One of the more fun rituals of the preseason is the annual "snark attack " -- short, anonymous comments from opposing coaches on their rivals that have popped up in various magazine over the years and occasionally break the generic/respectful monotony for a catty barb. The stalwarts at Athlon have led the way in coach dish the last couple years and bring the anonymous insiders back for another round in the newly released national edition.
To be sure, some of the insights are just bizarre, such as:
Iowa: "(Ricky) Stanzi's a young Tom Brady to me. He's got the size. He's got the same kind of mechanics. He's very efficient. He doesn't make bad choices, and he takes what the defense gives him and that's it." -- An opposing Big Ten assistant coach.
He ... had 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions against teams that weren't Florida International and was less efficient than Juice Williams. Hall of Fame, here he comes.
But the best of the genre are of the kind of delicious, brutally honest snark that would make David Denby choke on his afternoon tea. And they would be impossible if they weren't completely anonymous -- when the names are changed, the truth comes out:
• Auburn: "The biggest thing that's different at Auburn now is there's no true home run threat at tailback. You can stop them from running the ball and make them one-dimensional." -- An opposing SEC assistant coach (who may not be entirely reliable if he somehow considers Auburn's passing game "dimensional.")
• Boston College: "I think the offensive line has gone down every year since 2006, when I thought it was they were the best offensive line I'd seen. But they've deteriorated since then." -- An opposing ACC assistant coach.
• BYU: "I think sometimes the pressure gets to them. They want to be perfect and when they're not perfect, I think it bothers them more than others." -- An opposing MWC assistant coach (describing perhaps the essence of BYU's entire existence.)
• Clemson: "I'd be scared to death of them if they got it together. They can beat anybody on any Saturday, but they can lose to anybody on any Saturday." -- An ACC assistant coach.
• Fresno State: "For all the crazy talking (coach Pat) Hill does about playing anyone anywhere and all his cute slogans, he really is a pretty conservative offensive football coach. They've just tried to grind it out, and that's not working anymore." -- An opposing WAC assistant coach.
• Kansas State: "I know Bill Snyder worked miracles there the last time, but I don't know if he'll get it done this time. I'm not sure he knows the mess he inherited." -- An opposing Big 12 assistant coach.
• LSU: "Jefferson, the quarterback, he's a great talent, but can they win with that arm? ... He can beat you with his legs, but the question is, can he sit in the pocket and be a throw-first, run-second quarterback in this league?" -- An opposing SEC assistant coach.
• Maryland: "They're probably one of the last teams in the ACC that really come off the ball and really try to get downhill and run the ball at you. But they don't scare me." –– An opposing ACC assistant coach.
• Michigan: "That offense, from what I saw from Rich (Rodriguez) when we studied him at West Virginia, is they go on offense with the quarterback. If they don't have the quarterback that can run the system, that offense doesn't have a chance." -- An opposing Big Ten assistant coach (sounding like every fan on every message board for the last nine months).
• South Carolina: "They should be in a situation where they have just as good of a chance as anybody to win at a high level. They have great support, and they have had very good players. It's kind of a mystery." -- An opposing SEC assistant coach.
• Syracuse: "New coach, maybe some new schemes, but the same problem: They just don't have enough talent." -- An opposing Big East assistant coach.
• Texas A&M: "They really took their lumps last season, and I'm not sure it's going to get much better this season. Texas A&M just doesn't have the talent it used to have, especially in the trenches." -- An opposing Big 12 assistant coach.
• Virginia: "Big guys, not really athletic, not really fast. I think those guys did a good job of coaching, but they didn't have the Jimmys and Joes." -- An opposing ACC assistant coach.
• Washington: "Their talent level on defense was not very good. It was shocking to see, to tell you the truth. It was shocking to see how slow they were." -- An opposing Pac-10 assistant coach.
• Wisconsin: "P.J. Hill left early. I don't think that's a big hit for them. He was overrated ... (John) Clay is better than Hill." -- An opposing Big Ten assistant coach.
And my favorite of all, for the completely insular obliviousness of it (emphasis added):
• Texas Tech: "They were better on defense last season, but they're still way behind their offense in terms of talent. Mike (Leach) is going to spend all his time working on offense, but you have to have a great defense to be good in this league." -- An opposing Big 12 assistant coach.
Texas Tech and its ramshackle D went 7-1 in the league and tied for the division title. The leading defense in the Big 12 last year, Texas, finished 51st nationally in yards allowed; the conference champion, Oklahoma, finished No. 68 and was 58th in points allowed. Oklahoma State and Missouri won nine and 10 games, respectively, and finished in the top 25 while allowing more than 400 yards per game. I guess it just shows that you don't actually to pay attention to a conference to coach in it.