Huskies, Irish, Ducks Overrated


Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out

It’s time for my fourth annual calling out of three teams that I think are overrated. Qver the past three years, I’ve been right on 7 out of my 9 picks. Of course the two times I’ve been wrong, I’ve been very, very wrong (See Ducks, below, for explanation.), so take it to Vegas at your own peril.

First, a caveat: The USC Trojans are not eligible to participate in this ranking. NCAA Rules require amateur status, and when it comes to being overrated, USC has just proven to be too professional.

Trojans still suffering from deflated balls.

from video

Trojans still suffering from deflated balls.

Next, a little elaboration on the history of the Three-and-Down-and-Out. In 2013, I picked Ohio State, Texas A & M and Notre Dame to “under-perform.” As I predicted, they all tanked, finishing an average of nine places lower than preseason rankings.

In 2014, I won on Alabama, which dropped from # 2 preseason to # 4 at the end of the year. I scored a mega-hit on Oklahoma. The Laters dropped from preseason # 4 to tenth on the “others receiving votes” list, which translated to about # 35.

In 2015, I scored big on Winston-less Florida State dropping from # 8 to # 14. And, in their final year of amateur eligibility for being overrated, the USC Trojans at # 10 were just too much to pass up. The 2015 Trojans were fortunate to have scheduled the Idaho Vandals in September instead of November. It could have gotten ugly.

So, here we go for 2016.

1.  University of Washington Huskies (# 14 AP, # 18 Coaches). I’ve no doubt beaten this one to death in past articles. The Huskies return Jake Browning, a quarterback who threw 16 touchdowns (thirteen of them against four teams with no defense, and that didn’t even include Oregon) to 10 interceptions (with only one of them against the four defenseless teams). That leaves 3 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in the Huskies’ nine other games.

Old, tired, and still on a leash.

Kevin Cline

Old, tired, and still on a leash.

The national pundits (who were wrong on 7 of my 9 picks described above) think Browning is going to light things up this year. I don’t. He doesn’t have the greatest arm, and he averages half a yard per carry on the ground. He took 30 sacks last year. He’ll be lucky to make it through the season.

Speaking of not making it through a season, the pundits list John Ross as the Huskies’ top receiver. The last time he made it through a complete season was 2013.

Myles Gaskin had a great year as a freshman running back, rushing for 1,302 yards. Barring injury, he should do fine in 2016. But as is the case with the other offensive skill positions, the Huskies just don’t have a lot of depth at running back. The dogs had one of the better Pac-12 defenses in 2015, in part due to catching Oregon on Vernon Adams’ first game back after injury, and in part by missing out on WSU’s Luke Falk completely. But the dogs just don’t have deep enough firepower on offense to pull it off.

2.  Notre Dame Irish (# 10 AP, # 9 Coaches).   Athlon Sports said it best. What makes the Irish look tough is that “a favorable schedule should allow Notre Dame the opportunity to push for 10 wins in 2016.” The Irish play only three ranked teams (Michigan State, Stanford and USC). Fans of the remaining teams on their schedule would probably storm the field if they made “others receiving votes.” And of course, one of the three ranked teams is even more perpetually overrated than the Irish.

With only eight returning starters, Notre Dame needs Touchdown Jesus now more than ever.

from video

With only eight returning starters, Notre Dame needs Touchdown Jesus now more than ever.

So the Irish could not beat a single ranked team, end the regular season at 9-3, and still be everybody’s darling.

Notre Dame returns a total of eight starters from last year. That’s not very many. It is a pity that preseason rankings are passed out based on yesteryear and cream puff schedules.

3.  Oregon Ducks (#24 AP, # 22 Coaches). The national pundits are telling us that the only part of Oregon’s 2015 season that counts is the second half of the Alamo Bowl, so why not join them?

The Ducks had defensive scheme issues last year, and also had issues at second string quarterback and second string center. Those are apparently incurable diseases, so I’m going along with the national media here, and predicting the Ducks to tank.

Why would I do that? As mentioned above, I’ve been very, very wrong with two of my picks in the past three years.

In 2014 I thought I had it nailed with the Ohio State Buckeyes when they lost early to Virginia Tech and then had starting QB Braxton Miller go down with a season-ending injury. But we know how that one turned out. I was very, very wrong. Painfully wrong.

In 2015, I thought it was impossible for any team that had Lane Kiffin (This link never gets old.) for an offensive coordinator to do all that great. But even with that handicap, Alabama still won the national championship. And I was very, very wrong again, although it was relatively painless.

