The Alphabetical, Week 10: Predictions are fun and wrong

Stephen Dunn

The Alphabetical this week looks at bad predictions from the preseason and nods grimly.

And we're off. Oh, Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel. You are not worst, but you do happen to be first.

After spending the last two seasons in NCAA postseason exile, USC is ready to reinvent itself and rise to challenge the SEC for gridiron dominance.

In the immortal words of Randy Newman, "I Love L.A."

That's right. The Trojans are my pick to snap the SEC's dominance and win it all this year.

Oh, Captain Foresight, sure you saw it coming. But it sounded right, yes? There was a Matt Barkley, and a Robert Woods, and then a Silas Redd all wearing USC colors and sounding really, really great in theory. Even after a loss to Stanford it still seemed probable, since Stanford uses seven tight ends on every play, are very smart, and probably used holograms or some other Google-sponsored tech sorcery to confuse Matt Barkley and blind their backup center.

Boeing. An engineer from Boeing once allegedly said of the company's 247 model: "There will never be a bigger plane built," so know that being wrong about a college football team is nothing compared to other great inaccurate predictions one could be making. The 247 carried ten passengers in flight, while the Airbus 380 carries up to 853. Ask Monte Kiffin about the 247's smooth ride though, since he flew one back in 19 hundred and thirty-seven. It's funny because he's old, and has more money and experience than you do!

Casteel. So USC loses a 39-36 shootout this past weekend to Arizona, something far less explicable than a loss to Stanford because Stanford is widely understood to be good, while Arizona just fired Mike Stoops and has, for the better part of its existence, been the Arizona Wildcats football team. They are currently a good variation of Arizona football: 5-3, approaching bowl eligibility, and enjoying the fruits of the Rich Rodriguez/Jeff Casteel reunion, the one Michigan fans were robbed of in favor of pairing Rodriguez with Greg Robinson.

Domino's. Somewhere in a nightmare for Michigan fans, a knock arrives at the door. The door opens, and Rich Rodriguez steps up with a fresh pie and bread sticks and a bid to the Holiday Bowl and says: This one's free, old friend. The Michigan man and Rich Rodriguez have a moment, and the moment is broken as soon as Brady Hoke bellows from the couch "HEY HONEY THE ALAMO BOWL'S ON. IT'S TREMENDOUS." Taillights fade into the night, and the Michigan man wakes to the sound of his own screams.

Edmund Burke. The lesson from USC losing to Rich Rodriguez's new and improved Arizona team and Stanford, just a few months after carrying the mantle of some national title picks? Shouts out to 18th century curmudgeons, yo:

You can never plan the future by the past.

Edmund Burke is really quotable with reason: he was a pessimist, and pessimists are always right. USC lacked the depth to run the table, and injuries exacerbated the situation. Lane Kiffin did that thing where he forgets the run game, Matt Barkley started to do too much, and the defense gave up crucial passing plays when it could least afford them in both of their losses.

That's the worst thing about predictions and about Burke's epigram: you cannot plan the future by the past, and yet only have the past to use as any indication of what is going to happen in the future. Edmund Burke does not have any quotes about turning the ball over five times unless you count "Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair." (And after watching Florida turn the ball over six times against Georgia, we do.)

Freakness. All that said: Marqise Lee going for 345 on 16 catches with two TDs is something the most constipated skeptic would have to resort to astonished profanities to properly describe.


The superpower of flight: awe-inspiring, and yet still not enough to beat a 4-3 Arizona team.

Grover. As in Cleveland, who said this with all certainty in 1905:

Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.

Grover Cleveland was also the only President who hanged someone personally, or at least the only one who did it on the record. And being on the record is always the most important thing, even if it's uncomfortable in retrospect. Phil Steele, please stand up:

TY FSU has 17 st'rs back and were #3 in the ACC LY at +77.8 ypg despite their 5-3 finish. LY I went against the grain picking the tm with the best D in the country (Alabama) to win the Nat'l Title and the Tide delivered. TY FSU has the best D in the country and all 9 sets of my power ratings are calling for a perfect 12-0 season.

You can't be too mad here. No one could have predicted life throwing a wild Tom O'Brien-shaped spanner in the works, except everyone who watched FSU inexplicably lose a road game in the ACC over the past 10 years. The tenth power ranking is always "verified superstition."

Helpful. A short list of those verified superstitions about teams follows.

  • Florida State will always lose a road game in the ACC for no reason.
  • Notre Dame will be underrated or overrated, but never, ever properly rated.
  • Iowa State will beat someone they have zero business beating.
  • The SEC will flop in at least one bowl game against Michigan State or Wisconsin.
  • Play an underdog Tommy Tuberville as a top-five team and DIE.

Immaculate. The cleanliness of A.J. McCarron's INT column has been widely noted. Please note that Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron has also thrown zero picks on the year despite throwing the ball 142 more times than McCarron. (319 to 177 in attempts on the year.) That's hard to do in casual pass drills, much less in actual competition.

Ja, ja. The best quarterback in Mississippi State's recent history is Tyler Russell, an accurate, intelligent passer with precise touch and a near-total handle on what Dan Mullen's offense does on a football field. He was 15-30 with zero TDs and one INT on the day against Alabama's defense on Saturday, because even the best to come along in a while still has to play the Alabama defense, and when that happens you will look pretty much like everyone else who attempted to play quarterback against the Tide this season.

