with Stanford basically a gimme, the only thing between the Huskies and a bowl game is a competent backup quarterback.

Which team is crashing and burning in regards to your expectations?
Even thinking of Florida State and Miami right now is just brutal. They're so average. How did this happen? FSU losing to NC State for the fourth time in five years, not even really competing (regardless of what the score says) against Clemson, struggling into the final minutes against Troy. While Miami lays down at Louisville, hangs on against now-reeling Houston and clears the bench to protect its half-empty house. SMQ originally thought these two played a tough, tense defensive game on Labor Day, but they were pretty much just inept.

Is your pre-season BCS championship game prediction still alive?
SMQ didn't specifically pick a mythical championship game matchup, but his top two preseason teams were Notre Dame and California, neither of whom he felt head-over-heels great about then and who immediately tanked in big losses to Tennessee and Michigan. So both were pronounced dead three weeks into the season.

At this point, they may have miraculously recovered to "respirator" status, may even be conscious, squeezing hands on command, following the pen with their eyes, etc. But to be really and truly alive, they'll both have to conquer USC and get improbable amounts of assistance from Iowa and various SEC teams not currently ranked in front of them. One full recovery may be an extremely unlikely yet feasible longshot, but no cure has yet been discovered for a prediction afflicted by two unmitigated blowouts.