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Celebrating Two years with a roundtable

This will be a multi-part entry. The second part of which basically fell into my lap tonight when I got home from an Indianapolis Indians game. First, I can celebrate the 2-year anniversary of Off the Tracks, launched with this modest entry on August 28, 2006 concerning the beginning of that season. My readership was non-existent back then, but I wanted to thank everyone who has stopped by since for making this the labor of love that it is.

On to the second part. I received an e-mail from Valerie Todryk of the Big Ten today with a link to the following Big Ten PSA featuring our very own Curtis Painter, David Pender, Anthony Heygood, Greg Orton, and Jaycen Taylor. This is a great ad, and the perfect way to generate more excitement for the season.

The next part pertains to my duties in the Blogpoll this season. Apparently, they also have roundtables. Our first host of the season is Hey Jenny Slater, a very decorated and well written Georgia blog. These roundtables probably won’t be as regular as the Big Ten roundtable discussions (of which I will be hosting during the season’s final week), but I’ll try to do them from time to time to give Purdue a more national blogging voice.

1. In his "visiting lecturers" series posted on Every Day Should Be Saturday over the past few months, Orson Swindle asked each participant to explain which country, during which historical period, their team most resembles. Let's bring everything up to the present day and ponder: Which current sovereign nation is your team? Or to look at it another way, how does your team fit into the "world" of college football?

Well, it is clear that Purdue is not the United States, Great Britain, Russia, or any other world power. We’re not really a developing power either (aka South Florida equaling China or something). I certainly would not qualify us as the Sudan or some other third world nation, much to the dismay of some of our friends in South Bend who think we barely know what a football is. Considering all that, I think we are Australia.

We’re a friendly place that everyone likes to visit, but we’re not that intimidating. We can hold our own, but we’re not really a dominant world power. We’re not really that well understood. We have a small fanbase, but that fanbase is very loyal. The same is true for Australia, which has a small but loyal population for its size. Also, there is no immediate concern that we’re going to rise up and take over as a power. The program is happy at its place in things, just as Australia is happy at its place in the world.

2. Every preseason roundup has to have some discussion of who's overrated, but let's go beyond that. Which team do you think is poised to crap the bed in the biggest way this season relative to high expectations, and which game do you think will begin their slide into ignominy?

I think it will be Notre Dame. There schedule is not as easy as everyone says it is. They face three teams ranked currently in at least one of the top 25 polls, and three more in the others receiving votes category. I am not convinced that their defense or their offensive line is much better than a year ago, but they can prove me wrong. Those six also don’t include Purdue, which has a reasonable but far from guaranteed chance to win in South Bend. It also doesn’t include Washington, a team that will be dying to beat them in Seattle. Everyone is saying they should start 5-2 without much trouble, but I think that will be more difficult than people realize.

This was the worst offense in America last year. They are suddenly supposed to be great because almost everyone is back? I think the game things could really go south for them is ironically the Purdue game. I am not saying we will win. I’ve been conditioned to not count any victory in South Bend until the game is over. Two years ago if we had had any kind of a defense and an ability to finish in the red zone we could have won in South Bend when the Irish were much better and we were much worse. The stigma is still there that any loss to Purdue, no matter how good Purdue is or how bad the Irish are, is almost unthinkable. Should Purdue win in South Bend on September 27th (especially if they lose to Michigan and Michigan Stat before hand) you’ll be able to hear pitchforks being sharpened and torches being lit all over the country.

3. On the flip side of that coin, which team do you think is going to burst out of nowhere to become 2008's biggest overachiever -- this year's version of Kansas '07, as it were -- and what's going to be the big upset that makes us all finally sit up and take notice of them?

The Miami Hurricanes when they go into the swamp and shock the Gators on September 6th. If you’re looking at one game that can restore a program and make the country take notice that they are back, it is this one. Even a close lose would do it, as it would put the Canes in position to suddenly contend in a very weak ACC. Miami has the running game and the building blocks of a dominant defense. If they can have anyone even be a serviceable quarterback after the disaster that was Kirby Freeman and Kyle Wright a year ago they can be at least a nine win team.

This is where I hope Randy Shannon names Jacory Harris the starter and sticks with him. Robert Marve’s recent suspension clearly shows he has no interest in being the starting quarterback at the University of Miami. If he did, he wouldn’t have done anything even remotely suspension worthy. Shannon should send him to the bench and go with Harris for his dumbass attack.

4. Here's an "I'll hang up and listen" question. I put Ohio State and Oklahoma #1 and #2, respectively, despite their recent high-profile BCS face-plants. Where did you rank those two teams, and did those BCS issues have anything to do with it?

I had Ohio State 3rd and Oklahoma 7th. Last season was last season. It has absolutely no bearing on where we are right now. I honestly only did a ranking because I needed to. It’s way too early to properly judge this season’s teams.

5. Last season was a statistical outlier in countless ways, not the least of which was the fact that we ended up with a two-loss team as national champion. Do you think anyone plays a strong enough schedule to get MNC consideration as a two-loss team this year? Conversely, do you see anybody managing to sail into the national-championship game undefeated?

No two loss team deserves to be in consideration unless you have a situation like last year. Even then, there should be a simple rule that you must win your conference to be considered for the title. Georgia has absolutely no beef trying to get into the title game. If they wanted to get in that badly they would have won one of the two games they lost and at least played for the SEC title.

No one, no matter how strong of a schedule, deserves that consideration unless we have a situation like last season. Kansas had one loss and wasn’t considered. This was rightfully so because they didn’t win their division. I have always wondered about the following scenario, however:

In this era of conference championship games we see more rematches than before. Say you have two teams play during the regular season, like Georgia and LSU. They play a classic during the season, and Georgia wins by a point. Both suffer no other losses, meet again in the SEC championship, and LSU wins by a point late in another classic. Assuming there are no undefeated teams, do you make them play a third time for the title? What if it happened in the ACC or Big 12 and those two teams were far and away the best teams in America?

If you want a team that can get there undefeated I nominate Wisconsin. Going to Fresno State is tough, but they can win there. That leaves a trip to Michigan State and the Big Ten game of the year when Ohio State travels to Madison. Wisconsin fans won’t let Ohio State take over the crowd like the Buckeyes do in so many other Big Ten venues. If Wisconsin can get past those three games, I like them in the other nine by a lot.