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Archive for August, 2007

It’s Almost Time!

So I’m sure you’ve missed my witty comments, but over the past few months its been very hectic and busy, which is good. Plus I’ve had some projects to complete, so I’ve not had any opportunity to update my blog here.

However – It’s almost time. Less than 2 weeks to the start of college football!! You can have yer world cup, world series and anything Super…I’ll take college football any day! So with that intro, its time for me to go out there and put up my pre-season top 20. I don’t necessary agree with the coaches or the AP, so dont go comparing my list with them. Here we go—

1. USC. Let’s don’t even begin to think they wont be #1. They have returning QB John David Booty, LB Keith Rivers, OT Sam Baker, DT Sedrick Ellis and – well you get the idea. While they lost some big go-to receivers to the draft, it’s hard to believe that there wont be some new stud or 5 ready to go. And with a bevy of running backs leftover from last year, the only team that can make em sweat will be Cal – so, mark it down, USC goes to the National Championship this year.

2. Michigan. Well I’ve had a difficult time choosing the next two, but at least pre-season, I’m going with Michigan as my #2. The Wolverine power offensive trio of Chad Henne (QB), Mike Hart (RB) and Mario Manningham (WR) return with a veteran O-line that should rip through the Big Ten like a hot knife through butter. While many point to the fact that they lost significant defensive prowess from last year’s Rose Bowl team, I looked and saw that, yep, Lloyd Carr is still the coach, which means the defense will be fast and mean. Not much this year to get by in the Big 10 with OSU hurting and everyone else also-rans (well Wisconsin could prove tough). This could be a National Championship contender.

3. LSU. The Bayou Bengals lose all-world QB and #1 NFL draft pick JaMarcus Russell, so you have to think there will be a few steps lost here, just in sheer strength. Matt Flynn is the heir apparent, and even with inexperience, its hard to think there won’t be success there with stars like RB Keiland Williams, returning FB Jacob Hester, and senior WR Early Doucet. But as always, Les Miles’ emphasis in the tough SEC will be on a stifling defense. As usual, the Tigers will be fast, strong and mean (8 returning starters). The competition in the SEC keeps me from pushing them to the #2 spot, but because of that, if they are able to match records with Michigan, they could be the other invitee to the National Championship game.

4. Texas. Well I told you not to compare me to others. Most everyone I think has Florida or West Virginia here, but I’m not nearly as high on them as the Longhorns. In fact, with a few breaks elsewhere, the Longhorns could play for a National Title again against the Trojans. What’s not to like? Colt McCoy could be a darkhorse Heisman candidate as the return QB in a powerful offense that features Senior WR Limas Sweed, Senior WR Billy Pitman and RB Jamaal Charles. Put that with All-American-potential O-liners Cedric Dockery (6-4, 320), Tony Hills (6-6, 305) and Adam Ulatoski (6-8, 300) you have a pretty solid unit that few penetrate. While the secondary is relatively new (FS Marcus Griffin returns), its hard to believe that Texas wont field the best secondary in the Big 12 (they always do). Oklahoma will be the only competition for them. The A&M game is in Austin this year where the Aggies have lost 4 straight.

5. West Virginia. The next couple are grouped about right but cause a lot of worry. Coach Rich Rodriguez has continually brought his team to the pinnacle the last few years, only to see them drop crucial key games, mainly due to defensive failures. This year will be no different – powerful offense with Junior QB Patrick White (13 TD’s, 1219 yds rushing) and Junior RB Steve Slayton (1744 yds). Also returning is their star receiver, Senior Darius Reynau. But the Big East is full of mighty offenses such as Louisville and much better defenses like Rutgers, so it remains to be seen if there wont be a repeat of the last few seasons.

6. Florida. I sincerely hesitate to rank Florida this high. The returning national champions are only a shadow of their team in January. They will have a new QB Tom Tebow, and count ’em NINE new starters on defense. However, all is not lost. Tebow certainly has enough experience and senior Andre Caldwell is back along with junior Cornelius Ingram. The real story here though is the schedule. Florida draws their biggest rivals, Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State at home in the swamp. This is a major break for a rebuilding team, but if that pans out, then South Carolina and LSU are the bumps. But they are big bumps.

7. Louisville. I like the Cardinals, as usual, for their powerful offensive and better than average defense. Brian Brohm returns for his senior year as QB, and probably will be a leading Heisman candidate, giving new coach Steve Kragthorpe something less to worry about. There will be rebuilding a bit in the defensive secondary, but they’ll have time to get that together during the season. The Cards should be almost uncontested in their first nine games, before hitting West Virginia, South Florida and Rutgers. They better hope the defense gels like it did last year when they won the Big East.

