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BlogPoll Roundtable, v. 2.2

Bad-ass, bangin', bespectacled BlogPoll badger blogger Bruce (Ciskie--and the alliteration stops) is hosting this week's BlogPoll Roundtable. Thanks, dunny!

1. What team best met your overall expectations of them in their opener?
Is it too easy to say Michigan?

Let's see: all off-season, I was worried about the right side of the offensive line, the WR corps, Chad Henne, the coaching staff, and the linebackers. And sure enough, all of those, save for the linebackers, were cause for concern in the opener. If you want to cite the absent depth at linebacker (Michigan only has four guys who can really contribute?), then I was five-for-five.

On Saturday, RT Ruben Riley and RG Alex Mitchell routinely blew assignments in pass protection and Mitchell was moved over to tackle at one point because Riley was bad hurt and there is such poor tackle depth; receivers Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham dropped passes and were of minimal effectiveness while no other receiver emerged; QB Chad Henne bailed out early on some reads (still!), sailed some throws, and was just 10-22 (although there were 5 drops); and the offensive game plan, helmed by retread coordinator Mike DeBord, was strong on the ground but asked the receivers to use an old passing scheme that was bland and did not fully maximize the personnel.

Of course, none of these were obscure outstanding areas of concern, so my point is not that I have once again--like last year, when 8-4 or 7-5 seemed likely--seen through the blinding hype. Rather, Michigan is what I thought it would be--a flawed team that will probably go 8-4 thanks to poor player development, poor execution, and poor coaching.

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.)

Oregon. I'm sort of ambivalent about my own answer here, as I don't fully believe in the PAC-10 or the Ducks, but to open the season with such a thorough evisceration of a conference opponent, not some Sun Belt collection of tackling dummies? That's impressive. A second-half shutout, even once the game was functionally over? Again, impressive.

Of course, this answer is the ultimate backhanded compliment. With QB Kellen Clemens, RB Terrence Whitehead, WR Demetrius Williams, DT Haloti Ngata, LB Anthony Trucks all gone, I figured that the Ducks would be a mediocre team. And even though Jonathan Stewart is a prodigy and Clemens's injury got the backup QBs some snaps last year, I figured that the offense, in particular, would start slowly as new skill position players figured out their rhythm.

But 534 yards of offense later, I am proved wrong. Stewart looks like he should be in the conversation with Peterson, Irons, and Hart regarding the nation's best tailbacks; Dennis Dixon looked comfortable and efficient (almost 8 YPA); and the defense, though not Miami-FSU-snooze-fest-worthy, looked adequate. If the PAC-10 is as bad as it looked this past weekend, Oregon immediately jumps out as a team that might win 9 games, and maybe its offense will have enough balance to challenge a still suspect USC secondary.

(How's that non-Tennessee answer, Bruce?)

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


Another year, another powerhouse team in LA that doesn't go by "the Bruins" (sorry, Nestor). On Saturday night, John David Booty's debut was a big success, as he seemed poised and accurate. And honestly, that was likely the most important question for USC to answer, what with the embarrassment of riches that USC has at seemingly every position thanks to a phenomenal recruiting run. Maybe the running game will falter, but the offensive line looked strong and the Trojans did get 190 yards on the ground. On the other side of the ball, USC looked fast fast fast while holding Arkansas to 287 yards.

Again, if the PAC-10 is gonna be a weak league, USC's schedule sets up nicely for a title run, especially with Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame coming to the Coliseum. But it's only been a week.