KTFO. The only quarterbacks with passing TDs against Alabama this season: Denard Robinson of Michigan, backup QB Dak Prescott of Mississippi State, and QB Graham Wilbert of Florida Atlantic. Obvious answer to Alabama's defensive challenge: start your backup, and hope they put in their third string out of habit.*

*Fun fact: they won't!

Lean. A sloppy, defensive-minded game in the SEC is nothing unusual. What is unusual is how badly Florida got pushed off the ball at the line of scrimmage against Georgia after leaning hard on teams in the second half successfully for most of the season. Florida's major opponent left on the schedule is Florida State, who if you have not heard starts a 270-pound German armored personnel carrier on the defensive line. As ugly as last year's FSU/Florida game was, this one could be even harder on the eyes, even if there isn't a John Brantley around to throw into quadruple coverage.*

*This really happened.

Manball. Let's check in on the Big Ten's season so far with this helpful highlight video.

I opened five of these at once just to see what it would sound like. It sounded like a guitarist tuning up in a swamp full of bullfrogs, and then I was in that swamp, and then I was a bullfrog in a sack held by Jerry Kill. I'm saying you should not do what I've done, especially the part where you open five windows of this once and start hallucinating.

None. As in the clues anyone should have about the ACC. This is why. Maryland recently lost their fifth-string quarterback to an ACL tear, and will now have to start linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback. Despite losing FIVE QUARTERBACKS IN A SINGLE SEASON, Maryland is 4-4. This is either the worst thing you could ever say about a conference, or the best thing you could say about a coach who had a third of his roster flee the premises this offseason. This being the ACC, it's probably a bit of both.

Oppugnant. Hostile, antagonistic, as in "What possible reason did thirty-plus people have as Oregon fans in a 70-14 win over Colorado to get thrown out of Autzen Stadium for fighting?" ("Judge, we had to watch Colorado play football." "CHARGES DISMISSED.")

Pawned. As in, what happened to little Logan Thomas Heisman figurines you might have made in advance for 2012. Your turn, Heather Dinich!

2. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. Historically, the Heisman candidates play for winning teams, and once again, the Hokies have been picked by the media to win the Coastal Division. There’s not as much national buzz around this team, though, as there is around Florida State. Thomas could help change that. He has a better understanding of the offense now that he’s in his second season as a starter, and he is much more comfortable.

Thomas has 13 TDs to 10 INTs, has never really gotten into the groove he found last year, and cratered in a three-interception performance at Pitt. To be fair, Dinich was spot on with her number one pick for a Heisman candidate from the ACC, E.J. Manuel, when she said his name was "E.J. Manuel," and that he played quarterback for Florida State.

Quarter. As in giving some, and allowing writers to not write regrettable preseason predictions. I am fully in favor of this, and this is why.

Remedial. I totally wrote this in 2010.

5. Washington. Polling is boooooooooring, so we're throwing a purple smoke bomb in the door of the party. We long for the days of the pre-USC Pac-10 when anarchy ruled, a new team rose to snag a title out of the air with tons of points and occasional stops on defense, and even a dude like Bruce Snyder could grab a Pac-10 title if he stuck his hand in the automat door at the right instant. Year two is the new year three, Jake Locker is the new Jake Plummer, and Steve Sarkisian goes to the Rose Bowl in the second edition of the revamped carousel Pac-10. Sometimes you have to split twos just to see if the nine-ten-stay-nine-ten-stay streak really can happen. We're the drunk Irish tourists at the casino here. Do your worst, dealer.

Sark Week. Washington would finish 7-6 including a humiliating 41-0 loss to Stanford and a truly strange loss to BYU. Never make predictions, and especially don't make predictions based on sheer boredom. (Hint: all of our preseason predictions are based on boredom.)

Tulsa. Even Arkansas' cupcake games are not cupcake games this year, and that's really bad because the John L. Smith Experience is still happening in Fayetteville. Tulsa is no slouch, and then it just gets worse with a finishing streak of South Carolina, Mississippi State, and LSU. I recommend drinking in general, and especially so for you, Razorback fans.

Unblocked. Tulsa also makes viewing easy. If you don't know who made a tackle in a Tulsa game, it was LB DeAndre Hopkins, he of the 58 solo tackles and eight sacks.

V-neck. They're comfortable and show off the man-shag, and if they help Kliff Kingsbury coach the Aggies to 50 points a game, you let the man wear a danged V-neck. When he starts wearing a sarong on the sidelines next year it will be weird at first, but a) fifty points a game, and b) it does let a man's undercarriage breathe in the punishing Texas heat like nothing else.

Weeden. The Heisman candidate and undefeated quarterback who walked into a karmic buzzsaw against Iowa State last year, ending the Cowboys' chances at a national title against an Iowa State team who later lost to Rutgers in a bowl game. OK State has a chance to return the favor against Kansas State this weekend in a game that the Wildcats could lose. (They could. We checked the rulebook and everything. K-State, Oregon, Alabama, and Notre Dame could all still lose football games.)

Xyst. A covered workout area used by ancient Greeks, who clearly understood building quality facilities two millennia before college football did.

Yeeesh. USF is 2-6, winless in the Big East, and why did anyone ever look at Skip Holtz's East Carolina teams and think, "Now, THAT'S the doctor right there!" They play Connecticut this weekend, and if you watch these teams play college football you will literally die from the pain. Arrange your personal affairs appropriately.

Zapp and Roger. We've only got five weeks left with the regular season. Let's all tell college football how special she is, preferably using a sweet Zapp and Roger talk box while we declare our love.

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