8. Wisconsin. Succinctly, Wisconsin should have the best defense in the Big Ten this year, but the question is quarterback. Chances are senior Tyler Donovan will take the reigns and he’ll have a veteran line in front of him including Andy Kemp (Jr, 6-6, 302), Marcus Coleman (Sr, 6-6, 302), Kraig Urbik (Jr, 6-6, 330) and other returners. The real key is that Wisconsin should have only one bump, Penn State, before having to enter a killer November against Ohio State and Michigan. If all goes according to plan, November 10 will be the Big Ten championship with either the Wolverines or Badgers seeing at least a Rose Bowl bid or even a National Championship bid hovering.

9. Virginia Tech. VT and Georgia always force me to make a decision. Which one, if either, do I put in the top 10, knowing full well that they will probably be below 12 or 13 at the end of the season due to a couple of mental off weeks. So, this year I’m putting VT up here instead. Frank Beamer, who I believe has been coaching since Lewis and Clark, will again formulate a nasty, fast defense as usual returning eight starters. Junior QB Sean Glennon will be back, but remember he led an offense last year that was at times potent and other times dismal, especially his collapse in the Chick-Fil-A bowl. But alas, the backup, Ike Whitaker (fresh off alcohol rehab) hasn’t developed well. There are nine returning to the offense, which could be good or bad. However, the Hokies really take it on the chin with regard to schedule. Week 2 they have to go to Baton Rouge to play LSU, which could basically kill their season hopes early. If they just come away with bruises there, they can cruise until late October when they have Boston College, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Miami back to back.

10. California. The Golden Bears are another of those teams that usually suffer from a mental week that knocks them on their backside. But its hard to believe that they wont make another decent showing in 2007. Cal and UCLA will be battling for the #2 spot in the PAC-10 and a spot in the Rose Bowl, and with Senior QB Nate Longshore and WR DeSean Jackson, there isn’t a better tandem in college ball (well until USC makes a new stud). Noticeable in their schedule, is that they will play USC and Arizona at home this year, which could help. They still must travel to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA, perhaps a game that will decide a repeat trip there in the post season.

11. Oklahoma. Two words – Bob Stoopes. Without a doubt he’s coming off his best coaching job last year and the team is predominately in tact. The new QB will probably be junior Joey Halzle. Since this is the third year in a row that Stoopes has had to deal with a new helmsman, this issue doesn’t seem to be a problem. They’ll rely on a veteran Offensive Line, pound the ball a lot and season with high percentage passes. Schedule wise its pretty much as per normal – showdown with Texas in October, then toughies with A&M and Texas Tech. Figure them to be 11-1 or 10-2 at the worst which gets them major respect. An upset in the Red River Shootout, and all bets are off how high the Sooners can reach.

12. UCLA. The Bruins ruined USC’s season last year and a date in the Championship game, so just mark it down that they’ll NOT do that again this year. So they’ll turn their sights on the #2 spot and fisticuff with Cal most of the year. The Bruin defense was suprisingly good last year and wont decline with 10 of 11 starters returning. The offense sputtered on and off last year, having great games and miserable ones, so look for the emphasis to be on more consistency. Jay Norvell is the new Offensive Coordinator (he came from Nebraska), so look for him to get his QB (either Ben Olson or Patrick Cowan) back in the Shotgun to buy time for more offensive options. Key game will be October 20 at home against Cal. If they win there, they’ll take aim at USC in December hoping for an upset (not likely again).

13. Florida State. Can you remember only a short time back, that the Seminoles were the most feared team each year. Who can forget the classic Florida State-Miami games that had major bearings on the fall of the post-season dominoes? Well, times have changed and the Florida power has shifted, and coach Bobby Bowden (another Lewis and Clark coach) has jettisoned his son at Offensive coordinator and brought in new blood coach Jimbo Fisher. QB Drew Weatherford (Jr) has never had much of a chance due to offensive play calling and OL problems. This doesnt seem to have improved since only two OLineman are returning. De’Cody Fagg (Sr) returns as a potent WR. The defense has six remaining vets, including 3 of 4 secondary men. Still, I think that they are good for 8-9 wins.

14. Penn State. If Beamer and Bowden have been around since Lewis and Clark, Penn State coach Joe Paterno must have been around during the American Revolution. Last year’s Nittany Lions team sported a terrific defense, but a very sporadic mediocre offense. However, this year’s offense is experienced (seven returning starters) including senior QB Anthony Morelli (2006: 2424 yds, 11 TDs) and junior WR Deon Butler (2006: 48 receptions, 637 yds). Defensively, Tom Bradley’s unit is built more on speed than ever, so tough to run outside and throw deep. The schedule is reasonably conducive to a great year, as they get Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa at home. However, they have a deadly duo on the road early: must travel to Michigan (Sep 22) which could put a damper on the remainder of the season, and set them up for a fall the following week with an ever improving Illinois team. Still, I’m looking at them sporting a 9-3 overall record and a trip to an upper tier bowl. With an upset – they finish in the top 10.