Washington running back Myles Gaskin gets a taste of Duck.

Kevin Cline

Washington running back Myles Gaskin gets a taste of Duck.

I really hated being that wrong in 2014 with Ohio State, for obvious reasons. In 2015 with Alabama, it was sort of a “whatever,” without any real angst. So the picks I’ve lost on are moving in a favorable direction. The trend says that the next time I predict a destined-to-be national champion to tank, it should make me very, very happy. So why not “Just Do It!”?

And that is why I’m joining the national pundits and picking on Oregon.

Go Ducks! Prove us all wrong.

[A final note: What does it say about the national pundits when a semi-retired accountant in North Idaho (who doesn’t follow much of what happens outside the Pac-12) can spend all of half an hour looking at preseason rankings and pick overrated teams with over 75 % accuracy?]

Top photo by Kevin Cline

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Mike Merrell

Mike Merrell

Mike (Editor-in-Chief) is a 1970 graduate of the University of Oregon where he attended the Honors College and received all-conference honors as a swimmer. After college, Mike ran for the Oregon Track Club and narrowly missed qualifying for the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. He continues his involvement in sports with near-daily swimming or running workouts, occasional masters swim competition (where he has received two Top-10 World rankings), providing volunteer coaching to local triathletes and helping out with Mike lives on 28 acres in the forest near Sandpoint, Idaho, where he has served as a certified public accountant for most of his working career. His current night job is writing novels about Abby Westminster, the only known illegitimate daughter of Britain's finest secret agent who has to bring down arch-villains plotting dastardly deeds. And, yes, Abby is also a DUCK!

  • Not only is your track record making pundits ashamed, but you have shown with a number of articles the real incompetence of these people making money, while influencing millions with poor research and even worse reasoning.

    The best part is that your articles are much more entertaining!

    That is pretty funny … you NOT picking USC because they are too easy a selection for under-performing; a new Mike Merrell first!

  • Platypus

    Mike, I definitely agree with your first pick. I love it because of the extreme national build up of a very mediocre (not to mention milquetoast) huskie team. Coaches hate that type of over-hype because it gets their fan base all jacked-up for a great year…only to see it all come crashing down. Did i mention i love it?

  • Eli Ritchie

    A team picked #2 dropping to #4 is a win? That’s a pretty soft definition. So they would have only been a miss if they won the title, or lost in the title game?

    • Mike Merrell

      Eli —

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Not a great win, but still a win. Kind of like making the field goal as time expires. Or maybe a better analogy in this case would be missing the field goal and having your arch rival run It back for a TD to win the game. It still goes in the “W” column for me, so I’ll take it. In this particular instance, it was a fairly critical under-performance by Alabama. It did keep them out of the national championship game, and if they had met expectations they would have been in.

      • Eli Ritchie

        I get that, but from #2 to #4 is essentially a coin flip, one or two losses from other teams and they were right where they were picked. Even with the uncertainty that comes with every new season, being 2 spots away is remarkably close. It could just be chance, especially with a small sample size of football games in a season.

        I’m a statistics guy, so sometimes I think of it in those terms. You could definitely put into a spreadsheet data on where teams were picked, and where they finished for a number of years to get the standard deviation between the two. If you are 2 standard deviations away from their preseason pick, you can be 95% sure (that’s the actual probability) that the pick was right or wrong beyond what is a typical difference from preseason polling.

        • Mike Merrell

          My degree from Oregon is actually in quantitative methods, so I understand what you’re saying. However, that is not the way football works. Statistics are essentially the “coulda” part of “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

          A prime example — when teams go to triple OT, statistics would tell us that they are pretty much even, probably with even 99 % confidence. But last year’s Alamo Bowl elevated the Frogs to # 7 and dropped the Ducks to # 19 or 20, depending on which poll you go by.

          I would guess that the probability of a dozen teams slipping in between two teams that fought to triple OT is pretty close to zero, but there you go.

          Sad to say, whether the 19-year-old, who we will never know personally, puts the ball through the uprights at the end of the game determines whether we celebrate or drown our sorrows, and the probability that he would make or miss 9 times out of 10 neither adds to the joy or warms the sorrow.

          Fun discussion!

          • Mike Merrell

            I can’t believe I did that! Last “or” should be “nor.” My humblest apologies to all my English teachers.