Monday, August 08, 2005

BlogPoll Roundtable V

The fifth BlogPoll Roundtable is being hosted by mgoblog. Let's do dis ting...

Tell the world where the teams you know the most about should be ranked and why.

I'll start with Alabama. I like the Tide for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Alabama is returning nine guys from a defense that was second in the country in total defense last year. The defense was also second in pass efficiency defense, and the entire secondary returns. For another thing, Brodie Croyle is going to manage to stay healthy this year. He really, really means it this time.

So kudos to the Coaches' Poll for ranking a team coming off a 6-6 season, but sticking 'em in at 24 is not enough. Alabama should be in the 18-20 range.

Now, to get back to more familiar territory: NC State. NC State isn't going to show up in any pre-season rankings, and I don't have a problem with people taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the quarterback spot. But there are several reasons to expect a bounce-back year for the Wolfpack, and I personally think the team is worthy of a ranking at the tail end of the top 25. Here are some things that I've mentioned previously but are pertinent here:

  • Led by one of the best defenses in the country, NC State out-gained 10 of 11 opponents in 2004. The Pack lost two last-minute heart-breakers, and blew leads in a pair of other games. The defense will have to replace its entire secondary, but all four defensive line starters--including preseason All-American DE Mario Williams--return. The unit may not be brilliant in '05, but it will be very, very good.

  • Quarterback Jay Davis was awful in 2004, but it wasn't for a lack of skill position players. The Wolfpack returns a talented stable of running backs, a good pass-catching tight end in TJ Williams, and receivers who--on the rare occasions where the ball is delivered to them accurately--can break a game open. I said it before last season and I'll say it again now: for this team to be successful, Jay Davis needs merely to be adequate.

  • Thirty-two turnovers, 15 takeaways last year. Such a negative turnover margin is absurd, and you won't see it again. NC State lost 16 of 23 fumbles in 2004 (70%). If you consider that each team should have a roughly 50-50 chance of recovering a fumble, State was unlucky.

  • Virginia Tech went 7-1 in the ACC en route to the conference title last year. That loss? To the Wolfpack in Blacksburg. There is talent in Raleigh, and I like to at least entertain the idea that, this year, Jay Davis won't hold them back.

Since 2000, Florida State hasn't come anywhere near finishing in the top five, and that's not going to change this year. I've been down on FSU throughout the offseason; part of that is probably wishful thinking, but mostly it's because I think the 'Noles have some serious concerns.

Florida State returns a mere nine starters from 2004--four from the offense, five from the defense. Wyatt Sexton's unfortunate offseason has forced the Seminoles to start an inexperienced quarterback who'll be throwing to a brand new starting WR corps. On the other side of the ball, FSU is replacing 3/4 DL starters and 3/4 starters in the secondary.

It's hardly a crisis, because FSU will be inserting a lot of talented guys into those starting spots, but they'll lack experience. There is a good chance that the defense regresses, which is something Florida State can ill afford. Sixty-third in passing yards and 50th in rushing yards in 2004, I don't expect a lot of improvement from the offense in '05. While the running game should be better, the passing game will stagnate for the reasons noted above.

I'd rank FSU in the 14-16 range.