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.
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.
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.
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.
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