15. Auburn, The mid teens always seem to be anchored by the second tier SEC teams every year, and this year is no different. I can’t get nearly as excited over the Tigers as I have the past year. In general, they have been a disappointment. Tubberville’s boys have had great potential, but floundered in key games and cratered. Last year was a prime example. This year sees a different team, with only 4 returners on offense, and 6 on defense. Senior QB Brandon Cox (2006: 2198 yds, 14 TDs) returns along with junior WR Rodgeriqus Smith, but almost the entire offensive line is new. Similarly, most of the secondary returns, but the line and linebackers are smattered with new people. However, all that said, Auburn looks to go around 10-2 or 9-3, and a mid-tier bowl. Toughest thing of all, however, is that they must play Florida, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia on the road. OUCH.

16. Rutgers. The good news for the Scarlet Knights is that they have 14 starters returning (including 3 All-Americans). Junior QB Mike Teel (2006: 2135 yds, 12 TDs) leads the team with junior RB Ray Rice (2006: 1794 yds, 20 TDs). On defense, they sport possibly the best safety duo in the Big East with junior Courtney Greene and senior Ron Girault. In addition, Rutgers has eight home games (including the first 5) which is highly conducive to a great season. They get their main rivals West Virginia and South Florida at home. There’s no reason why they wont be challenging for the Big East title like last year. A goofy play in any of the key games and look for the Knights to up a few slots.

17. Georgia. Sigh. Every year I have high hopes for the Bulldogs, but I’m always terribly disappointed. However, the numbers stack up nicely for them: six returners on offense including sophomore Matthew Stafford (who might be the best QB in the SEC, in pure talent), senior RB Kregg Lumpkin, and junior WR Mohamed Massaquoi. Sean Bailey returns from knee surgery to also add some WR punch. However, on defense its a bit different with only four returners. Regretfully,the Dawg schedule is a killer. They do get South Carolina, Florida and Auburn at home, but oh my, they must travel to play Alabama, Tennessee, and their recent nemesis, Georgia Tech. This is a team that has to mature quickly and weather some early losses if they are to be respectable.

18. Ohio State. Wow, when was the last time you saw the Buckeyes down here? Well, blame the NFL for that. The list of attritions reads like an all-american team: Troy Smith, Anthony Gonzales, Antonio Pittman, Ted Ginn, Jr. and others. But, then, they said that last year too, and see what happened, Ohio State will break in a new junior QB, Todd Boeckman and junior WR Brian Robiskie will be his only hangover from 2006 offensively. The o-line still is anchored well with Kirk Baron, Rory Nicol, Steve Rehring and Alex Boone however. Five returners on Defense will attempt to bring new blood along. The Buckeyes will be lacking in leadership, and with powers in the Big 10 shifting, it looks to be a hard year. But you never know.

19. Tennessee. Coach Fullmer got the Vols back to winning form last year, but attrition at wide receiver will hurt their offensive hopes this year. Senior QB Eric Ainge is back with his more than capable arm, but new WR’s Lucas Taylor, Casey Woods, Austin Rogers, or Quntin Hancock will need to step up and be a big time target. A new RB will need to emerge also between junior Arian Foster and sophomore LaMarcus Coker. Defensively they return 5 starters, and only one in the secondary, which could be a fatal blow in the SEC. They also face a crushing start with games against Cal, Florida and Georgia in the first 5 weeks. Lose 2 of those and you’re uphill the rest of the year, which is very possible.

20. TCU. There were a few teams vying for this last position in my top 20, but the Horned Frogs win out. Despite an early date with Texas in week 2, they should run out the remainder of the schedule and wind up either 10-2 or 11-1. The offense is mostly new, but thats not what TCU is known for. The defense returns 11 starters, and as good as they were last year, they’ll be better this year. It should be interesting if they just happen to upset Texas like they did Oklahoma 2 years ago. While not likely, it wont be a runaway.

When the season starts I will be updating, as usual, every week. So what about those other teams? Well, ok, here’s my “Best of the rest”:

21. South Florida
22. Boise State
23. Nebraska
24. Missouri
25. BYU
26. Southern Miss
27. Boston College
28. Texas Tech
29. Alabama
30. Miami
31. Hawaii
32. Oregon State
33. Arkansas
34. Texas A&M
35. Iowa
36. South Carolina
37. Georgia Tech
38. Purdue
39. Notre Dame
40. Oklahoma State

Don’t agree?? Hey let me “respectfully” hear from you. Give me your analysis and we’ll have a great time during the season!!

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